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The Obvious Game: Review and Giveaway!


I am not, as a rule, a huge fan of YA literature. I was when I was the target audience's age, but I haven't much taken to the trend over the last few years wherein adult bibliophiles go gaga over books meant for preteens. That said, I was quite excited to read The Obvious Game. Why? Because the author, Rita Arens, is a favorite blogger of mine (she blogs at Surrender, Dorothy). I've been reading Rita's blog for several years, and I admire her honesty, enjoy her stories, and relate to her voice. I've really loved peeking in on her work to get The Obvious Game completed and published, too--though I don't have a particular dream to publish a YA novel, it's been fascinating to read about how it happens. It's fun to watch anybody you admire work hard to accomplish something important to them, and that's how I've felt whenever I've read Rita's updates about getting the book published. Given that, it seems almost like icing on the cake that I really enjoyed the book itself.

But I did enjoy the book. The heroine, Diana, rang so true to me. Though she actually bore little resemblance to my teenaged self, I still felt, at points in the story, as if I'd had the exact feelings she was having. Though I never struggled with an eating disorder or a critically ill parent like Diana does, I still felt the truth in her reactions to those situations, just as I related to the parts of her life--difficult friendships, a rocky first romantic relationship--to which I could empathize. In a guest post at B.O.O.K.L.I.F.E, Rita describes early drafts of Diana as "too unlikeable" and "all rough edges and whining." It's exactly this part of Diana to which I most related. Too often, it seems, fictional teenagers are portrayed as far too rational, too moderated, too likeable. Diana isn't like that. She's a small town teenaged girl dealing with some very weighty stuff, and she's doing the best she can, but she screws up. A lot. And not just in the ways typical to fictional teens, like staying out all night and drinking, but in ways that, for me, felt more important. In one early scene, Diana doesn't stop her obnoxious (and again, so recognizable from my own teenhood) friend Amanda from ruining one of her mom's new wigs. The whole feeling of that scene, Diana's helplessness to stop Amanda even though she clearly knows it's not going to end well, made me feel 15 again in a way that was both uncanny and uncomfortable.

The Obvious Game
lets the reader in on just enough of Diana's internal monologue to both feel for her and get frustrated with her. So often, not just kids' literature, but in adult novels as well, looks inside a character's head, particularly when they are repeated or thematic, start to feel forced. The things that Diana thinks, though, skip right past forced and just make a weird kind of sense. For example, there are several points throughout the book where she calms herself by imagining what type of wig the person to whom she is talking might wear, if s/he needed, like Diana's bald-from-chemo mother, to wear a wig. Each time this device is used, it makes you like Diana more, and hurt more for her.

Another strength of the book is the relationship between Diana and her parents, particularly her mother. Again, something that sounds like it could be a YA novel stereotype (the mom with cancer) feels not like a plot device, but like something real. Diana's mom isn't a sickly saint--she cries, she yells, and she's a lousy cook. Even though she's not the book's central character, Rita takes the time with her to make her feel like someone you know--maybe not your mom, but your friend's mom. It's a great characterization.

I also like Diana's friends. Not Amanda, so much, but her "real" friends, who are fairly minor characters in the book but still feel fleshed out. I like that Diana has a relationship with a male friend, Seth, that is believably platonic--you see that so rarely in media about teens, but I remember it happening when I was in high school. I appreciate that it was included, especially as a counterpoint to Diana's relationship with her boyfriend, Jesse, which was the one relationship in the book that didn't really work for me.

The thing that most impresses me about Rita's book is that she takes theme that are so typical to YA novels that they're almost stereotypical--a teenaged girl with an eating disorder, a sick parent, an unequal friendship, first romance/loss of virginity--and makes them feel not like she's writing yet another novel about them, but like she's telling you a real story about a teenager named Diana that happens to include those elements. It doesn't feel preachy, or like you're supposed to be learning a lesson. It doesn't feel like ground that has been covered a million times. It feels like its own, unique story. That's really impressive.

So, obviously, I think this is a book you and/or your teen/preteen daughter should read. And Rita has been kind enough to donate one copy, either in paperback or ebook, to a lucky WINOW reader, so you can! Leave me a comment and tell me your favorite YA novel. For a second entry, tell your social network of choice (Twitter, Facebook, whatever the kids are using these days) about this book and leave another comment. I'll pick a winner on Friday, February 15. GO!

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Thank you again for your long-time support and for sharing about my book. I love your review -- you are the first to mention the wigs, and it's interesting you grew closer to Diana through them. That was one of the things I added when she was too unlikable, so I'm glad that worked for you.

I loved "Life as we knew it" by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Loved. For some of the same reasons, too. The somewhat unlikeable narrator, for example.

Picking my favorite YA novel is tough. As a teen, I loved "The Last April Dancers" by Jean Theisman and "The Outsiders". Recently I've enjoyed some of the popular dystopian YA books like "Divergent". I really liked The Curse Workers trilogy by Holly Black.

It sounds like a great book! I'd love a copy!

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I'm in a bit of a mood today. So, to put my spirit a bit more right with the world, I thought it was a good day to do a giveaway.

You all know I love Big Lots. Last time I was there, I hauled in some beauty stuff, as shown:

big lots.jpg
-Venus Spa Breeze 12-pack, $8.50 ($9.97 for 3-pack on Amazon)
-Aim Germ Invader toothbrushes, 2 pack, $1 ($3.99 on Amazon)
-Back to Basics Raspberry Almond Reparative Shampoo 11.5 oz, $2.50 ($10.71 on Amazon)
-Back to Basics Fresh Mint Energizing Conditioner 11 oz, $2.50 ($8.99 on Amazon)
-Amenta Natural Clove Daily Moisturizing Shampoo 12 oz, $2.50 ($4.99 on Amazon)
-Philosophy Supernatural Lit from Within cream blushes, $3 each (out of stock, $22.50 on QVC)
-Philosophy The Color of Grace Eyelighting Shadow Duo, $3 ($22 at Beauty Bar)
-Philosophy The Color of Grace Angel Kiss Lip Gloss, $3 ($17.50 at DermStore)
-Philosophy The Color of Grace Art of Blushing, $3 ($19.99 at Amazon)
-Philosophy The Color of Grace Kabuki Style Retractable Cosmetic Face Brush, $3 ($11.95 at Amazon)
-Philosophy The Color of Grace Amazing Shimmering Face Powder, $3 ($8.90 at Amazon)
-Philosophy Divine Illumination Love at First Light Luminizer, $3 ($29.98 at QVC)
-Philosophy The Color of Grace Heavenly Light Pink Illuminator, $3 ($28 at QVC)

Clearly, I went a bit overboard with the Philosophy stuff. I was just so jazzed to see something so high end so cheap! And the products I have used so far, particularly the Art of Blushing blush and the Heavenly Light illuminator, have not disappointed. Plus, how great is that deal on razors?

SO! I propose a Big Lots Beauty giveaway! I get sick of giveaways dragging on, though, so let's make this one a flash--you have only until midnight tomorrow night to enter! And I'm going to try to figure out how to use Rafflecopter, just to make this official-like. The prize? A gift box of Big Lots beauty products, hand-selected by yours truly. And some Philosophy goodies will definitely be included!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Just started reading your blog after finding it searching for info on sample boxes. Love your monthy reviews, keep it up!

Ack! I have to figure out your box to enter. Because I want to win! That haul is great.

Wooo! Big Lots. I went to TJ Maxx yesterday and got the cutest glass owl vase. Love!

Just the usual honest reviews but also coupons or other different ways to save, btw Im a beginner, I just started with all the coupons thing and so far I love it !
I love beauty

Big Lots has always been great to me when it comes to bargain shopping especially around the holidays
I like to see (more) coupon alerts and special hauls like this one

Thank you for hosting this giveaway

pumuckler {at} gmail {dot} com

So, who won? Was it me?! :-)

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Updated on 5/1/12: Sorry, I'm a day late with the winner! Congratulations, Melissa, you've won a 3-month subscription to Green Grab Bag!

One of the areas of curated subscription that seems to have really exploded recently is "green" boxes. Blissmobox, Conscious Box, and Pink Moment offer general "green" selections. Kara's Way, Eco-Emi, and Goodebox (reviewed here) focus on natural and sustainable beauty products. Up for review today is another entrant into the green beauty category, Green Grab Bag.

Green Grab Bag follows the same general model as most of the other curated subscription boxes. For $15/month, they send at least six samples of natural beauty products. Their website includes a long list of green brands, including some great ones like Lavera and Vapour. I was very excited to try their offering.

My Green Grab Bag was shipped right on time and arrived quickly. The packaging looks like this:

green grab bag 1.jpg

It's a printed reusable bag, with the products inside wrapped in tissue paper. The little card, tied to the handles with raffia, gives information about each product. Not THAT exciting, but really nice packaging that goes along with their green theme, and all of my products arrived intact.

