"Designed for Life Unexpected"
Since meeting my husband I feel like I've been through 1,001 vehicles. When we met I had a Hyundai Accent, and he had a Toyota Camry. Then he traded that in for another Toyota truck of some sort, and I got a Jeep Wrangler. After finding out I was expecting my first child the Wrangler went bye-bye and I ended up with a Pontiac Vibe. Then we were gifted an old mini-van and my Vibe went away so we could save some moola. We drove that mommy-van all the way from Maine to DC when we moved, and it decided to erm... pass away, leaving me without a family vehicle. Thankfully we live right near the metro, and have a truck and a moped (my husband decided he wanted a new toy), and we can rent a vehicle every now and again when we all need to get somewhere. We are looking around for a new car, however my family wanted to go camping ASAP since we've had gorgeous weather, and we really didn't want to have to shell out a couple hundred dollars just to get to a campsite.
I was very blessed because an opportunity to test out a car for Mazda came knocking at my door. The only problem, was figuring out which would work best for our family. "Umm... I have three kids, and two with car seats, so if possible could you please let me try a car that will fit everyone?" They came back and said, "How about the 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring? It has third row seating." PERFECT!
I've test driven so many vehicles. (I'm one of those people who even if I think I know I'm not going to purchase the car, still might take it out to see if a test drive might change my mind.) About 4 years ago I test drove a Mazda5. I wasn't impressed. The suspension felt like I was driving a little race car, and the interior and controls just felt cheap. It was kind of like driving a matchbox car. Needless to say, this past experience had me a little worried about not liking the 2013 Mazda5. But, I figured that it has been several years, and car manufacturers are known for improving issues and hopefully not creating new ones. Who knew? Maybe I'd find my next family vehicle.
"With sporty performance, pure athletic style and a roomy interior, the Mazda5 defies category labels while delivering on versatility. The 6-passenger seating is easily accessible by two sliding rear doors, while the 2.5L DOHC engine delivers impressive power without compromising fuel efficiency. Because calling it a minivan doesn't mean it has to drive like one." ~Mazda
When the Mazda5 was dropped off, I was given a quick rundown of all of the features. Have to be honest, it all kind of in went in one ear and out the other because there were SO MANY FEATURES. See all of those buttons and knobs on the console? Yeah, I had this car a week and still didn't need to use them all.
The Mazda5 is Bluetooth and Audio Connectivity capable. Which means you can connect your phone and answer calls or listen to music through the car's 6 speaker audio system while remaining hands free. Just push the button on your steering wheel and you're good to go. I could definitely see my husband using this if we had the car longer. He already connect our house phone to our cell phones. The Mazda5 also has a USB input port so you can easily connect your MP3 player (or charge a cell phone). I can't forget to mention the available Sirius Satellite Radio with 120+ radio stations too. I think my husband picked up on all of the gadgetry faster than I did. I was more concerned about comfort, and safety.
The Mazda5 pretty much has it all when it comes to comfort. Something my husband always looks for is the cruise control feature. The Mazda5 has the controls right on the steering wheel making it super simple to use. MY favorite luxury was the power controlled moon roof. I've always wanted a vehicle with one. Something about cars make me feel a little claustrophobic, but having a little window in the roof definitely improve my personal comfort levels. The seats are cushy and ergonomically correct. Along with the leather trimmed upholstery, the front seats are also heated. Obviously didn't need to use that feature since the week I had it our weather was in the 70's, but it's a nice feature I've never had in any of my other vehicles.
The seats I think were my favorite feature. The middle row seats quickly fold down with just a single pull of a lever, and they also adjust forward and backward too. The third row also has a lot of space due to the fact that it only seats two, but the seats, while separate, also sit flush with each other. Now, that's not to say the second row isn't huge either. My son's car seat is MASSIVE and there was plenty of space for it and room for his feet. Both second and third row seats fold down FLAT. My Vibe did that, and I've always thought it was the best idea ever. Another neat little feature having to do with the seats is that the second row has a little bit of storage space underneath the cushions. The seat on the right side of the vehicle also houses a little try for food and drinks under the cushion.
Now, because I travel around with three kids, safety is definitely important. The Mazda5 has rear back-up sensors which will beep if you're getting too close to something. Not that I've ever backed into anything, but... I've come close a few times and not necessarily realized how close. Halogen headlights come standard, but you can also upgrade to Xenon High-Intensity Discharge headlights. Either way, the road is illuminated at night really well. No problems seeing ahead into the distance, or down the nose of the car. The Mazda5 also boasts 4-wheel disc breaks, Electronic Breakforce Distribution, Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control, tire pressure monitoring system, six standard airbags, and fast inflating air-curtains. Thankfully none of these were needed. But, ya gotta admit it's nice to know they're there!
Earlier I mentioned that the last Mazda5 I drove I really had an issue with the suspension and interior. This car did a complete 180º since the older model. The suspension was SO smooth. My opinion of Mazda's quality definitely improved with the 2013 Mazda5. The interior I felt was much better quality too. It didn't FEEL as plastic and cheap as the one I tried before. In fact, it felt rather luxurious.
