25 February 2012

A crazy few weeks...

It's been one thing after another for me this month...mainly, being sick times 3.  One week I was sick with a cold.  Then, I was better for not even 2 days before coming down with another (worse) cold/flu-like virus followed by a terrible ear infection later that week.  So, pretty much I've been sick for the past 3 weeks.  I'm mostly better now...about 95%- the ear infection killed my hearing for a few days, and I'm still waiting for my ears to completely recover.

In the midst of all that, I still didn't skip any classes or lab time or band.  I ran myself ragged and I was completely exhausted too.  I'm feeling better now just in time for midterms leading in to traveling with the pep band for post-season basketball tournaments.  I never give myself a break!

So, it's no wonder that I've fallen way behind in blogging.  I have a lot of posts that I've been meaning to write, but with being sick and still trying to keep up with schoolwork, I just haven't had the time.  Hopefully all the craziness going on in my life will calm down fairly soon and I will have time to start doing some things for fun instead of because they're required.

Anyway, I figured I'd post an update since it's been a while, and hopefully I can get back to blogging quite soon!

10 February 2012

The Secret World of Arrietty

When I was younger, I remember reading Mary Norton's The Borrowers and thinking how interesting it would be if there really were little people living throughout our homes, using things humans don't need.  Now the word of the Borrowers is coming to life in the new movie The Secret World of Arrietty, which hits theaters on February 17!

Here is a synopsis of the film:

Residing quietly beneath the floorboards are little people who live undetected in a secret world to be discovered, where the smallest may stand tallest of all.  From the legendary Studio Ghibli (“Spirited Away,” “Ponyo”) comes “The Secret World of Arrietty,” an animated adventure based on Mary Norton’s acclaimed children’s book series “The Borrowers.”

Arrietty (voice of Bridgit Mendler), a tiny, but tenacious 14-year-old, lives with her parents (voices of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper (voice of Carol Burnett). Like all little people, Arrietty (AIR-ee-ett-ee) remains hidden from view, except during occasional covert ventures beyond the floorboards to “borrow” scrap supplies like sugar cubes from her human hosts. But when 12-year-old Shawn (voice of David Henrie), a human boy who comes to stay in the home, discovers his mysterious housemate one evening, a secret friendship blossoms. If discovered, their relationship could drive Arrietty’s family from the home and straight into danger. The English language version of “The Secret World of Arrietty” was executive produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, and directed by Gary Rydstrom. The film hits theaters Feb. 17, 2012.

I am really excited to see this movie!  The first time I saw a preview for it on TV, I did not know that it was intentionally based off of The Borrowers books.  I thought that maybe someone else had come up with the same idea and thought it was new and creative.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the movie was based off of the books!  It's such an exciting world to bring to life!

Here are a couple of clips from the movie:


I can't wait to see the movie myself- if I can, I hope to see it opening weekend!

You can find out more about The Secret World of Arrietty on Facebook.  This Facebook page has clips and information about the movie.

FTC Disclaimer:  All information contained in this post, including video clips, and film information was provided to me by Disney.  The opinions expressed are my own.

09 February 2012

Freebie Sites #2: ExpoTV

For my second post in this series, I want to highlight a site called ExpoTV.  This site is a little different than a lot of the "freebie sites" out there because it is not exculsively a site that gives away free things.  I've had a lot of fun participating in ExpoTV!  I'll talk a little bit about what the site is all about, and then why I've enjoyed it so much!

The slogan for ExpoTV is "Real People.  Authentic Opinions."  As a member of ExpoTV, you can create video reviews of products you use so you can share your opinion with other consumers and brands alike.  You can create a video review for any product you use.  For some products, you can earn points for submitting a video.  Sometimes, you earn points because a certain company wants video reviews made of their products.  Other times, there are not enough reviews available of a certain product, so ExpoTV offers extra points for submitting a review of these "most wanted" products.  The points can then be redeemed for a huge variety of items, from gift cards to electronics to appliances and more.  If you submit a review for a product that is not eligible for points, you are instead entered into a monthly sweepstakes for a prize (which changes each month).

