Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review *GRANITE FALLS*

As an avid cooker, one thing that I can truly appreciate is a cutting board - a well functioning and aesthetically pleasing cutting board. My last cutting board - a wooden one - split in half. I now have a cheap, teeny-tiny plastic one. When I saw the cutting boards available on Granite Falls on Etsy, I fell in love. Hubby was saying that since the cutting boards are granite, they would dull my knives, but I have a sharpener for them. I love these boards! Functional and pretty! Just look at these boards!
   Owner Thomas Hurd has been making granite cutting boards for many years, after finding that scrap granite ends up in land fills. 
   "We asked ourselves what can be done with this 'scrap'", he said. "It came to us that this natural product could be crafted into useful products for the home."
   From start to finish, Hurd will create a cutting board in two days, but that is only in a perfect world. Family responsibility and general life occurrences pushes that time frame back one to two more days, making it a three to four day job. 
   While Hurd's favorite cutting board is the Starry Night, he does take custom orders. And you do not have to go with the standard square or rectangle. He does have circular ones and don't forget - you can customize!
   If you want a cutting board that makes a statement, I highly recommend them. I will definitely be buying one - because it's not plastic (better for the environment) and it won't break! (Sorry wood, but you've been replaced as my go-to cutting board material!)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Top 10 Friday : *CHRISTMAS MOVIES*

It's that time of year again when all those Christmas movies have covered the racks in Walmart, Kmart, grocery stores - pretty much every retail outlet. And you have to be careful. Watch out for those five movies for $5 deals. Those movies are usually awful and painful to sit through. However, I have put together a list of Christmas movies that will not disappoint. 
   Just a note - I will get a set schedule eventually, but I would have to say that my posts are going to be fairly sporadic for a while. 

CHRISTMAS MOVIES

10) Lethal Weapon - Granted, not a Christmas movie, per se. But, it opens during the Christmas season and Jingle Bell Rock is playing! Plus, who wants to miss out on Mel Gibson's butt back in the day (pre-crazy)?






9) Home Alone - I watched enough of this movie when I was a kid that I really do not care if I ever see it again. But when Bee wants to watch it, I cant help but sit down and watch it with her. It takes me back to when the movie was awesome and cute - when I was in fourth grade.




8) Scrooged - If you have never seen this Bill Murray comedy, you should! It's a dark, modern (OK - 1980s) take on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Murray plays a television executive who has completely lost touch with the Christmas spirit and who only focuses on his job. The Ghost of Christmas Present is played by Carol Kane is my favorite!


7) Polar Express - My mom got this for Bee a couple years ago and I didn't think I would like it. But, I found the story charming and I understood why it is a favorite among so many others. I particularly like the hot chocolate song. 





6) Batman Returns - Again, not exactly a Christmas movie, per se, but it was released during Christmas. And, unlike Lethal Weapon, the Christmas season stays throughout the movie. Despite many hard core fans' objections, I have always liked Michael Keaton as Batman and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman is my favorite!


5) Bad Santa - NOT FOR CHILDREN! This movie is perfect for those who may experience a "Bah, humbug" attitude about the Christmas season. Or for those who want a good laugh. The first time I saw this movie, I laughed my ass off! It is wonderfully ironic and Billy Bob Thornton's performance as the bad Santa is hilarious!


4) The Nightmare Before Christmas - This came out when I was in high school. A few years ago, I saw a special edition of it and I snatched it up. Bee loves it! I love the twisted Tim Burton animation and the music. Danny Elfman always works well with Burton. The story is wonderful, as well! Jack Skellington is bored with Halloween and wants to take over Christmas. It's the ultimate clash of holidays!

3) How the Grinch Stole Christmas - I'm talking about the 1966 special that always played on the television during the Christmas season when I was a kid. (I guess it still plays now.) You know, the one with Boris Karloff. How fun is it! I still love the animation and the songs! You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch by Thurl Ravenscroft is a classic!

2) Mickey's Christmas Carol - I might have missed the Grinch sometimes when I was a kid, but I never missed
Mickey's Christmas Carol! It is classic Disney animation. The fate of Scrooge at his own grave - falling into a fiery pit - was scary for me at first, but I realized the story would not be complete without it. This, for me, is wonderful nostalgia during the Christmas season.

