~ Starbucks ~ Easley, SC ~

On a cold and rainy night in Easley, SC, my daughter and I decided to stop into Starbucks for a hot coffee beverage.

I have been to Starbucks half a dozen times in my life. My main take away was that the drinks were either too bitter or sweet for my taste.

The decor is great at this location. It feels like you’re in the place to be. We had a lot of drinks to choose from but chose pretty readily. I ordered a hot butterscotch latte. The barista asked about my taste. From my reply, she said she would use one shot of syrup instead of two in my drink. It was tasty and the right amount of sweetness for my palate. My daughter loved her caramel macchiato, as well. Great job with the drinks.

The place had a fairly steady stream of customers, but it was not overcrowded or uncomfortable. Speaking of comfortable, we took the two comfy chairs at the front.

The two of us were enjoying our drinks, talking to each other, and I was leisurely writing on my laptop. I was feeling pretty inspired, which I think was mostly to do with the change of environment. We were appreciating this visit tremendously.

Before long, a woman sat beside me and started talking to us. We started talking about the coffee and the location. We talked about a variety of subjects. Before we knew it, it was about closing time and we’d conversed for hours!

Before we parted ways, we exchanged phone numbers, so that we could keep in touch and go for coffee again sometime. How many places do you think you will get a hot beverage and come away with the bonus of friendship.

I cannot wait to go again.

 

 

 

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Sleep Number Pillow ~ Smiley 360 Mission

2016-03-14 00.55.24editI received my Pillow compliments of Sleep Number via Smiley360.

I am about to try it! Very excited!

I will update later. ūüôā

#Sleep Number #Smiley360

 

This pillow has exceeded my expectations. It is much heavier than I expected. It has some heft to it. It feels as soft as a cloud, however. It is a pleasure to sleep on.

For years, I have slept with multiple pillows underneath my head to avoid reflux sickness. That was a nuisance because they might shift during the night. The quality of my sleep was often affected. Many times a week I woke with pain as a result.

Now, I do not need to stack anymore. This one pillow works perfectly. It is neither too thin nor too thick. I highly recommend one of these or any which fit your particular sleep style.

Sleep Number Store Visit – Smiley 360

I recently visited my local Sleep Number store in Anderson, SC as a result of an assignment I accepted from Smiley 360. Who knew it would be fun and informative!

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It had been years since I had been in a Sleep Number store. I soon learned that if you haven’t been to one lately, then you have not been to Sleep Number.

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I did the whole tour. My guide was the amazing Ned Lovell, who is the store manager. The big question I had was answered in no time flat. My sleep number is 35! Good to know!

The technology they have now is amazing. They call it Sleep IQ¬ģ. It rates your sleep, tells you your best sleeping hours, and can communicate with your fitness and sleep apps.

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Other advancements include feet warming (yes!) and a light under the bed for those late night trips to the bathroom.

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The sheets there can make a difference in staying at a comfortable temperature overnight.

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The pillows are amazing. I tried one that has a curve or cut-out at the neck. I have never tried a more comfortable pillow. My next one will definitely have this feature!

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The entire store is summed up by the message on their doors. If you want to improve the 1/3 of your life spent sleeping and impact your overall health and well-being, then visit your local Sleep Number soon.

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So, what is your sleep number? What is your experience with your Sleep Number bed or accessory?

iGOKU Bluetooth Speaker

This flowerpot intrigued me. It is perfect for small plants. I have been using it with one of the¬†popular succulents. An artificial flower could work well, too‚ÄĒand it needs no¬†upkeep!

This planter is full of unexpected surprises. With settings for either a 12- or 24-hour clock, having the time on the front display is handy. Beyond that, it has an alarm.

My essential oil diffuser has these same seven colors, so I feature the same static color. This ambient effect creates a striking theme and ties the room together.

The speaker is the¬†best¬†part. Pairing with a phone or tablet is easy.¬† Start Bluetooth on both devices, then select the choice that pops up on the list‚ÄĒdelightful simplicity! The sound is comparable to other players. Impressive, considering they do not have extra features.

The “magical” touch piano songs should delight young children. The volume is loud while starting. I connect to my playlist right¬†away to cut short the¬†sequence.