There was only ONE thing that I was a little disappointed with. I was really hoping that this car would fit all 5 of us, the dog, and our camping gear, but the trunk space just wasn't large enough. Even with one of the third row seats folded down. It easily fit 3 people and the dog, and probably could have handled 4 people and the dog, but that entire third row needed to be folded down to get everything else in. It's not a big deal if you don't need to carry that much stuff with so many people, but we are a large family and enjoy taking trips together, even if it's just for a weekend of camping. I still absolutely LOVE this car, and would definitely recommend it if you're looking for a mini-van/crossover. It's perfect for a family car, running errands, and even taking long trips in if you don't have tents, sleeping bags, bedding, food, etc. to pack. There was nothing in the 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring that I didn't want, and everything that I could EVER want.
*I was provided a car for a week from STI & Mazda in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
Last Fall I worked with Teton Sports and had the opportunity to review their TETON Sports Celsius XL –18°C/0°F Sleeping Bag. It was a FANTASTIC sleeping bag. It was perfectly huge, soft, warm, and I still can't get over how much I love the storage bags with the compression straps. Well, my husband decided we needed to go on a Spring camping trip this year. The weather had been extremely nice lately, and while it's nice to camp when it's super hot out because of all of the swimming options that tend to be available, camping is a lot of work. And, a lot of work in the sweltering heat just kind of takes away from the fun of being outdoors. Because I loved working with Teton Sports so much last year, I reached out again to see if we could review a new product. We settled on the Fahrenheit Regular 0°F Sleeping Bag. (Unfortunately it didn't arrive in time for THIS particular camping trip, but I can still give it a solid two thumbs up and will definitely be using it in the future.)
"This well-built sleeping bag keeps you warm in all but the most extreme temperatures. Cozy cotton flannel lining feels like luxury bed sheets Zipper and shoulder baffles keep drafts out of the openings Dual layer construction with staggered seams distribute fill evenly to reduce compression and eliminate chilly spots. Mummy style hood snugs around neck with drawstring. No-snag, self-repairing zipper opens top or bottom for adjustable ventilation and connects easily to second bag for shared sleeping space." ~ Teton Sports
There are so many fantastic features about this sleeping bag but I think the most important is that it was constructed for durability and warmth. The flannel liner is 100% brushed cotton making it super soft and breathable. Several of my photos have my daughter in it. She jumped right in and pretended to sleep even without a pillow (which she ALWAYS needs). Yeah, the inside of the sleeping bag is THAT soft. I figured she can play and model the bag for me all she wants, but at the end of the day, I'm staking my claims on it.
The top part of the sleeping bag has a drawstring to turn the head part into a hood so your head and pillow stay off of the ground. Personally, that's what I use an air mattress for, (I'm a slight pansy when it comes to camping.) however I've used other sleeping bags with hoods like this to keep bugs off of my face. Nothing like trying to get a few hours of sleep before everyone is awake at the crack of dawn and having to swat mosquitoes away from your face every 10 minutes.
The shell of the bag is made from taffeta which is lightweight and lends to the warmth and durability of the sleeping bag. Then there are little things about the bag that I also really appreciated. There's a Velcro strap at the top of the bag where the zipper ends so it prevents drafts, and I think it also helps keep the zipper from sliding down on its own while you're sleeping. The zipper is also amazing. It's self-repairing and zips OH SO smoothly. The sleeping bag is also constructed with full length draft tubes which is a huge bonus for me. While camping the other weekend we brought our other Teton bag with us and used it as a blanket. While warm, it wasn't warm enough because of the drafts. I can only imagine how well this one would have performed given the ability to zip it up instead of having to share one big one.
If you're looking to create one HUGE sleeping bag, you can buy left and right zippered bags so you can zip them together. (Isn't one of the fun parts about camping getting to snuggle with your hunny?) Teton Sports also has a limited lifetime warranty on the sleeping bag. Oh, and it's non-allergenic.
Although not super significant, I think my favorite feature is the Oxford Compression Sack that comes with the bag. You don't even need to roll up the sleeping bag before stuffing it in, and the compression straps let you shrink it down even further to conserve space. If you're like our family you have to pack a TON of stuff just for a few nights away and any little extra space counts.
- Dimensions: 80" x 33"
- Temperature Rating: 0°F
- Fill: SuperLoft Elite™ 4–Channel Hollow Fiber
- Shell: Taffeta
- Lining: 100% Cotton Flannel
- Storage: Oxford Compression Sack with Drawstring Closure
- Zipper: Left or Right Hand
- Pack Weight: 5.5 lbs
- Pack Size: 15" x 10" x 10"
- Color: Grey
Teton Sports has also offered to give away a Fahrenheit Regular 0°F Degrees! Once giveaway is live you'll be able to enter [HERE]. Giveaway will run for approximately 1 week. Open to US residents who are 18+.
*I received the above mentioned product free of charge from Teton Sports in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
About a week before Christmas, I was asked to review a bouquet of 50 Medium Stem Burgundy/Purple Calla Lilies from Flower Muse. My intention was to have the review done, along with a project in time for New Years, because I'm sure many of you entertained company and could have used some beautiful centerpieces for your tables. Unfortunately, I had some stuff come up with family in addition to still unpacking, and it just didn't happen. Then I realized, Valentine's Day is coming up, and people are still have those beautiful Winter weddings, and Spring is only a couple of months away - so this review is still within the perfect time frame of flower buying.
