Monday, December 31, 2012

So much Random Fun - Liebster Award

Posted By: Leah
Happy New Years Eve Day!
Today I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Natalie. There's something in the rules about having less than 200 followers to receive the award. But Natalie's has wayyy more followers than that and received the award AND is passing it on to girls with follower counts from super low to super high. Hey, works for me too I love these questions! It's 11 random things about myself, then I answer Natalie's 11 questions for me, I tag 11 bloggers, then create 11 questions for them.

First I'm supposed to list 11 things about myself:
1) I have been having a craving for a scone, jelly and clotted cream (it's like whipped cream/cream cheese)
2) Probably becaue BF and I've been watching Downton Abbey (I still want to call it Downtown)
3) And that makes me want to go visit the Biltmore Estate in Asheville which was built around the turn of the century in that same style (maybe. Idk)
4) I still feel like the only one who doesn't love wine. Not an awful thing just I feel like I'm missing out because everyone's always talking about 'their wine.' I should give it another go.
5) I'm super obsessed with my new bedding. For Christmas I got a whole new bed everything. From comfortor, to sheets to pillows. I have a king bed and never had pillows the right size before. I love it.
6) BF is watching Gav today. He just sent me the cutest photo from when they went to breakfast and Gav's expression reminded me of an expression I also make.
7) Ok I make crazy expressions in pretty much every photo. I can't help it I'm so animated.
8) I had a revolation a couple days ago. So you know how I dress in bright clothes a lot? I get A LOT of compliments on what I wear. And trust me, I'm no Modcloth model, more like a target clearance rack girl. Anyhow, I also get comments on people saying "Oh I love that, but I could never wear that" like for example my HK shoes or my keds from my sister. People flip out over them. But people also say they're cute on me and wish they could wear them.
9) So here's the thing... anyone can wear anything they want. You just do it. Like nike.
10) BF also wears super bright shoes, so I guess that adds to me 'getting away with' wearing bright stuff. But really it's just what I want to wear, can't help that.
11) ok I'm skipping an 11th random thing. I'm ready for the questions from Natalie already!

*****************

1. What is the meaning behind your blog name? I did a super long post all about it here. But in summary, someone who I knew in college that I e-mailed years later thinking he forgot me said "Of course I remember you! How could I ever forget the Lovely Leah!?"
and I thought it was the best alliteration ever.

2. Why do you blog? The primary focus of this blog is for me to share awesome things that I see or that are happening in my life. As my blog grows, I'm more aware that I don't necessarily know all of the 1,000+ people who read this site daily and/or and subscribe via e-mail. This has affected my blog in bad ways and good. The bad is I share a lot less personal stuff, and I know that's what some people I know IRL who I don't see everyday are here to read. The good news is I have the opportinity for sponsored posts which in turn provides giveaways for my readers and I like that I can give back to those who support me.

3. What is your favorite song of all time? Yikes, that's tough. I'm going to go with Wendy Clear by Blink 182. I couldn't find an official video of it. But if you had the Enema of the State CD from the late '90s you'll know it.


4. Which hair style do you wish you could pull off. (provide link if ya wanna) I will say the Suicide Roll, like Amy from Karmen always has.

I know I could pull this off, I just don't really have a place that I want to wear it. She has a zillion tutorials on youtube. Maybe one day when I have tons of free time I'll make this happen and post pics.

5. What is your next book you are planning to read? is this a trick question? You know I have zero time to read. What is it about? Now I feel all guilty like I should be reading. If I have any kind of time to myself, I'm super busy or sleeping. Maybe if I go on a vacation where they don't have any kind of cell phone connection or wi-fi, ask me then. But the thought of that freaks me out.

6. I will ____________ (fill in the blank) be super excited to run on my new treadmill! (that post is coming up soon too). Just let me recover from the holidays 1st.

7. What is your favorite app on your phone? Instagram. I'm @lovelylifeofleah

8. What is that ONE thing you can't live without? My phone. If the battery is low, I freak out. If I leave it at home, I freak out. I have a 6 year old, and if he's not with me, it's the only way ppl can get in touch with me to tell me if he's ok. I've been known to get calls from his teacher when he's at school, txts from everyone who's ever watched him. So yes, my phone is super important to me.

9. What is your favorite outfit? I wear this one A LOT. Like probably too much. But whatever, it seems appropriate for every situation. I get infinity complements. It's a bright yellow cartigan from NY & Co my sister gave me back in I think December '07. My mom gave me this yellow, white and khaki dot print shell thing for under it from Chadwicks. And just this past year I got a yellow skinny belt I've been wearing with it too. This yellow sweater's seen me through many different weights and hair styles:


10. Chocolate or Vanilla. Chocolate

11. Tell us the first thing that pops up in your head..... I wore the above yellow sweater last Tuesday (Christmas), Friday (to work, saw different people), and almost wore it again on Saturday. BF told me it was played out but I don't think I realized it until this moment. Whatever, yellow is a good color on me. And that sweater makes me look skinny (when it's not buttoned haha).   *****************************************************  
THE RULES if you've been tagged for the Liebster Award:

- Each person tagged must post 11 things about themselves.

