Sweet Critique: Taylor Gifts

Taylor GiftsTaylor Gifts is an online retailer that sells a variety of items such as gag gifts, As Seen On TV items, and tons of other things.

They’re celebrating their 60th year of business in 2012, and it’s easy to see why they’ve been in business for so long: they take customer service seriously.  They may not have a big flashy logo or appear on commercials everywhere, but they’ve got that whole understated awesomeness thing down.

My First Experience With Taylor Gifts

 

SIX COLORFUL MAGAZINE FILESThe first time I ever bought from Taylor Gifts was a couple of years ago when we started homeschooling.  I needed a way to keep each subject separate and organized.  We were also living in a hotel while waiting to find a house, so I needed something small.  The magazine files they sell were perfect.  They lasted quite a while and did us proud until we moved on to our workboxes {our homeschooling storage needs grew…}.

The price was great, the shipping was fast, and I had not one problem with the whole transaction.  I love companies that are like that: they do a kick-butt job on getting you the stuff you paid for really fast and in really good condition.  You better believe, though, if there’s a problem, they’re ready to make it right.

What Do They Sell?

 

Taylor Gifts sells a variety of unique gifts, perfect for anyone on your list, including pets.  I was excited to find they sell a ton of gifts for pets, such as cat toys and Kong toys for dogs {they’re just about the only thing that can stand up to Winston’s chewing}.

You know all those quirky, fun, interesting things you find and think, “Oh, so-and-so would so get a kick out of this!” or “Oh, so-and-so would so love this!”?  Taylor Gifts sells that stuff, and they sell them at great prices.  They’re committed to fast shipping, and they don’t like backorders {who does?}, and they do this crazy thing: they don’t charge you until your item is shipped.  Imagine that!

Final Thoughts

 

I definitely recommend you check them out, even if you’re not in the market for gifts.  They sell a ton of stuff that you can use in your home, yard, homeschool, and everything in between!

True Confessions:  I partnered with Taylor Gifts to bring you this post. I really do shop there and all opinions are mine.

Sweet Critique: Cookie’s Kids #LuvCookies #cBias

Cookies Logo

It is downright shameful how long I’ll wait to get Babydoll clothes. No, she’s not walking around in stuff that is way too small, and she always has plenty of clothing, but I wait till the last possible minute to go and buy stuff.

I think part of this is the homeschooling; she doesn’t need that many “wear out” clothes.  But, she’s a girl and she likes clothes, so I’ve been trying to be better about getting her a few things here and there.  This is why I was so excited to work on this particular campaign, and Babydoll was equally as thrilled!

What Is Cookie’s Kids?

 

Cookie’s Kids is an online department store for kids.  They’ve got uniforms, dresses, shoes, scarves, anything and everything.  Babydoll loved looking around the site and seeing what they had.  They have sooo much.  She, of course, wanted everything…

It was fun to see how excited she got; we sat there for quite a while as she looked at clothes and shoes.  She knew she had to narrow down her choices, so she ended up picking a shirt and a dress:

The prices were great, in my opinion.  Babydoll is a fan of stores aimed at girls her age, and some of the stuff is cute and age-appropriate, but it’s so stinking expensive.  She’s generally limited to one item per season because I just refuse to spend more on her clothes than I do my own.

Shipping was as expected, which was great considering it was over a holiday weekend.  I got my items on time.  Overall the process went smoothly, and Babydoll enjoyed it quite a bit.

The Clothes

 

The box came, and Babydoll was excited to get it open!  She modeled her new items for me:

There were a couple of things that we thought could use a bit of work.  The size charts were not complete.  We liked how they had some of the brands’ specific size charts {brilliant!}, but for brands not listed, the general charts were mainly geared toward uniforms.

Also, the colors on the site don’t necessarily match the item.  Babydoll’s shirt is a lot darker than we expected.  The dress shown on the site seemed to be party length, but when we got it, it was much longer.  I think they used a picture of a smaller size.

These weren’t huge things for us, but if you’re looking for something very specific, you might want to keep this in mind.

That said, I would probably shop here again.  I can get the styles Babydoll wants at a much more affordable price than other places, and I like that.

They also have a referral program, which many might like.  For every person who signs up under your link, they will get a $10 credit!  Also, when they make their first purchase YOU get $10 credit too!

I’ve got more pictures of our shopping experience here if you’d like to check them out!

