Friday, July 22, 2016

Slowing Down

My summer has been flying at me at NASCAR speeds, when I'm really wanting a geriatric Sunday drive. I'm struggling to believe that July is almost gone. I'm not ready for August. I'm not.

So here's a list of things that I'm behind on:
  • Reading
  • House Projects
  • Soap Porn
  • Daily Audio Bible
  • A Few Bills
On the plus side, I have accomplished the following:
  • Working on the Yoga flow challenge. I don't have it down perfect (Upside down splits? Falling to bridge? Yikes!) but I have figured out a few modifications until I work up the courage/strength/flexibility to follow through.
  • Hired a cleaning lady. She comes every other Wednesday to do my surfaces (counters, tables, floors, dusting) and bathrooms. She is awesome. If I can slow the rest of my life down, I should be able to use my "free" time to de-junk my house, organize my awesome, and maybe get a few of the things on the previous list done.
  • Falling madly, completely, and happily in love. I let my anxiety and depression get to me, and at just about the point where everything was going to fall apart, I woke the frick up, got myself on some meds, and started dealing with stuff. It's been hard to let some of my past go, to accept that a love is no longer returned, and to fully embrace my life for the crazy, beautiful disaster that it is. And I fell in love with me again, and I fell in love with him too.
  • I started a bullet journal. I'm still working out the kinks, figuring out what I need and what I don't, the realities of my time. It's also keeping me focused. Sometimes. I am a work in progress.
It's all left turns here, but I'm not coming last!
(see what I did there? NASCAR reference... it's ok, I'll wait for you to catch up...)

Monday, July 11, 2016

How Full Is Your Bucket

How Full Is Your Bucket?How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A generic read. Less than a month later I barely remember the premise, much less how to change my life.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 3, 2016


Night (The Night Trilogy, #1)Night by Elie Wiesel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy reading about WWII - whether it's fiction or biography. This was a no different. A very well done translation, a moving true story.

Summary: Night is a work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945, at the height of the Holocaust and toward the end of the Second World War. In just over 100 pages of sparse and fragmented narrative, Wiesel writes about the death of God and his own increasing disgust with humanity, reflected in the inversion of the father–child relationship as his father declines to a helpless state and Wiesel becomes his resentful teenage caregiver.

Monat Update

I'm over due posting this. Surprised anyone? As always a huge problem for me is that I want to write 100 page essays about EVERYTHING, and I get stuck in editing mode. Moving on...

I signed up for VIP, used up all the samples that my "new best friend" gave me. I wound up using my commercial conditioner once, otherwise I have been using only Monat since May 1.
Talk about feeling an instant difference. My hair wasn't shiny at all. It was soft, but in a crunchy way. And my scalp itched again.

So the regime is pretty simple for week one:
Apply Rejuvinique Oil to hair. Wait 20 minutes. Shampoo, rinse, repeat. Condition.
Repeat every other day.

And weeks two and three:
Apply Rejuvinique Oil to hair twice per week. Wait 20 minutes. Shampoo, rinse, repeat. Condition.
Wash and condition every other day.

And week four:
Apply Rejuvinique Oil to hair once per week. Wait 20 minutes. Shampoo, rinse, repeat. Condition.
Wash and condition every other day.

After week four:
Wash and condition as needed. Apply Rejuvinique Oil to hair once per week as needed.

So after using Monat for a month, a few things I've noticed:
  • Hair looks and feels better
  • Scalp is less itchy
  • Hair can be a bit more tangled - seems to be more of an issue as residue buildup (from commercial products) began flaking off
  • Some "frizzy" baby growth is beginning to appear
Mostly good things, or things that are a short term "unpleasantness" of the detox process. Overall, I'm still loving Monat!

Here's a few photos of my hair at week 2 and now after a complete month.

After week 2, before washing. (And no, I don't want to talk about my face.)
After a complete month, after washing, partially dry.