- They must also answer the 11 questions the tagger has set for them.

- They must then choose 11 bloggers to tag & award with the Liebster award (nominees must have less than 200 followers). These lucky bloggers must be told in a comment on their blog.

- They must create 11 more questions to ask bloggers they have decided to tag.

Here are the 11 people I'm tagging who may or may not have over 200 followers and have posted recently (and feel free to tag yourself if you want to do this and I didn't tag you. I tried to choose friends who had posted recently. I know all of our blogging schedules are off due to the holidays. AND I know some of you have already gotten this recently, but here it is again! You're just extra awesome xoxo).

Kera at Nugget On A Budget
Kathleen at Places I Will Go
cait - pretty and fun at pretty and fun
K at Down at Fraggle Rock
Britt at First Comes Love
Laura Ryder at Mice in the Kitchen
Jenn at Ripples and Waves
Micah at Unabashedly Me
Alynne Leighat designed to love
Rachel at "Sincerely Peachy"
Holly at Perfectly Imperfect Holly
Pamela at Yes it is, Kevin


Here are my questions for all of you:

1) What are/were your NYE Plans?
2) Do you drink wine, what is your favorite?
3) Do you use Blogger vs Wordpress, etc to blog?
4) Post your 5 most recent Instagram photos (use http://statigr.am/viewer.php) (and if you don't have an IG,  just post 5 recent cell phone photos).
5) What is your favorite recipe? Post it and photos!
6) If you could go back and be reborn in another era, what time period would you like to live in?
7) We all have tips and tricks for staying healthy in the winter. What do you do to keep the sickness away?
8) What do you order at starbucks?
9) Who is your favorite cartoon/animated character?
10) What color are your nails right now?
11) What kind of shoes are you wearing right now (or last wore if you're not wearing shoes)?
Happy New Years!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Six Money Moves to Make in 2013 to Be Ritch B*tch!

Posted By: Leah

I saw an article in the Wall Street Journal (No this is not going to be boring, and yes it's by the WSJ so that means it's legit). On six money moves to make in 2013. I'm not rich, and I'm not poor. I'm doing okay. But like anyone, I'd like to have a little more cash in the bank. Until the Fox network creates The Lovely Life of Leah Show  like The Mindy Project. (kidding... sorta)  and pays me $1 mil an episode, I need to work with what I've got.

Below is a C&P of the article that is by By Brett Arends of The Wall Street Journal. I've made my own notes, in pink like this  and am kind of pumped about trying these ideas out. I'll keep you posted. I'm a cheap person by nature, but I think these tips can help me, someone who's not spent even $1 in the past week (ok wait... I spent $17 on gas last night, but seriously other than that. nada. Oh, I had to get a new vaccuum this weekend... and groceries from like 3 different stores, ok yeah I'm not as cheap as I thought).
Are you ready for 2013?


Most financial-planning advice, like most New Year's resolutions, is too complex or too banal.
Half of it is designed for Type-A drill sergeants who already alphabetize their refrigerators. The other half you've heard before.

Let's assume you are already paying off your credit cards, contributing to your 401(k) at work and flossing after every meal.

Here are six unusual, and doable, smart money moves for the new year.

1 Work out your biggest savings goal.

Many people working today are likely to live for three decades after they become eligible for Social Security, but few of them have a clue what that means financially.

Just 42% of working-age Americans have even tried to calculate what they will need in retirement, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. (true story, I have no clue. other than the fact I plan on retiring a multi-millionnaire. clearly).

The grim reality: 60% of them have less than $25,000 saved up, excluding the value of their home, and 30% have less than $1,000. Good luck with that. (uh yeah, less than $25,000 for sure. Need to get on saving more...)

How much will you need? To replace your current income for 30 years, you would need—assuming an investment return of three percentage points above inflation—about 20 times one year's income. Social Security aims to replace about 40% of your annual income: By that yard stick you would need to save about 12 times your annual income before you retire. Yikes. can't retire yet.

For a more precise number, use the Social Security Administration's retirement estimator. Subtract your expected annual benefit from your current yearly pay, and multiply by 20.

2 Ramp up your investments.

Open a Roth individual retirement account, if you don't have one already. You can invest up to $5,000 for 2012 and $5,500 for 2013 and a nonworking spouse can invest the same. If you are older than 50, add $1,000. I have a financial planner through work, and need to meet with him. And ok yes, I should contribute the max, I know. I'm contributing now, and have a decent amount in there saved. But it's more like an amount out of my paycheck that I don't really miss :/

Then invest some money in a fund, such as the WisdomTree Emerging Markets Small Cap Dividend exchange-traded fund (DGS), specializing in smaller-company stocks in emerging markets. It shouldn't be the whole of your portfolio, but it should be in there. This is likely to be a volatile growth investment.

