Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Things I’m loving right now


I haven’t done one of these posts in awhile (hell, I haven’t done much posting in awhile). So I thought I would share some things I’m loving these days. I always love hearing unpaid endorsements of products (these are not affiliate links and no one gave me/paid me anything to post about these products but thanks for checking in FCC).

I fell in love with salted caramel ice cream while we were in Asheville this summer. There was a local place that made it in house and it was amazing. Sadly, no brands in the store seem to understand the perfection of the salted caramel ice cream so I haven’t had any to love since coming home.  But. But. I found a sea salt caramel gelato at our Super Target. It doesn’t have that slight salty crunch that it should but the flavor is amazing. I am in love. I’m going to have to severely limit my purchases because I’ll never be able to put on my pants again and it ain’t the cheapest stuff.

Dry shampoo. When I think of it, I think of Laverne & Shirley. Do you remember the episode? They have a big double date and Shirley decides to use Quickie Poo? Disaster ensues. But we had a My Favorite Things party (think Oprah but with a $5 limit) on Friday and someone brought Suave dry shampoo. I had been wanting to try it so I was excited to hear her endorsement. She said she had tried several other brands but liked Suave best. I often shower at night and my hair gets oily quickly so I love spraying a little of this in my hair in the morning when I get up. I’m a fan. (Admittedly, right now, I’m not styling my hair – hello twisted up in a clip – so I can’t say what it does if I wanted it to actually DO something.)

First let me say, I’m not a huge fan of Larabars. I love the simple ingredients but the taste? Not so much. They are all okay (except ginerbread – that was awful) but not great and not worth the price (for me). But enter Larabar Uber Bars. They were giving away samples at Target of the Apple Turnover and the Bananas Foster. Wow. They were fabulous. The Apple Turnover was my favorite. The bananas foster was good too (think banana walnut bread flavor). And the girls loved them. I try to keep some sort of bar in my purse for emergencies. (Someone in the family might have a bad habit of not eating breakfast and suddenly starving and shaking at 2pm but let’s not mention names *cough* me *cough*.)  This is one that tastes great and isn’t horrible for you. (Not low calorie…just not full of junk.) Wish I could afford to keep them around as regular snacks for my girls but they are a little pricey and they are little snack monsters. So I will selfishly save them for mommy.

I’ve started using liquid eyeliner for the first time in my life. I got a sample in my Birchbox*** one month (the Stila brand – love it but it is very glittery and not appropriate for car rider line). I was afraid of it but tried it and loved how easy it was to use. Who knew? So I tried a few brands. I love the Cover Girl applicator. It is like a felt tip pen. But it dries out too quickly and I end up desperately shaking it to finish the second eye. I love the Avon applicator even more (it is like a sponge) but it is so flaky that by the time I have my eyes done, I have flakes all over my cheeks. (See the last photo of the set. That is just from putting it on the counter to take a photo. And it was that way when I received it so it shouldn’t be old.) And when I wipe off the flakes, they streak down my face. The Stila applicator is the best of the bunch but the glittery gold isn’t appropriate for my day time life. Strangely, I settled on Elf as a favorite. It is a plain old tiny paint brush which I was fearful of using but turns out it isn’t so hard after all. And you can’t beat the $1 price tag. (Sorry for photo quality…took those with my phone.)


I tried making my own yogurt. I liked it but the kids refused to eat it. I couldn’t eat it fast enough by myself so I’m back to buying it. I’m currently in love with Dannon Pure. Have you tried it? I don’t normally wax poetic about yogurt but it tastes close to what I make only with fruit flavor. I crave it. Try it. (Lame web page Dannon. And don’t think you are tricking us about your “low price” that we are supposed to love – your little containers are only 4oz which is 1/2 of what yogurt used to be and 2/3 of what most yogurts are now. But you are so yummy I mostly forgive you.)

I have dark circles. No really – you might think you have dark circles but I’m almost certain I have you beat. For most of my life, people have asked if I have a black eye if I’m not wearing make up. It gets worse with lack of sleep or poor diet but even at its best, it isn’t pretty. My dark circles are the reason I wear make up when leaving the house. I don’t pay much attention until I see a photo of myself and think “Yikes!” I’ve not ever had any success with make up covering or creams lightening. Most make up just highlights the fact that I now have bags joining the party. But someone let me try a sample of Arbonne’s RE9 Corrective Eye Cream. I ended up buying some when I was offered 40% or 50% off. Is it a miracle? Nope. But I do  notice my eyes being somewhat lighter and less baggy. I’ve been using it for a month (you use a tiny bit so it lasts forever) and I’ve started noticing a little difference. Likely, no one else would see the difference. It could be all in my head but it makes me feel like I’m doing something so it is good either way.