1) Gremlins - I know. It's not exactly the perfect Christmas movie. It does not have a wonderful lesson or positive Christmas message, but it has always been my favorite and I watch it every year. I loved it when I saw it as a kid and I love it still today. I still want my own mogwai as a pet!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Review *COUNTRY FOLKS CREATION*

Nowadays, it's easy to find a shop that sells signs you can hang on your walls. But, it's far more difficult to find a shop that caters to your decorating taste and also has a variety of signs for you to choose from. The Etsy shop, Country Folks Creation, provides you with that variety and with the ability to customize orders. One of the signs was donated to this month's giveaway on Ethereal Influence.     
   Owner Angie Folks has been making signs since Aug. 23, 2011 when her sister gave her old silhouette machine to Folks. "I started cutting away," said Folks. 
   And she's gotten good results in a short amount of time. Depending on the size of the sign, Folks can churn one out in 45 minutes. Those are smaller signs, however. The larger ones can take several hours. 
   A self-described "avid lover of quotes", Folks uses them in many of her pieces. "They inspire me and take me to happy places," she said. 
   Folks does take custom orders and is happy to do so! "My customers always have the best ideas and color combos!"
   I particularly love the variety of colors Folks uses. It's not the standard, everyday brown, gray or green that most signs are. She throws in turquoise, red and pink, which makes it easy for decorating the walls of a little girl's bedroom. I know Bee would love the Pink sign that I have shown here. It would also serve well on a nursery wall of a baby girl. 
   The variety of quotes she uses is wonderful! Everything from Christmas (isn't that coming up soon?) to quotes about lakes. 
   Check out Country Folks Creation for something to grace your walls, or as a gift for someone on your Christmas list!
   

Review *WILD BABIES*

When I was working as a photographer and reporter for newspapers, I prided myself on my ability to take profound pictures of people and events. I tried to transfer that ability to wild life photos. I was not successful. I couldn't make them look serene or cute. Photographer Suzi Eszterhas has no such problem and she's made a good living at it. Her photos have been featured in Time Magazine, National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazine. 

 I felt so honored when she agreed to donate four of her black and white photos to this month's giveaway!
   Even though she has been taking pictures professionally for 12 years, Eszterhas is one of those lucky people who knew from a very young age what it was she wanted to do. 
   "I use to walk around telling my mom, 'I'm going to live in Africa in a tent.' I think everyone thought it was just a phase, but I never grew out of it," she said. 
   And Africa is where her photography adventures have taken her. She spent three years living in a bush camp in the Masai Mara in Kenya. It was there she captured, on her camera, the animals she had so long dreamed of - cheetahs, elephants, lions and giraffes. "It was an amazing experience," said Eszterhas.
   In fact, her favorite photograph is of a lion cub meeting its father for the first time (and that picture is included in the giveaway!). 
   "I was with the pride for months and followed the cubs from just a couple weeks after their birth," she said. "Meeting dad was a moment that I waited for for a very long time and it was magical!"
   Eszterhas has captured many magical moments and is selling them in her Etsy store, Wild Babies. They are all adorable and you can choose between black and white, sepia or color photographs. While they all feature baby animals, they can easily grace the walls of any room in your house - not just the nursery. 
   I picked my three favorites and placed them here. I particularly love the baby gorilla. He's precious! I want to hug him and squeeze him and call him George! That is a darling photo!
   Go and find your favorites!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thankful For Our Followers Giveaway Hop *CUTTING BOARD, PHOTOGRAPHS AND SIGN*

Welcome to the Thankful for our Followers Giveaway Hop hosted by So Easy Being Green.
   YOU are the reason that we host giveaways so it's time to show our appreciation to you... our readers and blog followers. Normally we offer giveaways with entries to help boost our blog, but this Hop is all about making it easier on YOU. Each blogger in this Hop is offering a wonderful prize, worth at least $25 and ALL giveaways have only ONE way to enter! Hop around to them all as we show you how we're Thankful for YOU!
   Here at Ethereal Influence, I am giving away a granite cutting board donated by Granite Falls. The winner gets to choose which medium finished edge granite cutting board he or she wants. This one is my favorite. The medium finished edge cutting boards are valued at $25. 
   I am also giving away a set of four black and white baby animal photographs. These are just adorable! Just look at them! They are donated by Wild Babies and award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas! Valued at $45.
   The last thing I am giving away is a 2 Corinthians sign by Country Folks Creation, value at $28. I love the vibrant color of this sign and, of course, the message!
   All in all, that is $98 worth of prizes for the winner! And my awesome sponsors deserve the credit for these marvelous donations. Show them some love!
   Simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The winner will be chosen via Random.org and contacted by email. Thank you all so much for making Ethereal Influence a stop! I really appreciate you and I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas!


a Rafflecopter giveaway So Easy Being Green, the Blogging Mamas Network, and the Thankful for our Followers participating bloggers are not responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill prize obligations.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My "Made In America" Pledge

