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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Birchbox - September Review

Birchbox was my first subscription find. Some criticize this one for many sample size items. At a cost of $10 and some full size items it's well worth the price. Plus you can review the items on the web site to gain points which can be redeemed for purchase of full size items. I love the skin care items I've received over the last few months since I started this subscription. So what's in the box?
I admit this one looked a little disappointing at first but let's take a closer look.
 I have really liked other products from the Boscia brand and this one does not disappoint. It has a great feel to it and doesn't dry out my already dry skin. Definitely use with a sponge if you don't have a separate exfoliation.
 These are make up brush covers. They are well made but I don't wear much make up so I don't have all the fancy brushed that go with that. So I"m not sure what I'll use these for. Any suggestions?
 I am now in love with BB! This is the second brand that I've tried. This one goes on with a nice sheer finish. I always worry about tinted stuff because I'm so fair skinned (READ: PALE) but it blends really nicely and evens out my skin tone quite a bit.
 These Twistband hair ties are popping up everywhere! I'm glad I didn't buy one yet because after I got this one I got 3 more in another subscription box. It's a good hair tie. I have a lot of hair and it holds it pretty well. The only problem I had with it is that after a few hours it started to slide down my hair. I have this problem a lot and have started buying the no slip grip ties. On the positive side, when I pulled it out it didn't take any of my hair with it. Yeah!
 I don't polish my nails often but this is a pretty enough color that I might start. It went on really well and looked pretty good even before I added the second coat. Not a bad quality when you might have to stop mid polish to chase a toddler!

The only negative is that I wish there were more of these in the box. Great scent and nice feel. They are not cleanser but meant to be used as a sort of pick me up through out the day. I don't know how that would go over if you wear make up but as I often don't I loved the feel.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Freebie Friday (on Wednesday!)

I didn't want to wait until Friday to post this since it's going fast. Corner Bakery is offering a chance at a free Bacon, Tomato, Mac & 3 cheese but you have to select a date and time. The earliest date I've seen is this Friday (Oct. 19) and the latest is next Thursday (Oct. 25) Corner Bakery RSVP You'll get an email that you will need to print out and bring with you on the time and date you choose. For Chicago locations, you'll have better luck if you don't mind eating a late lunch (or maybe it's a snack) or you're downtown in the evening. Not sure about suburban locations.

Update: I actually really enjoyed this! It's a welcome (albeit higher calorie) addition to the Corner Bakery menu. Just the right amount of bacon and tomato. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sprig - September review

 I decided to try the Sprig box in "mini snacker" September. The only regret I have is that I want this one every month now! What a wonderful mix of healthier snacks.

Unfortunately it's a little out of my price range right now. They are officially at the top of my wish list and I am watching for any deals to get another one. So what did I get? A majority of the products were single serving size, which was perfect for me to take to work as a between meal snack.
I tried these first because I had seen them in a store and was curious. Wow! These YogaVive apple chips were delicious. It was like eating little apple slices. I almost forgot they were dried.
These Shagbark Seed and Mill Tortilla chips were excellent. I didn't have that oily residue on my hands after eating them that you get from some chips. They went well with my favorite Trader Joe's salsa.
Disclaimer: I do not like coconut. Long story, but I don't like the flavor or the texture. That said, I thought I would pass on this bar. But I decided to go ahead and give it a shot. The Rise Blueberry Coconut bar surprised me. Unlike many coconut flavored things in my past, this was not a heavy coconut flavor. I actually liked this. I'm anxious to try one in a flavor I would choose for myself.
A cookie that has some redeeming qualities? I'm in! This really did taste like a cookie. So much so that after letting my 2 year old try it I had to hide the rest :-)
I'm not sure what I expected from these before I tried them but I was surprised. The flavor was delicious. The texture wasn't quite a cracker but definitely not a chip. We had to ration these at my house. Fortunately this was the one package that was larger than single serving. I don't see how to order more at their web site but I'll keep checking!
I'd love to tell you how much I enjoyed this but I only got a bite and the rest was snatched and promptly eaten by 2 year old miss picky pants. A shame there was only one small fruit strip. I guess that's a ringing endorsement. I tasted apples but no sweet potatoes.
This may have been my least favorite. Given the name Bumble Bar, I guess I expected more of a honey flavor. And of course the lemon that is on the label. While these flavors were there they were overwhelmed by the sesame seeds flavor and texture. I enjoyed it but it's not my first choice.
This is the only one I didn't get to try yet. It's still at home so I'll update when I do. I'm intrigued by the sites ( promise that it's never cooked or baked. I've tried some raw foods in the past and have been very happy with them.