I was given the option of reviewing hydrangeas or calla lilies, and since I like my flowers a little more streamlined and modern looking (I also used mini calla lilies in my wedding bouquet), I thought a bouquet of burgundy callas would really make my new place pop with a little color. I had purchased a medium height circular vase, along with some clear glass vase filler beads, and found some silver ribbon in my craft bin. Shiny beads, silver, and burgundy just screams holidays to me. My intention was to try something similar to the photo pictured that I found on the Beyond Events blog. Since I couldn't find the floating candles in my store, I planned to use ribbon wrapped around the outside and tied in a long elegant bow instead. However, like I said, I just didn't get to the project before the calla lilies lost their freshness.
The flowers were delivered by FedEx, wrapped in sets of ten, and placed strategically in a sturdy box so there wouldn't be too much jostling. I even had to sign for the package which is rare. But, it's nice to know that Flower Muse wants to definitely make sure the flowers were delivered to a person, and not just left on someone's doorstep for who knows how long. Not only does Flower Muse make sure that you are home when your flowers arrive, but they make sure that they are as fresh as possible. The flowers are sourced as "farm direct" meaning that they aren't going through any middle men or warehouses before arriving at your door. You are enjoying your ordered flowers only 4 days after being cut!
"These Schwarzwalder mini-callas are considered purple by some and burgundy, near black by others. Whichever your opinion, if you are looking for a deep and dark natural flower that has a great modern look, this is the variety for you. These "bouquet length" mini-callas are ~14 inches long and are great for both vase arrangements and handheld bouquets." ~ Flower Muse
I have a black thumb, so thankfully they came with care instructions. Just snip off about 1 inch off of the ends, place in room temperature water, and change the water every couple of days to maintain freshness as long as possible. As you can see, the flowers were STUNNING. All but one was in perfect condition upon arrival. The burgundy color was just perfect too. They were so sleek, and even without any added decoration, they made my dining room stand out that much more. They were certainly the biggest eye-catching piece in the entire room.
The fantastic thing about Flower Muse is their huge selection of flowers and color choices. Everything from calla lilies, to orchids, roses, peonies, and so much more. Right now you can check out their Valentine's Day selection - tulips, roses, orchids, calla lilies, and hydrangeas in various varieties an colors. I have to say, my favorites are the lavender roses, calla lilies, and purple parrot tulips. (Can you tell that purple is my favorite color yet?) Not really into Valentine's Day? No problem! They have a vast selection of wedding flowers available too - everything from packages, to bridal bouquets, to center pieces.
Make sure you take the time to check out Flower Muse online. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Tumbler. Flower Muse also has some great DIY tips too that you should check out if you're looking into adding fresh cut flowers into your room decor.
*I received the above mentioned product from Flower Muse free of charge in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
Recently my husband has began working out more, and somehow every single pair of ear buds we had in the house upped and disappeared. I still think our (now previous house) likes to eat things when we're not looking. Anyway, I was on the search for a new pair of ear buds for him, and myself since I have every plan in the world to start hitting the gym at our new condo. With every pair of ear buds I've owned, I always have at least one of three issues. The first, is that they NEVER fit in my ears right. They're always too big, and end up very uncomfortable. The next issue is that the sound quality is always lacking something. Either the bass comes through OK, but the higher pitches are lost, or the exact opposite happens and there is ZERO bass coming through. The third issue is noise cancellation. I haven't yet found a decent set of ear buds that handle this task effectively. Yuck. A poor set of ear buds really ruins the music you're trying to enjoy.
On my hunt for a new pair of ear buds I ran across Wicked Audio. After browsing through all of their products I saw exactly the pair I wanted to try out. I figured if these ended up as awesome as they sounded like they would be, you all would like to hear about them too. Wicked Audio was fantastic, and offered to send the pair I was most interested in; Wicked Audio JawBreakers (Model WI-2100).
- Driver - 10mm
- Impedance - 16 ohm
- Frequency - 20-20,000 Hz
- Cord Length - 1.2 Meters
- Plug Material - Gold Plated
"Want sound that blows your mind? With Wicked JawBreakers you don't have a choice. Deep jaw-shattering bass and clear stunning highs make you think a boom box is in your head. Well, maybe there is!" ~ Wicked Audio
Yes, please. I DO want sound that will blow my mind! I want that deep bass and and high notes all at the same time instead of having to sacrifice one for the other. I have a couple of favorite songs that really have a fantastic bass-line, but playing it through my computer's speakers really doesn't do the music justice. Heck, even playing it through the speakers in my car doesn't do the music justice. The first song I tried was "Bleeding Love" by Leona Louis. This has a rocking, deep base part that always sounds really pretty bad through most speakers and ear buds I've used to listen to this song. It always ends up sounding distorted and out of place. The Wicked Audio JawBreakers completely revamped the sound quality. The bass was brought in clear as a bell, but not so it was over powering, and no matter how high I turned up the volume, the bass never distorted. Her voice rang through with stunning clarity as well. It was almost an entirely new song!
