Refresh Naturally: ZEVIA Soda GIVEAWAY!

Good morning, my friends! It’s Wednesday, which means, it’s mid-week and in the world of Melissa’s Morning Musings, it also means, it is FINALLY time for my very first GIVEAWAY, courtesy of my friends over at a company I love – ZEVIA Soda! I recently had the opportunity to try a 6-pack of ZEVIA and absolutely loved the unique, satisfying and hydrating flavor!  However, not to keep you in anticipation, but before I share with you the logistics of the giveaway and some knowledge about ZEVIA, let’s catch up a bit. I hope the rest of your Monday and all of Tuesday went well! Last night was a fun one, filled with an impromptu baking session with my sister, Hope! In our baking adventure, we crafted Cinnamon Toast Crunch muffins, as well as Blueberry Muffins! Our creations turned out as we hoped and we also had the chance to catch up, relax and watch two of our favorite shows – “The Chew,” and “Full House.” Also, I had the opportunity to watch and learn about the show, “Cake Boss.” Now, before I hold you in suspense any longer, let’s quickly recap my morning eats:

Breakfast (Wednesday, July 31, 2013):

1 container Aldi-brand Apple Turnover Yogurt: (Are you familiar with the grocery store Aldi? If you’re not, it is a much smaller scaled store – think the size of Trader Joe’s or even slightly smaller, with some name brands, but mainly store brand, or smaller-sized companies. In my opinion, their products are high quality and of optimal taste. They have a wide variety and also, an excellent selection of produce! Their prices are phenomenal in my opinion! For example, cantaloupes which can range up to $3 or more in the mainstream stores, are typically about $1.60 or so. Containers of strawberries can be anywhere from .99 to $1.50! Definitely check it out if you haven’t already. Plus, since today is Wednesday, that means their new sale JUST started TODAY!)

1 cup Special K Multigrain Flakes: (Always a tried and true cereal, I’m approaching the end of yet another box, but no worries, another one is awaiting on the horizon in the cabinet!)

1 cup Barbara’s Bakery Peanut Butter & Chocolate Puffins (A tasty variety of Puffins, but I don’t think I would buy again. I prefer the classic or Multigrain version of Puffins.)

1 Banana (I’m still doing well with the bananas! No complaints here, only sweet and ripe ones, just the way I like it!)

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Now without further adieu, allow me to introduce:

ZEVIA GIVEAWAY: My First Giveaway!

Ahh, how excited am I to bring to you, my very first giveaway as a blogger?! What better than to provide 5 of you, yes 5 of you, with the unique opportunity to sample one of my favorite, HEALTHY beverages and a SODA, at that?! Yes, before you shy away from entering if you are not soda drinker, allow me to fill you in on this HEALTHY, NATURALLY-SWEETENED SODA!

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ZEVIA (Zero-Calorie, Naturally-Sweetened with Stevia Soda):

Website: http://www.zevia.com

Social Media: As an innovative and evolving company, Zevia maintains a heavy and active social media presence, encouraging fans and new visitors to interact with them, often offering printable coupons, contests, giveaways and fun trivia as well!

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Serving Suggestions: On the official ZEVIA website, they offer several recommendations for serving and consumption, in order to encourage optimal taste for consumers

  • Prior to serving or consuming ZEVIA, keep it cold! The company states, the colder, the better!
  • If you feel comfortable, the company also encourages consumers to drink it out of the can, as it can get warm and flat in a cup!

Available Flavors: Unique from many other no-calorie beverages, ZEVIA offers a whole host of different flavors (15 and counting!) catering to tastebuds of all kinds! While you’ll find some traditional flavors, as well, the stars are often the ones unique to the company:

  • Cola
  • Lemon-Lime Twist
  • Grapefruit Citrus
  • Strawberry
  • Grape (my favorite!)
  • Cherry Cola
  • Ginger Ale
  • Ginger Root Beer
  • Black Cherry
  • Cream Soda
  • Lime
  • Mountain
  • Caffeine-Free Cola
  • Orange
  • Dr. Zevia

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About Zevia: (As stated on ZEVIA.com)

  • In 2007, the world was introduced to ZEVIA in Seattle, Washington (Cola, Lemon-Lime Twist, and Orange soda as the introductory flavors)
  • Soon after, Ginger Root Beer, Black Cherry and Ginger Ale were brought to stores, as well.
  • In 2009, Dr. Zevia arrived on the market.
  • Relocating from Seattle Washington, ZEVIA makes its headquarters in Los Angeles, California.
  • In the ZEVIA world, 2011 was a pivotal year as they introduce 5 new flavorsCream Soda, Grape, Grapefruit Citrus, Caffeine-Free Cola, and Mountain Zevia.
  • In 2012, Strawberry, Lime and Cherry Cola were proudly introduced.

What IS ZEVIA? (Zevia.com/stevia shares this knowledge I present you with, below):

  • ZEVIA is a soda, which is naturally-sweetened with Steviasmall shrub that is a member of Asteraceae family of plants, more commonly referred to as the “sunflower family.” The scientific name for stevia is stevia rebaudiana.
  • All Zevia’s stevia is grown right here, in the United States at Sweet Green Fields (SGF).
  • With ZEVIA Soda, you can feel secure in consuming if you are wary of additional calories from beverages, diabetic, or simply want to consume a beverage with flavor which is still healthy. To provide you with additional reassurance, ZEVIA.com states, “Stevia Extract has a sweetness of between 250 to 350 times that of an equal weight of sugar but with no calories and no effect on blood glucose levels!”

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Is it SAFE? (With all of the claims questioning the safety of artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, Sweet & Low, Equal, aspartame, etc, you can feel safe with consuming ZEVIA):

  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies Stevia extract as SAFE for consumption since December 2008.
  • Unlike other sweeteners, Stevia extract is not found to adversely affect the GI tract (so your bellies can rest easy and you can stay healthily hydrated!)

Where Can I Buy It? (Intrigued? Want to sample it for yourself Well, first off, ENTER MY GIVEAWAY! Also, though, there are numerous stores selling ZEVIA, plus you can always purchase it online!)

  • Consult zevia.com/get-zevia
  • Whole Foods
  • Hannaford
  • Wegmans
  • Giant Foods
  • Safeway
  • Acme
  • Albertsons
  • Ralph’s
  • Raley’s
  • Cub Foods
  • Walgreens
  • Price Chopper
  • HEB
  • Fred Meyer
  • Target (select Targets; check first)
  • Plus LOTS of others!

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Of course, naturally, there is MUCH, MUCH more I could share with you about ZEVIA, but I’d rather let 5 of you, sample it for yourselves (you’ll receive a voucher for a FREE Six-Pack! Here’s how to enter my very special ZEVIA GIVEAWAY:

  • MANDATORY ENTRY: Leave a comment sharing with me which ZEVIA flavor you’d most like to try, or if you’ve been fortunate enough to have tried ZEVIA already, tell me what your favorite flavor is!
  • For an ADDITIONAL ENTRY: Share with me a flavor you think would be a great ZEVIA soda!
  • ENTRY TIME: You have until SUNDAY, AUGUST 4, 2013, at the end of the evening to ENTER!