I have to admit that for a long time after joining ExpoTV, I was wary of participating.  It seemed strange to me to make a video review of a product.  In addition, I really don't like public speaking, and it was difficult for me to record a cbohesive review when I so hated being on camera.  However, once I decided that it was worth putting up with my hatred for being on camera, I began to really enjoy participating in ExpoTV.  I now have a lot of fun talking about the products I use.  I also really trust reviews from other people that are posted on the site.  The points also add up very quickly if you submit those videos, and you can earn gift cards after only a couple of video submissions!

Maybe you're asking why I am including ExpoTV in a series about free things.  Well, ExpoTV also had a program called Tryology, where members can get sent products to sample and review.  Most of the time, these products have yet to be released to the public, so if you're lucky enough to get selected to participate in a Tryology program, you'll actually be one of the first people ever to sample the product!  You don't earn points for submitting your Tryology review, but you do get to keep all the products that are sent to you.  In my experience, they've always been full-sized product "samples".

I have participated in two Tryology programs so far- once for a Suave product, and once for Herbal Essences.  One of the products I decided not to use after receiving it, so my video review was about why I made that decision.  The other product I loved and have used practically every day since receiving it.  (Since I signed a confidentiality agreement before participating, I unfortunately can not say more about the products at the moment.)  The great thing about ExpoTV's Tryology program is that you can talk about your honest opinion of the product in your video.

If you have an outgoing personality and like to talk about products you use, I highly recommend participating in ExpoTV!  Whether you participate in Tryology or not, you can still earn great rewards with the points you earn!

If you're already a member of ExpoTV, let me know what you think of it!

FTC Disclaimer:  I am a member of ExpoTV.  I posted this review for the benefits of my site readers.  I was not asked to do so by ExpoTV, and I am receiving no compensation for this post.

08 February 2012

BOOK REVIEW - Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads:

Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

Lola and the Boy Next Door is a companion book to Anna and the French Kiss.  It's not really a sequel, because although there are crossover characters (more St. Clair, anyone? :) ), the plot of Lola is entirely its own.  However, I couldn't help but compare this book to Anna when reading it.  Maybe this is unfortunate, because if Lola had been the first Stephanie Perkins book I'd read, I would have absolutely loved it.

I couldn't help but feel sympathetic towards Cricket, and even Calliope, twins who were Lola's next door neighbors in her childhood, throughout the entire book.  Though they were set up to be the "bad guys" in a sense, over the course of the book, these two characters grew more than any others.  From the beginning of the book to the end, as Lola's opinion of the twins grew and changed, so did mine.  I believed what Lola felt, and I found myself agreeing with her nearly all of the time.  Lola's emotions towards her family, friends, and boyfriend took me on a roller coaster ride the whole time I was reading.  Everything she felt seemed so genuine that it was possible to forget that she only exists within a book.

I really don't know what exactly about Lola made me not love it as much as I loved Anna.  Quite possibly, it was because Anna took place in Paris, a city that I've visited many times and love.  I don't have that same connection to San Francisco.  In addition to that, the plots of Anna and Lola follow nearly the same arc.  While the characters are different, it is easy to see counterparts between both books- the main character, the love interest, the significant other who causes problems, the best friend... It was mainly for this reason that it became so easy to compare the two books.  Side by side, I enjoyed Anna much more.  Independently, they both are amazing.
I would recommend reading Lola and the Boy Next Door if you're looking for a fun, contemporary romance.  I would have to give this book 4 out of 5 stars, because Anna got 5+ in my mind.  However, Lola is still a worthwhile read for any fan of contemporary YA, whether you've read Anna yet or not!

04 February 2012

2012 in Pictures (3)

January 19:  On my way back to my dorm, I watched a hawk try and catch a squirrel (to eat).  Couldn't get my camera out in time to take a picture of that, but here is the hawk up in a tree.

