Charm VoxBox Review

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Every so often I qualify to receive a box of samples to test and review, free of charge from Influenester.  I’m never disappointed by the boxes I receive because there is always at least one product I end up loving that I would have otherwise never heard of or would have been too reluctant to try.

 

This has to be my favorite VoxBox to date, though, as I loved most of the products.  It included two perfume samples from a Vera Wang collection, a shampoo and conditioner set from EVA NYC, and full-sized products from Mott’s, Wet n Wild, PEEPS, and McCormick.

Vera Wang Embrace

Vera Wang Embrace

Let me preface this review by stating that I am not a perfume kinda girl.  I’m more of a crunchy chica at heart and I’ve been using the same perfumed oils I bought back when I followed Phish before their hiatus in the early 2000’s.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve purchased different perfumes over the years, but I never quite found my signature scent.  So I stuck with the oils.  And lately I’ve been using Progressence Plus from Young Living (awesome by the way) and I haven’t had the patience to wait for its pleasant scent to wear off in order to apply perfume, oil or spray.

But that’s exactly what I did in order to try the samples of Embrace by Vera Wang.  And I’m so happy I did.  Rose Buds and Vanilla starts off a bit strong, but within minutes settles into what reminded me of a subtle bouquet of flowers.  It totally smells like spring, but without the nuisance of pollen-induced allergies.  Oh, but the Marigold and Gardenia is definitely my favorite.  It too, starts off a bit strong, but it’s never off putting.  As it reacted to my body temperature, it smelled like jasmine.  It wasn’t until I looked at the name of the sample that I noticed it was in fact gardenia I was smelling, not jasmine.  It reminded me of summers in Hawaii and spending time with my grandma.  If you like floral + spicy scents this is the perfect perfume for you.

Wet n Wild 1 Sep WonderGel

I am a mother of three boys which means I wash my hands.  A lot.  And throw in frequent washing of dishes and you can understand why I rarely put in the effort to keep my nails polished.  I tried gel polishes when they first hit the shelves of my local CVS, but I wasn’t too impressed.  The brand I tried started to chip along the tips of my nails within the first day, but took way too much effort to take off with nail polish remover.

Not so with this bottle, which is a 2016 Allure Best of Beauty Award Winner.  It lasted a whopping two days before starting to chip, but it came off with ease when I was ready to remove it.  I loved my experience so much that I bought a bottle of….  It came off just as effortlessly as the bottle from my Charm VoxBox, but it did leave a bit of a stain on my nails.  Not a deal breaker, though, because the stain faded fairly quickly.  I plan on buying a bottle in a summer coral before my next trip to the beach.

My only small complaint has nothing to do with the quality of the polishes, but the names Wet n Wild chooses to use for them.  While I’m sure the marketing department is just trying to be cheeky, the names can be a bit risque.

EVA NYC Clean It Up Shampoo and Therapy Session Hair Mask

EVA NYC Clean It Up Shampoo Therapy Session Hair Mask

I really wanted to like these products.  But as a curly girl, I just can’t give them the FFMS stamp of approval.  The Clean It Up Shampoo touts itself as being created for ALL hair types, but it’s simply too stringent for my thick and curly hair.  Thick hair, especially thick and curly hair, tends to be dry because it’s difficult for moisture to make its way down from the roots to the ends.  And one of the first ingredients listed is sodium laurel sulfate, which is great for getting hair super clean, but notorious for stripping away hair’s natural oils in the process.

At first glance the Therapy Session Hair Mask sounds like it would be curly girl friendly.  But a quick read of the ingredient list shows it’s full of silicones.  And while I’m sure you can find some site on the Interwebs in support of silicone-filled hair products, this curly girl has personally found my hair to be much healthier since I gave them up.

Final verdict: If you are looking to deep clean your hair and add shine, then this is a good option.  If you want to leave your hair’s natural oils in tact, look for a duo that’s sulfate and silicone free.

Mott’s Unsweetened Applesauce Pouch

Mott's Unsweetened Applesauce

My boys love these – all three of them.  They make a great snack and after meal treat because they’re nutritious and aren’t too filling. So, when only one sample showed up in my VoxBox, I knew I had to keep it out of sight until I was able to buy more.  Fortunately for me, Publix had a BOGO sale on them and I bought several boxes.  A quick search of the Mott’s site shows they have several unsweetened options, so I’ll need to ask my local Publix to up their game and carry more than just the unsweetened apple flavor.