Upclose after week 2
Upclose after a full month, partially wet, but you can see the improved color.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and MenOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Back in the 90's I saw a movie version of the short story, but had never read anything by Steinbeck. (I didn't take the smarty pants English Lit in High School.) I had a rough idea of what happened in the book, so the plot wasn't a surprise to me. What I really enjoyed was the vernacular and jargon used in the dialogue. Characterizations were well written and thoroughly worked out in the story. There was a rough, beautiful poetry in the descriptions. A beautiful short story of the hard choices we make when we love someone.

Summary: Of Mice and Men takes us into the lives of George and Lennie, two farm workers set out to find their way to a new life. In true Steinbeck form, this short novel explores both loyalty and the transient nature of mankind.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Clash of Kings

A Clash of Kings  (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite the fact that it took me almost 3 months to read this book, I really enjoyed it. I wasn't sure what to expect from the second book in the GoT series. There was some recap, but not enough to be boring. There were some things left unexplained that required reading the first book, and they were really memorable events.

Many familiar characters were main players, as well as some new characters. Some days reading required note taking, just to be able to keep the shifting POV and storyline straight. This is a very intelligent writer, an intelligent story, and not for an idle mind to pick up and be entertained. This book becomes a history of characters that we feel for, we want to weep for, we cheer for, and even when the line between good and evil become blurry, we find ourselves in the story.

The second book becomes more graphic in violence, rape, and battles - I struggled with it a bit, but then realized it was realistic for what is happening in the story. This is a world under duress, where loyalty only lasts until the next "king" is crowned. This is a world torn by violence, confusion, and fear.

Summary: Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over an age of enforced peace are dead...victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war.

As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky—a comet the color of blood and flame—six factions struggle for control of a divided land. Eddard's son Robb has declared himself King in the North. In the south, Joffrey, the heir apparent, rules in name only, victim of the scheming courtiers who teem over King's Landing. Robert's two brothers each seek their own dominion, while a disfavored house turns once more to conquest. And a continent away, an exiled queen, the Mother of Dragons, risks everything to lead her precious brood across a hard hot desert to win back the crown that is rightfully hers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Monat - Before

I have written before about my attempts to detox my hair. Kind of. I've tried lots of stuff, but haven't found anything that works. I mean, really works, so I haven't documented my failures either. I have an aunt that swears by baking soda washing and ACV rinsing, but... her hair is dull and frizzy. I also have some concern about using something that I exfoliate my face with on my hair. It makes as much sense as using sand paper as cleaning rag.

I've been slowly detoxing my "beauty" routine over the last five years and hair has been the most challenging. I mean, yeah getting my face to clear up hasn't been a cake walk (and let's not talk about deodorant), but at least there I saw improvement with (almost) everything I tried. [And yes, some day I will get around to documenting my skin care routine. I've tried a few times but, much like my India posts, I felt too much time passed to make it relevant.] My hair though... it's dull. And frizzy. Tangles five seconds after brushing. It doesn't cooperate with any kind of style. It just isn't pretty hair. As I've gotten older I've developed an itchy scalp, which is annoying. My final straw though, was looking at my daughter's beautiful mid-back length hair and seeing the same disaster.
This is the condition of my hair after one washing & conditioning using Monat.
It already looks better, but you can see how dull and damaged it is.

I was hopeful that Pangea Organics would put out a hair care line, but after two years of promising it would be out "next quarter" and not delivering, I've stopped holding my breath.

Which brings me to Monat. I wasn't looking for it, but there it was across the aisle from me at a recent vendor show. I was skeptical, but the rep sent me home with a ton of samples and tons of information. If you know me, you know I love information.
Disclaimer: Not my photo. Credit here.

I spent a few days Googling the company, reviews, and looking through the Skin Deep database (yep, I checked every.single.ingredient) and not finding anything that set off red flags, I decided to use it. Most of the reviews I found were based on the samples - I saw one that continued to use Monat, but in a rotation of other products. The downside of every review came down to price. It's expensive.

With less than optimistic expectations, I tried the shampoo and conditioner. I couldn't stop touching my hair. The very next day I signed up for VIP status (which gives a 15% discount) and decided to try it for 90 days.

