Uncommonly Fantastically Good

When Uncommon Goods approached me about sharing their company with you guys, I was immediately on board. Not because they have an amazing collection of unique gifts and products, or because they focus on environmentally sustainable and responsible practices (like limiting the number of catalogs they print and printing them on recycled paper), but because some of my blogging friends had worked with them in the past and had an undeniably positive experience.

So basically, the hardest part about this experience was deciding on what I would choose to review here on the blog. Everything else was easy peasy. But really, the choosing…I’m a Libra, not known for my decision making skills. But I knew Mother’s Day was coming up and that I could pick something out for myself. I focused on the jewelry. Oh my gosh, you guys. Just go take a look at it. I’ll wait…

There’s an enormous collection of gorgeous, unique, personalized, out of the ordinary pieces. I finally decided on this amazing necklace made of silver and gold and actual, real leaves. It’s dainty yet substantial, shiny yet understated, and makes the most soothing little jingling sound when the leaves bump against each other.

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I also figured that I could get something for the kids/our whole family, and as soon as Henry saw these cardboard animal heads on my screen, he INSISTED I get one. I chose the Large Elephant Head, and when it was delivered a few days later, I told him he was more than welcome to go ahead and put it together (it was a few days before show day, so if I was going to do it, it would be a while). So he did. He put the entire thing together himself, punching out the cardboard pieces, following the instructions and placing each of the 20-30 pieces in just the right place to build the large and very cool elephant head. I think it probably needs some friends for the wall, too, once we find the perfect spot for it.

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The last thing I ordered was this travel book to put all of my NYC memorabilia in that has been stored in a baggie for the last year. I’m pretty excited about putting that together, once life slows down a bit.

So, it’s too late for Mother’s Day, but if you need really cool, really unique gifts of any kind (for a new baby or a kid’s birthday, perhaps), definitely check out Uncommon Goods. Or, you know, if you just want something for yourself, there’s plenty for you, too.

I received items in exchange for this post but all opinions and gushing are 100% my own, as always.

Keeping Women and Babies Healthier By Nature #giveaway

I’ve mentioned before that I went to/worked at the ShiftCon Conference last fall, and that one of the things I loved most about is was meeting reps from companies that have the consumer’s health and wellness at heart, NOT money and not the quickest way to make a buck.

With that philosophy, these companies have found ways to make their products without harmful chemicals, without toxins, without huge harmful effects on the environment.

One of these companies (and actually one of the companies I talked to and tried products from both years at the conference) is Natracare, the company that’s “healthier by nature.”

Normally I wouldn’t talk about feminine care products here on the blog, but the more I’ve learned about traditional pads and tampons, they less I want to use them. I mean….when you use them, you’re putting chemicals INSIDE YOUR BODY or right up next to it, all day long. I do personally believe that our overwhelming use of chemicals and artificial substances in products and food is one of the big reasons that illnesses like cancer are so prevalent today.

Anyway, Natracare has a line of feminine care products that are made from organic cotton. They’re plastic-free, chlorine free, and in the case of the intimate wipes, only use scents from organic sources (calendula, rose  and chamomile). There are no petrochemical sources or by-products used in these wipes, tampons, or pads, but they still WORK. I’ve been using their panty liners and other feminine care exclusively since the first Shiftcon in 2014.

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Natracare has more available products, too, though, including natural (82% organic) baby wipes, and the first COSMOS certified organic Cleansing Make-up removal wipes, and maternity and nursing pads.

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Natracare makeup removing wipesNatracare nursing pads

For a list of places to buy Natracare products, visit the website.

This is the pack of goodies I received, and I’m very pleased to be able to give a similar one away to one of you!

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To enter to win a prize pack from Natracare, you can do the following things and leave a separate comment for each one:

  • Visit Natracare.com and tell me which product you’d be excited to try
  • Visit Natracare on Facebook
  • follow Natracare on Twitter
  • Tweet the following: “I entered to win a healthier by nature care pack from @gfunkified and @natracare: http://www.gfunkified.com/2016/01/keeping-women-and-babies-healthier-by-nature/

Good luck!

I received Natracare products to try and review, but no other compensation, and all opinions are my own.

Giveaway open to US residents. I will randomly choose a winner from valid entries in one week.

Rare Bird, A Book Review

I think I discovered Anna’s blog, An Inch of Gray, after the freak accident that took her son. At least. that’s when I dug deep and read all I could, heartbroken for her and wondering how in the world she could find the words to talk about that horrible day that the rains came and washed away her only son.

