Life Lately – 5 Things About My Week

Affiliate links are included.

Here’s a quick update of the things going on in my life this week.  Nothing too deep or life-transforming,  just a sneak peek into what’s on my mind today.

  • 1. – I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to buy a pre-lit Christmas tree.  I just want a tree with sparse branches and 5,000 Christmas lights.  Is that too much to ask?  ha.  I love Christmas lights. 🙂
  • 2. – I feel a little guilty that my daughter has forgotten about her Halloween candy stash that I’m still enjoying.
  • 3. – The Stride Rite in my local mall is closing and everything is 50% off!  We stocked up on shoes for my daughter for next year but they were sold out of shoes for my son. (I just got an email that select Stride Rite boots are only $19 online though!)

A photo posted by Ashley (@embracingbeauty) on

  • 4. – I entered to win a Christmas gift tag contest where 5 winners’ artwork will be displayed on tags at Gap this holiday season….I entered before I knew it was a voting competition.  Sigh.  I hate voting contests.  If you like my design, I would appreciate your vote here. Thank you!
  • 5. – I just noticed that the picture on the bottom of this blog is so old.  Six years, maybe?  Man, have I really been blogging that long?  I need to update that picture soon!

What’s going on in your life this week?

Merry Christmas 2013!

Christmas Card 2013

May God fill your life with peace, love, and joy this holiday season and throughout the new year!

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!

The Reverse Wishlist – PickURGift

This is a sponsored campaign with PickURGift and the Mums the Word Blogger Network. All opinions are my own.

Pick UR Gift Logo

I delight in picking out the perfect gift for people.  The joy that comes when their face lights up like a Christmas tree is worth the months and months of shopping for the perfect gift.  For some people, however, I absolutely have no clue what to buy them.  I have a few ideas that I think might be a good idea but I’m really not sure.  That’s why I was excited to learn about PickURGift.  It’s the coolest idea!

PickURGift is a reverse wish list.  The bottom line is that you make a list of possible gift ideas online through their site and they’ll contact your giftee with your suggestions.  From there they will select which gift they like best, you’ll buy it, and you can be sure you’ve bought them a gift they’ll like.  Novel idea, right?


The PickURGift process:

Pick UR Gift

I just learned about this site today and I wish I had heard of it yesterday.  I bought a gift for a family member today when I wasn’t totally sure they would love it.  I was debating back and forth between three gifts when I just gave up and picked one.  I would have much rather had him take a look at my three choices and have him tell me which gift he would prefer.  Next time I’ll be prepared!

It’s super easy to get started.  I have Chrome and I followed the simple prompts to add PickURGift to my bookmarks.  I then added my husband as a contact so I could start making a wish list for him.  With his birthday and our anniversary coming up this is going to be very helpful!  Once on a website that has a good gift idea {I first went to Pottery Barn to add an iPad recipe holder that I think he would find useful} I went to my bookmarks and chose PickURGift.  From there a little pop up appeared where I chose which picture I wanted him to see and I had the option to write a little note to him about the product.  Check below for a screenshot of the pop up that appears.

Pick Ur Gift Process

Below is a screenshot of what my PickURGift dashboard looks like for Michael’s Birthday.

Birthday Wish List

I’m just getting started with ideas but that’s the great thing about this…it keeps your ideas for you so you don’t have to remember them and you can add to your list at any time.  You can even add clothing sizes, which I definitely need to do because I’m always forgetting!

Wishlist Help

Check out this cool feature!  You can email your list to a friend or family member to get their opinion before you send it off to your giftee.  What a clever idea.

Share Gift Ideas

Last but not least, you can also share your gift ideas with others by making your list public or you can choose to keep it private if you want to keep your list to yourself.  I’ve had a lot of fun looking at what others are considering for gifts and it’s actually given me a new idea or two for my husband {which I can’t put here because he’ll see them!}.

If you have last minute gifts to buy, this is for you!  You’ve only procrastinated because you didn’t know what to buy, right?  Well, now you can know!

If you’ve already bought all  your gifts, then this is for you!  You’re clearly an organized person so you’ll want to get a jump start on next year right away, right?  Well, maybe not right away but you get the idea.