January 20:  My desk calendar in lab!

January 21:  I got the first parking space in the lot!  Small victories...

January 22:  I made pound cake.  It was FANTASTIC.  And it cooked in a reasonable amount of time!

January 23:  SNOW!!!

January 24:  There was this cool icicle hanging out of a gutter on the overpass.

January 25:  The Brett Hall oven got even fancier with the addition of a light and a fan!

January 26:  I got a "top secret" package from ExpoTV with a new Herbal Essences product to sample.  I love it...but I still can't say what it is!

January 27:  My first package from Swaggable!  Did I mention that I love getting things for free?  ;-)

January 28:  Alumni day at pep band.  We filled up three rows of trumpets!

January 29:  A photo for an auction I listed on Listia...I needed more points to get some hair stuff (barrettes, hats, etc.) that I've been eying.

January 30:  I cooked myself a delicious dinner using the new and improved Brett kitchen.  I made spiced turkey tenderloins with spaghetti and spinach.  It was delicious!

January 31:  The BzzKits for two new Bzz Campaigns I'm in- Dunkin' Donuts and Ristorante Pizza.  (Blog posts are forthcoming for both of these.)

02 February 2012

Freebie Sites #1: BzzAgent

I tried to do a series like this last year and I failed miserably at it after the second week (oops!), but I am going to attempt (again) to write a series of posts on websites that send out free products to consumers.  The sites are all different in their goals for sending out products, so it's important to learn about each site before deciding whether to join and participate.  I will highlight a different site each Thursday!

The first site that I'd like to highlight is BzzAgent.  You may recognize this name from a number of other posts on my blog.  I've been a member of BzzAgent for about a year and 9 months, and it's been fantastic!  Before I tell you about my experience as a BzzAgent, though, here is some information about what the company's purpose is.

BzzAgent is a Word of Mouth (WOM) marketing site.  What this means is that in exchange for providing free products, the recipient is then expected to spread the word about the product to family and friends.  You are not expected to provide a positive review- just an honest one, whether you liked the product or not.  Companies (such as L'Oreal, Maybelline, Dunkin' Donuts, and Orbit) hire BzzAgent to start this WOM marketing process for them.  BzzAgent works with the company to target a certain demographic whom they think are the prime users of the product.  Then, people who fit this demographic are offered a Campaign- meaning, they are given the opportunity to request a sample of the product as well as either coupons or samples to pass along to others who they think may be interested in trying out the product.  In exchange for this, BzzAgent asks that people report back how they spread "bzz" about the product.  On the website, you submit a report detailing who you talked to, what you said, and how they reacted.  It really is not much to do in exchange for receiving free products!  In addition to that, you can create bzz through Facebook, Twitter, and blogging.

My experience with BzzAgent has only been fantastic!  Over the past year and a half plus, I've participated in 17 campaigns, 6 of which have been online/digital products or services, and 11 of which have been for physical products.  Though it's certainly fun to get "real" items in the mail, the online campaings have been fun too!  I love talking about all the things I get for free and getting friends and family to try the products out with me.  Even after Campaigns have ended, I still find myself bzzing about certain products.  In particular, I still talk about the Maybelline Baby Lips lip balm and the Amazon Kindle Keyboard that I got from BzzAgent!  (Check out my Kindle reviews here and here.)

If you love spreading the word about new products, then BzzAgent might be for you!  Check out the site for yourself!  If you join, make sure to fill out the surveys available to you.  Then, sit back and wait patiently (difficult, I know!) for a Campaign invite, which will be sent to you by e-mail.  hszIt could take months for this to happen, but trust me- it's worth the wait.)  If the product or service looks interesting to you, accept the Campaing offer and then get bzzing away!

Are you a member of BzzAgent?  What do you think of it?

FTC Disclaimer:  I am a member of BzzAgent.  However, I was not asked to write this post, and all opinions expressed are my own.
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