The system I bought for a whopping
$88. Also not my photo.
An add on for an additional $88.
Still not my photo.
The full 90 day detox, following their (crazy?? maybe) plan. That night I used it on my daughter too. We both loved the results. I don't know if I can get her to cooperate with the whole detox plan (seriously, washing her hair twice a week is a battle so I can't imagine what would happen if I told her I want to wash it every other day.) so it will be interesting what Monat does with her hair.

I'm going to try to do this in "real time", reporting every week for the next 12 weeks.

Just because selfies are silly and I'm a goofball...

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Mindful May

It's been a full quarter of a year since I updated. I'd like to say "Not much has changed." but so much has. I can't really process where I am in my own story, quite possibly this is the epiphany that triggers the change and sets the story resolution into place. Possibly, but not bloody likely.

So... books... When I left off in February I was trying to do a book a week. Things were going great until I picked up Book 2 in the Game of Thrones series. This book takes longer than a week to read. It's so good, I HAVE to finish it. I'm currently at 9 weeks of reading time and 50% finished. This may drastically increase in the next week. The Diva starts swim team which is 3 hours of practice each week. I'm going to focus on book time, not screen time, while I'm waiting for her.

Other things that have happened... I broke. I was in way over my head in depression and anxiety, struck by panic attacks when I would simply leave my house. I got to the point where I was shutting everyone out - including one amazing guy - and I knew I had to do something. it took me a full month to figure out how to schedule a doctor appointment with my own doctor without making a phone call. (Yes. I was on THAT side of the darkness.) I got in, got medicated, and goodbye panic attacks. We're still tweaking the meds, but man, heading into month 3 of medication and life is so much better.

I thought I was going to have a quiet summer, but The Diva made the swim team, wants to do t-ball, has swim lessons, camp, and VBS. Add in there that I have craft shows every other weekend, a full-time job, several part-time jobs, and a life... thank goodness The Duder is low key. His only activity is a trip to DC/NY in June. After that, he's a free guy unless he goes to work at the junkyard this summer.

Other stuff on my 2016 list... well, I finished the dining room! Next on the list is getting my gutters fixed and cleaned out. Now that the last snow of the season has come and gone, I feel pretty safe calling the guy. I'll try to get that accomplished this week. Then I'll need to take a look at money and the list and decide what's next.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Aloe Vera White Soap from A Misty Dimness Soap

Well, here it is... I'm finally reviewing one of my own soaps. So I guess it's not really a review so much as advertising...

Aloe Vera White Soap from A Misty Dimness Soap is my first original recipe. It's currently available in the store as a clearance item. I have reformulated the recipe just slightly and when it comes back into stock it will be called White Soap. (It's a slight FDA violation to call it Aloe Vera soap when there are other ingredients, so I'm trying to comply as much as possible.) It will also be in the standard bar form that all of my soaps come in. I've stopped using single cavity molds unless it's a test recipe or a special order.

The bar that I have in my shower looks different from the store because it was made from an over pour (I had more soap batter than mold space) so I grabbed the first single cavity mold I could get my hands on. I had enough to make three bars, so those went into my personal stash. So, now that I feel I have any confusion cleared up... here's what's what...

Ingredients: Aloe Vera Juice, Sodium Hydroxide, Coconut Oil, Lard, Shea Butter, Olive Oil, Castor Oil, and skin safe Titanium Dioxide.

First Glance: I still am a little bit in awe when I pull out one of my own soaps. It's like... dude, I made that. This is a nice evenly colored bar, nice size and smooth looking. No fragrances were added, so soap has a natural light scent. Bar is of medium weight.

First Use: Big creamy bubbles. Smooth skin feel. Rinses clean but not squeaky clean. Unscented.

Overall Thoughts: This is one of my favorites, even with the old formula. It's a nice unscented bar. Not one of my longer lasting bars, but it did go further than I expected. This is a great soap for anyone who likes a clean skin feel and clean scent.

The new formula will improve the usage life. I've done a lot of playing around and have finally settled on a standard that uses more lard, less coconut oil, and the addition of soybean oil to balance the other oils and butters. I have added aloe vera gel to the recipe to increase the goodness of the soap, and I have removed the titanium dioxide. The extra boost of white coloring just isn't needed.