True Confessions:  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias

Checking In, Laser Focus, and All That Jazz

This seems like an appropriate time for a post like this, so it’s rather fortuitous that this has been on my mind.  This post is so long, but at least skim it, I’ve pinked and bulleted the important stuff, like what’s coming up on Sweet Phenomena.

For those of you who are bloggers, I’m sure you’ve had that whole “I need to refocus my efforts, I need to re-assess” thing going through your brain.  I do.  Quite often, but more often lately.  Maybe because we’re surrounded by “new year, new beginnings” stuff.  I’m not a big fan of that, I think it can always be time for a new beginning, but that’s not really my point…

Huh?

 

Yeah, I confused myself too…  I enjoy blogging.  I enjoy social media.  I enjoy interacting with you guys.  I like participating in and holding giveaways.  I like reviewing stuff.  I love what I do.

No matter how much you love something, though, sometimes you need to ponder how you’ve been displaying that love.  I’m happy with the overall direction of Sweet Phenomena, but I’m ready to do some laser focusing and really clarify what I want it to be.

I’m a firm believer in the fact that you should first blog for yourself.  If you aren’t doing it from a place of truth, you won’t survive in the multi-million blog world.  The readers will come.  There will be people who can relate and who enjoy your voice.  And there will be those who don’t.  And that’s OK.

I’m also the type of person to jump into something feet first, learn a ton of stuff after starting, redo it a better way, and then evolve it as I change.  It’s not “right,” but I’m OK with that.

Purpose

 

Sweet Phenomena has gone from being a blog about homeschooling to being a mish-mash of stuff.  That’s what my life is like.  That’s what my brain is like.  I love homeschooling.  Fact of the matter is, though, I’m not an uber-homeschooler like many of the homeschooling bloggers out there.  I can’t come up with curriculum.  I don’t want to.  I can’t make worksheets, create printables, devise games.

I’m so much happier by finding these things on the internet and implementing them, sharing my findings and experiences with you guys.  So, one of Sweet Phenomena’s purposes is:  homeschooling schtuff.  It probably won’t be anything earth-shattering, but it will be tons of resources, links, and info; our honest-to-goodness experiences; and other morsels I’ve picked up along the way.  This includes The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew reviews.

I’ve also decided to use my voice and my reach {no matter how small} to bring awareness to a cause so important and personal to me:  domestic violence.  I grew up in a household where my mother suffered from it for many years, and I think people need to know about domestic violence, how prevalent it is, what the warning signs are, and how to help.  You’ll continue to see this here.

I like reviewing stuff.  It’s fun.  You get things for free.  I’m just putting that out there.  I really like bringing you guys this information.  I don’t know about you, but I love it when people I know share new, exciting, innovative, and fun product information with me.  I’ll buy something that’s been recommended to me over anything else in a heartbeat.  So, you’ll still see product reviews on Sweet Phenomena.

The stuff won’t always be directly related to homeschooling, but it will be related to life as a mom, families, or life in general.  Basically, if it’s applicable in my life and it’s a company/product I feel I can get behind, I’ll review it and let you know what I think.  Believe me, I’ve turned down stuff that is not at all related to my life, from a company I can’t feel good about recommending, or from a company that is a competitor of something I’ve reviewed before.  I’m not about whoring out my internet real estate.

I like Social Fabric and shoppertunities.  They’re fun and interesting, so you’ll continue to see those.

I’m a blogger, and I’m constantly learning, so you might find a few tidbits of info on blogging and social media here.

And, because I can talk and talk and talk, you’ll get injections of life here on Sweet Phenomena.  That makes me real to you.  That opens up conversations.  It gives me a record of time.

Oh, and miscellaneous.  I have to throw that in there to cover my bum.  Just know it will always be family-friendly.  Yeah, I feel I need to say that.

To recap:

  • homeschooling schtuff
  • domestic violence awareness
  • product reviews
  • Social Fabric and shoppertunities
  • info on blogging and social media
  • injections of life
  • miscellaneous

So, Really, What’s Coming Up?