This is an awesome gift giving tool and I hope someone reading this will enjoy this new concept as much as I do!

iPad Mini Giveaway & New Slice App Ends 1/10/14

Slice AppI buy a lot online.  I order Christmas gifts, books, beauty products, diapers, and so much more.  I’m order from a lot of sites and I visit Amazon at least weekly.  While I find this way of life very convenient I also dislike the way my inbox is full of order notifications, shipping confirmations, and unwanted subscriptions because of my purchases.  I’ve went to great lengths to keep my inbox “junk” to a minimum so these extra emails bug me to pieces.  Well, today I just learned about a new app for iPhonesand Droids that I’m pretty excited about!  It’s called Slice and it pulls together all the purchase and shipping info from my email inbox and stores them in one location.  Here’s a little of what it does more in detail:

  • Track Packages – Get push notifications when a package is shipped, has been delivered, and you can even track your packages on a fancy map.
  • Price Drop Notifications – Slice will send you push notifications when the price drops for one of your purchases so you can recoup the difference!  HOW COOL IS THAT?!
  • Recall Notifications – Get automatic updates when a product you purchased is recalled!
  • Organize Purchases – You’ll get back up email receipts to facilitate returns, exchanges and warranty claims.  Don’t you just love that?  Plus, you can keep track of your Groupon, LivingSocial, Bloomspot, Amazon Local and Gilt City vouchers.  I hate when I forget to redeem a daily deal purchase and now I don’t have to worry it anymore!

Now for the giveaway!  This giveaway is in conjunction with other bloggers and is organized by The Art Of Random Willynillyness.  Other rules and details can be found here.  Enter via the Rafflecopter below.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Party Planning Help from Cottonelle

Disclosure: This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Cottonelle, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #CottonelleHoliday


Do you like to keep a good stock of household supplies like I do?  Don’t worry, I won’t call you a hoarder!  Having supplies on hand makes it easy to set up a party spur of the moment.  On hand right now I would say that I have enough toilet paper, liquid soap, plates, cups, napkins, and silverware to supply a large party.

While I can set out enough plates and cups for everyone, the one thing I can’t set out enough of is toilet paper. We have a small downstairs bathroom with absolutely no place to store an extra roll.  Normally, I’m left running in to check every so often for fear that someone would run out.  {I also keep a spare roll in the pantry across the hall so I can replace it quickly when I need too. Shh, that’s our secret!}  Plus, even if we had a storage place I would hate for a guest to have to change the toilet paper.  I always feel so awkward when I’m over someone’s house and I have to peek in cabinets and closets to try and find a spare roll.  Not to mention having to try and change the toilet paper roll without dropping the center piece of the holder.  Ya’ll know what I’m talking about!  Some of those are built with industrial strength springs and can jump right out of your hand.

To avoid having your guests awkwardly asking you for a roll, having them mortified when they run out, and to keep from running back and forth to the bathroom all night, simply pick up a package of Cottonelle’s Triple Roll.

Cottonelle Triple Roll

This Triple Roll fits standard roll holders and boasts of being Cottonelle’s longest roll!  It still comes with Cottonelle’s Ultra Care Comfort design too.  With this roll you don’t have to sacrifice anything!

Cottonelle Rolls

Check out the difference in size.  One of these rolls will last all night at your party and then some.

Cottonelle in Cart

Not only are these rolls great for parties but they’re great for every day.  I picked up a 12 pack today at Target for my family’s regular use and for an upcoming party {I’ll tell you more about the party later!}.  Note: the 12 Triple Roll pack is the same as 36 regular rolls.  36!!  That means I won’t be running out for toilet paper anytime soon.

Cottonelle from Target

If you’re having a party this holiday season, pick up a pack of Cottonelle Triple Roll and have one less party detail to worry about.

Right now, you can buy a Cottonelle Triple Roll 12 pack or larger and get a FREE box of Kleenex with this Coupon at Target! (Coupons available while supplies last)

HP Chromebook Giveaway Ends 12/27/13

It’s Christmas time and I’m excited to announce the first of many great giveaways we’ll be hosting here on Embracing Beauty.  Up for grabs is a prize that would make a fabulous Christmas gift for yourself or any of your loved ones – an HP Chromebook.

I’m typing on an older Chromebook model now and I absolutely love it.  I can’t imagine how much nicer and faster this newer model must be!  Plus, this HP Chromebook is now available in cute colors.  How fun!