If you're curious about my other soaps, head over to my online store!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Italian White Sage, Geranium & Yarrow Soap from Pangea Organics

 I first found Pangea Organics when I was searching for something to add to my oil cleansing method skin care routine. I wanted something that didn't have a lot of unnecessary ingredients and was affordable. Pangea Organics delivers big on the ingredient part, but I struggled with the price tag. I jumped into their multi-level marketing because it helped with my personal costs. Unfortunately the MLM was very badly handled and they have since discontinued this type of sales. Great products, just a poorly managed company. Their soap bars remain one of my favorites.

Ingredients (from package): Palm Oil, Palm kernel oil, sodium hydroxide, water, glycerin, geranium oil & citrus oil, sage oil, sodium chloride, citric acid, rosemary leaf extract, rosemary leaf powder.

First Glance: Packaging is very earth friendly, made from recycled materials. Soap carton contains seeds that can be planted to grow spruce trees. Bar size is a nice fit in the hand. Smooth surface with nicely rounded edges. Very shiny and creamy looking bar. Stamp in the center is a nice touch. Light and pleasing fragrance, not too floral or spicy.

First Use: Because I have been using this soap for four or five years, it's difficult to remember what my first impressions were. I intentionally didn't use the soap for about six months, hoping to refresh the experience. Soap lathers easily with medium sized bubbles. Very smooth lather. Bar is slightly slimy after use. Scent is very light even in water. Pleasant after skin feel with a squeaky clean rinse.

Overall Thoughts: This soap fits somewhere between a commercial soap and a handmade soap. It's a nice transition between the two types. I had three handmade soaps in my shower at the time, and found myself going to them more often. This is a nice soap, and I would buy this before I picked up any other commercial bar, but it can't compare to a nice handmade soap on any day.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Dead Sea Spa Bar from Great Cakes Soapworks

 Here's the last bar of my Great Cakes Soapworks stash. I had received a sample in my first order and I liked it enough to add a full-sized bar to my second order. I am going to review it based on my thoughts of the full-sized bar.

Ingredients: Saponified Olive Oil, Shea Butter, Coconut Oil, Tallow, Castor Oil, and Cocoa Butter, also Dead Sea Mud, essential oils of lemon, grapefruit, tea tree, and patchouli, kaolin clay, and titanium dioxide.

First Glance: This comes packaged in a nice box with a window for smelling, aside from the errors in the ingredient label it is a professional looking packaging. The bar is a large bar, probably the biggest I have gotten from Great Cakes, and heavy. Bar texture is a bit grainy. Colors are muted gray, olive, and white in a nice swirl pattern. Fragrance is a light ocean scent - not tropical but very "lake" or "water where fish are" smelling, in the pleasant sense, not the "there's a dead fish somewhere" sense. (some day, I promise, I'll work on my ability to describe fragrances.) Essential oils are very complementary to the bar.

First Use: This bar requires a bit more water than normal to lather. I assume that there is quite a bit of dead sea mud which would inhibit the lathering affects of the soap. It's not difficult to get a lather once enough water is used. Lather is low and creamy. Slight grit feeling when applied to skin - not blast your face off, but not completely smooth feeling. Leaves a light film on skin when rinsing.

Overall Thoughts: I added this into my morning face wash rotation. It's a nice indulgence that pops up every few days. I don't think it's one that I can use daily because of my skin type (cystic acne prone) and my sensitivity to tea tree oil. This is a very hard bar that I have used about 10 times and it shows no signs of wear. The fragrance takes a bit of getting used to, but I'll own up to not being a fan of "water" scents, so that may be why I notice it more.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Lemon Pepper Soap from Great Cakes Soapworks

 I received a sample of Lemon Pepper Soap in my last order from Great Cakes Soapworks. I like lemon pepper on chicken, but in soap? Color me intrigued!

Ingredients currently unavailable on website and none on packaging.