McCormic Organics Taco Mix

McCormick Organics Taco Seasoning Mix

I’ve been wanting to make tacos lately, but ever since we started exclusively eating grass fed beef, I can’t bring myself to use traditional, chemical-laden, taco mixes.  So you can imagine just how excited I was when I saw this packet in my VoxBox.  I used it in a post-Cinco de Mayo meal and the boys loved it.  My oldest said it was a little spicy, but not hot.  Which means it has all the right flavoring without the over the top heat.  And since the twins each wanted seconds this is a winner in my books.

PEEPS Delights

Peeps Delights Coconut Dipped Dark Chocolate

Oh. My. Sweet tooth.  Real talk, I hated PEEPS when I was growing up.  I thought they looked pretty in my Easter basket, but I never enjoyed them.  They were always more colorful than they were flavorful.  When I opened my VoxBox and saw the iconic PEEPS I figured I would put one in each of my boys’ Easter basket.  But as I picked up the package something caught my attention – COCONUT.  I love coconut.  And upon closer inspection I noticed the bottom of each PEEP was dipped in chocolate.  Say what?!?  So there was no way these were making it into any Easter basket.

I can’t speak for the other Delights flavors – blueberry, strawberry, vanilla, chocolate mousse, raspberry, milk chocolate, dark chocolate – but the coconut and chocolate made a perfect pairing.  A little too sweet for me, but yummy just the same.  And it’s been years since I put a PEEP in my mouth, so I have to ask, was the granulated sugar always so noticeable on one’s tongue?

My only real complaint about this particular flavor of PEEPS is that none of my local stores  carried them.  I could have ordered them online, but I just wasn’t willing to put that kind of effort into getting seasonal candy.

Charm VoxBox

Influenster Charm VoxBox

This really has to be my favorite box of products to test that Influenster has sent me to date.  If you’ve already tried any of these products, or do in the future, I’d love to hear about your experience!

Out Of Shape?

I attended a Relay For Life fundraising event yesterday, that Jessi, a Revelation Wellness Platoon 16 sister, was holding.  She provided breakfast, shared her testimony, and led an awesome Revelation Wellness fitness class.  Complete with a hope filled message and a kick butt workout.  Well, I can’t speak for the other participants, but she definitely kicked my booty.  The class ended at a quarter to eleven, and I was already feeling soreness creep into my muscles by the time we went to lunch.

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Modifying as needed. Photo credit – Jilly White Photography

 

As we were walking up to Jason’s Deli (it was my first time and I loved it) I was about to tell Jessi, “Wow, I really must be out of shape because I’m already feeling it in my quads and booty!”, but the Holy Spirit led me to use a different phrase.  In what felt like a split second, He said that using the phrase out of shape insinuates that there’s something wrong with one’s shape, that something is wrong with their form, that they are broken or less than.  Whoa.   He then instructed me to use the phrase out of practice instead.  He said it was true, whereas my go-to phrase was not.  Isn’t it crazy amazing how the Spirit’s leading can happen in a brief moment but encapsulate so much teaching?

As I was writing that last paragraph, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the lie vs. truth exercise Jessi led us through during yesterday’s class.  During a RevFit class, participants are asked to exchange a lie for a truth.  Jessi asked us to think about a negative word or phrase we believe about ourselves and to write it down on an index card.  My word was broken, as I have believed for over three years that my body was broken beyond repair and would never be able to move as it did before my twins.  She then instructed us to tear up the index card and put on some truth by writing on ourselves (shoulder, arm, hand, etc) what God says about us.  In Revelation Wellness we call this war paint.  The word God spoke over me was restored.

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God calls me RESTORED. Photo credit – Jilly White Photography

Even with RESTORED written down my left forearm, I was quick to speak out of shape over myself.  How quickly the enemy of our hearts will come and refute truth that God has declared over us.  I am so grateful that the Holy Spirit stepped in to remind me who I am.  He provided a way out for me.  A way out of the temptation to believe lies, however benign they may seem, that I have believed for years.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

So the next time you hear someone say that they’re out of shape, or you’re tempted to say it of yourself, please speak truth – out of practice, not out of shape.

