F August 2010 ~ Critique of the Unique

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Welcome to Critique of the Unique

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In the Kitchen with Amelia

Welcome Amelia to the Critique of the Unique! Join Amelia in the kitchen for great down-home cooking ranging from appetizers, to tasty main dishes all the way through to awesomely delicious desserts!!

"Winnie the Pooh" in Theaters this July

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood this July and revisit your old time favorite characters!

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Tresia's Antiques

After the insurance adjuster called to inform us that the van was officially "totaled" from the wreck that occurred earlier in the week, we all piled into the little Ranger truck and decided that just for fun, we would drive around looking at used car lots to see what we could purchase as a potential replacement vehicle. We found something we loved straight away, but decided it best to continue looking to see what all else was out there and make an informed decision before purchasing (if we don't simply pay off the loan and continue toting the family around in the small Ranger until next summer). Besides, it gave us something to do instead of being stuck at home!

We made our usual "loop" that we do when we are on the search for something that we can't find in our own home town area, and this time when we passed Tresia's Antiques in Southfork,Mo  my husband actually turned around at first request (maybe my love for antiques is rubbing off on him)!  It was a good call as Tresia had a great assortment of items to admire!

To see more details in the photos, simply click on them to see the photo enlarged.

I love seeing the color red in old antiques, and odd colors such as the turquoise chair below. My grandparents  had these sort of metal chairs in their backyard. Brings back memories.  I have seen people turn those old soda crates (middle photo) into decorative shelving. Notice the old fire hydrant in the far corner photo. I don't know what one would use it for, but it appealed to my firefighter husband!

My husband has been on the look out for an old wringer-washer machine so that he could utilize the wringer to squeeze out shams and such in his detail shop. When he asked her if she had any, she brought him to this antique wringer system. It folds down somehow and makes a table as well. I had never seen one quite like it.  I fell in love with the cast iron bed (top left) as well as the old milk bottles and wheels.

Now in this next photo, I showcase some of my favorite items from Tresia's Antiques. I want those big advertisement jars (I think they were once used for flour) to put pasta, flour, sugar and so forth in, and I think that little tractor stool would be adorable in my son's cowboy themed bedroom.  The bowl in the upper right hand corner, looks similar to one I used to own, before my love affair with vintage bowls began--and I actually sat it outside full of water for the dog to drink out of, of which, he broke. I could kick myself for that now. The bicycle on the bottom left is a JC Higgins bike and although really cool to look at, not really worth much for collecting as it is the girl's version. I still love the colors and shape of it!  The middle photo of the old doors and ladders just makes me smile. That shabby chic, chippy paint look is comforting to me for some odd reason.

Here is some neat vintage stoves and a custom made bench made from a former church pew, along with some other interesting pieces that could quickly enhance one's decor.  I didn't look at the mugs on top of the stove--didn't even notice them except for in this photo. I wonder if they are Fiesta?!

Glasswares and more. I love how she displayed the cookie cutters in the big glass jar.

Now, here are some of the more unique items!  The Pennzoil can at the top was HUGE and it would make an interesting conversation piece. The Knight would also raise a few questions if displayed in one's home, but I think it could be pulled off in the right environment. Enlarge the pic to see the details in the sink hardware-simply beautiful!!!

The owner of the shop was a really nice lady named Tresia and she didn't even seem to mind that we showed up to look at a few minutes before 5:00. Her shop spilled out into the yard and it was sweet bliss!! One of the best stops in a long time. She didn't have anything too unusual, but what she did have were the type of items that designers flock to get their hands on. The children enjoyed the view as well:

Speaking of children, below are some of the older wagons, trikes and horses found throughout...

And of course, some evidence that we are indeed...in the South!

Throughout the shop, she had several displays of rolling pins. Although I do not own one myself, I think they would be a neat collection and I like how versatile they are in regards to decorating. I especially liked the hanging pins in the upper right hand corner.

I do not currently "collect" anything, but my top choices would be:

  • Mr. Peanut memorabilia
  • Vintage Jack in the Box
  • View Master Reels
One of these days, I will start getting serious about collecting those sort of things. Until then, I'll continue to window shop and admire the uniquities I find off the beaten path. 

What do you collect? How did you start collecting that particular item? Share the story behind it!


SpellQuizzer Spelling Software Review and Giveaway (CLOSED)

My children hate homework. After spending all day in school, the last thing they want to do is do more of the same when they come home. By then, they are tired and simply want to go play. I usually let them take a short break, eat a snack, play a little video games, and then it's back to the books. Sometimes, they don't complain too much and just get it done, but most of the time, there is a lot of  "oh man" and "not yet" responses when I try to get them refocused on their assignments. I can't say as if I blame them, as being a nontraditional college student, I know how exhausting the whole process can be! But they have to do it, and usually it is the same type of assignments: Spelling words, reading and math. The reading is never met with attitude as both my children LOVE to read, and it usually takes some one on one time for them to get through a math assignment. We struggle mainly on those spelling words, because they seem to frustrate them more than anything else, and they get sent home nightly, so night after night, I hear nothing but whining when it comes time for spelling words.