As for Sprig, as I said, I would recommend it for anyone looking for some healthier snack options. This was the mini-snacker size but there are 2 other (larger) sizes available at their web site.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Free Stuff Friday

One of the benefits of working in downtown Chicago is that businesses often feel it's a great place to give out free samples. It's hard to say no to freebies when you can find them. Today was a double score.

On Michigan and Adams (across from the Art Institute) Falafill was handing out butternut squash falafels. Apparently, they offer a "seasonal falafel" on their menu, so I'm guessing this is it. Wow! I like falafels but I admit I'm really getting tired of all the falafel places popping up down here. Board now. But this one got my attention. What a fascinating (in a really good way) flavor combination. I can't speak to the rest of their menu but this taste will get me back. Well that, and the 20% off coupon they gave me!

Over at the JW Marriott Chicago they are handing out gourmet caramel apples to celebrate the arrival of fall. It says you need to show that you are a fan of their Facebook page when you ask for your caramel apple. I thought for sure they would be out of them by the time I got there at 1:30 but not so. Perhaps the rain is keeping people away but they will be giving them away until 4. I haven't tasted it yet but it sure looks yummy! I'd like to see more caramel on my caramel apple but it's FREE, so who's complaining.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Time to Enjoy - ipod review

This review was originally posted at Amateur Traveler

Time to Enjoy App review by Melanie Fagan
Are you looking for something fun to do? The Time to Enjoy app claims to be able to help. You can set it to identify your current location or choose your city. It uses your calendar to help you find things to do when you are available.
I was intrigued by the concept. I often find out about things I could have attended on my lunch hour after the fact, so I thought this might be helpful. Not to mention I was heading out of town for a few days over the 4th of July holiday and could use some help finding out about events while on vacation.
I first took the app for a spin while at work in downtown Chicago. As you might imagine there were a number of events listed regardless of the time of day I chose. Being able to reduce the search radius down to as little as a 200 foot walk is a great feature in a big city. Well, maybe 200 feet is a bit small; it never seems to find anything that close. But when I expanded the search it listed a few options. Searches can be filtered by categories or just check them all to find everything listed. Under the settings you can also indicate whether you attend certain types of events “Never, Sometimes or Often.” Categories include crafts, festivals, food, kids, music, etc.
A great example of the helpful type of information is movie times. If there’s a movie theater nearby, it includes show times closest to the time I searched. Some of the event listings are helpful. One event that came up on my list I selected and I got a decent description of  the event, the times, an address and a link to purchase tickets. There is also a link to Google the event which gave more information. In other instances, there was a web site I could also go to for more information. The Google feature does seem to be hit or miss. Sometimes when I Googled an event I would get search results that were relevant other times I needed to tweak the search terms and resubmit, and other times it just wasn’t helpful at all.
Unfortunately there are a number of negatives regarding actual search results. A number of events that have come up during my searches were not actually going on at the time listed. In some instances tickets were available at that time but the event was months off. While this information might be helpful it seems to go against the “spirit” of the app. One of the days I searched it listed a venue for which there was no event scheduled. And a few events were just listed with incorrect dates.
I only had any real luck testing the app results in Chicago. There were a few events listed when I tried from my home in the south suburbs but further information proved tricky to get at best. Most of the listings were movie times. I think I was most disappointed by the app when I was on vacation. I realize that Springfield, IL isn’t a big city but there were plenty of events going on that were elsewhere on the internet. Repeated searches only turned up movie show times, and not even a listing for the drive-in!
Overall the app is a great concept and is a well written piece of software. The problem seems to be in its information source(s.) In the end it’s a free app that has the potential to be a valuable tool, and judging by some of the reviews in the iTunes store, may very well be in other areas of the US or the world.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The whole index!

I'm a little behind in posting this but Ancestry has announced that the whole 1940 census has been indexed. Why Illinois had the honor of being one of the last states indexed I don't know. But finally I can attach all those 1940 pages! I've made it through the Kampfert/Scheifelbien family and will move on to the Bills next! So far everyone is right where I expect them to be. Which is nice, but isn't part of genealogy the excitement of surprises? :-)

Friday, July 13, 2012

1940 Census

I just received another update from Ancestry about the indexing of the 1940 census. They now have 25 states indexed. Unfortunately Illinois isn't one of them. I've found some of my family already because they hadn't moved or hadn't moved far from their 1930 residence but there are some missing yet.
Family search looks to have 27 states up and running. Illinois is 72% complete!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Friday July 6th

