Sunday, October 3, 2010

Review: Shabby Apple

Originally posted here on October 3, 2010 as "Shabby Apple Dress Review"

Wow... It seems like these reviews/giveaways come in spurts! :)

Near the middle of September, I was contacted by Shabby Apple, a women's clothing boutique. They offer "affordable, hip attire perfect for work or a day to play", and asked if I would be interested in reviewing one of their dresses. Never one to say no, I agreed and selected one of the dresses from their online catalog. Unfortunately, I received an email after the order went through stating that the dress was out of stock. But, never fear, they had selected another frock for me to try.

Now, I have to admit... When I saw the one they chose, I was really nervous. I mean REALLY. It was totally something I never, ever would have even tried on, let alone wear sight-unseen.

Here is what I selected.

Here is what they selected for me.

And, it only goes to show what I know about fashion and dressing myself, because I LOVED IT! I opened the package and was a little concerned still, but once I put it on... But I'm jumping ahead of myself.

It arrived and, as I unpacked it to wash, I noticed a tag that noted that, by purchasing this item, I was helping to fund a microloan for a mother in India. She weaves bamboo and her loan: $87. Wow. If you know me in real life, you know that I am a big buyer of fair trade. The whole idea of microloans, especially to women in underdeveloped countries who, traditionally, have been unable to help financially support their families, really strikes a cord with me. So, even before I put the dress on, I was in a good mood.

As I stated previously, hand-washing is pretty much lost on me. I barely have time to hand-wash myself, let alone clothes! So, I glanced at the "hand wash only" tag and tossed that bad boy in wash on the uber gentle cycle. I asked Peter to hang dry it while I was getting the kids to bed last night, but when I looked for it this morning, I found it in the dryer... Oh well! Happens around here! I dried his bike pants the other day by accident... don't tell! Oh- wait- he reads my blog! Oops!

I took it from the dryer and it looked just as perfect as it had arrived, so I decided to try it on. I'd already decided to wear it out to dinner in the evening (did I mention we went on a date?) As I pulled it over my head, I thought "this is NOT going to work". I mean, there are stripes. Over my tata's. I dont want to bring attention to those! But then I stood in front of the mirror.

And I was really pleasantly surprised. My hair was dripping wet and I'd just gotten dried from the shower, but I thought I looked pretty darn nice! I quickly took the dress off (as to not ruin the surprise for Peter) and told him that I was wearing my new dress to dinner!

We dropped the kids at his parents for the evening and went to our favorite Italian place. And, if I do say so myself, I looked awfully nice.

I absolutely loved the dress. (I wore it again to church this morning and I still loved it). It was comfortable, but stylish. It looked dressy and casual- all at the same time. I loved the way it hugged my figure without showing my faults. It washed and wore very well, and fit true to size. My only complaint is that the black skirt picks up lint easily (but, let's be honest, what black item DOESN'T pick up lint). I'm not a lint-brush-handy sort of girl, so that can pose a bit of a problem (for example, I had a gray spot on the skirt this morning at church because I didnt lint brush before I left but that's my fault too...)

Overall, I not only loved the dress, but I think that the company's commitment to women in developing countries is admirable. I told Peter that, while I've never been a dress lover before, I'm thinking of investing in a few pieces! It's not too often that I find dresses that fit well, don't make me feel large, and give me a feeling of helping others.

Guess I'd better convince Peter to let me buy the three dresses in my "shopping cart" already! Highly recommended!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: Fashion to Figure

Originally posted here on September 24, 2010 as "Review: Fashion to Figure"

I was contacted earlier in the month by Fashion to Figure, a clothing company for full-figured women. Although I'm not fashionista, I'm also not one to turn down cute clothes either! They were gracious enough to invite me to review one of their products, and sent out a Lined Dolman Sweater.

From the picture and information, I was thinking that this wasnt something I'd normally wear, but I'm game for new things, and I waited anxiously for it to arrive. After they confirmed the order, it arrived within a few days (I was actually surprised by the speed of shipping, considering they were giving it to me for free). I opened it and it looked very much like the picture you see. The outer fabric was very breezy and the undershirt was a form fitting tank. The bottom of the shirt had elastic, which gave me pause, because, in my head, I could see it riding up and me constantly tugging it down. The label said handwash only (which, let's be honest, with infants in house AINT GONNA HAPPEN) so, I tossed that bad boy in with my delicates on the gentle cycle and decided to see what happened! I inspected it post wash and it looked great- no issues. I hung it by the hang staps to dry. The next morning (I washed it around 9pm), it was still damp, so, even though it should be laid flat to dry, I tossed it in the dryer on the low heat setting and, 15 minutes later, it was perfect. And, still, no issues with the fabric. Score 1 for the shirt! I put it on and was pleasantly surprised. It didnt ride up and stayed where I put it- even when I was moving furniture! I spent the entire day visiting with my dad, moving furniture from my house, and later that evening, had a girls night- and the shirt looked great the entire time! The only negative I found was that, since I am curvy and have an hour glass figure, the shirt hid that. But, the flip side is that it hid my tummy- which is never a bad thing. It was comfortable and, even though you wouldnt think it, the fabric was very breathable. It dressed up a pair of jeans when I needed it to, but it was comfortable enough to be a workhorse. It didnt snag when I played with babies on the floor or lugged a china cabinet from my dining room to the POD in my backyard. Overall, I was extremely pleased and it's already washed (and hang drying) for my next adventure! Highly recommended!