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Post lunch – Jessi and I showing off our shirts based on Psalm 139:14.

My Fitness Plan For 2017 – Aiming for Wholeness

“Your body isn’t broken.  God just needs to show you how it works.  His ways are not harsh, sharp or pressing.  May God show you the kinder way that leads you to the real and free you.”

– Alisa Keeton

I feel like the title of this post is misleading because my fitness plan for this year has very little to do with what most people consider fitness.  By that, I mean that I’m not signing up for a Spartan Race (although that’s on my Fitness Bucket List), vowing to pick up a new fitness related hobby, or even joining my local Y again.  Not that there’s anything wrong with these options.  They’re just not right for me.  At least not right now.

You see, I carried my twin boys to 37 weeks and 1 day.  That’s full term for twins. And they could have gone the full 40 weeks if I hadn’t been in such excruciating pain. But I was.  So much so that I begged my doctors to take them before 37 weeks to no avail.  One doctor told me, “I have three patients under my care.  Two of them are content as can be.  Healthy and happy.  The other is miserable.”  Can you guess which one was me?

They broke me.  Or at least that’s what it feels like.

I honestly have no idea how my body managed to carry them for 37 weeks.  You’d wonder the same if you saw me in person.  My frame is tiny and I have a very short torso.  I am grateful that my body took such good care of my babies, but whatever it did to accomplish that feat has left me in constant discomfort and pain.

The pain has decreased over the years.  I couldn’t sleep the first several weeks after the boys were born.  Initially it was because I had no idea how to care for two infants.  But even after I got a handle on their sleep schedule, I couldn’t fall asleep because the pain in my hips kept me up in tears.  The pain became manageable after several weeks of working with a chiropractor. During one of my visits last year, she explained that due to muscle memory my body was returning right back to how it held itself during pregnancy.  I heard this and accepted that my movement would be limited and pain would just be a part of my everyday experience.

Then I went to Arizona in November to complete my Revelation Wellness instructor training and that was no longer enough.  God showed me how that settling for a life of pain wasn’t really living.  At least not the abundant life He offers.

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Riant Photography – On location at Revelation Wellness instructor training

He spoke healing over me.  So healing and restoration is what I’m aiming for this year.

In December I  visited a new chiropractor.  During the initial visit he said I was a “hot mess”.  I smiled, nodded, and said “I know”.  But I really had no idea just how much of a hot mess until he went over my X-rays with me a couple of weeks later.  I won’t pretend to remember all the medical jargon, but here’s what I do remember = my hips aren’t leveled, and one leg is longer than the other because of it, my head rests almost two inches forward from where it should, and I have 97% less curvature at the top of my spine than I should.

While I found his rehabilitative methods promising, driving to his office twice a week wasn’t realistic for my schedule.  But I didn’t give up on healing and found a physical therapy practice closer to me.  The therapist who worked with me the second half of my visit asked how I injured myself. I told her that I had twins.  She smiled, laughed, and told me that she’s an identical twin .  During her evaluation she told me that I was “a train wreck”.  I smiled, nodded, and said “I know”.  She confirmed everything that both chiropractors had told me, and explained how and why in more detail.  She also told me that with work I could restore my body to its pre-pregnancy alignment.

Knowing how messed up I am could be discouraging.  But my experience has actually been the opposite.  It’s been encouraging and motivating.  It means that while I may never “bounce back” to my pre-twins body, I can – and will heal.  I may never rock a two piece again, but I will be able to exercise without the fear that I’m making things worse.  It’s going to take several weeks of physical therapy, maybe even months, but I will retrain my muscles to hold my body the way they did before I carried the twins.

Healing and restoration are my fitness plan for 2017.  Who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll be signing up for a Spartan Race.

Craving Community? Me, Too

Disclaimer: I wrote this sometime in the summer of 2015, so if you were at the get togethers mentioned or watched the scope I reference, you know they didn’t take place this summer.

I prayed before I wrote this because I have the tendency to edit as I write. I also chose to write it in a journal before posting it.  Here’s the prayer I wrote out.