First Glance: A generous chunk of soap for a sample. Very pretty light yellow and gray variations. I would have like to have seen a whole bar, it looks like the design concept might have been very cool. Smooth, creamy looking bar. Smell was very faint.

First Use: A nice sudsing bar. Very smooth, good slip, not slimy or soft. Fragrance became stronger when wet, but still a lightly fragranced bar. Couldn't smell any pepper notes, but lemon notes were sweet - more like lemonade than sour fruit. (if that makes sense...)

Overall Thoughts: As far as soap goes, this was nice. Fragrance wasn't that great - maybe why this bar is no longer available in the store?? - I was able to pick up some pepper notes as I used more of the bar. A very well colored bar that gave white lather. I was glad I tried it, but I was expecting a stronger and more masculine scent from the lemon pepper.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Black Raspberry Vanilla Salt Bar from Shari's Handcrafted Soaps

 My first month as a member on the soapmaking forum, one of the most talked about soaps was (and still is) salt bars. I went "Whaaat?" and began to read numerous threads on the topic, and then I Googled and read some more.

So here's the basics of a salt (or spa) bar. It's soap with salt grains in it. It's reputedly good for your skin and can make bathing in hard water feel like soft water. The soap bars, when made well, are rock hard and long lasting. I was intrigued.

I ordered one from Shari's Handcrafted Soaps, and the dear sent me two. The one I had ordered was "only" four months old. Salt soaps really come into their prime with age (which is really true about any handmade soap), so Shari added an older salt bar, Black Raspberry Vanilla.

Ingredients (from package label): Coconut Oil, Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Coconut Milk, Sea Salt, Avocado Oil, Fragrance, Mica, and Tussah Silk.

First Glance: Molded in a lovely flower mold and a fitting shade of purple for the Black Raspberry Vanilla (BRV) fragrance. A very heavy and solid bar of soap. The soap fits nicely in the hand.

First Use: I'm going to admit to being a bit disappointed. Totally not the soap's fault. It had a huge setup based on my interwebz reading. I was expecting an angel choir, heavenly light, and to suddenly have the body of my 23 year old self. Needless to say... I had to adjust my expectations. Reality is that this is a nice bar of soap. A lovely creamy lather that is very gentle on skin. I used the bar directly on my legs and definitely got some light exfoliation from the salt. It was scrubby but not scratchy. Left a slight skin scent after showering.

Overall Thoughts: I am not a BRV girl. It's much too sweet for me. I use this about once a week simply because of the fragrance. It's such a nice bar of soap, I can't let it go. Showering with a salt bar is definitely an experience not to be missed - one that I look forward to more often once this bar is gone.

Monday, February 22, 2016

All the Lasting Things

All the Lasting ThingsAll the Lasting Things by David Hopson

This was a well-written book with very clear characters. A well-written setup for the fatal secret, this book read quickly and was quite entertaining.

Summary: The Fisher family of Alluvia, New York, is coming undone. Evelyn spends her days tending to her husband, Henry—an acclaimed and reclusive novelist slowly losing his battle with Alzheimer’s. Their son, Benji, onetime star of an ’80s sitcom called Prodigy, sinks deeper into drunken obscurity, railing against the bit roles he’s forced to take in uncelebrated regional theater. His sister, Claudia, tries her best to shore up her family even as she deals with the consequences of a remarkable, decades-old secret that’s come to light. When the Fishers mistake one of Benji’s drug-induced accidents for a suicidal cry for help, Benji commits to playing a role he hopes will reverse his fortune and stall his family’s decline. Into this mix comes Max Davis, a twentysomething cello virtuoso and real-life prodigy, whose appearance spurs the entire family to examine whether the secrets they thought were holding them all together may actually be what’s tearing them apart.

Monday, February 15, 2016


DismantledDismantled by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An uncompleted book. Writing was well done. Characters were a bit flat. The ones that weren't flat were just weird. The intrigue and plot fell short for me.

