Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wishin' and Hopin' - My Christmas Wish List

I remember when my little brother and I were kids and our mom would hand us the Sears catalog around this time of year.  She let us flip through the toy section and have a good ol' time dog-ear marking the pages or toys we were wishing for.  Somehow Santa also found these pages and knew what we wanted.  Those were the good ol' days weren't they?  Did anyone else "shop" for their wishlist like this when they were a kid?

Nowadays, I just swoon over the things I can't always afford but really want to get myself eventually. I'm a simple girl...I don't need designer clothes or shoes or even fancy jewelry.  But being a teacher doesn't exactly give me the luxury of buying everything I want and when I want it.  So, it's always fun to wish for those fun items around this time of year and hope that they will end up under the tree.  And if they don't?  Well, I just go out and try to buy them for myself the day after Christmas during those NICE sales!

**Whoops...I sort of went out and bought the knee-high riding boots today.  I couldn't pass up the sale and worry about them selling out in my size between now and Christmas.  So? early Christmas present to myself it is!  Oh and my mom mentioned she already got me the polish set I want.  Yeah!**

Here's what I'm wishing for this year...
1. CHECK!   The Twenty-Two - Formula X nail polish set at Sephora - $55
What can I say?  There's something about nail polish and painting my nails that makes me feel pampered and frankly, helps me relax.  Apparently, these new polishes are amazing and have one of the best formulas around.  Since I don't quite want to spend the $10.50 - $12.50 price for one bottle, this set of minis has all their main colors, textures, and finishes!  Nice!  I've already "cheated" and asked my mom to gift this one to me.

2.  Lorac PRO Palette - $42
I'm a major Urban Decay Naked Palette fan and have been coveting looks from mine the last 2 years. But this palette is all the rage on beauty blogs and with YT beauty gurus.  I like that the colors are still natural but there are a few with a nice neutral pop as well.  They are said to be very pigmented and buttery as well.  Here's hoping my hubby gets me this!

3.  CHECK! Mossimo Kayce Black Tall Boots with Studs - $39.99 (on sale now for $31.99)
My black boots I've had the last 2 years are going downhill.  Plus, these are seriously hot and worthy of replacing them.  Click on the link and check out the back of them.  Um hello?  Yes please!  Just in case...I wear a size 7 or a 7.5.  All I know is...if someone doesn't gift these to me this year, I will be going out and buying them.

4.  Mossimo Black Kody Studded Combat Boot - $39.99 (on sale now for $31.99)
You may have noticed these are on my fall wish list blog post.  I have my fox sweater and I found myself a nice black crossbody purse too, so this is the only item I haven't found yet.  But thankfully, I found these perfectly done boots.  Oh and again, I wear a size 7 or 7.5.  I have to make sure I am specific since I plan to send this to my family members.  :-)  A Target giftcard would do me just fine too.

5.  ASOS Heart Elbow Patch Sweater - $39.40
Basically, I've been pining over an elbow patch sweater for the last year.  And this one...with its heart-shaped patches is super cute.  Plus, it's favorite color!  Size 4 please.

6.  Amazon Kindle Books Giftcard - any amount
Now that I have a new (to me) iPad, I absolutely love reading books on my Kindle App more than through my nook.  It is so much easier to borrow books from my library through it now.  And since I have something like 500 books I want to read on my Goodreads list...I have a lot of reading to do!

7.  Baublebar Statement Necklaces (crystal or navy/plumeria) - $46-$48
Just another accessory I've been pining over for a couple years now.  You can find them everywhere nowadays.  Even though I love J.Crew's the most, I refuse to pay almost $100 for something that is really costume jewelry and not diamonds or pure gold.  Who doesn't want to add something so fun and colorful to their wardrobe?!

8.  Insomnia Cozy Plush Polka-Dot Robe - $24.99
Now that it is finally cooling down around here, I am starting to freeze a little with my tiny little lightweight robe.  It would be seriously nice to have something this cozy to wear around the house in the mornings and at night when I'm lounging.

9.  Bohemian Tribal Ear Cuff Chain on Etsy - $14
If you've seen Catching Fire, you may have noticed Joana wearing a cuff like this before the Quarter Quell.  Or maybe you didn't, because you were actually paying attention to the movie.  Not me!  I saw her wearing one like this (hers was a little longer) and immediately wanted one too.  Even better? Finding one on Etsy and supporting a home-grown designer.

