Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mary Lambert: Heart On My Sleeve Album Review

I've been looking forward to Mary Lambert's album release since the world was first introduced to her in Macklemore's song "Same Love," and more recently when her single "Secrets" was released. So when One2One Network invited me to review a copy of her new album, Heart On My Sleeve, I happily agreed.

Heart On My Sleeve is a very emotional and raw album and touches on a lot of tough subjects in Mary Lambert's personal life. I'll admit at first listen, there were only a couple tracks that I really cared for, but as I listen to the album more, I'm finding that I love more. There are 3 tracks in particular that I really love and recommend downloading (or listening to):
  • "Secrets" - I featured this song on Tuesday Tunes last month. It's an upbeat, quirky song about embracing who you are and not being afraid to flaunt all that you are. 
  • "So Far Away" - Anyone in a long distance relationship can appreciate this track. It's about the sadness of being apart, but being able to pull through anything just thinking 
  • "Heart On My Sleeve" - The title track of the album has THE catchiest chorus and I can't stop jamming to it. It's another upbeat tune about a new relationship/crush developing. I can see this being her next hit for sure.
The album is available for download on iTunes and Amazon. You can also stay up-to-date with the latest Mary Lambert news by connecting on her official site, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channel.

*Disclosure: I participated in the Mary Lambert Heart On My Sleeve album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.

Read More - Mary Lambert: Heart On My Sleeve Album Review

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cause of the Month: The Keep A Breast Foundation

We've been seeing a lot of pink this month due to October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To support this, I've decided to spotlight the Keep A Breast Foundation as this month's cause on the blog. I've heard of the organization in passing, but it wasn't until a bundle of items benefitting the cause popped up on my beloved Golden Tote that it really caught my attention.

The Keep A Breast Foundation strives to "eradicate breast cancer for future generations" by educating people about prevention, early detection, and cancer-causing toxins that are around in our everyday environment.

Accounting for approximately 1 in 3 cases of cancers, it's the most common type of cancer diagnosed among women in the U.S., and happens every 3 minutes! Additionally, research has shown that tumors diagnosed in women under 40 are typically more aggressive and less responsive, making it EXTREMELY important to detect any abnormalities early on.

Photo credit: Keep A Breast Foundation
As you can see from the graphic above, about 40% of women and 80% of men (YES, men can get breast cancer too), do NOT have a breast health routine. So how can you check yourself? Follow the steps listed in the graphic below from the Keep A Breast Foundation. If you feel a lump or anything abnormal, take a trip to your doctor right away. Always better to get it checked out, even if it ends up being nothing.

Photo credit: Keep A Breast Foundation
Although there's no specific formula as to who gets diagnosed with breast cancer, there are natural factors that come into play such as aging (the risk increases as women get older), genetics/family history, race, breast tissue density, and periods. But it's not just natural factors that come into play. Some additional factors to keep in mind to help prevent breast cancer and keep your body healthy are refraining from smoking, eating well (high fiber, low fat diet), exercise, and breastfeeding.

Products you purchase can also have an effect on your body and potentially contribute to breast cancer. If possible, avoid products that contain parabens, phthalates, heavy metals, natural cleaning products (use basic ingredients such as lemon, baking soda and vinegar), and refrain from microwaving your food in plastic containers or drinking out of a plastic water bottle that's been sitting in your car burning up.

To support the Keep A Breast Foundation, I ordered the Keep A Breast Bundle from Golden Tote ($25) that I mentioned earlier in this post. There were 3 different color options available, but I opted for the grey one (in case you're interested in ordering but aren't crazy about the colors). You can also donate directly to the Foundation.

Photo credit: Golden Tote
Whether you're able to donate monetarily or not, consider taking action on social media and spreading the word and connecting with the Keep Abreast Foundation on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest!

Read More - Cause of the Month: The Keep A Breast Foundation

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fun Findings Friday

Apple OS X Yosemite:
Attention Apple MacBook and Mac owners: OS X Yosemite, Apple's newest software is now available, and free! There are a number of updates that come with the update, but most notable are the redesigned interface, continuity (you can answer calls to your mobile phone on your computer, use your phone's hotspot as Wi-Fi on another Apple device, etc.), and new apps! Learn more about the update, including a "how to" on Apple's site.

