The crack in my back

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Have you ever felt the need to crack your back, but was unable to? I’ve been getting this a lot lately. I try and try and try to get my back to pop in that satisfying way, but the tension in my spine only increases. GAH! I twist and turn to no avail, contorting myself into all sorts of strange positions. It’s the most frustrating thing. I really need some better way of achieving joint nirvana. I think I get these issues because I’m so cold at the office, but I’m not really sure how to prevent it and/or how to cure it.

At least the past day or two I’ve been able to get the crack I want eventually (and I always seem to have to twist to my right). There’s that one trouble area on my spine that always needs a’crackin. Everywhere else is fine! I need to figure out how exactly to get that crack whenever I need it, because I feel like I’m about to snap my spine when I contort too hard and still can’t get the pop I’m aiming for. Any suggestions?

Back in the day I had a friend who could lift you to crack your back. I tried to train Panda to do that, but it’s not working, so perhaps that’s not the solution. Too bad I can’t poke it to crack it or something. The closest thing I’ve been able to do is get another part of my back to crack when I slowly come out of bridge pose. But that doesn’t help with the real tension which seems to be near where the kidneys are. Perhaps I just need to get massages more frequently. I always feel better after those!

Love With Food Happy Camper July 2014 review

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I was pretty pleased with the snacks from my first Love With Food box last month so I decided to continue my subscription. While I don’t really feel like the value is great, I really like discovering and sampling all these types of snacks. I even just upgraded to the 6-month plan that saves me $1 a month. Maybe I just need to go grocery shopping more. :-P There’s still 8+ more days for the Love With Food free trial box (just pay $2 for shipping) – try it out yourself!

Love With Food is $12 per box (or as discounted as $120 for an entire year, with an option in between) and comes with 8 or more snack products. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program that earns you points towards products or boxes.

contents of juky 2014 love with food box including eight snacks

I like the cute little themes they come up with I can certainly see these snacks coming in handy while out camping. I really enjoyed the ginnyminis butter crisp love cookies that were wonderfully crunchy and so much like butter cookies, but without the greasiness. Then Madyson’s marshmallow was such a cool, unique treat. I really enjoyed the handmade aspect and the chunks of chocolate chips were a perfect contrast to the soft marshmallow.

I appreciated having the ZOUQ Curry Crunch sweet and sour trail mix for when I was starving, but it was sweeter than I’d prefer so I couldn’t finish the bag. I certainly prefer it to normal trail mix though. The Mediterranean Snacks Lentil Crackers turned out to be less tasty than I hoped. Pretty good for a light snack and satisfyingly crunchy, but I like my crackers saltier. The Honey Stinger Kids’ Organic Chews were decent and I’m glad their red flavor is strawberry rather than cherry. I will actually eat all the flavors! They aren’t the sticky kind of chewy that I actually prefer, but that might be a good thing for you.

I was really looking forward to the Beanitos white cheddar puffs because it reminded me of Cheetos and I like white cheddar crackers, but it was kind of sour and dry. Maybe the bean base was just not to my liking. I’m not huge on beans to begin with. I’ve had Somersaults dutch cocoa in other boxes before and something about the flavor just doesn’t do it for me. I like how solid and crisp they are though. Finally, the 2 Degrees apple pecan bar is quite chunky and chewy, which is ok for me but I don’t really enjoy bars like that. I didn’t really get a pecan flavor from it, but it has a nice sweet fragrance from the apple.

While some of the snacks looked better than I ended up liking, I do like having snacks to sample. 6 more months, let’s do this! Which of these snacks do you want the most? Are any already favorites?

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I'd be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box at the special offer price and wanted to share what I got!]

