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Influenster Review: Colgate Optic White (Part 1)

Feb 26, 2014 by     No Comments    Posted under: Creative Clutter, Reviews

voxbox-blogimage-popup2About six months ago, I started hearing a lot about Influenster, more specifically “Vox Boxes,” and with curiosity piqued, decided to check them out. Influenster serves as a near perfected evolution of what Klout hoped their “Perks” would be. It’s a free to join community where active members earn the right to receive complimentary products to test and review by earning points via social media-based activities in their self-indicated areas of expertise. One of the reasons I think social media savants and bloggers jumped on board with the platform is because the Influenster team found a way to playfully engineer a gamification element into the formal brand review process, by rewarding members for doing what they already love to do: share their opinions.

My Colgate Optic White Vox Box arrived this afternoon, and I must admit I was a little excited when I saw the postman drop off our mail. (Who isn’t excited to receive something other than junk mail or a bill?) I grabbed my umbrella and braved the downpour to see what the box would consist of. Now I don’t consider myself to be any sort of expert on ondontology or dentisty, but for some reason (likely due to my demographical information, interests and activity level on social), I made it through the first round of the review screening process. Prior to signing up for the Optic White Vox Box, I received an email letting me know that I made it through that first round. I was asked to fill out a short survey, which consisted of questions revolving around whether or not I’d ever used any whitening products. After a week or two wait, my Optic White Vox Box arrived in the mail.

Optic White Vox Box

Optic White Vox Box from Influenster

Included in the Optic White Vox Box:

  • 1 Colgate Optic White Toothbrush + Built-In Whitening Pen
  • 1 Colgate Optic White Toothpaste (Travel Size)
  • 6 Colgate Optic White Toothbrush + Built-In Whitening Pen Manufacturer’s Coupons

Looking at the design of the Colgate Optic White Toothbrush and its built-in whitening pen, I found myself pretty impressed with its design and functionality. I haven’t had the opportunity to use it yet, but admit that I like the idea of ditching the time-intensive (not to mention awkward) strips and trays. As someone who has used whitening strips in the past, they never fit quite right, and are easily displaced with normal mouth movement (like breathing).

According to Colgate’s Optic White website, using the toothbrush and whitening pen is easy as “Brush. Whiten. Go!”

  1. Brush. Brush as you normally would with your regular toothpaste (or in this case, the ever so conveniently provided Optic White Toothpaste). Their toothbrush is specially designing with something called “polishing bristles,” as well as stain removers to help you remove surface stains through your regular brushing routine.
  2. Whiten. Here’s where I think things will get interesting. You turn the dial at the bottom of the whitening pen and apply the gel. According to their site, it will only take seconds to apply and adhere to your teeth – no strips or messy trays (apparently no waiting or rinsing either).  The whitening gel dissolves naturally on your teeth over time. (I’m curious to see how long it will take and how strange it will feel. Will I notice?)
  3. Go. Store the pen inside the brush, so it’s ready for your next brush session.

I naturally had a few questions I wanted answered before trying out this product – the first being whether or not this whitening method would be safe for my tooth enamel (I’ve heard horror stories about other whitening techniques), as well as  whether or not it would cause tooth sensitivity. The answer to both comes down to the operator. When used as directed, Colgate states that your tooth enamel should be A-OK, and while use may cause temporary tooth sensitivity for some consumers, the whitening gel shouldn’t cause any lasting harm other than the discomfort.

Over the next week, I’ll try these products, and will follow up with what I liked or didn’t about the experience. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Colgate’s Optic White product line-up, I recommend checking out @OpticWhite on Twitter or visiting their Optic White microsite.

It also appears that I have an abundance of coupons now for their Optic White Toothbrush + Whitening Pen, so if you’d like one, give me a shout out in the comments. First come, first serve!

Prince of Wolves by Quinn Loftis [Review]

Jan 17, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Reviews

I’m pretty late to the e-book party, but now that I’m here, I have to say it’s a pretty awesome party. My first foray into the world of digital books was Prince of Wolves, book one of The Grey Wolves series by Quinn Loftis. I was breaking in my brand-spanking-new iPad over the Christmas break, and was searching for some free books to read while on my way to Seattle.

Now I know you have to take “free” anything with a grain of salt, but even with keeping that in mind I wasn’t very impressed with the quality of free titles available. I wasn’t really interested in recipe books, I’ve read most of the “classics” more times than I can count, and wasn’t really chomping at the bit to delve into any of the 50 Shades of Gray spin-offs either.

