Delicious Teas for Holiday Entertaining

I don’t know about you, but this time of year I find there are so many opportunity to celebrate and entertain! One thing I like to do to make any event special is offer a delicious beverage instead of just lemon water or cans of soda or seltzer. An easy way to do that is with Tea Concentrates from HVA Ceylon. A representative of the company reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in sampling their product. I was definitely intrigued!

HVC Ceylon Tea Concentrates

As a tea drinker, I am used to making iced teas the traditional way — boiling water, steeping the tea, then cooling it. However, HVA Ceylon’s tea concentrates makes it faster and easier to create delicious beverages — perfect for parties! I was a bottle of Peach Tea Concentrate and Chai Tea Concentrate to sample. The bottles retail for $8.50 (at the time of writing this blog post) and each bottle makes 2 gallons of tea. Personally, I think you could even stretch that amount if prefer a tea that is less sweet.

HVC Ceylon Tea Concentrates

Both teas were delicious, but the Peach Tea Concentrate was hands-down my favorite! It had a very natural peach taste to it, and it was so refreshing! I tried it with both cold water and sparkling water. I’m not sure which I liked better! For a delicious cocktail, you might consider adding an ounce of sweet tea liquor. !

Chai tea is a yummy treat during the cold weather. Whether you like it hot or iced, that unique blend of spices makes you feel so cozy, doesn’t it? I love the chai teas I’ve had at Indian restaurants and the tea bags I have purchased have been good, but I’ve never been able to get that authentic flavor. HVA Ceylon’s Chai Tea concentrate makes the perfect iced chai! I tried it mixed with water, per the instructions, and also mixed directly into a glass of creamy milk. Both made great beverages! I also tried it blended with milk and ice to make a delicious frozen drink.

HVA Ceylon sources the tea for these concentrates from Sri Lanka — they are 100% Pure Ceylon tea. In addition to concentrates, the company offers a wide variety of organic and conventional Pure Ceylon tea and coconut products. I can only imagine how full-flavored their black teas, green teas, and herbal teas are! HVA Ceylon even offers a monthly tea club — talk about a great gift.

I can definitely speak to the quality of the tea concentrates. In addition to the peach and chai flavors, you can purchase strawberry and lemon. I would definitely consider giving the other flavors a try!

Decorating with Silk Plants from Museum Trees

I love changing up my home decor for the seasons, and when fall rolls around I love to get especially cozy. However, I do miss the lush greenery that comes with summer. I don’t exactly have a green thumb, so I rely on beautiful silk plants to bring the outdoors inside year-round. 

Museum Trees offered to send me one of their high-quality products for review, and I was thrilled to see what their plants look like.

The silk plants are shipped in a sturdy cardboard mailer, and my ficus was snug and secure inside. 

Museum Trees ReviewMuseum Trees Review

After I took the silk plant out of the packaging, I just had to fluff up the leaves and it was ready to go. 

Museum Trees Review

Museum Trees Review

I’m impressed with how realistic this silk ficus looks. From the leaves right down to the trunk, it is very convincing. (In fact, one of our cats is still fooled into thinking it’s real — she’s obsessed with it!) The base is weighted so the plant doesn’t fall over. I have it in a corner of our living room and once the weather is cooler, I plan to add some twinkle lights to up the “cozy factor.” I just love it!

Museum trees review

Museum trees review

Museum Trees offers a huge selection of silk plants perfect for your home or office. I would certainly recommend them to anyone looking for an easy decor update that requires minimal fuss!

Decorating With Silk Flowers

I received a free product from Silk Plants Direct and CSI Wall Panels in exchange for my honest review.

The sun is shining here in the Hudson Valley, but it is still very cold out. I’m starting to grow impatient for spring, and finding myself wanting to have flowers in the house for pops of color. My cats, however, tend to nibble on fresh flowers, so I enjoy using silk flowers instead.

I was given the opportunity to try out a silk arrangement from Silk Plants Direct  and I was happy to oblige! The first thing that struck me was the vast selection of gorgeous silk plants on their website. Whether you are looking for greenery, stems, or finished arrangements, Silk Plants Direct has it all.

I knew I wanted something with lots of color, so I chose this Peony arrangement:

image

It arrived quickly and extremely well-packaged. The glass vase was very secure and the silk flowers were not crushed. It just needed a little bit of fluffing before I put it on display.