Photo credit: Apple
Kate Spade Friends + Family Sale:
This morning I had a equally fabulous and terrible email in my inbox - an announcement for Kate Spade's 3-day Friends & Family sale, offering 30% off your entire purchase. If you've had your eye on a new bag or some of their adorable accessories, now's the time to bite the bullet! Be sure to use code "F14FFUS" at checkout to apply the discount. Happy shopping!

Taken 3 Trailer
A few weeks ago the Taken 3 trailer starring Liam Neeson was released, and I still can't contain my excitement for it. Any movie with Liam Neeson is at the top of my list, especially his thriller movies. Being the third installment of the movie, you'd think it'd start to get dull, but that's so wrong. Watching this trailer alone has me on edge and I can't wait to see the film in January!

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Completing My First Big Race: #runDisney Tower of Terror 10-Miler

I'm not a hardcore fitness person by any means. But one of my big goals for 2014 was to up my fitness. With that at the top of my mind, something possessed/inspired me to sign up for runDisney's Tower of Terror 10-Miler earlier this year and convince my best friend Lisa to do so as well. And let me tell you, 10 miles - MILES (not "10k"), is a lot harder than it sounds.

Both Lisa and I have been taking spin classes for a little over 7-1/2 months and even picked up a few sessions of personal training in the weeks before our race. Adding in that cardio and strength training helped tremendously! Walking my dog a couple times a day definitely wouldn't cut it for training.

The Tower of Terror 10-Miler took place Saturday, 10/3 and didn't start until 10 p.m.! We started the drive from Tampa a little later than we wanted to and rushed over to ESPN Wide World of Sports (the Expo/"hub" for the race weekend) to pick up our race bibs, shirt and information with just a little spare time before the Expo closed at 3 p.m. It was pretty surprising that it closed so early with the race being so late, so if you plan to do a runDisney event in the future, be sure to pay attention to the  times!

Getting over to the race at MGM (now known as Hollywood Studios) was extremely easy but had a bit of a wait from our on-site hotel (Disney's Pop Century), with so many other people participating lined up. Disney lined up a huge fleet of charter buses (think the ones you took on far field trips in school) to run between their hotels and the "drop off point" in the MGM parking lot.

We made it over to the kickoff location with plenty of time to spare and from there it was a waiting game. It was really cool to see so many people dressed up in costume for the race - especially big groups of people. I might consider that next time! But for this race, Lisa and I both rocked the awesome Champion shirts we received with our event registration.

As it got closer to race time, the crowd grew and I couldn't believe how many people were participating! I tried to snap a picture, but this doesn't even come close to showing you how crazy it was in that parking lot. I didn't have a race time to enter since this was my first race ever so I was assigned to corral "J" - the very last one, which was a bit unfortunate. If you're new to the whole "race" thing like I was, the faster you are (with proof of time) the higher up your starting corral and lower your bib number.

The 10-Miler required that a 16-minute mile pace was kept and being in the last corral, that left no time for delays (e.g. stops for pictures, bathroom breaks). After all, if you don't keep up with the required pace, you get picked up and aren't able to finish the race. The goal of the night was to not let that happen.

After what seemed like eternity, we finally started moving, and 30 minutes later our corral made it to  the official starting line! The race took place mainly on the main Disney roads, which was crazy! Of course they were shut down to cars, but as we walked up the spiral ramp, it looked like there was a zombie apocalypse happening!

We started out power walking to ease ourselves into the race and were making pretty good moves the first 10 minutes in and were so excited to be coming up onto mile marker #2.. only it turned out to be mile #1. At that point, we knew it was going to be a longggg night.

About every half mile we stumbled across a Disney villain stop (e.g. Jafar from Aladdin, hyenas from Lion King, Evil Queen/Witch from Snow White) which was so fun! We didn't have time to stop because of the long lines for pictures and our need to stay within the pacing time, but it was nice to see and a good reminder that we were making our way through the course. Additionally, every mile had a water and Powerade pick up, where you could snag a cup while on the go.

Both Lisa and I started to feel a little sluggish toward the end. I made the huge mistake of not wearing thick enough socks (I thought my normal ones would be fine), so I felt blisters forming on the bottom of my feet early on and they were starting to hurt. Not to mention all the walking/running we weren't used to doing started catching up to both of us and we wanted nothing more than to collapse onto the ground and not get up. But we kept trekking.

