Escape From Reality…Or How I Could Live in my Couch

This post was sponsored by Starbucks as part of an Influencer Activation. I received compensation and complimentary products to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own. No one paid me to say nice things.

I’ve never loved a piece of furniture as much as I love this couch. It’s a three-piece set that I sat on in the furniture store and couldn’t leave without. Before entering the Art Van, Brian gave me full decision-making power in this purchase, as his choice, when we moved into our apartment four years ago, was not my favorite place to sit. That power, though, didn’t stop him from making me walk through the entire store looking for a smaller, less expensive piece of furniture. The only couch I loved more than this couch, was a designer sofa that came with pink and teal pillows and pretty much matched my entire life.

Cozy Pink and Teal Couch

I don’t think Brian’s quite as on board with our pink and teal life…

The price tag ($6700) made me cry, and it made Brian think much more fondly of the cozy, snuggle-blanket soft couch full of neutral tones and pillows for days that came with a much more reasonable expense.

An hour or two later, we left with a delivery date and the happiest Chrissy that’s ever been. Three months later, I’m still in heaven. The couch was a little too big for one room, so we were able to split it up and create two cozy seating spaces that make me swoon.

I love my couch so much

This is my Netflix corner.

With all the rain we’ve been having here in Chicago, my couch has been home to some serious snuggly nights and afternoons spent watching Netflix, reading books, snacking, and cracking jokes with Brian. But even when we’re tucked away in the most amazing couch ever, we like to embrace the world around us and explore new experiences. I thought I’d hook you up with a couple Chrissy-style pointers to make the most out of those rainy afternoons “stuck” inside and use your imagination to travel to faraway places.

 

Read books

If you’re looking for a change of pace from your regular Netflix binge session, pick up your Kindle/Nook/Hardcopy and devour nourishment for your soul. Travel to new places, meet interesting people, and solve crimes on your cozy couch. I just finished reading Famished, a terrifying rollercoaster of a suspense by Meghan O’Flynn.

Plan a trip

With the wedding coming up quickly, Brian and I are starting to plan our honeymoon. I’m pushing for an international trip, and we keep tossing around a variety of ideas. But the magic in planning and imagining our possibilities and options is what really excites me. I get almost as much enjoyment in the planning as I do in taking the actual trip.

Explore exotic flavors

Sure, it may be summer, but the A/C is cranking, and there’s nothing like a mug full of warm, delicious comfort. Since receiving a box of the NEW TAZO® Chai Latte K-Cup® pods, I’ve been indulging in the creamy delicious black tea and milk chock full of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and vanilla for a sweet and spicy mix that I can only describe as magical. I’ve loved chai lattes since discovering it during my days as a catering manager, and I’m thrilled to be able to make it at home in my Keurig®, now.  I’ve been pairing it with one of my new favorite cheeses, a goat gouda called L’Amuse Brabander, and it’s utterly delightful.

Curl up on the couch with tea

For 5,000 years, chai tea has been an essential aspect of Indian heritage, and because of that, TAZO is working with New York Times Bestselling author and host Padma Lakshmi (who I adore) to celebrate the release of the new K-Cup® pods.

You can learn more about Padma and the new tea at TAZO.com/chai.

Of course, if you’re looking for a few recipes from Padma that pair perfectly with a cup of chai, visit TAZO.com/chai/pairings.

Want to try this magical bevvie for yourself? Look for TAZO® Chai Latte K-Cup® pods at TAZO.com/wheretobuy.

 TAZO Chai Latte

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 How do you escape when you’re stuck inside during the rainiest days?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Adventures in Babybel Eating

Just like my hero, Chris, in Adventures in Babysitting,  I live in the suburbs of Chicago, and occasionally, I have little hometown adventures. Whenever Brian and I get lost, or take the long way around, we call it an adventure.

I have yet to meet Thor or get stabbed on the El, but not for a lack of trying. I have, on the other hand, been beaten up by a no-parking sign, tripped by an invisible wire, and almost killed by falling ice daggers.

My life here in Chicago is full of adventure. And you know I’m like a gremlin and have all these rules of care…like how I need to be fed at regular intervals.

My daily adventure starts with a commuter train ride.

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A snack pack can be a lifesaver this early in the morning.

I venture from suburbia into the city every day for the job. When you’re hundgry, it’s a long 45-mimite ride. But little snack packs like my favorite on-the-go cheese, Babybel, make the trip tolerable.

Sometimes, if I have time, I’ll even slice it and melt it on some bread in the toaster oven before I head out of the house.

On occasion, after work, Brian and I (or just I) will journey on an adventure after work. We might go out for dinner, do some touristy nonsense, or we may head to a movie.

As we roam through the city, we’ll take a cab or the El (cabs are faster and easier most of the time). I’m a big fan of cab selfies, and they’re even better when I have a snack.

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Once we get to our theater destination,  I’m ready to put out my buffet of treats to enjoy delicious snacking. This is why large bags are important. So you can bring enough snack packs to share with your people before you kick your feet up.

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The best movie theater snack packs include a beverage,  something sweet,  savory, and crunchy.