But somehow, she did. She found words full of wisdom and grace, eloquence, truth, and both love and pain. Those blog posts share bits of her grief and life after that loss. I’ve since become closer to Anna and gotten to know her, but I could never really understand what she has been going through since that day three years ago.

Recently, Anna’s book, Rare Bird, came out. It’s the story of that day her son, Jack, died, and her life since then with the other two remaining members of her family. The book expands on those blog posts, revealing hidden sources of grief and light in Anna’s life.

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Somehow, Anna is able to write about a mother’s worst nightmare, the death of a child, in such a way that brings her readers to that horrible day, lets them feel what she was feeling, and then brings them out of it to the other side, where she is….a place of grief over the loss of a vital part of their family, and hope in the future that somehow, the three of them will make it through.

What struck me most about this book was how much I related to it. Everyone grieves differently, I know that. But I think there are some universal truths about how grieving works, how society treats people who are grieving, and what it can do to a person’s way of thinking. I actually folded the corner of the page with this quote on it:

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I remember walking into a grocery store after my first husband died, and holding my head down. I knew that everyone knew who I was (even though I didn’t know them….it’s a small town phenomenon). I didn’t want the attention I was getting, or for people to pity me when they saw me. I felt so terribly alone, just like Anna talked about.

Rare Bird shows Anna’s faith, time and time again, but it also clearly shows how conflicted a person can be about God, about bad things that happen to good people, about the rest of a life wasted that could have been so full and so, SO much longer. This sentiment and this confusion about a God in Heaven that lets things like this happen (a twelve year old boy who was always so careful, dying in a freak accident, or a young father killed by a drunk driver shortly after finding out he was having another baby) and the temptation to push Him away:

Because hurting people want to understand; we want to know why. But we don’t want people coming to conclusions for us, feeding us neat little answers of what God’s will is and how His mind and heart work. No thank you. (p. 218)

I think what I love most about this book, other than the fact that I truly relate to so much of it, is that Anna is honest without being preachy. She honors Jack’s memory without turning him into some kind of saint, and rather, lets her readers know little details about what wasn’t perfect about her boy in order to demonstrate what a real, smart, funny boy he was.

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You can buy Anna’s book, Rare Bird, on Amazon, but I want to give one away as well. I preordered the book before I was given an advance copy, so I’m going to send someone my extra copy.

All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me why you want to read it or who you want to share it with, and I’ll pick a winner randomly next Monday night (9/22).

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Go Out and Play!

The kids have been back to school for about two and a half weeks. I’m exhausted, frankly, and so is the toddler that’s not yet in school. But the kids that ARE in school? They’ve got energy.

I don’t know where it comes from. They work hard all day, they have two recesses in the heat, they learn and play and learn some more. So why is it that at bedtime, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to settle down and go to sleep?!

I have to get them outside. Even though they’ve been outside probably more than I have during the mornings and afternoons, they’ve also been sitting in a classroom, working on projects, talking with their friends and sitting still. If they don’t run around before bedtime and work off some energy, they’ll be talking to each other and playing with LEGOs in their beds an hour after they should’ve been asleep. Then they’re exhausted the next day and can’t focus on all of the fun things they’re supposed to be learning at school.

They go through phases playing outside, just like everything else. For weeks, they’ll do nothing but jump on the trampoline. Then they’ll want nothing to do with that and will only swing. Or jump rope. Or dig in the sand box. Or draw on the sidewalk with chalk.

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An awesome bonus is that the puppy goes out to play with them, too, and the more she runs around, the better she sleeps at night. And we all know that puppies are like babies when it comes to sleeping (or not) at night.

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We’ve got an arsenal of outside toys now, thanks to KaBOOM!, the company that makes it a blast to get outside AND gives back to make sure kids everywhere can play, too.

KaBOOM!’s philosophy is this: Play Matters. Play can transform children – from sedentary to physically active, bored to mentally active and solitary to socially active. When we make sure that our children’s lives are filled with play, we all benefit: our communities will be healthier and happier today, and our society will be stronger and more resilient tomorrow. 

I couldn’t agree more, and I am crazy about all of the super cool toys on the Imagine Toys website, including the Go Out and Play Collection from the non-profit KaBOOM!*. Like the Essentials Kit full of, well….outdoor play essentials in a durable, roomy backpack, perfect for keeping in the car or next the door and grabbing when the mood strikes or the energy overflows out of their little pores.

