Get Your Strike On With BowlingShoes.com

glow-in-the-dark bowling shoesEver since I was I child, I’ve loved going bowling. This love is in direct correlation between how many episodes of The Flintstones I watched and now much I loved wearing funky retro bowling shoes. Bowling with friends gives you the chance to strut your stuff in front of others while hurling a heavy ball down a glossy lane of ten pins. It’s fun, it’s retro, and it’s recreational.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try to get a good score in bowling, I’m lucky to break 100.

While I was in college, I took a bowling class to sharpen my skills. On the first day of class, before learning any rules or basics of the game, we got to play a free round of bowling. I scored 111, which ended up being the highest score I achieved in 4 months of bowling classes and volunteering with the Special Olympics bowling league. I gained some good techniques, learned the lingo of the game, and am aware of physics of being a good bowler. But the more I focus on technique, the worse my score is at the end of the game.

Therefore, I’ve learned to play for the fun of the game, and to wear rocking bowling shoes.

I was contacted by BowlingShoes.com to review a pair of shoes. Although I’ve had my own pairs of bowling shoes in the past, they were cheap, uncomfortable, and had an unnecessary amount of velcro. When I searched their site for a pair of shoes to select, I focused immediately on the Elite Neon Sun Ladies’ Bowling Shoes. Why? Because they GLOW IN THE DARK. If you know me at all, you know that I can’t resist the glow.  I think that nighttime cosmic bowling is the most fun, and these shoes are perfect for it!

elite neon sun bowling shoesThe shoes are matte black with a neon yellow/green tongue, logo, and laces, with white contrast stitching. When under black lighting, the shoes glow a cool greenish tint. The shoes are lightweight with a felty-bottomed universal slide sole. The fit is a little wider than the shoes you would rent from the bowling alley, which is good for my feet. I am not sure if the shoes are genuine leather or some type of vinyl composite…the descriptions on the product box and on other websites do not specify the materials.

In wearing the shoes around my hardwood-floored home, I did find them quite comfortable. The soles had just the right amount of grip/slide that I like for my game, and there was adequate support within the shoe. My only complaint is that the back heel portion of the shoe is very stiff, and made my skin feel raw after a few minutes. I think I’m more prone to that  shoe/heel rubbing than the average person, so next time I’ll wear some padded athletic socks to minimize the friction.

The Elite Neon Sun shoes are available for $49.99 through BowlingShoes.com, which is an affordable mid-range price for the casual bowler. Owning your own bowling shoes means that you don’t have to deal with the germs that the rental shoes can have. I’ve always hated watching bowling alley employees “spray and pray” away the germs with aerosol disinfectant, so I’m happy to only deal with my own foot germs.

I can’t wait to try these shoes out in action. I found a bowling alley less than a mile from my house that has cosmic bowling and karaoke on the weekends. Paired with some funky socks and a striped shirt, I’ll be glowing with pride in my new bowling shoes.

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary pair of bowling shoes from bowlingshoes.com in exchange for a review. Images in the review are property of their website, but opinions are all my own. Retail value of the shoes is $49.99.

Holiday Gifts From Uncommon Goods

uncommon goods pick punchIt’s mid-November, which means that Christmas is about 6 weeks away. Not only has life been hectic with the holidays fast approaching, but our family is in the middle of a cross-country move.

We know that a lot of our Christmas shopping will be done online this year.

I was contacted by UncommonGoods to see if I would be willing to feature some of their products in a holiday gift post. I was already a fan of their site, so I was excited for the opportunity to explore their products and review some gifts that called my name.

homemade guitar picks

UncommonGoods is an privately-owned retailer that features unique products and handcrafted gifts. They specifically showcase products that are created in harmony with the environment and without harm to animals or people. Most of the products they carry are created in the USA, and about one-third of their collection incorporates recycled and/or upcycled materials. I love the variety of items on the website, and found some things that you can’t just buy at a big box store.

The Pick Punch

The first item I selected was the Pick Punch, which calls to the inner band groupie in me. The Pick Punch allows you to make your own guitar picks by recycling old credit cards, ID cards, plastic lids, and gift cards. Although I don’t play guitar myself, I have a lot of musician friends. I plan to use the Pick Punch to make some custom guitar picks for them.

uncommongoods pick punch

To make the pick, you position the credit card (or other card) in the device so that you see the design that you want, and press down. It takes a little bit of muscle, but it pops through quickly.