So, what are you waiting for?! ENTER, ENTER, ENTER! Have fun and cheers!

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Smile for the Camera: A “Camera Shy” Phenomenon

Good Monday Morning, to you! I’m back after several days away from the blog world. For a while, I contemplated the direction I was going with this blog. It’s hard to not feel discouraged, or as though I am writing without having anyone listen, but then I realized, the most important thing about having a blog of this kind, is to have fun with it and not place too much pressure on myself, as I so often do in many other respects. Anyway, I wanted to advise those of you who might be reading, to stay tuned this week, because I have a *VERY EXCITING* giveaway on-deck for mid-week! Here’s a hint to pique your interest: what I will be giving away is sure to keep you hydrated! Anyhow, now that I’ve finally announced my very FIRST giveaway, let’s get to today’s musing, or at least, allow me to introduce it. Over the weekend, while mindlessly perusing Facebook, I stumbled across an ad sponsored by one of my favorite companies, not only for their high-quality, trustworthy products, but also for the initiatives they support and produce: Dove. Perhaps you’ve noticed it as well – it is a Dove advertisement with a woman shielding her face and on her face covering is the curious statement: 77% of women are camera shy. This may be shocking to some, but to others, they may see it as a definite truth. I was a little bit of both, but more on that in a minute. Allow me to brief you on my morning eats:

Breakfast (Monday, July 29, 2013):

1 container Yoplait 100 Vanilla Greek Yogurt: (As I believe I’ve noted before, this particular flavor of vanilla Greek yogurt is potentially one of my favorites. The vanilla flavor is strong, not muted and fresh. Plus, it mixes very well with cereal. I must note, yesterday I had another brand of Honey Vanilla Bean Greek Yogurt – Voskos, and loved the flavor, plus I could see actual vanilla BEAN in the yogurt! Vanilla bean = high quality alert, for sure!)

1 cup ShopRite store-brand Crispix: (This cereal is a new purchase, since I’ve been wanting Crispix for awhile. The Kellogg’s name brand version of Crispix, however, was much too expensive for my wallet, so I settled for the ShopRite version, which in my opinion, is just as good and fits the bill. It brought a wave of nostalgia over me, as I recall being 8-years-old, piling my morning cereal bowl high with a mixture of Crispix and Life Cereal, some of it spilling out, as I heartily dug into my large pile.)

1 cup Special K Multigrain Flakes (Such a good cereal, although I must admit, having it day after day is quickly causing it to become redundant. I think it’s time for me to add a new cereal to my daily repertoire!)

1 Banana (I’m proud to report, I am still doing well with the bananas. No problems here, which is a welcome change!)

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Back to today’s musing: Women and the “Camera Shy phenomenon, as stated by Dove. As I previously mentioned, a part of me is not at all surprised or shocked to have the read the statement: “77% of women are camera shy.” The other part of me thought to myself, “Gee, I see so many pictures women take each day of themselves, posting it on their blogs, their instagram accounts, Twitter, Facebook and the like. However, I came to realize, I am truly only viewing a very, very small sampling, in that there are millions of women scattered throughout the world. Some of these women may post photos of themselves, but feel considerably uncomfortable and uneasy doing so. They may even do it, because it is part of their job responsibilities or do it because they are trying to maintain a certain image or conception of themselves.

However, I will be first to admit, I fall in the 77% of women who are camera shy. More often than I can count, I’ve shied away from the camera, fearful of how the camera may actually portray me, or how I’ll end up seeing myself. While my self-perception may be distorted or not, having my picture taken often leaves me feeling vulnerable. When my picture is taken, I surrender any control of how I look to the camera, or at least, it often feels that way. When I was a child, I loved having my photo taken, or recording home videos with my sister, Hope. It didn’t matter to me if my hair was matted or frizzy, or if I had chocolate smeared on my face. All that mattered was capturing that happy, carefree moment I was having. 

A large part of me still wishes I was that way, comfortable and at ease when having my photo taken. There have been so many occasions where I shunned having my photo taken, only to regret later, realizing they are memories I could look back on and see the happiness in the photo. Sure, I can still experience those memories within my mind and heart, but being able to see a photo can often capture a different angle or sense of it. So often, I’ve wanted to take a simple, innocent photo with my mom, sister, a friend, or Oliver, my dog, and I’ve declined. Or I’ve had a photo taken and begged whoever had taken it to either delete it or never show anyone.

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How sad I am to read that statement about 77% of women being camera shy. How I wish I could encourage fellow women, myself included, to own the camera! Or to smile as brightly and as big as we can, no matter if our hair is frizzy, or if our cheeks are sunburned, or if our shirts are wrinkled. Let us focus on the happiness of the moment, of relishing in the time we are spending with others, and the smiles on our faces and in our eyes; let these be what the camera captures and the other “imperfections,” fade quickly into the background, nearly disappearing entirely.

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I’ve mentioned Dove is a company I fully support, not only for their products, but for what they encourage, support and advocate for. If you’re unfamiliar, several years prior, Dove instituted, “The Self-Esteem Fund,” and the “Campaign for Real Beauty.” Many of you have probably seen some of the videos and commercials Dove has produced (i.e. the model who starts off bare-faced and in the end, becomes photoshopped and completely made-over; or the public service announcement stating statistics regarding the heartbreaking way many girls/women view their bodies and overall selves). When I think of Dove and their campaigns and initiatives, it’s hard not to smile and at the same time, feel sad. My smiles are from the comfort in knowing a company as large as Dove finally notices and recognizes what females as a whole routinely feel and encounter, and my tears are from learning of these truths, confirming much of the way, I, myself often feel. They are making attempts to change these truths, or at least, confront them and allow girls/women to realize they are truly not alone in their sentiments.

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Seeing this statement regarding the significant percentage of women who are camera shy, I encourage my fellow girls/women and also, the guys out there, because I believe many boys/men are also similarly camera shy, to own the camera. Smile your beautiful and/or handsome smile, never hide your flaws or imperfections, because they make you, you and remember, the camera and eye catches a genuine smile and happiness better than a flaw. When one is wearing a smile and enjoying themselves, it’s often difficult to look at much else, therefore, perceived flaws and imperfections fade into the background, as simply a minor detail in an otherwise beautiful photo and moment captured in time.

In the words of one of my favorite childhood authors, Dr. Seuss:

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QUESTION: Do you enjoy having your photo taken? If not, why?

Family Redefined: Meet “THE FOSTERS”

Good Thursday Morning, to you! Almost the weekend, any exciting plans on your part? Is it just me, or does this week seem to have gone by relatively quickly? Of course, I could be imagining things! Anyhow, as I mentioned yesterday, over the past month and half (almost two, at this point), I’ve become particularly taken and enthralled with the new ABC Family TV series, “The Fosters.” It is one of the most intelligent, honest and real television programs I’ve seen in awhile, plus the acting in my opinion, is top-knotch. However, before I delve into my perspective on the show, I’d like to share with you my breakfast picks this AM; it’s one I am particularly excited to share with you!