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When I went to see Captain America, I brought bottled water, a candy bar from Dylan’s, a selection of Babybel, and pretzel thins to give me a little crunch. And I was happy.

As I made my way home, I napped on the train, dreaming of more cheese.

What are your favorite movie theater snacks? Do you bring your own snack packs into the theater?

Babybel sent me free samples and some things to make my adventures more fun, but as always, these opinions and thoughts are mine, and mine alone. I eat a lot of Babybel, because I’m always running around town.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

How to Bake the Perfect Cookies

It’s National Cookie Day, you guys. Do you know what that means? Fresh-baked, melty-chocolatey, delicious cookies should get in your belly. Immediately.

This post is sponsored by the fine people at Otis Spunkmeyer, several of whom I met a few weeks ago in Chicago while sampling their delicious snacks. As always, these opinions, ideas, and word babies are all mine. 

We hung out with some giant cookies at the Otis Spunkmeyer Sneak Peak last month.

This is my new blogging bestie Anna from Anna Dishes. If you like food or flowery things, she’s your girl. She’s also DEFINITELY one of my soulies, as we bonded over a lot of food and booze AND she let me stalk her the entire time she was here in Chicago. You’ll note she looks adorable while I don’t have a normal bone in my body. 

I love cookies. I’ve always been something of a cookie monster. C is for Chrissy. And cookie. Coincidence? I think not. I was raised to love cookies. I blame my dad. And grandfathers. They were all cookie monsters too. Well, my dad still is. One of his favorite gifts on birthdays and Christmas (a bottle of Courvoisier, wine, or scotch notwithstanding) is cookies.

When I was in high school, there was a little cookie stand down in the basement by the Driver’s Ed simulator hosted by Otis Spunkmeyer (you remember Otis Spunkmeyer for their amazing cookies, probably in high school or college, right?) One of the teachers – I think he was a teacher – would be there every morning 20 minutes before school started through 2nd period, selling cookies. I think it was like 3 for a dollar or something.

Whenever I had time and an extra dollar, I’d mosey on down and order a triple chocolate chip cookie (chocolate cookie with milk and white chips), white chocolate macadamia nut cookie, and oatmeal raisin. And then I’d eat them in all their melty, fresh-baked glory. I’ve always wished I could make delicious cookies like that.

Alas, it’s been many a years of baking…errors. If you haven’t noticed from previous recipes, I’m terrible at following recipes to a T, which is something you need to do with baking. If you don’t get just the right amount of butter, baking powder, baking soda (don’t even get me started on knowing the differences!), eggs etc…you’re doomed to failure. Just last week, I completely burned the Second Thanksgiving pumpkin cupcakes…More on what I did with that later…

I’ve made some pretty UNPRETTY cookies in my time. Flat cookies. Burnt cookies. Undercooked cookies (okay fine. Those were cookie dough balls and I ate them all). BUT…I’ve discovered the secret to perfectly baked cookies every time.

How to bake the perfect cookies

To make the best cookies, it’s a four step process.

First, you remove the cookies from their wrappers. These Otis Spunkmeyer treats (which will be available in a grocery store near you starting early next year) are made with no funky stuff, so they taste just like Mom made them (but with so much less mess).

Otis Spunkmeyer cookies come individually wrapped with no funky stuff!

Otis Spunkmeyer cookies come individually wrapped with no funky stuff!

Then, you place the cookie on a pan (I used a toaster-oven-size stone baking sheet for added crisposity).

Baking an Otis Spunkmeyer cookie in the toaster oven is easy. Just pop it in at 350 for 5-7 minutes for a warm gooey cookie.

Don’t mind my messy toaster oven…

Bake the cookie for 5-7 minutes until it’s warm to touch and the chocolate starts getting a little melty (wait too long and it’ll be super messy, but probably super delicious).

Otis Spunkmeyer cookies have the perfect cookie craters and delicious chunks of chocolate for a fresh cookie with no funky stuff.

That chocolate chunk is just starting to melt…

The secret to the best fresh-baked cookies on the planet. Click To Tweet
Look at that Otis Spunkmeyer melty goodness

Look at that Otis Spunkmeyer melty goodness

See how easy it is to celebrate National Cookie Day? That was my breakfast. I’ll probably have another cookie for dinner. And maybe one for lunch. Brian usually discourages this sort of behavior…but he’s not the boss of me!

Extra details on the Otis Spunkmeyer retail line of products: So much goodness is coming your way, you guys. They’re launching snack cakes, muffins, mini muffins, and of course, cookies. They’ll be in stores and on Amazon Prime Pantry so you can get your fill of deliciousness whenever you want it. And let me tell you. I tried them all, and you will not want to miss out (especially on the lemon cakes).

What are your favorite cookies? Do you have any cookie memories of Otis Spunkmeyer? Are you as excited for this product launch as I am?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Because I Need to Take Care of Myself

I’ve been thinking about self-care a lot lately. I haven’t been taking proper care of myself. Brian likes to joke that he feels responsible for making sure I’m well cared for, and I joke that it’s because my parents gave up that responsibility when he walked into my life. In reality, I need to make sure that I’m doing everything in my power to actually take care of my mind and body. Because when one part of me isn’t working right, the rest follows suit.