I was getting desperate to find something that spoke to my love of the fantasy and paranormal genres, when I stumbled across the description for Prince of Wolves, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it actually sounded like a worthwhile read. Also surprisingly, the entire book (not just selected chapters) was available through the iTunes store as a free download, so I thought, “What the hell. Let’s try it out.” 

I wish I could say that I jumped into the book right then and there, but forces on the plane (namely a VERY talkative seat mate) kept me from reading or doing anything enjoyable for the remainder of my journey. It wasn’t until much later (two weeks later in fact) that I was finally able to find thirty minutes or so of quiet time to give Prince of Wolves a go. At least, that was the plan. What happened instead is that I began reading Prince of Wolves and became so engrossed in the characters that I couldn’t put it down until I’d read the entire book, in one sitting. I was so intrigued by the first book, that I downloaded the second the next day, and the third through fifth books the day after that, all-in-all devouring all five books currently available in the series in less than a week.

So what was it about the book that so drew me in…?

SPOILER WARNING: The following descriptions may contain some spoilers, although I’ll try to keep them to a minimum. That being said, nobody’s perfect so read on at your own peril.

The Grey Wolves Series: Book 1

Prince of Wolves Summary:
The story begins in the home of 17-year-old Jacque Pierce as she gets ready to stake out the arrival of a new foreign exchange student who is moving in across the street. Armed with binoculars (a requirement for every good stakeout) she peers out her window to get the scoop for her BFFs, and is startled to find that not only is the new guy breathtakingly hot, and maybe just maybe something more than human.

Little does Jacque realize how many changes are in store for her and her friends, as the mysterious exchange student’s arrival serves as the catalyst for drastic changes in her sleepy little Texas town. Haunted by a strange voice in her mind, and struggling against the intense connection she feels to Fane (the new guy), Jacque find herself in an unsolicited love triangle as a complete stranger from her hometown challenges Fane to a battle to the death to win Jacque as a mate?!

As a pack of paranormals descend on the town in preparation for the duel, Jacque struggles to make sense of the sudden knowledge that beings she believed only existed in myth are not only real, but ready to fight to the death for the honor of marking her as their own. Can Jacque escape her fate? And when all is said and done, will she want to?

To find out, you’ll have to read Prince of Wolves for yourself!

My Reactions:
It’s not often that I say what I’m about to say, but one of the things I loved most about this book was the dialogue, not only between Jacque, Sally and Jen (three best friends who’ve known each other since childhood and obviously have an easy rapport), but also the dialogue between Jacque and Fane (especially when Fane peppered in Romanian endearments – it sent shivers down my spine). The sarcastic comments, slang (most of it anyway) and quippy side conversations felt very real to me, even though they might seem a little overdone to others. Perhaps it’s because I still have vivid memories of being pretty dramatic (okay, especially melodramatic) in my teen years, but I couldn’t help but be drawn to Jen’s outlandish statements and Sally’s (mostly) patient silencing of Jen’s constant stream inappropriate, innuendo-laden comments.

There was also a real sense of that awkward teen attraction I think nearly everyone has experienced for themselves, and I found Fane and Jacque’s emotion/attraction-charged interest in one another to be pretty spot-on, especially when you add the usual teen hormonal complex to a super-intense, supernatural mate bond. ::insert sexy growl here::

One tiny drawback of this e-published book was the fact that it had a couple of instances that set off my grammar siren, and some descriptions/word play that were repetitive, but to be honest, the story held me so transfixed and was so enjoyable that any critique on the book just feels nit-picky.

As I read through other books in the series, I realized I’d felt these feelings before – when I went back and reread J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter, The Sorceror’s Stone. Once you had the other books to compare against, you realized that she was making huge strides as a writer as her story developed. Quinn Loftis’s books have a similar feel to me now that I’ve finished off all the books in the series (to-date, that is).

Another aspect of the story that I REALLY dig is the mental bond between Fane and Jacque. I’ve been a sucker for romance via telepathy since my dad handed me Rowan by Anne McCaffrey but strangely enough, I haven’t seen many writers use that type of connection between their characters. And while the thought of mental dialogue seems like it could get overly cheesy pretty quickly, Quinn does a great job of keeping those conversations believable – especially the awkward thoughts that Jacque doesn’t realize she’s transmitting until too late (so adorable!).

So I guess I’ve said all this, to really say this – if you’re looking for an enjoyable read for your Saturday or Sunday afternoon, featuring a pack of sexy wolf boys, teen angst, telepathy, and an impending duel that will have you biting your nails in suspense, I definitely recommend checking out Prince of Wolves.

You can download it (for free!!) at Amazon or iTunes.