HP Chromebook Giveaway

A few other details:
4.07 lbs
HP 14″ diagonal HD display
Auto-synch’s data and stays connected with built-in 4G connectivity3
100GB of Google Drive Storage
HP TrueVision HD webcam
SD memory card reader
1 x USB 2.0 port, 2 x USB 3.0 ports, 1 x HDMI port, 1 x headphone/microphone jack
4-cell lithium-ion battery
Available in a variety of colors

My favorite feature that I’m jealous of – Built-in 4G broadband!
No Wi-Fi available?  Not a problem.  You’ll enjoy 2 years of free mobile internet service up to 200MB of 4G data per month with no annual contract, no credit card, and no overage fees.  Love it!

Ready to win one?  I thought so!

Here are the giveaway details:  US Only, Contest ends on Friday the 27th 2013. Winner will be notified on our about 27th and has 48 hours to respond excitedly with an address for shipping. Shipping can take up to 8-10 weeks and will be fulfilled by LunchboxPR.  Enter via the Rafflecopter below and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Baby’s First Christmas with Babies R Us + $50 Giveaway #BRUChristmas

Disclosure: Although a promotional item was received all opinions are my own.  

Baby's First Christmas

Christmas is a special time for kids young and old but each child’s first Christmas has to be one of the most remarkable ones!  It’s at this young age that everything is new to them.  This is a picture of my little girl as she is overwhelmed with presents from grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles.  I must have shot a thousand pictures that Christmas!  I loved to see her amazement with the Christmas tree lights, glittery snowmen, and tissue paper.  I’ll always cherish those memories!

Baby's First Christmas

Will this be your baby’s first Christmas?  Well, you’re in luck because Babies R Us has everything you need for your Baby’s First Christmas – from adorable PJ’s to “Baby’s First Christmas” stockings to “Grandma’s Favorite Gift” onesies.  They have it all!  I love this store, I seriously do.  Their kiddo Christmas clothes are the cutest and they have all the matching accessories you could ever ask for.

How would you like to meet other parents with babies born in 2013?  You can do so at a Baby’s First Christmas Event at Babies R Us!  There’s only one left and it’s tomorrow, Dec. 7th.  You can enjoy holiday festivities, giveaways & prizes!  Plus, you get a $10 Babies”R”Us Gift Card just for attending!  How nice are they?  Go to for all the event info.

Oh, and one more thing.  I have a $50 Babies R Us gift card to give away to one lucky reader!!

Ready to win?

One winner will win a $50 Babies R Us Gift Card!

Giveaway details: Open to those 18 and older with a US address. Giveaway ends 12/28/13 at 10 am EST.  Winner will be notified by email and have 48 hours to claim their prize before another winner will be randomly drawn.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Enter the Rafflecopter form below.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

December Photo a Day Challenge 2013

It’s time to begin our monthly Photo a Day Challenge!  Whether you’re new or returning, welcome to our December Photo a Day Challenge!

Did you play along with us before or are you a photo-a-day newbie?  If you’re a regular photo-a-day’er or if this is your first challenge we welcome you to join us and jump right in!  This is all for fun so if you skip a day or two or ten you can make them up later or just forget about them.  There is absolutely no pressure!  Really.  This is just a fun way to slow down and focus on the beauty in life.  Every day moments in life are beautiful!

Each month I enjoy looking at all of your fun pictures and get to know some of you better.  Ya’ll are getting really creative with your photos and I just love it!  I try and make my way around and comment or like everyone’s pictures every day or so but this group is getting too big so please don’t be offended if I miss yours.  Also, if you participate, take just a moment and try to encourage another fellow photo-a-day’er by commenting or liking their photo.  I’m sure they would appreciate a follow too!

December Photo a Day Challenge!

How to participate:

All it takes to join in is to simply take a photo and post it on a social media site with the hashtag #EmbracingBeauty.  I’m using Instagram and sometimes I’ll post them on Twitter and Facebook too.  When you tag your photos with the #EmbracingBeauty hashtag they’ll join the list of photos under the #EmbracingBeauty hashtag (Facebook now allows hashtags so don’t forget to tag the photos you post on there too!).