These were the products I found inside my bag:

green grab bag 2.jpg

From left to right:
-full-sized Revolution Organics Freedom Gloss, in Vibe (est. value $26): this seems like a really nice product, unfortunately, the "Vibe" shade is pretty rusty-orange, and that's NOT a good color for me. Bummer, because I think I could have worn any of the other four shades.
-one-use size sample packet of Delizioso Skincare Organic Elderberry Hair Smoothie (est. value: $36 for 4 oz, packet was maybe .25 oz, so $2.25): this is an interesting product, but I HATE single-use samples, especially since the product website specifically says "Best results after prolonged use."
-.5 oz sample of Skin Perfection Seven Seas Mask (est. value: $24.50 for 2 oz, so $6.13): I tried this the other night and it's GOOD stuff. My skin felt amazing after I washed it off--smooth, soft, and I think it even minimized some post-breakout redness. It's also a good sized sample--I think probably 4-5 uses worth. Definite win on this one.
-1 oz SheaTerra Organics Pink Guavas and Pomegranates Ultimate Moisturizing Body Cream (est. value $6): I haven't tried this yet, but it smells night and fruity and I tend to like whipped shea butter creams a lot, so I have high hopes for it.
-.65 mL sample of Tsi-La Ilang Ilang perfume (est. value: $44 for 4 mL, so $7.15): I straight up can't stand perfume samples. That said, this one smells REALLY nice. It's ylang ylang (ilang ilang), jasmine, citrus, and vanilla. It's too strong for me right now, but I could see myself wearing it in the future.
-full-sized Mineral Hygienics eyeshadow in Madras (est. value $13): This is another nice addition to the box. I am trepidatious of mineral makeup (for no real reason), but shadow is a really interesting medium pink color that I definitely think I will try. I was also really happy to see that they included a full-sized version, rather than a too-small-to-easily-use packet sample.

Total estimated value of Green Grab Bag: $60.53

As was likely clear in reading my descriptions of the products that were included in my bag, I think Green Grab Bag did an excellent job with this one. There were a variety of products included (two makeup items, a hair treatment, a body treatment, a perfume, and a skin treatment), most of the samples were large enough to use several times, and packaging was good, if not great. As a bonus, none of the products were from brands I already knew about--yay for being introduced to all new stuff! As I mentioned when I reviewed Goodebox, I'm a little bit concerned about how many product offerings there really are in the "green beauty" space, and how long Green Grab Bag will be able to continue featuring good, new products, but give their already long list of brands, that may be an unfounded concern.

And now, the best part! You get to try this one out for yourselves! Green Grab Bags has generously agreed to give one WINOW reader a THREE MONTH subscription! Yay for three months of surprise bags full of sustainable beauty products in the mail! To enter, please do the following:

1. Leave a comment on this post pointing me (and Green Grab Bags) towards a green or eco-beauty brand you'd like to see included.


2. Give this post a shout-out on Facebook and/or Twitter and link to it in the comments.


3. "Like" Green Grab Bag on Facebook (here) and/or follow them on Twitter (here) and come back to leave a comment saying you did so.

This contest will be open for one week, to close next Monday, April 30, at 9am EST. Good luck!

Added on 4/26/12: For those who don't win, or who can't wait, Green Grab Bag has a great promotion for Mother's Day! Buy your mom (or your favorite mom!) a 3, 6, or 12 month subscription and get a bonus bag for yourself, free!

Green Grab Bag provided the bag for my review and will provide the contest winner a three-month subscription. This post was not otherwise compensated.


Following them on Twitter!

Liked on Facebook!

(Also tweeted about that, if that gets me an extra entry. Hehe.)

I'd love to see Korres included. I want to try more of their products.

...and shared this contest on my Facebook page. :D

I'm not familiar with many eco-beauty brands, but I'd love to try a few :) I love working with mineral makeup, it's so natural looking.

The green collection sounds great as is. Also suggesting: & Thanks!

Also shared on Facebook.

I'd love to see anything from Burt's Bees (

Liked on Facebook!

I just followed them on Twitter and liked them on FB. :) Looks like an awesome curated subscription and I love that it is green.

I once visited The Body Shop's office outside Toronto and really enjoyed seeing how they embraced eco-everything. It was impressive. So, they aren't up-and-coming, but I'm still a fan.

Liked on Facebook!

Liked on Facebook
I would like to see more 100%Pure and Tarte

Of course I love EcoTools bamboo brushes and Kiss My Face products (not sure how totally eco they are, but they advertise that way!)

I'd love to see Weleda. I used the diaper rash cream for my kids and it smelled fantastic! It also did a great job. I think they are a green company, it seems that way from the website.
Also, I liked them on Facebook!

I also linked this post on my FB but don't know how to link to it here in the comments because I am not that good at teh internet, lol.

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4/11/12: Congratulations to Nancy, the winner of a "Found In _____" crate!

Remember back in October when I told you about stationary-focused curated subscription club Lost Crates? I thought Lost Crates was really cool then.

Lost Crates is way, way cooler now. They've completely revamped, and now they feature six different subscription box options. They still have their $38/month stationary offering, but they also have an eco box (also $38/month), a housewares box ($68/month), a foodie box ($48/month), a "Found in ________" box, which features products from a new city every month ($48/month), and "Jack's Picks," a box of monthly surprises selected by "design aficionado" Jack ($38/month). When Lost Crates asked me to choose one of their new offerings to review, it seriously took me days to make my selection. Every single box sounds fantastic!

Finally, I chose the housewares box, figuring I'd go with the box most likely to appeal to most of my readers. I was not disappointed. March's box theme was "Cocktails Anonymous," and the products selected by the Lost Crates team to highlight this theme were fantastic--both innovative and useful. They included:

Rocking Whiskey Glasses: The boxes biggest item was a full set of six 6 3/4 oz whiskey tumblers, made by the Swedish company Sagaform. These glasses are on a round base, so they "rock," but don't fall over. They're attractive, made of high quality glass, and innovative--I'd never seen the rocking design before.

graffiti cocktail shaker.jpg
Graffiti Cocktail Shaker: Everybody needs a cocktail shaker, but most people already have one. How does Lost Crates deal with that? They include this innovative shaker, made to look like a spray paint can. It's a Philadelphia University/Kikkerland Design collaboration project winner and though it's not exactly to my taste (little Andy Warhol for me), it's very cute. It's also a high-quality shaker that my resident drink master thinks looks leak-proof.

whiskey stones.jpg
Whiskey Stones: I thought the addition of the whiskey stones, US-made of US-soapstone by Vermont company Teroforma, was the best part of the crate. I love the idea and appearance of whiskey stones, and I particularly love that Lost Crates chose "local" stones, and really attractive ones!

double jigger.jpg
Double Jigger: The double jigger included in the crate, made by Harold Imports, was my least favorite item. I get the practical value of a jigger, but there was nothing exceptional or innovative about the particular jigger that was chosen. That said, not ever item has to be one-of-a-kind, and the jigger did round out the collection nicely (at least, it would for people who measure their liquor...)

There were several things I really loved about this crate. First, the products were largely new to me. We have a pretty extensive collection of both new and vintage barware at my house, and, with the exception of the jigger, nothing in this crate duplicates something we already have. That's awesome. It also introduced me to some new brands, specifically Sagaform--and they're good to know about, because they design really beautiful stuff (I've got my eye on this teapot now). Introducing me to products and companies of which I was not otherwise aware is one of the top reasons I love the curated subscription model.

I also liked that the products included in this crate were, by and large, useful. They're all things I can easily incorporate into my household, and none of them are so anachronistic that I have to wonder where they should go (or to whom I should gift them). Relatedly, the products are all high-quality--they are things that are expected to have long, useful lives, not cheap disposables. This is a qualm I have about some curated subscription programs, where the focus is more on "hey, you got a present!" and less on "hey, this is something you can really keep and use." Everything in this box was keep-and-use-able.

Though it's true that every product in my crate can be easily found on Amazon and elsewhere, I was also impressed by the focus on independent and non-US design. While the jigger is a pretty basic made-in-China model, the glasses, shaker, and stones are all examples of less run-of-the-mill design, coming from a Nordic company, a design contest winner, and a small US business, respectively. If Lost Crates continues to go out of its way to support these types of businesses, that will go a long way with me, and it already goes a long way that they did so with this box.

Curious about what the boxes I didn't choose might have contained, I poked around Lost Crates' website and found that, for those who hate surprises (fools!), they give a full accounting of what is in each box each month. So, for March, were the other boxes as great as mine? I'd say yes! The $48/month foodie box was another one I was tempted to get, and had I done so, I'd have been happy! The March selections were on a "Cup O' Joe" theme, and included a Chemex, a box of Chemex filters, and a pound of Intelligentsia Coffee! I'd have loved that, and again would have found the products both new and innovative (I've heard of Intelligentsia, but not tried it, and I don't have a Chemex) and useful!