Okay, so while I feel totally greedy and snarky having to write about my wish was still really fun to put it together.  And granted, I can actually send the link to it to my family members and hopefully make it much easier to help them decide...I wish all my family-members would send me something like this to make it easier for me to shop too.

How about you?  What are you wishing for?  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What I Read Wednesday: Mystery Meh

It seems reading has slowed way down for me.  Thankfully, I had my book club to save me.  This one has been on my to-read list for quite awhile and I wish I could have enjoyed it more....especially since it's the only book I've finished in the last 2 weeks or so.

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson | Ever watched 50 First Dates with Drew Barrymore?  Or have you ever watched Groundhog Day with Bill Murray?  Perhaps you have seen The Vow with Rachel McAdams?  Answered yes to any or all of those? Well, then, you have pretty much seen a movie that is this book.

From Goodreads:  'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me ...' Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.

If only this book would have just moved on already. Part III really saved this one as I couldn't put it down! Christine wakes up every morning not knowing anything about where she is and who the man sleeping next to her is. So, each day her husband, Ben, has to give her a rundown before he runs off to work. But by Part II, we are introduced to the journal she is keeping and recording memories in. Slowly, we begin to learn more about what may have actually happened to her and why she feels so uncomfortable in her life as an amnesiac.

I won't say much more than that, because even though this is an extremely slow-moving book, Part III is most definitely a good payoff.  I thought I had figured out the ending about halfway through, but I was completely wrong!  

My rating:  3 out of 5 stars || Goodreads Average:  3.82 stars

Monday, November 18, 2013

Getting My Fix with Stitch Fix!

So many of my friends and followers really wanted to know about my Stitch Fix experience.  What else could be better than having someone else buy you some super cute and trendy clothes? Since I can't afford to do that on a teacher's salary and I do quite enjoy shopping and finding great pieces to add to my wardrobe year-round...I just found and tried out the next best thing!

Stitch Fix is an online personal shopping experience and a seriously neat little way to feel pampered.  You don't have to be a fan of fashion or someone who is necessarily any good at picking out clothes for yourself.  You can let the stylists do the work for you!!  All you have to do is complete a style quiz which includes some information about your sizing, body type, types of cuts and pieces you have in your closet already, and what you hope to get through getting your Fix. Check out more information on that in my other blog post here (towards the bottom) where I show you a little bit of the quiz.   They also ask you to select how much you would like to spend on certain items.  I chose to be sent the least expensive options...this is a die-hard Forever 21 and JCPenney's shopper here you know.

Schedule your Fix for whenever you'd like (they do seem to be booking up fast) or choose to have a Fix sent to you every month.  It's all completely up to you.  You pay a $20 styling fee for each Fix. Then, sit back and be impatient as you wait for your 5 specially selected items to come to your door in what will seem like a nicely-wrapped Christmas present.   If you choose to keep all 5 items, you get 25% off your total and the $20 styling fee is applied as well.  They send you a prepaid envelope so you can send back things you don't want to keep.  Easy peasy!

My First Stitch Fix

One of the other high points of Stitch Fix's service?  They give you 2 styled looks you can use as inspiration for each item your stylist picks out for you.  If you don't have these types of pieces in your wardrobe, you can always find them on your own or use them to pair your items with things that are similar...which you'll see is what I did with the 5 pieces I received.  

As soon as I opened that box I thought...score!  My stylist was spot on and pegged me to a T.  Now a bit of an FYI I figured out by doing some research online from other Stitch Fix reviews?  You can provide a link to your Pinterest board in your Style Quiz.  If you create an actual Stitch Fix Style Board and pin a bunch of items you like from their board or anywhere...your stylist will use it to get to know you.  I HUGELY attribute this to the success of my Fix!  

Here is what happened next when I had myself a little bit of a private fashion myself.  Ugh.