And while you’re checking out those links so you can download your own copy, be sure to stay tuned for my review of Blood Rites, Book 2 of The Grey Wolves series. I’ll have it up on the blog over the weekend!

The Grey Wolves Series: Book 2

Players By The Sea: Talking Heads 2

May 21, 2012 by     No Comments    Posted under: Reviews

Today I was able to take a little time for myself (which if you’ve kept up with me at all lately you’ll know is a pretty big deal) to head over to Players By The Sea to catch Talking Heads 2. If you’re not familiar with Talking Heads, it’s a series of dramatic monologues written by playwright Alan Bennett – originally for BBC Television – chronicling the lives of seemingly ordinary individuals. I had the distinct pleasure of catching the first part of the series at Players By The Sea last year, so when I heard that they’d be doing the next part this month, I knew I had to be there.

I’m not usually into “drama” as it were, preferring more light-hearted or fantastical plot lines, but there’s just something about the weaving of the narrative, the pacing, dry humor and talent of the team at Players, that I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the lives of the three women in Bennett’s story.

The stage is simple, but effective in setting the scene on the lives of Susan, Marjory and Mizz Fozzard.

Susan, played by Caroline Lee, is a vicar’s wife who is tired of going through the motions of being religious, putting up with the ambitions of her vain, insensitive husband and his doting parishioners. A closet alcoholic who drinks too much sherry (as well as the parish’s communion wine), she’s forced to go further afield for drink when she runs up a large tab in town. The gentleman she meets at this new establishment has a life-changing effect on her, but you’ll have to see the play for yourself to see what I mean as I don’t want to spoil it. ^_^

Marjory, played by Kasi Walters, is the frustrated wife of Stuart, a slaughterhouse worker who brought home a dog that his wife finds distasteful and messy. As she complains about Tina and her incessant barking, Marjory begins to share some strange goings-on (killings and the like) that have happened in their town, and complaining about her husband’s late hours at the slaughterhouse.

And poor Miss Fozzard, played by Simone Aden-Reid, is a lonely, middle-aged department store clerk who is worn down by having to care for her brother, who recently suffered a stroke. The one thing that seems to brighten her existence is her habit of making frequent trips to the chiropodist (podiatrist); however, even that simple joy is threatened when her longstanding chiropodist moves. Prior to his leaving, he refers her to a retired practitioner who occasionally takes on new patients and whose interest in Miss Fozzard’s feet and footwear borders on the verge of a full-blown fetish and then some.

It’s definitely a wild ride, and if you have time next weekend and enjoy droll, British humor, I strongly recommend you check it out!

Breakfast for Dinner at First Watch Cafe

Nov 2, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Reviews

It’s probably not much of a secret to my friends and family, but there are few things I love more than the simple joy of having breakfast for dinner. So you can imagine, perhaps, how excited I was to be invited (along with a number of other Jacksonville food-lovers) to a Breakfast for Dinner event yesterday at the First Watch Cafe in Mandarin. My cousin, Kristen, was kind enough to agree to come as my date for the evening.

To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I’ve yet to have the opportunity to attend similar events with local groups such as the FW Bite Club, but I prepared as much as I was able – I did manage to arrive quite hungry. ^_^ Lucky for us, we were met by a smiling hostess, and several hors d’oeuvres options immediately upon walking in. Armed with a glass of iced green tea and my first taste of First Watch Cafe for the evening, I settled in for what was looking to be a wonderful evening.


Now, I’m not much of a roast beef person usually, but I’ll try almost anything once, and boy am I glad I did. First Watch’s Beefeater sandwich was love at first bite. When you bite into this delectable sandwich, you get a robust mix of roast beef, tomatoes, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses on grilled Parmesan-crusted sourdough bread with a mild horseradish sauce on the side. With the first “taste test” out of the way, I broke out the menu to see what other edible delights were in store.

Floridian French Toast

The Floridian French Toast was next on my “to try” list, and it was just as tasty as it looks. Fluffy sourdough bread, fresh fruit and a blueberry dipping sauce made this a great second taste of what was in store for the rest of the evening. While not my favorite dish of the night, it’s still an entree that I’d look forward to having again in the future.

After about half an hour or so of mixing and mingling and munching on the appetizers, we each sat down at our tables and settled in for the main event. Jessica, part of the First Watch Cafe’s marketing department, gave us a brief introduction to First Watch Cafe’s history, their move from California to Florida, and a quick flash forward to their growth into 92 locations. The Mandarin cafe is the second location in Jacksonville, and a third is on the way.

