Archive for the ‘review’ Category

bilbl_shoppingsofi I’ve been so excited to write this post, and couldn’t wait to find a few spare moments to do it.  The week before last, the POPSugar MustHave Box for June arrived on my doorstep.  As a POPSugar Select Blogger, I love getting perks like this!

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One of the best things about subscribing to the POPSugar MustHave Boxes is that excitement of not knowing exactly what you’re going to get, but knowing that the box is going to be filled with things you’re going to love.  This box for June completely exceeded any expectations I had.

2014-06-02 16.15.47 My eyes popped as soon as I opened the paper and revealed Emily Giffin’s newest novel, The One and Only! This has been on my To Read list on Goodreads for months, and to have it as the first thing I saw in the June box was a great way to begin the unveiling!  Giffin’s writing is engaging and easy, perfect for a summer beach book.

2014-06-02 16.15.59Next up were these sassy, lemon-scented wet wipes from You Smell soap.  I haven’t tried them yet, but I think they’re going to be a really refreshing way to clean up on the go.  I have them in my “on the go” bag in the trunk of my Beetle convertible, so they’ll be ready when I need them.

2014-06-02 16.16.29 This next item is my favorite of the whole box. I’d never heard of SachaJuan before, but after using this body lotion, I have found my go to scent for summer.  (I wish they made a body spritz or perfume!).  This Shiny Citrus scent is so clean and light, and has notes of jasmine and grapefruit.  The lotion itself is a thin consistency so that it sinks into  the skin quickly, and doesn’t leave you feeling “gloppy.”  I love it!  So much so that the shower gel is on my birthday wishlist.  This product is a great example of why I like the POPSugar MustHave boxes – I discovered something that I absolutely adore, and would’ve never found on my own.

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The Turkish Towel was the next item I unwrapped from the box, and I actually used it last Friday when I went to the movies.  This towel is great because you can use it double-duty.  It’s a good size for lying at the beach, on a picnic, etc, but it’s so pretty that it works well as a wrap on a breezy summer night.  Which is exactly how I used it on Friday.  The weight is perfect to throw over your shoulders, and the color is so pretty, and goes well with lots of outfits.  This is another item I popped into my “on the go” bag so that I’m ready for whatever adventures this summer brings.

2014-06-02 16.17.47 Since I’m still on a weight loss journey and don’t really indulge in potato chips, I shared this bag with my nieces, who absolutely loved them.  My sister liked that they were all natural.
2014-06-02 16.17.57 When I saw these lollies hair ties in the MustHave box, it was like POPSugar had read my mind.  I really needed some new pretty ones, now that my hair is finally long enough to pull back in a ponytail.  These are so perfect for workouts, bike rides, or anytime I want to get my hair out of my face.  I already have one in my makeup bag and one in the “one the go” bag.
2014-06-02 16.18.25 Last but not least, there was a $15 voucher from Native Union, which sells “geeky gadgetry.”

This POPSugar MustHave box was filled with so many goodies, and definitely well worth the price of a subscription.  If you’d like to get it for yourself, I can offer readers  my special POPSugar Select Blogger coupon code to get $10 off of a 3-month subscription. Here are the coupon details:


Type: Save $10 on a 3-month subscription

End Date: 6/30/14
Let me know in the comments which item you’re most looking forward to!


Disclaimer: POPSUGAR provided me with a complimentary POPSUGAR Must Have box. The opinions I have shared about the box are my own and POPSUGAR did not tell me what to say or how to say it.


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bilbl_shoppingsofiA few weeks ago, SomerSaults Snack Co sent me an incredible package in the mail. They’d contacted me a couple of weeks before that, asking if I’d wanted to try some of their Sunflower Seed Snacks and write about what I thought of them.  When I looked at their nutritionals, especially their fiber content, I said I’d love to.

When I opened the box and saw these happy colors and the care with which it had been put together, I was really impressed.