Last day!
After a lazy morning we headed to Lincoln’s home to see if there were any tours available. It’s a free ticket but it is timed. We were in luck and there was one available about an hour and a half after we got there. We watched one of the movies at the visitor center that lasted about a half hour and let D run around the visitor center with the other kids (there were even some her age.) They were all fascinated by the map of 1860 Springfield that lit up in different spots depending on the color button you pressed. We happened to be there when the second movie was preempted by a live performance of “Mary Lincoln’s Springfield.” I saw the woman in the lobby and D was very attracted to her purple dress but we did not see the show. No telling how a 2 year old will act in a live performance!
The Lincoln home tour was nice. There was a different ranger in each room throughout the house instead of one tour guide. It certainly seemed to give different perspectives of the life of the Lincoln family. We wished it had been cooler so we could investigate the rest of the block. I know at least one other house is open to view. There is an audio tour that you can call from a cell phone as you walk the block. I may still call that number even if I didn’t get a close look at all the houses.
We took the advice of a friend and had lunch at Maid Rite Sandwiches. They claim this is the oldest drive thru window in the US. The sandwiches are a crumbled ground beef instead of a patty. It was a pretty good sandwich. They are also known for their home made root beer. I don’t think I’ve ever liked root beer but Kevin gave it a try. He said it was really good so I had to take a sip. I almost liked it! Really that’s a ringing endorsement :-)
Given the heat that was pretty much our day. We did venture out for dinner at Saputo's Italian Restaurant. Despite having a reservation we had to wait 10 minutes for a table in a half empty restaurant. That was odd. Other than that the service was good. The food was also good, though it didn’t pass the toddler test. Apparently she was not in the mood for pasta.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Thursday, July 5th
The big destination! The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum was the main reason for this trip. It's one of those things that's been on the list since it opened and one thing led to another and we still hadn't seen it years after the opening. I found out after our visit that they are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Land Grant Act and are offering a $5 discount to graduates of all US colleges and universities. Check the web site for details. Also note that while the web site says lockers are available for free, they are now 25 cents. The Museum was worth the trip. The 2 presentations were both very well done. While D didn't want to sit through the Ghosts of the Library presentation, I was able to catch it and Kevin caught a later showing. I'm a history geek and I love to research. This show was the first time I've heard put in to words the feeling I have while doing research. The Holavision is an amazing tool for a live performance! I won't spoil it by describing it here. Just go see it!  
The "Lincoln's Eyes" show comes with a warning that some loud noises may not be for all viewers. Wouldn't you know, this is the one D sat through. The first loud rumble got her attention and she sat still for the rest of the show! It uses 3 screens and is another well done show. 
The exhibits at the museum are also well done. The obvious highlights are the two "Journeys." Journey One has a facade of a log cabin and follows Abe's trip from boyhood to the White House. Journey Two is the White House years.
And of course I can't forget Mrs. Lincoln's Attic. D went straight for the Lincoln Logs but there were many other "Lincoln era" toys. There was also a dress up area and a play kitchen. We could easily have spent the day here.
Lunch at Garden of Eat'n I had a really yummy BLT half wrap that was actually plenty for me for lunch. I ended up saving the half Greek salad for later in the afternoon. Delicious dressing. They had a a grilled cheese sandwich for D and her daddy was very happy with his big ol' salad as well. We didn't get back for dinner but apparently the menu changes to kabobs and Persian inspired food. If it's as good as lunch was I'm sorry we missed it.
Dinner at Obed and Isaac's. This microbrewery & restaurant has only been open since February but had a decent crowd for a steamy week night. The turkey burger with goat cheese was amazing. Even better was the side of potato salad that I asked for in place of fries. It's definitely home made. The only one I've ever had better is my mom's! The building has a great history too! It was originally a house built in the early 1800's and has been a judges quarters and a funeral home/crematorium.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Happy 4th of July Springfield style!