The flowers are incredibly realistic looking! In fact, my mother-in-law was surprised when I told her that the flowers were artificial — she thought I’d purchased the arrangement from the florist!

image

image

Originally I had planned to put these flowers on my nightstand because the colors coordinate perfectly with my quilt, but I love it so much it is in my kitchen where everyone can enjoy it


image

Silk flowers are one way to give a quick update to your decor. Another way is using 3D Wall panels from CSI Wall Panels. These lightweight panels have so many creative uses — if you’re itching for a change, check them out!

Review | LipSense Lip Color & Lip Gloss

I feel like I am constantly searching for a great lipstick. Every few years I find one I love, but then it goes out of production and I have to start from scratch. Well, I am happy to say that after a few years of looking, my current search is over!

I was offered the chance to try out LipSense from Red Gate Beauty and after using it for a few weeks, it’s official: I’m in love. LipSense is not your typical lipstick. It is waterproof, kiss-proof, and smear-proof. The color and gloss are both available in an array of beautiful shades.

LipSense is a long-lasting liquid lip color that lasts between 4-18 hours. I can personally attest to it lasting for 6 hours and lots of talking, drinking, and eating! It is lead-free, wax-free, gluten-free, vegan, kosher, and not tested on animals. Plus it is made right here in the U.S.A.!

To wear LipSense, you just have to follow a few steps. First, clean and dry your lips. Then shake the bottle of color. Swipe the color on in one direction (just a thin layer). If you want more color, wait 10 seconds and reapply. (The first time I tried the color I was surprised by the tingling sensation, but  that is just the cosmetic-grade denatured alcohol which create a bacteria-free environment in the tube. It wasn’t unpleasant at all – it just caught me off-guard.) Five seconds after you apply the color to your lips you can apply the gloss, which acts like a magic sealer and moisturizer.

LipSense review for redgatebeauty.com

My favorite part about the gloss? You can choose from several different colors that adds just a little bit extra to your lips when combined with the color, or you can wear it on your own for a natural look. For my gloss, I chose Orchid, and it really is the perfect topcoat to the Praline Rose color.

LipSense review for redgatebeauty.com

In addition to being long-lasting, the color itself is what I love most about LipSense. It is so hard to find color that isn’t over-the-top or really fake looking. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but I do like to accentuate my lips. LipSense is perfect for that. And if you want a vibrant color, they have plenty to choose from! Plus, you can mix and match colors in order to get the shade that is uniquely yours!

LipSense review

I’m excited to offer my readers a 15% discount code if you want to try LipSense out for yourself. Head over to Red Gate Beauty and use the code bloggymoms15 at check-out.

 

Review | GlassesShop.com

I was given a free pair of prescription eyeglasses from GlassesShop.com in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

Last month I decided that I really needed new glasses. The pair I was wearing just never seemed to fit right. I dealt with it as long as I could, but it was time. As luck would have it, a rep from GlassesShop.com contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reviewing a pair of eyeglasses from them.

After browsing their site for a moment, I quickly took advantage. I found several styles that I loved. I decided on the Iowa Rectangle style and the green shade looked so different! I couldn’t wait for them to arrive. In fact, I didn’t have to wait long — before I knew it they were in my mailboxes! I have ordered glasses online several times before, but I think these shipped faster than any other company.

New Glasses from GlassesShop.com

The fit was great! I could see clearly

New eyeglasses from GlassesShop.com

GlassesShop.com offers all kinds of glasses. Whether you are looking for fashionable frames, or  prescription sunglasses they have a fantastic selection!

If you want to give them a try, just make sure you have your eyeglass prescription (including PD – pupillary distance), pick your favorite style and order them. Simple as that! I also have a special GlassesShop.com discount code for my readers! Use coupon code GSHOT50 and save 50% off on eyeglasses and sunglasses with free lenses (sale frames excluded). 

New Glasses from GlassesShop.com

I am extremely happy with my pair of glasses and I definitely see myself ordering from them again in the future!

Easy Organization with BIC Gelocity Pens!

It’s no secret that I love pens — especially gel pens! So when I had the opportunity to try out the new quick-dry Gelocity Pens from BIC I knew I couldn’t say no!

BIC Gelocity review

My Smiley Kit came with a package of three gel pens, coupons, and a cute coloring sheet. I couldn’t wait to test them out!

The first thing I noticed is how comfortable the grip is on these pens. The barrel is slightly padded and you can write for a long time without fatigue. Also, check out how vibrant the ink is!

BIC Gelocity review

Sometimes pink gel pens don’t show up well, but this one does. The blue and purple are so pretty, and the best thing is that the ink dries faster than regular gel pens. I can’t say they are smudge-proof, but they are certainly an improvement over some other brands.