The Body Shop hauls

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Awhile back, Panda saw a Groupon for The Body Shop and he bought it for me to use. After visiting the store and purchasing some items, I decided to get the Groupon myself for another run. We paid $15 each for $30 worth of stuff. I now have a nice little collection of products from them, which I’m really enjoying. Let me share my two hauls!

the body shop tea tree oil cleansing wipes, bottle of tea tree oil, and vineyard peach body butter

Haul #1

The first time around, I was really focused on the tea tree oil products because of my incessant acne. Of course I also had to try one of their body butters! That’s what drew me to the store in the first place. The moment I smelled the Vineyard Peach, I knew I had to have it. It reminds me of white peaches from China, so fresh and juicy and lightly sweet. Have you ever seen those flat peaches? Between those and the peaches featured in the Journey to the West, that’s exactly what I think of here. Since they offer buy two get one free, I got either the Tea Tree Cleansing Wipes or Tea Tree Oil for free. I can’t quite remember the pricing, though the wipes were around $12 and the body butter was full price at $20 (I wonder if I should have gotten the 3 for $30 deal instead).

I’ve nearly used up the wipes and I’m probably halfway through the tea tree oil. I think they’ve definitely helped calm down my skin and I always feel so great after using them – like my acne is really being tackled. They have a slight tingling sensation upon application and smell medicinal. Meanwhile, I’m saving the body butter for when I’ve used up some more lotions, but I couldn’t resist trying out the bit that got on the lid and it feels fabulous. Just a little bit applied into my skin perfectly and left me with a whiff of peach.

the body shop mandarin & tangelo body, room, & linen spritz, special edition blueberry body butter, tea tree oil skin clearing lotion, and brazil nut body scrub

Haul #2

The second time, I was looking for more variety and actually was hoping to get more of the cleansing wipes, but they were all out. I opted for the Tea Tree Skin Clearing Lotion instead. If I can’t wipe my face with it, why not apply it after cleansing? I originally got the Brazil Nut Cream Body Scrub and special edition Blueberry Body Butter as the other items, but since the body butter was on clearance for $10, it didn’t count towards my buy 2 get 1 free option. Sooo I browsed around and added the Mandarin & Tangelo Body, Room & Linen Spritz – turns out to be a most excellent choice!

I remember the scrub was $20 or so and I think the lotion and spray were somewhere around $12-15? So far I’ve used the lotion, which is great for offering that healing feeling without the stickiness of the tea tree oil itself. I’ve also been spraying the spritz around and I love it! I’m so glad I had to choose another item, or else I might not have discovered it. I’m putting the body butter away for now since I have a ton of other items, but I really wanted blueberry because they’re my favorite fruit. I know, total sucker here. As for the scrub, I was really drawn to the unique Brazil nut ingredient. I think it’s kind of almond-y? Plus the scrub has small scrubby bits and large scrubby bits, which is super fun!

If you’re looking for a deal on The Body Shop stuff, they’re currently running their Christmas in July promotion: 40% sitewide and free shipping!

One rotten apple…

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She’s a poison coursing through my veins. Each interaction injects me with more venom, until I can hardly take it anymore. My mind fights the toxins but my body is weak… and all too easily I become consumed. This negativity must stop.

When I look at her (if I have to) I see ugliness. If I stare too long, the snaking tendrils of Medusa’s serpents take hold. Oh, but she’s a multi-faced chameleon. She’ll do what suits her best and get everything to her benefit. She’ll play you if she can. It’s a mirage though, and the moment you lose usefulness, she’ll throw you aside. Another carcass on the road.

Careful to avoid those eyes. Those dark, black, soulless eyes. If you don’t get lost in the abyss and turn to stone, you’ll become one of her kind. Who needs a vampire’s bite when you have piercing eyes of fury? Eyes that haunt me in my sleep, thrust me awake from their cruelty.

They say that one rotten apple ruins the bunch (and it’s true). Indeed, I can see the disease spreading. It’s not crippling, but the limping it causes is certainly not ideal. How much struggling can you handle before you break entirely? Make this rotting stop, before all is lost. Let’s cut out all the browning bits of apple and remind ourselves of the beauty of a fresh, ripe fruit. Don’t allow that one to ruin the bunch irreparably.