That is why I was so excited to learn about the SpellQuizzer spelling software. SpellQuizzer is a spelling program that helps kids learn their spelling and vocabulary words. No more saying the words to them over and over. No more making them write each misspelled words five times each.  Instead, this new spelling program allows the parent to enter the child's spelling words, and then the child sits down with the computer and writes the words themselves, as many times as it takes, until they learn each and every one!!! I LOVE THIS!!! What is great about it is that it does not focus on one certain curriculum. Instead, it allows the parent to enter their own custom list of spelling words for their child. The list is completely editable, so it can be changed or added to on a continuous basis. Also, another great feature is that many spelling lists can be imported or exported so that other SpellQuizzer users can share lists. This is handy if you are a parent who home schools, as you can share your list with others who home school. In fact, the website even has a dedicated page for home schoolers to share and interact. Here they can import and export word lists and vocabulary words to share with other homeschooling families.

SpellQuizzer does not require any special skill and it is so easy that your child can create their own lists if they so desired. What is neat is that the program recognizes both US and UK versions of words, so if any word is inadvertently typed in wrong, it will alert you that the spelling is incorrect. It's as easy as 1, 2, 3 to set up.

1. Install SpellQuizzer to your computer. (Takes just a few seconds)
2. Select "Create a List" from the program's choices (or use one of the database spelling word lists)

3. Type the spelling/vocabulary words to create a list and then make an audio recording of the spelling or vocabulary word using a microphone or computer speaker. (I did not have a microphone and the speakers picked up my recordings loud and clear).

Keep it fun! When speaking the vocabulary or spelling words, use funny voices or sentences so that your child has fun while learning! The format that is suggested is to speak the word, and then use it in a sentence. I did find that since I did not use a microphone, some words came out sounding like other words. For instance: I said the word "Past" and my son thought I had spoke the word "Path". I think having a microphone might eliminate the confusion (they can be found in most electronic stores for under $20). However, he could usually figure out the word I was asking after hearing me use it in a sentence. I would also suggest repeating the word again at the end of the sentence.  An example: "Brown- The big brown dog wagged his tail. Brown" 

Excerpt from website:
 Children today associate computers with fun and writing on paper with work. 
This fits my children completely, and after a week of using SpellQuizzer, they were telling me "it's time for me to do my spelling words mom". That's a score!  The SpellQuizzer spelling software is available to work on computers running Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista or later.

The Good: What I liked about the program most is the simplicity of it!! It wasn't full of slow loading graphics and so it was easy enough that my child could use it straight away. The website includes a full page of instructions of how to use the program after download, so it ensures that it will be a program that you will use! I liked that I could download pre-recorded spelling lists such as Days of the Week, commonly misspelled words, Months, etc and that the database we create can be shared amongst other SpellQuizzer users. I have used the spelling software every night since my children started school on August 19 and my children still enjoy using it. They argue about who gets to use the computer first! My daughter is in the sixth grade, and her words are getting harder, so she doesn't know them the first time around. What is great about this software is that at the end of the word list, it will present another list of the words your child misspelled. They can then redo the words they missed ONLY! If the child needs to hear the word again, they can simply push "Play Word" and it repeats the word to them. I also like the fact that I can create multiple lists. I made separate lists for my son and daughter and it made it so easy for them to click on their name without any confusion!

The Bad: Throughout the whole time using this software, I only experienced one flaw. My daughter had the name "Anthony van Leewenhoek" to spell. I entered it in properly, however when my daughter got to it in her spelling list, it had only grabbed "Anthony van". I am not certain if there is a limit to how long the word can be, or if I had simply done something wrong. I edited it and attempted again. It still only recognized the "Anthony van", but when she entered just that, it told her she had spelled it wrong, when in fact she had spelled it exactly as it was listed. This is probably a unique situation, and it might have a simple cure, but she normally does not have words that long to spell, so I wasn't too concerned. I just thought I'd mention it as we did experience this during our review.

How to Get: The SpellQuizzer spelling software can be purchased directly from the website for $29.95 for a single PC license (other packages can be purchased for multiple uses) and downloaded immediately.


The fine people at SpellQuizzer have offered one reader a chance to win their own SpellQuizzer spelling software.

How to Win: Open to ALL, aged 18+, void where prohibited. Product will be delivered by email, so please have a valid email address visible in your profile or include in your post. I do ask that you read the full giveaway rules, regulations, disclaimer and disclosure on the Legal page. Please be certain to do the mandatory entry as the bonus entries will not be valid if the mandatory entry is not complete. Thanks!

Giveaway ends on September 19, 2010 at midnight central standard time. Winners will be chosen using random.org and will have five business days to respond to my email confirming their win. If no response, a new winner will be chosen.

Entries have closed for this giveaway! Winners will be chosen and announced soon!! Enter my other great giveaways for more chances to win!

Mandatory Entry: 
Leave any comment below!  (I am changing this from the mandatory "follow me on google friend connect", to just leaving a simple comment below. Those that entered previously, your entry still counts. I've added the GFC as a bonus entry, so if you entered before September 1, your entry will count as two).

