Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: VENUS by Joy Williams

Thanks to OnetoOne Network (#O2O) I've been listening to this new #JoyWilliams album quite a bit recently.  I am enjoying it very much.

You may know Joy Williams as one half of the four-time Grammy-winning folk-rock duo The Civil Wars. That duo broke up in August of last year, and Joy Williams is set to release her solo album VENUS on June 30th. 

VENUS tells an honest, human story of one woman’s journey out of darkness.  I haven't quite caught all the lyrics, and the one time I checked out the Official Joy Williams website, they were not available.  Even so, I have found quite a few that really grabbed me - "...gather up my fears and throw them in the fire."  "standing in the ache until the levee in my heart breaks."

The breakthrough for Joy in writing the songs for this album came when Matt Morris (co-writer and co-producer on this album) said to her, “You are so afraid to say anything wrong that you are risking not saying anything at all. You’ve got to be brave. If you’re feeling mad as hell, then we’re going to write a mad-as-hell song. If you’re feeling broken beyond measure, we’re going to write a broken-beyond-measure song.”  And so she did.  Joy actually wrote over 75 songs for this album, though only 11 of them made the actual album.  (I wonder will we see some of these in the future?)

I have enjoyed Joy's journey, as she starts with miles to go before she sleeps and finally ends up home.  Along the way she faces pain, heartache, and the impossibility of perfection.  She learns that it's OK not to be perfect, gives herself permission to feel all the things, and embraces the fact that it means so many things to be a woman.  It's a very personal album that Joy hopes people will find their own stories in, too.
The whole emphasis of my new album VENUS is I’m discovering what it means to be a woman. It’s not necessarily the things I was taught. It’s the things I’m learning on my own. The good, the bad and the ugly is all in there. To be strong and to be weak, and to be scared and to be bold, and to be angry and to forgive, and to be broken and to break open, and break through, and to be hurt and to do the hard work to heal. That’s the type of woman I want to be.
It took a lot of courage to expose herself to all of us in such a way - and so beautifully.  I love the haunting quality of her voice in some of the songs and the different emotions that the music brings forth. Overall, a lovely journey that I will be repeating.

Though I found something to like in all the tracks, I especially liked the upbeat, almost tribal feel of this song, Woman (Oh Mama):

Venus is available June 30. Get your copy on Amazon or iTunes.  I think you're gonna love it.

I participated in the Joy Williams Venus album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Coolest Garden Ever

I remember the first time my grandpa came to our first house.  He looked out into the backyard and said, "You've got plenty of room for a garden."  No way!  I was not going to have a garden.  Ever.  I'd had enough of gardening growing up.

Fast forward a few years - we'd moved to a new house, and I decided I'd like to have a garden after all.  Nothing too elaborate, but some fresh tomatoes, green beans, zucchini and other produce would be nice.  My husband built me some raised beds, and I started raising some vegetables. I didn't grow so much that I had lots of produce to can, but we did enjoy fresh veggies from the garden, and I really enjoyed it.  It really is amazing how you can stick some seeds in some dirt and get food!

A couple years ago we moved again, and I left my gardens behind.  Because we moved in the middle of the summer, I didn't really have time to get anything from the old gardens, and I definitely didn't have a chance to plant anything at the new house, even if there had been a garden.  Last summer came and went without a garden either, because we realized that simple beds like I had before just would not work.  Not unless I wanted to share everything with the deer.  Which I don't.

 We never had deer in our yard before.  A simple fence around whichever bed the beans were planted in was enough to keep the bunnies out.  But here we need to keep the bunnies and the deer and the neighborhood cats all out of the garden.

So, my husband designed and built me the coolest garden ever.  This thing ought to keep all those critters out, and look great at the same time. We've got raised beds and fencing all the way around.

And we're gonna have fresh vegetables this year! 

Jason helped me plant tomatoes and peppers, broccoli, beans, and carrots - and some other stuff - when he was here.  After he helped move dirt into the garden.