Emerging markets offer the best overall returns of any investment at the moment, according to two groups of experts who successfully predicted the last two financial crises: Research Affiliates, the investment advisory firm founded by Robert Arnott, and GMO, the fund company co-founded by Jeremy Grantham. GMO estimates that emerging markets offer an investment return over seven years of 50% plus inflation, handsomely beating any rival asset class.

3 Try homemade month.

Say goodbye to the soy chai lattes, burritos, pastas primavera and Overflowing Bucket O' Fries (a genuine bar food item spotted in Boston). Pick a month—any month—and try not eating out at all, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Is January too soon to start this? I have a couple things on the calendar already, but can I say as of this moment no other eating out? (Unless someone else pays of course!)

It's not easy. But these meals add up.

It costs you $10 to get a sandwich at work for lunch. It would cost you $2 in ingredients, and five minutes of time, to make that sandwich at home. Do you earn $96 an hour, after tax? If so, you can ignore the rest of this article. If not, try making the sandwich. True, we have a cafeteria at work that makes it just too easy to buy food.

Financial planners say that when new clients audit their household spending for the first time, the biggest shock is usually how much they spend in restaurants—70% of which goes to paying the restaurant's rent and labor costs.

Why do we go out to restaurants that promise "homemade" food? Because I don't know how to cook delicious food like I can have someone else make me. But I'll try.
4 Stop the bleeding.

If you're like a lot of families, you spend $200 or even $300 a month on cellphones, cable or satellite TV and Internet.

Take a scalpel—or an axe—to that budget and see what you can cut. Call your cellular provider and your TV company—cable or satellite—and haggle. Chances are, they will cut you a deal.

Try dumping pay TV altogether and watching movies and TV instead using an online service like Netflix, Amazon or Hulu Plus (partly owned by News Corp., owner of The Wall Street Journal), for less than $10 a month. I don't have wi-fi at home, so that doesn't work :(

If your family spends $200 a month on cellphones and pay TV, that's $2,400 a year. Over the course of 20 years, if you invested that money instead at 4%, you'd have an extra $70,000. Yes that amount is probably right for my phone, air card (I didn't say I didn't have internet, just no wifi and cable).

Haggle. Cut.

5 Hold a two-week auction. this is the one I'm most excited about!

Turn your house into Sotheby's for two weeks. Go on eBay.com and Craigslist.com and auction off everything you don't need.

The spare cellphone(s) in the kitchen drawer. The second, unused lawn mower. The designer vase you never use.

Everything.

Set yourself a target. Like $500? Double it. Omg like $1,000? Then see how close you get. Get the entire family involved.

Removing clutter is a great stress-buster, as psychologists since Ralph Waldo Emerson have noticed. Really?

This project will raise some free money. A process like this also has a remarkable way of focusing everyone in the family on the true value of a dollar.

6 Imagine you're dead.

Cheerful, isn't it?

This is why so few people think about dying. Yet from a financial perspective, they need to. Chances are you haven't prepared in case it happens.

This is not just about the elderly. About one in eight people currently aged 40 will die before they reach 65, according to government statistics. Yikes. sad.

This means two things.

First: Get life insurance, and disability insurance, if you have dependents. Yes.

Most people have some kind of coverage through work. It is usually desperately inadequate. Both one- and two-income households probably need more. It costs about $250,000 to raise a child for 18 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Four years of private college is another $160,000, according to the College Board. Could your surviving spouse cope on his or her own? Considering I don't have one... um no.

Second: It means make a will. If you already have one, make sure it is up to date. I sort of have one but not really. Need to get on that.

Dying intestate—without a will—can be catastrophic for the family left behind. And few disasters can be so easily and cheaply prevented.

So what do you think? Could you go a whole month without going out to eat at all? Or setting an ebay goal and actually doing the work to post enough of your stuff to make that goal a reality? it's worth a shot!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Droppin' it like it's hot

Posted By: Leah

Thank you to Ubisoft for sponsoring this post. Please visit Ubi.com to learn more about Ubisoft. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. #UbiChamps


I really like to dance. You all know this and even have proof after the Blogger N*Sync video that's made it's way around the internet (I'm the one in purple dancing all over with Gav lol). Clearly I'm not talking about doing fancy ballet or ballroom dance. In my mind,  I am the hottest hip hop dancer and club's should be begging me to make an appearance and show off my moves. I think I should have been cast in Step up or Honey or Stomp the Yard.    