 

 

 

 

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How do your kids like to burn off their crazy back to school energy?

*KaBOOM! is a national non-profit dedicated to ensuring that all children get the balance of active play they need to grow into successful, healthy adults. 

I recieved a Kaboom essentials kit to review, but all opinions are 100% my own.

Wall Art Doesn’t Have To Be Difficult.

My parents have done a ton of work on their house in the last year, and still have a ways to go on their whole-house renovation. They have pretty much finished the upstairs, though, with three bedrooms and a bathroom, and my mom has been decorating the “grandkid room”, where a few of their 11 grandchildren can sleep at any given time.

She found an awesome space-themed ceiling fan and chose accessories to complement it. Travel, geography and space, all wrapped up into one cool room.

She wanted to use wall decals for a non-permanent, fun, inexpensive, easy way to expand on her theme, like a dark brown jet plane above the headboard…which Ervin loves, obviously. Boy + Plane = Mega cool.

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Cozy Wall Art has a ton of different designs, colors, and quotes to choose from, and you can even make custom quotes for your home.

I love the wall decals so much more than, say, wall paper for decorating a room….especially a room like a nursery that will need to be changed when your kid grows up and no longer wants to be surrounded by fairy princesses or giant dump trucks.

Oh, and when we first put the decal on the wall, we did it wrong:

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But it was easy to fix and stuck just as well after we peeled the top off and stuck it back on. I told you it was easy!

Have you ever used a wall decal to decorate your house?

I received a decal from Cozy Wall Art for this review, but was not compensated. All opinions are my own.

Summer Theater Series: The Wizard of Oz

Growing up in Kansas, you can’t escape it. Go to a conference and tell people where you’re from, and more often than not, you’ll hear “I don’t think you’re in Kansas anymore.” It’s one of those jokes that was funny the first ten times and not so much after that.

Leading up to the Broadway production at Starlight Theatre (the first in their 2014 series), the kids were (quite literally) counting down the days until opening night. On opening night, they counted down the hours. And it did not disappoint!

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The oldest three and I took their grandma (my mom), and made it in time to check out the Yellow Brick Bash*, the activities set up from 6-8pm for the kids to “get into the Oz spirit” before the show. There were several photo ops (and you know how much I love those), crafts for the kids to make and LEGO bins to play in from Legoland KC.

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I’ve been to Starlight before, but I always underestimate the production value of the shows….I’m always impressed by what I see. In The Wizard of Oz, the sets and the costumes are nothing short of spectacular, truly. The Good Witch had an AH-MAZING gown on….like she was dipped in liquid glitter. Going into it, I wasn’t sure how in the world they’d pull of the big tornado or flying monkey scenes, but those (along with all of the others) had awesome special effects and pulled you into the story of Dorothy, her farm family, and her new friends in Oz.

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My seatmate (literally…he sat on my lap the whole time).

But the star of the show? The little dog playing Toto. I’m not even kidding…that little guy** stole the show more than once, and he didn’t get out of character or slip up once in three hours.

Though it was a little chilly and it drizzled on us a couple of times, the night was beautiful. And there’s always something magical about the clouds clearing out and a nearly-full moon appearing just to the left of the stage a few scenes before the end.

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*There are two pre-show events, free to all ticket holders: Starlight’s Yellow Brick Bash is a pre-show festival offering games, crafts, performances, photo opportunities, the Twisted Twister inflatable slide, caricatures and other activities for families and kids of all ages. Located in the group pavilions adjacent to Starlight’s north concourse, the Yellow Brick Bash is open 6-8 p.m. each night. And inspired by Toto/Nigel’s story of adoption success, Starlight is partnering with five Kansas City area pet shelters and agencies to host the Take Home Toto on-site dog adoption event. From 6-8 p.m. every night but opening night, shelter volunteers will introduce adoptable dogs to Starlight guests in the Helzberg Fountain and Garden of the Stars area on the theatre’s east side. Starlight patrons can talk with agency representatives, learn about available dogs and begin the adoption application process if they find their perfect four-legged match.

**According to the show’s press release: “The show’s furry, four-legged star, Toto (aka Nigel), also has U.S. roots. He was rescued in 2008 from the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society by Tony® Award-winning animal trainer William Berloni.”

Tickets for The Wizard of Oz at Starlight Theatre are on sale now for $10 to $95. Tickets are available online at www.kcstarlight.com, by calling 816.363.STAR (7827) or at the Starlight box office at 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, MO 64132. All performances begin at 8 p.m.