Ipsy July 2014: Sensationally Sunkissed review

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Ick, what a strange-looking Ipsy bag this month. I will try to give it to someone or use it to package off some items next time I do a trade. Product-wise it was also very meh for me this time. I’m debating whether I should just unsubscribe and redeem a free product that I don’t really want with the points I’ve earned or try to wait around for one I do like.

Ipsy is $10 per glam bag and comes with 5 or so beauty/skincare products. Bags are sent monthly with no option to skip. There’s usually a waitlist to get the subscription. They offer a referral program that earns you points towards free products.

ipsy july 2014 bag items with card including hang ten tanning oil, lavilin jojoba skin soother gel cream, benefit they're real mascara, elizabeth mott tints & sass lip & cheek stain in cherry, and bareminerals 5 in 1 cream eyeshadow in divine wine

Hang Ten Dark Tanning Oil – I have no idea how to use tanning oil, nor do I feel any need to try. If I want to tan, I just go outside for a bit. Otherwise, I’m perfectly happy with my skin tone, whatever shade it might be! This is definitely an item I’m not opening and putting up for trade.

Lavilin Jojoba Skin Soother Gel Cream – For something with gel in the name, I did not expect the consistency that was more like sunscreen. Looked like sunscreen, felt like sunscreen a bit, and is it just my imagination? Smelled like sunscreen too? It didn’t mention any SPF properties so I have no idea, but I guess I’ll use this up sort of as a normal lotion.

Benefit they’re Real! beyond mascara – Mascaras must be super popular since we keep getting them. I better start applying daily if I want to ever get close to using up my supply. These bristles looked scary because they are so pokey, but application was just fine and they help my lashes pop well, without giving my raccoon eyes. I’ll keep using this for sure!

Elizabeth Mott Tints & Sass fabulous lip & cheek stain in cherry – I don’t plan on staining my cheeks anytime soon, but the lip staining aspect of this intrigued me. I’ve been getting bolder with my choice of lip color, so I’ll play around with this one too. The application was less staining that I thought, thankfully – I was afraid it’d super stain my lips the instant anything touched them! But it took a little rubbing to get a nice shade on and I like the look and feel of it.

bareMinerals 5 in 1 BB advanced performance cream eyeshadow in Divine Wine – This is pretty boring to me. I don’t like to use eye products, so what’s the point of putting something on that is basically nude? If I’m going to that trouble, might as well be something fun and interesting. I guess it’s supposed to be like sunscreen for the eyes? I don’t know, I’m not really into it. I’ll try trading but if it doesn’t go I might consider trying it.

Not impressed at all this month and if it weren’t for the points I accumulated, I’d be unsubscribing right now (see how rewards programs lock people in?). I’ll get these up in my eDivv shop eventually so I can trade for stuff I’d actually appreciate.

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I'd be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this bag and wanted to share what I got!]

Beauty Box 5 July 2014 review

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I’ve been testing out this box for a few months and overall I’ve liked it enough to keep it, so I’m thinking of using it to replace my Ipsy subscription. Lately it’s been up and down with Ipsy, so I want to use up my bonus points to redeem a free item and then cancel it.

Beauty Box 5 is $12 per box (or as discounted as $99 for an entire year, with an option in between) and comes with 5 cosmetic products. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. You also have the option of buying it as a gift your box to a friend. They offer a referral program that earns you points towards products or boxes.

july 2014 beauty box 5 contents beauty box 5 july 2014 information card beauty box 5 july product cards

Revlon Bold Lacquer mascara: We just got a mascara in last month’s box so I’ve got plenty of this product and will probably save this for use a little later. Perhaps I should apply mascara daily, since my stash is growing far faster than I can keep up with using. I pretty much use mascara a few times a year and that’s it. Part of the problem is that some of them wear down and give me raccoon eyes. We’ll see how this one does.