Here's the thing. I'm not really that good of a dancer (sad, but true). And I'm a mom, not that mom's aren't allowed at the club, it's just... well... it's not possible or appropriate for me to go out and break it down like I used to when I was 18. Plus I'm 32. Again, not that 32 year old's aren't allowed in the club either... but... it just ads to me not being a professional hip hop/gogo dancer.  

You all think I'm kidding, but I'm not. I seriously love to bust out some dance moves. Anyway, the people over at Ubisoft know this about me. And that I hang out at home and not at the club (thank goodness). I got hooked up with my third (yes!) Just Dance type of game from them, The Hip Hop Dance Experience. It is my favorite dance game I've reviewed.  Even better than Just Dance 4, which I loved!!!

Here's why The Hip Hop Dance Experience rocks my life-
1) The dance moves are what you'd actually see at the club. Just Dance is more like fist pumping and easy moves (I know, it's a kid's game). This is rated T (for teen) so the moves are a little bit more racy (but don't worry Gav who's 6 played it with me, nothing is scanalous in inaprop).
2) The dance moves are awesome, because they got actual hip hop choreographers for the game.
3) The songs are some of my all time favorites from the 90's all the way to current songs (Yes, hip hop is my favorite music genre, I saw Lil Wayne two times in concert last year. I've seen Rick Ross 2 times in the past year, J. Cole three times in the past year. I've seen Nicki Minaj, TI, Lil Kim, Mob Deep, Wu-Tang, etc just in the past year a well).
4) This game plays the actual music videos in the background, so a lot of the moves you do are also being shown on screen by the real artists.

Here's the full list of songs. Pretty much every single one is a favorite:
Amerie - "1 Thing"
B.o.B – "So Good"
B.o.B ft Hayley Williams of Paramore – "Airplanes"
Chris Brown ft Juelz Santana – "Run It!"
Chris Brown ft Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes – "Look At Me Now"
Ciara ft Missy Elliott – "One, Two Step"
Da Brat – "Funkdafied"
Drake – "Over"
Flo Rida ft Sia – "Wild Ones"
Iyaz – "Replay"
Jay Sean ft Lil Wayne – "Down"
Kid Cudi – "Day ‘N’ Night"
Lil Wayne ft Static Major – "Lollipop"
LMFAO - "Sexy And I Know It"
Mark Morrison – "Return of the Mack"
Mystikal ft Nivea – "Danger (Been So Long)"
N.E.R.D. – "She Wants to Move"
Naughty by Nature – "Hip Hop Hooray"
Nelly – "Hot In Herre"
New Boyz – "You're A Jerk"
New Edition – "If It Isn't Love"
Nicki Minaj ft Drake – "Moment 4 Life"
Pitbull ft Chris Brown – "International Love"
Q-Tip – "Vivrant Thing"
R. Kelly – "Ignition (Remix)"
Rihanna ft Jeezy – "Hard"
Snoop Dogg ft Pharrell Williams – "Drop It Like It’s Hot"
Terror Squad ft Fat Joe, Remy – "Lean Back"
TLC – "Creep"
Trey Songz ft Fabolous – "Say Aah"
The moves are a lot more challenging than Just Dance, and I seriously get a good cardio workout doing this game. I highly recommend it. Plus, Gav's gotten to learn a lot of songs that I love that I had forgotten about but are classics!

(PS these are the 'clean' versions. They say 'sexy' and 'sex' but no real cusswords.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

My gift to you: Two Awesome Recipes and my Holiday Card!

Posted By: Leah
Happy Holidays everybody! As my special gift to you, I am sharing two EASY holiday recipes that I guarantee you will LOVE and will be a hit at any gathering. Also, my 2012 blog Holiday Card!


Gav's face just cracks me up! Love that boy.

I'm not much of a chef, so trust me, these recipes are EASY. And they are GOOD. Like so good that people will hunt you down and stalk you for the recipes. I'm going to make you famous.

Best Cheese Ball / Dip / Pecan Spread of Heaven
 (I made this name up. Clearly. Perfect for Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve)

It is so good that once you start eating it you simply cannot stop. I witnessed about 30 people going wild over it the first time I had it. Since then it always gets the same reaction. People cannot stop eating it.  I guarantee if you make this it will be loved and devoured immediately. Describing it as addictive is an understatement. The ingredients look kind of crazy, but when put together is is pure heaven:

Serves 4-5 
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped green onion
  • 2 tbsp chopped green pepper
  • ¼ c drained, crushed pineapple
  • 2 tsp seasoned salt (I recommend Lawry's if you have it)
  • 2 c chopped pecans
Soften cream cheese. Add onion, pepper, pineapple, seasoned salt, and one cup pecans. Mix well. Shape into ball and roll in remaining pecans. Chill several hours. Serve with crackers.
(*TIP- DO NOT EAT IMMEDIATELY. Like all good things, this one is worth the wait. I suggest at least 4 hrs, but overnight or even the next day is the best) Originally Posted 12/29/09
 