1.  Kensie Dexter Faux Leather Sleeve Jacket: I have 3 suit type jackets that I love to wear, so finding this in my box was definitely a high point.  Usually, jackets with leather solely on the sleeves annoy me.  But the details of the buttons, the diagonal cut cuffs, the little leather strap closure, and the unique long front with the shorter back had me excited.  As you can see, it looked much better open, which wasn't so nice since I really like the closure detail.  I tried to show the back with the sleeve shape and the shorter back.  While I had high hopes for this one, it just didn't flatter me well enough to keep it. Meh.  
Status:  Sent Back | $78

2. 41Hawthorn Milo Bird Print Pleated Detail Skirt:  Blech!  I could not get this one off fast enough. While I seriously fell in love with the print when I first opened the box, I just could not see myself ever wearing this.  You can see here how it fits me in a strange way. It hangs down in the front because my rear end and hips are broader.  The waistband is too narrow. I felt like I need to add a belt or something, but that would have been too much.  The material was very soft and the quality was very good...but this just did not fit right at all.  Granted, I wouldn't pair this with my black booties next time, but I was trying to style it the way I saw in the card and was in a hurry to get my little fashion show over with since I was sweating like crazy (I hate you Arizona falls).  So many people tell me how annoying it is that everything looks good on me, but here is a strong case to show that is far from the truth...I just have become very good at buying clothes that fit my body type.  That is why this one had to be sent back!  
Status:  Sent Back | $48

3.  Renee C. Albertson Chambray Henley Blouse:  Waaaaaah!  Oh how I wanted to really love this piece.  The chambray material was so uber soft.  It is also a high-low top, which I really love to wear.  You can see in the left picture that I am wearing it as is and it looks a little too baggy.  So, I did my whole half tuck in the front to see if that took some of the bulk away. It did, but this piece still did not speak to me.  There are tabs on the sleeves so you can roll them up or leave them down at about a 3/4 length.  Also?  I wish it was one shade lighter as well.  I paired it with my dark blue skinnies (that I seriously need to get the length tailored on), a colorful scarf, and some heeled booties just as I saw in the style card.  It was just okay and that meant I needed to send it back for the price .  Darn it!  Again, the quality of this piece was exceptional though.
 Status:  Sent Back | $68

4.  Fiancee Wilam Zig-Zag Print Top:  This was the first piece I saw when I opened up my box and it seriously sang to me!  I should have known that meant this one would fit me so well.  Look at the fun print!  Can you say chevron?!  It is a navy and blue print with a neat little mini-capped sleeve. What I didn't get a picture of was the back and I wish I had because there is a neat little seam detail at the top of it and it has a high-low cut to it as well.  The material is similar to what the skirt was made of and it is very breathable.  I loooooooove it!!  I'm always looking for more patterned pieces to add to my wardrobe and this is a print that is NOT in my closet at all.  Score!  You can see how much more flattering it is to my body shape versus the other pieces I sent back above.  It was made for me I'd say.
Status:  Kept. | $44

5.  Collective Concepts Pascarelli Embellished Collar Blouse:  Boy oh boy did I ever want to love this top.  I have a THING for embellished collars and totally dig sporting them in the fall and winter on my button up blouses.  Not only that, but I really like the Peter Pan collar and the zipper detail in the back.  It is a chic and simple top with a pop.  You can see the beading has some green pops as well.  But, the length was a tad too short for me and my broader hips.  The price was a bit too steep for me as the top is a tiny bit plain (outside of the collar).  I tried to pair with a colored pair of heels to add some zing to it, but it just wasn't swaying me enough to keep it.  Then, I threw on my gray skinnies to see if that helped it stand can see it did, but that also showed how short it is.  Darn it!
Status:  Sent Back. | $68

Overall, I really did love my first Stitch Fix.  At first glance, I was in love with all of it and honestly thought I'd be in trouble when it came to deciding on just one or two items to keep.   The cost of my box surprised me a little since I opted for the least expensive items to be sent.  I do know another friend whose box only totaled up to $150 and mine was $214.50 (with the $20 credit and 25% off). I'm really hoping my next Fix is a lot less expensive.

I've already scheduled my next Fix for December 26th!  It will be a late Christmas gift to myself.

Visit Stitch Fix to complete your own style quiz and schedule your first Fix today!

Have you tried Stitch Fix?  How did you like your Fix?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What I Read Wednesday: The Uber Late and Long Overdue Edition

Whoops!  I sort of read these books about 3 weeks ago.  I mowed through them during my week-long fall break.  I'm not sure why, but I've had trouble settling in to a book since then.  So, I am already counting down the days till winter break as if my life depended on it.

