It’s that time again…Katie has started ABCMouse!

So, Katie has been doing “homework” lately—we bought her a workbook like Owen gets for his Summer Slide and she has fun with that, plus she also has a few educational iPad apps that she enjoys. She saw a commercial for the other day and asked if she could have it on the iPad again.

First, huh? She remembers? It hasn’t been on the iPad for probably two years now!

Second, well, why not? Owen really enjoyed it and if she wants to do it…it certainly can’t hurt! (And in the back of my mind I keep wondering if maybe that’s one of the reasons why Katie is a touch behind as compared to Owen—even though I know I shouldn’t compare the two.)

So the thought was in my mind but on the back burner since we’ve been busy. So imagine my surprise when out of the blue I get an email from someone at ABCMouse saying my site came up as one that linked to them and—long story short—would I want to become a full-fledged official referral source. Well, sure, why not?

So Katie was EXCITED to start her “homework” and she kept asking to do it. Before I knew it, she was 14% done with the pre-k level. Hopefully her excitement continues! And hopefully I make some money off referrals!

HOLY $H!TBALL$ this product is amazing!!

Ladies, listen up. I’ve discovered a game changer if you straighten your hair—you have GOT to check out the Dafni. I got mine on QVC because at the time it was cheaper than Amazon, but less than a week later Amazon now has it cheaper. This cut my straightening time from 45 minutes (including blow drying with a round brush and then ironing) to 10 minutes (15 tops). I can’t gush about this thing enough: DAFNI The Original Hair Straightening Ceramic Brush.

This result took me TEN minutes:

My review can be found here but here it is. (Sidenote: I learned you can’t say HOLY $H!TBALL$ in a review. LOL)

I have long naturally wavy hair that takes me, on average, 35-40 minutes to blow dry straight and then another 15 minutes or so to touch up with a steam iron (actually a Maxius Maxiglide MX-597 One Step Hair Straightening Iron with Steam Burst Technology). But I am always on the lookout for a revolutionary hair straightener and I’ve tried a bunch of them. I’ve actually been using the Maxiglide for 10+ years because it was so awesome–until now, I would have said it was revolutionary. But this? The Dafni? HOLY SMOKES. This might just be the best money I’ve EVER spent!

I went into the first use with some trepidation as products like these generally have big claims and then generally don’t come through. But what you see in my photos literally took 10 minutes. TEN MINUTES! I then spent another five going over some sections a few more times and trying to get the ends better, but still…15 minutes?! FIFTEEN MINUTES?! ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.

Is it perfect? No. Obviously your hairdresser doing a salon blow-out will get it smoother and it will look better, but for an average person doing this at home? Yes. You can recreate your own efforts in a fraction of the time. My after photo with the Dafni is what my hair looks like after I blow it dry with a round brush for 40 minutes!

Also, my arms aren’t tired from holding a blow-drier and/or iron for 40 minutes and I’m not sweating from blowing hot air at my head for 40 minutes. I used to seriously plan ahead when I was going to dry/straighten my hair because it does take so long, but now? I can pretty much do it whenever I have a spare 15 minutes! The longest part of the process for me today was waiting for my hair to dry because I wanted to do it naturally but that’s no big deal because I do that some days anyway.

I am just completely blown away. My first thought once I finished in ten minutes was HOLY COW. This might be the best money I’ve ever spent on a hair product–kicking the Maxiglide to second place.

I get nothing for referrals—I just love this product!

Cirque Italia (Water Circus)

We surprised the kids with tickets to a water circus. We were driving around beforehand running errands and they saw the big tents and they knew it was a circus!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as I thought it would be from being called a WATER circus…it was pretty much your basic circus acts with a few of them done inside a ring of falling water. I didn’t really even take any pictures. It was also REALLY warm inside the tent and we were there an hour early, so it was a loooong afternoon of sitting on uncomfortable seats in an unfriendly temperature. There were some neat acts and the kids enjoyed it, but it certainly didn’t compare to the Big Apple Circus we saw last year.

Helloooo HelloFresh!

I’ve been thinking about trying HelloFresh for months, so when a friend offered a free box ($60 value), I grabbed it!


I selected the Omnivore box and then selected the meals I wanted, opting against one of the suggested meals because I am not a big artichoke fan:

  1. Rosemary Beef Flatbread with Caramelized Onion & Broccoli
  2. Spicy Shrimp ‘Fra Diavolo’ with Garlic Crostini
  3. Pan-Seared Calamari over Bulgur & Chorizo Hash with Parsley Gremolata

It’s refrigerated and shipped UPS—you pick what day it’s coming so you know for sure. I was very impressed upon opening the box—everything was superbly packaged and labeled (each meals’ ingredients are bagged together, minus the refrigerated proteins) inside an insulated bag. I was surprised they actually used frozen water bottles instead of dry ice (I tweeted them saying it was cool, and they replied that it was to reduce their carbon footprint) so we got four drinkable bottles of water as well! The three days’ worth of meals arrives in one box.

