Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Birchbox Favorite Review: stila sparkle liquid eyeliner

This month, the Birchbox was inspired by Gossip Girl.  I have never watched that show, so a lot of the "wow" factor on the box was lost on me.  It was just any other Birchbox as far as I was concerned.  But I knew what my favorite product was going to be as soon as I opened the box.  Hands down, I was most excited about the eyeliner from stila.


The shade that I received was called Flash, and it was sort of a glittery gold color.  While this was probably not the best shade for my eye color, I tried it out, and was pretty happy with the results.

First off, the eyeliner is waterproof.  This is a huge bonus for me, since I have eye allergies.  There is nothing I hate more than freshly applied eye makeup smearing because my eyes start watering.  The eyeliner went on very easily, and I was able to control the applicator easily to determine if I wanted a subtle, thin line or a bolder, thicker line.  While the eyeliner is glittery and shimmery, it is very subtle, so it works well with a matte eyeshadow as well as a more glittery eyeshadow.


All in all I am extremely happy with this product.  The sample was a full size eyeliner, making the cost of this month's box a total bargain.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thankful for... having my heart humbled

Today, I had an experience that has humbled my heart beyond belief, and reminded me of the bountiful blessings in my life.

I decided to strike out today to visit my old coworkers, and then go buy food to take to a tailgate at a baseball game this weekend, where I will be hanging out with my social media friends.  After visiting with my old coworkers, I headed out of town.  As I passed a local intersection, I noticed 3 young people, 2 boys and a girl, with a sign, and 3 large leashed dogs.  This intersection is at a shopping plaza, and often people will panhandle there.  I was struck immediately by how young these kids were, late teens to early twenties, and the fact that they had dogs with them.  I knew that there was no way I could just drive past.

I turned my car around at the next parking lot, and headed back to find them.  They were hurrying toward a car that, while probably as dependable as they could afford, was not in the best condition.  I pulled into the parking space next to them, and asked them what their sign said.

The one boy quietly responded that they were just passing through, and down on their luck, needing a little help.  He quickly followed up with the statement "but we are leaving now, because some woman just yelled at us and threatened to call the police".  My heart was breaking.  I told them that I did not have any cash, but would it be ok if I took them to a store in the shopping plaza to buy them some food, and food for the dogs.  They seemed so amazed that I was willing to do this.  One boy stayed at the car, with the dogs, while the other boy and the girl came with me.

As we walked to and around the store, I got a little bit of their story.  They were homeless.  They travel from place to place, trying to find work to make enough money to take care of themselves, and the dogs.  The dogs all had tags on, and they told me that they made sure to keep up with their shots, that the dogs were microchipped, and when things were really tough, the dogs always ate first, even if the kids did not.  I was amazed.  They had just returned from New Orleans, where they had been working on houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina.  They said the devastation down there is still quite bad.

In the store, I asked them what they wanted, and they basically told me they were happy with anything.  I wanted something that would provide them with some nutrients and calories, so we opted for bananas, wheat bread, and peanut butter.  I asked if there was anything else they wanted, but they were so happy with just that.  I also got a 15 pound bag of dog food for the dogs.  They were so grateful and appreciative of this small token; I wished I could do more.  $23 dollars was what I spent.  Such a small amount, but to them it seemed to make all the difference in the world.

We walked back to the car, they loaded the groceries into the car and dog food into the trunk which contained only a gas can, sleeping bags, and a couple of backpacks.  I wished them well, and safe travels, they thanked me, and waved goodbye with huge smiles on their faces.  The whole thing lasted less than 30 minutes.

Living in a small town, homelessness is not visible to me.  I know it exists, but I do not see it first hand very often.  Before people become homeless, they have lives just like you and me.  They have families, and friends, and pets.  People forget that.  I imagine that when faced with homelessness, people try to hold on to what little they can.  I bet plenty of homeless people have pets that become homeless with them, yet we really never hear or see that.  These kids were doing the best they could to keep their little family (that is what the 6 of them were, you know, a family) afloat.

It saddens me that they had encountered someone who was cruel to them, just before I stopped to talk to them.  They told me it happens all the time, and that breaks my heart.  People have the misconception that the homeless are lazy or crazy, or that panhandlers are just trying to make an easy buck.  These kids were thrilled with the fact that I offered to buy them food, and that I treated them with respect.  They struck me as hard working, and kind.  I hope I showed them some kindness in return, because there, but for the grace of God, go I.


I live a comfortable life.  What seems so common to me would be a luxury to these kids.  Me, with my iPhone, my full cupboards, my soft bed. You can bet, when I came home, I gave my dogs lots of extra snuggles.  Please note that I do not write about this situation for praise or accolades.  I just want people to think a little about how they view those who are homeless or in need.