If you’d like to edit your photos before posting them you could use a number of online photo editing sites.  One that I’ve heard that is gaining popularity is

If you’re stuck on a day and can’t think of a picture to do for it you can email me and ask me if I have any ideas or take a look at the pictures of others who are participating.  I’m always amazed at how the same word can mean so many different things to different people; it’s great!  To see the photos of everyone who is playing along simply click on the “#EmbracingBeauty” on your given site.  This is so much fun!!

Who’s ready to join me?

ChefAlarm: Affordable Leave-In Thermometer

This post was written by my wonderful husband. I hope you enjoy it!

ChefAlarm Display

I was recently given an exciting new product from ThermoWorks to review called the ChefAlarm, and was quite pleased once again.  I’ve never been a great cook but learning to cook with thermometers these past few years has improved my success rate immensely.  And when it comes to thermometry, there is no better company than ThermoWorks, the maker of the Thermapen, which is the Cadillac of instant read thermometers.   (See my Thermapen review here)  I use my Thermapen every time I cook pretty much anything.  In the information age we live in, you can quickly find the ideal internal temperature for just about any food  you are cooking, from meat to bread to muffins to baked potatoes.  Try it!  On top of finding suggested temperatures for various foods, you can also keep a food diary to track your own preferences.  All of this information of ideal and preferred temperatures combined with a fast and accurate thermometer you are pretty much guaranteed consistent results.  Truly great chefs have an instinct for cooking that I just don’t possess so for me cooking is more of a math/science experiment and I’m OK with that.  So my cooking involves notes, food scales, and my Thermapen (and sometimes even a spreadsheet–what can I say, I’m a statistician).  But even naturally gifted chefs can benefit from a great thermometer to confirm those instincts and tell you what is going on in the center of the food you are cooking.

Thermoworks Thermometers

One thing you cannot do with a Thermapen, however, is leave it in the oven/grill while the food is cooking.  You can use it to check on the progress of what you are cooking but it is often nice to not have to open up the oven and check.  That is where my new toy comes in to play.  The ChefAlarm (link) is a new product from ThermoWorks that connects to probes that you can insert into the food and leave in during the entire cooking process.

There are two compatible probes with the ChefAlarm, the Pro-Series High Temp Cooking Probe (included) and the optional Pro-Series Needle Probe that is ideal for thin cuts of meat and/or sous vide.  Designed for use in commercial kitchens and professional settings, the Pro-Series Probes deliver better accuracy, faster readings, unique designs, wider temperature ranges and better moisture-resistance than the probes sold with low-cost “houseware-grade” temperature alarms.

The probe then connects to the ChefAlarm which displays the temperature of the probe, allowing you to monitor the internal temperature of your food without having to open the oven/grill.  The ChefAlarm display provides a lot of useful information including the minimum and maximum temperatures since being turned on/plugged in and the current temperature is displayed in a very large font that is easily visible at some distance at a glance (in either F or C).  In addition to these current and historical temperature measures, the ChefAlarm also serves as a timer so you can monitor time and temperature all on a single display.  The timer can count down with an alarm or it can count up.  The alarm is adjustable up to 92 dB which can be heard even in a noisy kitchen.  There is also an option to set alarms for high and low temperature thresholds.  Other features include a backlight, splash-proof design allowing you to use it by a busy stove, and is available in 9 colors.  The ChefAlarm folds up to show the display when setting on a counter and it also has a magnetic back allowing it to lay flat on metallic, vertical surface.   ChefAlarm includes unit, Pro-Series High Temp Cooking Probe, SST Probe Clip, Operating Instructions, and Padded Zip Wallet that neatly holds everything.

Perfect Temperature for Bread

I have tried this product on several things so far both in the kitchen as well as the grill.  Used in conjunction with the Thermapen, it is a great way to cook large cuts of meat.  Both products have shortcomings for this (Thermapen can’t be left in while cooking and ChefAlarm can only check the temperature of the one spot you placed the probe), but together they work really well.  Embracing Homemaking has a wonderfully informative article on using the ChefAlarm in conjunction with a Thermapen to cook the perfect holiday turkey.

Grilled Turkey - Yum!