BIC Gelocity review

And of course, if you’re trying to get things organized for the new school year, these pens make color-coding a snap! Assign each of your kids a color for the family calendar, or designate a color for different areas of your life — work, to-do, fitness, etc.

Thanks to Smiley360 for the opportunity to sample these pens for free! All opinions are my own.

Erin Condren Seasonal Surprise Box Review

Is there anything as exciting as coming home from work and finding out that happy mail has been delivered? I’m not talking about bills, of course. I’m talking about fun packages like this one…

First EC Surprise Box

Ah, yes, the classic Erin Condren box! Hard to miss. At the end of December, I got an email about a brand-new Seasonal Surprise Box that they were launching. According to the description, it would be an $80 value. The price was just $35 (including shipping)! So I took a chance. My surprise box finally arrived today! Spoiler alert! This blog post includes photos, so if you haven’t gotten yours, yet, be warned.
Continue reading →

Review | Art of Tea

Art of Tea

I love drinking tea all year long, but it is especially comforting at this time of year. There’s nothing like the way a mug of tea warms your hands as the delicious scent fills the air. I was recently offered the chance to sample a few of the offerings from Art of Tea, a tea importer and wholesaler based in Los Angeles.

Art of Tea

Art of Tea sells a huge variety of teas and tea-related goods. They even have a monthly subscription box! (Talk about the perfect gift for a tea lover.) Their website even has a Tea Wizard to help you decide what flavors you might enjoy. It’s definitely fun to play with and in fact, one of the samples the folks at Art of Tea sent me was on my recommended list (White Coconut Crème).

Let’s start there.

White Coconut Crème
Art of Tea

Ingredients: Organic White Tea, Organic Safflower, Organic Cornflower, Organic Coconut, Natural and Artificial Flavors

The first thing that struck me when I looked at the tea was the amount of coconut flakes. I couldn’t get a photo that accurately showed how nice they were: big, thick flakes of yummy coconut. They definitely don’t skimp on the ingredients! The flavor was nice and light. I added a bit of sweetener to my cup to bring out the flavors a little more. It was a great mid-afternoon treat.

White Winter Chai

Art of Tea

Ingredients: Organic White Tea, Organic Black Peppercorns, Organic Cinnamon, Organic Fennel, Organic Cloves, Organic Cardamom, Star Anise, Natural Flavors 

The White Winter Chai is available only during the fall and winter, and that makes sense to me because that seems to be the time to drink this warm, spicy blend. I enjoy a chai latte instead of coffee sometimes, and this tea was just delicious! The white tea makes for a more gentle beverage and the star anise flavor really came out, which I happened to love.

 

French Lemon Ginger

Art of Tea

Ingredients: Organic Rooibos, Organic Honeybush, Organic Lemongrass, Organic Ginger, Organic Lemon Verbena

Typically I don’t choose lemon teas, but I was intrigued by the addition of ginger to this blend. The other day I wasn’t feeling well and had a sore throat so I decided it was the perfect opportunity to finally try this tea. The smell of the tea leaves was wonderful and made me excited for them to finish steeping.

Art of Tea

The scent of lemon and ginger was as soothing as the tea itself. I added a few spoonfuls of the lemon-ginger honey I make every year to get us through cold season. All of the flavors worked so well together and I loved that I could really taste the lemon. I think that’s why I’ve tended to stay away from other lemon teas — even when I’ve added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, the flavor I wanted just wasn’t there. Not the case here! The ginger added a nice kick.

Art of Tea

I was really impressed with these samples and browsing through Art of Tea’s online catalog, I see so many other flavors I want to try, like Butterscotch, Cran Marnier, and London. If you want to treat yourself, or are looking for a last-minute gift for a tea lover, I recommend checking them out!

Time for Tea! A Review of Plum Deluxe

Plum Deluxe Tea

One of my favorite ways to warm up on a cold afternoon is with a cup of tea. So when the founder of Plum Deluxe (an artisan tea company based in the Pacific Northwest) kindly asked if he could send me some samples, I didn’t have to hesitate to give an answer.

Plum Deluxe is based in Portland, Oregon and offers a unique variety of tea blends, including flavors like Coconut Macaron, Mindful Morning Tea Blend, and Everything is OK Herbal Tea. Just the names of these teas are great, aren’t they? All of their tea blends are organic, non-gmo, vegan, and free of chemicals and sulfites. Whenever possible, ingredients are sourced from the Pacific Northwest.