So many things had to fall into place perfectly for me to encounter these kids today, I know it was God, speaking to me, and humbling my heart.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Munzee Mania

I have written numerous times about how much Hubby and I love to geocache.  A few weeks ago, we found our first cache of the year, and we were off and running.  Last weekend, we found our 100th geocache.  Now, I know a lot of cachers break a hundred within their first month, but we have been real casual cachers, so this was kind of a big deal for us.

However, I have recently become addicted to something new.  This thing is called the munzee.


While out looking for a geocache, I stumbled upon a QR code hidden near the cache location.  Being the nosey person I am, I pulled out my smart phone, used my code scanner, and decided to see what the code was for.  It directed my phone to download an application called Munzee.  Basically, these codes are hidden in different locations, and, like geocaches, you use the GPS coordinated to find the location of the codes.  Once you locate the code, you scan it with the application on your smartphone, and it registers that you have "captured" the code.  In short, it is paperless geocaching.  I was instantly hooked.  In the three weeks since then, I have captured 44 munzees.


Each munzee is worth points, and by collecting points, you go up in levels.  But there is another way to earn points, by deploying your own munzees.  Tonight, Hubby and I deployed our first munzees ever.  I noticed that some areas near me have virtually no munzees, so these are the areas we hit tonight.  I plan on deploying more soon.  It is so easy, you go to the munzee website, and you can create the codes there.  Then you print them, weatherize them, and off you go to deploy them.

I am someone who much prefers urban geocaches to the ones in the woods, so munzees really appeal to me.  While they too can be hidden in the woods, I have found most to be more out in the open.  It is a quick way to make a find without fighting ticks.  Perfect for this girl!

So, if any of you are geocachers, I hope you will check out munzees as well.  And feel free to add Hubby and I as friends on both the geocaching and munzee websites, our user name in both places is "Coase".

Happy Hunting!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Out of Town: Flight 93 Memorial and Quecreek Mine, Somerset, Pennsylvania

Last weekend, we took another day trip to a part of Pennsylvania.  This time, we opted for Somerset County.  My original intention was to just go for an hour or so, but we ended up being there for nearly 5 hours.


The main thing that drew us there was the Flight 93 Memorial, in Shanksville.  The Memorial is at the actual site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.  As most people know, this flight was part of the terrorist attacks on America, and terrorists originally intended to crash this flight into the capital.  When the passengers realized this plot, they decided to try take the plane over from the terrorists, and during the struggle, the terrorists crashed the plane into a field in Somerset county, killing all those on board.  These incredibly brave men and women sacrificed their lives, while saving the lives of so many others.

The memorial site is still quite young, and in the process of being developed into a beautiful park.  Many parts of the park are undergoing tree plantings and landscaping.  Their will be 40 memorial groves, with a walking path, the creation of a visitor center, and reforestation and landscaping of the grounds.  I expect that, when finished, it will be quite lovely.  As it is, the portion that is now open is incredibly moving and touching.  There are large informational panels explaining the events that day,


a large marble memorial wall with the names of all those who died,


and a small center where people can leave their thoughts as a lasting tribute.


Along the walkway, there are benches, and places where people have left a variety of items in memorium.


It was odd knowing that, as we were there on that gorgeous day, in this beautiful park, we were at a place where such tragedy occurred.  We have visited battlegrounds and memorials in the past, but this was so different, because this was something we had lived through.  I am sure many of the young children there has a much different experience, seeing this as mere history, but for us, this was our life.  It was humbling and emotional.

When we left there, we stopped at the Flight 93 Memorial Chapel, a few minutes away.  The chapel was closed by the time we got there, but even the grounds themselves were lovely and heartbreaking.


Just a few short months after the nation was rocked with the 9/11 tragedy, Somerset was once again in the national spotlight, as 9 miners were trapped in the Quecreek Mine.  Over five days in July 2002, efforts were made to rescue the miners, until, miraculously, all 9 miners were rescued.  It was an incredibly inspirational story of faith and mankind helping each other, at a time when we so desperately needed it.  The site has been transformed into a monument to celebrate and remember the story of the rescue.




As someone who has a coal miner in our family, this was an incredibly chilling site to visit.  The bravery of these miners, and the determination of the rescuers is hard to comprehend.

As you can imagine, we were pretty emotionally drained, and we spent the two hour drive home talking about what we saw, what we remember from these events, and simply trying to process the gravity of both situations.  I plan on returning to both sites again someday, to see the progress that has been made and to spend more time reflecting on what happened, and the mercy of the God that saw us through that time.