(Please note: this item was received free of charge, a $22 value, along with free shipping, a $9.50 value, in exchange for a review on my blog.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review: Seasons of Solace

Originally posted here on May 11, 2010 as "Seasons of Solace (review)"

I was contacted several weeks ago to review a book of grief poetry and photography. Days after agreeing, Seasons of Solace: a story of healing through photos and poems, by Janelle Shantz Hertzler arrived. Ms. Hertzler, a native of Canada, now lives in Pennsylvania with her young son, after losing her husband to a drunk driver while they served as missionaries in Thailand. The book itself is beautiful, and the cover art immediately drew me in. (Although, with two babies, it did take me a while to finish the entire 77 page book).

The photography is breathtaking. Focusing on nature scenes, Ms. Hertzler's technique makes the simplest image of a leaf or feather serene in both natural beauty and heartbreaking sorrow. Without looking back at the pages, in my mind's eye, I can see a photograph of a red leaf against river rocks. At first glance, it is a natural eavesdropping of a fallen leave against a riverbed. But, from a grief perspective, the blood red leaf lays alone against the dry, waterless stone. Soft on hard. Life dying on death.

Ms. Hertzler rediscovered her love of poetry in response to her grief, and as a tool for releasing her feelings. Although only a few of the poems in their entirety spoke to my heart, the majority of them had sections of them that brought tears to my eyes or made me think "Yes, I understand...". Poems like "Gap in Time" (I sit in an unseen gap in time./He's dead. I don't know it.../Emptiness between the wings of cherubim,/where God said, "I will be met."), and "Pearl Earrings" ("Dead inside,/I resolve to join the living.../Choosing to love and live/is no guarantee there/wont be more loss and death") have lines that caused my breath to catch in their brisk honesty , while her musings on picking up her husband's things in "Personal Effects" will speak to anyone who is left with only tangible reminders of a life lived and the ignorance of thoughtless words. But it is the simply titled "Your Stories" that brings the measure of loss to full impact. ("So many stories have gone/that only you knew.../You are so much more/than thesum of your stories./Yet that is all we have left,/so we will cherish them.").

Overall, I would give this book 4 out of 5, and would recommend it for those who have lost older children or adults close to them (although, those who have lost pregnancies, infants, and young children will also find poignant moments that speak to the soul as well). Curl up with the book, a hot cup of herbal tea, and a window view on a stormy afternoon at dusk, and let yourself grieve and grow.

Interested in winning a copy for yourself? Leave a comment below, and I will randomly pick a winner via drawing names of readers out of a hat! The giveaway will end on Friday (May 14th).

For more information on the author, you can click here and to buy a copy of Seasons of Solace, you can find it here.

In full disclosure, while I was not compensated for reviewing this book, I did receive a copy at no cost (a $17.95 value).

Seasons of Solace
by Janelle Shantz Hertzler
Published by Synergy Books (c)2010
ISBN: 978-0984076048
$17.95 list price

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wild Boar

Originally posted here on April 29, 2010 as "Mama's in the Kitchen"

Well, the wild boar was a success! I'm not too unhappy with it, seeing as it was my first time ever cooking it, but in the future, I think I'd deduct about 5-7 minutes from the recommended cooking time. It wasnt dry, but without the demiglaze I made, I dont think it would have been as moist. Where do you even get wild boar? It's not something our local grocer carries, LOL! But when the FIL has his mind set on something, a local grocer is no obstacle! Not sure how to cook your wild boar? I marinated mine all day in a cherry juice teriyaki, some apple cider, and mango juice, with several stalks of rosemary, thyme, and sage. In an oven-safe frying pan, I sautéed, in butter and olive oil, some red onion, golden apple, and dates, then seared the tenderloins for 3 minutes on both sides, before popping the entire pan into the oven at 350 degrees. All the recipes I'd investigated for hints on how to cook suggested 20-25 minutes, until a thermometer registered 150-155, then to let the meat sit for 5 minutes. I cooked it for 25 minutes, and a thermometer only hit 145 but, because it was obviously done, I sliced it and then, in the pan, added some cider to deglaze and brought that to a boil to make a quick reduction, which was poured over the sliced meat. (In the future, I think I'd cook for no more than 20 minutes). I served it with pickled red cabbage, apple-date stuffing, homemade golden delicious apple sauce, zucchini topped with herbed tomatoes, and, of course, a salad (with raspberry pecan dressing). And whole wheat yeast rolls! All together, I was really happy with the way it came out. I made a kissass carrot cake with my favorite (ande quick) homemade cream cheese frosting. Yummy!

Now I'm hungry! Since the kids are watching Kung-Fu Panda (this is their favorite, right after the Rosary for Kids, which, although I find the child-angel a little creepy, they seem to love!). I only let them watch about half an hour, so it takes us a while to get through the whole movie (it's about 90 minutes), but it's a nice quiet time (when both are interested) for me to fold laundry or eat breakfast!