Communion and Craving Community

Lord, clear my mind so I can have a conversation with You.  I want to let go of all pretense – to give up on sounding clever or relate-able.  I don’t want community based on smoke and mirrors.  I just want to share my heart.  My naked and broken heart.

I’ve been thinking about friendship and community a lot this year.  Questions like “Why don’t I ever hangout with my closest friends?” and “Why does my community seem to all be virtual?”  dominate my thoughts on the topic. I started to cling to the notion that my life would be so much richer if I got to spend time with my besties or meet up with members of my tribe for coffee.  Okay, not really.  We’d meet up for smoothies from Tropical Smoothie Cafe since God made me naturally caffeinated.  I even half convinced myself that in lieu of getting to meet up with my besties or my tribe that I need to attend a conference or retreat every three months or so.  You know, for spiritual maintenance.  More like a mountain high experience fix.

I was at one such retreat/conference in June when I told Brooke, the woman sitting to my right, “I wish I could have this at home.  I wish I could have this all the time.”  I was referring to the intimacy, transparency, and grace that filled the room.  I went on to tell her that although I get along well with the women of my church, I didn’t have this.  She shared that she could relate.

Full disclosure – Totally unsure of what the Celebrate Motherhood Retreat was going to be like and not knowing anyone in the Happy Mommy Box community, I attended the pre-retreat dinner so I would be acquainted with someone, anyone,  the day of the retreat.  Yep, I drove almost an hour and a half so I would feel more part of the day of the event.  That, and I was hoping to meet Jess Connolly who I’ve been following on Instagram since before she moved back to South Carolina.  It was a little awkward that most everyone was familiar with each other through the Happy Mommy community and I had never even heard of the company before my friend tagged me in a comment for one of their posts.  But by the end of our post-dinner trip to Marble Slab I felt like we’d all been meeting up like this regularly.  And the next day, I totally scoped out the room and looked for someone from the dinner to sit near.

Just a few days after that amazing weekend, I caught Angela and Catherine of REFIT® Revolution on Periscope.  They were in a Chick Fil A line with two of Angela’s daughters in the back seat.  They were just doing life together and invited us to take a peek into that every day experience.  Towards the end of the broadcast Angela said that she doesn’t have friends that she does everything with.  And she was clearly disappointed by that.

So it got me thinking about community again and why I feel like I’m missing something.  Something about friendship and community that holds the key to contentment.  Something I assumed everyone had in their own friendships and communities but I didn’t have.  But the confessions of Brooke and Angela had me rethinking all that.

I don’t blog much (I’m totally tempted to add “anymore” but let’s be honest, I’ve always been a sporadic blogger) but I remember writing something along the lines of “God calls us to be in community.  First with Him and the with others.”  I don’t know,  maybe it’s in one of the many posts sitting in my draft folder.  Anyway, God totally said those exact words back to me and then said “You’re glossing over that first part.  That’s the problem.”  What?  “I spend time with you every day.”  Silence.  “I even took prayer walks after my quiet time for a couple of weeks.”  I felt like a kid trying to convince her parents that she deserved a raise in her allowance because she was doing such an awesome job with her chores.  Ugh.

That’s when the conviction set in.  “That’s hoops and legalism.  I want you.  I want your heart.”  I had to admit that a lot of my quiet time was about studying and not about spending time before a holy God.  I also had to confess that I would often enter my quiet time hoping that God would give me a Tweetable nugget of wisdom or the perfect Instagram quote.

None of that has to do with communing with God.  I’d love to say “I get that now,” but I knew that already.  The thing is my heart is bent towards legalism and works.  I can sit here and blame the denomination I grew up in, but it’s more universal than me or a single denomination.  Since the fall in the Garden of Eden, mankind has been trying to earn or manipulate our way back into God’s good graces.  To work our way to good enough.

Before I could even try to devise a new and improved approach to quiet time, God whispered softly to me, “You’re looking to community to give you something that only I can give you.”  I can’t quite describe how I felt as that truth sank in, but it was like a mixture of relief and disappointment.  I was grateful to know that there as a reason that although I felt full when I left a retreat or conference that the feeling didn’t last long.  I knew part of the reason was that while a mountain top experience is meant to sustain me through the valleys, I can’t live up there.  Now God was showing me there was more to it than that.