Bonus Entries:
  • Follow me on Google Friend Connect (+1 entry)
  • Follow @spellquizzer on Twitter  (+1 entry)
  • Follow @uniquecritiques on Twitter (+1 entry)
  • Subscribe by email to Critique of the Unique (+2 entries)
  • Enter any of my other giveaways (+1 each)
  • Tweet about this giveaway:  Enter to #win the SpellQuizzer spelling software from @spellquizzer and @uniquecritiques http://dld.bz/tFhd -Ends 9/19 (+1 daily)

FTC Guidelines require that I disclose that I received a copy of the SpellQuizzer software for the purpose of this review. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions are my own, honest opinion. Other opinions may vary. I am in no way affiliated with SpellQuizzer aside from this review, although I did receive written permission to use the photos and information contained herein. Thanks to SpellQuizzer for sponsoring the giveaway. SpellQuizzer is responsible for prize fulfillment.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Finding the perfect toy!

My daughter has a birthday coming up and I have been searching for the perfect gift for her. It's so hard because I am not certain what girls her age are playing with and I don't want to rely on the same old things: Barbies, crafts and clothes. Luckily, I found Ebeanstalk. They help to pick out the perfect toy for your child's age range. You can search for baby toys and toddler toys or if your children are older like mine, you can search for kids toys according to age and gender. They sort by catergories, making it easier to find just what you are looking for in a gift! What is great about Ebeanstalk is that they have a wonderful team of moms from around the country testing the actual toys with their own children, so you can feel confident that you are getting a great quality toy! Check it out for yourself!


Friday, August 27, 2010

Banged Up and Bruised (Pic Added)

The day started off normal. I woke to the alarm, shut it off in a half asleep daze and fell back to sleep. I awoke two hours later to the phone ringing. It was my husband making sure I had gotten up. Of course, I told him I was up, because by the time I answered the phone, I was technically "up". The rest of the day was on schedule...course work online, laundry, cleaning house in between submission of assignments, yada yada.  It wasn't until the children got off the school bus that my day took a turn for the worse.

My son went to get a snack out of the fridge and noticed that we were out of milk, which is definitely a staple in my house. So, after going over their school papers and attending to their homework, we were off to the grocery store. We never made it.  Instead, we ended up in the middle of the road after being hit by an oncoming car. It wasn't the other driver's fault, nor was it my own. The little gravel road we live off of is on a slant downhill and the pull off to the highway is in a precarious place. The adjoining highway road has a little dip in the hill, which becomes a blind spot and from my side of the road, makes it hard to see any oncoming traffic. I usually look, look again and then slowly inch out and look again. This time, the blind spot won and I didn't even see the car that hit me until it was too late. It was slow motion and fast forward all at the same time. I seen him coming toward me, I seen the color red and then I seen the grill of his car. That's all I remember. I do know that as soon as our van came to a stop, my hand immediately went to my head as the pain was intense. I apparently smacked my head against the window, although I don't remember doing it.  My first instant was to get out and check on my children who were in the middle seats of the van. I NEVER want to have that sinking feeling again, as I turned around, hoping and praying that they were okay. It was the first accident I had ever been in with the children in the vehicle.

Thank the Lord, they were fine. A bit shaken up, but alive...and without signs of injury. I wanted to get them out of the car and onto the side of the road. My biggest fear was that someone coming from another direction might not be able to stop in time and end up hitting the vehicle again (I've watched COPS where this happens all the time) and I didn't want the children in the vehicle if this were to happen. Luckily it did not. The gentleman in the car that hit me was pretty banged up as his air bags had deployed and he had lacerations on his chest and hand. We managed to call for help and I was able to call my husband (thanks to the friendly truck driver that stopped and helped direct traffic until the police showed) and it wasn't long before the ambulance and fire department arrived.

I felt some pain in my stomach, head and leg so they took me to the ambulance to check me over. Since my blood pressure was off the chart and because of the abdomen pain, the paramedic thought it would be in my best interest to go to the hospital to get everything checked out. It was my first ever ride in the back of an ambulance. I hope to never have to do it again.  My husband took the children to his parents and met me later at the hospital. They did x-rays, CT scans and such, assuring that my pain was nothing serious in nature, and after about six hours, they let me go home. I am still having pain...mainly in my abdomen and head and if it doesn't get better in a few days, I'm supposed to get rechecked.  I refused the pain medication...a decision I might regret in the morning, as I hope my body's natural endorphins will kick in and save me the nausea of the commonly prescribed pain medications.

I hope to get some photos tomorrow of our van. My husband says the wreck completely knocked one of the tires off and that they feared the front axle had been busted. Not sure yet if it will be considered "totaled", but hope to go see it in the AM to access the damage. The children are still at the grandparents house, doing fine,  and we have decided to let them stay home from school tomorrow as I am uncertain if their little muscles will be tight and sore in the morning as well. Plus, it will give them an opportunity to discuss the accident and hopefully overcome any fears or concerns associated with it.

Hopefully, I can get some pictures to share.  But for now, I am going to go get my bag of frozen peas and place it on my swollen leg and another on my aching head and call it a day. Until next time...

