Friday, October 31, 2014

Now Available in K-Cups: Delicious Lavazza Coffee Blends {Review}

Cross Country Cafe logo
As blogging has shown me the wide variety of products (and product quality) available on the market in nearly every category, it has made me a much more critical consumer. If a company isn't going to put the time and effort into making their items the very best, then I'll go elsewhere for one that is.

At the same time, however, in the past I found myself much more of a find the brand I like and stick to it type of person. But now that I have had so many companies surprise me with products that I enjoy, I'm much more willing to give new options a try. What if the next thing turns out to be amazing?

Proven yet again by Cross Country Cafe and the introduction of Lavazza coffees to their amazing lineup of K-cups.

Lavazza k-cups

Committed to achieving excellence in the production of coffee since the late 1800s, today Lavazza is the symbol of Italian coffee around the world. And, while fans everywhere have been enjoying the way that Lavazza is known for quality, innovation, creation and sharing of authentically Italian espresso and coffee experiences, now those of us who rely on K-cups can join in as well.

Considering that I was unfamiliar with Lavazza but interested in seeing what has made this brand so popular generation after generation, I was ready to put it to the test with Lavazza Gran Aroma and Classico K-cup varieties.

First, a delicious mug of Gran Aroma.

Lavazza Gran Aroma

A medium roast coffee, I found Gran Aroma to have a wonderful aroma and a rich, smooth flavor that was just the right intensity. I had initially worried that this would be too dark or strong for my liking, but I added my usual small amount of creamer and sweetener and was hooked from the first morning!

Then it was time to try Classico.

Lavazza Classico

Also a medium roast, I found that Lavazza Classico had the same rich flavor, full body and amazing aroma as the Gran Aroma, but with a bit more intense coffee taste. As opposed to the "general" coffees that I have enjoyed in the past, I'm blown away by how one of these K-cups can result in such a gourmet-tasting cup of coffee to start my day!

While I'm far from being any sort of professional coffee connoisseur, Lavazza has definitely been added to my favorites list for when I want to indulge in an incredible Italian coffeehouse experience... while at my kitchen table in my pajamas. Perfection!

Lavazza coffee

If you're already a fan of Lavazza, you'll love that their delectable coffee is now available in K-cups for even easier brewing. Or, if you haven't tried these before but are a devoted Keurig user, I recommend picking up a box (head over to the fabulous Cross Country Cafe for a great deal!) to give it a try today!

As a Cross Country Cafe Ambassador, I have been provided with products in exchange for my continued work with their company and affiliate links are included in the above post. The opinions shared are my own and honest and if you really need to see more, click here to see how I roll.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

K'NEX Provides Endless Building Fun with Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoy {Review & Giveaway}

K'NEX logo
I've been known to say that there are certain brands of toys that lead to creativity right out of the box.

While there are some toys that have a "take it or leave it" type of effect on kids, there are also the ones that just get it. They provide products that I can set in front of my daughters and there aren't strict instructions or an extended amount of prep time in order for play to begin.

If it's ready for use immediately, that just keeps the interest and excitement going much longer than if they have to wait while I get out a screwdriver, read instructions or explain where to put each and every piece. Besides, who wants to sit and follow directions when you are a kid with ingenuity and inventiveness bursting at the seams?

And there's almost no better example of a company that knows what it takes to provide an entertaining and educational experience than the endless imaginative options from K'NEX.

K'NEX products

The most innovative and fastest growing construction toy company, K'NEX products are sold (and enjoyed) across the globe. With the ability to provide fun and enjoyment for kids while mixing in strong educational components such as hand-eye coordination and stacking skills, when most people hear the name K'NEX, they think of the traditional building toy.

However, this company offers much more than that! With everything from building to stacking to imagining for kids of all ages, K'NEX has something for just about every age and skill level. For us, when the Lincoln Logs Collector's Edition Homestead and the Tinkertoy 30 Model Super Building Set arrived, they were just the thing to bring some building and constructing fun to our house.

First up, let's go back in time with Lincoln Logs!

Lincoln Logs Collector's Edition Homestead

Lincoln Logs by K'NEX are the classic building set that we all have known and loved since our own childhood. Including real wood logs of various sizes along with colorful accessories and play figures, these familiar notched logs are made to fit together to allow kids to build any kind of structure they can imagine.

From towers to buildings to forts to houses to just about anything in between, kids can easily use the logs, windows, doors, and accessories to practice and improve their fine motor skills, creativity, and more. There's just something about the feel of the real wood and the simplicity of these logs that makes them special!