Breakfast (Thursday, July 25, 2013):

1 container Yoplait Light White Chocolate Strawberry (Initially, when I purchased this flavor of yogurt, I was excited because of the name of the yogurt flavor, but didn’t really expect it to taste as it sounded. Well, I’m proud to report after consuming it, it definitely held true to it’s flavor name! I couldn’t believe how much it actually tasted like white chocolate mixed with strawberry! The flavor wasn’t overpowering, but it was satisfying and creamy. I highly recommend it, if you haven’t tried it yet.)

1 cup Barbara’s Bakery Peanut Butter/Chocolate Puffins (NEW FLAVOR! Yes, this flavor has been on the market for about a year or so, or maybe slightly more, but never have I purchased it, until a couple weeks ago! Today, I tried it for the first time and was pleased! The chocolate Puffins taste reminiscent of a dark chocolate and combines well with the peanut butter Puffins scattered throughout. It’s a satisfying balance of both flavors and one I thoroughly enjoyed, mixed with the yogurt. It can be challenging to find this flavor of Puffins in the grocery store, but if you have difficulty, I encourage you, don’t give up! I was able to find these on the shelves at Wegmans, but if you don’t have a Wegmans by you, keep looking, I think you’ll find it!)

1 cup Special K Red Berries (This morning, I polished off the box and it didn’t quite fill the cup, so I topped it off with a little Special K Multigrain Flakes; Special K love all around!)

1 Banana (It seems I’m having a good week with the bananas. Today, I maintained my good banana fortune, as this one followed suit and was ideally sweet and flavorful!)

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Back to today’s musing: ABC Family’s “The Fosters.” Before I share with you my perspective and take on the program, I figured I would fill you in on some of the overall basics (i.e. air time, network, cast/crew, etc), so that you are familiar with what and who I’ll be discussing, if you aren’t already familiar:

Premiere Date: Monday, June 3, 2013

TV Network: ABC Family

Date and Time: Mondays at 9pm, EST

Created By: Jennifer Lopez and Simon Fields as Co-Executive Producers; Lopez’s Production Company – Nuyorican Productions; Peter Paige and Brad Bredeweg as Co-Creators and Writers.

Main Characters (there are several recurring supporting characters which I have not listed below):

  • Callie Jacob (Maia Mitchell): Older sister to Jude Jacob, newest addition to the Foster family with Jude.
  • Mariana Foster (Cierra Ramirez): Formerly of ABC Family’s, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,sister to Jesus Foster.
  • Jesus Foster (Jake T. Austin): Brother to Mariana Foster.
  • Brandon Foster (David Lambert): Son of divorced couple Stef Foster and Mike Foster.
  • Stef Foster (Teri Polo): Formerly of the “Meet the Parents” fame (Ben Stiller’s wife); Police Officer; biological mother of Brandon, ex-wife of Mike Foster, romantic partner to Lena Adams, foster/adoptive mother to Jesus, Mariana, Callie and Jude.
  • Lena Adams (Sherri Saum): Charter school principal; Foster/adoptive parent of Jesus, Mariana, Callie, Jude and Brandon; romantic partner to Stef Foster.
  • Mike Foster (Danny Nucci): A Police Officer, Stef’s ex-husband, biological father of Brandon Foster.

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To start, “The Fosters” can be described as a controversial television program replacing the also controversial, “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” a staple on the ABC Family network for a number of years, airing Mondays at 9pm EST (season finale – August 5). The new TV series features a lesbian couple, together for 10 years (i.e. Lena Adams, Charter School Principal and Stef Foster, a Police Officer who works alongside her ex-husband, whom she had a teenage son with). The show offers a sense of realism and a genuine quality, which I feel many people today, can relate to, on certain levels. The topics are often raw and exposed; issues are confronted and addressed, many of which typically are not, especially on a television network such as ABC Family. However, through the years, first with “Greek,” then with “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” and now, with “The Fosters,” the ABC Family Network is without question or contemplation holding true to its tagline – “A new kind of family.

When I think about it, “The Fosters,” is truly an accurate depiction of what a modern family might actually be, today. It depicting an alternative to what one might label as a “traditional family,” with two parents – a mother (female) and a father (male) and children. This television program raises the bar and proudly depicts two women as long-term romantic partners, establishing a family and lifestyle, with children, both biological (for Stef) and adopted (or fostered) for both. The mothers, Lena and Stef, are affectionate and loving not only with each other, but their children, as they frequently maintain open lines of communication and hold conversations with each child/teenager, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it may initially be. The topics on the program are as controversial and unique as the composition of the family, but to me, all of the above is quite refreshing and eye-opening to see. It’s not always easy or desired to see a “traditional” family on-screen, as all around us the world is consistently changing, evolving and adapting. Family is no longer a word, phrase or relationship prompting one to conjure an image solely of a male/female partners and their children. Rather, family is now a figurative term, or at least to me it is. A family can be a group of friends, or partners, no matter their gender. To me, what defines a family are the connections they establish and whether they feel they can trust, rely on, and support one another.

This television program exposes and airs out the issues and topics other shows and television networks appear fearful of discussing and airing. They are issues that often might cause people to turn away or turn a blind eye, out of discomfort or fear. However, “The Fosters,” is truly raising the bar and in turn, making people talk. It poses questions and reveals truths that are far beyond what other television programs have done in the past. If you’re not familiar with the program, or have never seen an episode, you might be wondering what types of “issues” or situations,” I am referring to. These issues include: rape, homosexuality, illegal immigration, racism, and a host of others. They are not “tip-toed” around, rather they are discussed in their plain, shear form; there are no “band-aids” placed over these instances or words.

Of course, “The Fosters,may not be for everyone; this is a truth I’ve come to realize. It is truly a show of “the changing times,” to say the least and plainly put. Some show situations/topics are heavy, emotionally-charged and can be difficult or uncomfortable to watch, or perhaps for some individuals they simply don’t want to have watch what they might have personally experienced. In my opinion, television can often be used as a form of escapism, a chance for people to indulge in lives and experiences dissimilar from theirs, or a chance for them to watch something on-screen which they know is completely unrealistic. If that is the type of television one might be searching for, then naturally, this may not be the television program for them and that’s okay.  In saying this, I felt it was important for me to at least comment on my thoughts on “The Fosters,” in that I often resort to television both for escapism and for my mind to be stimulated, or at least to have generated thoughts within my mind. Looking at “The Fosters,” it is evident that television as we know it is changing. Sometime soon, all I am speaking of may appear fairly commonplace. Perhaps the “traditional family,image we conjure will no longer be so traditional after all. The new traditional may be that which is truly anyone (gender-irrelevant, blood-related, adopted, foster-parented or not).

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For me, personally, I have to applaud executive producer Jennifer Lopez and the team at ABC Family for having the bravery, courage and moxie to air and write a show as intelligent and honest as, “The Fosters.” It is a breath of fresh air and quite honestly, about time someone and something has stepped forward to televise a program such as this.

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QUESTION: Have you ever watched “The Fosters?” What is your personal definition of “family?”

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Childhood Favorites Revisited!