UPDATE: Pics of the wrecked vehicles. The green van is mine and the red car the one that hit me. A little sore today...(okay, a lot sore), but still feel blessed that it wasn't a lot worse!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Comparison Shopping Sites

I live out in the country. For me to do anything, it requires travel. 15 minutes to the grocery store, 20 minutes to the children's church, 45 miles to the closest hospital. Let's not even talk shopping centers, where it's over 2 hours no matter which direction I travel. That is why I like internet shopping, where I can just pull up a couch cushion and a big cup of ice tea, and browse.

What's even better then the convenience? Knowing that for each store I look at, I can search for current coupon codes to apply at checkout. I don't have to save and store all the Sunday coupons or browse the ads for specials. I can just type in what I am looking for and Viola, it appears right in front of me.

My new current love is the type of websites that take a combination of stores and place them under one website address. Take for instance, Become.com, which is labeled as a "Comparison Shopping Site".  This particular site is easy to navigate. Simply type what you are shopping for in the "Shop For" search box and click "SHOP".  Then, the website's searching database will return all the stores it finds that carry the product you desire.

For example: I typed in the words "sleeper chair" and it yielded a page that included such stores as Target, Overstock.com, Sears, Ballard Designs, Kmart and even Ebay.com.  It shows a thumbnail photo of the item for sale, tells if it is in stock, lists the store where to find the item and the asking cost. It then offers you a link to go directly to that website to purchase the item. Become.com does not sell the items, yet serves as a tool to bring the consumer to the product!

The speed is incredible! When I searched for "round coffee table" it yielded 761 products to choose from, in less than five seconds. Saves me hours of searching each and every website on my own, and it gives me an overview that I can quickly scan to see if the product fits my needs. I even tried searching for less popular items such as "chair leg caps", thinking it would come up empty handed, but it actually found 71 different stores that carry related items such as castors, caps and folding chairs and tables.

Another feature that it has is called "Research". Instead of clicking "SHOP", simply click the "RESEARCH" tab and it pulls up articles related to the item you searched. When I typed in "braiding", it pulled up "How to Braid", "Decorative Braiding", "Hair Braiding in Nassau"...etc. and I think this is going to be a very useful tool for me, as I often like to research the product before I purchase. At the moment, I am researching the best type of driveway alarm to install at our house, as I cannot hear a car come up my driveway and I don't like surprise visitors! (Plus, if the alarm went off, I'd know without a doubt when the UPS guy or Fed Ex guy was coming up the drive...yippee!!).

Comparison shopping sites are becoming more popular as more companies and retail stores develop online venues for the sale of their product. It is really good news for the consumer and I'm excited to be able to utilize this service this upcoming holiday season!

FTC Guidelines require that I disclose that this is a sponsored post, written by me, in behalf of our friends at www.become.com. All opinions expressed herein are my own, honest opinions. Other opinions may vary. 

What is a time saving technique that you use in your day to day life? How do you organize coupons and rebate vouchers?


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Talk About It Tuesday: Forgiving Yourself

"No regrets"....I've heard people say they live their lives with no regrets, and when I hear that, I understand completely what they mean. It is a philosophy I have held for much of my life. I believed (and somewhat still do) in the old standby of "everything happens for a reason". I am the one who will preach this to you  whenever life is not going as planned. 

Yet, I cannot help but take time to reflect on that comment. I regret a lot of things in my life and even though my mistakes shaped me into the person I am today, let's be honest....some things are meant to be regretted. For example:
  • not talking to someone offering to be my friend. (I was too shy). 
  • not learning how to play a musical instrument
  • never learning how to swim
  • the letters I wrote to that boy in middle school (pretending to be someone else)
  • cracking my knuckles and back as a youngster
  • not waiting until I was married
  • not keeping a secret
  • keeping a secret
  • cutting, dyeing, and perming my hair  (over and again)
  • being stubborn
  • not sticking up for myself
  • not going to college straight out of high school
  • not trying hard enough
  • giving in
  • giving up
  • not giving in
  • not being in the right place, at the right time
  • not knowing when to leave
  • fighting with my sister
  • buying the McRib just because it was the LAST TIME it would be sold (for the millionth time)
  • throwing away my old diaries
  • knowing why I threw them away
  • telling on my sister for joy riding in our Aunt's car (she was only about 12, but it was really fun)
  • not being able to hold my mother's hand as she took her last breath
  • fearing the unknown....
Even now, when my life is about to change completely as I transition from being a stay-at-home mom for the last twelve years into a working mom and full time student...I know I am creating a few regrets.  

We all do; Sometimes there is nothing we can do about it. 

Yet, we can learn to give ourselves permission to forgive ourselves.  Maybe not immediately, or even a few years down the line....just as long as we do, sooner or later. 


Monday, August 23, 2010

Brugo Mug Review and Giveaway (CLOSED)

No one in the house asks me to make their hot chocolate for them as I always make it too hot! I like it that way...as the flavor seems best when it is piping hot! Usually, I will heat the water up in the microwave for hot chocolate and set to three minutes. The water dances when I add the chocolate mix and although I think it tastes best when hot, I cannot drink it at the temperature it comes out of the microwave at, unless it is the tiniest of sips, but even then I often scald my mouth. Therefore, I normally set it down to cool just a little...and forget about it. When I go to take the next sip, it is lukewarm. So frustrating!