The "Found In ______" box was the other one I'd have really loved to try, much as I'm a sucker for local products and for travel. For March, the box's featured city was Brooklyn, and it contained a set of coasters from Brooklyn Slate, a bottle of blueberry candy from Brooklyn Hard Candy, a Brooklyn Maptote wine tote bag, a Pepperpress "Greetings from Brooklyn" letterpress postcard, and a letterpress "Good Luck" card from Walk Up Press. Though these items are a bit lower on the "long-lasting and useful" scale than those in the other two crates I've mentioned, it's still a very well-curated collection, and one I'd have been happy to receive.

Lost Crates is not the same as other curated subscription companies I've featured. They are at a higher price point, and the products included in the crates reflect that price point. These aren't samples, they aren't seconds, and providing a discount isn't what Lost Crates does. Instead, they are selling small collections of carefully curated items, and they're selling them at a premium. Were you able to find the collection of items I received yourself, for example, you'd probably pay $8-$10 less for them than the $68/month charged for the housewares crate (at least, you would based on Amazon prices). However, you'd lose two important things--the expertise of their selection/curation, and the gift aspect of receiving a surprise in the mail.

Shelling out $68 (or even $48) a month for a gift for myself isn't currently in my budget, and I doubt it is in a lot of my readers' budgets, either. However, Lost Crates is still useful. For one thing, they offer a quarterly option for their crates, wherein you receive (and pay for) a crate every three months, instead of monthly. That's a bit more doable. I also think the gifting potential of their product/service is enormous--wouldn't a few months of housewares crates be a great housewarming present? A few foodie crates for a hard-to-please foodie on your list? I love the idea of "gifts that give repeatedly," and this strikes me as a bit classier than the beer-of-the-month club (though I wouldn't turn down a nice monthly microbrew delivery, either). While I (sadly) won't be signing myself up for monthly Lost Crates deliveries, I'm definitely going to keep them on my gifting list, and I'm seriously considering splurging on a quarterly subscription.

An even more budget friendly choice, of course, is to win a crate! Lost Crates has generously offered to give one away to a lucky WINOW reader. You can choose any of the six crates, with the exception of the original stationary crate, since I gave one of those away already in the fall. In order to help you choose which crate would be perfect for you, Lost Crates has developed a little quiz. Go take it, then come back and leave me a comment on this post saying which crate you'd like to win.(Psst, if you want to cheat, you can also look and see what is coming in each April crate, but I recommend waiting to be surprised!) For a second entry, head to your social media outlet of choice (Twitter, Facebook, or your own blog) and mention both this giveaway and Lost Crates (find them on Facebook here or on Twitter here), then come back and leave another comment telling me you did so. The contest will be open for one week, so hurry!

This is not a compensated review--Lost Crates provided the crate for me to review and is providing the crate for the winner. All opinions are my own.


I keep seeing the whiskey stones on ThinkGeek, but I just never buy them...we would adore that particular housewares box. Those glasses are divine!!!!!

My favorite is the stationery box (which the quiz told me was my soulmate box!) but my second choice is the foodie box. (I peeked, because I have dietary restrictions!)

I got Jack's picks. I don't know who Jack is or what he picks but why not?

Posted on facebook with some unwitty commentary.

W00t! These are amazing - I get the e-mails and lust a little every time one comes in.

According to the quiz, the Housewares crate would be a good match (and I agree!).

Off to tweet about the promo ...


The quiz told me Housewares, so that's what I'll go with :)

You've been facebooked!

My "Soulmate Crate" would be Jack's Pick, my "Fine Match" was the Housewares crate. How fun!

It says my perfect match is the soulmate or the Fine match. I clicked on coffee, simply because I consume SO much of it these days with a noob. :)) So pick me:)

I facebooked as well. I liked Lost Crates too, this looks like a fun subscription!

I got the Jack's picks crate - which seems pretty awesome!

I took the quiz! If I won, I'd like the stationery box!

My "Soulmate Crate" is the Housewares crate, with "Fine Matches" for the Foodie crate and Eco crate. I will go with my soulmate as first choice.

I mentioned both Lost Crates and this giveaway on my Facebook page.

I love the Found In!

Also Intelligentsia is local to me (as in 3 blocks from both my home and office) so if you want anything from them let me know.

I would love a "Found in ________" box! Sounds exciting!

Ooh. I want the foodie crate! These are supercool, thanks for blogging about them.

My soulmate was the Foodie Crate!

I just spread the word on face book and liked Lost Crates. :-)

The Eco Crate looks cool!

I would love the Jack's Picks crate!

Well, I'm going for the Foodie Crate!

Oh, and I shared the FB page so there's that too.

I'm in love with everything about the Housewares crate except the price. I'm all about the items in that crate.

The Housewares crate! We just moved into a great little apartment so that would be perfect :)

I've been a Stationary Crate subscriber for a while now, but I'm loving the roll-out of the new crates. I'd love to win the Housewares crate!!

I just Facebooked Lost Crates as well as your fab blog & giveaway to my hoards of teeming friends for my second entry. Thanks so much for doing this!

Foodie box! Om nom nom!

Those whiskey stones are just great! I have tried them myself and they didnt let me down;)

Ooh I'd love to win the "Found In: ____ Crate". It looks like April is going to be Seattle, where I've been threatening to move to for years!... but I can't figure out how to cheat and see the box contents. Probably for the best ;)


Entry 2: I tweeted! I hope I did it right. It's under "imaginarysaerra"...

The message was:
Grace is doing an awesome giveaway for "Lost Crates" this month @ - I'd love to get a Seattle crate, how fun!


Wow! Thank you Grace! As I mentioned in the email, I'm a tiny bit stunned, as I can't remember the last time I won anything, but also incredibly excited and grateful to try out Lost Crates!

Thank you! :)

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Discount store love and giveaway!


4/4/12: Congratulations to my winner, JENNIFER! I will be in touch about your prize!

If you've been around WINOW for very long, you know that much as I love thrift stores, they have a close second place in my heart in the form of discount stores. I've waxed poetic about TJ Maxx and Marshall's (more than once) and showed you my Big Lots bounty (again, more than once...). Though I may not have mentioned them often here, I'm also a big fan of Ross, Burlington Coat Factory, Tuesday Morning, and, when I can find one, Gabriel Brothers.

And so it was that I found myself, given a rare day with nothing on the agenda and no pressing thrift shopping to take care of, browsing a variety of these stores. I wasn't completely without aim--I was, as I always seem to be these days, shopping for bras--but I didn't let that mundane task stop me from looking around. And I have to tell you, the discount stores in my neck of the woods are looking good.

TJ Maxx/Marshall's

Apparently, TJ Maxx is intended to be the slightly more upscale of these two stores, but I can't tell the local outposts apart. They seem to have more or less the same items at more or less the same prices. A few things that caught my eye at one or both of these stores were:

the balm set.jpg
theBalm "Hey Mama" Set

See that set above, of three full-sized products from theBalm (bronzer, blush, and translucent powder)? It's $49.99 on Amazon. It was $9.99 at TJ Maxx or Marshall's this weekend. I think maybe it's being discontinued, as I can't find it many places online, but the individual products are still for sale on theBalm's website. Same with the individual products in the other sets I saw at my stores, including color-specific eye kits for $9.99 ($35.95 on Amazon) and the Timebalm Skincare Age Fighting Heroes kits for $12.99 ($57.99 on Amazon).

Le Creuset
le creuset dish_.jpg
Le Creuset Stoneware Oval Dish

The 3 3/4 quart oval stoneware baking dish from Le Creuset shown above originally retailed at $70. Amazon has it right now for $35.95. I picked one just like it up off the clearance rack at TJ Maxx for Mark this weekend, for $13. A while back, after realizing that none of our rubber spatulas were in anything approaching decent shape, I spotted a whole passel of these Le Creuset versions at Marshall's. Amazon has them for $9 each--I believe I paid $2.99.

caldrea sink set.jpg
Caldrea Cloverleaf Sink Set

My Marshall's and TJ Maxx almost always have Caldrea products, which I think is awesome, because I love their hand soap. One new product I noticed this weekend was these hand sink sets--a little stainless steel organizer equipped with dish soap, hand soap, and countertop cleanser. I believe they were $12.99 at my stores. At Balducci's, they're $46. There were a variety of other products available as well, including smaller sized lotions and hand soaps for $2.99 each, and sink side hand soap and lotion sets in a similar stainless steel holder for $9.99.

Calvin Klein
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Calvin Klein Women's Seductive Comfort Customized Lift Lave Bra

You had to know I was going to come back to bras, right? My favorite bras are Calvin Klein--they've just always fit me really well and been very comfortable. They're also often available at Marshall's and TJ Maxx. This one was, I believe, $14.99. It's $46 to get it in my size on Amazon.