***
 
 BF's Mom's Pecan Coffee Cake
(Perfect for Christmas Morning or New Year's Day)

BF's mom is a REALLY good cook. Not only is the food she makes good, it always looks pretty. She gets and A+ in presentation. Always making sure the item is colorful, and amazing looking. This coffee cake is served every year at BF's family's home on Christmas. Last year was BF's first year away from his parents on Christmas morning, he chose to come to my house instead. (He has his own house, he just always spends Christmas Eve with his fam). That means he had 32 years of eating his mom's delicious Pecan Coffee Cake. I couldn't be the one to break his streak of Christmas morning deliciousness, so BF found his mom's recipe and sent it to me. Her recipe is published in a cookbook! That tells you how good it is.

 See the note at the bottom? You just put the ingredients together the nigh before, then on Christmas morning you put it in the oven. How awesome is that!? Originally posted 1/5/12

***


PS - Ok, yes, clearly I didn't really send out a holiday card from LovelyLifeofLeah.com 
Here is my real holiday card. And don't you just love the back?




*****

And... if you're feeling especially generous I have entered the blog version of my card into the Paper Mama's 2012 Holiday Photo Challenge! If you think Gav is adorable (duh, how could you not!) feel free to vote for us #5, and any of the other awesome cards. Click HERE to vote and see what I wished my wall of holiday cards looked like. So much creativity! Sprcial thanks to BF for the awesome photography on our card!


I wish each and every one of you have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays Everybody!

Coffee Talk Random City

Posted By: Leah
1. What type of phone do you have?
And android. And I love it. I was sitting outside with a group of people yesterday and we of course all had our phones on the table. I realized I was the ONLY one with a droid. And the funny thing is, this is totally by choice. I love having a keyboard. That's what it comes down to. Yes, my photo quality sucks compared to all the iphones (even the old ones) but my phone can do anything theirs can. Well except for screen shots :(

 
2. Look to your right, what do you see? 6 cups. OMG this is embarassing. Need to make a trip to the kitchen to wash those bad boys out soon. yikes...
 
3. List 5 random facts about yourself...
  • I'm 5'6" which I don't think is tall, however I'm taller than pretty much everyone I know (well girls at least)
  • I am STARVING. I just heard there are treats in the kitchen at work... need to get in there before that (free)goodness it straight ghanked.
  • My ratio of holiday cards I sent out vs. those I received is less than stellar. Not sure if everyone doesn't have time for cards anymore, or what. Oh well, my card I sent out is the best ever anyhow... I'll show it on here soon I promise ;)
  • Only 2 xmas gifts are still on their way to me. I love online shopping, but I always am guilty of ordering stuff last minute, then start to freak out when they don't arrive the next day. These are two of BF's biggest gifts. But I am glad Xmas eve is on Monday, so that's an extra day just in case!
  • I got sooo many complements on my hair yesterday. I have zero pics, but a while back I did a tutorial for you guys, if you ever want to do my super awesome, easy, better than everybody else's top knot.

4. What is that one talent you wish you were great at? I wish I could sing. I want to straight Zooey Deschanelle it up and dance around my house singing like a 40's jazz singer. IDK why, but people are shocked when they find out I have zero singing ability. Like imagine glass cracking. Birds falling out of the sky kind of bad.
 
5. Go to Wikipedia.org and hit random. The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band. Go to quotationspage.com and click random quotes. The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first ...album. Go to weheartit.com and click on “explore”. Seventh picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover. Use picmonkey.com to put it all together. Now show us your album :)  
R.G. Springsteen (American director of Hollywood B movies and TV shows) The Little Prince ..... omg I love this!
SN: Super sad that picmonkey's 'Royale Features' are $4.99 a month as of this week. Seriously? How am I supposed to do may faux graphic design now?
  Link up with Natalie and be super random today too!

 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

So What! Wednesday

Posted By: Leah


So What! You know the ShopLeah luxe knotted hair ties I make? I had this whole plan to do a cyber monday deal on my blog, and help you guys with some awesome, yet inexpensive gifts for your friends, daughters, etc. I ended up doing something even better with them. I have made a zillion sets and have been giving them away to people who need them. For example, last night Gav and I got fro yo and the girl at the counter was extra helpful and sweet to us. Boom, here's a set of hair ties. I guess it's like a tip. People love them. Either they've never heard of knotted hair ties, or they say they saw them at Anthro and couldn't justify spending $12 on them. Gav loves giving them away too... at 6 years old it's not too young to have the happy feeling you get when you give to others.