Last, but by no means least, my new love of Mod Podge. I mentioned in my last post that I am digging some mixed media on canvas art right now. Mod Podge figures heavily in that. It is so much fun!  This stuff can do almost anything and makes collage art so much easier.

***I thought about including Birchbox on this list but…I’ll make it a footnote instead. It is a fun thing that you pay $10 a month and they send you a box of (mostly) beauty samples every month. Some months I love it and other months I’m all “Meh” about it. Last month was meh so it gets a foot note instead of a full entry. I tend to be frugal and when I find a product I like, I stick with it because I hate to pay for a lipstick or eyeliner and hate it. So Birchbox breaks me out of my rut. I love tinted moisturizer (haven’t worn foundation in years) and they’ve sent 2 that I really liked. And the liquid eyeliner. And they sent me a larabar uber bar before Target gave me a sample. But I guess they can’t all be winners and last month was heavy on self tanners which I don’t tend to use so I was all sad panda about my box. Every time I get a disappointing box, I think I’m going to cancel it then the next month it does something to suck me back in. Birchbox – you are on notice. Last month was kind of sucky so September better be great or I might decide to save the $10.

Have any of you discovered any great products lately? 


posted under Shopping | 7 Comments »

Orville Redenbacher’s Pop Up Bowls Giveaway


Phew. Sorry about that disappearance. About 8 hours after I declared myself the last (wo)man standing in our house, the dreaded stomach bug hit me and slapped me down HARD. We won’t go into details. Let’s just say I was out of commission for 5 days. I haven’t been that sick any time that I remember. Moving on.

I don’t do reviews very often anymore. There are a variety of reasons for that – none of which are important to anyone except me. When you see me do a review, it is because it is either a product I already love or one I really want to try out. (Most of the products I talk about aren’t sponsored…I have a “Things I’m Loving Right Now” post about half done in my drafts. That one is all me.) MomCentral sent out the invitation to do a review of Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop! Pop Up Bowls. I raised my hand and said “Me! Me! Me!”.  I love popcorn. A lot. As in don’t try and eat out of my bowl. You might lose a finger.

We observe a 90 min – 2 hour nap/quiet time around here. Tessa sleeps. Sabrina reads or plays quietly upstairs. Mommy takes a shower, grabs some lunch, and watches something on the DVR gets some work done.  After quiet time, my girls demand a snack. Snack time is deeply ingrained around here and they will accept nothing less than something yummy, crunchy, salty, and fulfilling. They often ask for crackers or pretzels but their absolute, hands-down favorite is popcorn. Popcorn makes any afternoon feel special to them. If it is raining, some popcorn and a Disney DVD turns it into the Best! Afternoon! Ever! as far as they are concerned. I feel better about giving them popcorn than a lot of other snacky foods – it is high in fiber, filling, and lower in calories than most items they request.

My oldest daughter was a cow in her school play and didn’t want to take off the costume.

The Smart Pop! Pop Up Bowls allow you to rip off the side and use the bag as a stand alone bowl. According to Orville Redenbacher’s fact sheet, Smart Pop! has the a lot of benefits:

  • 6 cups of Smart Pop! has only 100 calories
  • 1 serving provides 2 servings of whole grains
  • A new study from ConAgra Foods found that snacking on 100-calories of low-fat healthy popcorn, like Orville Redenbacher’s SmartPop!, leads to less hunger and more satisfaction versus other snacks like almonds or pretzels
  • 100% whole grain, good source of fiber, low in fat, no trans fat
  • A ConAgra Foods study reveals that a daily snack of Orville Redenbacher’s 94 percent fat-free SmartPop! popcorn can help dieters maintain reduced calorie eating plans while still feeling full and satisfied
  • Popcorn is a whole grain. Research shows that consumers who eat popcorn come much closer to meeting the dietary guidelines recommendation for whole grain consumption of three servings a day

As I mentioned, my girls aren’t the only one who like popcorn. I have a minor obsession with it. Don’t go to the movies with me if you want to share because I don’t share my popcorn. I love being able to pop a big bowl of popcorn and eat all the way through it without feeling horribly guilty like I would if I hit the bottom of a pretzel or chip bag. My favorite is kettle corn. I have a thing with salty/sweet and that satisfies both for me.