Summary: Dismantlement = Freedom
Henry, Tess, Winnie, and Suz banded together in college to form a group they called the Compassionate Dismantlers. Following the first rule of their manifesto—"To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart"—these daring misfits spend the summer after graduation in a remote cabin in the Vermont woods committing acts of meaningful vandalism and plotting elaborate, often dangerous, pranks. But everything changes when one particularly twisted experiment ends in Suz's death and the others decide to cover it up.

Nearly a decade later, Henry and Tess are living just an hour's drive from the old cabin. Each is desperate to move on from the summer of the Dismantlers, but their guilt isn't ready to let them go. When a victim of their past pranks commits suicide—apparently triggered by a mysterious Dismantler-style postcard—it sets off a chain of eerie events that threatens to engulf Henry, Tess, and their inquisitive nine-year-old daughter, Emma.

Is there someone who wants to reveal their secrets? Is it possible that Suz did not really die—or has she somehow found a way back to seek revenge?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Reading The Bible in a Year

Reading The Bible in a year should be fairly easy, right? I mean, it's a book. It's got words. It's got stories. Easy? Notsomuch.

This is the third year I have put "finish reading The Bible" on my resolution list. I haven't finished it once in any of the previous two years.

I lead (term used loosely) the high school youth group at my church. Why? Because I'm not perfect. I swear. I make bad choices. Multiple times. I watch questionable TV shows and R rated movies. I think that's what teenagers need to see, is someone who struggles the same way they do. They need to see someone who still tries, despite everything, to find and keep a relationship with God. They need to see what letting go of worldly things looks like.

I am not a perfect role model for "my" teens. I'm honest about it. I curse - I try not to and I try to be more conscious of what comes out of my mouth - but I don't hide it. They ask me questions and I don't lie about who I am. We talk about changing our lives, we talk about God, and how to follow what our true lives are. The kids come back every week. They bring their friends and I bring cookies.

Every week I rant a little bit about reading The Bible (see how I'm connecting all this now?). It is the foundation for a relationship with God. The Bible is not just words or stories. The Bible is us. It is a living relationship between us and God. You can't read The Bible without being changed.

This year, they told me to make them excited about reading The Bible. So I'm throwing out the challenge to them. If they buy the dailyaudiobible app, and use it for a month, I will pay for the app. I love this app. I love hearing The Bible read to me. I love hearing Brian explain things, break things down, and make them real. Most of all I love how it connects me to God.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


I meant to write this a week ago. Most of the week went by and I still hadn't done it yet. Life is just insanely busy and actually getting time to sit at my laptop doesn't seem to happen as often as I'd like. I'm trying though. Really really trying.

I'd love to report HUGE progress on my 2016 resolutions, but as it is I only managed to rally a bit at the end of the month. I'll take rallying over failure any day.

Continue drinking water and caffeine in moderation - this continues to vary by day

Finish maintenance list on the fridge - I thought I had the dining room crossed off, but one stinking outlet screwed up that whole deal.

Get back on track with bill paying - I can actually report progress! I have been successfully setting and resolving a budget every month since October. I paid an outstanding bill in full, and still managed to have some fun. I think I'll be able to clear the rest of the outstanding bills in February and March.
Build up emergency fund - Sadly, The Duder's trip to NYC/DC is sucking up a lot of my savings allotment, but now that I've adjusted to living without that money every week I plan to continue to put that amount into savings every paycheck once the trip is paid for.

Nails (more about this coming, I promise!) I have to strike this one off the list. I'm not motivated. I'm not.
Soap - I'm having fun looking at other people's homemade soap, and trying some of it too. I will eventually post about my own soap at some point in time.

 Books (because... ya know):
Continue reading the Bible - I can't even stay up to date with an audio bible app. The effort is there, I just need to get the habit.
24 books read - I'm putting some firm rules down this year. Namely that every book has seven days to be read. If I haven't managed progress on it, it goes down as unfinished and I move on. I'm discovering a desire to read again. I should be able to exceed 24 books at this rate, although I expect some fudging on my part if I tackle The Outlander series again, or if I know a particularly busy week is coming.
TBR shelf down to 100 - current count is 131 so a long way to go yet.

Decide if I want to or not - I think I want to, I just need to get a handle on everything else first.