When I heard about the innovative Brugo Mug that offers a temperature controlled chamber, I was intrigued. This mug allows each sip to be cooled to the perfect drinking temperature, so that one can still enjoy the taste of their favorite hot beverage without the risk of burning their mouth. It's all in the patented design:

The main chamber holds 16 oz of liquid and there is an inner chamber that is the secret to the "Perfect Temperature Zone" (PTZ). Once the hot liquid is added to the main chamber, simply place the lid on tightly.  When the lid is on properly, it will line up with a notch in the mug's design.

Now that the lid is on tightly, pay special attention to the settings on the top of lid. It can be set to three different settings:

Lock: This setting is designed to lock the lid so that it is sealed and spill proof.

Sip: When the dial on top of the mug is turned to this setting, it bypasses the tip & cool setting and the drinker is delivered a drink without the cooling effect or to be used after the drink has already cooled to the desired temperature.

Tip & Cool: This setting is what the dial is turned to whenever the drinker wants their hot beverage cooled to the "Perfect Temperature Zone" which is safe for drinking at about 150-170 degrees.

Turn the dial to the Tip & Cool setting and then tip the mug away from you (to about a 45 degree angle). The liquid will move from the main chamber, into the thermodynamic temperature control chamber.

Next, simply swirl the mug (the website states to do so in a "brandy motion") for a few seconds and then sip. The beverage has been cooled enough that it is not going to cause any burns. The longer the swirl, the cooler the sip.

The Brugo Mug comes in a variety of colors and styles which makes it easy to choose one (or more) that reflects your personality! There is the Executive Collection, the Jazz Collection and the Sports Collection.

My experience with the Brugo Mug:

For the purpose of the review, I was sent a Brugo Mug from the Executive Collection in the color SeaGlass. For my beverage of choice, I chose to try the mug with coffee. After pouring coffee into the mug, I noticed that I was still able to handle the mug nicely, due to the outer design of the mug, without it being too warm to handle. I liked the bottom design as well as it was designed to be slip resistant. My coffee was very hot and therefore, I put the dial on the lid to Tip & Cool, and turned the mug at an angle and then back up again, swirled and took a sip.  It was indeed at a good drinking temperature! So, the Brugo Mug did do as it claimed--it took hot coffee and made it drinkable almost immediately, so no more waiting for it to cool down!

The Bad:  I continued tipping, swirling, sipping....until about half way through my cup of coffee. Wow, that's a lot of work to drink a cup of coffee. What was I doing wrong? I couldn't imagine trying to do all of this and drive! I can barely drive and talk at the same time! I wondered if using this on a daily basis would make it seem like second nature, but each time I used the mug, I still felt a bit frustrated. If I let the mug sit for a short while, it did eventually cool on its own and then I could switch the dial on the lid to "Sip" and drink like a regular mug. Perhaps I should have let it cool this way so that I didn't have so much tipping and swirling to do. Maybe I am just a lazy coffee drinker.

The Lock position on the lid states that it is Spill Proof...which I found out the hard way that it is not completely spill proof. It is not designed to go upside down and in the upside down position, it does leak. Unfortunately, most of the time, when I spill a drink, it is tumbling in that downward, upside-down motion. I would say it is more "Spill Resistant" and would not leave the mug unattended near children.

The Good:Although I did not find the Brugo Mug to be my favorite mug, my husband truly enjoyed using it. He liked the fact that he could make hot chocolate and not have to wait for it to cool down. He didn't mind the tipping, swirling and sipping...but he is more coordinated and patient then myself! The Brugo Mug does do what it claims to do--and for that reason, I would still recommend the Brugo Mug. If you are a commuter who has to take your coffee on the run, it will get you your caffeine fix a bit faster than the traditional coffee mug! That is indeed, a unique approach to coffee drinking!

Where to Purchase: The Brugo Mug can be purchased directly from the Brugo website for $19.95 for one or $14.95 if you purchase two or more! All orders over $50 will receive free shipping as well!

Now that you know where to purchase, how about a chance to WIN!!! The great folks at Brugo Mug are offering one of my readers a chance to win their own Brugo Mug (color picked by Brugo Mug)!!

How to win:
Open to U.S. Residents aged 18 years of age or older. No P.O. Boxes please. Winner will be chosen using random.org and will have five business days to respond to email or an alternate winner will be chosen. Please visit the Legal page to read the Rules, Regulations, Disclosure and Disclaimer in full.  Be sure to have your email address visible in your comment or on your profile. If no email is present, then the entry will be void. For complete Rules and Regulations, Disclosures and Disclaimers, please visit the Legal page. 