 

I hate vagueness, so here are a few specific things I’ve got in the works for the next year:

  • A series on archaeology and homeschooling – Babydoll wants to be an archaeologist and I’ve been unhappy with the surface info/products available for fostering this, so I’m putting together what we’ve found and will be doing.
  • An editorial calendar – I can’t promise I’ll stick to it {because, well, I’m imperfect}, but I’m working on an editorial calendar for the year that will show the general subjects I’ll be covering each month.
  • A regular posting time frame for domestic violence awareness – this cause is important and I want to cement a specific posting time frame for it.
  • The return of The Homeschool Mother’s Journal – I have missed this, and I haven’t done it because {I’m not going to lie}, we’ve not had a stellar first half of the year.  I believe Babydoll is learning, but I’m trying to reconcile my style of homeschooling with my view of education, and that’s like a freaking mallet to the head…
  • A new site design – I probably shouldn’t put this out there because it’s such a far-off thing {and so expensive}, but I really want a new site design for 2012.  I’ve got visions, I just need to get them out of my head, and pay someone to make them a reality.
  • An eBook {or two} – Yet another thing I probably shouldn’t put out there, but I have several ideas that I’ve already begun researching, and I really want those to come to fruition.
  • A series on lapbooks – I was recently talking with a few homeschoolers who had no idea what these were, so I thought I’d break them down.
  • Better pictures – I can’t promise anything here, but I’d really like to improve my pictures.
  • More on what it’s like to be a secular-friendly non-traditional homeschooler – I’m such a weird homeschooler, and I can’t be the only one…
  • Unit studies/lesson plans – OK, so I kind of lied when I said I don’t like coming up with curriculum and printables.  Really, I don’t, but I have a few items I’m interested in developing a small unit study for.
  • How I am getting my mommy swagger on – I turned 30 in 2011, and while that didn’t bother me, I’m going through that whole really finding out who I am.  I feel like I’ve thrown myself into being a stellar wife and mom {and fail so miserably so many times}, and have forgotten about me.  To his credit, Vince is always telling me to do for myself, always helping, always encouraging, but I’m an all-or-nothing martyr, and that’s not cool.  I need to make me happy.

OK, I really could go on and on.  I’m so excited.  I’m so glad to have you along for the ride.  This is so gonna rock.  :)

A Pink and Sparkly Roast

Insanity is not an Option

A few months ago I joined a super-awesome community:  Social Fabric {SF}.  I’ve had the opportunity to participate in all sorts of fun stuff, and really analyze brands, shopping, and user experiences.

Christy Thompson Gossett

This post isn’t about me though, or SF for that matter.  It’s about one of the first peeps I met when I joined SF:  Christy Gossett.  A few of us are participating in the “Roast in a Post” of SF members, and I was assigned Christy.  I was secretly excited to have Christy…  But not in a creepy stalker way.

So, what does this have to do with the title?

One of the first words uttered {typed} to me from Christy were something about how sparkly stuff is awesome.  Oh man, I knew if I didn’t like anybody else at SF, I’d like Christy because, well, anyone who thinks sparkly stuff is awesome is OK in my book.  And, if they like sparkly stuff, there’s a good possibility they like pink.  You guys know how I love me some pink…

Christy’s Internet Real Estate

 

Her blog, Insanity Is Not An Option, is pink.  And sparkly.  That’s just totally awesome.

On her totally awesome pink and sparkly blog, Christy talks about her family, her life, and products she enjoys.  As I perused, I noticed how open she was about everything, and I love that.  You can really get to know a blogger that way.

A couple of posts I liked {for this very reason} are one in which she mentions how her two sons {five and three} are listed as primary tenants on the lease {that’s just too good, unless of course, you’re experiencing it – and for the record, I hate the situation she was in} and one in which she encourages us to remember the sparkly things in our lives.

The Person Behind the Blog

 

I probably should have started with this, but then I wouldn’t be me…  Christy is the mother of four children whom she absolutely adores.  See, they’re right over there *points right*.

She adores her mother and has a whole album on Facebook dedicated to her.  She loves her husband and children.  She loves sparkly stuff.  She’s OCD {hey, I can relate}.  She’s a vegetarian that loves the smell of steak cooking.

Christy calls Palmyra, NY, home, but was born in Long Beach, CA.  She moved 13 times in 13 years after that!  She currently lives on the “island” known as Galveston, TX.  Her two oldest daughters live in GA and she wants them home for Christmas more than anything.  I bet you, even more than pink sparkly stuff.

Christy hates Twitter.  But she has embraced it.  She seems to use it rather well…  You can find her here.

She seems to be experiencing the same type of “are you freaking kidding me” that I experience here in AL.