HASK Argan Oil hair treatment: I’m going to treat myself to this along with a bath sometime in the near future. I don’t have many hair masks, so this is a great product to try, especially since my hair dries out pretty easily. I don’t have the silkiest hair, but it does a decent job of staying conditioned. Am I supposed to use a hair mask frequently to maintain that sort of shine? Will this really last for two weeks of shine? We shall see…

Body Drench Candy Licious lip balm in Red Licorice: I love these smaller tubes of lip balm – they’re adorable! The flavor is spot on and tastes very much like licorice. I’m not a huge fan of that flavor, but I’m fine with a little bit of it on my lips so I’ll definitely be using this up. The bright red tint is a fun color that adds a pop without being in your face.

Anna Naturals Glowing Mama scrub: First of all, this smells luscious. Kind of reminds me of my favorite facial exfoliating product, derma e’s microdermabrasion. It also feels so wonderful as I’m scrubbing it – my fingers glide around and the granules are rough enough to feel satisfying but not too large. I love it. I’m glad it wasn’t the sort of oatmeal-y or almond-y scent I thought it would have; it’s more refreshing than that!

Starlooks lip liner in : I don’t use lip liner, so this is going in my trade pile. I have some other Starlooks items, which I like, particularly a glitter eyeliner that I use sort of like a light eyeshadow. I put a little on the corners of my eyes and smudge it in to brighten them and give a fun glittery effect.

The variety of items made for a very useful set of complementing items. I’ve got my eyes, lips, hair, and skin covered here! I won’t use all the items, but nearly all of them will get opened eventually. The “defining moments” theme was pretty vague so just about any products would have worked for it. What’s your favorite item in this box?

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I'd be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

The name game

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With our civil ceremony fast approaching, Panda and I are preparing to jump through the legal hoops. One of these items is the marriage license application, with which I will need to indicate how (or if) I will change my name. The only we’ve agreed is not necessary is for him to change his name. But when it comes to mine, I was all for adding his name as a second last name, ie, Qin Bear (assuming his full name is Panda Bear, you see). I remember reading about a blogger who had done this and claimed to be able to use Qin or Bear or Qin Bear. That’s exactly what I’d like – a tie to his family name without actually really changing my identity. On the day-to-day, I’d still be Mary Qin. When it came to anything related to him, I could be Mrs. Bear. If it was something related to the kids (who I plan on naming with his family name), I’d be Mary Bear to match their surname.

However, I’ve been digging in to it and it seems things might be more complex than that. Technically adding the extra last name is changing mine, which means I’d still have to go through the annoying process of updating all my records (no thank you). Then there’s the question of whether two last names (NOT hypenated) is truly acceptable and whether the two can sort of be used interchangeably. If I indicate my new name is Mary Qin Bear, would a check written to me as Mary Qin be just as valid? I haven’t a clue… [any lawyers in CA please feel free to chime in!]

We were talking about this last night and he sees no need for me to change my name. I’ve built an identity around it and it’s a strong name. I actually have far less of a connection with my first name than my last. Perhaps I should drop it and make my name Qin Bear! You may call me Qin from now on. ;) I did want to add his to have that connection to his family roots and also share part of my last name with the kids. To some extent, I didn’t want complications because my surname didn’t match theirs, but Panda makes a valid point that our mothers raised us with their own last names and never had an issue. So should I just keep my name entirely? Seems a little lacking, after all this time that I was planning on adding a name.

And then of course I have intense debates with myself in terms of what the social influences are that are playing into my decision. Am I being too deferent to tradition by including his name? Am I being too headstrong by not? What is actually making me choose the way I am and does it make sense with my values? I’m thoroughly confused. Is it legal to list Mary Qin Bear on the marriage certificate but not update all my legal documents so I continue to use Mary Qin but have Bear floating in there on the marriage license? I think I might go with that.