END DATE: Sept. 8, 2010 Midnight Central Time

Mandatory Entry: 
Visit Brugo's website and tell me which color mug is your favorite ( 1 entry)

Bonus Entries:

  1. Follow me by Google Friend Connect (2 entries)
  2. Subscribe to my blog by email and confirm (2 entries)
  3. Follow Critique of the Unique on Twitter (1 entry)
  4. Follow Brugo Mug on Twitter (1 entry)
  5. Enter any of my other giveaways (1 entry each)
  6. Blog about this giveaway and link back to this page (3 entries)
  7. Tweet about this giveaway (Once daily): Enter to #win a Brugo Mug from @uniquecritiques until 9/8. Enter here: http://www.critiqueoftheunique.com

FTC Guidelines require that I disclose that I received a Brugo Mug free of charge for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed herein are my own honest opinion. Other opinions may vary. I am in no manner affiliated with Brugo Mug but have received written permission from the sponsor to use the photographs within this review. Brugo Mug is sponsoring the giveaway and therefore is responsible for prize fulfillment. 


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce Review and Giveaway (2 Winners) (CLOSED)

"That was really good....I like it", said my daughter when she tasted the dinner I had thrown together a half hour earlier. I had forgotten to take any meat out of the freezer and so I had to think fast. I found some Keilbasa in the freezer, which was quick and easy to defrost and when I opened the cabinet, I found the Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce that I had been sent a short time earlier. I added a few other ingredients that I thought might at least pass for edible when combined with the sauce and Keilbasa, tossed it all together and named it "Cowboy Bean Pot".

Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce is one of my all time favorite products!! I also love the bbq sauce and am so excited by the fact that they have expanded their line to include Spicy All Purpose Sauce, Seasoning Salt, and a cookbook (which definitely needs to be added to my Christmas want list). The company has come such a long way since it first began selling its products in 1977 and I love their explanation for the growth of the company: (the following is found on their website here:)
It would be nice if we could claim responsibility for the success of the company, however, credit must be given where credit is due. Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." We have placed true ownership of Country Bob, Inc. in the hands of God. "Christ is our CEO" and  He is an Awesome Boss!
Both the Original and Spicy versions of the All Purpose Sauce are gluten-free!!  All of the products have a very distinctive flavor- a little tangy, a little sweet...with just the right amount of kick. Since we have been long time fans of the Country Bob's BBQ sauce and All Purpose Sauce, we have used it in a numerous amount of dishes. My husband loves to use it on his special burgers and ribs when cooking on the grill, and I like to add it to any dish that I want a good hearty flavor that is not too overwhelming. Here is my new recipe: 

Cowboy Bean Pot Recipe

1 Polish Sausage or Keilbasa (or whatever kind you like)
2 Cans of Beans (any kind--I used black beans and butter beans)
1 Cup Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce (Spicy or Original)
1 onion, chopped
2 Cans refrigerator biscuits
Salt, Pepper, Garlic to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. While waiting for oven to preheat, cut up Keilbasa into bite size pieces. Chop onion. 
3. Mix all ingredients in an oven safe pan or dish, including the Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce.
4. Top with 2 Cans of refrigerator biscuits 
5. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes
6. When biscuits are browned on top, it might be necessary to flip them over to cook on the underside. 
7. Done when biscuits are browned!
SERVE and ENJOY!!!!!!

I call it a Bean Pot as you literally could add any type of ingredients to this and still have a tasty dish. This is all I had on hand, but it would be great with some diced tomatoes, green peppers, and perhaps even some frozen hashbrowns cooked on top instead of the biscuits. Vary up the beans too...the variety makes it fun!!

Now that you know one of my recipes using Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce, try your own recipe!! Country Bob's website offers many different recipes from appetizers to the main course. 

What's better than one bottle of Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce....well TWO FREE BOTTLES of course! Country Bob's is offering not one but TWO WINNERS. Each winner will receive two bottles of Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce. 
then enter this Giveaway!!

How To Win: Open to U.S. Residents who are 18 years or older. Void where prohibited. Winners will be chosen using random.org and will have five business days to respond to the winning email or a new winner will be declared. I ask that you read the full rules, regulations, disclaimers and disclosure on the Legal page before entering. Please be certain to have an email address in your profile or listed in your entry so that I have a way in which to contact you if you are the winner. 

Giveaway ends on Sept. 6, 2010 at Midnight Central time

Mandatory Entry:
Visit Country Bob's website and tell me which recipe you would want to try the most AND follow me on Google Friend Connect.  (Include both of these in your first entry. This must be done before any other entries are considered valid)

Bonus Entries: (please leave a separate comment for each entry)

  • Follow Critique of the Unique on Twitter (+1 entry)
  • Follow Country Bob's on Twitter (+1 entry)
  • Follow Critique of the Unique by email (+2 entries)
  • Follow Country Bob's on Facebook to show your support (+1 entry)
  • Enter any of my other giveaways (+1 for each)
  • Tweet: 2 winners will #win 2 bottles of Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce with @uniquecritiques and @countrybobs. Enter here: http://dld.bz/sCFK (+1 daily)

FTC Guidelines require that I disclose that I received two bottles of Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own, honest opinions. Other opinions may vary. Country Bob is the sponsor of this giveaway and is therefore responsible for prize fulfillment. 

Submissions to this giveaway are closed. Winners will be chosen soon and notified by email. Thanks!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And They're Off....First Day of School

The alarm goes off at 6:30 AM and when I call the girl from the doorway of her room, she gently stirs. I know she wants to complain that it is "too early", yet she has that butterfly feeling of anticipation toward seeing all her friends again.