Good morning, my friends! I hope your mid-week Wednesday, is off to a great start, filled with promise. Last night, needing a bit of comfort and a bit of “TV Therapy,” I opted to watch two TV shows I recorded on my DVR: ABC Family’s new series, “The Fosters,” as well as The Hallmark Channel’s new TV series, “Cedar Cove.” If you haven’t seen either yet, I HIGHLY recommend both! The acting and storylines are relatable and genuine, plus the acting is top-knotch. In fact, in watching both of them, they ended up inspiring future blog posts, so be on alert for an upcoming one on both! Anyhow,  I’m very enthused to bring you today’s musing, as it is lighthearted, reflective and in my opinion, fun! Perhaps you can relate to me as I reflect and share with you some of my favorite childhood foods, music, television shows, and dances. Prior to sharing, I’d like to take a quick moment and share with you my morning eats:

Breakfast (Wednesday, July 24, 2013):

1 container Dannon Oikos Blackberry Greek Yogurt (This isn’t the first time I’ve had this flavor of Greek Yogurt. I’d say that I am 50/50 on it. It’s on the thicker side, making it a bit of a challenge to combine with cereal, but manageable, overall. The flavor is eh. At first, I liked it a lot, but now I’m not so sure. Still, it’s worth a try, if you’re game!)

1 cup Giant-Store Brand Puffed Rice Cereal (This never really gets old, it’s a trusted, reliable source).

1 cup Special K Multigrain Flakes (Have you tried them yet? As I’ve mentioned before, they are relatively new on store shelves, but definitely a good one to enjoy. The flakes are big and crispy, and hold up well with milk and/or yogurt.)

1 Banana (No complaints here; sweet and petite, per usual.)

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Now onto today’s musing: my childhood favorites! I figured an easier and more visually appealing way to share with you some of my favorites is by revealing them by category. So without further adieu, let’s get to the first category!

FOODS:

In general, for me at least and perhaps yourselves, too, foods have a way of bringing a wave of nostalgia over me, whether it is a particular scent, package, or taste – the possibilities are endless. The same is true for those I’ve listed below, the foods I closely tie to my childhood and teenage years:

  • Dunkaroos: Remember these?! If I’m not mistaken, I believe they still sell them today, but I’m not quite sure if they are as popular as they were when they were first introduced on store shelves. For me, they became a staple in my daily school lunch my mom would pack me. If you’re unfamilar with Dunkaroos, let me indulge you: they are small, rectangular packages containing bite-size cookies on one side, with a complementing “sweet dip” on the other side, for “dunking,” hence the name, “Dunkaroos.” The cookies and dips are available in a variety of flavors, so it was never really the same experience, but always a tasty one, to say the least!

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  • Oatmeal Cream Pies: These little pies of goodness are still readily available on store shelves as I’ve passed by them on countless occasions while browsing in the grocery store. The first time I experienced an oatmeal cream pie was when I was in preschool, visiting the “older kids” in my mom’s class, while they were having lunch. I remember I sat next to a girl named Candy, who became my friend and asked me if I would like to try a piece of her oatmeal cream pie. Since then, it became one of my favorite treats, striking the ideal balance of the sweetness of the cream, mixed with the comforting oatmeal flavor of the surrounding cookie.

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  • Frosted Animal Crackers: As a child, I truly loved these, feeling as though the frosting on the animal cracker made all the difference. Whenever I see them in the store, it reminds of me being a child, relaxing on the sofa while watching my favorite Nickelodeon TV shows.

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  • Handi-Snacks: Remember these? Those little, rectangular containers containing  little breadsticks or pretzel sticks with cheese? Nowadays they are still available, but in many different varieties – i.e. some with Oreos, and a multitude of other dippers and dips.

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  • Pepperidge Farm “Butterfly Crackers:” Whenever I see or think of these buttery butterfly crackers, I always think of my mom. She and I used to share them when I was a child, as the ideal accompaniment to soup or really, whatever we happened to be enjoying at that moment.

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  • Pizza Hut’s “Pan Pizza:In general, as a child, Italian food was always one of my favorite types of foods to enjoy.  Several Saturdays throughout the year, I would excitedly receive a free Pizza Hut Pan Pizza from the school “Book-It” program, as a reward for reading a certain number of books during the month; a great incentive for an enjoyable meal.

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  • Little Caesar’s Pizza: Sadly, Little Caeasar’s is no longer available near where I live, but I’ll always remember it as one of my favorites to have on the weekends.

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  • Friendly’s Conehead Sundae & Mac ‘N Cheese: As a child, one of my favorite restaurants to frequent was Friendly’s. Not only did I love it for their dessert – in particular, a Conehead (i.e. a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with a sugar cone dipped in chocolate – “the cone” with Reese’s Pieces as the eyes), and for my meal, Mac ‘n Cheese – filled with cheesy decadence, strangely enough served with pickle chips on the side!)

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  • Life Cereal: In the mornings as a child, I would pile my bowl high with Life cereal until it was nearly overflowing! Not only did I enjoy it in the morning, as breakfast, but also sometimes as a snack, toting around my little baggie filled with the small brown squares, happily munching.

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  • Quaker Oatmeal Squares: This is one cereal upon growing up that once I began munching on was difficult to stop. It has a subtle sweetness, while being savory at the time.

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Next Category…

TV SHOWS:

Overall, television and I can sometimes have a love-hate relationship. Sometimes, I’m a big fan of watching a whole host of shows, while other times, I find it boring and lonely. Regardless, TV shows have shaped and significantly impacted my life, looking back on my childhood and adolescent years:

  • MTV’s Total Request Live – AKA “TRL“: If you’re similar to me, rushing home to watch TRL after school, each afternoon was on your list of daily highlights and must-do’s. I can fondly recall spending many afternoons, seated at the kitchen table with Hope, as we completed our homework, enjoying snacks together, singing along to our favorite videos while glued to the TV screen. Watching TRL, Carson Daly (and oddly enough, if you remember him, the VJ Jesse – long hair, long legs, kind of awkward?) nearly became like a friend, someone we could rely on each day to bring us our favorite stars, songs and videos. Fun story – years ago, (I believe I was in middle school at the time and Hope in high school), my family and I  ventured to NYC, with Hope and I eager to catch a glimpse of Carson Daly and the MTV studios and perhaps even get to request a video on air! Well, much to our delight and surprise, Hope managed to make it on-air, requesting her favorite video –  a 98 Degrees song! It was quite humorous actually, given it happened near the end of August, when I started back at school a month later, Hope came to pick me up one day and I had several people (whom I didn’t even know) coming up to her, saying they saw her on TRL! Looking back, there are such fond memories of this show and this time period.

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  • Full House: Honestly, I highly doubt I’ll ever get sick of watching this show, no matter how many times I see it or see the same episodes over and over. Despite owning each season, I just HAVE to watch it if I happen to see it is on TV, while I’m flipping channels. There is something comforting about it, despite how unrealistic at times it could be. I still hope they do a reunion special someday, I think it would be ideal and definitely fun to watch!)