So What! I'm working on a couple guest posts on the D-word. Wait, not that  d-word (get your minds out of the gutter), I'm talking about being divorced. I don't know if it's just who shows up on my blog feed or what, but for me the only posts I see on being a single mom just break my heart. I want to offer a different point of view. Not all single moms are broke, struggling, or in survival mode. It's a delicate subject, but doesn't have to be. Sometimes people come together to have the most awesome kid ever. Then their work is done and they can then go on to create more awesomeness, just not together. Any questions you have for me? I don't know what others want to know. I think most people are scared to ask me about it. It's really okay, I'd love to answer what you were curious about. Or offer advice.

So What! I am still loving the unseasonably warm weather so much. I know I complain about every season that isn't spring or summer because of the cold... so I can totally deal with a warm winter! And I LOVE it that it gets dark early now, because everyone has their fun holiday lights up.

So What! My dad makes the best pancakes ever. They are whole wheat which I know sounds really gross, or at least a really earthy-crunchy. Which makes sinse, because he got the recipe in the 70's from a hippy guy he knew. My dad got some really good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips. I put butter on my pancakes and with the chocolate chips and syrup... OMG these pancakes were BANGIN! They tasted just like chocolate cake. But better. I have zero photos, but I'll do another post with the recipe and pics the next time I have them. YUM! It was per BF's request. He should win an award for making things 'next level.'

So What! Random, but this is a huge pet peeve / PSA. If you have something to say to someone pick up the phone or tell them in person. This whole 'I'll vent through an e-mail' thing is so stupid. Fortuinately everyone I know has been 'trained' not to do this. But I JUST heard someone I know having a serious conversation with someone WHO LIVES IN HER SAME HOUSE via e-mail. Grow a set people, and speak the words.

So What! I talked about this a couple weeks back, but I'm sooo super excited for my 2013 planner that I ordered. I need to find a way to be accountable in using it, so it doesn't fall to the wasteside like all my other planners have. I might even do like a 'this is what I'm really for real going to do with this planner' post just so if I forget I can go back and remember my plan for my planner (And now I have a post title, YES!)

So What! Today is my work's holiday party. Well, it's like our 5th one or something. But this is the one where it's just the people in my actual office and we're going off-site and there will be gifts! My shirt may or may not have Hello Kitty on it and say "Hello Presents." Ok, it does ;) It's non-holiday specific, yet festive!

So What! I seriously love Rhianna's new song Diamonds and Bruno Mars whole new album too. I even let Gav stay up late to watch The Voice because Rhianna was on at 9. Hold on... I don't even know who won, I hope it was the guy with the beard (I don't actually watch the show, but caught like 30 min of the finale for Re-Re and Bruno).

So What Wednesday
What are you saying So What! to this week?


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

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Posted By: Leah

Monday, December 17, 2012

Special Elf on the Shelf Stories in My Own Life this Week

Posted By: Leah
Last Friday's events in Connecticut have further reminded all of us that life is precious, and can be taken away at any moment. It's important for kids to feel safe, and experience a normalcy, no matter what is going on in the outside world. Everyone is dealing with what happened in Connecticut in the best way they know how.

I've mentioned this before, but Gav truly is a great little boy. He's sweet, thoughtful, caring and kind. He is amazing at math and doing so well with his reading. He has had a little bit of trouble this year with classmates being loud, off-task, and unfortuinately Gav has taken part in this activity a few days as well. This past Friday morning Gav asked me to walk him into his classroom (usually I drop him off as a car rider) and see his class's Elf on the Shelf. As soon as we got to Gav's classroom his teacher said "Gavin! You've made Eagle! Go to the Media Center to be on the morning announcements!"


(this photo was actually taken last October, but it's Gav's same happy skip)

Without even glancing back at me, Gav skipped all the way down the hall like a happy burst of light. I followed him into the Media Center, because I didn't want him to realize he left me, freak out, and go running back to his classroom and miss being on tv. Being an Eagle is the top honor for his Elementary school. Gav received this status last year right around this time, and I'm so proud he earned it again. Students get to be an Eagle for hard work, good behavior, and good leadership. It was so special to see him receive this award!

I know it is no coincidence that Gavin's Eagle status last year and this year at this exact time is because of our Elf on the Shelf. Gavin truly believes that this elf speaks to Santa every night and reports back on if he's been naughty or nice. Gav has worked especially hard at going above and beyond to help others, and he has been rewarded. I am so proud!

Unfortuinately, as I mentioned above, some of Gav's classmates have had some discipline issues. I was generously given a handmade elf skirt for a review and giveaway by Sincerely, Paula. I have a truly magical story about the giveaway winner too, but I'll get to that in a moment.

I figured the best way to transition 'Elfina' in and also address the other kid's behavior issues was to let Gav know that our boy elf, Elfie had left to help their families this week, but would be home soon.

Elfina arrived in Elfie's car, after he drove it out the door. Gav said Elfie was only posing in the car, that elves fly, of course. Elfina arrived with a glass containing  christmas tree shaped sprinkles, a note letting Gav know she'd be in town this week, and a note on the jar with instructions to plant the trees inside.