Big Lots

For a while, I was kinda off Big Lots. They built a new store close to my house and it seemed like I never found anything there. I kept trying, though, and this weekend's trips were fruitful--I saw all sorts of cool stuff, and found a number of things that made their way home with me. Some of the highlights were:

Crocs Classic

I really don't get Crocs, though if my feet swell much more I may have to reconsider...I know, however, that lots of folks are crazy for them. These classic variety ones retail for $34.99 on the Crocs site, and I don't see them in adult sizes for less than around $25 anywhere. Big Lots had a bin of them for $15 each. They even had some in my size, but so far I have resisted.

Tom's of Maine
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Tom's of Maine Soothing Mint Maximum Strength Sensitive Fluoride Toothpaste

I am a dedicated Tom's of Maine toothpaste girl, and I nearly always buy it at Big Lots (typically 4-6 tubes at a time). This visit, I was stoked to see the store carrying the sensitive teeth variety, which I could use right now, as pregnancy has made my whole mouth sensitive. On Tom's of Maine's website, this toothpaste is $5.99/tube. The lowest I see it for elsewhere is $4.99. At Big Lots, it was $2.50.

Anchor Hocking
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Anchor Hocking Round Glass 6 Piece Storage Container Set

I have kind of a thing about glass storage containers, and Anchor Hocking is my favorite brand (they're still made in the USA!). This six-piece storage set, featuring lidded containers in 4-cup, 2-cup, and 1-cup sizes, retails for $14.99 on Amazon. At Big Lots, it's $6. I actually have a whole cupboard full of this set and similar ones, all from Big Lots.

Tuesday Morning

Wacoal Luxe Extra Touches Push Up Underwire Bra

I know, back to bras! I have to tell you about this one because it excited me so much, though. Before my boobs decided to get huge, I wore a lot of Wacoal bras--always purchased at Nordstrom Rack for less than $30 each. The other day, I saw that they had a small selection of them at Tuesday Morning as well! This particular variety, which sells for $46-$70 depending on color on Wacoal's site, was, I believe, $26.

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ASSETS® Marvelous Mama Modern Fishnet Tights

I tend to be of the opinion that the last thing my pregnant butt needs is shaping garments. Or fishnets. But if I felt differently, these Assets tights would be really cute. They're a nice moderate fishnet, come in bigger sizes, and are, of course, intended for the pregnant crowd. They're $20 on the Spanx website and I believe they were $12.99 at Tuesday Morning.

Burlington Coat Factory

Burlington Coat Factory is the newest addition to my discount stores list. I've found them to be a great source of bras and, oddly specifically, Calvin Klein dresses (usually around $10 for the former and $40 for the latter). Recently, though, I took a look around to see what else they had to offer, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Amy Butler
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Amy Butler Dancing Garden Comforter and Sham Set

How perfect are Amy Butler fabrics for bedding?? I didn't even know Amy Butler bedding existed until I saw the Dancing Garden set, pictured above, at Burlington Coat Factory. The organic set was originally priced at $130, and Amazon has it for $68.88, but at Burlington it was on clearance for $39.99.

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Built Market Tote

Though I've never used one, I've always liked the look of the neoprene totes and carriers made by Built. They seem like they'd work really well for farmer's market shopping or carrying food to work. This variety, the large market tote, retails for $39.99 at Amazon and Zappos. The ones I saw at Burlington were $14.99.


Around here, Ross is the bottom of the discount store pyramid. The stores are often understaffed and very disorganized. Still, if you have the time and patience to sift, gems can be found. The ones I noticed recently were:

Core Bamboo
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Core Bamboo Dishwasher Safe Bamboo Cutting Board

I like bamboo cutting boards--they look nice and they clean up easy, and bamboo is a great sustainable material. This small, 10.5x7 inch version, $14.27 at Amazon, is $4.99 at Ross.

Vista Alegre
I can't find a picture of it anywhere online, so I suspect the casual white porcelain Cook & Serve line by Portuguese company Vista Alegre has been discontinued. However, they still have quite a bit of it at my Ross store, and we've purchased a number of things ourselves, including a large platter (think Thanksgiving turkey size) and several sizes of baking dishes. The dishes are no-nonsense, heavy white porcelain, made in Portugal, and both look and hold up great. Prices vary, but some are as low as $4.99 for a smallish baking dish.

Michael Kors
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Michael Kors Mens Long Sleeve Dress Shirt

There are few articles of clothing I care about less than men's button down shirts, but I still took a look at the selection at Ross recently and was surprised to find a passel of Michael Kors shirts, like the one above, for $17.99. The pattern seemed to be the same was what you'd find at Macy's or similar, where the shirts retail for $59.99.

Good stuff, right?

Much like thrift stores, I think discount stores can be overwhelming for people who aren't used to them. It's true that a lot of what you might find in a given store is crap, and things don't work quite the same way as they do in regular department stores. On the assumption that at least a few WINOW readers are skeptical of these bargain warehouses, I thought I'd provide a few tips for newbie discount store shoppers:

1. Keep an open mind (and open eyes).

Just like you would in a thrift store, you have to approach a discount store with both an open mind and a sharp eye. You may find things you'd never considered, or even heard of, before. Things are quite often going to be in sections that make no sense. Shop with an awareness to what is around you, and with the mindset that you're looking for buried treasure.

2. If you like it, buy it. Don't hesitate.

Unlike department stores, discount stores usually have a very limited number of any given item, and when they're gone, they're gone. These stores are not the place to exercise "if I still want it next week, I'll come back for it" restraint. However, the majority of them DO have decent return policies (be sure to check your particular store), so if you buy something and change your mind about it, you can bring it back. That's much better than not buying it, coming back for it later, and finding it gone.

3. If you try it and you REALLY like it, buy multiples.

Much of the merchandise you find in discount stores is discontinued, so if you buy something and absolutely love it, you may want to scurry back while whatever it is is still available and buy as many more as you can get your hands on. It is quite possible you won't have the chance again, at any price. Once upon a time, I didn't do this, with a particular variety of EO room spray. They don't make it anymore, and I have been hoarding the last quarter of the bottle I have for years. Another time, I found these great Giovanni Hand Wipes for something like $4.99/bag at Marshall's. After I took one bag home and discovered that they are the perfect wipes to keep in my car for post-thrifting clean-up, I went back and bought about a dozen more. I still have a couple of bags left, which is good, because they're hard to find other places, and when I do see them, they're at least twice and often three times as expensive.

4. Stay critical.

As much as you can find hidden treasure in discount stores, things are there, rather than at department stores, for a reason. When you're considering buying something, especially something big, try to figure out what that reason is, and if it matters to you. For example, I could care less if most things are "last year's model," but I don't want to buy anything that is or is about to be expired. You also need to keep an eye out for damage--things that are in discount stores are often "second quality," and though a lot of the time the defect that keeps an item from being sold at full price doesn't matter in the least to you, sometimes it does. Be sure to look items over carefully and check tags for clues.

5. Be aware of the non-discount price.

Not everything in a discount store is actually discounted. For example, I was recently excited to see Bob's Red Mill products at my local Big Lots, but when I compared the prices on them to the ones elsewhere, I found that they weren't significantly discounted--and some of them were actually marked with higher prices at Big Lots than they are at regular supermarkets. Stores with tags that claim an "original price" or "compare at" price are not immune from this phenomenon--sometimes the comparison prices they list are just wrong--so you have to be aware of what a given item goes for elsewhere and not assume that it's going to be cheaper just because most things in a discount store are.

6. Shop often.

Another way discount stores are like thrift stores is that their merchandise turns over fairly quickly, so the same store could have a mostly-different inventory from one month to the next. Because of this, and because of the small number of highly discounted items they sometimes get in stock, you have to hit your local discount stores fairly regularly in order to get the best deals.

7. Don't buy things you have no use for.

This is definitely do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do advice, as I have a hard, hard time with this one. But just because something is a cool/high quality/beautiful/whatever product, and is available at a highly discounted price, doesn't make that item something you actually need, or even want. Don't buy things you don't need or want. It's a financial drain, it creates a boatload of clutter, and it makes no sense. Really. I promise. I know.

8. Remain aware of the strengths and weaknesses of a given store.

All discount stores are not created equal, and there are certain items for which only a specific store will work. I rarely buy food items at any discount store besides Big Lots. Cosmetics and bath and beauty stuff is almost always best at Marshall's or TJ Maxx. For higher-end bedding, towels, and other similar housewares, Tuesday Morning is usually the best spot, and they also have fantastic plant pots. Burlington Coat Factory has the biggest selection of baby items. I don't know that these strengths are necessarily universal, however, as when we lived in Austin, Ross was wonderful for clothes and Tuesday Morning had a great stationary section and really good pet supplies, neither of which is the case here. So, it pays to be familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of your specific local stores, so that if you are looking for a specific item, you know where to go.

9. Remain aware of seasonality.

Discount stores have different stock at different times of the year, and some of the things they focus on might appeal to you more than others. For example, I love going to Marshall's and TJ Maxx in the month or two before Christmas, because they carry a ton of bath and body type stuff suitable for gift giving, and I eat that stuff up. I like Tuesday Morning and Big Lots more in the spring, when they carry plant pots and gardening supplies that make good gifts for Mark or that we may need around the house. Clothes, obviously, are seasonal at all of the stores, and they tend to have the best selections in the late summer (school shopping time).