Every once in awhile I like to listen to Dubstep music. If you're unfamiliar with Dubstep, there is this thing called a "drop" where the bass pumps in harder and the sounds just explodes. One song I always find is lacking when I play it through my computer or other ear buds is "First of the Year" by Skrillex. This song has so much meat to it. Really high highs, and really low lows, with everything in between. It's a fast paced song, and it most definitely needs the correct speakers to be heard properly. This is also one of my husband's favorite songs, so I had him check out the ear buds while it was playing. He immediately fell in love, and his face fell when I told him I don't think I was going to give the JawBreakers to him after all. He said he could feel the base, but it wasn't an uncomfortable sound. It had a nice "thump" to it. I've now listened to this song about 10 times in a row with the JawBreakers. I just can't get enough.
With the JawBreakers, I could hear parts of the songs that I was unable to hear before. For example, I listened to the "Home" music video by Phillip Phillips (swoon), and noticed that I had never once heard the sound of the rain in the beginning. These ear buds make it so you're standing in a large, acoustically perfect room. I felt surrounded by the music, and not just as though I was hearing it. FANTASTIC!
Wicked Audio took care of my two other ear bud issues I always seem to have; noise cancellation, and fit. The JawBreakers come with three different sizes of cushions. The small cushions which fit my ears best provide the maximum amount of comfort for long term wear. The medium cushions also fit my ears well, and have really great noise cancellation capabilities. Finally, the large cushions (which will not fit in my ears) offer the maximum amount of noise cancellation. I can't hear any outside noise with the medium cushions and for the most part, they're really comfortable. I have very, very small ear holes, so for all you normal ear hole sized people, the medium and the large should work fine for you.
The Wicked Audio JawBreakers (Model WI-2100) sell for $11.65 on Amazon with an original list price of $19.99. With a LIFETIME warranty, you really cannot beat the price and quality (in my humble opinion).
I was provided a pair of JawBreakers Ear Buds free of charge from Wicked Audio in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
About a month ago, I read an article from the Opinionator section of The New York Times titled "How to Live Without Irony" by Christy Wampole in which she briefly discusses her own ironic habits in regards to gift giving.
"...I find it difficult to give sincere gifts. Instead, I often give what in the past would have been accepted only at a White Elephant gift exchange: a kitschy painting from a thrift store, a coffee mug with flashy images of “Texas, the Lone Star State,” plastic Mexican wrestler figures. Good for a chuckle in the moment, but worth little in the long term. Something about the responsibility of choosing a personal, meaningful gift for a friend feels too intimate, too momentous. I somehow cannot bear the thought of a friend disliking a gift I’d chosen with sincerity." ~ Christy Wampole
Her words resonated with me. She had perfectly described myself as well as many others I know, at least when it comes to gift giving. With Hanukkah having already started, and Christmas merely 8 days away (as I'm writing this), I decided that this year I would make sure gift giving was more personal and meaningful. Shortly after reading the article I went on a determined search for non-ironic gifts to give this season. This is how I stumbled across EPICA, and I'm so excited that I get to share their beautiful handmade products with all of you!
EPICA, while best known for their handmade Italian leather journals, also offers stunning (and I really mean stunning) handmade Italian leather photo albums. So, in order to get better acquainted with EPICA's products, they offered to send their 9x10 Handmade Italian Leather Photo Album. I was offered one of their journals, however I'm not much of a journal writer. I tend to keep up with it for a week or two when I'm really motivated to begin the writing habit, however I usually end up giving it a go for a couple of days. Then I feel like I've wasted the journal, and it ends up getting thrown in the garbage after I'm done hoarding it for a few years. There was no way I wanted to waste such a beautiful piece of work on my inability to write consistently. However, I have been a freelance photographer for several years, I have several photos from traveling overseas, and I have many old photos from my mother's photo albums. A photo album is definitely something I can use.
The 9x10 Handmade Italian Leather Photo Album arrived beautifully packaged. It came in a complimentary gift box, wrapped in EPICA's signature tissue paper, and closed with the EPICA seal. The second I opened the box I could smell the leather, see the slight marbling in the coloring, and feel the texture of the leather. It was an entire sensory experience... except taste. I figured it was best not to lick the album.
Near square styling, 4x6, 5x7 or dual 4x6 capacity, heavyweight blank 40lb acid-free archival photo stock for superior mounting, interleaved rice paper separators with chiseled square design to protect images, sturdy reinforced pages for durability, thick bookbinding boards, signature distressed solid leather construction, subtle inconsistent color marbling and scarring with handcrafted abrasions, reinforced signature raised spine in four places for a timeless look, hand pressed panels for easy opening and closing, imported from and made in Italy.
- Perfect for small trips & quaint special occasions
- 30 mounting sheets = 60 pages front and back
- Accommodates up to 120 4x6 images or 60 5x7 images
- 1 3/4 inch thick book
- Mount images using corners, squares, or mounting glue
- Complimentary gift box, signature tissue paper and seal included with purchase
Everything about EPICA's 9x10 Handmade Leather Photo Album showed quality, and great care put into creating it. The binding was perfect, and truly a work of art. The pages were sturdy, and the interleaved rice paper not only created a beautiful aesthetic touch, but have a function of providing protection for your mounted photographs. It's rare to find a product these days that you will want to keep in your family for generations. Most things are poorly made, or have zero sentimental value behind it. This is not the case with EPICA's products. Their albums have that heirloom feel right out of the box.