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The blogger sample they’d sent me included all of their varieties: cinnamon crunch, santa fe salsa, pacific sea salt, salty pepper, and dutch cocoa.  They’d also sent me large 60z bags, as well as two different sizes  (1oz and 2oz) of individual snack packs. I couldn’t believe how generous they’d been in sending me all of the snacks to try! (Several weeks later, I still have some of these snacks in my pantry).

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Since it was afternoon, and I was in the mood for something savory, I went for the Santa Fe Salsa first.

2013-11-05 17.43.42 How cute is the cowboy on the bag?

A serving size is 14 snacks.  santafe

Those totals are really great, especially for someone like me who is trying to get as much protein in as I can.  I also really like how much fiber a serving size has.

2013-11-05 17.46.20 The nuggets are really substantial, and I have to say, after eating 14 of them, I was really full!  They’re really satisfying, and make a perfect after-school/3pm snack.

The Santa Fe Salsa were slightly spicy (I LOVE spicy food, so the more spice, the better), and I could definitely taste the jalapeno and chile.   To be honest, after tasting the other flavors, these were actually the flavor I’d be least likely to purchase, but that says more about how much I liked the other flavors.

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The dutch cocoa were delicious and just the right amount of chocolate, without being overly sweet.  I would pop 5-7 of these as an after dinner snack that completely satisfied my sweet tooth.  For people who sometimes crave a bit of sweet in the afternoon, these would be perfect.

The salty pepper were one of my favorites because they have it all – a bit of spice, a bit of salt, and lots of nutty goodness. I enjoyed these so much that I’ll be keeping these in my pantry for regular snacking.

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The pacific sea salt were hearty, and would be a great accompaniment to a piece of string cheese for a snack.  One day I was rushing out of the house without much time to prepare lunch, so I grabbed a bag of these and had them with 2 hard boiled eggs, and for me, that was the perfect meal.  I shared these with my dad one afternoon, and he really liked them, too.

The cinnamon crunch were, by far, my favorite of all the snacks.  I’ll definitely be re-purchasing these.  They remind me of graham crackers, but these taste so much better.  The heartiness of the seeds adds so much texture to the sweetness of the cinnamon.  These were a great snack when I was craving sweets, and I liked that they weren’t bad for me as so many other sweet snacks are.  In fact, the fiber in these actually enhanced my diet.

One of the things I really like about the Somersault Snack Co is that they’re based locally in the Bay Area, in Sausalito, CA, which is about 20 minutes north of San Francisco.  Their whole approach is fun and light, and I like that.

The snacks are available at lots of retailers, including Target and Whole Foods, but they’re also at lots of supermarkets.  The cost is fairly pricey at $4 per 6oz bag, but I loved these snacks so much that I’d definitely spend the money.  Plus, for me, one 6oz bag lasts quite a while.

My recommendation?  Buy them.  They are a wholesome, hearty snack that will definitely keep you satisfied for a few hours. They’ve found a permanent spot on my shopping list.

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Yesterday I got home from my frosty dip in the poolto discover a box on my doorstep. I wasn’t expecting anything, especially something addressed to me through my blog.


What could it be?! How fun!

20121017-200834.jpg The box was from Dasani, and now I was even more intrigued.


Why, Dasani, thank you, flattery will get you everywhere!

How cool is it that I got this box sent to me from Dasani Drops?  Completely unsolicited, I might add.

Inside, there were four different flavors of Dasani Drops: pink lemonade, strawberry kiwi, pineapple coconut, and mixed berry.  They also included that cute little 80z bottle of water and the cool pen.



What can I say, I’m an office supply nerd. I love the “lava lamp” feel of the pen and think it’s a clever marketing tool.

I am always looking for ways of getting my 8+ glasses of water in.  Lately, my goal has been 10 glasses/day.  I like the way plain water tastes, but after a while, it’s just, well, too plain.  Sometimes I like a little something in it to jazz it up a bit.  Yesterday I decided that I was in the mood for mixed berry.


I love the “grab and go” appeal of this little container. Easy to pop into a purse, gym bag, or carry on. This little container makes 32 8oz servings. Not bad.