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick | Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie did more for me than The Fault in Our Stars did...a book on a similar topic! It was less cerebral, in a very good way and it did not cut corners on emotional roller coasters. Granted, I didn't physically start tearing up until Steven and Jeffrey's dad gave his speech near the end. But I didn't cry while reading Stars either (I know, I'm weird vs. so many other people who have read it). I laughed and enjoyed those moments when Steven just told it like it was in his every day life as a boy navigating junior high. 

My husband made fun of me for reading a book with this title and I didn't get it either when I first put it on my to-read list a couple years ago. So...drums. Steven's huge talent (reminded me so much of my lil' bro) and his saving grace. And girls. Well...Renee and Annette. Gotta love 8th grade boys. Then there is Dangerous Pie. The beginning of the story and the start of the emotional roller coaster made by Jeffrey using Steven's favorite and most valued pair of drumsticks. This is when the family discovers what is wrong with Jeffrey...see? Emotional roller coaster.

Fans of Out of My Mind and more so, Wonder, will really attach themselves to this one. Or if you didn't quite find yourself enjoying The Fault in Our Stars the way others did, you will most definitely find yourself lost in this one! I don't know how to explain it exactly, but I can easily say the characters were more attainable in an every day sense!

I don't want to say much more than that because it will completely take away from your experience reading this one.  I couldn't stop thinking about it long after finishing it.  Come to find out, a sequel was written recently and at first I was excited.  But once I read the reviews and synopsis, I am determined not to read it.  It seems like one of those that will take away those feelings I had towards the characters by the end.

My rating:  5 out of 5 stars | |  Goodreads Average:  4.26

The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith | I would rather NOT talk about this one.  But I should really make sure no one else has to waste their time with Marbury Lens.  It is THE first horror genre novel I have ever picked up.  

Why did I keep reading this book? I kept willing it and wanting it to get better and become what I hoped it would be when I read the synopsis. 

It started out so well...just as the synopsis did. A kid is in the wrong place, is kidnapped, and something bad almost happens to him. He tries to pick up the pieces but then he is given these strange glasses that take him to a strange land where horrific things happen. That is where it stopped being interesting.

There was so much repetition and roundabout events. The main character was hard to like as he didn't seem to love anyone except for his best friend. But even his best friend and Jack had the weirdest relationship...which brings me to my next dislike. What was with all the insanely ridiculous homophobia? From his kidnapper, to his best friend, to Marbury where everyone seems to be naked. I just didn't get it. 

I have never read a book from the horror genre, so I have nothing to compare it to. But, I can say that the only horror in this book was the way the author never seemed to get to the Marbury and the real world. Ugh. I would hope he does so in the sequel...but do I want to read it? No! The only reason I didn't give this 1 star is because I actually did want to find out why Jack began talking to himself (in his head) in the 3rd person. I had my guesses...but did we find out in this book?! No! And do I care enough to find out in the 2nd book?! No! I wasn't invested at all in the characters because Jack was not the kind of character you get attached to.

My rating:  2 out of 5 stars | |  Goodreads Average:  3.59

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins | Looooooooved this one!!  Sure the cover is super cheesy, but look past it, because this was such a sweet little story and way too much fun to read.  I am annoyed there isn't a second book.  Sure, it is really for young girls in high school, but I swear, I am not the grown adult obsessed with Anna and her friends.  This is a must read!  Let me explain by pasting in my Goodreads review I wrote right after I read it:  

I did not want this book to end!!! But yet, I HAD to get to the end to find out if Anna gets her French kiss. Ugh. I'm so sad this is over! 

While I can't quite put my finger on why I loved reading about Etienne and Anna so very much, I can tell you it was extremely fun to peek in on their developing friendship and what actually ends up happening. Not to mention...this all happened right in Paris. A place Anna didn't want to be in. A place she began to fall in love with. A place I began to fall in love with right along with her...all while she was learning how to deal with friendship, heartache, love, independence, and even patience. Well, the patience part was annoying, but that is what made me push and push to find out more. 

And that whole French kiss part? It felt like I was there watching it all develop and it gave me the butterflies and the chills right along with Anna. How Stephanie Perkins did this I am not quite sure? Her writing style flowed and was so entirely natural, I really did feel like I was there watching everything from beginning to end. Man that book was good! I want to go back and read it again...right now.

