Wednesday, July 31, 2013

World's Best Cat Litter - Review and Giveaway

Okay, people, we're about to talk about cat poop. Get comfy.



A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from the fine folks at World's Best Cat Litter, asking if I'd like for them to send me a free bag to try out. Um, do you guys know how much I end up spending on cat litter most of the time? Of course I'll take a free bag! (By the way, I'm pretty sure that your Crazy Cat Lady street cred is officially bumped up a few notches when cat-related companies start emailing you.)

When the bag of litter arrived, it went through the usual tests:


Lucky inspects the new litter.


I guess it passes inspection?


I tried to take a photo peering down into the bag to show the contents inside. Here's how that went:


My cats are major creepers.



Extreme close-up!

I decided to spare you guys any photos of the litter actually being used - gotta draw the line somewhere, right? I will, however, fill you in on the fact that I was surprised to find how much I liked this brand! I've tried a few "natural" cat litter brands in the past, but they smelled horrible. This litter had almost no scent fresh out of the bag, and even after they had used it I still couldn't smell anything. There was one day where I was super busy and didn't get around to the regular litter box routine, so the stuff that had been sitting there for a while did start to get an odor, but if you stay pretty on top of your litter box maintenance, the lack of odor is impressive. It's designed to form small, tight clumps, which makes cleanup especially easy.

The bag I received was from their brand new Advanced Natural series, which was just released about a week ago. (I went for the original scent over the pine. Coniferous scents just aren't my thing.) It's a clumping litter, which is really all I use because non-clumping is a total pain in the butt. What separates this from the eight million other litters available is what it's made of - primarily corn. The ingredients are all natural and renewable, so you don't get that annoying cloud of silica dust that tends to form when you're pouring regular litter into the box. 

Want to give this stuff a try? It's your lucky day! World's Best Cat Litter is going to hook one of you up with a bag, too! Score! To enter, just use the Rafflecopter widget below. All entries are optional, so feel free to do as many or as few as you like. This giveaway is only open to the US, since the litter isn't yet available in other countries. Questions about entering? Just leave a comment or shoot me an email! If you don't end up winning, the litter is now being sold at major stores like Target, PetSmart and PetCo, or you can find more info and links to other giveaways on Facebook, Twitter, G+ or Pinterest (I highly recommend their "Cats that make us laugh" board)!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Podcasts? Podcasts!

As I sat nerdily organizing things in iTunes so I could put together playlists for my drive to Florida (One month, eep!), I realized it might be fun to share some of the podcasts I dig with you guys! Everyone blogs about what music they're into at the moment, but I never see posts about podcast love!

Warning: It's not my fault if iTunes sucks up your free time after this. You've been warned.

Other note: If I was a super snazzy blogger, I would take the time to link to the iTunes page or rss feed or something for each of these, but that sounds like an awful lot of work, so instead I trust that you are all smart enough to search the damn iTunes store for yourself. Please don't tell me I'm overestimating you.

Cool? Let's go!

Alohomora - This is one of my two favorite Harry Potter podcasts. (In other news, that sentence I just typed was nominated for am "OMG, that's a nerdy sentence!" award.) The show is doing a reread of the entire series, covering one or two chapters a week. It's a lot of fun, and I've picked up quite a few new insights. There's a rotating group of hosts, with usually about four on each episode. When you combine that with the listener feedback they share, you get a wide array of viewpoints and ideas. So much fun! They're currently a few chapters into Goblet of Fire.

Mugglenet Academia - My other favorite HP podcast, this one is sort of Alohomora's slightly more cerebral cousin. They discuss the books topically rather than chronologically, with experts (usually university professors) chiming in on a topic they specialize in. For instance, there's a great episode where a psychologist joins the hosts to weigh in on Mad-Eye Moody's PTSD and Winky's Stockholm syndrome. "The Law in Harry Potter" episode's guests include a judge and a lawyer, who discuss laws and cases in the wizarding world, vs. how they would go down in the Muggle world. The recent episode on ring theory/chiasmus hurt my brain, but in a good way.

