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About 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
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!”
- 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.
- 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?)
- 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!
Christopher got me a 50mm lens for Valentine’s Day this year so I could work on my photography, and I’ve been really eager to try it out. (And what better way to do that than by taking advantage of a beautiful day and hitting the UNF trails to see what it could do?) Because I’m still a padawan when it comes to photography, I’ve never owned a lens that only adjusted manually, so the goal of the day was to practice, practice, practice!
I don’t think we could’ve asked for better weather – the sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze for the duration of our hike, and the humidity was next to nothing (for Florida anyway). The only hiccup to our perfect hiking weather was the miniature swamps that cropped up along the trail due to the deluge the area received the day before (and let’s be honest…it really did more to set the scene that we were actually on some grandiose adventure).
I’m always happiest when I’m outdoors taking in the natural beauty we Floridians are blessed with. Be it salt marshes, sand dunes, surf, pine forests or cypress swamps – it’s gorgeous in my book, and I want to experience it all. Mother Nature didn’t disappoint on Saturday. While we only technically hiked 3.5 miles, the adventure took us the better part of two hours, because I was stopping CONSTANTLY to take pictures. (I needed the practice after all.)
My favorite shot of the day was near the end of our hike after cutting a path parallel to our submerged trail so that we could make it to a bridge in the middle of the cypress swamp. The sun filtered through the treetops and created a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of highlights and shadows.
While I still have a lot of work to do in learning to master this new lens, I think I made some pretty decent progress during my first day out. I put together a small gallery of my favorites below!
Adventure is Out There
A Little Green Goes a Long Way
Cypress Knees = The Bees’ Knees
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Walk the Plank
This Way for Adventure!
Charlotte’s Cousin Eloise
The Palmetto Perspective
Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost
All Mimsy Were the Borogoves
The Little Sapling That Could
The Road Goes Ever On and On
Best Seat in the Forest
No Matter Where You Go, There You Are
To celebrate my dad’s birthday this year, we loaded up the car and made the 45-minute drive down to Fort Matanzas in St. Augustine. Located on Rattlesnake Island on the Matanzas inlet, it’s one of my dad’s favorite local haunts. We got to the park right right as the opened at 9 a.m. and were fortunate enough to catch the first ferry over to the island.
For those of you not familiar with the history of this particular monument, Fort Matanzas was built by the Spanish in 1740-1742 to protect St. Augustine from British/French invasions to the south. The area got its name, “Matanzas” (the Spanish word for slaughter) because of the massacre of Ribault and his men that happened earlier in 1565 by Menendez.
I know a lot of general history about the fort from past visits, but the park ranger who led the tour on Sunday really knew his stuff, and I learned a lot. For instance, when the Spanish soldiers built the fort back in 1740, they used 400 pine trees to create pilings to bolster the marshy terrain. And when the Spanish controlled the fort, its coquina walls were plastered and white-washed, the main barracks had a stone floor, and personnel consisted of an officer, four infantrymen, two gunners and a dog.
When the English gained control of Fort Matanzas in 1763, they bumped up the regular roster at the fort to 31 soldiers and nine dogs, replaced the stone floor of the barracks with dirt, and removed the plaster covering the coquina walls, which eventually led to the introduction of mold and mildew into the fort.
I could probably go on at some length about everything we gleaned from this as well as other visits, but instead I’ll finish up the history portion of this post with some other random fun facts gleaned from today’s adventure (I probably should’ve been taking notes):
- The Spanish soldiers of that day and age were very short – usually around the height of a musket (just over 5 feet tall).
- If a soldier wore red, that denoted that he was a gunner.
- The “men” who staffed the fort were actually boys 14-16 years of age.
- In the Catholic church at that time, you could get married as early as 12 years of age with permission of the church, although St. Augustine was a bit more conservative, and required newlyweds to be at least 16.
- Life expectancy at this time was 44-45 years.
My dad’s a huge lover of history and made sure that all of us (Sean, Rhiannon and myself) got healthy doses of the local lore growing up. We spent a lot of time at each of the local forts: the Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Matanzas, and Fort Caroline, as well as hiking the trails through salt marshes, woods and beaches that make up each national park.
We couldn’t have asked for better weather today as we explored the for: the sun was shining, and there was a great breeze. When we returned from exploring the fort on Rattlesnake Island, we “hiked” the short trail back on the mainland, watched the 8-minute overview and history of the fort and national park, and then combed the beach taking in the sights.
Sean and I especially have some great memories at Fort Matanzas with Dad. He took us fishing at the park one summer, and we caught more than a dozen fish between the two of us. Dad spent so much time helping us take the fish we caught off the line (we were strictly catch-and-release), and baiting and casting our lines, that he didn’t get the chance to fish at all. And one of the best parts of that adventure was the fact that we each caught a fish that was our favorite color: green for Sean, purple for me (just ask my Dad, he’ll vouch for us). ;)
We had a pretty awesome adventure today as well. While walking on the beach, we saw an army of fiddler crabs waving to potential mates, an osprey with a fish struggling in his talons, and a little green snake who’d fallen out of a tree at the edge of the beach. He was bright green, about a foot and half long and skinnier than a pencil. He was also having a difficult time getting traction in the soft sand, and navigating his way back to the brush at the edge of the marsh. My sister and I ended up using a couple of reeds placed in front of him to help get back to his tree.