Gav said this was not Elfina, her name was Elfilina (similar, but has an L). So we went with that.

Gav was a little confused about planting the tree 'seeds' inside. But I gave him the foam I use for cake pops and had him plant in that. He set down a little holiday hand towel by the window, planted and watered the seeds. Plants grow with sunlight and water, of course!

The next morning, cookie trees grew! Gav said that he knew the trees did not grow on sticks, but Elfilina put them there to make them more fun to eat; everything's better on a stick!


I realized something this week that I hadn't known in the year we've had our elf... it's head turns!  Gav was soo happy to see Elfilina in the rear view window when I picked him up from his afterschool. He said that the kids in his class were a little better, but he knew Elfie still had work to do and wouldn't come home for a few more days.

If you've seen the movie Elf, you know that elves "stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup."


Elfilina has a sweet tooth. Gav was worried this past weekend that he will lose his sweet tooth and not like dessert anymore. I told him I wish I had that problem but it most likely won't happen to him. Well... unless all he eats is sugar and his teeth rot.

Anyway, Gav loves donuts and so does Elfilina!
I did a swap on Etsy for these ADORABLE cheerio donuts from Arlene of FunkyDuners.

(What's an Etsy Swap? It's when instead of purchasing an item from an Etsy seller, you send them something you made and they send you an item they made. Modern day bartering.)

I am so thankful to have traditions such as Elf on the Shelf that I share with my son. As a mom, sharing the Elf on the Shelf excitement with Gav has enriched my life in experiencing the magic of the holidays.

I also feel so fortuinate that I've been able to offer a coupple fun and festive giveaways here on my blog the past few weeks. I am so excited to announce that Maria was the winner of the Elf Skirt Giveaway last week sponsored by Sincerely, Paula. Congratulations! When entering the giveaway, Maria let me know that she did not yet have an elf on the shelf for her kids, but had entered a giveaway for one and was crossing her fingers to win not only the skirt, but the Elf as well from a different blog.

I e-mailed Maria last Friday that she won the my skirt giveaway and she was so thrilled. She said that the drawing for the Elf on the Shelf was was that day as well and I said I'd think good thoughts for her to win. Just an hour later Maria e-mailed me that she won the Elf on the Shelf!!! Now her family can celebrate the magic this year. I am so excited for her. It's truly an example of positive thinking.


There is only a week left before Christmas and Elfie still needs to make his return (Elfilina will be back next year for sure, though).
And if you haven't entered, check out the
Elf on the Shelf Photo iheartfaces Challenge.

Go to iheartfaces to link up your best Elf on the Shelf photo! Contest is open until the end of December, so there's still lots of time to get that perfect shot.


PS Last few hours to enter my Boutique Teas giveaway! Click here to enter.

What has your elf been up to this week?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Blooming Tea and Glass Tea Cup with Infuser Giveaway and Review

Posted By: Leah


I've always been a tea drinker. Ever since I was a little girl my family and I have had tea in the morning. In college, I drank tea in the evenings. It was so relaxing. I heard about a company called Boutique Teas and was interested in seeing what they were all about. Clicking around the Boutique Teas website, I was impressed... I had never seen such a fun tea selection!

I know as bloggers a lot of time companies approach us to do reviews. This was not the case with Boutique Teas. I was the one to approach Tiffany, the owner. She had never done a giveaway before, so this very well may be the first time you hear about Boutique Teas. But trust me, it will not be the last. I love this tea!
This is Boutique Teas' Organic Peppermint Patty Puerh... mint and chocolate!

I was sent a sample of White Peach Jasmine Blooming Teas by Tiffany, the owner and creater of Boutique Teas. I will get to the review of those and why I chose it in a minute, but I wanted to let you know that Tiffany has offered Lovely Life of Leah readers an AMAZINGLY GENEROUS giveaway. The giveaway will be Boutique Tea's Exotic Blooming Tea Gift Set, which is 12 tea buds and a 16 oz. Glass cup with infuser! An over $30 value!

About Boutique Teas
Boutique Teas is an online tea retailer specializing in organic and fair trade artisan quality loose leaf teas. Tea artisans believe tea leaves have a positive ‘chi' or spirit. Steeping leaves in hot water, releasing the spirit. The positive spirit is transferred to you while you sip. Embrace the spirit of tea!

About Tiffany, creater of  Boutique Teas, in her own words:
My name is Tiffany Williams. I lived in Tokyo, Japan for a year, drinking the worlds best tea. Every weekend, I would go to a tea room for a pot of tea and a slice of cake. It was a great snack after a long day of walking around Tokyo. When I returned home to the Los Angeles area, I found it hard to find quality loose leaf tea. Boutique Teas started in 2009. I discovered the World Tea Expo in Vegas a few years ago and began sourcing teas direct from origin. I also teach classes in Claremont and at the annual Los Angeles Tea Lovers Festival. Last year, I traveled to fair trade and organic tea gardens in Sri Lanka.