As we have experienced Lincoln Logs in the past (our own sets as well as at my kids' preschool), the girls couldn't wait to open up the Collector's Edition Homestead set to start playing with it. Not to mention that this is the biggest Lincoln Logs set ever created and who could pass up playing with 330+ of these amazing parts?

Lincoln Logs review

While the kids love to use these high quality wooden logs to come up with their own innovative constructions (some that resemble something from the real world and some that... uh... don't), they also have had a great time using the pieces in this set to actually recreate the homestead.

Sometimes aspects end up precisely as shown and sometimes we add our own little touches to give it a creative twist. But no matter what, the end result is a whole lot of fun!

Lincoln Logs

With the open-ended fun of all of the Lincoln Logs sets, I often think the best part is to just start building and see what you come up with! However, when it comes to having an endless number of parts and pieces so that the creativity and imagination never stops, the Collector's Edition Homestead truly has it all (including the awesome silver-accented tube for storage).

This great set is recommended for ages 3+ and retails for $99.99 from Target.com, Walmart.com, Amazon.com and knex.com.

Along similar lines when it comes to open-ended creativity, the K'NEX Tinkertoy 30 Model Super Building Set is such a fun way for kids (ages 3+) to be entertained while showing their ingenuity quickly and easily.

Tinkertoy super building set

Including spools, rods, flags, washers, end caps, and more (200 pieces in all!), this Tinkertoy set has just about every size and shape piece (in a multitude of bright colors) that a kid could ask for!

Tinkertoys

Plus, I appreciate that K'NEX included building ideas for a variety of models (with a link to find even more online), which have served as a great way to encourage my kids to continue constructing if they get stuck or as an inspiration to turn one of these models into something even more creative.

By having so many plastic pieces that snap together quickly and easily, the Tinkertoy 30 Model Super Building Set has provided endless fascination for my children as well as for any other young inspiring builders that have visited our house lately. There are just so many shapes, sizes and colors (there are even bendable pieces to add a whole new twist) to choose from!

Tinkertoy review

Perfect for using as-is or adding to any other Tinkertoy building set, the Tinkertoy 30 Model Super Building Set retails for $49.99 and is available from knex.com or Amazon.com.

My girls have both returned to play with these Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoys multiple times to come up with something new or to continue on with a tale that they've had in their mind. There's just no wrong way to play with these awesome K'NEX items and being able to use their imagination is exactly what my kids always enjoy — it's no wonder these toys are both such classics!

To learn more about these sets, as well as the huge selection of innovative and fun products that K'NEX has to offer, visit them at knex.com and connect with them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. You can also find Lincoln Logs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and Tinkertoy on Facebook and Twitter.

Plus, thanks to the generosity of K'NEX, one person will get to enjoy seeing their child build and create as well, because...

One lucky person will win a Lincoln Logs Collector's Edition Homestead!

Lincoln Logs giveaway


A big thank you to K'NEX for providing the aforementioned sets for me to review as well as the Lincoln Logs Collector's Edition Homestead for one lucky giveaway winner. The opinions shared are my own and honest if you really need to see more, click here to see how I roll.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Shapewear that Doesn't Roll, Slide or Need Readjusting: HookedUp Shapewear {Review}

HookedUp logo
In stark contrast to the friends of mine that manage to somehow stay motivated to continue their healthy eating and daily exercise, my dedication is not nearly as consistent. Over the years I've tried and, as my weight has gone up and down, so has my confidence and the way that I feel about myself every time I get dressed and my clothes fit a little looser or tighter.

Sigh. Where's my magic lotion that will just melt away my love handles?

Therefore, in an effort to feel more comfortable in my own skin, I have tried a number of different brands and designs of shapewear to keep my muffin top as invisible as possible. And, while they have sometimes provided the results that I'm looking for, spending the day tugging and adjusting and being aggravated when my shapewear starts to roll or slide down isn't my most favorite thing.

Which is why I was amazed and excited to be introduced to HookedUp Shapewear!

Shapewear options

Changing the face of shapewear for the better, HookedUp is a groundbreaking system that actually hooks onto your own bra to completely eliminate the common roll down problem. Instead of spending your time trying to discreetly pull your shapewear back into place, you can head out in comfort and ease instead!

As HookedUp is available in two colors (nude and black), three styles (High Waist Shaping Brief, High Waist Shaping Mid-Thigh and High Waist Shaping Slip) and in sizes Small to 3X (I found that these run on the small side and I needed to size up), I knew that this was one product that I wanted to see in person. After all, with a promise to never slip down, this could be the revolution in shapewear that my wardrobe needed!