While I’m by no means an expert on snake identification, I’m pretty sure he’s what’s known as a “rough green snake,” and as such, nonvenomous. I know there are a lot of people out there that feel pretty strongly about snakes, but as far as this little fellow goes, I thought he was beautiful, and watching him stretch his body back up to the tree (no small feat, I wish we’d taken video), was fascinating.
We wrapped up the day’s adventures with lunch at Mango Mango’s . Dad and I both chowed down on the Island Burger (my favorite item on the menu), complemented by a side of yucca fries (which are to DIE for).
As a family, we tend to do a lot of outdoor activities. How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?
[And to see more photos from today's adventure, check out my gallery on Flickr.]
For our anniversary this year, Chris gifted me a subscription to a monthly service called My Olive Box. Despite my daytime dealings as a social media director, I have a deep-rooted love for papercrafts – so the subscription is akin to getting a surprise present each month full of my favorite things. (Isn’t my hubs the BEST?!) The items in the box vary – sometimes you get cards or books, other times it’s artwork or gift wrap – but each one is crafted according to a surprise theme and delivers a delightful mid-month treat.
In May, the box included a book, Snail Mail My Email, which has inspired me to renew my own personal correspondence, hence the purpose of this post. During the month of July, I’ve set a personal goal to send 31 letters in 31 days. Now obviously, given holidays and weekends, my mail-sending won’t line up perfectly with sending one letter per day, but I will be sharing one letter a day on my blog and social channels. (Please forgive the irony.)
The letters will vary from handmade to letterpress and from postcard to packages. Brainstorming all the notes and their recipients has been a blast, and I can’t wait to get to work on my first batch. The fun kicks off next Monday on the blog, so stay tuned!
As I’ve probably mentioned more times than it matters, I’m a pretty avid reader and always on the lookout for new authors and series (otherwise I just end up reading the same hundred books or so). This past Friday morning, I reached out to Scholastic on Twitter and asked if they had any new YA fiction authors or series they’d recommend. Instead of just responding with a couple of quick recommendations, they did me one better by retweeting my question to their followers and asking them to help me out. The response was overwhelming in a good way, and reaffirmed not only my love for Scholastic, but also my love for Twitter.
Because it was such an awesome list, I figured I’d share it with you as well. Stay tuned for my reactions and reviews as I work through the list this Spring!
Crowd-sourced Reading List:
Additional recommended reading included Ellen Hopkins, Lauren Barnholdt, Lauren Myracle and Maureen Johnson (already a favorite)!
If you’re interested in learning more about the authors listed above, I’ve added hyperlinks to their various Twitter accounts, or to make it easy on yourself, you can just follow my YA Author list here. I’m always looking for more authors and series to add to the list, so if you have any recommendations of your own, please feel free to add them in the comments below!
Happy Reading, everyone!
I’ve never felt as full of life, energy, and dare I say zen, as I did when Chris and I were running regularly. Training for races like the Minnie Marathon and the Gate River Run was both exhausting and exhilarating – but after several frustrating injuries, I’ve struggled with returning to a regular run regimen.
Thankfully for me, Runner’s World announced this week that they’re kicking off their first ever Summer Run Streak, a friendly challenge to runners everywhere to commit to running at least one mile every day beginning next Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day) and continuing through July 4th – a whopping 38 straight days of runs.
This is great for a couple of reasons:
- I always do better when I have a firm goal in mind. In the past, it was working up to a particular race distance like the Gate River Run or the Outback Distance Classic, but since I’ve been out of the game for awhile, this particular goal of running 38 days in a row gives me a flexible framework, allowing me to run as much or as little as I want so long as I at least strike one mile off the to-do list each day.
- The challenge includes a hashtag (#RWRunStreak). Not only will tracking the conversations surrounding the hashtag help keep me motivated, it will also help keep me accountable. I’m making a public declaration that this run streak is important to me, and I’m going to make it happen.
- Beach season. As Runner’s World mentioned in their blog, the temptations of the summer season (vacations, hot weather, etc.) make it easy to put off running for a day, week or altogether.
- The distance shouldn’t affect other planned workouts. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on building strength in my core in preparation for making a return to running. (Little bit of kismet there, no?) The first week of core training was brutal, and I doubt I would’ve been able to successfully push my aching muscles into more than a sad shuffle if that challenge has been presented any sooner. However, after two weeks of workouts, I’ve already noticed a difference, and while the core workouts are still challenging, my muscles are recovering faster. In short, adding a one mile run (or more) each day should be just the extra push I need to keep things fresh!
If you’d like to join the challenge, it’s easy! Simple commit to running the 38 days, and if you feel like sharing your progress you can either post in the comments below or use the #RWRunStreak hashtag in your tweets!
Good luck, everyone!