I'm being amazed all over again watching how seeds in dirt turn into plants and how little plants become big plants.  The only thing the fence can't seem to keep out is the weeds, and those are getting bigger, too.  but I'll get 'em!

For fun we added some hooks and hung my bamboo wind chime and another cool hanging we used to have on the deck at our old house, but with no pergola here we had nowhere for them to go.  We also added a couple solar 'wine bottles' for a cute glow at night

The bigger the plants get, the cooler this garden is going to look.  I can almost taste that zucchini!

Create An Energy Efficient Garage

Sectional-type overhead garage doors in the st...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you're thinking about remodeling your garage, you can make it a great, energy efficient space with a few simple steps. Whether your garage is attached or detached, you can create an energy efficient space for a workroom or storage. Take a look at five remodeling tips to make your garage more energy efficient.

  1. Insulate the Garage Walls - Exterior walls in most garages don't have insulated walls. Usually, there's an exterior material wood siding, sheathing, and particle board that act as the barrier between the garage and outside air. By adding a layer of insulation with the right R-value between the joists, or using a blown-in insulation in the drywall, you can increase energy-efficiency.
  2. Caulk Between the Garage Wall and Floor - Over time, structures begin to settle. In garages, the joint between the walls and concrete floor swells or shrinks as your house or garage begins to settle, and this creates air flow from outside. By applying a simple bead of silicone, latex or foam sealant between the garage walls and concrete floor, you can prevent loss of warm air in winter and cool air in summer.
  3. Seal Floor Cracks - Both attached and detached garages typically have poured concrete floors which doesn't provide much insulation to begin with. If the concrete floor develops cracks from normal settling or the weight of your cars, outside air can enter your garage through these cracks. Sealing all floor cracks with a concrete sealant will prevent air flow and provide better energy-efficiency.
  4. Insulate Your Garage Door - Your garage door creates a lot of opportunity for air flow when it's raised and lowered, but insufficient insulation can also account for outside air entering the garage all year. To properly insulate the door, you can purchase an easy-to-install insulation kit from a home improvement store, or install a new energy-efficient garage door for your home.
  5. Change Your Garage Lighting - If you have incandescent light bulbs in your garage fixtures, changing them to energy efficient LED or CFL light bulbs will increase energy-efficiency. These types of light bulbs use between 12 and 15 watts of electricity per bulb, as compared to 60 watt incandescent bulbs. The amount of light output (lumens) is the same as a conventional 60-watt light bulb.
For more information or to find a contractor today, visit

Sunday, June 14, 2015

How to Remove That Sticky Residue

I saw something on Pinterest recently for a homemade 'Goo Gone' which is supposed to work well to remove the sticky residue from labels and price tags.  But when I had a label to remove recently, I couldn't remember what the recipe was, and realized I hadn't pinned it.  So, I reached under my sink and grabbed my handy can of Bar Keepers Friend®.  Guess what?  It worked wonderfully!

There was no scrubbing involved or trying to figure out if cold water would work better than hot.  I just sprinkled some on my sponge, added a little water, and wiped the gunk off.  It was awesome!

Of course, I've only tried this twice, once on plastic and once on glass, but I really need to remember this in the future.  That sticky, gunky residue is always such a pain.

Have you found anything that works for you?  If you have some of this stuff, give it a try.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