I received two complimentary tickets in exchange for a review, but as always, all opinions and views are 100% my own!

The New Way To Floss From Waterpik #NewAgeInWaterFlossing

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Waterpik.

I have always hated flossing. ALWAYS.

I have the trifecta of bad flossing situation:

1. Small mouth

2. Crowded teeth

3. Gag reflex

It’s hard for me to floss, truly. Though the gag reflex has gotten better over the years, my teeth have not magically straightened themselves out, and my mouth hasn’t taken yoga for flexibility.

I do floss sometimes, though. Namely, for a few days after I go to the dentist, and he says I’m “on the verge” of a cavity, and he knows that if I don’t floss between those way back teeth regularly, the next time he sees me, there will be drilling to do. So, for about a week, maybe two, I floss religiously. And I wait for it to become more of a habit, less torture. But it never does, so I start flossing less religiously….every two days, then every three, then once a week, then when I have something stuck in there that I can’t get out with my tongue and toothbrush.

I so wish I was one of those people that just HAS to floss everyday. I really do….my dental life would be so much easier. But I’m not and never will be. So, when I got the chance to try out the Waterpik Aquarius Professional Waterflosser, I was ecstatic. I’m not even exaggerating.

You’ve probably seen a sign for the Waterpik flossers in your dentist’s office. I know I have…sitting in the window that I stare at while I wait in The Chair. I’ve always been intrigued, but as a floss-hater, I haven’t been inclined to actually bite the proverbial bullet and get one.

Before I tried it, though, I stuffed my face with popcorn for lunch. You know, really give it a good test. Also, I really like popcorn.

It took a couple of minutes for me to get the hang of it, and figure out how to do it really effectively, but by the time I was done, I had that lick your teeth a lot because they feel so darn clean feeling that you get walking out of the dentist’s office. Even after running and not showering (yet), I was sweaty, but my teeth? They were sparkling.

Trying out the new Waterpik Professional Waterflosser

It came with seven different tips: three regular ones (which you replace every six months or so), plus four specialized tips. One of them is even a toothbrush tip, which you can use with or without toothpaste. And, you can switch it from “floss” to “massage” which gives your gums and mouth an especially clean feeling.

Trying out the new Waterpik Professional Waterflosser

It’s actually really cool, like bringing the hose sprayer thing from the dentist home, but without the suction. And I bet that my dentist is going to be pleased when he sees me in a couple of weeks.

What about you, are you a flosser or a wanna-be (like me)?

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Waterpik.

Tracking Pixelwaterpik

The Winter Running Doldrums

I received a shirt from Allied Shirts to review, but all opinions are my own.

Y’all, the winter blahs have set in. It’s cold (SO COLD). It’s dry, it’s sometimes snowy, sometimes windy.

Who’s idea was it to run a half marathon in January?!

Oh yeah. MINE.

But it’ll be fine, because it’s in Disney World, so it’ll probably be 70 degrees and I’ll be sweating as soon as I start running. But right now? Right now is training.

My last half didn’t go so well, and I really, really want this one to go better. I’ve been training for three months already (virtually) with Team in Training, and have a month until the race.

My treadmill and I have become good, good, friends, y’all.

But. Sometimes, I really don’t want to hang out with the treadmill, especially for longer than an hour.

It doesn’t like coffee OR cocktails. What kind of friend is that?

My motivation comes from different places…Brad Pitt in Moneyball on the TV in front of me, an overly emotional Parenthood episode, a bowl of ice cream waiting for me after I’m done running, a huge honor from Mamavation that makes me want to keep trying to be healthy and inspire people by getting my running shoes on when I really don’t want to, an awesome shirt that I can design with a running mantra of my choosing*.

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Because seriously, do I want to get out of my warm bed or comfy chair and run when it’s cold and gloomy outside? No. Not at all. I’d much rather read or watch TV or eat or drink hot tea. But do I know that I’ll regret not sticking to my plan when the whole Disney race is a struggle to finish or my pants no longer fit? YES. So I do it.

But, like I said, sometimes it takes a little push (or a big one). Sometimes it take humor, and sometimes inspiration, and sometimes just discipline.

Other sayings** for my shirt could have been:

Tell me this is worth it.

I love running. I hate running. I love running. I hate running….

Am I there yet?

Are my children still behind me?