When we hit mile 8 the craziest thing happened. We ran into our high school journalism teacher who we hadn't seen in at least 7 years! It's a small world after all, indeed! The end of the race was through MGM and we ended up at you guessed it, Tower of Terror. And crossing that finish line was an unbelievable feeling. SUCH an accomplishment!

If you have the opportunity to participate in a runDisney race, I highly recommend it! It's definitely challenging, but highly rewarding (I have my awesome medal to prove it). Plus, what better place to be than Disney through it all!?

Have you done a runDisney race? I'd love to hear about your experience!

Read More - Completing My First Big Race: #runDisney Tower of Terror 10-Miler

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Tunes: You and Me

This week my tune comes from duo You + Me. I had no idea this duo was made up of Pink and singer-songwriter Dallas Green until I heard one of the songs and recognized Pink's voice! It seems like a lot of bigger artists are doing side projects like this with other artists (e.g. Miranda Lambert with Pistol Annies).

Oddly, my song pick holds the same name as the duo - "You and Me." It's such a beautiful folk song about your other half/soulmate and the relationship between two people through good days and bad, flaws and all. Love this one!

Read More - Tuesday Tunes: You and Me

Monday, October 13, 2014

Navigating Open Enrollment With Aflac

Being fairly new to the "real world" (about two and a half years in), there are a lot of things I've learned that no one prepared me for in adulthood, and I'm sure many of you feel the same way. One of these "things" that will be popping up (for the third time for me) is Open Enrollment. There are a number of options available when choosing benefits and it can be a bit overwhelming. The easy thing to do is to just check an option for each category and move on, but doing so could really hurt you down the line.

Aflac's 2014 WorkForces Report found that nearly half of millennials spent 30 minutes or less selecting their benefit choices last year. Even more surprising, only 15% of millennial workers agreed that managing health care expenses is important! Sure, we all like to think that we're invincible and won't get sick, injured, or have to deal with some kind of medical emergency. But the truth is, anything could happen at any moment. With 35% of millennials having less than $500 to pay for out-of-pocket expenses, we're all just one emergency away from financial disaster.

So how can you avoid a disastrous financial situation and choose your benefits smartly?

Consider the following tips from Aflac:
  • Think of health insurance premiums as a monthly budget essential like rent, rather than a discretionary expense, like entertainment. 
  • Educate yourself about how your insurance deductible works. Choosing a plan with a low monthly premium and a high deductible may give you more money in your paycheck, but could also result in unaffordable payments if you need medical care beyond covered preventive services.
  • If your company offers a health savings account as part of a high deductible health plan, contribute as much as the plan allows so you’ll have money set aside to help meet the deductible and other payments.
  • Consider adding voluntary insurance products for more financial protection. Accident and Critical Illness plans work hand-in-hand with major medical plans, providing benefits to help policyholders with health-related costs their primary insurance may not cover. Those policies can also be used to help with out-of-pocket costs and other expenses that continue to roll in even if you’re too ill or injured to work.
How do you prepare for open enrollment?

Disclosure: I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Read More - Navigating Open Enrollment With Aflac

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Movie Review

A few weeks ago I was able to catch an advanced screening of the much anticipated, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day movie, starring Steve Carrell and Jennifer Garner and based on the 1970s kids book (with the same title). I'm sure you've seen the commercials- repeatedly showing the same scenes. But don't worry, the scenes we've seen over and over are just as funny when watching the movie. In fact, overall it was even funnier than I had anticipated!

Photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures
The film starts our with 11-year old Alexander having the most rotten day ever, with a domino effect of one terrible thing after another happening to him. At the same time, everyone else in his family talks about their "perfect" lives and how everything is going fabulously for them. But things quickly take a turn and the next day, Alexander's entire family experiences a truly terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. 

Photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures
Alexander's family is put to the test (and through the ringer) with each of their awful days, but try to find some positivity continuously, as they stick together through the madness.

Photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures
We've all had those "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days." But it's always great to surround yourself with your loved ones at the end of them, because being together makes them not so bad. If you're looking for something to do this weekend, I definitely recommend taking the fam to see Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Lots of laughter guaranteed!

Photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Read More - Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: Movie Review

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fun Findings Friday

#BirchboxBookClub Freebie:
It's been a few months since I've placed an order with Birchbox, but there are a few products I've been looking to try and after seeing their #BirchboxBookClub promo, I had just the motivation I needed to hit "place order." With a $35, you can snag a copy of one of best-selling author Gillian Flynn's books - Dark Places, Gone Girl, or Sharp Objects (while supplies last, with promo code BBDarkPlaces, BBGoneGirl, BBSharpObjects). It's been awhile since I've been able to get back into reading, but I'm currently reading Gone Girl and am HOOKED. I opted for Dark Places with this promo, next on my list.

Jimmy Fallon + will.i.am Official "Ew" Music Video:
A few weeks ago I shared Jimmy Fallon's "Ew" skit with Taylor Swift. Although I don't watch his show regularly, I do enjoy the video clips that pop up, especially of his "Ew" segments. The latest in the series is an official music video with will.i.am and it's just as awesomely "ew" as you can imagine!

Princess Rap Battle - Snow White vs. Elsa:
I love the rap battle videos between different characters of shows and movies - they're pretty entertaining! Last week a Disney princess rap battle between Snow White and Elsa went viral. Check it out below! (Note: This one isn't for kids to watch).

Read More - Fun Findings Friday

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chatting With David Benoit + A Charlie Brown Christmas Giveaway #3

As a Peanuts Ambassador, I had the pleasure of  chatting with Peanuts composer David Benoit along with several other bloggers. One of the most important parts of any movie or TV show is the music/soundtrack that goes along. And this is especially true with the Peanuts specials!

Read the Q&A below, plus be sure to check out David's upcoming tour dates, where you can see the music of Charlie Brown performed live!

Photo credit: BB King Blues
When did your passion for Peanuts and the Peanuts music begin?
When I started reading strip at 8 years old; this was in the ’60s. I followed it very closely every day. Then I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas—we all gathered around the TV to watch it. It’s been a lifelong thing.

What was it about music and the brand that appealed to you so much?
Well, it was Charlie Brown and he was a loser! He was depressed a lot, and I was having a childhood like that myself [laughs]. I related to him, and felt I had a kindred spirit out there. Then the music was jazz and piano and upbeat and fun—I got hooked on it right away.

Were you playing piano then?
Just starting to get into it.

What was your favorite piece of Peanuts music?
Of course, Linus and Lucy is the most popular one. I like Christmastime Is Here, that’s still one of my all-time favorites. Another one I like wasn’t written for Charlie Brown Christmas, it was written for a documentary on Charles Schulz—it’s a piece called Pebble Beach. A lot of hardcore fans will know that one.

What is it about A Charlie Brown Christmas and its music—what would the special be like without the music?
It wouldn’t have quite the same charm and appeal. It’s a perfect marriage. You can’t imagine one without the other. It must have been fate that brought Vince Guaraldi to Lee Mendelson. I know from writing original music for Peanuts, Vince Guaraldi was always the reference point.

So you feel jazz is the right genre for Peanuts music?
I do. The kids are very sophisticated, their emotions, their vocabulary. Peanuts was one of first strips to do that—to have kids speaking intelligently, expressing deep emotions. Jazz, because of its sophistication, seemed to work very well. After Vince Guaraldi died, they tried using other composers; many of them, like Judy Munson, were very good. But she approached it from traditional cartoon composing, and it wasn’t the same. Upbeat jazz just hit a spark. They were looking for another jazz pianist to start writing music, that’s how they found me.

What makes the Linus and Lucy theme so memorable?
It’s one of those immediately recognizable motifs—you’ve got the left hand movement, then the right hand comes in, and it’s highly syncopated. It just gets everybody happy. The power of music.

Why has the special remained so beloved?
It might be the simplicity in its message, that Christmas has become so commercial. It’s so simple and heartfelt. It has the makings of a classic because it’s so simple and so heartwarming.

Can you elaborate on your professional connection to Peanuts and how that came about?
I had recorded Linus and Lucy on a record called This Side Up. At that time, no one had ever covered it. I did it, then it opened up a new group of fans. I also recorded Christmastime Is Here on an album called Christmastime. Lee Mendelson’s wife, Debbie, said, “Lee, you should check out David Benoit.” And he and I hit it off. It was one of those magical relationships that really worked. They were trying out several other jazz musicians, Dave Grusin, Dave Brubeck, George Winston, Wynton Marsalis, and me. We just clicked. Not long after that I became the official composer, but it wasn’t official until I met Sparky. That’s what you called Mr. Schulz because that’s what he asked you to call him. But it took me a while to get used to that!