To demonstrate, I used a hotel room key card. I liked the pink designs on the card, so I positioned the punch to make a pink kaleidoscopey pick.

Have you ever seen a pick like that in a store? I  haven’t.

The Pick Punch is available on the site for $25.00.

periodic table of the elements building blocks

Elemental Blocks

The next item I chose were the Uncle Goose Elemental Blocks by Uncle Goose. There are 20 hand-crafted wooden cubes with the entire Periodic Table of the Elements printed on them. The building blocks are non-toxic, use child-safe inks, and are good for children (and other budding scientists) aged 2 and up. These blocks are created out of replenishable basswood and made in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It seems like so many children’s toys are made out of plastic now. It felt good to play with wooden building blocks. Not only does it help your dexterity, you learn all about the elements in the Periodic Table. I love bright colors of the ink and the printing is very easy to read. Who knows…maybe the world’s next Einstein will get his start playing with these blocks.

The Periodic Table Building blocks are $31.00.

Other Gift Ideas

Needs some other ideas? There are plenty of options for adults and children. Check out some of these products. Happy shopping!

Aquafarm http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/aquafarm
The Chillsner http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/chillsner
Kinetic Sand http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/kinetic-sand

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Disclosure: I received free products from UncommonGoods for the purpose of this post. I received no other financial compensation. All opinions are my own.

Product Review: Free Country Swimwear

free country racerback tankiniOne of the most exciting parts of losing weight is selecting new styles of clothes to wear that you wouldn’t dare try on before. A 2-piece swimsuit was one I dared to try this summer. I was contacted by Free Country to choose a some swimwear to review on my blog, and it was the first time I looked at a site at said “I don’t need to order from the plus size section anymore!”

Because this is my first two-piece, I feel like the review needs to be in two parts. One is for the experience with the Free Country website and ordering process. The other is about what it’s like to go from an industrial-strength shaping swimsuit to a cute little two-piece.

From the tag on my swimsuit:

“Free Country. Where fashion meets function. Free Country’s designs express individual style wherever your spirit moves you. Active fashion and performance quality reflect your lifestyle and ensure comfort under any conditions.”

free country swim skirt cloud_grey-aqua

The pieces I selected are from Free Country’s Inter-Changeables line: Interchange our swim separates for endless styling possibilities. I selected the beach bonfire racerback tankini in citrus and cloud grey in size XL. The tankini has elastic under the bust bands for extra support, and removable soft padding in the cups. The tie-front accent swim skirt in cloud gray aqua was my choice for the bottom piece. This swim skirt design has a little slit with a contrasting color tie-front accent, and built-in brief that matches tie. The combo seemed like a cute and sporty look for the beach or poolside.)

With all Free Country swimwear, the tops and bottoms are inter-changeable for fun styling possibilities. You can mix and match to find your unique style! I love the aqua, lime, and gray combination. My order was processed quickly, and I had my shipment within a week. The garments are well made, with attention to little details (like how the stitching on the bust lies flat and doesn’t add any unwanted bulk). The racerback top is very comfortable, the straps fit in place, and I think it’s a pretty flattering design. The swim skirt didn’t fit me quite right…the rise wasn’t high enough and didn’t cover all the parts I needed covered. It’s a cute design, but doesn’t work for my body.

nicole free country racerback

Now for my review of going from a one-piece to two-piece swimsuit.

I’m used to wearing swimsuits with a ridiculous amount of compression. I’m used to throwing down $80+ to get a suit that is so tight I can barely get it on. I don’t like my body to jiggle, especially when there is already so much exposed while I’m bathing. So while I was in the upper echelons of plus-size swimwear, I bought the one-piece suit that was the most flattering (without much attention to my personal style). This suit by Free Country felt like a whole new experience because IT SHOWS OFF MY BODY, whether or not I’m ready for it to show. The cups have a very thin removable padding to help hide any nipple-showthrough, and I don’t think I’ll ever remove the pads. The part that blew my mind is that the midsection of the tankini was only one layer thick. One layer of print and stretch material between modesty and baring my belly. My body is long, and and extra 2-3 inches in length would have made me more comfortable. But I would have been okay with wearing the top if the bottom worked.