My rating:  5 out of 5 stars | |  Goodreads Average:  4.20

The Mockingbirds  by Daisy Whitney | This book, the first by Daisy Whitney, was definitely interesting.  At times, I felt it was a bit farfetched, but it was still intriguing enough to read on and find out exactly how this underground system at a private school worked.  

At a school where the faculty doesn't seem to believe students only good decisions, the students take it in their own hands and create an underground justice system based on its founder's favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird. Even more interesting? This fictional story is based on the author's experience in college similar to the major character's.

From Goodreads:  "Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it."

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars | | Goodreads Average:  3.83

Please feel free to add me on Goodreads or follow my reviews there.  I absolutely love discovering new and interesting books that I may not have found otherwise.  

I'd love to know what you have been reading or have read lately!  Care to share?

Link up with Amy (last week's) to share your latest reads or what you are reading right now.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

POPSUGAR Must Have {November 2013 Box Review}

It's always nice when my POPSUGAR Must Have Box I know is coming arrives 2 days early!  I've learned to stop stalking my tracking code since I know it will take at least a week for it to get to my mailbox.  So, maybe that is the trick.  The theme of this month's box surrounds the fall festivities of being a hostess or just enjoying being a guest.  Anyway, let's get to the good stuff...enough babbling and idle chit chat.

First...a couple updates on last month's box:

1) The hubs and I have tried 2 recipes out of the The Can't Cook Book.  One was the roasted chicken and potatoes, which we both had high hopes for.  For some reason, the potatoes turned out super super salty and soggy.  We followed the recipe exactly though and my hubby is a great cook!  Perhaps we should put the potatoes on top of the chicken or make them separately?  Also, I had the banana, peanut butter, and coconut English Muffin (from the Quickies section) for quite a few mornings.  Num num!!!

2) While I loved the Wet Brush and it works exactly the way it is supposed to, I just don't need it.  I really want to buy the Shine Brush version for when I use dry shampoo.  I'm keeping it though in case I ever decide to grow my hair out or if I go for a ride in a convertible.  

3) I'm horrible and haven't used the Julep nail polish yet...because there are so many colors I have in my collection that I've been using first.  Whoops!  As for the bobby pins and the makeup...they just aren't something I really wanted in the first place.  Erm...I'm just so stuck on my awesome Jordana liquid liner.  Oh well!

4) I just got an email from StitchFix that my first fix is on its way!!!!  I can't wait to see what the stylist put together for me.  I plan on doing a blog post with lots of pictures of what I got.  I'll list what I received as well as what I decide to keep or give back as well.  Stay tuned to see that next week!

First Look

The Lowdown
Cost:  $35 a month (you get a discount if you subscribe for multiple months at once)...they are raising their price to $39.95 after November's box.  But you can order several months at a time now and get them at the $35 price. 

Coupon:  Use REFER5 to get $5 off of your first box!

Sign up now to get the December box, which is not sold out quite yet.  But if it is, you can sign up to get on the wait list and wait for January.

The products:  Think lifestyle must have products for women procured by editors and celebrity varies from month to month and usually includes beauty, fashion, home, fitness, health and more.

Definitely add POPSUGAR Must Have to your wishlists or subscription services, because it is a unique box that is a ton of fun to open up.  FYI, my box weighed 3.7 pounds this month!  I love that I get to enjoy items outside of the makeup and beauty realm that I have been getting in my Ipsy.  

The Goods

So happy to have finally received a scarf!  After eyeballing them in several of the past boxes that I missed out on before subscribing, I really hoped I didn't miss out completely.  I love the tribal type print of this scarf as well as the color.  This is a wrap but can also be used as a scarf.  It is super soft and thick enough to throw on if I am eating out on a patio at a restaurant or going on a walk somewhere before it gets too super cool.  But I'm even more excited to don it as a scarf once it gets into the winter temps here in the dessert.  I love it!  This particular wrap also comes in a russet/orange color, but it's not as versatile (in my opinion).  Oh and hellooooo!!!  The scarf completely covers the cost of the box plus a little extra too.  

