Essentials for a Beach Day with Friends

*This is a sponsored post on behalf of Black Box Wines.  All opinions and tips are my own.  And, duh, it’s wine so I know you’ll love it as much as I do.beach-essentials-for-hanging-with-friends

There are two kinds of beach days for me, one with family and one with friends. They look REALLY different. With my kids, there is sand EVERYWHERE, there are lots of plastic beach toys and bone dry juice boxes littering the horizon. I’m also on constant watch, ready to spring in to action, to save my kids from getting too far out in the water or reaching for the wrong kid’s sand toys. But with friends, now THAT is where I can relax. That is where I can enjoy delightful conversation, probably some good music and perhaps catch up on some reading material. And if we’re lucky, there is a little wine. Here are my essentials for spending a fun afternoon, with friends, at the beach.

At the beach, I may or may not be in my swimsuit depending on the time of day or weather. The beach is sometimes even more fun on a cool, overcast day. But you certainly want to make sure to bring along healthy snacks so that you can still fit in to your swimsuit. Nuts and dried fruit are a great option. They bring the crunch, a little salt and the sweet touch that most of us crave. Similarly, popcorn is my new go to snack and it is easy to transport in a Tiffin type carrier.

Especially if the weather is warm, you want to make sure to stay hydrated with water. I love Boxed Water because there is no plastic and they are good to the environment. They also just look way cooler. Make sure to stay away from sodas that can cause you to feel the bloat. No one needs to look like they are wearing an inner-tube when they aren’t.

Sunscreen and sunglasses are not optional. Pack your favorite pair of sunnies and slather yourself up with your favorite sunscreen BEFORE you leave for the beach. It needs time to penetrate the skin. Make sure to bring it with you and reapply as sunscreen wears off and leaves your skin vulnerable to the sun. Don’t forget to bring a speaker along (and something to play music from like your iPhone or iPod!). I love this one by Nixon because it is sand, water and shock resistant. And if you think you might have a minute, bring a long some magazines to get caught up on. But do not ignore your friends and keep your nose buried in one. You DO want to get invited back for another friend beach day.

Depending on the beach and the time of day, wine is a great addition to a great afternoon with friends at the beach. Most beaches where I am from do not allow any glass so Black Box Wines are the perfect option. Lose the bottle and toast your friends with one of their tasty varieties like their new Pinot Noir (notes of fresh berry, rose petals an cocoa!). This 3L box is the equivalent of 4 bottles! So you won’t need to worry about running out AND you can take the rest of the box home with you to finish when you deem fit over the next month. I know what you may be thinking, boxed wine? But as someone who favors twist off bottles (oh the side eyes I’ve gotten when I pull out my screw tops! – which happen to be eco-friendly thankyouverymuch.) boxed wine is a great idea! This packaing is also eco friendlier than regular bottles, they stay fresh for WAY longer and you only need to take one box with you and you have a whole heck of a lot of wine. It just makes sense. AND it tastes good. The Black Box wines are award winning and are a much better value than comparable bottle wine. You guys, I’m dying to taste the Sauvignon Blanc!

Black Box also has 500 mL sized boxes, in 5 varieties, for when you just want to take a few glasses with you. These are perfect for smaller picnics and tailgates.

The only thing as fabulous as enjoying a high quality, award winning box of Black Box Wines is winning a $5,000 shopping spree! “Lose the Bottle” and grab your shopping bag! Enter the sweepstakes by visiting https://www.facebook.com/blackboxwines/

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Black Box Wines. The opinions and text are all mine.


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Use Smells to Make Your Home Inviting to Guests

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hot Shot® Insecticides.
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Place fresh flowers next to the couch to make your front room smell inviting when guests come in.  #sponsored #HotShot  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI am kind of a home body.  So I love to invite my friends over to my house instead of meeting them out at a restaurant or coffee shop.  I always try to make sure that my house feels warm and inviting to them.  One way that I do this is through smells.  My mom and I have always loved scents.  Growing up we would go to the swap meet to buy our favorite incense.  It was called African Love.  It smelled of strawberries, jasmine with a touch of musk.  And it was heavenly.  We’ve tried all kinds of ways to introduce smells in to our homes from wall plug-in thing-a-ma-bobs to diffusers for scent-infused wax pellets.  But it doesn’t need to be difficult to make your house smell great.  Here are few quick and easy tips to make your house smell fantastic, which makes your home more inviting to guests.