I took a lot of really amazing and touching pictures that day, so feel free to view the rest of the set here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review: Frosted Mini Wheat Little Bites, Cinnamon Roll flavor

Lately, I have been trying to eat lean protein for breakfast.  That means egg whites and greek yogurt.  While both delicious, these can get a little boring for breakfast.  Once in a while, I just want a bowl of cereal that tastes like it is bad for me, but in reality is not.  Enter Frosted Mini Wheats.


This is a cereal brand that I have enjoyed for a long time.  They make several different flavors, and frosted wheat is not that bad, considering it is a great source of fiber.  Food purists might not like the amount of sugar in the frosted wheats, but all in all, not an awful choice for a once in a while breakfast treat.  So, when I learned there were Cinnamon Roll flavored Mini Wheats, I knew I had to try them.  Cinnamon Roll flavored stuff has been a recent obsession, so that I get the flavor of a comforting treat without the fat.

I did not realize the difference between Mini Wheats and Mini Wheat Little Bites until I saw them.  These are much tinier than regular Mini Wheats, hence the slight name difference.  Were the Minis not mini enough? Otherwise, these are your standard Mini Wheats.  They look a little like straw, but I truly think they are tasty.


Nutritionally, they are not awful, but higher in calories and carbs than I would like.  However, a great source of fiber and very low fat.  So, for a once in a while thing, once again, not awful.  My biggest complaint is the serving size, which is 47 biscuits.  Really?  You could not have just made it half a cup?  For people who are a little OCD about precise serving sizes, it is a major pain to sit there and count out 47 biscuits each time I want to make sure I am getting a correct serving size.  It is a major flaw as far as I am concerned.


Taste wise, these were good, not fantastic, but good.  But between the annoying serving size and the amount of calories and carbs, I am not sure this would be a staple in my pantry.  I think there are better, healthier, easier options out there. And if I were going to splurge with carbs for mini wheats, I would probably do it on the blueberry ones.


I reviewed this product as part of the Amazon Vine program.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Out of Town: Gravity Hill in Bedford Pennsylvania

It is not unusual for us to wake up one weekend morning and decide to go on a day trip, usually bringing the dogs along.  So, when I suggested to Hubby that we travel to Bedford PA to visit Gravity Hill a few weeks ago, this request was not that unusual.  Now, Gravity Hill is just a spot, on a county road, where, for a few minutes, you can defy gravity, and your car will roll uphill with no assistance from any person, just gravity doing a crazy trick.

Since this was a pretty far trip to take, just for that one spot, we decided to visit Gravity Hill in conjunction with a driving tour of several covered bridges in the area.  We picked a beautiful day for our outing, had we thought ahead a little more we probably would have done some geocaching in the area.  Luckily there are two other driving tours in that county, so I bet I can talk Hubby into going back with promises of geocaches to be found in historical places!

The tour took about 90 minutes give or take (we had a slight set back due to a road being blocked with a traffic accident).  We got to see some really pretty bridges, and enjoy the beautiful day.




  Most of the bridges were well maintained, but one of the last onse was covered in grafitti, which I personally found pretty interesting.



And who can forget the whole motivation for our visit, Gravity Hill. Well, it literally is just a spot marked on a road, where, when you put your car in neutral and take your foot off of the brake, your car rolls uphill. Pretty interesting, and just another example of the strange things you can sometimes find in Pennsylvania.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

In the Big City: Toonseum

I have a whole backlog of topics I have been wanting to write about and just had not gotten around to it, so today I am digging out one of those topics.

As readers know, Hubby and I are always looking for fun things to do in Pittsburgh, since it is only an hour away.  A few months ago, Groupon offered a deal on admission to the Toonseum, and Hubby and I jumped at the opportunity.  We finally went this winter.


The Toonseum is a museum completed dedicated to cartooning, one of only 3 in the country!  One may not realize what an art form cartooning is, but the Toonseum will help to teach this fact.  The first thing I noticed was the place was awash in color and fun.  No stuffy quiet dusty exhibits here.  A lot of iconic cartoon characters and artists are featured throughout the museum, and one room is nothing but prints of Sunday comic strips from the same day, which was probably my favorite part.




We had a complete blast, and Hubby even got to sit at a read cartoonists table and draw a picture.

As some of you may recall, Hubby likes to draw cartoons every so often.

Pittsburgh is chock full of fun, cultural places to visit and things to do. And we love doing these things. But we also like to act like kids now and then, which is why the Toonseum was a perfect place for us to visit. I really encourage all in the Pittsburgh area to visit Tooneseum, at least once, but be careful of the falling anvils!