I will say that these “drops” are more like a quick stream than anything else.  I tried my best to just add a drop, but it didn’t work.  Still, the amount of “flavor enhancer” you add to the glass is completely controllable, which I love.


This is how my water looked with about 3 drops/streams.  It tasted great!  And look how pretty that glass of water is.


This glass holds about 16oz.

I really appreciated that I could decide how much of the mixed berry flavor I liked.  I love that it’s “buildable,” so I can change it depending on my mood.  I really also like that it’s as easy to get the right flavor in a small glass of water as it is in a large 32oz Naglene container.  I haven’t found the same to be true for the powdered packets.  Whenever I want to add them to my Naglene, 1 is too bland and 2 is too much.  With the Dasani Drops, I can make it “just right.”  Ok, sorry, was that too Goldilocks and the Three Bears?

Since I’m not a huge fan of pineapple or coconut, I brought that flavor enhancer over to my sister’s house, and my nieces loved it!  My sister said she was glad that it was flavored using natural ingredients and that they didn’t use aspartame to sweeten it.  (It does have sucralose, though).  I wish they were sweetened with stevia instead – this is really the only downside, in my opinion.

Today I tried both the pink lemonade and the strawberry kiwi flavors, and I liked them both, too.  The Dasani Drops have a light, fresh flavor that I really appreciate.  They let water remain crisp and refreshing;I’ve found that some of the powdered packets do not.

Overall, I’d absolutely buy these Dasani Drops. They’re convenient, easy to use, and they taste great.

Do you think you’ll try them?

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Do you call a couple of months ago when I needed some advice about which color I should buy the Bloch Lightening shoes in? I really wanted the Multi, but they’d been out of stock so long on Zappos, that I finally broke down and decided to go with another color? Well, I’m so glad that I did.


I am LOVING the turquoise, yellow, green, and black combo!  They pair nicely with so many of the clothes I workout in, and they have just the right amount of pizzazz for Zumba shoes.

I wanted to try them out both in a class at the gym as well as at home for this review.  I can say that at first they’re really slippery, especially on my bamboo floors at home.  I felt like I was going to slide across the floor a few times that first evening.  They were better at the gym because those hard wood floors aren’t quite as smooth as mine at home.

The sole of the shoe has that unique pivot point near the ball of the foot that makes turns a breeze.  I’ve never been able to move as quickly as I have while wearing these shoes. I still may not be completely graceful (yet!), but I didn’t feel like the shoes were holding me back, as I used to wearing my Ascics or even my Reebok Flex. The right equipment makes all the difference in performance, and these shoes are no exception to that statement. I know I’m going to be a better Zumba participant now that I have the proper shoes.

These shoes are the opposite of clunky sneakers.  I love their lightness; I feel like I could dance all day in these shoes!  I’m not sure how they’d hold up for walking/running, but they’re meant as dance shoes, and that’s what I plan to do when I’m wearing them.  These are the go-to Zumba and U-Jam Fitness shoes, for sure.

I agree with the reviewers on Zappos who said that these shoes run small.  I originally bought the 8 1/2 (I normally wear an 8 in sneakers), but had to go up to a 9 for them to fit comfortably.  Now that I have the 9s though, I can say that these are really comfortable shoes, even with my recent by plantar fasciitis.

The price is great, too.  I picked them up for $66 on Zappos, and I know it’s going to be money well spent, because I’ll get a ton of use out of them.

All in all, I highly recommend these shoes.  I also recommend you buy them in person so you can try them on, or like I did, on Zappos, where you get free shipping both ways.


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I’m so excited to share today’s post with you.  A few weeks ago I was contacted by Fresh Produce, who offered to let me choose any piece of clothing on their site to review.  How cool!  I’d never heard of Fresh Produce before, but really liked their tagline: “live life, enjoy color.” They have retail stores throughout the U.S. and are also sold in Nordstrom.