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  • Saved By the Bell: Another one of my favorites I doubt I could really ever tire of and similar to Full House, despite owning each season, I STILL love to watch it whenever it happens to be on TV. Nowadays, it seems more rare to catch an episode of Saved By the Bell on TV, so when I do, I will without question, be watching! I also LOVED watching the special – Saved By the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas! (When it fired aired, Hope and I taped it and I truly believe I completely burnt out the VHS tape!)

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  • Eureka’s Castle: If you used to regularly watch Nickelodeon as I did, you might recall this show, with the Count, Eureka, and all of their friends.)

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  • David the Gnome: Also, on Nickelodeon, this was one of my favorites to watch, David and Swift, as they conquered the world.

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  • 7th Heaven: The first time I saw this show on the WB channel, it was completely by chance. It was a Monday evening, when I was in the third grade and my mom and I were flipping channels, unsure of what to watch that particular night. We just so happened to stumble across 7th Heaven and we immediately became hooked. It was almost as though it was the modern-day version of Full House, with a little more realism and drama. Looking back, I really do miss this show.

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DANCES:

Oh how I used to LOVE the many different line dances and dance moves of my childhood and teenage years:

  • The Macarena: Looking back, I can still recall first learning it as a 2nd grader, at recess on the blacktop, alongside my friends and teachers, all of us trying to “outdo” each other.

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  • Cotton-Eyed Joe: As a preteen, I first learned this dance at one of the many dances I attended in middle school and also the cast party of some of the school shows I was in. At first, it was a challenge for me to learn it, as I am not really the best dancer, but since learning it, I haven’t stopped doing it any chance I get! Today, I still love this dance and really “boogied on down” at my sister’s wedding last August!

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  • Electric-Slide & “Cha-Cha” Slide: I’ve never been a real big fan of the original electric slide, however I am a fan of the Cha-Cha Slide, which strangely enough my sister and I ended up first learning and becoming acquainted with it while on vacation in the Bahamas, when I was 13 and she was 17.

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BANDS/MUSIC:

Yes, I’ll be the first to admit it, in my younger years, I was a TOTAL teenybopper! To the fullest extent, I LOVED all the classic boy bands and actually attended several of their concerts alongside my friends, sister and even Mom.

  • ‘N Sync: For those of you who are familiar with Philadelphia, I actually attended their large concert as a teenager, back when Veterans Stadium was still around.  I still recall it as one of the best concerts I’ve been to, even though our seats were way up at the top. It was the experience that made it the most memorable. Plus, one of my other favorite boy bands – BBMak opened for them!

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  • LFO: Ahh, who can forget “Summer Girls?” I think the year it came out, it was the soundtrack of the summer. Of course, I am saddened of the lead singer, Rich Cronin’s tragic death to cancer.)

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  • BBMAK: Such a cute band, with great voices and now as I look back, I’m wondering, what happened to them?! If anyone reading this happens to know please fill me in; I’m curious!)

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  • 98 Degrees: While one of my favorites, it was my sister, Hope’s all-time favorite!  She couldn’t get enough of Jeff Timmons and as a fun fact to share with you, back when I was 18 or 19, I ended up purchasing a pair of tickets for she and I to go see Jeff Timmons and Jordan Knight, from New Kids on the Block perform at the BB King Club in NYC! What an experience, Hope even got to dance ON-STAGE with Mr. Timmons, himself!)

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  • Destiny’s Child: They are my girls! I can fondly recall first hearing their song, “Say My Name.” After hearing it, I was hooked! I remember one day, dragging my dad to Best Buy, begging him to buy me their CD. After that, they were secured as my favorite girl group. My sister and I saw them perform several times at a relatively local fair a couple summers in a row, but I’ve never gotten the chance to see Beyonce perform individually. I would definitely love to someday soon!)

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  • Backstreet Boys: Also one of my favorites as a child and a teen, I remember first hearing their music while my mom drove me to elementary school. After first hearing it, it was off to the music store called, “The Wall,” to buy their single! They’ll always be one of my favorites; they have such immense talent and I have so many fond memories upon thinking of them. Several summers ago, Hope and I ended up seeing them on the spur of the moment for free! It was a great show and one of my favorites!

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  • Christina Aguilera: Truly one of the best female performers/singers of our time, I remember when “Genie in a Bottle,” first sounded on the radio, I loved it. It was a song I recorded myself singing several times, as I aspired to sing like her (key word – “try”… unsuccessfully, of course, but all in good fun!).

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  • Britney Spears: Alright, whether you’re a fan or not, I had to mention her! Who can forget when her first single appeared on MTV’s TRL – “Baby One More Time?” It was a fun video to watch and one that was probably played and mimicked many times over. In fact, I actually dressed as Britney Spears for Halloween one year I had a Halloween Party! Very interesting time to recall, to say the least!)

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So there you have it, my little “Blast From the Past!

QUESTION: What are some of your favorites from your childhood and/or teenage years?

Friends we Left Behind

I hope you’re Tuesday has been a pleasant one, thus far. Since beginning this blog about two weeks ago, it’s been my goal to be positive, uplifting and friendly, hoping to be a place where readers can visit for lighthearted reading and tips. Though, in doing so, I realize it is not entirely “me,” and lately, I’ve been feeling particularly nostalgic about my past, the present, and how it affects me. Not wanting to be pessimistic or overly melancholy, today’s musing will be a brief one, providing some “food for thought.” However, before I share with you what’s been on my mind, let’s focus on the first meal of the day:

Breakfast (Tuesday, July 23, 2013):

1 container Yoplait 100 Greek Vanilla Yogurt (Truly one of the *best* vanilla Greek yogurts in my opinion, the vanilla flavor comes through with a vengeance, easily combined with what it happens to be mixed with, if anything. It’s always a yogurt flavor I look forward to and one I recommend if you happen to be searching for a decent vanilla Greek yogurt, or simply would like another variety to add to your repertoire.)

1 cup Special K Red Berries (Yes, a repeat from yesterday, but I am attempting to complete this box, before I can move onto the next!)

1 cup Barbara’s Bakery Original Puffins (Box completed! Don’t worry, though, I have two other Puffins flavors in my cabinet that are just WAITING to be devoured!)

1 Banana (Petite, sweet and satisfying – just the way I like it!)

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So, I’ll be honest with you, I often think and reflect on old friendships I’ve had; it’s hard not to when I still live close to where I grew up. Sometimes, I’ll run into people I shared many experiences with and they often look the other way, turning a blind eye to me, pretending they haven’t clue as to who I am. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting, as I watch them turn away, or it didn’t make me wonder what I did wrong, if anything. Even if I don’t happen to see former friends in person, due to Facebook, they are still present, at least in the social media realm, in my life.

For awhile, upon graduating from high school, or even prior to graduating, I would look at the photos posted by my former group of very close best friends, seeing them smiling and sharing moments with one another, but I would search and search in their photos for someone or something, who wasn’t there. It took some time for me to realize the “someone” or “something,” I was searching for, was me. For many years, it was always the 5 of us, conquering the world together, spending copious amounts of time at each others’ houses, but more specifically one girl’s home in particular. We would scour the mall for hours, daring each other to run up to the guys we thought were “cute,” buying matching clothing, and wiping each others’ tears when life got in the way. The way I saw it, we would be friends forever, bridesmaids in each others’ weddings, maybe even having our children become best friends like us.