Thinking of all this last name drama reminds me of an amusing fact: all three of my cats have different last names. Molly was given my mom’s last name, Missy was given my last name, and Smokey was given Panda’s last name. I sure hope it’s less confusing with the real kids. :-P

Coastal Flats meal review

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You know, today Panda and I were having lunch at Coastal Flats and he was sort of surprised when I wasn’t eagerly taking pictures of the food. I usually take pictures of just about everything we order, but lately I’ve been low on memory space on my phone so I’ve been limiting my photo snapping. However, it did make me realize that perhaps I should take pictures of the food and actually share them! Part of why I was stopping was because I haven’t really been sharing them like I usually do on Facebook. Sooo I’ll start reviewing some of the dishes I have at various food establishments. Maybe it’ll help me remember when I want to relive a dish and can’t quite figure out where I had it or what it was called…

First up is our lunch today at Coastal Flats. This is our first time eating there and originally I wanted Seasons 52 right across the hall, but Panda didn’t know if there was anything new on that menu that he’d like to try. I’m usually up for trying something new and as soon as I heard Coastal Flats offered deviled eggs, I was sold. I love a good deviled egg. This was the location in Tyson’s Corner Center, over by all the restaurants on the Old Navy and Barnes & Noble end.

We chose to sit in the patio/pavilion area (I forgot what they called it) right by the hallway. The ambiance was mostly casual and not too loud, which was nice. I didn’t want to sit inside since it was darker and felt more like a dinner atmosphere. Plus, I like those elevated tables. The service was mostly efficient – they filled the water without having to be asked and always brought out more bread when we requested it.

assorted bread and butter at coastal flats

I loved those little dough balls, which came out piping hot. The raisin bread was ok and the other slice of bread varied between white and jalapeno cheese. We got three baskets!

deviled eggs with spiced pecans and sugar cured bacon at coastal flats

The deviled eggs tasted good, though there was a mystery ingredient that was mixed in with the yolk and provided a super crunchy experience that was unusual. Yolk to white ratio was good and not overwhelming. Panda seemed to enjoy the bacon!

hickory grilled absolutely fresh fish of the day at coastal flats

My hickory grilled rock fish (of the day) dish had very seasonal influences – a mango and watermelon salsa underneath and crispy onion on top. I loved the mesh of sweet and salty, soft and crunchy. The flavors were strong, so I appreciated a fish with not so much flavor to balance it out. We devoured this.

penne primavera with chicken at coastal flats

His penne primavera with chicken was a more standard dish and offered a good variety of vegetables. Nothing super exciting here, but a nice dish when you don’t want a creamy sauce on your pasta.

Except for my dish, the choice of plates was rather boring. It didn’t give our food the pop it could have. Everything was quick to come out and we certainly liked the taste of it all. I’m sure we’ll be returning to one of their locations again. This menu offered multiple items that both Panda and I would like to try next time. A lovely meal that came to just under $50 before tip. Not bad!

4th of July Pittsburgh

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Last weekend, for the 4th of July, Panda and I went on our little vacation to Pittsburgh. He chose that city because we were looking for something within a 4-5 hour drive, didn’t want to do NYC again, and wanted to try a new city. I might have gone there once upon a time, but I don’t have a memory of it, so it’d pretty much be like going there for the first time anyway. We also planned for quite awhile to prepare Smokey for the trip, since he was able to book a hotel that allowed pets for free. It was a nice, quick getaway and there was a ton going on in Pittsburgh that weekend.

We started driving at night, avoiding all toll roads.

We started driving at night, avoiding all toll roads.

On the 4th, we went to join in the regatta festivities.

On the 4th, we went to join in the regatta festivities.

We walked across the bridge to get to the Carnegie Science Center.

We walked across the bridge to get to the Carnegie Science Center.

Pretty flowers!

Pretty flowers!

Outside the science center, we entered the Brain Maze.

Outside the science center, we entered the Brain Maze.

Do I weigh enough? Yes!

Do I weigh enough? Yes!

I had to put on a shirt since my shoulders weren't covered. Also had to tie back my hair.

I had to put on a shirt since my shoulders weren’t covered. Also had to tie back my hair.

The zero gravity machine letting me hang. I did all the tasks almost twice over! Total astronaut material here.