Sex Nerd Sandra - Oh, come on, you know sex is a fascinating topic. This is quite possibly my favorite podcast, and that's saying something. It's absolutely hilarious, but I always learn something, too. Topics include everything from an interview with super hot porn star James Deen to clown sex. (Yup, that was an episode topic.) Sandra is an amazing, sex-positive educator, and you can't help but kind of fall in love with her.

British History Podcast - There was a point somewhere around 9th grade when in the midst of trying to stay awake in history class (first class of the day, ugh) I was struck by the notion that the people we were talking about were actual people. History textbooks love to reduce entire eras to a few names and dates, which makes it easy to forget that you're dealing with actual humans who lived and loved and had fears and favorite foods and best friends. The BHP's host, Jamie, is a great storyteller with an impressive ability to draw you into the action. Plus, he's pretty hilarious. If you want a look at history that's the total opposite of a dry lecture and much more like listening to a friend tell you stories of adventures they've had, check it out.

Psychology in Everyday Life: The Psych Files - I tried to figure out how to explain this podcast and couldn't come up with a good description, so instead I'm just going to post a few episode titles and leave it at that! Basically: Psychology - It's cool!
* Flashbulb Memories - Are they as accurate as we think?
* Do Brain Training Games Work?
* Object Permanance - Does your dog have it?
* Zombies - 6 Reasons why we are so fascinated by them.

This is far from a complete list of what I love listening to - If TLC ever does a "Hoarding: iTunes Edition" special, I'm sure to be on it. But 5 seemed like a nice number to feature, so I hope you find at least one in this list that catches your interest!

I'd love to hear about your favorites! Leave me a comment and let me know what you're listening to that's awesome!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Influenster SunKissed VoxBox Review



I love getting boxes from Influenster! (They're free, they just ask that you provide feedback about the products!) I hadn't been chosen for one since the Fall VoxBox, which made me start to worry that Influenster didn't love me anymore, so I was pretty psyched when I qualified for the summer box, aka the SunKissed VoxBox!

Here's what was in the box:

 

An interesting assortment of products to make your summer a little better! I have to admit, though- as much as I love getting free stuff, this wasn't my favorite box. Why? I'd already tried some of the products, and others just weren't my thing. Read on for more details!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Treat Time!

I don't buy cat treats all that often, but when Chewy.com offered to send me a bag of Natural Balance treats, I knew my cats would think they hit the jackpot! (If you're not familiar with Chewy, you can read my last review here!)

Natural Balance Perfect Bites Salmon Formula Cat Treats

The Natural Balance Perfect Bites come in three different flavors: Chicken, Salmon, and Rabbit. They're normally $3.99 on Chewy.com (for a 3 oz. bag), but as I write this they're on sale for $2.99. We were sent the salmon, and they've been a big hit! The main ingredient in the treats is actually salmon, so it's nice to know they're not pumped full of artificial flavors.

These treats are pretty firm, but not crunchy. I had to break them up for our current resident kittens to eat, but my senior kitty Tallulah (who had to have several teeth pulled last year) had no problem with them. Pretty much everyone instantly wanted more!



This is what happens if I put treats on the floor for a few seconds for a photo!


My favorite way to use treats like this is to give the cats an opportunity to "hunt" their food. There's just something instinctual that makes them happy when they get to eat something they've caught, so I usually try to toss a treat across the room or roll it across the floor so that they can chase it. We do this with regular dry food at times, but treats are just more fun!



I was sent a complimentary bag of cat treats to facilitate my review, but no other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

RIP Cory

So sad to hear about Cory Monteith. He was my age, and incredibly talented. Lots of love to his fellow Glee cast members, family, and friends. It really sucks to lose someone so young, who was loved by so many.


 

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Friday, July 12, 2013

New Camera! At Last!

Holy crap, you guys. After having the same camera since like 2004, I finally, finally got a new one. My intention was to wait until I could afford a snazzy dSLR (I've been wanting a Nikon D40 or similar for years and years), but I finally got to the point that dealing with my old camera became SO frustrating that I knew I needed to just find something affordable to use and enjoy until I eventually can afford something fancy. I mean, if we're being realistic, it probably would have been another 6-12 months at least before I could really save up enough for what I want. Plus, I knew I wanted a portable, reliable camera to take photos and videos during my move next month, and of all kinds of fun things once I'm settled back in Orlando!