I charge it overnight, and that is enough. After I wake, the outdoor bistro set supports my flowerpot and morning java. The plant and I enjoy the fresh air, along with an audiobook or tunes. This coffee klatch starts the day off on a sweet note.

If you are interested in this versatile item by iGOKU, then here is the Amazon product page to check it out further for yourself.

HOLD THE PRESSES!!!

Just for having read my blog, I have a special 20% off code for you! Type KGGS3WBI in at checkout to take advantage of this exclusive promotion, courtesy of iGOKU. The code is good from 10/15 Р10/31.

Feel free to share with friends and family. It would make a lovely and thoughtful holiday gift!

Enjoy the savings! ūüôā

 

Alisten Portable Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker and LED Light Lamp Alarm Clock

This Alisten Bluetooth Speaker with Alarm Clock LED Lamp comes with the unit, an aux cable, a USB cable, and an instruction booklet. The speaker is attractive, has three levels of brightness for the LED or can be turned off entirely for use while sleeping.

There is an FM radio, and it can play from Bluetooth devices and also as an MP3 player with USB and micro TF/SD Card input. Personally, I use it a lot out on my porch while I am working on my laptop. I use it in conjunction with Spotify or iTunes or even my microSD card full of my favorite songs. I have sometimes also had occasion to sleep while it is on. I love that it can be set to turn itself off so I can fall asleep to music and yet have darkness and silence after I have fallen asleep. 

It is true the instructions are not the clearest, but the features are not that terribly hard to figure out. I enjoy this little speaker and its portability. I move it from room to room when I change places I am working.

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If you if are interested in more details about this Alisten Bluetooth Speaker with Alarm Clock LED Lamp, then here is the Amazon product page.

 

A Beautiful Work In Progress – Kindle Ed. – By Mirna Valerio (Author)

I had the good fortune to read this title in advance, thanks to the Kindle First program.

A Beautiful Work In Progress: A Memoir, Kindle Edition, by Mirna Valerio is one of the most inspirational personal accounts I have ever read. It does not hurt that the book details the life of a plus-size athlete. I am a plus-sized, non-athlete, but inspiration can go a long way into shifting thoughts which become actions, so I am willing myself to put these good intentions into practice and get myself started toward better health. Her advice goes so far as to think of oneself as an athlete whether or not any external validation of that is present. Good advice, I think how shortly ago I finally decided to think of myself as a writer– if only because “I write.”

Like the author, Mirna Valerio, I have replaced the goal of becoming “skinny” (whatever that is) with becoming fit and healthy. I think that is more a desirable and realistic plan. Will I be running marathons– most certainly not, I know– no matter how impressive that would be.

She makes it unmistakably clear within the pages of the book and in the speech she gave in September of 2016 (reprinted in the appendix) that we have our preferences. We are not cookie-cutter people in shape, size, nor about personal tastes. My preferred physical activities center around basketball, dance and swimming. I have tried to keep dancing, but the instances of basketball and swimming have indeed become fewer and farther-between. These favorite activities are ones I wish to resurrect in earnest.

Her accounts of some of her marathons were quite harrowing. She is unquestionably a dedicated, determined, and exemplary athlete. In my opinion, the author is a role model and heroine, though she writes her story as though she is neither. Her prose is approachable, readable, and relatable. Reading her account is almost like hearing it from her lips, as her style is easygoing, matter-of-fact, and unassuming. I have gotten to know her more than most other authors, I believe.

The accounts of her many races and her training measures are here, but there is much more in this book. Mirna Valerio is a multi-faceted person. Her intellect shines through as clearly as her athleticism and prowess in her marathon runs. She is a voracious reader, she has taught music and Spanish and traveled a good deal. It is all pretty fascinating.

I am usually one to think “I am not worthy!” when reading such an account of an accomplished person, but I know that she would not want that so I will put that energy instead into making my story come true. After all, this is not the end. I am chronologically further into my story than Mirna Valerio, but this last act could prove greater than the others if I put my all into it and “do not leave anything on the trail” so to speak.

So here am I, despite appearances, a burgeoning athlete. Thank you, Mirna Valerio. I have subscribed to your Facebook and Twitter because I see that your posts are as inspirational as this book, and I will need the encouragement. In return, consider me another “work in progress” and one of your many “enablers.” ūüôā

If you are interested in this lively account of a marathoner, then here is the Amazon product page link to A Beautiful Work In Progress: A Memoir.