With a new baby due close to Christmas this year, we will be having our first Christmas at home this year and with that our first time cooking a turkey!  I have planned to grill it and have already done a practice turkey breast.  The ChefAlarm and Thermapen combination took all the guesswork out.  It was a practice turkey and I did end up overcooking it a bit but professional equipment can only cover up so many sins of a bad cook!  I broke a cardinal rule and apparently placed the ChefAlarm probe against a bone and that through off my reading.  But like I said…it was a practice turkey!  I am confident I’ll be able to nail the real one.  So far, I’ve also tried the ChefAlarm cooking a wonderful pot roast (target temp 135F – 145F for medium), baking some sourdough bread (target temp 200F-210F), and cooking some chicken fingers in a deep fryer (target temp 165F).  Having the leave-in thermometer with the alarm set really reduces the chances of overcooking anything.  I love my Thermapen and I now love the ChefAlarm, but together they are a perfect combination.

The ChefAlarm would be a perfect gift for any griller or cook on your Christmas shopping list and now is the perfect time to shop for them as they currently have a “buddy sale” going on where you can get 2 for $52 each (regular price is $59).

The Ultimate Christmas Handbag Checklist: Don’t Leave Home Without Them!

This post is a guest contribution from Sam who happens to know a lot about beauty products.  I think you’ll enjoy it!

Have you ever been caught out at Christmas looking far from your best? Perhaps it was the mystery hot single male at your friend’s house, old colleagues who turned up out of nowhere or even an ex-boyfriend you bump into while you are feeling the worst for wear?

We can’t look at our glamorous best all the time and certainly Christmas is a time when we are most likely to be thrown into situations where we’re wearing our fluffy bear slippers, sporting our best bed-head hairstyle and without a spot of make-up on.

But never fear, with these make-up essentials in your handbag this Christmas you’ll always come out looking flawless!

Essential Skin Care Items

If your face is blotchy from too much alcohol and rich foods and those bags under your eyes look like they’ve already hit the shops on the Boxing Day sales, you need a quick fix.

Facial Wipes

Always carry a packet of facial wipes in your handbag just to cleanse and tone and set your face ready for a little fix-up magic.


This is a must at this time of year and the brand Soap & Glory have brought out a fantastic Double-Action Under Eye Dark Circle Corrector which reflects the light and instantly transforms your tired looking eyes to give the illusion of someone who’s had one of the best night’s sleep ever!

Finish off with just a dab of foundation. Maybelline’s Dream Matte Mousse Foundation is ideal for quick coverage.


If you have time, just blend in a little blusher along the cheekbone for a touch of colour. Alternatively you can pinch both your cheeks, but having some blusher in your handbag spares you the pain and gives more of a professional finish!

L’Oreal’s Touch-On Colour does a splendid job and can be used for both eyes and cheeks.

Revitalising Tired Eyes

Put the sparkle back into your dark and tired eyes by following this simple tip:

Tip for Sparkling Eyes

Apply a shimmering light colour to the inner corner of your eyes for instant sparkle!

As eye-liner is far from quick to apply and can go horribly wrong, we suggest some brown mascara instead for long, full looking lashes that aren’t over the top but which will widen and highlight your eyes beautifully.

Kiss Those Cracked Lips Goodbye

This winter weather can play havoc with your lips, leaving them in much need of some TLC. Having some lipstick in your handbag is a must at any time of the year and in winter you need to plump for bold reds, burgundies and deep maroons.

If you don’t have time to carefully apply some lipstick try a quick swab of colored lip gloss. Max Factor has brought out their Silk Gloss Sheer Frost which promises three benefits in one. Firs, its high moisturization hydrates your lips. Secondly, the balm properties protect your lips and lastly the high sheen adds a touch of color and glamour that will leave lips feeling kissably gorgeous. Plus you have three Christmassy colours to choose from.

These simple winter makeup essentials won’t take up much room in your bag but will prove to be very handy the next time you find yourself facing the man of your dreams whilst you look more like a character from Dawn of the Dead. Oh, and don’t forget your mirror, these makeup items might not require you to concentrate too much, but we wouldn’t recommend you try applying any makeup with just the help of a reflective surface.

This post was lovingly crafted by who believe that beauty shouldn’t be bound by budget and so strive to offer the famous brand names but for bargain prices. If you love beauty on a budget then why not follow us on Facebook?