10. Only do it if you enjoy it.

Again like thrift shopping, I think discount store shopping is really only worth it for those of us for whom shopping is fun. If there is no thrill of the treasure hunt for you, then whatever cost savings you achieve may well be overshadowed by the hassle of having to make lots of stops, sift through lots of crap, and deal with stores that may be dirty and are almost certainly disorganized. I get such a kick out of it, I wish I could do it for everybody--it would save me a lot of cash and those who don't enjoy shopping a lot of headaches--but until we figure out how to make that happen, those who really hate shopping are probably better off buying fewer things and paying more for the convenience of ordering them from Amazon.

And, finally, the giveaway!

In the spirit of celebrating discounts stores, I thought it would be fun to do a discount store themed contest. And, since I've been so into curated boxes lately, I thought it would be fun to curate my own. So, this giveaway is for a special, one-of-a-kind, Grace-curated discount store box! The box may contain any type of item, the only caveats being that it was something I thought was cool enough to buy, and that it was purchased from one of the discount stores listed above. The original retail value of this box is over $200 (but don't worry, I didn't pay anywhere near that for it)! Since I didn't give you any idea what was in the boxes the last time I did a giveaway, I decided it was only fair to give a clue this time. So here's a picture of what you could win:


Here's how to enter:
1. Leave a comment on this post telling me which, if any, discount stores you frequent and what you tend to buy there.
2. Share this post with your friends on Facebook or Twitter and leave me a comment telling me you did.
3. Go and read another post on this blog--any post you fancy--and leave me a comment there. It has to be relevant to that post, it can't just be "hi" or "this is for a contest entry!" Then come back and leave a comment on this post telling me you did it.

So, that's THREE ways to enter. Go do it! This contest is open to international entries, so long as you're willing to wait for your prize to arrive via whatever the most economical shipping option is.

I will close the contest in one week, next Wednesday, April 4, at 9:00 AM EST.

Good luck!

I am in no way affiliated with any of the stores or products mentioned in this post, and this review is not compensated in any way.


I really love my local TJ Maxx. It's usually very organized, and I've found great handbags (I'm carrying a silver-grey Kenneth Cole Reaction crossbody bag at the moment - LOVE), nice selection of Calphalon cookware, and clothes for Aislinn. They also usually have a nice selection of shoes and business casual pieces for work.

I admit to not hitting up Big Lots as much as I should. It seems that my husband is doing the bulk of the grocery shopping these days, and he's a one-stop-shopper.

We do have a new Ross in town, and I have yet to stop in there. I'll have to do that soon and check it out.

We also have a Tuesday Morning, but it is sooooo messy and disorganized. I get flustered just walking in the door.

Great post, Grace!!! I really enjoyed your tips.

Also posted on your BeautyFix post. Now to remember FB and Twitter when I get home!

I've started to love TJ Maxx and HomeGoods but I find that they vary from store to store quite a bit. Home Goods is awesome for kids room decor and those plastic water glasses with the lid and straw -$4 there and at least $10 everywhere else!

I shop at all of the above!
TJ Maxx is my favorite, but the most expensive. I get a lot of kitchen gear there, though. And when I need shoes, that's the place to get them. Also purses and luggage. I swoon over the kitchen ware selection though!

Ross is ok, my husband likes to get his boxers there. They have the nicer brands (Calvin Klein, Perry Ellis) for cheap. Our local Ross also has a good toy selection and maternity clothes.

Marshalls has the best shoes, and I've bought great coats and kids' stuff at Burlington. I agree with you - discount stores and thrift stores are they way to go. I never shop at department stores, and rarely even at Target or Walmart.

I get my tea and tea accoutrements at TJ Maxx. The handy thing about that strategy is that I have a regularly scheduled reason to visit because what's a girl to do when she's out of tea?

Because I'm in Canada, I mostly only shop at Winner's and even that is infrequent. I'm on team 'Wow this is frustrating' for both major thrift and discount store shopping. On the other hand, Winner's carries toys, so I frequently hit them up for birthday and baby shower gifts. I refuse to buy clothes there anymore. I've regretted every single article of clothing I've ever bought there and the straw that broke the camel's back was a skirt where the zipper broke the second I put it on.

That said, I really appreciate your tips! I will apply them as best I can and see if it improves my shopping experience.

Wow, you found some great things. I used to love hunting through these stores for bargains, but the ones near me aren't usually worth the time it takes to dig through the jam-packed racks. I may have to go hunting for the Amy Butler bedding, though.

The one item I still only buy at TJ or Marshalls is cashmere sweaters, right after Christmas. Oh, and board books! They usually have good kids books for the best price going.

I actually went in TJ Maxx for the first time in years last weekend. I had forgotten how great their kids stuff was. Now that I saw the Le Creuset dish I might have to head back over there and check out the kitchen section!

I was just at TJ Maxx yesterday! It was the umpteenth store I'd visited, trying to find math bats for my new house. I scored a set of 2 mats that were exactly what I wanted for $14.99! Even just one bath mat at Walmart or Target was at least $16.99 so I was stoked.

I shop at most of the stores you mentioned, although I'd forgotten we have a Burlington Coat Factory and a Tuesday Morning here. I tend to shop with a specific focus instead of thrifting, so this post was really helpful on taking another perspective when I'm in there for gifts and stuff that I might need, just not right now.

I commented on the naming post from last week.

We just got a TJ maxx so it's my favorite at the moment. We have no Ross, and I have to travel just over an hour to get to one, and along the way I will pass no less than three awesome thrift shops... Which is to say that I never actually make it to Ross.

We haven't been in a while, but Big Lots is a store that we have frequented in the past. We even bought our couch there, lol.

You should come visit me sometime and visit the wonder that is Gabe's (Gabriel Brothers). They don't have quite the selection of Marshall's, and everything is "as is" so you have to check, but they do have some great stuff and you never know.

Had to share this post on Facebook. It's a good one and thank you for sharing all this wonderful information with us.

Yay!!!! I LOVE discount shopping. When I go to Messina for shopping, TJ Maxx is the first place I hit. We have a sister store here (Canadaland) called Winners. I worked there as a teen and look there for items before going ANYWHERE else. It used to be so bad that I knew what days the trucks delivered lol.

Favorite departments at Winners are the specialty foods, kitchen wares and personal care.

Great blog as always!!!!

And BAM!!! facebook posted :)

And now I will be spending way too much time looking at all of the books you posted about and I'm starting with Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman. My Goodreads account will be overflowing.

Left a comment on the book post as well:)

My favorite is Stein Mart. I go there for things like towels and linens. You can buy really high and bedding there for cheap. Even nicer than the stuff you can get at home goods. I also like big lots. You can define a lot of gourmet and organic food there for supercheap.

Do you still have Fillene's Basement in your area? I loved that store, found an empty one in Baltimore recently. (as in closed!) SOme nice fashions there :-)

I live in the Uk. We have TKMaxx over here which we use for kitchen stuff, bedding, men's shirts, toiletries for gifts, candles, shoes and the occasional fancy party dress for little ones. I sometimes go to a discount shop in my mum's town for a look round but it is pretty dismal. I am very envious of the options you have locally to you.

What a great giveaway, Grace! Now it's time for me to share on facebook and read another post!

I was fairly lucky as far as foot swelling went with my Lemmie pregnancy, but it was terrible with Alexander, so I feel your pain. On the plus side, you're looking absolutely beautiful! Can't wait to see pictures of beautiful Grace with that beautiful baby!

How did that post on the wrong post? I shared on facebook.

I shop at Ross, T.J. Maxx and Big Lots. I bought the best smelling soap ever at T.J. Maxx. It smelled so good that it took me about a week to admit that I was allergic to it and it was the thing making me crazy itchy.

I like TJ Maxx. I have good luck finding underwear and linens there.

I love Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshalls.
I typically buy home decor there- accessories, lamps, tables, etc...
family74014 at gmail dot com

I LOVE this post! These are such great tips, number 7 is always a problem for me, some things are just such a good deal, it pains me not to buy them.

I like Ross for dresses and bras and The Rack for underwear. I've shopped at Big Lots a few times, but I'll have to check it out more closely.

I usually only shop at TJMaxx and HomeGoods- Ross is a bit too hit-or-miss for me. I've been living in a town with a Big Lots for almost a year now, but I've never thought to go in it. Well, now I will! But back to TJMaxx and HomeGoods- I shop for kitchen stuff, clothes and shoes, and kid books, mostly.

I also use TKMaxx (here in the UK), it's especially useful for finding stuff for the home. I've never had much joy shopping for clothes there as my other half is extra extra tall.

I get all my cleaning and baby products at a discount store called Quality Save, they stock the same brands as the supermarkets but much cheaper - I save around 25% a week that way.