Our senior year of high school, it all came crashing down. Having known these best friends since the 6th grade, I watched each of them turn away from me, soon becoming a distant memory only recollected by the scrapbooks they once made me, the words they wrote on a “Xanga” site we all used to maintain, and the feelings I stuffed deep down inside me. Having battled my share of personal demons and pain, perhaps looking back, it was too much for them to take on. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I expected too much, failing to realize we were still teenagers at the time. It still hurts today, though, at 25-years-old, because it all feels so unfinished, a door left open, and I wonder, if it will ever be closed, or if the pain will ever truly subside, as I contemplated where things went wrong.

Months ago, I tried for the second time, to reach out to one of my former best friends in particular only to receive no reply. It’s not her fault and I suppose when I think about it, it’s not mine. She has her reasons for why she chose to disconnect and as a mature adult, I have to accept that. It’s hard to brush it aside, when I see other friends marrying, with their best friends, whose friendships I watched blossom, are at their side. It makes me think of what I could have had, if things had been different, if my mind hadn’t betrayed me, all those years prior.

About two weeks ago, while reading the newspaper as I typically do, I stumbled across the Obituaries page. It’s page I come into contact with each day, at quick glance, not expecting to see anyone I actually know, or at least I hope I don’t. That day, however, I did. It wasn’t my direct friend, but a former close friends’ older brother, a guy a couple years older than us, who often drove us where we wanted to go and was particularly close to my friend. This friend and I were close in a way, where we understood each other. She shared with me the pain and heartache her family endured and trusted me with these tender, raw truths. Seeing the obituary of her beloved brother threw me for a loop. Instantly, I was transported back to the year prior when my former best friend’s father passed away. That time, I immediately wrote to her, send her family card and attempted to reach out. Though it wasn’t the first time I tried to reach out, my attempts went unanswered. I tried to understand and place myself in her shoes, a difficult act enough to complete.

Weeks later, I still wrestle with whether or not I should try to reach out to this friend, who is clearly in pain, attempting to make sense of all that has happened. Thoughts of my former friends often fill my mind, as the pain is still a viable presence in my life. I try to silence it, but sometimes, especially during times like this, it reminds me of everything and everyone I left behind.

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Finding that Hidden GEM: The Best Stores for Jewelry!

Happy Rainy Monday! I hope your Monday morning was a pleasant one. Mine was off to a rather rocky start, as I awakened with a scratchy, raspy voice and a raw feeling in my throat. Nothing a little coffee and a tasty breakfast couldn’t cure! Well, it kind of helped, anyway, but that’s besides the point. So for my musing today, it’s one I am quite excited to share with you! Two of my favorite things to purchase, are shoes and jewelry! Today, I’ll be chatting with you about the latter – jewelry! I truly believe jewelry can dress up any outfit, taking it from basic, to high fashion and style! However, contrary to popular belief, you truly do not have to spend major dollars to score a beautiful piece, whether it is a necklace, bracelet, or a pair of earrings. By following my easy tips, you’ll be sporting gems like a Princess (or prince, for my male readers!) in no time! Before delving into my tips and tools, let’s chat about breakfast:

Breakfast (Monday, July 22, 2013):

1 container Giant-store brand Raspberry Greek Yogurt (FYI – the photo of this yogurt below is not actually me holding it, but one I found thanks to my good friend, Google Images! Anyhow, I’m not always the biggest ran of raspberry, but I decided to give this variety a try, since Giant generally has high-quality store brand products. To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed by this yogurt. The raspberry flavor was OK, but I found the consistency of the overall yogurt itself to be way too thick and not easily incorporated with my cereal, as I generally prefer for it to be. I realize Greek yogurt, overall, is typically thick, but this was to the point of paste and I was left with cereal that was bare… leaving me saddened. Okay, yes, this is a little dramatic, but to sum it up, I was disappointed).

1 cup Giant-Brand Puffed Rice Cereal (Much of the puffed rice cereal this morning did not touch the yogurt, as the yogurt stuck to the top of my cereal bowl, which contained my friend, Special K Red Berries.)

1 cup Special K Red Berries (As I mentioned above, the red berries received much of the yogurt, which was okay, I suppose. Still a good cereal, though.)

1 Banana (I know, you’re probably thinking, okay, what is it now? However, I have a surprise for you – this banana was IDEAL! That’s right, no complaints this morning with my beloved banana. It was perfectly ripe and sweet, just the way I like it!)

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Alright, now that breakfast is shared and discussed, back to our scheduled musing – jewelry! When I’m looking to shop for jewelry, whether I’m buying at the time I’m looking, or simply just browsing, there are several stores I frequent, because I feel I can always score the best deal, or at least, get the most for my money. Money can be hard to come by and even if money isn’t a problem, I think it’s always a good idea to save when you can! Plus, finding an extra dollar in your wallet on a rainy day can bring a little sunshine!

STORES WITH THE BEST JEWELRY DEALS:

  • Craft Stores – Wait, a second. You might be thinking, did I read that right? Craft stores for jewelry? Or, you might be thinking, “Oh, right, like I have time to createmy own jewelry! Well, if you’re thinking either of those two thoughts, I have a secret I’m going to share with you! Craft stores, such as A.C. Moore and Michaels typically have large bins FILLED with bracelets, for a minimal cost. These stores – A.C. Moore (acmoore.com), & Michaels (michaels.com) and other craft stores, as well, are ideal spots to check for fashionable, attractive bracelets. One might not think to look there, but last year, while browsing the store for items my sister needed for her wedding, I just so happened to spot a large bin of sparkly bracelets, priced only at about $3.33, if I remember correctly. While walking past the bin, I made a quick mental note to check back once I had a coupon with me. Sure enough, I returned to AC Moore several days later and after a quick comb through the bin, happily exited with my purchase –a sparkly, purple beaded bracelet, matching my plum bridesmaid dress to a perfect-T (pictured below). After coupons, my purchase was just over $2! In fact, recently, I had a woman in shock, after she complimented me on this very bracelet, asking me if it was Swarovski. I had to chuckle upon her question, feeling proud as I declared it was not in fact Swarovski, but actually AC Moore, and only slightly over $2. She couldn’t believe it and had to ask for clarification and gladly, I explained to her the ease of purchasing a bracelet appearing similar to mine. It always brings me joy to be able to provide someone with information they otherwise might not have discovered! Plus, both AC Moore and Michaels generally will always have coupons available through their website, in-store ad – can also be found in the weekend edition of the newspaper, or via e-mail, through signing up for their e-mails on their website). * Be sure to keep in mind, both AC Moore and Michaels accept each others’ coupons! So if you happen to clip an AC Moore coupon and you’re heading into Michaels, or vice versa, no worries, you can STILL use them! Happy Shopping!