The vibe of the clothes are resort – casual, comfortable, yet put-together.  In the straight sizes, there were tons of clothes that I could see myself wearing in the future – something to look forward to as I lose enough weight to get into size 14 and below.  The plus sizes also offered some cute choices.

I would have usually chosen a top, but I decided to go for something different.  Given that this season is all about colorful pants, and the tagline encouraged me to choose color, I decided to go outside of my comfort zone and get the Getaway Clamdigger pants in a color called Sunrise. It sounded like the perfect pant for spring and summer.

They arrived last week, and I couldn’t wait to try them on and wear them.  I really liked what the company had to say about themselves:



I also really liked that they had a drawstring waist.  For someone like me who has a much smaller waist in proportion to my hips, the drawstring is the only way to avoid the dreaded “gap.”  I’m not sure if you can tell or not, but the material of the pants was very soft and light, almost like scrubs, and you know how comfy doctors and nurses say those are.  I was excited to get them on and  try them out.


I was pleasantly surprised to see that the pants looked dressier than I expected.  They were just as comfy as I expected, but they looked like any other pair of pants that I could wear to work. Of course my go-to was to pair them with a black tank and shrug.  I loved that the pants were adjustable.  I’m really short, and I have short legs to top it off, so capris are usually almost the perfect length.  I really appreciated that I could make these even shorter, if I wanted to.  I think I’ll wear them at their shorter length, because it looks more flattering, in my opinion.  (The other way looks more like floods).  Click the collage to see it larger.


One might think this color is limiting, but when I looked through my closet, I saw that I had quite a few options that would work well, including these…


I’d love to get a denim shirt/light jacket to wear with a white top/tank, because I think that would be great together, too.


The price was more than I usually pay for pants, but they are so comfortable and versatile that I think I'd buy them again in other colors.

Speaking of other colors, they’re available in a TON of choices, including

I’d love to get them in Tortoise Shell and Oyster, among others.  They look great in Black and White, as well.

Overall, I’d say that if you’re looking for something to liven up your spring and summer wardrobe, you should check out Fresh Produce and infuse some color into your days.


Plus size capri pants: http://freshproduceclothes.com/fp/plus-size-capris Vacation clothes for women:http://freshproduceclothes.com/fp/vacation-clothes Capri pant sets: http://freshproduceclothes.com/fp/capri-pant Fresh Produce now ships to over 200 countries, so women outside the U.S. can enjoy the colorful styles, too.

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I’m always on the lookout for low cal snacks that don’t break my low carb bank. Today as I was shopping I found two different “nut crackers” and I decided to give them both a try. Sort of a snack smackdown, if you will.


On the left we have Blue Diamond Almond Nut-Thins in Cheddar Cheese.  On the right we have Keebler Wheatables Nut Crisps in Crunchy Cashew.


Nutritionally, these stack up nicely against each other.  The serving sizes are the exact same, at 16 crackers. Blue Diamond “wins” in fewer calories (130 vs. 140), less fat (4g vs. 6g), and lower sugar (0g vs. 4g).  In terms of carbs, Keebler wins (20g vs. 22g).  Blue Diamond are also gluten free, if that’s important to you (it’s not to me).

But what about the most important factor – the taste?  Hands down, the Keebler are much, much, much tastier.  It felt like you were eating a real cracker instead of some sort of weird, hard rice cracker thing.  This one is a win by KNOCKOUT.

So for me, the Blue Diamond are decent, but not something I’d buy again if I  could purchase the Keebler.  Whereas the Keebler Nut Crisps are something I would go out of my way to find.  If you’re looking for a great-tasting nut cracker, I’d recommend that you try the Keebler.  Happy snacking!


For those of you wondering why I’m eating any kind of cracker when I’m trying to do my strict, high-protein/low-carb diet, it’s because Bella does not live on protein alone.  A bit of carbs helps keep things moving (enough said), and it also keeps me happy.  These crackers work into my overall daily totals really nicely:

9/14 Daily Food Totals: 1,178 calories, 96g carbs, 37g fat, 120g protein

I bought more Medifast snacks (puffs, “pretzels,” and soy crisps), which will arrive in about 7-10 days, but until then, I like having a sensible option for snacks.