Do you ever worry you won’t be taken seriously for associating with Peanuts? 
Not really. I’ll tell you what I worry more about: When I started early on getting into the business of playing jazz that was happy, it got the moniker “smooth jazz.” Now that’s become the butt of a lot of jokes, like, “If the machines broke, you couldn’t make smooth jazz.” I worry more about that than I do about doing Charlie Brown music. There seems to be a certain reverence for Vince Guaraldi—there’s a respect. You just don’t mess with it. To me, it’s very honorable. The most common compliment I get is, “Oh, you wrote the Peanuts theme” or “You wrote Linus and Lucy.” I say, “No, that would be Vince Guaraldi.” But I’m honored. It’s totally a positive thing for me.

What’s next for you? 
I’m working on my first all-vocal album. We’re talking with an artist named Jane Monheit, getting the songs ready for that. I’m getting ready to do a tour of The Music of Charlie Brown, starting in December and going all across the country. You can find the dates and cities on my website, benoit.com.

Do you still watch the specials and listen for the music? 
I’m often traveling, and I don’t make it a point to watch them. Usually when the Christmas one comes on, we try to watch as a family.

Who is your favorite Peanuts character? 
It’s Charlie Brown. However, I think Schroeder would have to be a close second! That would tell the whole story about me. I like Snoopy, but I’m not hip enough, not quite that cool.

For the Christmas tribute to Charlie Brown, how do you decide what songs to play, and how long is the set? 
It’s about an hour and a half. Many songs come from that show, but we also play a few traditional Christmas songs. And I play a few of my own compositions for audience to hear the other side of me. There’s a pretty good variety of stuff. It’s a fun show.

This month I'm excited to be giving away a prize pack including Peanuts by OPI (nail polish), Snoopy + Woodstock ornament, and a 40 Years of A Charlie Brown Christmas CD, as we gear up for the holiday season! Enter for your chance to win below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
What's your favorite part about the music in A Charlie Brown Christmas?

*Disclosure: I was provided with the information and images as a Peanuts 50 Years on TV Brand Ambassador

Read More - Chatting With David Benoit + A Charlie Brown Christmas Giveaway #3

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month

October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month and in honor of that, plus my sweet pup Sheba's 5th birthday yesterday, I wanted to share my experience with adopting a shelter dog and how rewarding of an experience it truly is and has been! Sure, you can go to a pet shop or breeder and pay an exorbitant amount for a dog, but with most shelter dogs, the adoption rate is much cheaper and you don't have to deal with spaying/neutering, standard vaccinations or micro-chipping since it's already been done. Additionally, chances are most of the dogs in shelters didn't have a good life in their home beforehand and by adopting them, you're saving their lives. And in return, they save yours.

I adopted Sheba in April of 2012 and I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was out shopping with my mom and sisters and had NO intention of adopting a dog. When we drove by a pet shop that was hosting a Humane Society adoption day, we thought we'd just pop in and give some love to the dogs up for adoption. At this point, still, no thought had crossed my mind of bringing a dog home. But when we turned in and I laid eyes on Sheba (this was her given name by the Humane Society and I kept it), I was adamant on adopting her and found myself giving anyone who came up to see her the stink eye. So about an hour later, the process was completed, and I had officially adopted Sheba.

I'm not going to lie, the beginning was a bit difficult. Sheba's a bit of a "free spirit" and the minute she arrived at her new home, she escaped and decided to take a lap around the neighborhood, just about giving me a heart attack. This happened on more than one occasion, and WHAT a learning lesson it was. Not all dogs are the same and it's important for everyone with a dog or thinking about getting one to remember that.

Although spur-of-the-moment, adopting Sheba was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Yes, there's the added expense of food, toys, treats, and the dreaded vet visits. But on the flip side, my furry child keeps me active with 2+ walks each day, is the BEST companion (she just gets me), provides protection (one day she'll learn the UPS and FedEx workers aren't out to get us), and is the biggest mood-booster I could ever have. With my pup, the rough days aren't so bad. And to be greeted with a big smile, wagging tail, and "happy dance" every day, is the way to live. I wouldn't change it for the world.

Have you adopted a shelter dog? I'd love to hear your story! If not, and you're looking for a new furry friend to add to your family, I urge you to visit your local shelter and adopt, whether it be this month or years down the line!

Read More - Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month