 

 

 

 

 

ONTA¬ģ Gorsun Foldable, Adjustable Lightweight Headphones (Orange)

These ONTA¬ģ Gorsun Foldable, Adjustable Lightweight Headphones are surprisingly good for the¬†price¬†and for being touted as children’s headphones. The headphones fit me comfortably. I consider I have a medium-sized adult head size. The fit was perfect for me, oddly enough– not too tight, nor too loose. I had no issues with them even after wearing them a long time. My daughter uses them while playing a¬†PS4¬†game. She has said that after MANY hours they become a bit uncomfortable. These are not the only headphones available to her, either, so she chooses them, nevertheless. I am thinking they are suitable for about age nine and up, depending on head size.

I checked out the ONTA¬ģ pair for sound. Quite honestly I did not expect much. Instead, I was pretty impressed. The sound is crisp and full, unlike¬†many¬†headphones costing more than these.

Now the vibrant orange color and the plastic build and feel clues you in that these are for children. Happily, the sound does not. Unlike some similar products I have tested, these headphones fulfill their purpose well. Some things sold for children are low quality. Why? I imagine that children are not the consumers buying them and that manufacturers do not think the buying adults will truly test them out.

I would have no qualms giving these headphones to any young person.

If you want to buy these earphones, here is the Amazon product page link.

Mrs. Saint and the Defectives: A Novel – By Julie Lawson Timmer

~ GENERAL TAKE [MILD SPOILERS] ~

I read Mrs. Saint and the Defectives in July when it was available as one of the selections for Amazon Prime’s Kindle First program. Every month, Amazon Prime members can pick out one title from the handful offered and download it for free thirty days before it debuts publicly. It is one of my particular favorite perks of the Prime program.

I chose this title, as it seemed one right up my alley. It sounded fun, light, and quirky enough to de-stress me and set me up for a positive month. I was not wrong.

The titular character, Mrs. Saint, is a powerhouse of a woman with firm opinions on things like being neighborly, families eating together, and teenage boys and dogs. You knowРcontroversial stuff. I could not help but love her immediately. But then, I loved every one of the characters in this book. The author, Julie Lawson Timmer, does a fantastic job of breathing life into them all. Besides mere life, she bestows each with a charm, grace, and personality. I know people such as these.

Markie, a recent divorc√©e, and her teenage son Jesse become next door neighbors to the¬†irascible¬†elderly woman and a rag-tag bunch she calls “defectives.” The dance that ensues between the overstepping neighbor and the reticent, retreating¬†Markie¬†is something to behold.

The so-called “defectives” are an awkward bunch of lovely people like ourselves and probably everyone we know. No one escapes pain and¬†woundedness¬†in this life. Some merely hide it better than others, if you ask me.¬†Brokenness¬†does not mean one is “defective”– just human in an imperfect world.

The author has an impressive command of language and narrative. I read the book through nearly in one sitting. Ms. Timmer obviously knows people. With a few deft sentences, she made me feel I understood even the lesser characters well. I had a stake in them and their growth and struggles.

If she were to write a sequel, I would buy it and read it with anticipation. The ending was a mixed bag to me. Ultimately, I like what occurred for most of the characters. There was a development, a revelation, that I felt was not necessary to the story, but others may well disagree.

 

~ MORE PERSONAL TAKE – [MEDIUM SPOILERS] ~

 

Mainly, I enjoyed at least the first 90% of the book very much. I smiled often and even laughed aloud. Other times, I found myself “coaching” the characters as though they would hear me and fall into line. [Why do I do that– ever?]

Knowing her neighbor had lots of wisdom, why did¬†Markie¬†not keep her stubborn attitude in check? Why did Mrs. Saint deliver her “advice” in the same matter-of-fact way? Did she not realize that “people do not care how much you know unless they know how much you care.” Had she not heard that you “catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” sometime in her life?

So, I would have preferred if a few certain characters might have been less reactive and stubborn. It became a bit frustrating– though true-to-life to some degree– as we can “miss” each other even with the best of intentions.

I have read many lighthearted books lately in which the last chapters took on a vastly more profound and somber subject or tone. There was some warning [of a sort] when I looked back over the stories in detail. However, they felt disjointed and out of step with the rest of the narrative.