With my massive weight loss, I have a pretty significant pannus (squishy belly skin overhang). I rarely go out of the home without underwear or Slimpressions or some other clothing item that gives me some tightness in my belly. Despite the “skirt” of the swim skirt, the rise just wasn’t high enough to cover all my bits and pieces comfortably. I thought of how I could find a compression garment that could probably work well under this swimsuit, but it kind of kills the whole reason of having swimwear – having something that’s easy to play around in the water with.

free country racerback topI REALLY like the pattern and colors of the tankini, so I looked all through the swimwear sections at department stores through the summer to find some swim bottoms that would work with the top. For anything with the coverage I want, I either need to invest in a fatkini (and all of the styles and colors I liked clashed) or I’d have to go with black. There’s nothing wrong with black. I’ve worn lots of black in my life. But I really wanted something fun and spunky, and I didn’t have any luck with it this summer. There are other options that Free Country offers that look cute with the tankini, but I’m fairly certain they won’t work with my body. That’s a flaw of my body and my self-consciousness, not of the swimsuit 🙂 I wore the suit out with some black bike shorts (thrilling I know) and will continue looking for the perfect bottoms for the suit.

Free Country not only offers swimwear, but a lot of options for winter outdoor wear. I’ve seen a lot of their clothing at Kohl’s and plan to try on a bunch next time I’m in store.

Have you tried Free Country swimwear?

FTC Disclosure: I was given swimwear from Free Country with the express purpose of completing a product review. Estimated retail value of product is $84.00. No additional compensation was given for my review. All opinions are my own.

My 2013 CRV Honda Test Drive

nicole with 2013 CRVAs mentioned in some previous posts, I was selected by Ken Garff Honda of Orem to test drive a 2013 Honda CRV for a bloggers promotion called the Honda Test Drive (or #HondaTestDrive on social media).

I’ve been a Honda fan for my whole life. My parents owned Honda vehicles all through my life. They were driving a CVCC when I was born, they have a Civic and an Odyssey in the garage, and they’ve had several other Hondas in the 30+ years in-between. I learned to drive in a 1995 Civic. Personally, I’ve owned a 2000 Civic, 2001 Civic, 1997 Accord, and a 2006 Fit (and a 2000 Acura Integra, which is essentially a Honda). We currently drive a Toyota Camry and a Scion xB, but we made hard decisions against Accords, Elements, and CRVs in the past.

The folks from Honda of Orem brought the 2013 AWD Honda CRV EX-L to my office on February 4th, the day before my birthday. They came with a vehicle with 300 miles on the odometer, with a full tank of gas. They showed me all of the special features of the vehicle, set up my iPhone to sync with the BlueTooth system, signed some papers, and I was given free reign to enjoy the car. As tempted as I was to take off from work then and there, I had to stay at work a few more hours.

taylor in the CRVThe first thing I did once I got off work was drive home, pick up my family, and go for a joyride. We stopped by the 7-Eleven for a family #PDR, and drove around until we went out to dinner with my parents. My mom came in the car with us, and her comment about the CRV was “This seems just a little too nice for you.” Because she’s used to driving a 1995 Civic with windows that can no longer be manually rolled down, I could tell she was impressed by how posh the CRV was with all of it’s features.

During the week, whenever Taylor was with me, he took the driver’s seat. That meant that I had time to sit in the passenger seat, and the backseat…and was pleased with how comfortable every part of the car is for passengers. I’m 5’10” and very leggy, and didn’t feel squished at all.

2013 honda crv awd ex-l

Some of my favorite features about the CRV are as follows:

    • Bluetooth hands-free link: It was awesome to have my iPhone synced up for calls, navigation, and streaming music. The downside is that Bluetooth streaming is killer on your phone battery, so I kept my phone plugged in every time I was in the car. Bluetooth is only as good as it’s connectivity, so calls and music would drop out randomly…but that is more of a function of Bluetooth, not the system in the Honda.
    • Heated leather seats: The weather was below freezing for almost my entire week with the CRV, so it was nice to have the heated seats. The seats got warm a lot faster than the rest of the car…so I didn’t have to freeze when I went out to my car on frosty mornings.
    • Eco Assist: There’s a feature that helps you maximize your gas mileage, and you can adjust back to full-power at the touch of a cool green button
    • Beverage holders: There are EIGHT cupholders in the CRV. I typically have 2-3 drinks with me in the car (water bottle, protein drink, etc) so I never had to fight over cupholders with my family
    • Sound system: I’m a music junkie, and I always crank up the tunes in my car. The 328-Watt AM/FM/CD Audio System with 7 Speakers and subwoofer kept me rocking out in style as I sang along to my tunes in the car.

nicole bullock in crvI had the car for a total of 8 days, and drove approximately 500 miles. I started out with a full gas tank, and needed to fill it up after about 290 miles. I put in $65 worth of gas on my fourth day, around 18 gallons, and I was almost back to empty when the car was returned. Most of my driving was on the highway, and I averaged about 17 miles per gallon (95% of the time on Eco Assist). I know that new cars needs some time for the engines to wear in, and that fuel economy is compromised in very cold weather, but I expected slightly better gas mileage.

honda crv collage

2013 honda CRV and 2011 Scion XBI really loved the chance I had to try out the CRV and get to know the staff at Honda of Orem. It was tough to go from the the super cushy CRV back to my Scion, but I didn’t miss the CRV’s gas mileage when I filled up the Scion’s tank the next morning (I average about 28 MPG) in it. Breaking up with the CRV was hard to do, but I’ll always have the memories of my the magical week of my 33rd birthday.

FTC Disclosure: I was selected for this promotion by Ken Garff Honda of Orem and was given a 2013 Honda CRV to test drive for a week. I was not compensated beyond the free use of the vehicle for 8 days. All opinions are my own.

My Last Night With The CRV – The Breakup

honda test drive 2013

Breaking up is hard to do. Especially when you’re in love.

John Mayer has a song I love called “Spilt Screen Sadness“, which is about breaking up (even when you know you’re good together in so many ways).

“All you need is love is a lie, cause we had love, but we still said goodbye. Now we’re tired, battered fighters. And it stings when it’s nobody’s fault, cause there’s nothing to blame at the drop of your name. It’s only the air you took and the breath you left…”

Last night was my final night of my week with the 2013 Honda CRV EX-L that was lent to me by Ken Garff Honda of Orem. I needed to go up to Bountiful to borrow some snow pants for my daughter’s winter campout for school, so I figured it was a good time to take a nice long drive by myself.

Pearl Jam "Black"I’ve had many loves in my life. I’m one of those girls that falls hard and fast when she sees someone that’s a good match for her. That can be evidenced by the fact that I married my first husband less than four months after we met for the first time. It took a lot of restraint to wait a whole six months to marry Taylor.

But not all love is good for you, and last night I had to come to terms with the fact that it’s over for me and the CRV. Because the dealership wants it back. My week of the #HondaTestDrive is almost up.

True Story: Many of my breakups have happened while sitting in a dark car, listening to music, and trying to find the right words to say. And one of the songs playing during a breakup with a high school boyfriend was “Black” by Pearl Jam: “And now my bitter hands cradle broken glass of what was everything. All the pictures have all been washed in black, tattooed everything.”

Last night in the CRV, “Black” came up on shuffle. It reminded me of that breakup, and how I’ll be “breaking up” with the CRV tomorrow when Ken Garff gets it back. This line of the song was particularly poignant:

“I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life,
I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky,
But why, why, why can’t it be, can’t it be mine?”

Last night became a sad night for me. I cranked up my angsty “melancholy” playlist and  sang at the top of my lungs. I also grabbed my last #PDR (a bottle of IBC Root Beer, mind you! I’m part of the Bloggers Against Drunk Driving campaign).

A full review of my week with the CRV will be published this week. Until my hands are pried from the smooth leather steering wheel, I’ll enjoy my last few moments with my love that was not meant to be.

#PDReview – Battle of the Diet Cokes

Proper drink run #PDROver the last two years, I’ve become a total Coke junkie. I could lay blame on many different factors, but I recognize that I was hooked when I moved to Atlanta. I worked for a university that received a significant amount of funding from the Coca-Cola company, which allowed the vending machines on campus to be subsidized. When you’re thirsty, it’s hard to say no to a $.75 20oz bottle of Coke! And thus my almost-daily habit began.