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I love trying new foods. I think part of it is the mystery of the unknown. Will I like the taste? Is it going to be a regular part of my menu from now on? And part of it is the “cool factor” of being groundbreaking.

Last night I tried a new type of fish called Swai.  It was on sale at Safeway and was something I had never heard of before. Maybe it’s not a new fish to most of you, but to me it was, and it made dinner a bit more exciting last night.


They were selling it frozen, in individual vacuum-packed bags. I love that, because it makes defrosting it so much easier.

Plus, I knew I HAD to try it with nutritional info like this:

I wanted to make the dinner quick and easy, so used one of my favorite “kitchen helpers” – Zip n’ Steam Bags. I usually only use them for steaming veggies, but they can steam meats, so I figured with a delicate white fish like this, it would be a great method to use. And because I wanted to keep the meal as lowcal as possible, I used one of my favorite sauces – Chaka’s MMM Sauce.


After 4 minutes in the micro, the fish looked like this. Definitely nothing to write home about, but very mild in smell and taste. The link above said that Swai is similar to catfish, but to me it’s closer to Tilapia. Very mild and versatile.

I knew the Chaka’s would help liven it up, and did it ever.  My meal was delicious!  Best of all, the entire spread you see before you was only 219 calories!


Dinner: fresh from the garden tomato, kale and onions, swai with Chaka's sauce. Yum!

Swai is going to become a regular part of the rotation in my kitchen.  I bought several different marinades  to add some flavor, including a mango spice one that I think will make fantastic fish tacos.

Are you adventurous in the kitchen?  What’s your newest food find?

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Last night I want to my Friday evening Zumba class, and I wanted to give my thoughts about how the Reebok RealFlex sneakers worked for that type of exercise.

At first it was a bit difficult getting used to not having a shoe keeping me confined, like my other sneakers used to.  I sort of felt like my foot was going to fall out of the shoe, at first.  But once I tightened the laces to give myself the mental confidence that the shoes were staying put, I actually really enjoyed wearing these sneakers for Zumba.  Not only was it easier to keep up with the fast footwork because the shoes are lighter, but it felt more like the type of shoes I would dance in.  Ok, so not really.  Normally I would dance in a cute sandal, but these shoes were much, much closer to that in terms of being light and airy feeling. Overall, it took a bit of getting used to, but I ended up really liking the RealFlex for Zumba.

And for walking?  I LOVE these shoes.  They are the most comfortable sneakers I’ve ever worn.  I feel like I’m walking on little clouds.  No numbness at all.  Today will be a bit more of a test, since my mom and I are going walking – probably about 2 miles or so.  But I am very confident that the shoes will be as great at a longer distance (not that 2 miles is a long distance, but longer than I’ve walked in them so far).

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I’m not sure if you guys remember when I had signed up for the San Diego Rock n Roll Half Marathon with Team in Training, but had to withdraw because I was getting terrible numbness in my feet/legs/hips. It was disappointing on a lot of levels – I couldn’t achieve a goal that I’d set for myself, even though I’d fundraised all the money. I felt like I had let a lot of people down, even though everyone understood. I was really concerned about the fact that the simple act of walking was making my feet go numb. It wouldn’t happen if I was walking at a leisurely pace with sandals or other shoes on in the mall, for instance, but it would always happen when I was in “training” mode outside or in the gym. At the time I met with shoe specialists and my doctor, and I had lots of tests from blood work to an ultrasound on my legs. What the found was that I had poor circulation in my legs, and that exercise would help it, but I shouldn’t go for long periods or at too quick a pace.

Since then the numbness has come and gone, but it would always be there when I was wearing “running” shoes. Over the course of the past year when I was walking Lulu, Minnie, and Sofi I discovered that when I wore flat sneakers (like Vans), I never got the numb feeling. I tested this out when I went for walks with my friend ST (we walked for 2 miles), and sure enough with the Vans I didn’t have any numbness. But of course, I can’t really take Zumba, Turbo Kick, and some of the other classes I like in Vans because they don’t let me move quickly enough.