Now for the giveaway. I’m giving away 10 boxes of Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop! Pop Up Bowls (10 commenters will receive 1 box or coupon for a free box). Just leave me a comment and tell me when you like to eat popcorn and if you share. I will draw winners on June 1st after 2pm. There is also a $1 off coupon on their facebook page.

 I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Orville and received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

posted under food, Shopping | 27 Comments »

Stuff I’m loving at the moment


Not everyone is aware of it because I tend to be quite laid back but lurking inside me is a version of Michelle who is a little OCD. I have an OCD streak that I don’t let run free because it comes with a perfectionist streak. And my version of the perfectionist streak wants everything done perfectly or we might as well not do it at all. So I tend to just be laid back about it all because perfectionism is just exhausting and way too much work. Have you been to The Container Store? It is so much fun and my inner OCD Michelle might have weeped with joy as we wandered around it yesterday. (Of course my 16 year old Michelle gave herself a concussion with the eye rolling.) I could financially break us in that place. It makes me want to completely gut my house and start over again – putting everything in neat little bins, baskets, boxes, and drawers. I had a gift card from Christmas (thank Cathie!) so I was able to get a few things to make my pantry prettier and a couple of things to organize my side of the table we use as a desk. But I want more!

Before – it was driving me crazy and I had been searching for something to organize all of the crap:

After a visit to the Container Store:

I will say their shipping charges tend to be INSANE so go to the actual store if you have one near you. But have a project in mind because it can be overwhelming.


My mom sent me a gift card for my birthday for Soma Intimates. They do nice bras but they do amazing PJs. They are so soft and so comfy. I likely wouldn’t spend that much on PJs for myself without the gift card (I is cheap) but I so love having some new jammies to enjoy. If you are looking to treat yourself and to give you husband an idea who he can give you a little treat for Valentine’s Day, this is a great way to do it. (I am writing this at noon still in my new PJs because they are so comfy.)


Something you can’t order but I am loving: this 60+ degree weather we are enjoying this week. The girls received scooters from abuela and bike helmets from Grandma Freida for Christmas. They had a grand time enjoying them after school yesterday.

I receive nothing if you click on those links and the items were gifts from family. But I wouldn’t want the FCC to be confused and think I wasn’t disclosing something.

posted under Shopping | 3 Comments »

In defense of couponing


I started couponing a little over a year ago.  I took a little class with some friends on how to do it effectively.  I go in fits and spurts with it.  When my stockpile gets full or I get sick of buying 3 Sunday papers, I stop for a couple of months.  Then when there is a really good sale or my stockpile gets low, I start buying papers and get back into it again.

It isn’t a quick and easy thing.  It takes time to put together your list – matching up sales and coupons and getting everything organized.  Fortunately, there are a lot of sites out there that help with the match ups but you still have to locate and organize your coupons.  At the store, you have to pay attention so that you buy the exact size and number of the items or you aren’t maximizing your savings.  Add in 2 toddlers and it is downright difficult.

I’m not a coupon queen.  I don’t come home with 2 carts full of groceries for $1.19.  I still have a few brand loyalties which I am supposed to give up completely in the name of couponing (if a brand I don’t use is a good deal, I buy it and donate it to the food bank).  But if I can save 50% or more, I’m pretty happy.  I tell you all of this not because I’m an expert but because I still get attitude from some folks who insist that you if you use coupons you must buy a bunch of junk for your family. No, you don’t find coupons on produce or fresh items often but my savings on staples allow me to spend more on produce.  And yes, sometimes you have to go to multiple stores.  I don’t know if I could do this if I worked outside the house.  I feel like part of my job in being a stay at home mom is saving money where we can so some of my time is working at couponing.  And yes, the savings can be a little addictive…I get a little rush when I see how much I saved on a good trip.  Why yes, I am a dork.