I just posted about the giveaway via twitter. :)

I buy a lot of sweaters at Marshall's / TJ Maxx. Also undies, socks, towels, sheets, etc. do you not have a Nordstrom Rack near you? The BEST for shoes.

Laft a comment on Drugstore Product Love.

I love to buy clothes at Ross - my current obsession is Calvin Klein dresses for work! I got married about 2 months ago and discovered TJ Maxx and Marshalls during that process. I ended up buying the shoes I wore for the wedding at Marshalls, as well as the rug that we stood on while ceremony was performed (our chuppah). I keep meaning to add Big Lots to my shopping habits for hair products but haven't managed to do it yet.

I just commented on this post:

It was fun reading some of your archives that I haven't seen since you posted them originally!

I tweeted this (@angie303)

Facebook'd and tweeted!! @mrsrefney

We have, unfortunately, lost most of our local discount stores. I definitely try to hit up TJ Maxx when we are near one. I loved Burlington Coat Factory for baby clothes. That was where I found most of Evan's preemie items.

Just letting you know I commented on another post.

I found my Lucky purse at TJMaxx when I had looked at every department store in town and couldn't find anything fun or funky. I just happened to be in there looking for clothes and figured I'd take a peek and there it was, clearanced for $24.99.

I love shoppng at TJ Maxx and Marshalls. I too, don't notice much of a difference int he types of items they stock, seem pretty much the same. I love getting clothing there because I can buy more (yay!).

I live across the street from a marshalls, so it tops the list. I feel like the marshalls & tj maxx in chicago are pretty interchangeable--at least in the city. I loved big lots but they're very inaccessible here. I haven't seen a burlington in like, 10 years. I like nordstrom's rack if that counts.

I commented on the beautyfix post!

What a fun giveaway! I visit Marshall's the most - there's a Marshall's and a Ross very close to my home, but like you mentioned, Ross stores can be a jumbled hot mess. I only go to Ross to find sundresses for music festivals and if I need something like a ceramic baking dish. However Marshall's I find some serious gems for me, Emerson, and the home.

I've only ever shopped at Ross, for clothes for the kids. It's not bad at all, and a good place for winter coats. They just recently built a TJ Maxx nearby, I may have to give it a try!

I just facebooked you :)

I commented on your third trimester pictures post! And I forgot to say on that one that I really love your red shoes. I need red shoes, I think :)

I FB'd you! :) Have I mentioned lately that I'm glad you're back to blogging?

Thank you so much for the giveaway! My favorite discout store is TJ Maxx in Cincinnati, Ohio. It's two-storey and their selection of purses is mesmerizing. Each time I go in there I see a B.Makoswki bag that I fall in love with.

Tweeted and tagged you in it!!/LifesDeepColors/status/186952591261958145


I just wanted to let Grace, (and all the other WINOW readers) know I got this box today and it is fantastic! There are so many neat things in there. The colored pencils are actual branches, and way too cool to use. My 10 year old daughter is going to love growing the Sunflowers and Forget-Me-Nots in the little grow kits. The Liberty note cards are gorgeous, and come in such a pretty box, the collapsible lunch box is way cool. I need to find a reason to take lunch somewhere, just so I can use it!

And so many other things as well, makeup (which is quite timely, seeing as I've recently taken an interest in it!), delicious smelling soaps, notebooks, including story writing notebooks (another thing my daughter will be going for, I assure you), a cross stitch kit that I will be able to teach my daughter how to do (hopefully. If I remember how. lol), markers... and more.

What a fabulous giveaway. Thank you so much Grace!!

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Blog-back-to-life contest winners!


So, who's getting my extra-special sample goody boxes? tells me:


Wendy | March 13, 2012 1:36 PM | Reply
Oh hopefully make-up and some cleaning wipes I can stow in my glovebox for the car!



NanB | March 13, 2012 11:03 AM | Reply
I love to get free mascaras!

I will be in touch to get mailing information! Thanks for playing!

Leave a comment

Welcome back giveaway: deluxe sample boxes


So when you take a handful of months off from blogging, your traffic goes way, way down. Shocking, I know! But I like traffic, and I'd like to see mine go back up. What better way to do that than with a welcome back giveaway?

This past weekend, I went through the extremely excessive amount of stuff in my bathroom. After several months of sample box subscriptions of several years of less-than-frugal makeup and body product buying habits, I have a rather incredible (and my incredible I mean really embarrassing) stockpile of never-opened, never-tried items. Pregnancy, for whatever reason, has made me a whole lot less interested in ever trying them, much less storing them. So it seemed a perfect opportunity for a giveaway.

I am giving away two "deluxe" sample boxes, made up of (unopened, unused) products from my own stash. These are not little 4-5 item boxes--they're large, each with $100+ worth of items, some full-size, mostly sample sized. Each box contains a mix of hair products, skin products, bath products, and makeup, as well as a few pieces of costume jewelry from Anika Burke. A few drugstore brands are included, but most of the stuff is either small batch/indie or higher end. A few of the brands I know are represented in the boxes are: Flutterby Beauty, Too Faced, The Body Shop, Zoya, L'Occitane, Jonathan, Sephora, blinc, Arcana, and Orlane.

So how do you enter? Easy! Two ways:

1. Leave me a comment on this post telling me something you hope will be in your box, if you win.
2. Post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter, and leave me a second comment telling me you did it.

I want this stuff out the door this weekend, so let's make this a short-running contest. You have until 9am EST on Friday, March 16, to enter. GO!



I'm going to hope for some really good smelling bath products. How's that for vague and non committal? Hehe.

I have no idea what I'd want if I won, I am totally product ignorant, but that's why this would be fun. I would be playing with all sorts of new to me things :)

I linked you on my facebook as well. Well, one of my facebook accounts :)

I'd love to get a good moisturizer for my combo face. Or Restalyne. Do you have a coupon for that in there? ;)

These fine lines are hurting my vanity.

I'll post to FB when I get home!!!!

I'm hoping for some pretty smelling soap.

Some fun and moisturizing lip stuff. Maybe an eye shadow pencil? Oh! Natural, organic-y shampoo.

Eye stuff... mascara, in particular. And I think the only blush I have broke, so now it's an unholy mess to use, so I'd love to replace that. And lip stuff. Long winded way of saying, hit me with the whorish face paint, please!

Yay! I love giveaways! I really love nail polish, Body Shop lotions, and exfoliating. If you have any wrinkle cream I might need that too!

I'd love to try some new soaps and lotions.

I love to get free mascaras!

Nail polish and eyeliner - I can never have too many of those.

Liquid eyeliner! I'm too scared to actually spend money on it, but I'd love to finally learn how to actually use it.

Facebooking done!

I need some new mascara.

Oooh, some yummy fun lip gloss would be awesome!

I'd love to have some good facial wash. I haven't had much luck lately with the ones I've tried. Or some really nice mascara. I'm tired of my spider eyes!


Face cream! Anything to use while soaking in the tub!

I lurrvee giveaways! Face cream/eye cream is always a win for me! Sharing you on facebook now!!

Oh wow, what a great giveaway. I'm hoping for some makeup. I don't really wear any now and have had a itch lately to try some out.

I would love some makeup and/or face cream!

I just facebooked this!

Grace, I would love anything, but I think some beauty product would be special. I think all women feel better when wearing makeup or special skin products. Grace this would be my wish, as if I'm a winner,I plan to donate it to my local women's shelter - "My Sister's Place.

Thank you for this opportunity!

I'd love to get some nice lotion, maybe a mascara.

Posted to my wall - Thanks again!

Ooh, a give away! Love! I'm hoping for nail polish and hair stuff, because I never buy those things. But I also love makeup and bath stuff... so I'd hope for that too... I just like mail. LOL.

Off to share this for an extra chance. ;)

I'd like something from L'Occitane, only because their packaging is pretty and I can't ever afford their stuff to try it.

Ooh, I hope I win! I love Arcana, so anything from them would be awesome!

Now you are on my Facebook! Enter me again, please!

I am in desperate need of super hydrating body lotion right now. My legs are ridiculously dry. I'm always open to getting just about anything though, so I would be positively thrilled with whatever I would happen to receive. :)

Just linked you on FB! :) I hope this helps bring up your blog traffic!

Oh my I hope that there is some Body Butter from The Body Shop! I love, love, love their body butter plus I live in WI and have naturally REALLY dry skin so I have to use it all the time! I heard about your blog from a friend when she posted this on FB so your giveaway idea is working to get more traffic! :-) ~ Sarah

Well, I took a HUGE break from blogging when I was pregnant -- and through most of the first year of having a baby -- so I understand.

I've been really into eyeshadow lately, so that's what I'd be hoping for if I win a giveaway. But I loooove samples, so I'd be happy with anything. ;)

I am hoping for some foot cream which will make me tall like Grace. Also, a pony.

I would love, love, love costume jewelry. And eye makeup...and hair products...and everything!

Oh hopefully make-up and some cleaning wipes I can stow in my glovebox for the car!