If you have fresh flowers in your yard, you can easily clip some and display them in your home.  You don’t need a lot of stems and you don’t need an expensive vase.  A few fresh blooms can instantly help a room smell better.  And as you sit on the couch and enjoy each other’s company, you will be able to smell the flowers the whole visit.

Candles are a great way to have your home smell great when guests come over.  #sponsored #HotShot  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comCandles are a really easy way to make a home smell amazing when someone first enters.  My home does not have a lot of places to keep candles displayed so I usually keep just one or two in a cupboard and pull them out about half an hour before company is due to arrive.  Even if you place the candle on your dining table, no extra centerpiece or styling needed, your guests will be welcomed by your fragrant home. 

Add a few drops of an essential oil like lavender to your throw blankets before guests come over so the couch smells great.  #sponsored #HotShot  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comAnother trick of mine is to add a few dabs of lavender oil to my throw blanket before a guest arrives.  Lavender is a soothing, calming smell and people usually love it.  It reminds me of a spa which instantly transports me in to a more relaxed place.  Take note, I will NOT massage you.  Although I love to have you in my home, I don’t want it to get weird.  Just make sure to use the oil sparingly, a little goes a long way.

Slice and bake cookies generally last a long time in the fridge which means they are easy to have on hand.  You can put the cookie dough in the oven a few minutes before your guest gets there.   NO one can resist that smell.  AND you’ll have a snack to share with your guest.  And as the holidays get closer, you can simmer some water with cinnamon sticks, sliced oranges and vanilla on the stove for a super festive smell.  What is your favorite way to make your house smell better? 

Hot Shot® Ant and Roach Killer to keep unwanted guests (of the bug variety) out of your home.   #sponsored #HotShot  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comBut there are a few guests that I don’t EVER want in my house.  The bug variety.  I do not want them to feel at home in my house.  I abhor ants and legit would scream and run out of my house if I saw a roach.  I would even leave my guest on the sofa to fend for themselves.  In the past, when I’ve had issues with ants, I would try all kinds of things to keep them at bay.  Nothing ever worked as well as Hot Shot® Insecticides.  They really help to keep my house bug free.  While I love to try natural remedies, there are certain things that need a little more strength.  My family doesn’t hesitate to put the smack down on those gross ant armies.  The floral scent is also much more tolerable, especially if you have to annihilate some bugs before your friends get to your house.

Keep your home and yard bug free so you are ready for any guests.  #sponsored #HotShot  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comAnd since I live in a warm climate, and the patio is pretty much an extension of our home, I also use the Hot Shot® spray outside.  Works like a charm.  I’m pretty brave if I have a can of spray but usually my husband has to handle any and all bug sightings.  What about you?  Do you do the deed?  Or is it a job for the man of the house?  Share your answer on the Hot Shot® Insecticides Facebook Page and you will be entered to win their July sweepstakes!  They are giving away Visa Gift Cards weekly with one final grand prize winner!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hot Shot® Insecticides.

Thank you for supporting the brands that let me pay my bills and buy my kids ice cream once in a while.