The disappointment crept in when I realized that the solution was to do something I can’t really “do”.  I’m learning that communion with God isn’t’ about doing something, it’s about being something.  Humble.  Surrendered.  Vulnerable.  Willing.  As much as I want to be in the Lord’s presence and hear from Him, all that has me feeling pretty fearful.  And I’ve gotta tell you that my initial reaction isn’t to press into that fear, but to jump online and find a group of women who are in the same boat so we can go through this together.  But I know that isn’t what God is calling me to do.  I also know that He isn’t asking me to walk this out alone, either.

During the spring, on many of my post-quiet time morning walks I mentioned earlier, the Holy Spirit kept saying “Let’s do this”.  At first I thought He was pumping me up for the walk.  It was before the time change and it was scary dark out still, so I totally appreciated the motivation.  But as the weeks passed and He kept saying it I saw that it was more than a motivation to walk.  It was an invitation.  An invitation to what exactly, I’m not sure.  But I’m certain that God knows my heart.  He knows how I earnestly long to be in community with Him and others.  I trust that whatever “this” is that He’s inviting me to do with Him will equip me live the life He calls me to live.

Comfortable With The Uncomfortable

I wrote this a few months ago.  I never did feel led to put in a photo.  Instead I went with a verse.  I’m not sure why God asked me to share this, but I trust that it will resonate with someone out there.

No graphics or photos for this post.  I don’t know, maybe as I go through my day God will give me a visual to share.  But right now, right this moment He’s telling me to just share my heart.

Yesterday a dear sister in Christ texted me a link to a video from the Leading and Loving It #JustONE2016 virtual conference.  I’m not sure what day it was from, but it was good. Like brush off the dust of complacency and do some work for the kingdom, good.  Work I have been too _______ (fill in the blank – tired, busy, lazy) to do.  I’m not talking projects here, either.  I’m talking about the work of boldly living out my faith.  Declaring His truth whenever and wherever I feel His Spirit leading me to.

Here are some of the notes I jotted down, and you can watch the video here for yourself.

  1. Get going – say YES to God without knowing the details, especially the outcome.  Move when He says to and move with urgency.
  2. Get strategic – be aware, be intentional, and be sensitive.  Pay attention to people’s details.
  3. Get uncomfortable – God calls me to serve and wash feet.

After watching that video I decided to sign up for the conference – funny, I thought I already had signed up but I guess that was last year – and watch all of the videos.  They’re sent directly to my inbox so there’s no extra clicking on my part.  The Day 1 video arrived this morning and I couldn’t really relate it to my current season of life.  Lori Wilhite talks about God trading our junk for joy, our hurt for healing, and our pain for purpose.  Believe me, I’ve had plenty of junk, hurt, and pain.  Enough to last a lifetime.  But as of this morning I had no current junk, hurt, or pain to reflect on.  {Or so I thought} I still looked up Isaiah 60:17, the verse she was focusing on, and took notes.  I even added personal reflections to each of her three points.

I could feel God stirring something up within me, and knew He was telling me it was time to dig deeper.  Back in early January I signed up for my second ‪#‎cleanhearting‬ challenge to support the amazing ministry of Revelation Wellness. I wasn’t planning on going through the challenge again. I figured I’d watch Alisa Keeton on Periscope when I could or pull up a scope on Katch.

But I started experiencing heartburn a couple of weeks ago and it hasn’t let up. Heartburn is only something I dealt with during pregnancy. And before you ask, no, I am not pregnant. At first I was in denial, blaming the one meal that might have triggered it. But then I got still and quiet long enough (after several days of refusing to listen to my body) to see that the discomfort is God lovingly nudging me.  Nudging me to look at my habits and idols.

So when I had finished watching the Day 1 #JustONE2016 video, I decided to read the Day 1 email for he Clean Hearting Challenge to do just that.  To identify and confront the idols and habits that are keeping me from doing the kingdom building work God is calling me to do.  Day 1 seemed easy enough – looking at the root of our desire to live clean, a desire God created us to have because we were made in His image and He is clean and blameless.  Looking at Alisa’s very simple and straight forward definition of clean eating – avoid refined and processed foods and eat real food – was just the “Dude, I can do this” moment I needed.