Once I actually started the meal prep, I was even more impressed—shrimp were peeled and deveined, garlic heads were peeled, everything was the exact amount required (except the red pepper flakes!), and the instructions were beautiful and detailed (I see why it’s as expensive as it is!). For us it’s above budget, but as a treat now and again to try new dishes it’s definitely worth it!

I discovered I like fresh oregano:

Spicy Shrimp ‘Fra Diavolo’ with Garlic Crostini (download recipe):

It was quite good. It wasn’t something I’d likely make regularly but it was a nice change of pace. And I had been worried about portion size, but Tom and I had a full meal and even had some leftover!

If anyone is interested, using my personal code AV8W2E will get you $40 off your first box! (I also get a $20 discount on a future box.) I definitely recommend trying at least one box as it’s definitely worth it for $20. There are no minimum purchases, you can postpone up to three months of future deliveries, and you can cancel at any time. They also send you a reminder email on the last day of meal selection to make sure you have either picked the meals you want or paused that week’s delivery. Of course they’re hoping you will get sucked in, and I can easily see how that would happen—I only planned on getting this one box, but I find myself looking ahead at the upcoming recipes to see what’s being offered…and drooling. :)

I can’t wait to make the other two meals!!

2010 USMC Birthday Ball

The ball moved to a new location this year—the Atheneum Suite Hotel in downtown Detroit. The rooms were pretty nice, but read the linked review for the whole rundown.

We had been looking forward to a crazy time like we had last year—since we knew more people AND it was an open bar again. However, the alcohol wasn’t really settling well with me (it was giving me a headache), so I was done drinking by about 8. Tom was having no problems, though, and I didn’t see him most of the night (after the ceremony and dinner). And for whatever reason, the music just wasn’t anything I wanted to dance to, so I pretty much sat at the table with a friend of mine (her guy was also working the room) and then after she went back to her room, I sat alone and Tweeted and Facebooked and played Scrabble. Big whoop, eh?

The event was officially over at 11 so I went to find Tom to tell him I was going back to the room…and let’s just say that the rest of the night didn’t go well (I was upset, he was not himself, we fought, I was wide awake, and he was passed out within 10 minutes of getting back to the room). Then the A/C kept me up all night (again, read the review) and I couldn’t wait for morning to get the hell out of there and back home.

So, I got to dress up…and we did get our official picture taken, but that was about all the fun I had, unfortunately. And aside from one cell phone photo, the official pics which we don’t have yet, and a really blurry pic someone took of us, this is the only pic we have:

And the blurry pic, which looks like it would have been awesome if it was in focus!

I made the news [paper]!

Five Asian buffets offer change of pace
Melody Baetens / The Detroit News

Metro Detroit has a wide variety of Asian buffets. Here’s a look at five standout options.

Fuji Japanese Buffet
32153 John R., Madison Heights
Call: (248) 616-8868

Price: $11.99 lunch Mon.-Fri.; $13.99 lunch Sat.-Sun.; $17.99 dinner Mon.-Thurs.; $19.99 dinner Fri.-Sat.

Hours: 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and Sun.; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

Highlights: For a strip mall buffet, Fuji is surprisingly cool and hip. When I went, there was a considerable number of college-age diners, many of Asian decent. Sometimes, if you go late enough, you can get a glimpse (or an earful) of a private dance party or karaoke session in one of the restaurant’s many banquet rooms.

Food-wise, Fuji’s strengths are snow crab legs with melted butter, gyoza (dumplings), vegetable and shrimp tempura, and sushi. Don’t be afraid to try the green tea ice cream for dessert. “What keeps me coming back are the platters of all-you-can-eat sushi being made fresh as you watch,” says diner Jennifer Hudson of Troy. “Is it the best food you’ll ever eat? No, but it’s certainly worth the price of admission.”

My new color and cut!

Home – Flip

My Yelp Review

To be upfront and honest, I only tried Flip because of their recent Groupon deal. I have a regular salon that is five convenient minutes from my house, but I just couldn’t pass up Flip’s awesome deal–color isn’t cheap, you know, and I’d never do it otherwise. So I drove the 25ish minutes there (rush hour traffic, you know) and luckily found a parking spot close to the salon. I fed the meter with two hours (maximum allotted time) and set off.

I was a bit early, and was welcomed nicely. I took a seat to wait, which only turned out to be enough time to look around, snap a few shots for Yelp, and then Chelsey was calling me back. She was really very nice and offered me a beverage, then asked me a TON of questions about what I wanted, what I liked, what my hair normally does, how I normally style it, what type of products I use, how much time I spend on my hair, etc…and was thrilled I brought my own pictures to show her what I was thinking (from past hairstyles and colors). I was really surprised at all the questions–I’ve never had a stylist ask so many questions before, but it was nice to see she was REALLY paying attention and trying to get a handle on what exactly I wanted to make sure I was satisfied. She actually suggested a bit different highlight colors than I’d had before and explained why, and I definitely agreed.