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(example of store coupon)

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Me, wearing the AC Moore bracelet (Left wrist)

  • JCPenney –  (www.jcpenney.com) One of the best stores for jewelry, in my opinion. They have an abundant selection of high quality merchandise. From chunky beads to long pendants and glittery bracelets, they have a wide variety, plus, I’m proud to report, they are now offering coupons again! For awhile, they discontinued their use of coupons, however, they recently reintegrated coupons in their stores again and frequently in the weekly store ads found in the newspaper or in-store, or via e-mail (sign up on their website to receive) they have 15%, etc, which typically can be used on jewelry and other merchandise. Some of my favorite brands they offer in jewelry are: Mixit, Nicole by Nicole Miller, as well as Monet. In the past, I’ve gotten quite a few compliments when sporting jewelry from JCPenney, as it gives off the appeal of a higher-end jewelry store item.

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  • Kohl’s – (www. Kohls.com) Another one of my favorite stores for jewelry is Kohl’s (plus, it is literally 5 minutes or less away from my doorstep – which can be a good thing, but not always for my wallet’s sake!). Not only do they have a unique, vast selection, but coupons are ALWAYS available. Whether it is on the lower end of 15% or the highest amount they offer – 30%, coupons can be found via their website (Kohls.com), in your physical mailbox, e-mail inbox, or in-store. Plus, on occasion, if you spend $50 or more in-store before coupons, you will be awarded with $10 Kohl’s cash per $50 you spend, which is equivalent of free money to spend! Yes, that’s right, free $10 to Kohl’s in your hand! Anyhow, the jewelry brands offered at Kohl’s have gotten considerably better and of higher quality through the years. Brands of jewelry vary from Candies, Vera by Vera Wang, Dana Buchman, Apt. 9, Chaps, Croft & Barrow, Sonoma, LC Lauren Conrad, Daisy Fuentes, 1928, Jennifer Lopez, and the list continues! Some of my favorite jewelry pieces I currently own are from Kohl’s (i.e. a chunky, beaded cuff bracelet, large pendant necklaces, beaded necklaces, etc). Be sure to check their sale/clearance rack in the jewelry department, because you never know what you might find! The best/most appealing pieces can often be found lurking on the sale rack, missed by those who might overlook the discounted rack, believing it to be “junk,” or of poor quality. It simply isn’t true – when scouring stores for jewelry, in my opinion, it’s best to consider EVERYTHING! For instance, I was able to locate a cuff bracelet for my sister’s rehearsal dinner last year on the CLEARANCE RACK at Kohl’s, for a mere $2, after coupons. It’s a bracelet I frequently wear today which matches with many of my outfits. It’s easy to wear and was a great find!

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Two of my bracelets from Kohl’s!

  • Sears – (www.sears.com) I’m proud to report Sears’ boats a jewelry department closely similar to JCPenney, with chunky necklaces, beaded bracelets, and earrings, upon others. Plus, they offer coupons on a routine basis which can be found via their website, in-store ads (also found in weekend newspapers), or are sent through regular postal mail or email. They also have a generous Rewards (Shop Your Way Rewards) program, where if you sign up in-store or via website, you are given reward points for each item you purchase, which can accumulate quickly and upon reaching certain levels, will deduct instant money off of your purchase, which can be a very pleasant surprise!

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  • Avon & Meet Mark – (www.avon.com; http://www.meetmark.com) Upon hearing both of these companies, you might be wondering, why would I consult Avon or Meet Mark to purchase jewelry? However, allow me to inform you, their jewelry is top-notch and not too badly priced! In fact, one necklace I own, in particular, is a beaded pendant (pictured below) which I frequently wear and have received numerous compliments on, is from Avon or Meet Mark, purchased when I was 16-years-old! My friend at the time was selling Avon and asked me one day if I’d like to browse the catalog, I obliged of course, and the necklace I speak of, caught my eye. Without having to put much thought into it, I quickly placed my order and have been thrilled with it, ever since. As I mentioned, I was 16-years-old when I bought it and I am now 25. Keep in mind, this is not a high-end jewelry item, but it has held up through over nine years and is STILL going strong! Take a look below for an actual photo! If you’re unfamiliar with Meet Mark, it is a more “youthful” division of Avon, created several years ago to appeal to a younger crowd, though in my opinion, both Avon and Meet Mark can work for a vast variety of age groups – teens through adults. Check it out and see what you think! I think you’re going to like it!

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TIP: Check out http://www.printable-coupons.blogspot.com for a HUGE selection of printable store coupons for a wide variety of stores (updated on a regular basis!)

QUESTION: Where do you shop for jewelry? What are some of your favorite pieces you own (or wish you owned?)

Happy Shopping, my friends!

A KALEIDOSCOPE of Film: A Reflection on 12 Treasured Movies!

Happy National Ice Cream Day! Also, I hope you’re enjoying your weekend and are having a pleasant Sunday! If you’re an ice cream or frozen yogurt fan like me, I hope you’ll have the opportunity to indulge and celebrate its holiday, today. Who knew it even had it’s own holiday?! It seems as though July is one big celebration centered around our favorite, cold/icy treat, given this month, is actually National Ice Cream Month! Anyhow, today’s musing was inspired on the latter end of last night, as I indulged in a favorite movie, I just so happened to see was on TV. I intended to record the new Hallmark Channel TV series, “Cedar Cove,” when it aired at 8, however, I noticed about a half hour into it, sadly, the recording never began, forcing me to record its encore presentation, an hour and a half later. No worries though, I quickly noticed “Sweet Home Alabama,” was being televised, so I tuned in, and as I did, a wave of nostalgia crept over me. More on that later, though, let’s get to the morning eats!

Breakfast (Sunday, July 21, 2013):

1 container Axelrod Fat-Free Banana Creme Yogurt (YUM, YUM and YUM! Yes, this required three+ yum’s to fully capture the way I feel about this new yogurt I discovered! What a change from yesterday, when I felt disappointed in the Superfruits yogurt. This particular Banana-flavored yogurt, truly captured the banana flavor, had the ideal consistency (not too thick, not too thin, striking the appropriate balance I seek), and thoroughly combined with my cereals of choice. I’ve actually never had this brand before despite seeing it on store shelves and if you’re looking for a yogurt outside of the typical Greek yogurts, which is on the lighter side, with a cheaper price tag, then this yogurt definitely fits the bill! I highly recommend trying it, if you haven’t already; trust me, your tastebuds will surely thank you!

1 cup Wegmans-brand Chocolate Cheerios (Such a tasty cereal, which truly does hold an intense chocolate flavor. It really does taste like an indulgent morning treat and complements whatever it happens to be mixed with, if anything. Again, I will picture the name brand Chocolate Cheerios, as a result of my lack of an actual photo of the cereal. In my mind, they are probably nearly identical).

1 cup Barbara’s Bakery Original Puffins (I’ll be the first to admit it, I am truly a Puffins girl! Not only do I feel the actual animal Puffins is adorable, but the cereal is one, tasty, crunchy treat! I like that I can still taste a hint of sweetness, yet there are only 5g of sugar! That’s right, a mere 5g, yet the flavor is still identifiable, yet subtle).