And the let’s do this attitude wasn’t just about the eating either – and that’s the whole point behind the Clean Hearting Challenge, by the way, to pull off the blinders and see that it’s all about the condition of our hearts.  It’s about treating myself better by eating life giving foods more often than fake foods, by getting more sleep, and by moving more.  And moms out there, please hear me when I say that none of those goals are selfish.   When I take better care of myself, I am better able to love the people God calls me to serve and love.  And so are you.

The notion of loving people better got me thinking about February being the perfect month to practice being more intentional in my marriage.  So I took The Husband Project: 21 Days of Loving Your man on Purpose and with a Plan off a shelf and started reading it.  But right when I was getting to the “meat” of the first chapter it was time to get the boys ready for church.

Just a typical Sunday morning.  Until it wasn’t.  I got the twins dressed and fed.  They were happily playing with our oldest until I had to go upstairs and get dressed and my husband out of bed.  As I was getting ready he told me that he decided to sleep in and not to come to church.  I was fine with that since he doesn’t sleep in very often.  But a small disagreement with our oldest turned into something much bigger not only between the two of us but also between me and my husband.  Before I knew it voices were raised and doors were slammed.  And to top it all off one of the twins was refusing to get buckled into his car seat.  I wanted to cry.  And I did.

In spite of my feelings and the tears streaming down my face I went to church. Well, not exactly.  The truth is I no longer wanted to go to church.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do – I just knew I didn’t want to go.  I almost marched everyone out of the minivan and back into the house, but I inadvertently locked the basement door when I slammed it and didn’t have a key to get back in.

So I drove us to church and apologized to my oldest on the way.  I apologized for my tone and for slamming the car and house doors.  He accepted my apology, because that’s what we do in our house.  We humble ourselves to apologize, and we humble ourselves to forgive.

As soon as our junior pastor started preaching I knew that God meant for me to experience what I did this morning so I could really listen to his message.  Not just hear it, but listen to it.  His message was anchored in Job. It was such an encouragement from my Daddy. It was a reminder that when I make a kingdom declaration – like I did today saying that I was ready to do kingdom building work – that I will be met with opposition. I just forgot how quickly it can happen.

Today I spent some intentional time with God, and shortly thereafter the enemy came at me.  Hard. He attacked my marriage and my motherhood. I wanted to throw up my hands and throw in the towel. But as a daughter of the King of kings I must remember that I am not called to do the easy things. I am not called to be comfortable. I am called to roll up my sleeves and wield the Sword of the Spirit and fight, for the victory has already been won.

Green Blender Review + A Great Deal For You

Disclaimer: I received my first week free from Green Blender for reviewing purposes.  I loved the service so much that just two days in I signed up to receive another box.  With that being said, the opinions shared here are all mine.  Oh, and if you sign up to receive this awesome smoothie delivery service using the code shared at the end of the post you’ll get a sweet deal and I’ll receive a small referral commission.

I’m going to give you the what’s what by answering the basic WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY’s.  Oh, and HOW.

WHO ~ This service is for anyone who watched Fat Sick and Nearly Dead and thought “I’d  love to do that juicing thing but he had to buy so much produce!” or “Yeah, that’s a good thought, but how does it taste, really?”  I’ll be totally honest with you, I haven’t tried juicing since the 80’s and that was only with citrus.  Nothing like the crazy concoctions that are all the rage today. I can’t see buying that much produce without some of it spoiling before I use it all.  And I loathe wasting food – especially fresh food.

It’s also for anyone who has tried smoothies but found that after a while she settles into a groove, a rut if you will.  I have exactly two go to smoothies.  I say that I’ll venture out and try new recipes but truth be told I can’t bring myself to buy exotic ingredients I only need in small quantities or will probably only use once or twice.

Or perhaps heard or read about juicing and smoothies and before you could do anything with your new found knowledge, you got overwhelmed. Juicing or smoothies?  Vitamix or Blendtec?  What about Ninja? Are superfood add ins worth the extra money and effort?  What’s acai berry anyway?

If any of those descriptions sound like you, then you are the WHO.