I had a good trip to Publix this week so I thought I would show off that you don’t have to buy crap in order to use coupons. Here is what I bought (this was a just a stockpile trip – I didn’t need milk or butter or produce):

(Can’t believe I took the time to lay out my groceries to take a photo.) Okay, the Chef Boyardee ravioli kind of falls in the crap category but Steve loves it for lunches (he does eat the 99% fat free so it isn’t as bad as the regular).  But other than that, it is all canned veggies, canned beans, bread crumbs, chicken broth, canned diced tomatoes, frozen veggies, fresh pasta, a Macaroni Grill frozen family dinner, and dishwasher detergent. Before tax, my total was $29.68 (after it was 33.80 – we don’t pay personal income taxes so our sales tax is sky high).  I saved $65.36. I saved around 65% and not one of those items is something I wouldn’t normally buy except the Macaroni Grill entree and that is because it is normally too expensive and I don’t know if it is worth the money.  I simple bought quantities I wouldn’t normally buy.  But stockpiling allows me to wait to buy things again until they are on sale.  I also picked up some dishwasher detergent at Target this week – one box was free and the other was $.50 after coupons so between the 2 trips, I won’t need to buy it again for several months.

Nothing wrong with deciding your time is worth more than you can save with coupons but don’t assume that people who are doing it are feeding their families ho-hos and frozen pizza.  Mmmmm…ho-hos.

posted under Shopping | 9 Comments »

Things I am loving right now


I haven’t done a things I love post lately.  Just good stuff that I’ve discovered (I’m looking at you FCC…nobody gave me anything for any of this).

We stopped at Jungle Jim’s International Market when we picked up Sabrina after her trip to her grandparents’ house.  Loved it!  Love!  I could easily spend an afternoon (and a fortune) there.  It is so large they have maps at the front door. The oils, spices, sauces, salts, beer, wine – what a selection of all sorts of fun things.  We bought some fun things that I’ve been enjoying experimenting with.  Steve was in heaven because he loves birch beer (how random is that?) and normally has trouble finding it.  They had 4 different brands.  One of my favorite purchases was Joe’s Stuff.  I’m not sure if it is technically cajun or creole but it is all YUM!  It has a bit of a zing but I wouldn’t call it hot…just a lot of flavor.  (My kids who have zero tolerance for flavor spice will eat things lightly spiced with it.)  The 2 ways I use it so far are grilled chicken (a little olive oil on the chicken then sprinkle this on both sides then grill) and roasted red potatoes (a little olive oil, a little lemon juice, some of this, all tossed with quartered red potatoes – throw them in the oven at 425* until tender).  I could eat chicken grilled with this every day for lunch.  I also think adding it to a light cream sauce for pasta would be amazing.

I’ve made no secret about the fact that I get on kicks with food.  Who can forget the summer of the ice cream sandwich back in Aught 2?  The winter of the triscuit in ’06.  The summer of iced coffee in ’07.  The spring of the cantaloupe in ’09.  I find something that makes me happy and stick with it until it doesn’t.  (Disclaimer: ice cream and popcorn never lose favor – not together…just as general yummy treats.)  My current favorite is entirely my mother in law’s fault.  She left a bag of these  Garden of Eatin blue chips after her last visit and you’ve been able to find them in my pantry ever since.

A friend told me about the Puddle Jumper flotation device for kids.  It is a smart design – the portion that goes across her chest keeps her face out of the water but allows her to be positioned like she is swimming.  She does not know how to swim but this allows her to feel safe and paddle around the pool pretty independently.  (Obviously, she is never far from an adult.)  We have one for Tessa too but it is rated for 30 – 50 lbs so she is a little small for it.  She used it but we have to keep our hands physically on her in the pool – but we have to do that with any flotation device that she wears.  I really love this for Sabrina’s age group and she loved it too.

Groupon – everyone has heard of this by now, right?  And you all know that you can buy deals from other cities (either as gifts or if you visit there or if it is something you can order and have shipped)?   I’ve recently purchased a Shutterfly photo book, organic meat to stock my freezer this winter, and some great deals at a local pizza place.  It is a win-win.  I get a great deal on a service or product I will use and I try out a business I might not otherwise try – they have the opportunity to win my loyalty.

CoverGirl OutLast all day lip color. Seriously, this stuff lasts all day if you put on the color and then let it dry for 1 minute before putting on gloss (I use Burt’s Bees balm instead of the super shiny stuff they include).  It is actually a little freaky how well it stays on.