From the website: 
  • Strong canvas wine carrier
  • Water resistant
  • Neatly finished inside seams
  • Lasts year after year
  • Make it Your Own by adding a monogram or embroidery icon
Our Wine Tote is the perfect way to bring along some­­thing to toast with. When you bring wine to a party, this is much more durable than the usual paper bottle bag, being 100% cotton canvas. And adding your host’s monogram makes the gift even more special. Or get years of use taking wine to picnics, restaurants, concerts on the lawn. Spot clean. Imported.
Erm.  I am not a wine drinker.  So, I wasn't really ecstatic to get this in my box.  But I have a good friend who looooooves wine and I've already asked her if she would like it.  And basically, she was uber happy to find out she could have it after she saw my initial Instagram shot.  LOLOLOL.  At first I kind of thought I'd try to use it with my water bottle.  But even then, I still wouldn't use it that much.  

Illume Naughty Candle - valued at $15.75
Hmmmm...I hate the scent!  It is a sort of foresty and flowery scent and very very strong.  The candle was the first thing I smelled when I opened the box.  But the glass is very thick and it's quite a lovely looking candle.  I already gifted it to my friend who also subscribes to Must Have because she loves her candle that she got. she has 2!  
Kind of wondering why they didn't save this one for the December box.  But that's okay!  I do love the smell of pine during December, especially since I live in the desert and cactus doesn't smell like anything fun.  My mom actually is obsessed with pine scented items and so this might make its way into her hands...since I also don't really use bar soap.  Just so you know though, the scent of this is very natural, nothing like some of the candles out there that have a distinct fake pine-in-a-jar smell or those air fresheners that people can spray all over the place.  Just like all other Shea Butter products I use, I'm sure this will leave someone's hands feeling quite soft and lovely afterwards. 

Caramel?!  Sea salt caramel?!  Yes please!  I had high hopes for these.  I could also use more healthy snacks in my life.  But, these are not my friend.  The caramel isn't really apparent...more of an aftertaste actually.  It certainly doesn't have a salty caramel vibe to it either.  Oh well.  Back to the drawing board.  

How about I don't even try explaining how lovely this sounds and let their website do it for me..."We use a high quality 'Creme de Cassis' (a black currant liqueur made by Massenez) imported from France to bring out the sweetness of our strawberries.  The liqueur is put in early during the cooking so there is no alcohol left in the finished jam."

This sounds heavenly doesn't it?!  It is 70% fruit and hand-cooked in San Francisco.  The preserves can be spread on toast, pancakes, waffles, cheese, and ice cream!  I think this is a great excuse to start having those things for breakfast and dessert no?  Yum!!

I received the lemon scented remover pads.  This is something you can throw in your purse to use when you want to quickly get rid of polish when it chips.  I can see using this so I don't end up picking at it instead.  I tried it out today after quickly swiping one coat of polish on 2 of my fingers.  At first, when I pulled one of the very thin pads out, I noticed it was almost dry.  Of course, I immediately blew off this product thinking there was no way it would work.  I started rubbing at my first fingernail and nothing was happening.  But quickly after that the nail polish came off quite easily.  There seems to be a bit of oil in it and comes off way more natural than other removers.  The label says one pad can remove all 10 fingers' polish.  I am not totally sure I see that happening, especially when I have my top coat and 2-3 coats of polish on.  BUT...I can say I will be putting this in my makeup bag in my purse to use when I get a chip or two.  It smells like lemon and almost nothing like polish remover.  

CanvasPop $30 Gift Card - valued at $30

I would love to use this gift card to get one of my favorite Instagram shots done!  Most likely I will go for 12x12 .75" deep.  But that is still quite hefty, so I'll have to step back and figure this out.  I noticed the gift card does stipulate that you can't use it toward shipping.  Technically, I could use it to get an 8x10 rolled and only pay for the shipping.  Hmmmmmm.  Decisions.  But I don't want to have to frame it myself or put it on a canvas, so I might as well pay some extra to get them to do it.  What do you think?

Final Verdict

I paid $35 for the November box and got $123 worth of items from POPSUGAR Must Have!  The scarf/wrap itself paid for the box!

All in all, I liked 4 out of the 8 items in this box.  So, the verdict for November is 2 out of 5 stars.  This is definitely my least favorite out of the 3 months I've been a subscriber.  While the scarf is awesome, the other items weren't worth as much as the last 2 months and I didn't like them a whole lot.  I'm gifting quite a few of the items.  