I mentioned my new camera on Twitter and someone requested a review, so here's a quick look! I'm still getting to know it, so this isn't super in-depth, but at least you'll get an idea.

Here's the run down of what I needed in a camera:

*As cheap as possible, preferably under $100. I felt like if I was going to spend more than that, I might as well suck it up and wait till I could afford $400-ish for my dSLR.

*Ability to take video. I think this is pretty standard now, but I wanted to make sure I could vlog with it.

*Available on Amazon, since I had a bunch of gift certificates from things like Crowdtap and Swagbucks.

*Well known brand. I mostly narrowed it down to Nikon and Canon, and ended up going with the latter since the camera I found offered the most value for my limited dollars.



Canon PowerShot A810

So, this is my new amigo. The list price on Amazon is $99, but it was on sale for $73 when I ordered it, and as I'm writing this up it is down to $70.

Just for comparison, my old camera is a Nikon Coolpix 995. I have been in love with it for close to a decade, despite the fact that it's only 3.2 MP and quite bulky.



The thing I really loved about it was that you can rotate the lens 180 degrees, so you can be looking straight at the LCD screen while aiming in front of you, straight up, straight down, or even back at yourself. Basically, a narcissist's dream. Still, it was time to move on.

Here's what's rad about the new camera:
*In pretty sharp contrast to my old 3.2 megapixels, this one is 16 MP.
*Takes HD movie. Yay! Even better, there's a button just for video, so you don't have to go through a menu to get there.
*5x optical zoom and 4x digital. I wish there was a little higher optical zoom, but that's probably asking way too much for a less than $100 camera.
*It's pretty quick. There's literally about a second between pushing the on button and being able to shoot.
*It's small (fits in the palm of my hand) and lightweight. Perfect for tossing in my bag to take to theme parks.
*There's a silent mode that turns off all menu and shutter sounds, if you want to do some sneaky snapping. I know I'm always a little embarrassed when I know people in other dressing rooms can hear me taking outfit photos when I'm trying on clothes.
*And, the thing that sold me- lots of fun scene modes! You can select options like fisheye lens, monochrome, toy camera, fireworks setting, etc. Not a necessity, but certainly fun to play around with.

Canon PowerShot A810 Effects at Amazon.com


Sam through the fisheye setting


What I'm not crazy about:
*Although there is some room to play with things like ISO, I really miss having a full Manual mode. Unless I'm missing it, this camera won't let me select things like shutter speed or aperture priority. I'm just going to have to deal with that until I can afford my snazzy camera, I guess.

*It takes two AA batteries. I know a lot of people like this, since you can grab them pretty much anywhere, but I am ambivalent. Yes, it's nice to be able to just buy fresh batteries if yours die while you're out and about, but I liked my old camera's fairly long lasting battery that would get me through a pretty full day before needing charged. Totally a matter of preference, rather than a solid pro/con.

So, in short, if you need something professional and awesome and high tech, this isn't your jam. On the other hand, if you need an in between camera until you can afford something higher end, or you just want something lightweight that you can toss in your purse instead of hauling your fancy camera everywhere, this is pretty darn decent for the price. (It comes with 2 AA batteries and a cord to connect it to your computer, but you'll need to buy a memory card separately.) Let's be honest- a good photographer is going to get good results with just about anything you give them, and someone with zero photo skills could still suck with the nicest camera available. I still hope to get a fancypants camera as soon as I can afford it, but until then, I think I'm going to be pretty satisfied with this one.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The countdown is on!

I am moving in 6 weeks.

I don't know the exact day, but I know the week, so that's something.

Here's the thing, though- I totally intend to lie to myself between now and then. I am going to mentally subtract a week, so when I am like "AHH! I am moving in two weeks!", it will actually be three. I figure that way, when I get down to "Oh crap! I leave in a week and I have so much to do!", I can then be all "Haha, self! I was totally lying to you. You have two weeks left! It's cool."

Does that make me sound crazy? I don't care, I just hope it works and I don't find myself curled up at the 11th hour, freaking out that nothing is done.