Something that smells of coconut!

I'd love something to make my hair behave!

And I posted on FB!

I'd love to get some new type of face cream to try :-)

and shared on FB

Lately I've been contemplating trying bronzer. Might there be any bronzer in the giveaway?



I'd love to see some handmade soap samples.

Hurrah for giveaways! Pretty much anything that doesn't smell too strong. I have just about nada in the way of products.

Hm, I would hope for some really delightful hand cream.

Anything would make me happy, but something to smooth my sad, callused feet for spring would be a big winner!

I'd love to try anything; I've only ever used drugstore products so anything fancy would be a real treat!

shared on Facebook!

I hope to find some new, cool makeup stuff. It's my only addiction. Well, that and Diet Dr. Pepper.

It is so good to have you back! I would love to get some makeup primer and fun new makeup products to try. I just bought some fun colored shadows and I'm trying to learn how to be a bit more creative with the makeup I do.

Something to cover my 30 year old acne.

Something to cover my 30 year old acne.

Shared on fb

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Lost Crates winner!


Sorry posts have been so sparse here lately, folks. I'll be explaining why shortly. In the meantime, our Lost Crates winner is:

Kristen | October 31, 2011 10:49 AM | Reply I'm addicted to moleskine and field notes books. And any fine tipped pen that doesn't bleed.

Congratulations, Kristen!

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Lost Crates: perfect for the stationery lover



When I did my curated subscription round-up, one of the subscription programs I found most intriguing was Lost Crates. Each month, Lost Crates sends a customized "crate" of notebooks, pens, and other stationery accessories, based upon the personality profile you take on the website. The cost of the service is $38/month, including S&H, US-only.

Like a lot of people, I'm a bit of a stationery fiend. I love notebooks, journals, cards, pens...stationery makes me happy. So I was quite excited to receive my first Lost Crate earlier this month. My crate contained:
-medium black EcoSystem Artist Journal ($14.95)
-2 pack of French Paper Company Pop Ink Memo Books ($2.50)
-2 Stabilo Point 88 pens, black and red ($.85 each)
-Made by Humans Staple-Free Eco Stapler (2 for $19.95, or $9.98)
-Virginia State Field Notes County Fair graph notebook (3 for $9.95, or $3.32)

The packaging was excellent--a small cardboard "crate", filled with recycled packaging material, and a little note, personalized with my name, explaining what each item was. The whole thing felt very much like a gift--the products are all full-size and high quality, and the effect is that you feel you are receiving something special and high end. They are also all useful products--nothing cute but useless was included, which I think is great.

Lost Crates is clear that they do not consider themselves a discount site. The products in any crate you receive will be worth a very similar amount to the $38 you paid for it. Instead, they offer introductions to new companies, revisit old favorites, and give their customers the excitement and joy of a monthly surprise. Whether or not that makes the price tag worth it is, of course, a highly individual decision.

What might make your decision in whether or not Lost Crates is for you a bit easier? Perhaps, winning one? Head on over to the Lost Crates site and look around, then come back and tell me what you'd love to see in a crate. For an additional entry, follow Lost Crates on Twitter and/or like Lost Crates on Facebook. For yet another entry, Tweet or FB link to this contest! Contest will run for two weeks, to be closed on Tuesday, November 8. Thanks for playing!

Disclosure: I was not compensated nor did I receive free products for this review. However, the Lost Crate giveaway is courtesy of Lost Crates.


What a wonderful idea!
I love journals, pens, notebooks so I have bookmarked their site.
I would love to see items that I can't find at my local Barnes & Noble.
So accessories, gadgets or other items that aren't just big name products.
I'd love for them to introduce me to something I haven't seen before.

I don't see how to look around without giving my CC info, which I don't want to do. Would love quirky fun stuff, dishes or bookmarks or ... well, really anything. Who doesn't love surprises?

Following on Twitter.

Liked on FB! Man, I want to win! :-D

Mmmmmm. I love note cards, post cards, funky pens - I enjoy sitting down and writing letters. Actual put-a-stamp-on-them-and-send-them-snail-mail letters. :) I love travel journals, too. What a great give away!

some of those waxy-sealy things. love those.

(and i'll be twitter & facebook liking stuff soon!)

I did the quiz as my son because he LOVES stuff like this. He loves notebooks and fancy pens and drawing stuff. He also loves stuff like staplers and paper clips. So a box with any of those things would be awesome.

How very cool! I would love to find a leather bound journal or the latest Sookie Stackhouse novel in my crate. A girl can dream, right? :)

Many thanks to you and Lost Crates for offering such a great giveaway!

I follow Lost Crates on Twitter - normawatson

I like Lost Crates on Facebook - Cindy A.

Wow, what a cool idea! I love journals- especially hard bound ones with interesting clasps. And I love new pens that write really smoothly. This is totally my type of place!

I love good letter paper and good-quality pens - I'd love to get a crate with some nice notecards and letter-writing stuff.

I also Liked them on FB. :)

I'm totally intrigued by that no staple, stapler. What do you think of yours? I can't figure out how it's working. If it's good, I'd love to recommend it to my workplace.

And I love anything by French Paper. They have great products and the best design.

What a great idea! I would love to see handmade paper or journals.

What a great idea. I'm a bit of a stationary fiend, myself. I love colourful journals and stationary that has inspiring things written on it. I'd love to add your contest to my couponing/savings group as an American contest.

Facebooked it, and am liking them on facebook.

Like them on Twitter (as nytetyger) and Facebook. As to what I'd love to see? A lovely notebook, a selection of pencils-- perhaps in color? A new rollerball, and a small case to carry writing things around with you.

StationEry. StationAry means it's standing still. tsk tsk

I love Lost Crates

That's the exact same crate I got for my first month except the colors are different.

Moleskine hardbound journals
Pilot frixion retractable erasable gel pens
Cute travel sets of mini stapler, tape, etc. in a small case
Pen cases
Pen sets of different colors

I'm addicted to moleskine and field notes books. And any fine tipped pen that doesn't bleed.

You know I'd be all about the eco, and stuff for notetaking since I don't draw.

Love, love LOVE LOST CRATES! Just got my first one in October and have been trying to be patient for November's delivery! Everything was useful, new and fashionable. Would love to see anything this company sends out! EXCITED!

Fountains pens and postcards

What would I like to see in my crate? Hmmm... A fountain pen for a left-handed person. I LOVED the recycled plastic pencil holder you guys sent. Some neat-o paper clips. Actually, anything!!!! Thanks for asking.

I would love to see journals with sketch paper... ergonomic pens... small sturdy notebooks that can take a beating in a bag. But that's in addition to the things they already have -- love the fountain pens, cool accessories, notebooks, etc.!

I liked Lost Crates on Facebook.

I followed Lost Crates on Twitter. Thank you for hosting this giveaway!

I'd live to see pens and pencils, preferably ones I can't find in my area. Cut paperclips or other quirky stationery items would be fun too ^^
Thank you for the chance!

I follow Lost Crates on Twitter (@diysara).

Would love to see whimsical 3x5 index cards included in one of the Lost Crates!

*also tweeted about the contest and follow Lost Crates on Twitter

Things I'd like to see more of is sketchbooks or art tools aimed for the artist or art journaler. :D

Followed on twitter and liked on FB.


Great giveaway! I'd like to see some fountain pens as well - like the new Noodler's flex!

I liked Lost Crates on Facebook!

Followed on twitter, retweeting link to contest!

I followed on Twitter and liked on FB!

I have been contemplating on subscribing for awhile, still unsure whether I should do it. It would be a great way to explore other brands of stationery and a surprise in the mail!


Followed on Twitter, and liked on Facebook

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Grace's favorite things giveaway #1 WINNER!

| 1 Comment

Congratulations to Emilie C! The very last entrant in my Stumptown Coffee giveway is also the winner!

Emilie C | October 19, 2011 9:44 PM | Reply We usually get one of the dark blends and I always make cold drip coffee to keep in the fridge. It's always on hand then! I always use lots of cream and vanilla flavor.


Congrats to Emilie!


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Grace's favorite things giveaway #1


For a long time, I've wanted to do a series of "Grace's favorite things" giveaways, inspired, of course, by Oprah. I tell you about lots of products I love here on the blog, and what's better than sharing them with you, too? So, in between other giveaways (I have several more sponsored giveaways in the pipeline), I'm going to be giving away a few of my favorite things. Some will be makeup, some food, some little oddities, all will be things I love.

My first giveaway is a product VERY near and dear to my heart: coffee. I am both a coffee lover and a coffee snob. My Pacific Northwest heart shows when it comes to java. And my hands down favorite is the stuff from Portland's own Stumptown Coffee Roasters. I LOVE Stumptown. Mark and I even spend the rather ridiculous sum it costs us to order our coffee and have it shipped from them every couple of months. So it's the first thing that came to mind to share with you.