Tea is more than medicine. I educate my customers about the spirit of tea, the history, and the manufacturing process. Customers have told me that my teas changed their life. I enjoy exposing customers to fresh flavorful full leaf teas from around the world.
Review
You all know I like to share awesome things that I discover, here on my blog. That's actually how I got started writing, just wanting to share great things with others.

I know that not everyone is a tea drinker. And that is why I want to do this review giveaway, to have an opportunity to introduce more people to good tea. Something so simple that makes me so happy.

Honestly, I did not grow up drinking lose leaf, brewed, or any kind of fancy tea. I was happy with the boxed stuff from the store in tea bags until a few years ago. I was at my friend Kari's home and she served me brewed coconut tea. It was AMAZING! Drinking this helped me feel so happy, so relaxed... and there's no alcohol, no chemicals, it was all natural, and wonderful. I immediately went to Teavana and purchased everything I needed to have my own tea experience at home.

(Below are all non-Teavana products. I used my own kettle to boil water and a french press (normally used for coffee) for the tea. Oh, and a Hello Kitty mug (of course!) You DO NOT need to invest a lot of money to have great tea.

But like I said, I know not everyone has had the opportunity to experience amazing tea. I didn't want to do a giveaway of a lose tea, just because there is a little bit of an art to it. The amount of tea, the temperature of the water, the steeping time... it's a more complex process than you'd think. But trust me... it's worth it!

After e-mailing back and forth with Tiffany, she selected her Organic White Peach Jasmine Flower tea for me to sample and to be included in the giveaway. Blooming tea is amazing... it starts off in a ball... and a flower blooms in your tea pot! It's real! 


If you don't know how to brew tea, it's pretty easy (I know I just said it's an art, but it's an easy art. you just follow directions). You get hot water (I use a kettle because I'm kind of a pro at this, but some hot water boiled in the microwave works too). Put it in your tea pot, tea brewer, empty mason jar, whatever you want and add the tea. There's no measuring required with the ball.


 The Boutique Teas package suggested 180 - 200 degree water. I admit, I did take out one of my other tins, but only to double check the steeping time for a blooming tea. As you will see below, it said 3-4 minutes. Works for me!

So this is the exciting part, you don't want to step away from your tea, and you probably want to use a clear container because this is when the tea blooms!!!





It's so exciting!! The flower blooms immediately and it's so much fun to watch.


Resist drinking the tea that second because it really does need to steep. With white tea, you can be casual about the time, with black tea and other dark teas you need to be careful with the timing so it doesn't steep too long. It can become a little bitter, sort of like too-strong coffee.


 Organic White Peach Jasmine Flower tea was amazing. Don't let the Jasmine in the name of this tea fool you. It is not a floral tea (have you ever had tea that tasts like you're drinking a rose bush? It's not my favorite). This tea was a delicate peach, with essences of blueberry and a very light hint of the jasmine. It was aramatic and wonderful. My morning was honestly 100 times better today because of this tea. I added some truvia (natual sweetner).

I wanted to show you guys that even if you don't have the whole tea set-up with a tea pot, etc. Blooming teas are super easy to brew, because they are compact and don't have crazy lose tea that you need to contain. You can easily pour it into a mug with no strainer. I used one but it wasn't necessary.
I also had a great idea to put the tea into a heat-proof container once it was sweetened, put it in the refrigerator and have sweet tea. It was fabulous! I have been a loyal Teavana customer, but thanks to Tiffany, I was able to experience Boutique Teas, that to me... were even better. I've had the strawberry Teavana ball before and it was well... sort of fake tasting. Boutique Teas truly are authentic, organic, natural flavors.


 
Giveaway
What Tiffany says about her teas changing people's lives, I couldn't agree more. If you aren't a tea fan, it probably means you have never had really good tea. Good tea is more than a paper tea bag of some herbs in a cup. The flavors, the richness, the delicate hints of sweetness or savery are what makes tea excellent. So similar to wine, good tea is expertly made and requires the right ingredients.  

Organic White Peach Jasmine Flower (12 tea buds)--Organic white tea buds infused with blueberry and peach essence sewn around a red amaranth flower. A perfect balance of succulent peach juice and sweet jasmine flowers.

Plus a 16 oz. Glass Tea cup with infuser!
a Rafflecopter giveaway



If you would like to go ahead and order the Exotic Blooming Tea Flowet Gift Set (a PERFECT holiday gift!) I would recommend doing so now, to make sure it arrives in time for Christmas. It is on sale for $30 and comes with 12 tea balls and a 16 oz glass tea cup with infuser.
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