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WHAT ~ Green Blender is a smoothie delivery service.  Full service, at that.  All you need is water, ice, and something to blend the ingredients.  You get a new recipe card each week with 5 recipes and enough fresh pre-proportioned ingredients to make 2 servings per recipe.  So you get a total of 10 smoothies.  It’s a totally efficient, no waste, no brainer approach to making smoothies.  And the best part is, at least for this mom of three, is that the prep work and clean up is minimal.  As long as I set aside an extra 5 minutes each morning (10 on the days I first make a recipe because I need to separate and store half of the ingredients) I’m able to make a smoothie without feeling rushed.

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WHEN ~ Delivery in my area takes place on Thursdays.  If I plan it right I can share a smoothie with my husband two or three times each week and still have enough to last until my next box arrives.  Need to skip a week?  You can skip up to 4 weeks at a time without any hassle.  But you need to do it 5 days prior to your delivery day.  So if I had wanted to skip this week’s box I would have had to clicked that option on my account page by Saturday.  And if you decide to cancel for any reason you just email customer support.

WHERE ~ Now here comes the not so great news.  This awesome service is not available in all states just yet.  For being such a new business, though, they are rockin’ the east coast and southeast.  Follow Green Blender on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to keep up with their ever expanding delivery area and get daily inspiration from the recipes and photos they share.

Green Blender Delivery Map

WHY ~ Drinking these smoothies is like taking a vitamin but since you’re getting the real deal your body processes the “good for you” stuff much more efficiently, absorbing more of what you need.  For a more sciency explanation please search the Interweb for benefits of real food.

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HOW ~ In the super informative brochure that comes with every package, the ever helpful people of Green Blender (I really want to give them cool names like baristas got, but I don’t know what “smoothie makers” is in Italian) answer your “What is acai berry anyway?” question along with everything you need to know in order to build the perfect smoothie.  On the recipe sheet that comes with every shipment, they share Pro Tips for blending.

Things that weren’t covered in either the informational brochure or the recipe sheet:

Style of blender – They assume you’ll be using a traditional blender where the bottom makes contact with the blade.  I, however, use a Ninja Professional so when the second step says “top with ice” that really means I need to put the ice in before adding the remaining ingredients.

Size of blender – Again, if you’re using a smaller sized blender like a Ninja or Magic Bullet you won’t be able to make two servings at once.  You will need to split the ingredients.  Thanks to the ingenious packaging of Green Blender, this isn’t difficult to do.  It does take a little extra effort and time but really only in planning/remembering that you need to do it.

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Pecan Oatmeal Cookie – 1 Smoothie + Stored Ingredients
PRICING ~ There are three weekly subscription options (shown below) and three Challenge subscription options.  Like with most subscriptions, you save more when you commit to more weeks at a time.

Green Blender Pricing

DEAL FOR YOU ~ Jenna Tanenbaum, co-founder of Green Blender and fellow FitFuential ambassador, as extended a sweet deal for you – 20% off your first box – when you sign up with the code reina.

As much as I love my daily Green Blender smothie and the twins love begging me for some (you can watch video of Andrew begging for one here), I’ll only be able to get one box a month while they’re still in daycare.

 

Empires by Hillsong United + Giveaway

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of Empires from Family Christian for review purposes.  All opinions shared my own, and I clearly loved the CD seeing as I bought a copy to give away.

{I wrote this review over the summer some time but out of insecurity never posted it. I feared it was too long and detailed.  As time passed it seemed as if the moment had as well.  Since the CD was no longer on anyone’s radar why post the review?  Now that “Say the Word” was just released as a single, I decided to shed my insecurity and share my thoughts on this beautiful piece of art.}

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Oh. My.  This album is incredible.  It’s not the kind of worship CD you pop into your car’s stereo system and get your praise on to, though.  It’s the kind of worship album you need to listen to when you can steal away some time to be still and glorify the Lord.  If I had only one word to describe this project it would be ethereal {extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world}. Even when the music and vocals build and the percussion is more up tempo, they build so organically and fall so effortlessly that it seems like the natural ebb and flow to each song.

It took me multiple naptimes – my sons’, not my own – to listen to all of the songs, as several of them are over five minutes in length.  While percussion strings the songs together musically, the Gospel message does so lyrically.