If you would like to win a sampling (I'm thinking probably three bags) of Stumptown's finest, leave me a comment and tell me which roasts/blends appeal most to you (my favorites of the moment are Costa Rican Villalobos and De Los Santos), how you make your coffee (drip, French press, Moki pot?), and how you take it. In two week's time, I'll pick a winner and have Stumptown send you some beans (or, if you aren't a self-grinder, some grounds). Then you can enjoy one of my favorite things!

For an extra entry, blog or FB or Tweet and tell someone about my blog and how much you love me, then leave a second comment.

This contest is open for one week, until Thursday, October 20.

Good Luck!

As for my last contest, in which I gave away a New Beauty Test Tube, congratulations to winner LaurenB!


Coffee. I so wanted you to do coffee. I'd love to try your favourites. I drink decaf Berres Brothers on the regular, but I'd love a treat. At home I tend to make single cups with the keurig unless I have company. At school I have a french press. I drink my coffee black. Or ridiculously doctored in place of dessert. Squee! Coffee!!!

I'm a terrible coffee picker, I usually choose new coffees by their names. Holler Mountain appeals, as does De Los Santos. My coffee is drip, because I always forget about the french press until it's cold, and what I put in it depends on the time of day and how I'm feeling. Not much, usually.

Villalobos sounds excellent. I make drip coffee every day. Drink about a pot all by myself every morning.

I like your blog. I lurk here every day.

tweeted and facebooked too!

The Trapper Creek Decaf sounds good as does the Ethiopia Mordecofe. I make my coffee the boring way, drip! Or with our keurig if I'm at the studio. I prefer my coffee foo foo; cream, sugar, flavor syrups, you name it!

Hot damn! Winning this would absolutely make my day. We went to a coffee tasting/tour at Zingerman's Coffee Company over the weekend, which caused me to realize how little I actually know about coffee despite being an enthusiastic consumer and former barista.

Our primary mode of home coffee making is pour-over - in the Chemex for the two of us, or in an individual pour-over thingy for one. Shane is a fan of the Clever Dripper and has also used an AeroPress for coffee at work. We have an espresso machine, but it isn't really worth using. We used to do French press until we realized that we really prefer pour-over.

I've never had any of Stumptown's beans, but would absolutely love to try any of the following:
- El Salvador Los Caleros
- Ethiopia Mordecofe (though I don't like hops!)
- Costa Rica Torres Villalobos varietal sounds AMAZING
- Ethiopia Duromina

And we take our coffee black. Black black black - unless the beans are more than a few weeks old or we're at a diner.

I'm no good at picking from a description like that! I like my coffee dark and bitter like my soul. The coffees I have loved the most lately were from either Africa or Indonesia. We use a Chemex, which I love, love, love. (I think you should DQ anyone who doesn't grind their own beans!) I usually take my coffee with less than one sugar and a little milk. More milk if I am rushing and want to cool it quickly, almost black if I have time to sit and really savor it.


The Ethiopian Mordecofe, the Indonesian, and the Holler Mountain blend are intriguing. I take my coffee with brown sugar and whatever liquid form of dairy product is least likely to have gone bad in my refrigerator, usually half and half, but sometimes just milk. (I feel compelled to specify cow-milk - the babies don't share the breastmilk.) I make my coffee in a Cuisinart Grind and Brew that some genius person helped me pick out when I returned to the fold of coffee-drinkers after almost a decade of being lapsed.

I will tell the world how much I love you. Or, at least the Internet world. And my cats, because they're home right now.

I had the great pleasure to stock up on Stumptown in Seattle a few months ago but I am running low. i generally am a french press person but my french press just broke so I am in the process of buying a new coffeemaker at the moment. Suggestions?

I'm psyched about Ethiopia Mordecofe (hello chocolate & hops!) and Guatemala Finca El Injerto Bourbon Varietal.

Keurig, grind my own, balanced medium blends, with milk. :-)

I got a new espresso machine recently (for staying at my job FOREVER) and would love to learn how to make espresso with good beans. Usually I just drink drip coffee. Love your blog, am about to start watching SOA because of your reviews. (They filmed an episode near my house.)

Ahem. French press, grind my own, with milk(whole or 1/2 and 1/2) but no sugar.

I tend to go for medium blends, but almost everything on the website sounds amazing. Hard to pick, but these three sound really good:

- Ethiopia Mordecofe
- the House blend
-Nicaragua Finca La Amistad

Your favorite things is one of mine, too. I haven't had stumptown in ages, though, since I don't live nearby. And by ages, I mean about a year. It's a sad truth I am definitely one who favors the latin american variety. Guatemala Finca El Injerto, GET IN MY MOUTH, please. I am a french press girl. I grind my beans every morning and put 3 heaping tablespoons into my press pot. Then, I wait 4 mins, use some light cream and sugar or take it black, and enjoy it in my favorite mug. The mug is a really important part. It's my halloween mug from target and i use it everyday

ANY coffee is good for me. We do french press or unbreakable metal drip coffe filter.
I drink it black!

Well, as it was you who really pushed me into getting away from flavored creamers and into cold brewing, this is fitting, no?

The Panama Duncan Estate and the Nicuragua Finca la Amistad sound the best to me. I love a strong cup with a creamy flavor. Yum!

my love right now is light roast guatemala. i love it all ways but i do a press pot/french press or cold processed overnight. i like high caffeine low acid coffee.

oh! i forgot, i got so into good coffee i forgot to say i drink it black. looks like i am in good company too.

Mmmm, good coffee. You'd think it would be easy to find in Vancouver, but this west coast coffee things grinds to a halt at the border.

I like really rich medium to dark roasts, but hate any burned flavour. I get perfectly good results making drip coffee. It's really the beans that matter IMO.

Mmmm, good coffee. You'd think it would be easy to find in Vancouver, but this west coast coffee things grinds to a halt at the border.

I like really rich medium to dark roasts, but hate any burned flavour. I get perfectly good results making drip coffee. It's really the beans that matter IMO.

I'm also a coffee enthusiast and have fallen in love with Trader Joe's Kona. It's still spendy, but it's so worth it. I grind my own each morning, however I haven't yet researched why I should upgrade my ancient freebie Mr. Coffee grinder.

Anywho, I use a drip machine, though after a french press experience this year, I may switch it up. My fave is Kona (not a blend). However, I'm open to new experiences and tend to like a dark or medium roast. My love of central america leads me to want to try what they put out.


Our lives are so regimented these days with work, pumping and Penelope that we just put the ground beans in the coffee pot the night before and set the coffee maker/timer. It's part of a nightly routine that involves so many things we had too make a chart to remember it all. In our pre-newborn days, we were french press in the morning people.

I like most coffees, with the strong exception of flavored ones. No pumpkin spice and those of that ilk, please). If I have a choice, I'll usually go with a French roast.

I take my coffee with half & half, no sugar. There are few things in life that gross me out more than sweetened coffee.

i love coffee. i love the way it tastes, smells, the way the shiny brown beans the stuff. my lifestyle also fosters a dependency on this, my favorite stimulant. fortunately, i live (and grew up) in a state that starts feeding this beverage to its young from an early age in the form of coffee milk (a contender for the official state beverage), and i am lucky enough to have 2 very good roasters within stumbling distance. i drink my coffee black, except sometimes when it's iced, or special occasions, and then i throw in some soymilk. i use a programmable grind and brew drip pot given to me by my lovely sister as a "welcome to medical residency," either to grind my beans for a french press, or to do the hard work for me on days when i get up before 5:30 am. i am a die-hard for african coffees, especially those from ethiopia, and tend to like fuller varietals like those from sumatra. but i keep an open mind and recently had some killer beans from columbia...

i don't really need any more coffee, but i couldn't resist the urge to comment. and now to go shameless plug your blog!

and facebooked!

oh i will be tweeting & fbing, by the way. And for some reason the reply to your comment did not work for me.

I have considered the chemex, or rather, I have considered buying a much cheaper food grade Erlenmeyer flask and using that. :)

I FB'd it. Also, I have a tragic coffee-related problem - my french press stopped working! Nothing seems different but it's letting lots of ground through.

Ooh Stumptown! We went there (frequently!) this past weekend. We can get pretty good coffee in Ann Arbor, luckily, but Stumptown was good.
The worst thing about being pregnant was that coffee suddenly no longer tasted good. And then of course, having two kids meant that we stopped making french press and starting making drip. I think we need a better machine.
I love me some light/medium roast coffee. Honduran and Mexican tend to be my favorite. With cream.

I love love love coffee! I think the Kenya Tegu and the Hair Bender sound right up my alley. I take my coffee however I can get it, but at home I swing between a french press, cold brew, and a Gaggia classic espresso machine, depending on how much time I have and how urgent my need for caffeine. I never drink coffee hot, though, always iced with cream/milk and a little sugar. I'd love to win this giveaway!

We usually get one of the dark blends and I always make cold drip coffee to keep in the fridge. It's always on hand then! I always use lots of cream and vanilla flavor.

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