Andy Hayes, the founder of Plum Deluxe, explained to me that the company is a tribute to his mother who passed away from breast cancer. As he writes on the company’s website, “My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 59. The subsequent 5 years of her life while she battled the disease were some of the best years of her life. She took the opportunity for self-care days and spa treatments, to keep her spirits up. She went out to dinner parties with friends to celebrate each day, and went to the gym regularly and became very fit. She laughed more. She traveled more – visiting her favorite city, Paris, and finally visiting the town her family was from in Germany. My mom taught me that no matter your circumstances, you can choose to create moments that matter, every day. And some of the most enjoyable moments are the small things – time to sleep in, relaxing in a reading nook, going on a neighborhood walk, or catching up with an old friend over a cup of tea.”

Plum Deluxe Philosophy

When I received my package of tea samples, one of the first things I noticed was that everything was packed with care. Andy’s mission of helping people appreciate life’s little moments came through immediately! As I read the list of ingredients on the tea labels, I smiled. Something that you will find in every batch of tea is love and gratitude. This attention to detail did not go unnoticed.

The fragrances were amazing, too. In fact, my 6-year-old daughter took off with one of the bags just so she could keep smelling it! I was now really looking forward to brewing a cuppa. My expectations were pretty high, and let me tell you, the teas did not disappoint! I was immediately drawn to the Deluxe Pumpkin Spice tea. I added a bit of unsweetened vanilla almond milk and thoroughly enjoyed my first cup of Plum Deluxe tea. It had a great balance of spice and black tea flavor.

Plum Deluxe Tea

Plum Deluxe Tea

The next tea I tried was the Autumn Orchard black tea. I was finishing up some editing work and wanted a little lift. I was really impressed with the amount of dried apple in this blend — there were so many nice chunks that plumped up as the tea steeped. A bit of honey brought out the wonderful, comforting flavors.

Plum Deluxe Tea

Plum Deluxe Autumn Orchard

My final test tea was the Oregon Breakfast Black tea. I drank it with a splash of milk while having my cranberry oatmeal. It had a wonderful, full flavor that I have to say brightened a rainy, dreary morning.

Plum Deluxe Tea

Finally, I want to tell you about something that I think really makes Plum Deluxe stand out: their monthly tea club! Unless you live under a rock, you know that monthly subscription boxes are all the rage. For as low as $10/month, you get one ounce of one of Plum Deluxe’s unique blends each month, plus a special second sample. Members also enjoy a discount on purchases, membership in a private Facebook community just for tea lovers, a monthly tea reading, and a few other benefits. There is nothing like getting a happy surprise in your mailbox! (Plus, wouldn’t it make a great birthday or Christmas gift?) 

I want to extend a special thank you to Andy and Plum Deluxe for introducing me to these wonderful teas. If you enjoy blends that aren’t run-of-the-mill, and are packaged by people who put thought into every step of process, you have to check them out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Trying Out Mineral Fusion Makeup


Many years ago I heard about something called “mineral makeup.” It was supposed to be better for your skin, so I gave it a try and loved it. However, over the years I’ve had opportunities to try out other types of makeup so it no longer is my go-to. I was recently offered the opportunity as a Smiley360 member to try out Mineral Fusion makeup, so I jumped at the chance!

Smiley provided me with a full-value coupon to purchase the Mineral Fusion product of my chosing at Target. I decided to try the Sheer Tint Foundation in Neutral.

Mineral Fusion Makeup Review

Mineral Fusion Makeup Review

I wanted to love this product, but overall it was not for me. When I squeezed the foundation out of the tube, watery liquid dribbled out, no matter how hard I tried to shake everything up first. I found that I needed to do quite a lot of blending to get the foundation to look less “caked on.”

Mineral Fusion Makeup Review

Also, the “neutral” is still too dark for my fair complexion. This, of course, is not something that Mineral Fusion did wrong. I’m just naturally pale. The other day I did my makeup using the Mineral Fusion Foundation and my daughter (who is 5) asked if I’d been a the beach. Out of the mouths of babes! But she has a point — I will keep this in my makeup bag until the summer is here and I have a little more color.

I would not totally give up on Mineral Fusion, though. I think I would love their lipsticks and mascaras.

According to Mineral Fusion: “Our products also help protect from environmental damage. We add age-defying antioxidants to all of our products – pomegranate, white tea, red tea and sea kelp, plus vitamins C and E – to defend against free radical damage. In addition, we enrich our products with specialized botanicals to provide targeted treatment that soothes and nourishes your skin. Our cosmetics are free from parabens, artificial colors, fragrances, gluten, phthalates and talc to ensure that even the most sensitive skin stays beautiful.”

Click here for a $3.00 off coupon and try it for yourself!