EPICA also offers the option to personalize your purchase, which is really a great touch for any occasion, but especially if you're trying to send a meaningful gift to someone. EPICA offers a couple of different font choices, the ability to have an image or logo embossed, a custom title page made, and gift wrapping. I requested to have my initials embossed in gold on the lower right hand corner in Script (Goudy Cursive). I think the embossing really adds that "wow" factor to the album.
EPICA stands behind their products 100%. If you are not happy with the product you ordered, they will refund your money 100% with no questions asked. How awesome is that? In addition, EPICA offers world wide shipping at any speed from Massachusetts, and same day processing on all products that are in stock.
"We genuinely want your experience at Epica to be phenomenal. That should mean a classy, easy, fast, and fun experience along with the opportunity to customize products that are otherwise impossible to find." ~ Epica
My experience with EPICA has been truly incredible. They were very easy to work with and even provided advice when it came to the embossing. (I had originally wanted it done blind - no color - but I'm very happy that they suggested to choose a color.) I sincerely recommend their products for anyone who is looking to give a meaningful gift, or for anyone who is an avid journal-er, or wants to preserve their special moments in life including weddings, honeymoons, vacations, birthdays, etc.
EPICA wants to give away a Lock & Key Guest Book/Journal as a giveaway prize! Giveaway will begin 12/17/12 and run for approximately a week. Unfortunately the prize will not make it in time for Christmas, however it can certainly be a belated gift, something for yourself, or save it for another special gift giving occasion.
*I received a 9x10 Handmade Italian Leather Photo Album free of charge from EPICA in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
My family and I went camping for the first time this Summer. Well, I guess I should say that as a family it was our first time, but both my husband and I have gone camping on several other occasions before we met. This was kind of a spur of the moment decision, and we didn't have all of the supplies we needed, including sleeping bags. So, we had to borrow a few from my mother. My goal is to be 100% prepared to go camping again for next Summer, so I reached out to TETON Sports to see if they could help us out. Truth be told I had reached out last minute before our camping trip, but even though we couldn't fit them in for this year, I am thrilled that we'll have the sleeping bag on hand for next year.
TETON Sports generously offered my family one of their sleeping bags for us to review. I've never had the opportunity to use a TETON Sports sleeping bag in the past. Usually it was some other name brand, or whatever we managed to find at Goodwill. I decided that since I wanted the size of the sleeping bag to fit anyone, including my more than 6ft tall husband, that the TETON Sports Celsius XL –18°C/0°F would probably be our best bet. And, since I refuse to do any sort of Winter camping, the 0°F would provide more than enough warmth.
- Dimensions: 90"L x 36"W
- Temperature Rating: –18°C/0°F
- Fill: SuperLoft Elite™ 4–Channel Hollow Fiber
- Shell: Taffeta
- Lining: 100% Brushed Flannel
- Storage: Oxford Compression Sack with Drawstring Closure
- Zipper: Left or Right Hand
- Pack Weight: 6.5 lbs
- Pack Size: 16.5" x 12" x 12"
- Color: Green | Blue
As far as any sleeping bag that I've used, this is probably the most extreme, and also feature packed. Before even taking the sleeping bag out of the compression storage bag, I could tell that this was going to be a winner. If TETON Sports put so much effort into the design of the storage bag, the sleeping bag must be just a great. The compression bag has a durable drawstring, two crossing buckles, and four compression straps just in case you need to make more room. Even though this is a small featured compared to everything else, I absolutely LOVED the fact that the bottom of the compression bag had a handle. I cannot be the only one who finds the bags for sleeping bags almost a bigger pain than rolling up the sleeping bag small enough to get it into the storage bag... and that's IF the sleeping bag even came with a storage bag in the first place.
But, the storage bag is obviously not the main feature, even though it was pretty awesome. The sleeping bag itself definitely lived up to my expectations. Compared to an average size sleeping bag, the TETON Sports Celsius XL was considerably larger, which is just what I wanted. My kids are young enough where having some extra room for them to snuggle with Mommy isn't a bad thing. I also really liked the ability to zip two of them together (if we had a second one), so make an even larger sleeping area. Who wouldn't want to snuggle up close with your significant other on chilly nights? That's half of the fun! I had honestly never seen a sleeping bag with baffles, but I have to say this is probably going to definitely reduce the amount of drafts that somehow make their way into your sleeping bag ruining that nice and toasty feeling. (You can really tell how much of a novice camper I am.) The mummy style hood I'm a little unsure about. Not because it's a bad thing, but it's just not my personal preference. However, there was one time while traveling overseas that my hooded sleeping bag came in handy.... to help keep the mosquitoes away from my head/face.
- Celsius XL is 90"L x 36"W, fifteen inches longer and three inches wider than most bags
- Sturdy taffeta shell stands up to years of use
- Sturdy no–snag two–way zippers with metal pulls
- Full–length zipper baffle reduces drafts
- Right and left zippered bags zip together
- Mummy style hood keeps head or pillow off the ground
Honestly the first thing I wanted to do after pulling the sleeping bag out was take a nap in it. It felt SO cozy and soft. The sleeping bag also had several little features that I thought were great. There's a pocket on the inside for a flash light, or your keys so you won't lose them in the middle of the night. There was also a Velcro strap that covers the zipper where it meets to make sure it's definitely closed, and reduces draft even further. The zipper ran smooth as silk. There was no catching, not even a slight hitch. All of the details, big and small, you can tell were really thought about before being added to the product. I'm truly impressed with the quality and the design of the TETON Sports Celsius XL –18°C/0°F Sleeping Bag.