So there's progress (and lack of). Some things just aren't worth mentioning at the moment. Actually, as I look at this list, it's better than I thought it was. I imagine this list will become more fluid as months go on and as things get crossed off.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Moonlit Garden

The Moonlit GardenThe Moonlit Garden by Corina Bomann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was provided to me as a free Kindle pre-release through Amazon Prime.

This book is an English translation from German. There are rough spots as a reader fumbles through poor word choices, however I felt these to be few and far between and not distracting from the story itself.

The story begins with a prologue before the true action starts. I felt the prologue was unnecessary as the mystery of a stranger giving the violin to the main (present day) character to be hook enough.

The romance between the main characters (past and present) were flimsy at best. Passionately in love with a guy she spent minimal amount of time with over a week or two? I didn't find it romantic at all.

The story itself was riveting. Beautiful locations and culture, plenty of historical information as well as entertainment. Once I got through the first 80 pages, I couldn't put the book down (seriously, I got up an hour early one day to make sure I had time to read).

Lilly Kaiser had come to terms with her solitary, uncomplicated life after becoming a young widow. So when a stranger delivers an old violin to her Berlin antiques shop and tells Lilly it belongs to her, she’s completely bewildered. Why should she be the one to inherit such an exquisite instrument?
Together with her best friend, Ellen, and handsome musicologist Gabriel Thornton, Lilly sets out to explore the violin’s legacy. From England to Italy to Indonesia, she follows its winding trail. Along the way, she learns of Rose Gallway, a beautiful woman of English and Sumatran descent who lived among Sumatra’s lush gardens more than a hundred years earlier. A celebrated and sought-after musician, Rose once owned Lilly’s violin and regularly played concerts for Sumatra’s colonial elite—until, one day, she simply disappeared.
As Lilly unravels the mystery behind Rose’s story—and uncovers other unexpected secrets—she’ll come to see her own life in an entirely new light. And as each shared discovery brings her closer to Gabriel, her heart might finally break its long-held silence.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hummingbird Soap Bar from Shari's Handcrafted Soaps

I raved about Shari's Patchouli Bar last fall and I was excited to get another bar into my shower rotation. I've been using the Hummingbird Soap Bar from Shari's Handcrafted Soaps since Christmas, in rotation with the other soaps in my shower. The fragrance is described as tart kiwi, lilac, tiger lily, pineapple and pears. This soap is a delightful experience. I adore everything about it.

Ingredients (from package label): Olive Oil, Distilled Water, Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Buttermilk, Shea Butter, Castor Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Fragrance, Sodium Lactate, Skin Safe Mica & Tussah Silk

First Glance: Packaged in shrink wrap with front and back labels, always a generous sized bar from Shari. A beautiful Caribbean Blue bar with a single white swirl through it. I studied this one for quite a while trying to figure out how she did it. I think it's a spoon plop with a hanger swirl (but I'm willing to be wrong. I'm still not the best at identifying soap color methods). The top is beautifully swirled with blue and white and a fun sprinkling of mica. One side of my bar had a dolphin  jumping through the waves shaped swirl (Can you see it?).

First Use: Smooth and silky lather, this bar is a bit softer in the shower than the Patchouli bar, so I've been extra careful to keep it well drained and out of the shower spray. The scent is super sweet, almost too sweet for my taste, but I still find it pleasant. I can really smell the lilac and pineapple with just a hint of pear remaining on my skin afterwards.

Overall Thoughts: I love the condition my skin is in after using Shari's soaps. The tussah silk really leaves my skin super soft (I can't stop touching my arms!) and the buttermilk creates a super creamy lather. I can't wait to use the other soaps and tell you about them!

Disclaimer: In accordance to the FTC guidelines, I must state that I make no monetary gains from my reviews or endorsements here on Sherry's Stuff. All products I review are either purchased by me, given as a gift, won, or received in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lily of the Nile

Lily of the Nile (Cleopatra's Daughter, #1)Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After almost a month and not breaking the first 100 pages, I'm going to let this one go. I read a book on the same historical figures two years ago that I enjoyed very much. If I hadn't read the other book, I may have enjoyed this one more.