At West End catalog.  I haven’t bought much in the way of decorative house items since we sold our house 3+ years ago.  There didn’t seem much point for our temporary spots.  But now that we are buying a house, we are both itching to make it our own.  This catalog randomly ended up in our mailbox earlier this summer.  We both love the majority of what they sell.  It feels like Pottery Barn’s more hip and funkier 2nd cousin twice removed.  I haven’t bought anything yet so I can’t speak to quality or customer service but look at this fun stuff:

posted under Shopping | 6 Comments »

Things I’m loving right now…


littleblendsTessa doesn’t eat vegetables.  (She also doesn’t like many fruits.  Strictly crackers, yogurt, cheese, and meat if she had her way.) When she gets older, her flat out refusal will no longer be an option but at this age we can’t reason with her and the gag reflex is strong in this one (as the doc found out with his tongue depressor at our last peds appointment).  So, she doesn’t eat vegetables.  We offer them.  She throws them on the floor.  I thought about trying baby food veggies but I hate to take a step back after all the months we worked to get her to eat solids.  The doctor said it isn’t worth fighting with her at this age and recommended a multi-vitamin. (She also doesn’t like fruit juice so the V8 Fusion stuff is out too.)  Twitter told me about Little Blends.  She loves them – carrot and strawberry is her favorite flavor.  I love that I can get at least a little bit of vegetable in her this way. Stonyfields also makes a fruit/veggie yogurt blend called YoBaby 3in1 Meals but I can only find it at Whole Foods.  If you haven’t seen any of these in your grocery store, check out the organic section of your grocery store because they annoyingly don’t stock it with the regular yogurt in many stores.

sexxycurvesI had a favorite mascara made by Maybelline but they quit making it a few years ago.  I’ve been searching for a new favorite…and I finally found it.  I love Rimmel Sexxy Curves mascara.  It lengthens and curls but doesn’t clump or look ridiculous.  And bonus! It is pretty inexpensive.  My only complaint would be that they don’t seem to make anything softer than black…I prefer a brown-black.

kuhn-rikon-ultimate-can-openerI love this can opener.  I’ve had it for over a year and I still love it.  There is a bit of a learning curve but once you figure out how to operate it, it is awesome.  It doesn’t cut the can open – it uncrimps the top from the can so there are no sharp edges.  There is no blade that gets icky and touches your food inside the can.  The pointed tail opens the ring top cans without breaking a nail.  It also opens bottle caps and 2 liter soda bottle caps.  And it comes in cute colors.  I’ve bought it for my step mom (she doesn’t use it – I haven’t given her sufficient lessons…seriously had to walk my husband through it for a month), my mom, and my mother in law.

furminatorMy mom sent The Furminator to Steve for  Father’s Day last year.  She apologized that it was a lame gift.  After using it, he said it was the best gift she ever gave him.  He claims its awesomeness must be a result of being made from ground up unicorn horns.   I seriously think we could brush the dog bald with this thing.  It takes off so much loose hair – it is worth the money. They make smaller ones for cats too.  Now if only I could find a way to get my sweet hubby to use it on the dog more often…but he does so many other things around here that I just can’t bring myself to nag.

pumpkinpancakeLast but by no means least, Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix – GAH! This stuff is awesome.  Normally, I might make pancakes once every few months but I’ve made this 4 times in the past 3 weeks.  It is so yummy.  Just enough pumpkin and not super sweet – perfect.  If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, get some.  Now.  Go.  It is seasonal so it might disappear at any moment and you don’t want to miss it!


FTC Disclaimer because apparently they aren’t busy enough – they need to create work by policing little old mommy bloggers.  Ahem.  (Kidding FTC…please don’t sick the IRS on me.)  Anywho – No one asked me to pimp these products nor did they provide me with any monetary compensation or products in return for my giving them some love.  (Although if any of you wants to hook me up, I’ll gladly accept some free TJ’s Pumpkin Pancake Mix.)  The links contained in this post will lead to the products listed but the companies could care less that I am linking up (in other words, they aren’t affiliate links…assuming my assumption of the definition of “affiliate links” is accurate).  I just love my readers and thought some of them might love these products that make life easier/happier.

posted under Shopping | 9 Comments »