The zero gravity machine letting me hang. I did all the tasks almost twice over! Total astronaut material here.

Going through the stinky submarine. I could hardly breathe.

Going through the stinky submarine. I could hardly breathe.

I wanted to be served by a robot and get a commemorative cup, so we got some froyo.

I wanted to be served by a robot and get a commemorative cup, so we got some froyo.

The world through my heart sunglasses.

The world through my heart sunglasses.

The first time, we didn't have cash so we had to go hunting for change! Then it was up the incline.

The first time, we didn’t have cash so we had to go hunting for change! Then it was up the incline.

What a fantastic view.

What a fantastic view.

Up on this steep hill.

Up on this steep hill.

Looking down, it's a ton of greenery.

Looking down, it’s a ton of greenery.

On our trip back down the incline, we pass over the road with cars driving under.

On our trip back down the incline, we pass over the road with cars driving under.

The journey we made.

The journey we made.

Hey, we were up on the tiny round platform earlier!

Hey, we were up on the tiny round platform earlier!

Yelp helped us find this dinner spot.

Yelp helped us find this dinner spot.

Yum, cornbread and fried pickles!

Yum, cornbread and fried pickles!

How cute, the pizza has flavoring sides.

How cute, the pizza has flavoring sides.

Final morning and I take advantage of the Texas waffle iron.

Final morning and I take advantage of the Texas waffle iron.

Alright! Texas waffle. :)

Alright! Texas waffle. :)

On the drive back, I discovered some slippers I might want to get.

On the drive back, I discovered some slippers I might want to get.

Homegrown Collective June 2014 review

laelene Post in reviews, subscription boxes,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1

I am constantly amazed at how the folks over at the Homegrown Collective come up with these awesome projects month after month. This box comes perfectly timed for the summer months and I was so eager I started one of them even as we left for Pittsburgh Thursday night.

The Homegrown Collective GREENBOX is $39 per box + $9 shipping (or as discounted as $429 for an entire year, with options in between) and comes with fun and easy projects to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program you can apply to join.

inside of summertime & the livin's easy homegrown collective box with the info sheets on the inner lid contents of the homegrown collective june 2014 box with summertime & the livin's easy theme

cat sniffing aloe included in homegrown collective june 2014 box with summertime & the livin's easy theme

Smokey was a big fan of this box too.

Project #1, after-sun aloe lotion bars: Ducky molds?!! I LOVE IT. How playful and fun are these? I really look forward to making them and playing around with my little ducky lotions. So adorable! And of course these will be super useful in the summertime to help soothe the bites and scratches that seem inevitable.

the homegrown collective june 2014 project after-sun aloe lotion bars info card the homegrown collective june 2014 products for after-sun aloe lotion barsProject #2, all natural insect repellant: This is the project that I already have underway and just need to finish up today. What perfect timing – Panda and I went out catching fireflies last week and got bites all over, so next time we go out we’ll have protection against those bugs. I sure hope this is super effective at repelling mosquitoes since we both seem to taste extra good to them.

the homegrown collective june 2014 project all natural insect repellant info card the homegrown collective june 2014 products for all natural insect repellant

Project #3, all natural organic sunscreen: Woo hoo, a third project again! I hope they keep this up so I can play around with even more projects. Making my very own sunscreen is fantastic. I wonder if it will have that “sunscreen smell” that we’re all too used to? I doubt it, and that is a very good thing indeed. I had no idea soybean oil could be so useful for bug spray and sunscreen! Fascinating.

the homegrown collective june 2014 project all natural organic sunscreen info card the homegrown collective june 2014 products for all natural organic sunscreen

Can you say summer soothing in a box? This is amazing. I can’t wait to see how effective everything is! And those ducky molds are precious. I feel like making jello with them… :-P

the homegrown collective june 2014 aloe vera info card

You know you want to get in on this action! Just subscribe to the Homegrown Collective and you can enjoy these fantastic projects too. :-D

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I'd be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

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