Summary: Heiress of one empire and prisoner of another, it is up to the daughter of Cleopatra to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers...

To Isis worshippers, Princess Selene and her twin brother Helios embody the divine celestial pair who will bring about a Golden Age. But when Selene's parents are vanquished by Rome, her auspicious birth becomes a curse. Trapped in an empire that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, the young messianic princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. She can't hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her hands, nor can she stop the emperor from using her powers for his own ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to resurrect her mother's dreams. Can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win-or die?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Camel Olive Oil Soap

I picked up a couple soaps in India. This one I did not use while I was there (if I had, I wouldn't have brought it home).
As you can see from the picture, the label is not in English so I can't read the ingredients. A Google search proved to be fruitless. From using the soap, I would venture to say that it is 100% Olive Oil and (sadly) there is no camel milk or any type of milk in the recipe. I'm willing to be wrong if someone can prove me otherwise!

First Glance: This is a big hunk of soap. Very heavy and hard. Very rough looking. No coloring or  fragrance (not even a natural soapy smell).

First Use: The shape and size of the bar are very awkward to use, a more rectangular or thinner bar would have been easier. The bar is hard and the edges are very sharp. No lather was present when soaping hands. I tried a bath sponge, shower loofah, and shower brush. I did manage to get some very dense lather with the brush. Fragrance when wet was mild and sweet - I had to have the bar right up to my nose to smell it and it left no skin scent. Washed clean, but left skin feeling a little dry. I followed up with moisturizer, which I normally don't have to do.

Overall Thoughts: I used this bar a few more times, trying it once on my hair, before I binned it. The edges never softened so it was a very hard bar to handle. It never lathered well, but it wasn't snotty as some olive oil soaps can get. I was glad that I had picked it up for (literally) only a few cents, as it was not a good quality soap.

Disclaimer: In accordance to the FTC guidelines, I must state that I make no monetary gains from my reviews or endorsements here on Sherry's Stuff. All products I review are either purchased by me, given as a gift, won, or received in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Orbiting the Giant Hairball

Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with GraceOrbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining look at maintaining creativity and individualism in a corporate workplace. There are some very usable instructions in this small book. I enjoyed the artwork and writing style.

Summary: Creativity is crucial to business success. But too often, even the most innovative organization quickly becomes a "giant hairball"--a tangled, impenetrable mass of rules, traditions, and systems, all based on what worked in the past--that exercises an inexorable pull into mediocrity. Gordon McKenzie worked at Hallmark Cards for thirty years, many of which he spent inspiring his colleagues to slip the bonds of Corporate Normalcy and rise to orbit--to a mode of dreaming, daring and doing above and beyond the rubber-stamp confines of the administrative mind-set. In his deeply funny book, exuberantly illustrated in full color, he shares the story of his own professional evolution, together with lessons on awakening and fostering creative genius. Originally self-published and already a business "cult classic", this personally empowering and entertaining look at the intersection between human creativity and the bottom line is now widely available to bookstores. It will be a must-read for any manager looking for new ways to invigorate employees, and any professional who wants to achieve his or her best, most self-expressive, most creative and fulfilling work.

Recommended Reading:
The Innovator's DNA by Jeff Dyer
The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam
Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley

Friday, January 1, 2016

Go For 2016

Every year I go crazy over board with resolutions and burn out by February. This year, I want sustainable. I want simplicity. This year I want 100% success.

Continue drinking water and caffeine in moderation
Be able to do this yoga flow a year from now

Finish maintenance list on the fridge
Finish painting The Diva's Room
Make Joe's bed
Start painting the living room
Paint the garage (these colors)
Paint the deck

Get back on track with bill paying
Build up emergency fund
Keep AMD Soaps running on its own money

Nails (more about this coming, I promise!)

Books (because... ya know):
Continue reading the Bible
24 books read
TBR shelf down to 100

Decide if I want to or not

These are my goals for 2016! Some of them are do-able, some of them will be a challenge, and a few in particular I will probably fail miserably at. It's what I do.