Makeup Tips for People with Allergies #ALLERGYFACE®

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of ZYRTEC®.  All allergies and the resulting ALLERGY FACE® that goes along with it are all mine. Tracking Pixel

Allergy sufferers often end up with ALLERGY FACE®.  I totally have it.  #sponsored #Zyrtec // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comDangit that is a big picture of my face.  I’m not going to lie, I originally retouched this photo so much that it didn’t even look like me anymore.  But then I thought screw it.  We all have wrinkles and such.  I’m just going to keep it real.  While I would love to have smoother skin, it’s probably not something I’ll ever have (maybe with major lasers – not to be confused with the Diplo project – or other resurfacing methods which cost more than my car).  I’m not one of those gals that hates getting older.  I’m ok with wrinkles.  But I’ve been an allergy sufferer all my life and I could do without ALLERGY FACE®.  If you don’t have allergies, you have no idea what I’m talking about – and I hate your guts because allergies suck.  Allergies, in some way, have hindered things in my life that you wouldn’t think they should hinder. Like getting massages.  WTF?!  I can’t lay face down in the donut, without getting super stuffed up and miserable.  Sure the rubbing around on my back and shoulders feels great but then I end up with a sinus headache because of it.  Oh and the wine!  I can’t drink wine (I mean I shouldn’t drink wine but I do because it is so good) because of the effing sulfites or sulfates or some other dumb property that makes my nose completely inflamed so that I can’t breathe through it any more.  I’ve even figured out how to save any crying I need to do until an optimal time for my allergies.  Yeah, I feel AWFUL after a good cry – happy or sad – so I plan it out based on my allergy side effects to the crying.

If you DO have allergies then you know what ALLERGY FACE® is.  It is where your eyes feel like they are halfway closed, even though you aren’t tired, from all the inflammation in your face.  It’s when your nose is all red because although your nose is super stuffy, it is still runny somehow and you can’t go more than a few minutes without blowing it.  And the watery eyes which causes your mascara to run down your face which makes people think you have been crying.  Which you have NOT (not until next Tuesday, see above).

DIY salt rinse for allergy sufferers.  #sponsored #ZYRTEC® #ALLERGYFACE®  // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comHaving ALLERGY FACE® has led me to try many things.  Dark under eye circles are prevalent in people who have allergies.  So by that reasoning, I must have all the allergies, ever.  My dark circles are so…er, dark.  I read somewhere that using the Neti Pot might make them less severe but I just couldn’t bring myself to use that funny looking thing.  Then my allergist suggested that I do a nasal rinse with a syringe and salt water to flush out the nasal cavity.  You guys!  This has been life changing!  I feel so much more clear with way less pressure (and helps me to fall asleep because I can get air back in through my nose after drinking the offensive wine).  BUT, my dark circles are still there. Remind me to tell you sometime about how when I first tried the salt rinse I used a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon of salt…

Makeup tips for combatting #ALLERGYFACE® #sponsored #ZYRTEC®Which means it is all up to makeup to make me look presentable.  And while I’ve taken several makeup classes and am scheduled to take another really soon, it just doesn’t come naturally to me and I don’t know any tricks to mask the ALLERGY FACE® side effects.  Thankfully the kind people of ZYRTEC®, who keep me and my family functioning amid allergies to dust, mold, dogs, grass, trees, laundry and cleaning floors (ok the last two are made up…), realize that even though their medicine can help with the symptoms of allergies, us gals still need a little help in the face department.   They enlisted the help of celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg (who suffers from allergies so she knows) to share makeup tips for people with allergies and ALLERGY FACE®.

Makeup tips to help allergy sufferers detract from #ALLERGYFACE®.  #sponsored #ZYRTEC® // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comHead to the ZYRETEC® Facebook page to see all the looks designed to detract from your ALLERGY FACE®.  I tend to go for the “barest beauty” look on most days.  The highlighting and contouring really helps my face to not look so puffy.  And waterproof mascara is where it’s at.  It stays put even when my tears do not.  If you are like I was and ha no idea what contouring is, just watch this great video with Jamie Greenberg.  She shares her tips on looking your best with allergies. 
I’m grateful for these tips and to ZYRTEC® for being part of my journey with allergies. Are you an allergy sufferer? Do you have ALLERGY FACE®?

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of ZYRTEC®.  All allergies and the resulting ALLERGY FACE® that goes along with it is all mine.