Last Sunday, my coworker Tim rescued a tiny mess of a kitten from a gutter on Beach Blvd. After dubbing her “Sandy” due to her bedraggled appearance (and the location where she was found), he brought her into the office for some intensive TLC. She’s been in my care since Tuesday, and in that short time, she’s already made tremendous progress – evolving from that frightened creature cowering in a diaper box to a frisky kitten full of life (and mischief).
My crew still isn’t quite sure what to make of her – her first encounter with Ares left my poor pup terrified (hissing kittens are her kryptonite as we discovered last year when we fostered a litter). Kyo wants nothing more than to be allowed to play with her (she’s still not allowed out of the bedroom unchaperoned), Pixel and TicTac follow her every move, Sushi couldn’t care less and Jackie wants to smother her in kisses and nibbles.
The current game plan is to slowly acclimate them all, get Sandy up to a healthy enough weight to have her fixed, and then help her find her forever home through First Coast No More Homeless Pets. If you know anyone who’s interested in adding an adorable, sassy kitten to their family, be sure to let me know! She should be adoptable in 6-8 weeks.
I’m not quite finished with this project, but I’m SUPER excited about it, so I couldn’t help but post a teaser image of the work I’ve done thus far. It’s going to be a series of paintings, but I’ve got two left to go before I write out my tutorial and explain where my inspiration came from. If all works according to plan, the series should be finished by the end of the weekend. That being said, I would love to know what you think thus far!
If you ever feel as though your well of inspiration has dried up, or perhaps that pesky muse has indeed fled, I challenge you to spend five minutes on Pinterest. (And I’m betting you can’t spend JUST five.) Even if you don’t consider yourself crafty in any way, I GUARANTEE there’s something on this site for you.
That being said, I’ve been a little quiet on the web during the holidays because I decided to take a dose of my own advice, and have buried myself in the creative projects I’ve been dying to get around to for months. I kicked excuses to the curb and cranked out quite a few groovy little projects in between all the family gatherings, day trips and gorging.
Since I’m still stretching my writing muscles (which have been hibernating over the past few weeks as I stuffed myself silly with all my holiday favorites), I figured I’d share one of my simpler projects first – to warm up, as it were.
My hubs has been a driving force behind me returning to my crafty roots. We’ve been in our new house for almost a year and a half, and while I was a driving force in making it our own when we first moved in, I’ve been a little lax these past few months in finishing up the décor in some of the rooms. One of the things especially lacking has been artwork for the walls, which brings us to my first Pinterest project – the criss cross wall art you see below.
The example project you see above, I found on Pinterest and tracked back to the blog “Living in the Woods.” Taylor does a great job of explaining the process, and has included some step-by-step photos should you decide to try something similar, so instead of walking through the entire process myself, I’m just going to tackle some of the differences between her approach and mine.
- I decided not to put down a white base coat on the canvas. I could go into some lofty explanation about the fact that I prefer the texture of the canvas to the smooth, gloss of the white paint, but let’s be honest – I was impatient to try out the project and didn’t feel like driving to Home Depot once I realized that the white house paint we’ve had on-hand (that followed us to three houses and cities over the past four years) was no longer usable.
- Instead of using multiple widths of masking tape, I decided to keep it simple and use the one width. By limiting myself to one type of tape, I thought I might be able to save myself from adding too many layers. (I go a little overboard sometimes when excited.)
- Taylor used interior paint and a paint brush to coat the canvas and masking tape. I opted for some silver spray paint I had lying around for another project I’ll be sharing with you soon. I thought about using some of the interior paint we have left over from our latest painting projects, but I’m in love with the metallic silver spray paint and decided to give it a go.
The finished project is what you see below. Now the hubs and I just need to agree on a place to hang it!
- If you’re on Pinterest, I’d love to check out your boards! Let me know your username in the comments below! (Mine is MusesFled, if you’re interested in reciprocity.)
- Not a member of Pinterest, but looking for an invitation? Send me an invitation request below!
I’ve finally decided where to hang this! It’s going in my dining room (see photo below). And I’m already working on a new project for my kitchen. I can’t wait to show off what I’ve come up with! Stay tuned!
Every year I commit to writing 50,000 words during the month of November. This month of “literary abandon” is my annual release of pent up creativity (or so I tell myself every October in order to convince myself to enroll in the insanity for another year). It’s a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experience that I think everyone who has any aspirations to write (be it screenplay, novel, comic book, non-fiction, or biography) to prove to yourself that you have it in you. This will be my fourth year participating in NaNoWriMo, and I’m even more thrilled than usual to be participating.
For the past month, I’ve been ruminating on a story idea, so I’m the most prepared that I’ve ever been for this undertaking. Normally I approach this yearly endeavor with absolutely no idea what story I’d like to tell. Thankfully, for all you writers out there like me, the NaNoWriMo site provides a wealth of information, motivation, and community encouragement. It’s also a trap. Or at least it is, if you have any difficulty with every writer’s constant foe, Mr. Procrastination. There are a lot of really groovy individuals out on the forums, and it can be a time suck, so remember, ye be warned. As we’re only 2ish days into the month, you still have plenty of time to drink the kool-aid. If you do, you can find me on the forums under my usual handle @MusesFled.