What do you think of this month's box?  
Which item is your favorite or a must-have?  
Did you get a POPSUGAR Must Have box too...if so, what are you going to choose for your canvas?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Just Call Me Super-Teacher! AKA Self-Diagnosed Adult Onset ADD

I've had a couple people call me a super-teacher lately.  But I guess I don't see it that way.  I just have a lot of interests and I am a perfectionist, so I do my very hardest to become the best I can be.

So, yes, a lot of my newer friends got a little surprise this week when I started posting sneak peeks of a photo session from this past weekend.  You see, I had a photography business for a little while. Really.  I was legit and everything!  But teaching truly is my life and that is something I could not leave in the dust.  Plus, I am not a great salesperson, I've just never been able to put myself out there...maybe because I don't like pressuring people or maybe because I feel like things should speak for themselves.  There is WAY too much competition out there and I couldn't do it all alongside teaching.  So, my photography business...aptly and proudly called Carrie Garrison Photography fell to the wayside.  I wish I could lead you to my old site and blog where I had all sorts of awesome looking portfolios and blog posts...but that was taken down over 2 years ago.

But, recently I decided I would love to still be able to shoot photos of my friends who truly wanted me to capture those unique moments I so loved and cared for when I was "doing the business".  In fact, my business tagline that my branding designer and I came up with was, "Unique Moments Captured."  It was what I was known for.  I loved it!  If you also know me well enough, you'll know why my brand and my logo look the way they do.  What's awesome?  I still have all of it (even my old headshots)!  Maybe I'll throw up some blog posts of my old photo sessions here and there just to relive it all and to show it all off to a whole new audience.

Without further ado, I give you my favorite shots from last weekend's engagement session I shot for my friend Darci and her fiance, Patrick.  We headed out to the White Tanks Mountains in the west valley here in Arizona.  It is a seriously beautiful park and area out here with lots of hiking trails and scenery to behold.  Darci and Patrick have a shared love for country music and are from Minnesota.  So, I chose this setting to depict their home here in Arizona (since their friends and family think of them as cactus folk now) and the beautiful couple provided the country feel!  Don't you think Darci has a total Miranda Lambert vibe going on?  These two are getting ready for their big day in March.  Congratulations friends!!!

The bug has bit me again and I'm ready to take some more shots!  Next up is photographing a super cute family that I work with in my district.  


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Plot Elements Choice Menu Pack for Differentiation and Extension for Sale!

***I am so very excited to have finally uploaded my first non-Halloween related product over on Teachers Pay Teachers!  It is on sale for 25% off until midnight tomorrow (November 7th) MST. ***

Choice Menus (I actually call them extension menus in my classroom) are a very essential part of teaching in a gifted cluster classroom...really any classroom.  Let's face it, all teachers need to differentiate for their kids since everyone works at a different level.  Whether it is learning styles, reading levels, or preference to showing what they know...students drool over choice menus because they get to CHOOSE how they show their teacher and everyone else what they have learned.  Not to mention, choice menus mean little to no prep for teachers.

This little beauty here is one of the very first choice menus I created back when I first was finishing up my gifted endorsement through my wonderful district.  It has since evolved a little into what I put together for other teachers to buy and enjoy in their classroom.  But all in all, I am seriously proud of a choice menu that I KNOW is top notch versus a lot of other menus I have found online.  If you want to fully implement choice menus and be confident in how they will challenge your students, it is essential to make sure choice menu items cover the gamete of Bloom's Taxonomy.  My Plot Elements Choice Menu ranges from synthesis to application.  By giving point values to the different levels of product choices, you can ensure students who do not choose the more challenging products have to choose several items in order to earn at least 100 points.  It all works itself out!

Image from
In my experience with using choice menus in the classroom, you have to really reiterate how the creative aspect of products shouldn't overshadow the skills being demonstrated.  Make sure your students understand the creative side of choice menus and products accentuate instead.  I have found many students get caught up in making something look pretty or cute instead of making sure they have covered all their bases in the rubric when it comes to the standards they are supposed to be demonstrating comprehension of.  Be wary and stay on top of them!

Since I'm a huge fan of using entrance and exit tickets when I pull in extension activities, I included a set with this choice pack!  Always give your students a rubric that explains down to finite detail what you expect them to show through each product they choose.  I have grown to love and my students are accustomed to also getting a score sheet and/or contract with their choice menus.  They keep this out next to them as they work so they can look back and forth in order to ensure they are on track.  This has all come about from experiencing too many moments when students turn in their finished products only to find out they didn't even meet all the requirements.  It took me several times to figure out how to get my students heads wrapped around it.  But don't be discouraged...once they get it, they are on a roll the rest of the year!