Next we opened our menus and began the tough process of selecting the entrees we’d like to sample. My particular table – which consisted of myself, my cousin Kristen, Liz Foraker (@Liz4aker) and Jessie Thomas (@jessiet09) – got a particular thrill out of the friendly message printed on each menu “We love you more than bacon!” After reading several descriptions aloud, we settled on the plan of each ordering a different entree so that we could all have a taste of something different. Liz ordered the blueberry pancakes, Jessie settled on the Crepeggs, Kristen ordered the Tri-Athlete Omelette, and I decided to test drive the Joaquin Yahoo (and a single carrot cake pancake – don’t judge me!). We also ordered another round of iced green tea, and hot chocolate because it was too beautifully presented to resist.

When our mountain of food arrived, my stomach quailed at the thought of actually being able to make a dent in everything that had been presented. In addition to the items we ordered, they also brought us a Pecan Dijon salad that I don’t think we even were able to take more than a bite or two of. After distributing a little bit of everything onto plates for each other, we lifted our forks and dug in.

Joaquin Yahoo

In choosing the Joaquin Yahoo as my entree, I took advantage of the opportunity to order something I normally might not have the courage to try. But man, was this an entree worth giving a chance. Served as an open-faced Mexican-style frittata made with eggs, mushrooms, broccoli, celery, zucchini and onions, then topped with salsa, melted cheeses and sour cream, it was a fiesta of flavor! I definitely recommend this entree to everyone with taste buds. (See a veggie in there that you’re not particularly fond of? No worries! You can of course have each entree made especially the way you like it).

Carrot Cake Pancake

Okay, I’d like to preface my critique of their carrot cake pancakes with a statement about my love of syrup and honey. I do not eat pancakes (or waffles) without a generous supply of syrup, so when I tell you that these pancakes are so divine that they need no additional confections, please take me at my word. These guys are good enough to be dessert!

So if you haven’t figured it out by now, I was pretty thoroughly impressed with my first taste of the First Watch Cafe. Each entree I sampled was deliciously, the staff was friendly, and the food came out ridiculously quickly despite the fact that the kitchen received about fifty orders at the exact same time. For those of you with restaurant experience (like me), you understand what a big deal that is. I’ve signed up for their mailing list and am looking forward to taking Christopher on my next trip!

Real Steel

Oct 24, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Reviews

When Chris and I decided to see Real Steel in theatres this weekend, I don’t think either of us was expecting much. And to be honest, the story went about how you’d expect, aside from one key element – the life lent to the movie by its audience.

I’ve only been witness to a few incidents where the audience of a movie has given it a life of its own – Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Titanic, and Ali being films that immediately come to mind. So what sets them apart from some of the more iconic blockbusters out there? For some reason, there’s a presence that draws you out of the theatre experience and inspires you to step beyond your innate disbelief, live alongside the characters (if only for a few short minutes) and cheer them on as they face the impossible. Everyone loves a good underdog story, but this goes somehow beyond that.

I wish I could identify the exact moment in Real Steel where I stopped thinking of it like a cheesy, live action version of Rock’em Sock’em Robots and started giving the movie a chance to prove its mettle without my internal criticism. It might’ve been when you learn that Atom’s sentient – sort of. The scene where Atom picks up Max and they share a moment of complete understanding is probably what cinched it.

Apparently the couple sitting beside us agreed. They were probably my favorite part of the entire movie experience. Sitting next to them, complete strangers though they were, allowed me to enjoy the movie from their point of view. Before they began audibly engaging with the movie, I’d begun building a critique in my head. Listening to their exclamations of worry and excitement, let me step outside my preconceptions and enjoy the movie just for being itself.

If you enjoy movies that have a lot of heart, inspire you to root for the underdog and let you leave a movie theatre feeling good, you might want to considering giving this flick a chance.


Shen Yun: A Journey to China

Feb 4, 2010 by     No Comments    Posted under: Reviews

This week has flown by in a flurry of activity, but I really wanted to sit down and write about Shen Yun, the show that Rhiannon, Mom and I saw last Saturday night.

The evening started with an amazing dinner at Bistro Aix. Mom had some scallops “aixoise”, Rhiannon devoured their duck breast and I had the roasted chicken or coq au vin if you prefer. ^_^ (Dessert was a decadent apple cobbler a lá mode.) Yum!

From there, we headed to the Times-Union Center for Performing Arts. As we made our way to our seats in the balcony, we were stopped by an usher who informed us that we wouldn’t be able to sit in the seats we’d purchased (which were, for the record, front & center of the balcony). Apparently, the show would be utilizing projectors and the staff handled all of that manually to ensure timing was absolutely perfect. We made our way down to the box office to figure out where we’d actually be able to sit and were upgraded to seats on the main level in the front middle section. Score! Read more »