The boy rises first call...fully awake and ready. He is the only one in the house who can rise in a good mood. He runs to get his clothes and then comes to me to "spike" his hair. I don't think he calls it that, but I do, as it's the term we used in the 80s. He calls it "pointy" but doesn't like when I use the brush on it to make it stand up. Only girls use brushes.

I attempt to style the girl's hair, but the braid we fashioned the night before has left her hair still damp. She has her father's hair genes...which is a blessing, as my fine hair never holds any style for long. We blow dry it the rest of the way and she picks out a fancy headband. Next,a dabble of lip gloss and a spritz of perfume. Then we find the perfect necklace--angel wings!

The boy wants smelly goods too, so we search dad's bathroom cabinet. "Got any Axe?" he asks, and to my surprise, there is a can on the top shelf, although it's about empty. He lifts up his shirt and I give him a quick spray. He laughs. I wonder if they make a little boys line of care products. Maybe if I start him young he won't be a smelly teen. A mother can hope, can't she?

We go outside to take pictures. We used to take them by the same tree every year at the old house. I pick a new spot between two windows. To my surprise, they pose for me. They don't even roll their eyes. Well, that is until I tell them to stand close together. My son then pouts his lip, but I finally coax them both to smile. Only today, the first day.

I know the honeymoon stage of this "going back to school" moment will fade, but for today, I enjoy watching them walk down our drive to wait for the school bus. They are happy and smiling. Not pushing each other or bickering along the way.

I wonder if they can make it up the driveway at the end of the day in the same fashion...again, a mother can hope, can't she?



Picasa 3.8 Now Available

Whenever I want to do some quick photo editing or resizing, I use a great program called Picasa. It allows me to  to do basic fixes such as:
  • Crop
  • Straighten
  • Auto Color
  • Retouch and more....
plus it let's me do slightly advanced features such:
  • fill light
  • highlights
  • shadows and more...
I like the special effects it can do with a simple click of the mouse:
  • sharpen
  • black & white
  • sepia
  • film grain
  • tint
  • and many more...
It's a simple program to use and can really spruce up your photos for your sharing on your blog, Facebook, and/or MySpace pages or for printing to put into albums. It even allows you to upload your photos to an online library or directly to a photo printing company. For those on Blogger, it even has a "BlogThis!" button that uploads the photo directly to your blog! I haven't used that feature as of yet. 

If you have been a current user of Picasa 3, the new update to the 3.8 version is now available and it includes many new features that are worthy of an upgrade. I particularly like that with the 3.8 version, I can edit my photos through Picnik and then save back to my Picasa library.  Picnik has a lot of photo features that I like, especially the ability to make collages! I will definitely be utilizing this in my future posts!

To upgrade or sign up for the first time, just visit the Picasa website. Download is easy and relatively fast and in a matter of minutes, you can become a photo editing expert!!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

CSN Stores Giveaway: Critique of the Unique (CLOSED)

I have a confession to make.

I haven't even started my Christmas shopping yet. Although, I have started my own Christmas wish list:

  • a macro and wide angle lens for my camera
  • a new pan set (particularly the le creuset line of cookware. I love the "flame" and "kiwi" color schemes)
  • Duvet set
  • Vitamix blender
  • new wedding set (I lost mine years ago after I took it off to do some cleaning. I think it went down the drain)

I tell myself every year that I will start my Christmas shopping early; that I will not wait until December when the crowds of people ransack the stores and I am left sifting through the remnants of products. Yet, each year, I wait until the last minute because I hate contemplating what to get everyone.

So, for the next few months my plan is to get ahead of the game. Instead of getting my family and friends the traditional standby gifts, I want to get them items that they will actually want and use! I've found some wonderful online venues that will be perfect for shopping from the comfort of my couch! No fighting traffic. No arranging for a babysitter. Now that's what I call a great opportunity for a shopping frenzy!!

One of the best venues I have found online is CSN Stores.com as it has over 200 stores combined into one shopping experience.  The categories to choose from include:

  • furniture  
  • home decor
  • houseware
  • home improvement
  • outdoor living
  • baby & kids
  • school & office supply
  • shoes, bags and luggage
  • pet
  • health & fitness
  • international

CSN Stores make finding the perfect gift a breeze!!! I am sure that by the time I get done shopping for family and friends, my own Christmas wish list will expand as well.

Are you ready to start your Christmas shopping? If so, you've come to the right place! To kick off your shopping experience, how about a $40 CSN Stores.com Gift Certificate?

It's easy to win- Open to U.S. and Canada, 18 years or older, void where prohibited. $40 gift certificate cannot include shipping fees. Winner will be chosen via random.org and will have five business days to respond to my email or a new winner will be chosen. Please read the rules and regulations, disclaimer and disclosure policies on the Legal page for full giveaway rules.

Mandatory Entry:
Follow me on Google Friend Connect AND tell me what item from CSN Stores.com you would use your $40 gift certificate on?