Score one for Chelsey.

I apologized that my hair was a little greasy–I’d straightened it that week and it always lasts at least 3-4 days, but since I knew I was coming to the salon, I pushed it to six days, but it was definitely past its prime. So imagine my surprise when she said it was actually GOOD that it was a little oily, because it would help during the coloring, as the oil provided more of a barrier and my hair wouldn’t dry out as much. Interesting. And definitely an interesting tip I’d never heard before.

Score two for Chelsey.

Now, admittedly, I’m not much of a small-talk person, so salon visits always make me a little anxious. You never know if the stylist is going to talk your ear off or if you’re going to sit there in silent awkwardness the entire time…but Chelsey was awesome. Nothing ever felt strained and I felt relaxed the entire time–the snippets of conversation here and there felt extremely natural and never forced.

Score three for Chelsey.

She worked consistently and quickly and I just sat and relaxed, not even reading a magazine or playing on my phone–it was nice to just be out of the house and not. have. to. do. anything. but. sit. there. (I’m a SAHM so getting out of the house ALONE is great on its own. Being pampered is another level of excitement.)

So there was highlighting and sitting under the dryer and washing and conditioning then adding toner then sitting under the dryer again. By the time we were ready for the haircut, I’d actually been there almost 2.5 hours–and I suddenly freaked out that my meter had run out and I was probably going to get a ticket. I asked Chelsey if the parking police were bad and she said yeah, pretty much–then OFFERED TO GO FEED THE METER FOR ME!! Wait, what? SHE was going to run out herself? Whoa. She even said she’d grab quarters if I needed them, but I had change in my pocket. But, seriously, WHOA. That is service.

Score four for Chelsey.

I was getting a little nervous because it was nearing 9:00 (closing time) and we were really no where near being done–she was still cutting my hair, and it still had to be blown out straight (and I have a thick head of hair). I made some comment to that effect, and she said if I wasn’t in a hurry, she wasn’t either. Awesome. I mean, I didn’t really expect her to cut me off mid-cut or mid-blow dry at 9 on the dot, but I was a little worried that she might rush through it and not do as good of a job. I should not have worried AT ALL. She continued to do an amazingly thorough job, and she was finishing up about 9:45! And it was GORGEOUS. Great color, great shine, and full of movement! It was one of THE best haircuts (and colors) I’ve EVER had. And you could tell she was honestly thrilled that I was thrilled.

Score five for Chelsey.

Checkout was a snap and just took moments. (Note, you CANNOT put tips on your credit card…so it was a good thing I had a stash of emergency cash in my wallet.) I also had no problems using my Groupon coupon from my iPhone (I didn’t print anything out). It was a good deal, too–I don’t get color a lot, but from prices I have seen elsewhere, it didn’t seem terribly expensive (especially for the level of service received).

Overall, I had a really great experience from start to finish, and I am so glad I tried this salon…and Chelsey was amazing. Flip definitely gets five solid stars.

Flip UltraHD Camcorder

I also own the Flip Mino so my review is based on a comparison between the Flip Mino and the new Flip UltraHD.

  • The original Mino is more compact, and feels a little “plastic-y.”
  • The Mino HD has some heft to it, but it also makes it feel a bit sturdier.
  • The original Mino has an all-plastic outer shell.
  • The Mino HD has a smooth silicone/rubberish gripper material (which I loooove).
  • The original Mino? 9 seconds of video = 4.53MB
  • The Mino HD? 9 seconds of video = 10.1MB
  • The original Mino is rechargable via USB only.
  • The Mino HD is rechargable via USB and replaceable AA batteries (says the description, although to be honest, I haven’t read the instructions, and I can’t easily see where/how the battery compartment works).
  • The original Mino has a TV out jack.
  • The Mino HD has an HDMI out jack.
  • The original Mino has touch-sensitive buttons (which I find somewhat confusing.)
  • The Mino HD has actual buttons (which I find easier).

Both versions work well in low light (and do an amazing job compared to my Canon SD600 digital camera).

The HD version powers up a smidge quicker (maybe 2 seconds), but that can be a lot if you’re trying to catch a kid or a pet in action.

The only reason it gets 4 stars is because I am not fond of the USB connection–as I said, the unit has a bit of heft to it, so when I plug it into my laptop, I feel like I need to brace the camcorder so it doesn’t weigh on the USB. I am sure it’s strong enough, but I worry about it.

Overall, I can highly recommend this camcorder…it is just up to you to decide which features are most important (item size, file size, battery charging, etc.)

We received this item for free as part of the Amazon Vine™ Program.