What to Pack : Beach Vacations

Things I'm coveting for my trip to Mexico.  // www.cupcakesandcutlery.com
How good does a beach vacation sound right now?!  So I’m prepping for a trip to Mexico later this week and you know I had to do a little shopping.  And since one of my summer bucket list items is “wear shorts” (you know you are stupid and old if your summer bucket list item has something about wearing shorts…) on it, I thought a beach vacay would be the perfect time to try some out.  I picked up those adorable black ruffle shorts (bottom right photo) from Ascot + Hart and can’t wait to wear them! (Dang it! These look like they are all sold out.  Check out their other fun short options here!)  Of course I need a spray tan first but then I’m going to wear the sh*t out of those shorts.  I’m also ellipticizing (I know this isn’t really a thing but if you can Jazzercise I really think you oughta be able to ellipticize) so hopefully my thighs won’t clap together as I wear my shorts around the resort.  And I have been making awesome food choices.  I see a little bit of a difference in my body and am totally going to stay on this healthy food business until at least my Palm Springs trip in August.  Of course I want to continue it after, but I really think I need a weekend where all I eat is cake.  I really like cake.

So um, Sharon, how is this post about packing for beach vacations again?  Oh right.  So another item I picked up for my trip, and summer in general, is this fantastic ruffle bikini top by Roxy.  This is perfection for small boobed, birthing hips gals like me.  It helps to balance out the silhouette and guess what else?  Ain’t nothing going to fall out of anywhere.  This would be a great bikini top for playing smashball in the sand (whoa, that sounded so 80’s, right there) or being more active than just lying on your towel.  This is going to be my go-to top for swimming with my kids.  Why are little hands so grabby?  Like, OH NO I think I may be drowning!  You know what will save me?  My moms triangle top bathing suit!  And I’m realizing that this isn’t much of a “how to” post.  It’s more of a “you should totally get these items post.”

And the other items in that photo?  All wish list items.  I keep seeing this round beach towel and it wants to be part of my family.  This white Cleobella kimono is perfection (holy crap!  This item is no longer available either! Here are some other great kimonos and jackets).  I can’t stop dreaming about these Nena and Co. bags.  One day I will break down and buy one.  The colors make my heart happy!  This Tacos and Tequila shirt should be mandatory when even thinking about Mexico.  And I’ve seen these rad little booties in action and think they want to be on my feet.  I can’t even tell you the last time I wore heels, so these would sort of be like training wheels.  That thick heel is right up my alley and I love the color.  All I have at the moment are black shoes and that is just too heavy for an easy, breezy oceanfront dinner.

I really like shopping, so I picked out some other things I would want for a beach vacation:

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Cool Minecraft Party Ideas

Dude.  It's your birthday.  Have some cake. // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comHow is he 8 already?  It’s crazy.  My husband and I can still remember my water breaking plain as day.  I mean, you don’t really forget something like that.  Of course back then, I wasn’t sure what was happening and made my husband google it.  Oh the laughs we had about that.  But enough details about fluids.  My oldest turned 8 and of course he wanted a Minecraft party.  I didn’t want to throw a big party this year and you know how quickly themed parties can get out of control (ahem, Lego Dance Party complete with kid discoteque…).  So instead, I billed this as a playdate and had him invite just his cousins and a few school friends over one Friday afternoon.  It worked out really well.  It was small, but still really fun and I know some of you are probably looking for cool Minecraft party ideas.       

Coming soon, the coolest shirts ever.  Put whatever you want on them! // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comThis kid.  He’s super awesome.  But gone are the days when I really get total say over his parties.  He definitely has a point of view and I really have to sell him on some of my ideas.  Oh, I kinda also waited until the last minute to pull this together so color me surprised when I figured out that none of our local stores really sell any pre-made Minecraft party stuff…Time to get creative. 

Minecraft inspired birthday party decor // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI looked on Etsy but didn’t really have enough time to order any party decor.  So I purchased some Minecraft themed digital papers and created a super simple Minecraft birthday banner with brads.  I tell you what.  No one else has that party decor so he thought that was pretty cool.  I’ll tell you something else.  Kid’s don’t really understand what Happy Cake Day means.  But “birthday” was far too many letters for me to cut out.  And saying Happy Birthday is just like, so cliche. 