How to Travel When You Have a Baby on Board

I know so many people who have just had or are going to be having babies soon, so when I saw this list, I thought it would be worth a share.
New parents love staying at home with their new babies, but sometimes a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered. Getting out of the house and out of town can re-energize you and your children.
  1. If you’re traveling by car, feel free to overpack. While you may not use everything you bring along, you’ll have peace of mind that you have everything available should something go wrong.
  2. If you don’t want to bring along your regular baby monitor, apps like Presence work on two video-capable devices, like your iPhone and tablet. You can set one up with your baby and keep the other on you to monitor them when you’re not in the same room.
  3. Be prepared to carry a lot more than you used to, both during the actual travel portion of your trip and when sightseeing, going out to restaurants, taking a walk, and whatever other activities you have planned.
  4. Try to stay calm, no matter what’s going on. Children take cues from their parents. If you’re calm during a stressful situation, you’ll help your child stay calm, too. When you save money on hotels in Boston, it’s easy to feel at ease throughout your trip.
  5. Make sure you have extra diapers in your carry-on, plus a few changes of clothes.
  6. If you’re traveling somewhere sunny, don’t forget the baby sunblock! When you’re not used to being on the beach, in the ocean or out in the sunshine, it’s easy to forget sun protection essentials.
  7. Always pack a baby emergency kit with medicine, bandages and anything else you may need.
  8. Get your child amped for the flight by talking to them about what an airplane is and what they’re going to do to keep busy during the flight.
It can extremely hard in the early months to get out of the house. Rest assured that many travel vendors are accommodating to new parents. By vacationing in a family-friendly place, you’ll have the benefit of having plenty of resources and things to do nearby.

Do you have any great travel tips for new parents?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

We Have Visitors!

Jason is here visiting for a couple weeks!

Cory is here, too. But I don't have any goofy pictures of us together.

It's nice to have my guys here. We haven't done anything too exciting - snuggle, read books, work on riding the new bike on the driveway, run around in the yard, etc. - but it's just nice to hang out.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Review: Running Armband for Samsung Galaxy S5 ‪#‎galaxys5armband‬

I've been wanting to try one of these armbands for a while now, so when I got the chance to receive one for review, I jumped at it.  I walk every morning, and my phone can and will keep track of my steps.  However, it's a bit awkward having to carry my phone the whole time or trying to put it into my pocket.  It's just a bit too big.  Enter this handy armband!

The phone fits snugly and securely into the armband.  The neoprene folds right over the top so there's no chance the phone can come out.  I'll admit that I didn't notice that the first time I used this, and I strapped the armband on upside down, which could have been disastrous.  But, it held tight and my phone was fine.  Now I know to tuck it all the way in, and it's definitely safe. The only thing I really don't like about it is that I have to take the case off the phone for it to fit into the armband.  I realize there are many types and sizes of phone cases, so there's no way they could design the armband to handle all the cases.  That really is a minor thing, though.

I like that the touchscreen of the phone is still usable through the armband cover.  The armband straps onto my arm so I can take my walk without worrying about the phone again.  It is taking me a bit to get it strapped onto my arm, but I will get it with time.  It's just a bit awkward trying to get it on using one hand, but that's probably just me.  It's really comfortable once I get it on, and I'm just enjoying being able to take my phone with me when I go for my daily walks.  Now I'm wondering how my phone will work for audiobooks.  Maybe I can start leaving my mp3 player home and just take my phone?

Here's a bit more information (and a link to it on Amazon) about the Best Running Armband for Samsung Galaxy S5 (as well as the S4, S3, iPhone 6 (4.7), HTC One & More): 
  • COMPATIBILITY: Compatible with the Samsung S5 S4 S3,iPhone 6 (4.7) and HTC One phones from all carriers - AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon etc.
  • PROTECTION: Protects and keeps your phone safe from moisture while working out
  • USE: Convenient and easy to use. Easy access to ear phones and controls. Includes convenient key holder.
  • SIZE: Fits sizes from 9 to 14.5 inches. Not for body builders or those with biceps over 14.5 inches.
  • SAFETY: Night reflector feature allows for increased visibility after dark.
  • VALUE : Why Pay more? This is a great value for the price :) So affordable why not buy two?
  • CARE: We strongly recommend that you hand wash and air dry this armband. Treat this armband as you would any phone case and do not place in the washer/dryer as this can cause tears etc..
  • MATERIAL: Nylon, Velcro and Neoprene

Disclosure: I received a free armband for the purposes of review. All opinions are mine.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Wish Wish Wish, Wish Wish

I like dandelions.  When they're all bright and sunny and scattered all over the yard.  They're really cheery little things, aren't they?