My Personal Thoughts on Christy

 

I don’t know her all that well, and that’s my fault.  She’s always on top of things over at SF, so it’s not like she’s hiding.  I just put way too much on my plate, so I’m always zooming in and out.

I do know enough about her, though, to know that she’s a fun-loving, caring mother and wife.  She says what’s on her mind {and I can totally appreciate that}.  She always seems to have a positive outlook on things, and that’s contagious.  She is outgoing {at least on the interwebz} and always ready to make someone feel normal and welcome.

She’s a great asset to the SF community and I look forward to keeping up with her!  Be sure to check out her blog {linked above}, her on Twitter {linked above}, and her on Facebook.  It’ll give you a much-needed laugh in your day!

If you’d like to learn more about other SF members, click the links below!

Murphy USA Keeps Me Going!

2011-12-17_13-32-29_988

Murphy USAI am quickly beginning to wish we had a Murphy USA much closer to us; they are awesome! I’ve done a few other stories about them, such as when we shopped for tailgating supplies and when we went in search of goodies for our mail woman {such a hit, we got a very nice handwritten card from her!}. Today, we’re in search of snacks to keep us going as we’re out and about this season!

Drinks to Keep us Energized

 

Energy DrinksFirst item up is energy drinks.  Now, Babydoll and I don’t really drink things like Red Bulls or other “traditional” energy drinks.  I’ve never had them and of course wouldn’t serve it to her.

Side note:  I have consumed large quantities of Mountain Dew one night when I had to pull an all-nighter to get hundreds of hand-poured sugar lollipops made, but I try to stay away from those binges unless absolutely necessary…  

So, while we found those drinks today, we won’t be purchasing any.

SodaThen there is caffeinated soda to keep you going. We purchased a couple of Mountain Dews for Vince because he likes those {and because they were on sale: $2.21 for two, instead of $1.76 for one; awesome!}.  I, however, am cut off from soda {a personally inflicted rule that I wish I’d not made, but the stuff is like crack for me so it’s all or nothing baby}, and Babydoll doesn’t really like it, so we’re still searching.

I know there’s a big Pepsi vs. Coke thing, and I’m in the Coke camp, so I took pictures of those products.  Murphy USA, of course, has a large variety of Pepsi products as well, if that floats your boat.

Sports DrinksNext up: sports drinks.  These are my go-to if I need a quick burst of energy.  They’re also good for when you’ve had one too many blueberry martinis the night before…  My personal favorite is Gatorade, but Murphy USA has a number of brands in a variety of sizes.

So with all of these drink choices, what did we end up getting?  Water.  And Tummy Yummies.  The latter was Babydoll’s choice.  Water keeps me hydrated and doesn’t ensure a crash in a few hours like other drinks might have.  I’ll feel much better after having some.

Murphy USA has my most favorite bottled water:  smart water.  If I’m out, and I need to buy bottled water, that’s the water I want.  It tastes like, well, water.  Go figure.

Our ChoiceThe Tummy Yummies were something Babydoll wanted to try, so I gave in. I figured if it had a ton of sugar, that would give her energy right?  Turns out, they don’t have all that much sugar and aren’t nearly as bad as I thought they were.

Snacks to Keep Us Full

 

We had just eaten lunch {mmmm, Mexican food, one of my faves} so I wasn’t terribly hungry, but Babydoll can pack it away like a grown man, so she was all for a snack for the ride home.

SnacksMurphy USA has a crazy number of snacks at its little kiosk.  I’m really digging the number of protein-packed snacks like beef jerky {they have the really good kind} and nuts.  We snag a bag of nuts and we’re ready to roll.

Gift Cards

 

Did you know that most Murphy USA stores carries a large selection of gift cards?  No, I didn’t either.  This will probably come in handy for a few of you this time of year…  Here’s a handy list for you:

  • Applebee’s
  • Bass Pro Shop
  • Vanilla
  • Longhorn
  • TGI Fridays
  • Foot Locker
  • eFinanSe
  • Blockbuster
  • O’Charley’s
  • GameStop
  • Cracker Barrel
  • Lowe’s
  • Chili’s
  • AMC Theaters

Alright, we are done!  We’ve got our drinks and snacks, and we’re ready for the ride home!

Want to see more pictures from our trip?  Check out my Google+ album!

True Confessions:  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias  All opinions are my own, including the drink company preferences I listed.  I know you might be a Pepsi fan.  That’s OK.