Over the years, the increasing problem with China on our economy and our businesses has become bigger and bigger. Factories shut down, jobs lost, economy suffering and mom-and-pop businesses struggling to compete. 
   As this holiday season has just begun, I am putting out a plea. Make an effort to buy "Made In America" products. By doing this, you are supporting the economy and American communities. When something is made in America, the person who puts it together gets paid - through either a paycheck or the sale of the item. That money is then spent in that person's community - restaurants, church coffers, etc. 
   However, with all of the items in our market that are made in China, it is extremely difficult to buy what you want to buy if you are boycotting China-made products. For example, I know Bee wants an Ever After High doll for Christmas. Is it made in China? Probably. Or Mexico. Or Indonesia. Or Thailand. Those dolls are made by Mattell, which has no manufacturing locations in the U.S. I will buy it because I know that will help make her Christmas a good one and it is not possible to find one made in America. So, you do not have to completely boycott China products.
   But, please make an effort not to buy China products based on price. They are going to be cheaper because their labor costs are almost non-existent. They also do not have to comply with environmental laws. But, if you put your money into American products, that money will come back to you in the form of a stronger economy and healthier communities. 
   My pledge on Ethereal Influence is that I will NOT feature items that are NOT made in America. Every single item in my giveaways will be made in America. 
   Please join me in this effort to strengthen our economy and our country. Thank you. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Top 10 Tuesday *CHRISTMAS TOYS*

Here we are in November and you know what that means - stores and companies are going to be inundating you with the must-have products for yourself, your spouse, your children, your pets, your extended family, your boss, your fourth cousin removed, etc.
   Today, as I was doing a little bit of shopping for myself (selfish before the Christmas season, I know), I was looking at all the toys and picking which ones Bee would enjoy the most. Al, who was just born in September, is too young to appreciate them, so I wasn't focusing on what to get him.
   But, I put together a list of toys that I (and most of the stores) think are going to be the hottest. Now, keep in mind there are some toys listed here that are geared toward girls (as that is what Bee is), but the rest are gender-neutral. These are listed in no specific order.

2013 CHRISTMAS TOYS:

1) Furby Boom - This is basically the regular Furby, except prettier. The colors are brighter and they have patterns, such as diamonds. Also, you can hatch and raise digital Furby Furblings. Now, Bee not only received a purple Furby last year, but also a black Furby. She is pretty much Furby'd out. These cute Gizmo-like toys cost $60.

2) Magic Jinn - This one caught my attention, especially with the statement on the package that it could read your mind. I've always been a big fan of the Magic 8 Ball, so I gave it a try. I thought of an animal and it threw out questions about the animal. You respond with a yes or no answer and then it finally "reads your mind" and guesses the animal you were thinking of. So, it's basically 20 Questions with a cute, blue cat-like creature. This retails for $15.

3) LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra - Here is a smart tablet specifically for kids! Bee has a handheld LeapFrog that she plays games on, but I really want to get her this one. For two reasons - she will learn on it and it might keep her from overing on my iPhone. She can get apps and use the touch screen. Unfortunately, the cost is not something that I enjoy. It's $150.

4) Sofia the First Royal Talking Vanity - Perfect for the
little princess in your household. Standing at 3-feet tall, it comes with a matching stool and teaches your girl six lessons on how to act like a princess. It also comes with beauty accessories, such as a tiara, a comb and lipstick and it also features a jewelry box for her little treasures. It retails for $80.

5) The Ugglys - If your house needs more gas, this is the toy to get! Gas as in the obnoxious noises that animals (and people) reproduce. These are electronic pugs (a dog breed that I have never understood) that are covered in green drool and provide your kids with laughter by burping and farting - provided your kids appreciate toilet humor. It retails for $25.

6) XBox One - Of course this list includes a video game console. Naturally, consoles are must-haves. I am not a
gamer, but Hubby is and men need their toys, too. In fact, he's playing Call of Duty right now. But, this console (which will be released Nov. 22) combines both the XBox 360 and the Kinect, along with other features the previous Microsoft consoles were missing. Such as built-in Skype and the ability to recognize voice commands. I would LOVE to get this for Hubby, but with a retail cost of $500, he's going to have to wait. 

7) PS4 - And the Playstation 4, which will be released in a couple days (Nov. 15). Hubby is an XBox lover. He's had a couple PS consoles in the past, but keeps going back to XBox. Anyway, the PS4 focuses on interactivity with other devices, such as a cloud-based gaming service. It also connects with smartphones and tablets. It retails for $520.

8) Ever After High Dolls - Very similar to Monster High dolls, except these are the offspring of famous storybook characters. This particular doll is Madeline Hatter, daughter of the Mad Hatter. They are posable and come with fashionable clothes inspired by their parents' fairy tale story. They retail for $20.

9) Flutterbye Flying Fairy Dolls - Perfect for the fairy loving little girl! These dolls actually fly! Just place the doll on the stand, press the button and watch her lift off! The wings spin around to keep the doll in flight and your little girl just guides it by placing her hand under it. These retails for $28.

10) Zelfs - Remember Troll dolls? Well, Zelfs are this generation's version of the Troll. Cute little plastic creatures with sky-high hair that is easy to comb and play with. This Zelf is Buttershy Butterfly. It comes with hair ties, a charm and a collector's guide, because one Zelf is just not enough. Very affordable and a good stocking stuffer, they retail for $6.

   There you have it. Start your holiday shopping and good luck getting your little ones (or big ones) the gifts that they deserve this Christmas season!