The only problem I had with the sleeping bag (and it's not the fault of the sleeping bag), was getting it back into the compression storage bag. I was a little surprised to find that it didn't have any ties to keep it closed, or at least none that I noticed. So, between the slippery fabric of the sleeping bag, and the slippery fabric of the compression bag, I definitely struggled. I asked hubs to give me a helping hand, but he was busy. So I used my head. Literally. It was quite the sight. But, what the third hand that I don't have couldn't do, I used my head for and, successfully albeit awkwardly, got it back in. I've got skillz yo.
You can purchase the Celsius XL –18°C/0°F Sleeping Bag on Amazon for only $85.44 (originally $109.99).
TETON Sports is also allowing me to give away one Celsius XL - 18°C/0°F Sleeping Bag! The giveaway will be open to legal residents of the 48 contiguous states who are 18+. Giveaway will start 10/6 and run for approximately one week. You will be able to enter [HERE] once the giveaway is live.
*I received a product for free from TETON Sports in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
Last weekend my family and I went camping, and shortly before we left, we realized we REALLY could use a cooler to take with us to story land. Our big, hard, bulky cooler was just not practical, and our tiny, hard, bulky cooler was not big enough. We were planning to be gone for several hours so we needed something that would keep everything cold for as long as we needed, but also something a little easier to carry around.
I reached out to Polar Bear Coolers to see if perhaps they'd like to help us out by providing one of their soft shell, nylon coolers to take long with us to Story Land, and they said YES! So, we decided to go with the Polar Bear Cooler 24 Pack size in the color green. It seemed big enough to fit everything we'd need and then some, but small enough for it to me manageable. Honestly, we almost forgot it at home *gasp*, and I am SO glad we didn't. (The trip was such a whirl wind that I also forgot to take pictures while we were gone. Oy.) The Polar Bear Cooler arrived sealed and compressed. The instructions said to fill the cooler with hot water for 5 minutes to allow the cooler to regain its shape. Um... do you know how much water this thing holds?! I could barely lift it to dump it out into the sink.
Since we had already packed most of our perishable food away in our other cooler, we decided this was the perfect one to carry 2 gallon jugs of frozen water (it could have easily fit 3), as well as the taco dip I had made last minute and had in a 9" x 9" glass container. One of the biggest features I really wanted to test out, was the claim that the coolers will keep ice for at least 24 hours in 100 degree weather. I'm pretty sure when I saw that my first reaction was, "Bull.....!"
We packed the cooler with the ice into our car around 8:30am and headed off. We arrived at our camp site and unpacked the cooler around 2pm, and the jugs were still COMPLETELY frozen. Granted, that's only about 5 hours but usually stuff starts melting by then. We left the jugs in the cooler, along with some other bottled water to take with us the following day. The next morning, the jugs were STILL mostly frozen. I don't even think enough had melted to fill one of those 12oz water bottles.
The next day was our Story Land trip which is REALLY why we wanted the cooler. Just look at it. It has a long shoulder strap, plenty of storage, and even handles at the top (instead of on the sides). Even the small zippered pouch on the front was a nice touch. We packed some frozen water bottles, some cold water bottles, our lunch meats, cheese, chocolate chip cookies, granola bars, yogurt, apple sauce, and a bottle of milk for my youngest. It may not have been 100 degrees outside, but it got up to about 85, and we were in the sun most of the day. Everything stayed cold, and the small water bottles stayed frozen. AWESOME!
This particular size was still a little bulky, but the long shoulder strap made up for it. We were able to hang it off of my son's umbrella stroller which made transporting it considerably easier, and when that wasn't an option, it was so great to be able to put it on my shoulder, instead of using my hands to carry it. Overall we were very impressed with how well this cooler worked, and all of the great features! We didn't have to go back to the car to eat lunch, and we could relatively easily carry it with us around the entire park. Plus, it kept things just as cold as Polar Bear advertised. I think this really is the perfect cooler, and with the different size options (including a backpack option) you're sure to find the perfect one to suit your needs.
- Heavy duty luggage grade 1000 denier nylon outer shell.
- Specialized open cell foam air trap design.
- Leak proof / Sweat proof Dura-Temp liner.
- Heavy duty #8 weatherized rubber-coated zipper.
- Padded shoulder strap. (N/A on 6 pack).
- Side release buckles, heavy duty built to last. (N/A on 6 pack)
- Side pocket with rubber coated zipper.
- Velcro wrap around handle.
- Zipper pull-tab / bottle opener.
- Will keep ice for at least 24 hours in 100-degree heat.
- 24Pack measures 10" x 18" x 12"
- Will keep items hot (up to 200 degrees) for several hours
- Can be monogrammed
Make sure you take the time to find Polar Bear on Facebook and! I'm sure they'd love to hear from you. If you own a Polar Bear Cooler and love it, I'd like to hear about it too, and I'm sure Polar Bear would as well!