If only they'd stay like this. 

But, instead, they suddenly get all tall and fluffy - and dandelion seeds spread at the slightest breeze.  Which, I suppose, means more dandelions next time.  If today is any indication, we're gonna have lots.

They say you should make a wish when you blow on a dandelion puff and send the seeds flying.  I didn't exactly blow on them, but I mowed through a whole bunch of leggy, fluffy dandelions today and sent seeds flying in every direction.  Sometimes I had to hold my breath as I mowed straight through a cloud of them.  I guess I should have been wishing my little heart out.

The yard looks better now.  Except, have you noticed how some of those sneaky little dandelion stems lay down to avoid the mower?  I bet they'll be standing up again by tomorrow.  But they'll be naked.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Giveaway: The Hobbit The Battle of The Five Armies on Blu-ray

 I have loved The Hobbit ever since my 6th grade teacher read the book to our class.  I love the book, and I really enjoyed all of the movies.  If you're a Hobbit fan, too, this giveaway is for you!

Warner Home Video will give one lucky reader a copy of the latest movie in the trilogy.  The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies brings to an epic conclusion the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and the Company of Dwarves.  We loved the movie in the theater, and I'm really looking forward to watching it again now that it's out on Blu-ray.

Special Features on the Blu-ray combo pack include:
  • New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth Part 3
  • Recruiting the Five Armies
  • Completing Middle-earth: A Six-Part Saga
  • Completing Middle-earth: A Seventeen-Year Journey
  • The Last Goodbye: Behind the Scenes
  • Music Video
  • Trailers
And now for some Hobbit fun!  Take the quiz to find out if you have the bravery it takes to journey through Middle Earth and use the interactive map to learn some fun facts about Middle Earth.

To enter the giveaway:
  • Leave a comment on this post and let me know what you found out when you took the quiz.  Are you brave like Bilbo?
For an additional entry (Can be done once per day; leave a separate comment w/ link for each):
  • Tweet about this giveaway - be sure to include a link and use the hashtag #TheHobbit 
  • Share this giveaway on Facebook.  Make sure your post is public so I can see it.
Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents, and all entries must be received by 11:59pm ET on April 20, 2015.  Good Luck!!

Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Blu-ray The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one winner per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Bonus - enjoy this behind the scenes look at New Zealand. (That's one place I'd love to visit someday, and not just because they filmed The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies there.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: Madonna's #RebelHeart

Madonna's 13th studio album Rebel Heart released March 10th on Interscope Records.   Thanks to OnetoOne Network (#O2O), I have enjoyed listening to this album for the past couple weeks.  Though I used to really enjoy Madonna's music, I haven't really kept up with her career, and I haven't seriously listened to her music in years.  It has been fun to catch up.

Madonna recently told Billboard that this new album explores two very distinct sides of her personality, the rebellious renegade side and the romantic side.  Of course, I didn't read that before I listened to the album, so had to go back and listen again to see if I could figure out which songs and lyrics reflect which sides of her personality.  (Yes, I know, tough, but someone's gotta do it!)

I find myself liking Madonna's softer side best, though it's hard to resist that Unapologetic Bitch side.  Madonna is who she is, and she's not afraid to tell the world. 

The songs I like best are Body Shop,Wash All Over Me, and Best Night, but overall I am enjoying the whole album.  I really like Madonna's voice, and the music on a lot of these tracks make it really hard to sit still.  So why try?  All the lyrics may not be entirely appropriate, and I may not really understand what Madonna is trying to say, but I'm still liking the listening.
"I'm in Heartbreak City, and it's not that pretty"

You can download Rebel Heart on iTunes, and be sure to check out Madonna on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

I participated in the Madonna Rebel Heart album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.