Much to my chagrin, Mrs. Saint and the Defectives wound up this way.¬†My thought on the semi-surprise “Cause” ending is that the book, though seemingly lighthearted in tone, is quite¬†serious¬†in its way. The plight of these people is enough– more than enough to my way of thinking– to give it importance, relevance and whatever other weighty “ance” word you can imagine. This¬†tale is about the human condition.

There is no end of books written about the subject that¬†is broached¬†in the last pages about a certain character’s back story. I would not discourage¬†significant¬†themes. I find¬†them when others may not, in fact. This tale of a pushy but well-meaning neighbor with a houseful of eccentrics under her roof and their dealings with the¬†near¬†agoraphobic¬†single mom and her¬†angsty¬†son is ENOUGH.

The ending seems a reach in a few ways. The explanation feels like a betrayal of the personality and traits of the title character. It does not go with what came before. Also, it seems like a reach — like that of an overachiever holding a pen, who always pushes for more and is rarely satisfied– and never believes that others without that ultra-critical¬†eye, simply marvel at the beauty that was inherent in their words already.

I wish I could have assured the author that just as these quirky, beautiful people she lovingly detailed in these pages have intrinsic worth and are not “defective,” so too would this book be worthy enough without the ultra-serious turn. If it¬†is not broken, it does not need fixing.

What Julie Lawson¬†Timmer¬†has done with her work has touched me greatly, without a doubt, and I am grateful for it. I just would have liked to have maintained the same particular sentiment and tone from the start through to the story’s conclusion. As this is art, though, it is the beholder’s eye that matters. Your perspective may differ.

Here is the link to download the Kindle version of Mrs. Saint and the Defectives on Amazon.

 

picserve

ULAKY “Wine A Bit, You’ll Feel Better” – Vinyl Wall Decal

This “Wine A Bit, You’ll Feel Better” Vinyl Wall Decal by ULAKY was perfectly packaged (wrapped in plastic and rolled over a styrofoam tube) so that it arrived unwrinkled and in pristine condition. It came with a helpful instruction sheet, so there are no worries that you will mess it up.

The decal has individual pre-cut elements that you can peel and apply to your wall or another predetermined area. The surface needs only be clean and smooth for successful application. Importantly, this sticker is removable and repositionable. It should not leave behind any sticky residue, either. That means when it outlasts its charm, you can just peel it off. It should not harm paint. The decal is environmentally friendly and non-toxic.

I would not hesitate to buy again from this company.

If you would like to have this ULAKY humorous wall decoration for yourself or as a gag gift for a loved one, here is the Amazon product page link.

If you would like to see my original review on Amazon, here is the link.

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Fidget Force – LED Cosmic Hand Spinner

This Cosmic model is my first light-up spinner. I was not sure how I would like it. Would it just be too gimmicky? Would the lights increase my enjoyment of the focus spinner? Since my primary goal is better concentration when I am writing, would it improve that for me?

Surprisingly, the lights enhanced my experience. Especially in subdued lighting, the light show in your hands is cool. The lights going on when the spinner is idle are only so-so, but when it is spinning, the pattern is intriguing.

The spinner is black with white circles that let the LEDs show through when slight impact to them turns them on. Each end has three lights (blue, green, and red).

This Fidget Force Cosmic Hand Spinner is one of the lightest ones I own. The spins are among the smoothest, as well. The lights flicker for roughly twenty seconds after you tap them on with a finger or hand. The turns last longer than that, but this is not a spinner for the person who craves long spins. Especially in this instance, I do not mind because the added dimension the LEDs bring to the table.

The other side of the spinner has three peace sign stickers. There are also nine space-related stickers included in the package should you wish to change them out or the current ones wear out.

Although this is a pretty consistent spinner and the spins are smooth as butter, I do believe this is nevertheless one of the least durable should there be a fall from a height or heavy impacts. The most that will happen to this one is that it might fall on the rug, so that is a non-issue. If your child rough houses a lot, then you might want to look for a more durable specimen.

If you would like to buy a Fidget Force Cosmic Spinner, then here is the Amazon product page.

Here is my original Amazon product review. I hope you enjoy it. ¬†ūüôā