* I received a product free of charge from Polar Bear in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
About three weeks ago my husband said, "Let's go camping!" I had mentioned that I wanted to go way back in the Spring, but honestly we didn't think it would be in our budget. So, when he decided that we actually could afford it, I didn't have much time to plan. My mother is awesome and has a bunch of camping stuff we could borrow, however one major component that we were missing was a tent for ourselves unless we wanted to cram us, a 2 year old, a 10 year old, and a 1 year old (with a pack-n-play), two twin air mattresses, a queen air mattress, and all of our bags into a seven person tent. Yeah, NOT happening.
I reached out to LightSpeed Outdoors with less than a week before our trip. I had seen several other reviews, and their tents looked pretty great from all of the reading I had done. I cannot thank them enough for being willing to ship out their Vermont 4 Pro tent in time for our trip!
Do you remember those tents that come with the locking poles, and then you have to do everything JUST RIGHT in order to get the tent to stay up properly? They were always a pretty big PITA. When the LightSpeed Vermont 4 Pro arrived, my husband didn't want to wait for our trip before putting it together. So, for about an hour we had a fully assembled tent in our living room because we're awesome like that. I could not believe how easy this tent was to set up! It literally went up in about 5 minutes and is 100% free-standing. Tent stakes aren't necessary for this tent to maintain its shape. All of the bracing poles come already attached. Just lay the tent out, snap the top piece into place and you're ready to start expanding it. Then the four poles lock into place, and your tent is up! Just clip the fabric to the poles and you're done. Of course there is a rain cover which also goes on pretty easily, and has two plastic "windows" so you can still see through the two skylights.
The tent itself is really pretty gorgeous. The three windows are HUGE and reach all the way to the top. The door is also pretty massive and expands just about the entire width of the front. Easy entry, which is a big bonus when your husband is not a small person, and you're trying to fit a queen size mattress into a smaller tent. My husband and I had plenty of room for our bags, and anything else we wanted to store while we were away from our site.
- Lightspeed® compression hub system allows for ultra quick set up and tear down.
- 2 sky lights
- Durable poly-oxford floor
- Generously sized vestibule
- Oversized front door
- Full-size rain fly made from Rip Stop polyester
- Oversized bag make packing the tent effortless
- Color: Gunmetal/Green
Now, there are just a few things I really need to mention. While the LightSpeed Vermont 4 Pro is a free-standing tent, it is NOT free-standing with massive winds coming off of a lake. We had visited Story Land all day Saturday, and when we came back the back portion of our tent was down. This is not the tent's fault. The weather station said that the winds were 15mph. There is NO way the winds off of the lake were only 15mph, and we happened to have a water front view. So, we were probably getting 20-25mph gusts. The normally glassy smooth lake had about 4ft swells crashing onto the beach. If we had staked it down (stakes are included with the tent), and tied the rain fly down everything would have been fine right off the bat. We quickly fixed what we had bypassed thinking we'd have great weather all weekend, and the tent withheld the impending thunder storm.
Oh yeah, I think I forgot to mention we TENTED DURING A THUNDER STORM. (BTW My toddlers are champs.) Granted the wind was worse than any thunder or lightening we heard, but whew. Talk about a downpour! The tent wasn't 100% water proof, but I didn't really expect it to be with the weather we had. A few drops came in up top where the mesh skylights are, even with the rain fly on properly. We also woke up to some water beaded on the floor, but nothing serious, and nothing that made us change our minds about how great we thought the LightSpeed Vermont 4 Pro is.
One of my favorite features about the tent, is the ginormous duffel bag it comes in. The tent we borrowed from my mother comes with one of those dinky bags, and if you have any hope of getting the tent back into it, you have to fold it JUST RIGHT, and then roll it JUST RIGHT. The storage bag for the Vermont 4 Pro was big enough for us to take down the tent, and fold it willy nilly in order to stuff it back in. Taking down the tent anyway is also ridiculously easy. It comes down and is packed away in about two minutes!
The LightSpeed Vermont 4 Pro is a fantastic tent, especially for the price of $199.99. Between the easy assembly and dis-assembly, huge windows, and ability to withstand a massive storm, I'm giving this product two big thumbs up!
You can find LightSpeed Outdoors on Facebook too.
Guess what? LightSpeed is giving DealPeddler readers a chance to win a Vermont 4 Pro tent! Once the giveaway is live you'll be able to enter [HERE]. Giveaway is open to legal residents of the USA who are 18+.
* I was given a product free of charge from LightSpeed in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
Last year I made both my daughter's and my step-daughter's Halloween costumes. Let's just say that's not happening again! All of that time and money spent just to put together a couple of costumes was not worth driving to the store and buying a cheap costume. But, I really dislike most of the costumes in the stores. It's getting harder every year trying to find a child appropriate costume and the selection is usually pretty small. It's also getting harder to find a costume in the store that isn't going to fall apart before the hour or two of trick-or-treating is over.
I've been browsing for costumes this year online, and found one I adored on BuyCostumes.com. Because we live in Maine, it's very important for my kids to have costumes that they can put clothes under, or that are heavy enough to be worn on their own. Trust me. No one wants to lug kids around door to door in 32 degree weather with cranky freezing kids. Lucky for me, the price of the costume I had been eying fell within the price limit I was given for the review, and less than 3 days later I had the Gypsy Child Costume in my hands! When it arrived my daughter was playing in her yogurt I gave her for lunch, and even though I was really excited to put it on her to see if it fit, she wanted to take her good ol' sweet time, and then needed a shower immediately afterward.