My lovely future roommate (I need to ask her if she wants a nickname here) and I have decided to spend the night in New Orleans on our way to Florida. I am PSYCHED. If you've been around here long, you might remember that I've been dying to go to NOLA for like a year now. We'll only have a few hours to explore the city, and even those will be after a long, long day of driving, but at least it is something, right? Spending the night there adds around an hour and a half to the trip, but it just seems SO worth it to stay in an awesome city and get to do a little sightseeing, vs. spending the night in some random town in Alabama and curling up in front of the motel room TV with some Taco Bell, like I did on my drive back from Florida last time. (You can read about that lovely trip here! I actually just pulled it up to refresh my memory about the drive. Thankfully, I'm taking a different route through Arkansas this time!)

As for right now, I'm in this weird state of limbo. There's only so much packing/preparing you can do when you're still a month and a half away from moving. I'll need a pretty good percentage of the stuff I'm taking with me between now and then, so I can't pack all that much yet. It's totally frustrating to want to do something towards getting ready to go, but not having much you can do!

I think that sums up this little "State of the Crystal" address! I'm sure things will get more interesting as moving day draws nearer, and then you're in for a total whirlwind of bloggy goodness once I'm actually out of here! Hooray!

Fall 2013 Couture Runway Shows

Oh, man do I love couture shows. I don't even know how else to introduce this post beyond that really obvious phrase. I mean, who doesn't love couture season? So many pretty dresses, you guys. Let's dive in.



Okay, so this Zuhair Murad dress. Does it make you think of tree branches... or veins? I'm between the two.  (I don't recognize this model, but she's super cute. Also, someone in the front row has a GIANT foot.)

I pretty much loved this collection. There were some great fabric choices, innovative design, interesting silhouettes. Totally my kind of collection. I wish Style.com had video for these, because I'd love to see some of them move. This isn't a designer I normally get excited for, but I think he's more on my radar for the future.



Alexis Mabille's collection felt exactly how a couture collection should feel to me - total attention to detail, and incredibly thought-out looks that come together in a really pleasing way. Not to mention looks that make me say "Oh!" and have to pause for a moment to study it before moving on. What more can you ask for? There were a few looks that bordered more on costume-y than couture, but I can overlook that.




This entire Jean Paul Gaultier collection was SO. MUCH. FUN.  Do you spy the leopard print tights under this skirt?

Do you have any favorites?

(Images lovingly borrowed from style.com)


Saturday, July 06, 2013

Ellie June Subscription Review - Summer Love Top!

I am so excited that I got sent the Summer Nights top from Ellie's California Dreams collection to review! This top regularly sells for $64.95, but if you're a member of Ellie's Fit Fashionista subscription club, you can pick it as one of your two items for the month! (The subscription is $49.95/month, but you can skip any months you choose, and you can get your first month for 20% off via my link! Score!)

Summer Nights Long Sleeve + Solar Flare Leggings #fashion #fitness

I love that it has the casual comfort of your favorite soft grey sweatshirt, but the fun netting details to make it more fashionable!

I made a super quick (less than 5 min for a change!) video to show you the top in better detail!



My favorite thing about this top is that it is just as wearable with workout gear as it is for a casual look with jeans!



The shape is a little bit boxier than I'd prefer- I wish they'd done a slightly more long and lean shape to it. But I still like it quite a bit, and have thrown it on to wear around the house more than once so far! (It's way too hot to wear it anywhere else right now!)

Don't miss my other post, where you can win a cute pink headband from Ellie! You can check that out here! (Commenting on this post gets you bonus entries! Woot!)

Monday, July 01, 2013

Ellie Subscription Review for April: Coral Crush (Plus, a mini giveaway!)





Okay, yes, I am just NOW getting around to telling you about my April subscription items from Ellie! It's just the end of June, no big delay or anything! (Oops.)

April's theme was Coral Crush, as you can probably tell from the snazzy banner above. To be honest, when I heard about the coral theme I was a little unsure if I'd end up liking anything, since it's not a color I wear often. That worry ended up being unfounded - there ended up being so many items I loved that it was hard to pick! (This happens almost every month!)

This is the first time that I decided to go with two tops instead of a top and a bottom. As much as I LOVE the leggings and capris I've gotten from Ellie, this time the tops won out.

So, what did I pick?