I wish I could show all kinds of awesome pictures of my students working on this particular choice menu, but I didn't get to use it this year as the beginning of my year was insane with getting my class to get a hold of their behaviors and my expectations.  I do have a picture from last year, but this was from the time when i wasn't taking pictures a whole lot.  Hopefully, I can come back next year and update with some great visuals!

Keep an eye out in the next month or so for other choice menu products I plan to put up.  Some of them are shorter and can be completed in less time in your classroom and require less stress with implementation.  I hope I am able to help other teachers feel confident in using them successfully in their classrooms!  Stand back and watch your students take's fun to see...and it's even more entertaining to sit back and watch their presentations...songs, cheers, singing telegrams, and more. Love it!

Buy it here in my little store and take it to your classroom...sit back and watch the learning take off to new levels and listen to the buzz of your students enjoying the challenge!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November Currently

It's November...and I wish I could be more excited!  But the weather here is still hot, hot, hot.  At least I get to do my monthly Currently post to help me sort of feel like I can join the rest of the world (or it seems that way) celebrating the fall's arrival.  Sigh.

Listening:  Let's not talk about the dishwasher.  But I have a bit of a love for the new Saturday Lifetime movies each week.  When they don't have one premiere on Saturday night, I get a little bent out of shape...since I tend to watch them while I lesson plan.  This one that just premiered yesterday is definitely a snoozer, but it really does make great background noise and a visual distraction when I need it.  Anyone else love Lifetime movies?

Loving:  I used to have a natural-light photography business.  It barely got off the ground before I had to give it up. Teaching is my life and that just takes precedence.  But I'm at the point now where I'd love to be able to take photographs for my friends and their families.  I got to shoot an engagement session in a really beautiful area here in Arizona.  I'll be posting my favorite photos here on the blog once I'm done editing.  Actually, I'll put up one or two of them now as a little sneak peek.

So there you have it, a little peek into my photography life.  My bestie, Beth, is pregnant with her first child and I have vowed to take pictures of her little Jeremiah when he is born and every year after!  I am supposed to shoot her maternity session next weekend, so I look forward to that!!

Thinking:  I have my once-a-year formal observation/evaluation tomorrow afternoon.  I don't get super nervous over these because I know I am doing my job well with impacting my students' learning.  Plus, I don't like to put together a fancy lesson just because I am being evaluated.  I go with the flow and do my normal lessons just as they are.  But my new assistant principal is my evaluator this year so this is someone who hasn't necessarily been in my room for more than 5-8 minutes at a time.  It's a little nerve-wracking.  Plus, I am doing a very very very different kind of lesson with that awesome book I blogged about recently, Math Misconceptions! It is very open and exploratory for my students...and really, me.  She is excited to see it and I'm excited to teach it, but definitely feeling the nervous twinges.

Wanting:  Desperately wanting it to cool off here!  At this point, I'd really take the low 70s.  This whole low to high 80s thing is absolutely RIDICULOUS!  I want to be able to pull out my favorite fall boots and sweaters.  Not to mention, I'm ready to retire my sleeveless tired ol' work tops too.  Sigh.

Needing:  Technically, I'd like to say I need the weather to cool off, but I think I made my point. However, I need to do a Sephora shop badly.  Several of my everyday beauty items are on their last legs.  I am pretty sure I need to do it online since going to the mall to shop would be a bad bad idea. Temptations as I walk past all my favorite stores that is.  For one, I'm almost out of my favorite hand lotion, Soap & Glory's Hand Food.  Have you ever used it?  It is the best stuff to use before bed and even in the morning.  I want to get the smaller bottle for my purse, but I never seem to be able to find it in the store.

A Yummy Pin:  Seeing as how I have an obsession with peanut butter and then even more so when it is combined with chocolate, this one is definitely calling my name.  I have a feeling I might attempt to make this for Thanksgiving!  It would be a great contribution to the feast my husband and friend are going to slave over.

Join in the Currently fun and make your own for your blog.  Link up with Oh' Boy Fourth Grade!