We started the morning off with the complimentary breakfast at the Statehouse Inn. I love the fact that more and more hotels are going to this hot breakfast offering. This was an excellent variety of eggs, potatoes, biscuits & Gravy as well as make your own waffles. There were plenty of other breakfast options available. And once I found hot tea I was happy! So what to do on this Independence Day... The Illinois State Museum was open for regular weekday hours (8:30 A.M.-5:00 P.M!) FYI the children's play museum closes an hour earlier. This whole museum is very hands on (except the art gallery) and took less than 2 hours (with a 2 year old tour guide.) The play museum on the lower level was where we spent the rest of the afternoon. The volunteer on duty was excellent with the kids and very nice to us adults too! There were lots of things for D to investigate. Including this cave...
The museum supplied small flashlights and hard hats. Very cute! From a microscope with bugs and stuff in "glass" to view, to a bone excavation site complete with shovels. There was so much there that I don't think we played with everything, but she tried! She could have easily spent hours more there but nap time got in the way. Did I mention this was FREE? Not a bad way to spend a steamy 4th of July.
 Not much open food-wise because of the holiday so we ended up Hardees for lunch. For the record, this does not break the rules because while it is a chain, we can't get it at home.
We attended the Capitol Celebration of the fourth in time to catch the bands. D was more interested in the marching band and naming all the instruments so we didn't hear the country band. The Springfield Municipal band was very good. As we were pointing out instruments between songs, a very nice woman held up her french horn for D to see. Dinner was a corn dog from a street vendor. Not to healthy but yummy! We watched the fireworks from the van in the hotel parking lot because there was nowhere to park to go in to our room. D thought they were pretty :-)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Is it still a Staycation if it's more than 3 hours from home?

Tuesday July 2, 2012
For the record, I hate the "word" staycation. Springfield here we come! Yes this years vacation is to Springfield, Illinois so I can finally see the not so new anymore Lincoln library and museum. Using a free awards program we were able to get a suite at The Statehouse Inn for the price the regular room would have cost. Due to track work (meaning no trains running right now from Chicago to Springfield) we opted for the drive. So D's first road trip! Conveniently we just bought a new mini van and D was thrilled to be riding in the new car!
The benefit to making your own schedule is you can plan around nap time. On a good day D will nap up to 3 hours and the drive is 3 1/2 so we thought we were in good shape. HA! Anyone with a toddler knows what's coming next. The first half hour was good as she was occupied with looking out the window and all the new stuff in the van. Then she fell asleep. Hurrah! Oops, celebrated to soon. After an hour guess whose eyes pop open like she's the most well rested person in the universe. After pointing out lots of corn and singing along to show tunes, D was saying "all done" to the car ride. Fortunately there was a rest stop near by. We stretched out legs a bit and played on the springy boards in the play area. The swings were to hot as the outside temp was 102. Back in the car for the last leg of the trip.
This might be my favorite lamp
If I had been quick enough on the video camera, the Statehouse Inn would have had a ready made commercial. D got into our room and was rolling on the floor and jumping around exclaiming "I'm so happy here!" I was to busy laughing to get any video. The suite is a good size for the 3 of us and everything that comes with a toddler (including the big stroller.) Housekeeping did a good job of cleaning the room but apparently doesn't employ 2 year olds. Under/behind the bed headboard D found an empty water bottle and a bear bottle cap. Honestly, if not for traveling with a toddler we never would have seen this. The decor amused Kevin and I, it's retro 60's and pretty authentic. I keep hearing the Brady Bunch theme. LOL More on the stay as the trip goes on. The front desk was very helpful with helping us find dinner. The only place D is not allowed is the lounge. You wouldn't think that would be hard but it turns out said lounge has a piano at the entrance and D hasn't met a musical instrument she doesn't like. Oops.
Dinner was at Ginger Asian Bistro. Not the most original idea but the food was excellent as was the plum wine. Not a bad price either. With the alcohol and extra rice for Miss Picky we came in under $50. I don't see a web site for them but apparently they have a Facebook page.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Family Reunion??

In case it wasn't already obvious that I'm a genealogy geek, here is how I spent part of my Saturday!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

All Mixed Up and Lots of Places to Go!

The month of sick is almost officially over! No one in the house has taken an antibiotic in almost a week and we can all mostly breath again. Though allergies have made their presence known super early this year. So let's get back to blogging! This blog has become a bit of a catch all for my interests. I tried dividing up the blogs but that just gets to crazy. So perhaps I'll devote different days to different types of posts. Maybe Family Friday for all my genealogy adventures... And I love holidays so those I may save for Mondays. Then there's crafting... And D may need her own day with all the activity an almost 2 year old has!

Speaking of genealogy... 6 DAYS UNTIL 1940!!! Count down with me. More genealogy to come...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Happy February!

Welcome to the second month of 2012. This month we are celebrating
National Bird Feeding Month, National Cherry Month - my personal favorite, not that I need an excuse to eat cherries! It's also National Wedding Month and Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month. I'll let you decide how to celebrate these but I wouldn't recommend feeding birds cherries or marrying any birds...
Also notable is that February 1-7 is Solo Diners Eat out week. And many of you already know that it's the birthday of the first volume of the Oxford English Dictionary. And yes Gavin I know your birthday is this month :-) 
Share your celebrations!

Happy Holidays!