Although my tastebuds have changed to prefer Coke Zero, Diet Coke is much more readily accessible. And from much trial and error, I have found that not all Diet Coke is created equal. The sweetness, bitterness, and level of carbonation can vary drastically, depending on whether it’s from a can, bottle, or from a fountain.

A #PDR is a Proper Drink Run. Whenever you check in for a refreshing beverage,add the #PDR hashtag. The type of drink can be anything from soda to juice to milk to beer, according to the official @properdrinkrun Twitter page:

@ProperDrinkRun Wherever you drink Out 'N About & need something to quench your thirst? Whether Soda, Coffee, Tea, Juice, Beer, White Russian, etc. # your Proper Drink Run #PDR, whatchya drinkin? http://foursquare.com/user/properdrinkrun

I was asked by the mighty @paco_belle, keeper of the #PDR empire, to do today’s #PDReview. Even though @ThomAllen‘s review last week was for Diet Coke, I decided to go in a different direction. I decided to determine which fountain in the Salt Lake area provides the best tasting Diet Coke. I got fountain drinks from the following locations:

McDonalds – 7200 S and I-15 – 32oz for $1.08
Holiday Oil – 7200 S and 700 W – 32oz for $.86
Maverick – 7800 S and 700 W – 52oz refill for $1.38
Sonic – 12300 S and 300 E – 44oz for $1.50 (with Sonic VIP sticker)

diet coke reviews

Battle of the Diet Cokes

I also purchased a 20oz bottle of Diet Coke to use at the control for the taste test. Although there are Coca-Cola bottling plants all over the world, the bottled product tends to have a consistent taste. In comparison to the bottled Diet Coke, here are my findings:

McDonald’s – The most similar to the bottle. Sweet, well carbonated but did not sting my throat. Just a hint of bitterness.

Holiday Oil – The most bitter of the group. Hardly sweet at all. Very carbonated but tasted watered down.

Maverick – Kinda flat. Darkest color. Average bitterness. More expensive refill price than Holiday.

Sonic – Sweetest of the fountain drinks. Slightly carbonated. Not bitter at all. Best ice.

nicole bullock drinking diet cokeOut of the group, it was a toss-up between Sonic and McDonalds, which are the two places I typically grab a #PDR. I have the Sonic VIP sticker which gives you any drink, any day, at any time for $1.39 + tax. Because I like to have vanilla syrup in my Coke, I’ll choose Sonic over McDonalds if they’re right next to each other (like they are in Ft. Union and in Draper). And if you go to Sonic during Happy Hour (between 2pm-4pm), you can get all your drinks for half price.

But the tiebreaker for me is “leftover appeal.” I usually grab a big drink and sip it for several hours. After 3 hours, the McDonald’s Diet Coke tasted much better than the others. It actually tasted a little sweeter without the ice. So for today’s #PDReview, the winner is McDonald’s. Or as I like to call it, my “McDiet.”

What is your #PDR drink of choice?

Product Review: Tim Tams

Recently I was approached by a marketing company to review a product on my blog. I like free stuff, so why not? I was promptly shipped a package of Pepperidge Farm TimTam Chocolate Crème Sandwich Cookies. They package touts them as “Australia’s Favorite Cookie”. And since I’m a fan of many foods foreign, and I had read a very positive review on Phoood, I was excited to give it a try. I included my husband, daughter, and a friend for a full-bodied review of TimTams.

I was first suprised at the crunchy wafer. It is more like a graham cracker than a traditional layered wafer cookie (that has a crunch similar to a KitKat) It reminds me of the Ghiradelli chocolate-covered graham cracker cookie. The chocolate fudge is just the right amount of sweet. I enjoyed the difference of texture between the layers, and the crème in the middle is AMAZING. It makes a great complement to a cup of cocoa or tea.

My husband said that it was really satisfying and he’d eat more if they were in the house. My friend Clint said they were “delightfully delicious.” Rosie said “it’s GOOD! I loved it! I wish they gave us more” The four of us devoured the package within a few minutes, and were wanting to head to Target to buy more. They are only available on a limited basis at Target until March, so make sure you grab a package next time you are in the store.