Bonus Entries: Must do mandatory entry before any of the following will be valid. Post one comment for each entry.
  1. Subscribe to my newsletter- must confirm. (2 entries)
  2. Follow me on Twitter (1 entry)
  3. Enter any of my other giveaways and tell me which one. (One entry each)
  4. Tweet about this giveaway (once daily)
  5. Add me to your blog roll and link me to it (3 entries)
  6. Grab my button and link me to it (3 entries)

Giveaway Ends:
September 1, 2010 Midnight Central Time

SUBMISSIONS HAVE CLOSED. Feel free to enter any of my other giveaways! Winner will be notified soon! 
FTC guidelines require that I disclose that I did not receive any compensation for this giveaway or for the opinions expressed herein. The giveaway is sponsored by CSN Stores.com and they are therefore responsible for prize fulfillment. Thank you to CSN stores for providing me the opportunity to offer this giveaway to my readers. I am in no manner affiliated with CSN Stores.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Talk About It Tuesday: What Denomination am I?

Talk About It Tuesday:
I can still recall the day I first learned about God's plan for my life. I had heard about God prior, yet did not truly understand the concept of being saved and although I knew heaven was "up there", I had no clue how to get there.

It was in the heat of a Florida summer, and I had just finished out the remainder of the semester at a new school. My mother, step father and myself resided in some not-so-wonderful housing conditions. It was all mother could afford and although I knew she wished for better circumstances, we made it work.

One one particular day, my mother and I were home alone when there was a knock at the front door. Mother answered and I heard her speaking to someone-a lady's voice-and it wasn't long before the woman came and  introduced herself to me. She then introduced me to "Jehovah" as she read from a book, speaking to me on her knees so that her eyes were parallel to my own. Each week, she would return and read more and more from the book, until I began to look forward to her visits early on in the week.

Her visits stopped when we moved yet again. From Florida to Texas--where I boarded a church bus every Wednesday and Sunday and rode off to the Baptist Church to sing praise and get baptized. I didn't exactly know what it meant the day my head went under the water, and even when the preacher asked me "Do you know what it means to be saved" I simply nodded my head yes. Mainly because I wanted out of that water and away from the watchful eyes of a church congregation and partly because there were three other girls behind the curtain waiting for their turn. We had planned this moment the Sunday prior, on a dare, and I didn't want to lose that dare. However, it didn't matter anyhow, as it didn't take long before my family was headed another direction...to Iowa, where the mainstay of my mother's roots originated.

There, I accompanied my grandparents to the Catholic church on some Saturdays. My eyes entranced by the enormity of stained glass and the fancy dressed congregation. I said the words "and also with you" as though it was something I had always done, and although I would follow my grandparents through the line to receive Holy Communion, I never tasted their "bread and wine" and instead, kept my hands firmly clamped together and my eyes looking forward.  On Sundays, I would go with my friend to the First Baptist. She would recite bible verses while I stared at all the pictures on the wall: Jesus on the cross, Moses, Noah--and while she received reward  for knowing John 3:16 by heart, I wondered why God never spoke to me.

There were many occasions I would pick up the Bible and start reading, sometimes with tears trailing down my cheeks as the words resonated to the confusion in my head and sometimes with agitation, as the words seemed so demanding. How was I ever going to be able to follow all the rules that God commanded? I felt a bit overwhelmed and full of question--yet, I had no idea where to go with those questions and my relationship with the Bible slowly dwindled.

I didn't find God again until I was in my late teens, selling Avon door to door (Avon calling). One of my patrons was homebound due to illness and she took every opportunity she could to speak to me about the Lord. I was a natural receiver of information. I listened intuitively and soaked up every word of what she told me. Yet, she did something no one had ever done prior. She told me "don't believe me"...and handed me a Bible. "Read it for yourself and know that it is true".  She explained to me how she had been in such turmoil as she was unable to reach out and spread the word of God, but then I knocked on her door and answered her prayer. Instead of her having to get out to spread the word, God had brought someone right to her doorstep. It felt right the day I kneeled in her living room and accepted Jesus into my heart.

I had an awareness like I had never experienced before and I searched for the right church to attend. I visited Baptist, Pentecostal and Church of Christ until eventually, my search seemed fruitless. I had no connection to the words being spoken at the church. It was like I was beginning kindergarten, but every preacher spoke as if I were a graduating senior. I needed direction, from the first "A" to the final "Z" and it felt as if I had only a bit here and there, which left me more confused then when I first started the journey.

I still read my Bible, I still believe in God...and I believe that one day, I'll reach heaven. I just don't know what denomination to call myself once I get there. But perhaps the "label" simply does not matter. All that matters is that I continue to receive God's message in whatever format he decides to deliver it and even though I can still remember the first day I learned of God's plan for me, I figure on taking the rest of my life to allow that plan to unfold!


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Downtown Antiques- Let's go inside!

Taking a peek inside Downtown Antiques: A two story antique shop that also houses a cafe, a bookshop and a law office. Now that's versatility! It took a little pleading, but I finally convinced my hubby to stop. 

There was so much to look at!  From the regular sort of antique finds:

Pez Dispensers (sorry for the glare)

Beautiful glassware (Love the cookie jar)

Look at the pattern on the little creamer set...so cute

An assortment of oil lamps


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