1 Banana (Always a fun story when I get to the acclaimed, morning banana! So for today’s banana, it was slightly larger than what I typically select, so I ate about 3/4 of it, and saved the rest, placing it back in the refrigerator for later use, though after thinking about it, I might pop it in the freezer for a tasty, quick treat at a later time.)

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Back to today’s musing: as I mentioned, last night, unsure what to watch as a result of my debacle with the recording of “Cedar Cove,” I selected “Sweet Home Alabama” after noticing it was already in the midst of airing. Of course, I must tell you, I actually already own this movie on DVD, however, this is one of several movies, which despite my owning it, I HAVE to watch if I happen to see it is airing on TV. This follows suit, also with beloved television shows, such as “Full House,” and “Saved by the Bell.” Perhaps you might feel the same? There is just something about watching it when it is airing live on TV, almost as though it is a special, unexpected treat, I can indulge in!

While watching “Sweet Home Alabama,” it got me thinking about other “feel good” movies I tend to watch on rotation, or watch whenever I feel the need to reminisce or are looking for something uplifting. These are movies I began to love as both a preteen and teenager, first seeing them in the theaters and then watching them nearly each time my friends and I would host sleepovers at each others’ houses! Not only are they movies whose stars I came to see as trusted confidantes, but as I realized last night, many of the lines I can recite, having taken care in listening to the words they shared. Here’s a sampling of some of my favorites:

Sweet Home Alabama – Since I watched it again last night, I figured, why not kick off my list of favorites with it? I recall the first time I saw this movie, in the theater with my sister, Hope. It was a movie with one of our favorite actresses – Reese Witherspoon. We grew up as a fan of hers after watching one of her first films, “Man in the Moon.” Sweet Home Alabama is a movie filled with love, second chances, and a chance to delight in southern culture!

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Only You – A lot of people I’ve spoken to in the past are slightly unfamiliar with this film. I actually first saw this as a child and not so much as a preteen. It stars Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr and is truly an uplifting film. Tomei’s character in the film reminds me a bit of myself, as she is dramatic and a big dreamer, taking her best friend on a whirlwind trip to Italy, believing her “true love,” is there, after discovering his name on a Ouija Board as a teenager. Keep in mind, however, that upon their traveling to Italy, she is engaged to be married only several days later, to someone else! It’s an exciting and thrilling adventure of a movie!

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Never Been Kissed – This is one film, starring Drew Barrymore, whose lines I can without question, recite. It was almost an unwritten rule at the sleepovers my friends and I had, that we would watch this movie. In this movie, Drew Barrymore is raw and captivating, and truly is believable as a reporter, who goes undercover as a teenager, back to high school, exposing her former emotions and experiences from being bullied. Of course, there is a love story, behind it, as well!

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You’ve Got Mail – A film starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, it is cutesy, to say the least! Looking back, I believe I was on the younger side when I first saw this one, as well, but it is one that has the ability to make me feel better. The stars of the movie have such on-screen chemistry and the ability to captivate. The city of New York is the star of the film and takes audiences through the seasons as the two characters fall in love through the computer screen. From the beginning, the questions lingers, if they will discover who one another truly are.

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Save The Last Dance – Ahh, I have truly fond memories of first watching this movie in the theater. After closely watching star, Julia Stiles dance throughout the movie, it inspired me to begin dance classes (though short lived, it was all in good fun). The ending of the movie, Stiles’ character’s Julliard School dance audition, is one of the best choreographed dances I’ve truly ever seen. While watching, I could not pull my eyes away, believing her heart and soul poured into these moves. Also, a love story coincides with her dancing, one that sparked controversy in the movie, but proved to overcome all it was subjected to.

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Now & Then – This is a movie I first watched with my sister, Hope. It is one we both loved, growing up, as it starred many former child stars (i.e. Gaby Hoffmann, Christina Ricci, Thora Birch etc). It reminds me of my former group of best friends from middle/high school. They are a small, close knit group, sharing secrets and their deepest sentiments with another, embarking on exciting/thrilling journeys, while indulging in first experiences with boys. It is a true life depiction of what life is like for an average teenager.

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Chasing Liberty – In my opinion, this might be a lesser-known film, but still one I’ve loved since the first time I saw it in theaters. Starring Mandy Moore and Matthew Goode, Moore is the President’s daughter, who while on a trip across the globe with her parents, embarks on a journey, where she meets a photographer, and ends up discovering what she and life is all about. Of course, this is generally a cliche of a movie, but it’s still one that is fun to indulge in.

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Serendipity – What a beautiful movie and a beautiful word! Seeing this film, I believe it was the first time I truly ever came in contact with the word, “Serendipity.” It’s not really a commonly used word, though it is a unique one. The lead characters, played by Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack, end up having a chance meeting, and a journey ensues. The film centers on a real-life NYC restaurant, Serendipity 3, famous for their absolutely delectable “Frozen Hot Chocolate!” Before you wonder, YES, I have been there and YES, I have had a frozen hot chocolate! It is a generous serving, topped with fresh whipped cream and chocolate shavings! The first time I visited with my sister, Hope, we waited for several hours to be seated, but it was worth it. We got to see where the movie was filmed, and enjoy a unique treat!

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Kate & Leopold – In my opinion, this is a fun, unique movie, where Hugh Jackman plays an Englishman, Leopold, from the 1800’s who suddenly travels to modern day NYC, where he meets a character, Kate, played by Meg Ryan. I’m sure you can probably guess what happens between Kate & Leopold, but it is a movie that is a joy to watch, as Leopold attempts to transition and learn all about the differences between living in the 1800’s vs. modern day.

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Where the Heart Is – Starring Natalie Portman, a favorite actress of mine, she is a young pregnant woman, who is suddenly deserted at a Walmart, in an unfamiliar state, by her boyfriend, who is sorely after fame and money. She ends up giving birth in the Walmart and changes her life, inspiring a town and proving one can overcome all they aspire to, when their heart is in the right place. The acting in this movie is incredible, not only by Portman, but also Ashley Judd, and Stockard Channing.

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Anywhere But Here – Also starring Natalie Portman, she is a teenager, uprooted by her mother, played by Susan Sarandon, from the only life she’s ever known, forced to readjust and acclimate, teaching her mother how to survive on her own. It is a touching story showcasing the love and sometimes painful feelings in the relationship of mother and daughter.

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Miss Congeniality – Last, but certainly not least, this film featuring Sandra Bullock is of course, one of my favorites. It’s both humorous and inspiring to watch Sandra Bullock transform from an FBI agent, into a beauty pageant contestant, whose heart is in the right place, determined to ensure the safety of the contestants and the greater public. Throughout her pursuit of safety, she ends up indulging in a romance of her own, rediscovering her passion and femininity. 

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So, there you have it! For me, these movies have a unique way of uplifting my mood, bringing me back to pleasant times, and inspiring me to believe in myself. No matter where I might be or what I may be doing, when I watch these films, I am instantly transported to a place of happiness with a sense of security.

QUESTION: Which movies are you particularly fond of? Do you tend to watch movies when on TV, even if you already own them?