"Add a little mystery to her life this Halloween in the Gypsy costume which includes a whimsical white ankle length peasant dress featuring large ruffles along the hem and a sequined apron with attached golden coins. A matching sequined scarf is also included in this trendy travelers look." ~ BuyCostumes.com
OK. Fast forward about an hour and I could FINALLY put the Gypsy Child costume on her. How stinkin' CUTE is she!?
I had requested a children's small in size, because while she's not quite 3 yet, she's MASSIVE for her age. (I mean that in the nicest way possible.) The Gypsy Child costume comes with a dress that has an attached sash on it, another sash with gold bangles on it that actually jingle when she moves, and a sequined head scarf. There are also accessories you can purchase separately to go with this particular costume including jewelry and shoes. The dress fit her PERFECTLY. It's just as long as I wanted it to be, and there's plenty of wiggle room. She may even be able to fit into this next year if she hasn't completely turned it into a dress up dress.
The dress and scarves are a mixture of cotton and polyester. This seems to me like it's a good quality costume. It's not super expensive (only $29.99), but definitely well worth it for such a beautiful and unique costume. My ONLY issue is that the shiny gold bangle things are all sewn on with ONE piece of thread. So, if one comes off, they all come off. I will have to go back through and make sure they're more secure since within 2 hours of my daughter wearing the costume, a few of the bangles fell off. BUT, I still love it! (Part of the reason they fell off is because when I tied the sash around her waste, the knot overlapped with the beads and pulled them.)
So, you know I love the costume, but you have got to hear my daughter's reaction. She REFUSED to take the costume off all day. I had to take it off for dinner to keep the white staying white, but she was not happy at all about it. Every time I asked if I could take it off she'd run in the opposite direction yelling, "NOOOOO!!!" She loves her new costume, and I'm sure she'll be wearing it every day after Halloween.
If you're in need of a quality, creative, unique costume for your kiddos, or yourself, make sure you check out BuyCostumes.com! You can also find them on Facebook , Twitter and YouTube. BuyCostumes.com offers FREE exchanges, and if you sign up for their emails you'll save 15% on your next order! BuyCostumes.com advertises as "The Web's Most Popular Costume Store" and I can certainly see why. Their selection is SO vast I couldn't even get through all of the children's costumes within an hour. Orders placed before 4pm also (usually) ship SAME DAY. And, many costumes are eligible for 2 day shipping. I'll definitely be coming back when I'm in need of more Halloween costumes.
If you were to describe me as a sentimental person the people who know me would probably laugh you right out of town. I'm not the type of person to save cards or ticket stubs. I'm not a fabulous scrapbooker. In fact, I don't even think I have any printed photos of my children except for the ones taken in a studio. However, with my wedding anniversary coming up I knew I wanted something that was a little special that I could keep and look back on with fond memories and yes... a little bit of sentiment.
I admit, three years of marriage isn't that big of a milestone in the grand scheme of things since just about every set of wedding vows includes, "'Till death do us part." However in my short three years of marriage I've had two beautiful children, started grad school, and started my website. These three years are something I really wanted to celebrate. So, I contacted Etching Expressions. (When I did I hadn't realized how soon my anniversary was.) Etching Expressions asked if I had any special occasions coming up, and what I would like the etched wine bottle to have on it. I told them my anniversary was coming up, gave them my name and my husband's name, and left the rest up to them. I was figuring it would just be a pretty bottle, but the wine was going to be the highlight.
When the Etching Expressions wine bottle arrived I knew it would be beautiful because I was emailed a photo of it before it was sent through the mail which you can view on the right. However, when I opened the box I literally teared up. It was absolutely stunning and it perfectly captured my personality and my husband's personality. It was simple, elegant, and really just perfect. If I had been given this as a gift it would have meant just as much if not more. The etching was clean (no rough edges), and the coloring was very neat and stayed within the etched portion of the bottle. This is one bottle of wine I am not opening! This is one product I have managed to attach myself to for sentimental reasons. It will be displayed proudly in my home as a beautiful piece of art, but also as a reminder of my first three years of marriage and all of the successes and hardships that brought my husband and I closer together.
Etching Expressions can make any occasion special; weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Not only do they etch the bottles of their own private label wines, but they also etch liquor bottles, and champagne bottles. Etching not quite your thing? They also provide personalized label options as well, corporate gifts, and accessories.
You choose the color, the message, and the design! Etching Expressions has artists that are fully capable of transferring a priceless photograph to one of their bottles. The sky is truly the limit with these special gifts!
Etching Expressions would love for you to find them on Facebook and Twitter! Why? Because Etching Expressions is giving away a $100 Gift Certificate to one DealPeddler reader! The gift certificate will cover up to one of their basic private label wine/champagne bottle etchings in mono color ($65) or full color ($75) and shipping. If you go with the single color you can even add their $11 wooden wine box in! Giveaway will start 6/30 and run for approximately 1 week. You must be 21+ to enter and a legal resident of the USA. You will be able to enter [HERE] during the time the giveaway is live.