Cool Minecraft posters make party decor hip and original.  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI knew I needed to add in more Minecraft touches.  So I spent some time online browsing.  I came across these cool Minecraft propaganda style posters and knew they would be perfect.  I printed out a bunch of them and tacked them to the wall.  The kids thought these were pretty awesome.  And when the party was over, I let my boys move some of them in to their rooms.  I felt like their graphic design was good enough to have it be art on their walls.  

Black, green and white is the perfect color combo for a Minecraft party // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI thought about the creepers (do you know Minecraft? There are these things called creepers.  and they are shades of green) so I used their color scheme in my kitchen area for the plates and cutlery.  It really just helped to play up the Minecraftedness of the party…

 

ice cream sundae bars are where it's at for kid's parties.  // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comWe also decided to forgo the cake in favor of ice cream for the party.  We used the black, white and green color scheme over here too.  I did create a wall hanging above the table of what I thought were squid…but all the kids thought they were endermen.  Either way.  It was Minecrafty and it worked.  I didn’t get a photo of it though.  

No cake needed.  We made ice cream nachos for my son's birthday party and they were a big hit!  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comWe could have done just normal ice cream sundaes but we decided to do ice cream nachos instead.  I mean, really that is just an ice cream sundae but my mom made waffle cones and we broke them up in to pieces and those were the chips.  I also made mini chocolate cupcakes as a topping because how often do you see cupcakes as a topping for an ice cream sundae? 

Timed skittles game is easy, cheap and a great activity to play at kid's parties!  // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comBut how do you keep kids entertained?  My husband and I watch Jimmy Fallon just about every night (well we tape them because we are too old to stay up late enough to watch them when they are really on) and he plays some really amazing games with his celebrity guests.  So I tried to figure out which ones we could modify for the kids and to fill in any gaps I searched for “minute to win it” style games.  These kept the kids really engaged and because each one was done in heats, they all hung around to cheer each other on.  Another great part was they were super inexpensive!  I presorted Skittles for the game above and two kids went head to head and had to separate them by color using only one hand.  The first one done, wins.  It doesn’t really seem like they would be that in to it but they seemed to really enjoy it.  

Kid-friendly flip cup for a fun birthday party activity. // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comYeah, we played flip cup.  So?  Ok, so not the traditional drinking game flip cup but a more kid friendly version.  I thought about using soda for a split second and then just realized we didn’t need any liquid.  AND we started preparing them for their college years…

Jimmy Fallon inspired water wars game is perfect to play at kid's birthday parties.  // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comBut the most fun game was water wars.  I saw Jimmy Fallon play it with Li Lo and just knew the kids would love it!  On the invitation I asked everyone to bring a change of clothes or swim trunks.  I bought a cheap deck of cards (in case they got ruined from the water) and used plastic cups.  All you do is split the deck and have two kids face each other.  Each kid turns over a card at the same time and whoever has the higher number gets to throw water in the other persons face…so funny right?!  I think my husband had them do best of 3 and then that winner advanced to the next round.  

Water war is a super fun game to play at a kid's summer birthday party //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI can’t wait to do this again!  I ordered some pizza for dinner (which I’ve never done before and it was SO easy!) and then it was time to send the kids home.

Easy and inexpensive kid's party favors from Target // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI had thrown around some Minecraft favor ideas with my son (like cool Minecraft socks!) but he was not in to it.  So instead we went with these fun mustache glasses party favors from Target and a small water gun.  

Go Pro is the PERFECT gift idea for little boys.  It provides hours of enjoyment for the whole family and also helps teach responsibility. //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comAll my son wanted for his birthday was a Go Pro.  And he got one.  I really wish he would have had this before his playdate.  Just think of the footage we would have had of the water wars!  So I guess this is the least Minecrafty party you could possibly have.  But it worked and still looked pretty cool.