Then I saw lots of people at the gym wearing the Nike Free shoes. I loved the look and I thought that the flat sole would mimic the Vans and allow me to walk numbness-free. The reviews were excellent, and I thought I’d make the investment and give them a try. Anything was better than the New Balance that I’d been wearing. (Some people swear by New Balance, but I’ve tried several different pairs over the years, and they just don’t work well for me). So I went to Footlocker the other day to get the Nike Free shoes, but I discovered that that Nike Free shoes don’t have a separate tongue on the shoe. So you have to slide your foot into them and you don’t have as much wiggle room because the tongue is connected.

For someone like me who has an incredibly high instep, in addition to wide feet, this made it nearly impossible to get them on. I was literally breaking into a sweat to get them on my feet, and my mom told me that I obviously needed to look around because if I couldn’t get them on easily, how realistic was it that I’d wear them. Which was true. I was really disappointed, because I loved the look of the shoes. So when I was looking around at other “free” types of shoes, I happened upon the Reebok Real Flex.

They look just as cute as the Nike Free, and they have a separated tongue. 🙂 Who knew that would make so much of a difference?



Taken in the mirror to give a side view.



I have them on today for the first time, and I can’t wait to use them. Just walking around the house I can say that they’re ultra light and very comfortable. I feel like my feet can breath – they don’t have that “cooped up” feeling that I get with most sneakers.  They don’t have that same “clodhopper” feel that other sneakers can, so I can see myself wearing these out and about a bit more than I normally would.  (I am not really a sneaker wearer.  Yes, I wear them when taking a long walk or when working out, but just in my daily life, not really).  I think these could make an appearance now and then in my regular shoe wardrobe, which is really saying something.

Beyond look and feel, I want to eventually use these shoes (although maybe not this actual pair, since I may go through these) to begin a walk/run program.  The plan in my head is to get to my pre-op goal of 266 lbs and then start with some sort of walk-to-run training program.  C25K works for people who are already fit, but for someone who is still considered obese, I’m thinking that something more along the lines of Brad Gansberg’s 100 day program would be more suitable.  No matter what program I choose, I really do want to eventually get to be a jogger.

All the more reason to get these last 30 pounds off so that I can keep striving for my real life goals.

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Bella Reads is going to be an occasional series on this blog. I’m an avid reader and usually have a few books going at once, but Bella Reads will focus on those books that I think are spectacular, and worth recommending.To see everything I’m reading, become my friend on Goodreads.com.

I discovered Therese Walsh through a Facebook writers’ giveaway, and although I didn’t win, I was drawn to her novel based purely on its title.  It drew me in, just as the novel did, once I turned the first page.

I loved this book! One of the few in recent memory that earned 5 stars from me. I like to think of myself as a discerning reader who isn’t easily impressed, so 5 stars isn’t an accolade I give freely.  I enjoy most books that I read because I don’t buy books I don’t think I’m going to like, but I don’t LOVE many.  This is one of the ones that captured my attention from the start.

Smart, suspenseful, and romantic, Last Will tells the story of the bond between twins and what happens when that sisterhood is threatened. Moira and Maeve Leahy share a secret language and can feel each others emotions and physical states, but they couldn’t be more different; their mother made sure of that.  Teenage jealousy takes a wild turn in this novel and no one’s life will be the same again.

Vivid imagery, strong character development and a plot with just enough twists & turns to keep the reader highly engaged, Last Will is beautifully written. Throughout my reading of the book I was impressed with Walsh’s diction, metaphors, and overall tone. Again and again I imagined what it would be like to visit Castine or I reminisced about my time in Rome.  She definitely knows how to set a scene, hold your attention, and make you wish the book would never end.

Therese Walsh is a gifted writer. I highly recommend this novel. You won’t be disappointed.

Want to know what else I’m reading? See below…

On the bookshelf:

What’s your latest “must read” book?

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