As I listened to the songs I jotted down things down, including lyrics, that stirred my soul.  Here is a synopsis of each song and a lyric from each that really struck me.

1 – HERE NOW (MADNESS) is pure adoration.  It speaks of the closeness of God.  It’s an invitation asking God to speak, to move, and to have His way.  The song shares the Gospel message of grace, redemption, and Holy Spirit led living.

“Grace found my heart where logic ends”

2 – SAY THE WORD celebrates the power, majesty, and character of God.  To me it’s a reminder of just how important it is to read God’s Word.  How else can I get to know Him if I don’t read His Word?  Sermons are great but that’s second hand knowledge.  To get fresh manna I need to seek Him for myself.  Amen?

“My soul will hang on to every word You say”

3 – HEART LIKE HEAVEN is a beautiful reminder that perfection is unattainable and imperfection is okay because God wants our busted hearts, not perfection.  Jesus came for the sinners, not the righteous.

“Face down where mercy finds me first”

4 – TOUCH THE SKY is the first single off of Empires.  It speaks to the reality of how upside down God’s kingdom is.  So often we find ourselves exhausted from striving in this life.  But throughout His word God tells us that not only can we do nothing apart from Him, but His power is made perfect in our weakness. {The cover art work speaks directly to the upside down nature of God’s kingdom.}

“I found my life when I laid it down.  I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.”

5 – STREET CALLED MERCY reminds me of 1960’s American folk music because of the beautiful opening harmony.  The lyrics call up images of the prodigal son returning to his father’s open arms, Moses proclaiming that he will not go on without the Lord, and the psalmist proclaiming his loyalty and devotion to God.

“Tired of endless walking not knowing which way to go, I collapse on a street called Mercy.”

6 – WHEN I LOST MY HEART TO YOU (HALLELUJAH) is the most straight forward worship song on the album.  You know, the kind that gives you permission to lift your hands up in abandon and let’s you sing along even if you don’t really know the words.

It has the most simple chorus “You have my heart…hallelujah” and again speaks of God’s upside down kingdom “I found Your love when I lost my heart to You.”

7 – EVEN WHEN IT HURTS (PRAISE SONG) is not your typical song of praise, as it lists “even when” circumstances and situations which remind me of Paul’s teachings on contentment and John’s teachings regarding trials.  This song touches on the same issues raised in other contemporary Christian songs, but stresses that our hallelujah can be in tact even when our spirits are broken.

“Louder then I’ll sing Your praise”

8 – PRINCE OF PEACE is a beautiful declaration that God is still God in spite of all of the things in this life that invite fear and anxiety.  As Lysa Terkuerst says, “He is still God, He is good, and He is good at being God.”  Amen!

“Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war”

9 – EMPIRES is a beautiful portrait of salvation, sanctification, and eternity with God.  I’m so grateful that God has gifted people with the ability to share such deeply spiritual subject matter in music.

“We are shadows and portraits, empires of light and clay, images of our Maker.  Sinners called out as saints.”

10 – RULE  is a call to Christ to be exactly who He says He is.  It’s like praying the Scriptures back to God, but in song.  It reminds me of the words of the Psalmist – set to a very danceable beat.

“Hope came dancing on an empty grave.  Death has lost its rule to the King of grace.”

11 – CAPTAIN speaks to walking by faith and not by sight.  It’s also a beautiful reminder that when we walk by faith we are not walking blindly, since we have a faithful Guide.

“Lost in the shallows amidst fear and fog Your truth is the compass that points me back north.”

12 – CLOSER THAN YOU KNOW is by far my favorite song on this album.  It’s also the longest song on the album, at over nine minutes long.  But it’s worth every second of your time, I promise.  It reads like a beautiful love letter.  The first half is written from Christ’s perspective, calling us to not lose faith and reminding us of all He has done and continues to do out of His great love for us.  The second half is written from a believer’s perspective, acknowledging Whose we are and who we are in Him.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to have a tissue handy.

“For I’m Yours and You are mine and my soul knows well, You are here.”

If you haven’t already purchased Empires, you can buy your own copy here or click on this link below for a chance to win a free copy!

2/07/16 Update – the raffle is now closed.