HookedUp shapewear

As I looked over my High Waist Shaping Mid-Thigh, right away I was impressed with the durability, quality and attention to detail that were evident.

The main body is made up of 84% nylon and 16% spandex, resulting in a thick, strong, stretchy-yet-firm-control-providing material, while the bottom of both legs are lined with an edging that keeps them from sliding up or moving around.

HookedUp shapewear leg

On the upper back, this piece not only offers three different locations for each hook to be placed (making it possible to wear bras with straps that are located closer together or further apart), but HookedUp includes a variety of other hooks to use as well.

No worries if you have a favorite bra that has wider or smaller straps, this can adapt to just about any possible configuration!

HookedUp shapewear hooks

When it comes to wearing HookedUp Shapewear, I appreciate that the company includes multiple explanations, photos and videos in order to ease any worries or confusion. Truly, you simply hook the shapewear piece to your bra straps and then step in, putting the entire thing on together!

How to wear HookedUp Shapewear

Although it took me a time or two of assembling and adorning my High Waist Shaping Mid-Thigh, once I had the hang of it I was able to step in and hook everything on in a matter of minutes.

And the results?

Instead of unwanted bumps and lumps and having to deal with pinching, pulling, tugging and my mind continuing to wander to thoughts of a visible muffin top, I could relax knowing that instead I had a smooth, seamless silhouette. This really is just that easy!

HookedUp shapewear

Although this garment does include an oversized, overlapping split crotch, I have yet to attempt to use that feature when going to that bathroom and have instead gotten used to unhooking the piece from my bra and pulling it down instead. Although this takes a bit more work, I find that the effort is worth it for the seamless comfort and the way that I feel so much better about my tummy, hips and thighs!

In the end, I'm very happy with HookedUp and the innovative way that they have made it possible to wear shapewear without it turning into a problem of its own. I want to put on shapewear to make myself look and feel better, not to create more hassle and frustration in my day!

The High Waist Shaping Mid-Thigh retails for $68 (as does the Shaping Slip; the Shaping Brief retails for $58) and, although this initially seems high, the way that it will boost my ego for years makes it seem worth it! Not to mention the comfort and extreme versatility — this can be used on any bra, including nursing bras, strapless, convertible and more!

Find out more about all three of the HookedUp Shapewear products by visiting HookedUpShapewear.com and continue the conversation about all things confidence and comfort by connecting with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Other than the High Waist Shaping Mid-Thigh that I was provided by HookedUp in order to facilitate my review, I was not compensated or enticed to do this post in any way. This review is solely my honest opinion on this product.

Celebrate Halloween with Big G Monsters Cereals and Snacks in Special Throwback Packaging! {#RetroMonsterCereal}

Big G General Mills logo
For me, the process of decorating, cooking and preparing for Halloween tends to fall into my Aspirations category.

Meaning that, unlike Christmas, where I actually get out the decorations and bake the cookies, my Halloween bin usually stays in the basement unopened (next to my Easter bin) until it seems like far too late to make taking anything out worth it.

Someday, right?

This year, however, General Mills and Target have made it easy to get ready for Halloween even before all the ghosts, goblins, and monsters come to the door thanks to their exclusive Retro Monster Cereals and snacks!

Retro Monster cereals

How cute are these boxes of tasty cereals and sweet snacks? Available exclusively at Target, these colorful boxes not only include the fun retro packaging, but also bring Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Franken Berry into the spotlight just in time for Halloween.

Is there a child around that wouldn't want to get into the Halloween spirit with these bright, tasty varieties?

Count Chocula cereal

But wait, there's more! This year the Retro Monsters have brought Monsters snack items with them and we all couldn't wait to give Count Chocula Treats, Boo Berry Fruit Roll-Ups and Franken Berry Fruit Roll-Ups a try as well.

Count Chocula treats

Perfect for nostalgic cereal fans and Halloween lovers, Monsters cereals and snacks are fun for the whole family... and these snacks would be the perfect addition to Halloween parties (as-is or with melted marshmallows for a ghoulishly tasty treat) or even as a special surprise for trick-or-treaters!

In the meantime, my kids have not only been happy to have these cereals and snacks with meals, but they've had a lot of fun with the cutout masks on the back of the Retro Monster cereal boxes. Just another reason to add these to our favorites list for fall!

Halloween masks

Are you ready to add a little haunted and delicious fun to your household as well? Head over to Hello Cereal Lovers to join in the conversation and be sure to head to your nearest Target to pick up these spooky (and yummy!) retro cereals this month!

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op.