#BAMR

I made my shirt on Alliedshirts.com, and the hardest part of the process was deciding on my design. (I’m a Libra, what can I say?) It was easy to change fonts, add text, find pictures. If I HAD a design, I could’ve just uploaded it. Which would make them perfect for a sports team, or running partners during a race, or any situation that calls for your very own personalized shirt. And I got my shirt fast, so I could start running away from the zombies right away. Zombies like cold weather, right?

What do you do when you need motivation? And what would YOUR custom shirt say?

*Thanks to Kendra for suggesting this saying on my Facebook page!

**And thanks to everyone else for helping me think of something to write on my shirt, with your awesome suggestions. If only I could make ten more…

 

The Annual Family Pictures (and a #Giveaway)

I was given a canvas from Signazon to review, but I did not receive compensation and all opinions are 100% my own. I promise you don’t want to miss the giveaway at the bottom, or some family pictures that I think are pretty darn cute.

This year, I didn’t have the time, energy, or mega-bucks to spend on a family photo session. But, I love getting a good shot of our whole family (and at least one of all of the kids together).

So, on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, in a comical display of stubbornness, I set up my camera on a big cardboard box from the garage, and we all stood out in the field behind our house while I ran back and forth to hit the button and get back in place before the time was up. I was “allowed” to take five pictures of all of us, by my husband, who insisted that after five, he’d no longer have a smile for the camera. I took six. I don’t think they’re half bad.

My friend Sarah was kind enough to do some editing on the the family shots to make them look, you know…more professional.

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I’m also maybe turning into crazy picture lady, because our living room walls are basically covered. Most of them are canvases, which I LOVE. This time around I ordered one of my favorites from Signazon for the wall, and I think it looks perfect up there with photos from the last few years. It came packaged really well, shipped fast, and the picture looks amazing on it.

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Because I’m in the Christmas spirit, I’m giving away a $50 credit to Signazon.com, so one of you lucky readers can pick out your own canvas, custom sign, business cards, or any of their high-quality custom products.

Giveaway is open to US residents only. Winner will be chosen via random drawing on or after December 12, and will have 48 hours after notification to respond with contact information, or another winner will be chosen. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

My #JamberryChallenge

I have a good friend, Amanda of It’s Blogworthy, that has been a huge support of my Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fundraiser this fall, and is a Florida, full-time working mama to one boy and one girl (on the way). Anyway, she’s a rep for Jamberry nails, which I was introduced to several months ago and love. She asked for volunteers a few weeks ago to do a one week “Jamberry Challenge”, and I agreed….not only to help her out, but to try it out for myself again and see what happens.

I started the challenge by applying one Jamberry “accent nail” in skinny pink stripes, and painting the rest with a dark gray Julep polish. I followed the directions on the Jamberry nail, and did my normal base coat, polish coat, and top coat on the rest of the nails.

This was the “before” picture:

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And this was seven days later:

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You can see that the tips and base of the polished nails are both starting to chip and wear. The Jamberry nail was wearing on the tip a little, but wasn’t making me self-conscious in public like the rest of them were (walking around with chipped nails drives me crazy, which is why I rarely paint my nails…who has time to paint them every few days?).

What I also love about Jamberry, besides the fact that they’re pretty easy to put on (really easy once you’ve done it a time or two) and last longer and look better than regular nail polish, is that they come in a lot of fun prints. I will never be able to paint Pinterest-worthy designs on my nails, but I don’t need to anymore, because Jamberry has so many great ones to choose from (seriously…I have trouble deciding on one or two when I’m picking wraps out, but right now I’m dying to try out some of the sparkles).

I’m also in Amanda’s Insider’s Facebook group, where she shares tips, sales, specials, etc, and you should join, too, if you’re interested in the inside scoop.

If you’d like to order your own “Jams”, you can do so here  (this is an online party for my readers, and Amanda is generously donating some of her profits to my LLS fundraiser). The wraps are buy three, get one free, and if you order four with that special, Amanda is going to throw in a free gift with your order!

You can also try a free sample here and check out a bunch of designs and styles in her Look Book (I love to see them on nails, personally, and she’s got a lot of pictures to check out). And if you’re curious about how far a Jamberry sheet will go, check out this “diagram” that Amanda did for her blog.

So, if you wish, go check out the party and website, buy a little something for yourself, and support an amazing working mom and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

This post is not sponsored in any way (Amanda didn’t even send me a sample wrap for the challenge, I used one I already had). I just wanted to spread the word about a great product and friend.