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Influence-Central for Massage Envy. I received compensation as a thank you for creating this content. As usual, the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs expressed in this post are wholly my own.

With the last week and a half off work, I’ve been focusing more on me and what I need. As a gregarious lady, I need vastly different things in my life than my introverted boyfriend. I’m at my happiest when I’m surrounded by people that make me smile, laugh, love or some combination of the three in a comfortable setting. Basically, I consider myself to be an introverted extrovert so I want to be in a place I know and feel welcome, but I recharge through the energy of people. In short – Party at my house, people!

Just kidding. Sort of. Self-maintenance, for me, involves a combination of activities that allow my physical and emotional well-being to thrive. This is how I do:

In your busy life, you need to make sure you're taking time for yourself. Try one of these 5 ways to promote self-care in your own life.

Yoga – physical and emotional

My practice is a safe space to meditate, relax, and breath. Not only does it help me move my body physically and stretch muscles to encourage activity without injury (well…I try anyways), but it also calms my thoughts, minimizes my anxiety and makes me a more positive person. I need yoga in my life. It gives me confidence, strength, peace. It gives me a sense of control. This is something I’ve been missing for a few months, since returning to my normal from my back injury, and I know I need to regain my yoga time. I’m starting back up again, and can’t tell you how excited I am to do so.

Yoga is part of my self-care routine.

Writing – emotional

Who needs a therapist when you can write all your crazy out in a story or blog post? When I’m anxious or depressed or just can’t seem to sleep, writing is my go-to version of insta-therapy. I can sit down with a notebook or in front of a computer screen and pour my heart out through words. In my previous role, I was writing so much dull marketing content, that I was slacking on writing for me, a mistake I won’t be making again.

Writing and painting my nails are both therapeutic exercises for me

Writing and painting my nails are both therapeutic exercises for me, which leads me to the next part of my self-care

Painting my nails – emotional and physical

Yeah, yeah…I know what you’re thinking. Chrissy, that can’t possibly be part of your self-care routine. And yet, here it is. When I can occupy my mind doing something that requires physical concentration, I can often think better, focus more thoroughly, and listen more intently. I paint my nails when I’m binge watching TV or having a conversation with Brian, because I’m more apt to pay attention without distraction. Also, when my nails look nice, I feel better about myself. It’s something I can pride myself in, and I take that as a necessary part of caring for myself and my body.

Socialization – emotional

While I can’t get behind the idea of forced socialization (something that happens when you feel obligated to join a group for a social outing – typically a work or organization obligation when you don’t love your peers), I love being with my people. It is an unfortunate circumstance that some of my writer friends are scattered around the world, but I’m also super lucky to have a lot of fabulous friends right in my backyard.

Just me and a bunch of awesome ginger writers. No big deal

Just me and a bunch of awesome ginger writers. No big deal (except that it’s totally a big deal).

In addition to interacting with my peer groups through parties, dinners, and board gaming, I find myself soaking up the brilliance and silliness in Facebook groups with writers I adore, I attend conferences and meet those writers face to face, and I recently met up with one of my new favorite people to talk, snack, and write.

Massage – physical

Monthly massage is one of the most important things that I do for myself. I’ve been a member of Massage Envy since the summer of 2007 when I was a catering manager who was consistently spraining her ankle and pulling muscles. For a few months, I saw whatever therapists were available, but the day I met Craig, everything changed. He asked if I had a preferred therapist, and I shrugged. His response is burned into my memory, ‘Well, let’s see if we can change that.”

Eight and a half years later, I feel like I’m cheating on Craig when I visit another therapist (which he,  encourages when he’s unavailable). When I hurt my back this summer, I made several extra visits to Massage Envy in addition to my regular monthly massage (sometimes with Craig, who only works Monday through Friday, and sometimes at another location with my secondary therapist who works weekends).

 

Massage is not some fluffy thing I do as a luxury for myself, it’s a necessary part of my Total Body Care.

Because I am active.

Because I spend 8-10 hours a day sitting in front of a computer.

Because I fall down, trip over chains, walk into poles.

Because I hurt myself.

Because I still feel injuries from more than a decade ago whenever the weather changes.

Because I care about my mental and physical health.

Because it makes my body feel healthier.

I am an advocate for taking care of yourself, your body, and your mind.

What is your because moment? What do you do to take care of your emotional and physical well-being? Do you take the time out to get regular massages? What activities do you participate in that make you you?

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

My Mom and Dad are Moving Into the 21st Century

My parents have never really been ones to jump on the technology bandwagon. We didn’t get a home computer until my senior year of high school (and dad referred to it as “The Devil’s Tool”). My parents only have cell phones because I wanted to be able to get in touch with them – so I signed ’em both up on my plan and got them phones. Mom still loves her VHS tapes, and dad swears by his flip phone. Until a few weeks ago, they were perfectly content with their ancient tube TV living inside the entertainment center my dad and I built together when I was about eleven. It was time for a change.

They upgraded to some fancy pants smart TV, not unlike the amazing 43″ Sharp Roku TV that Netflix so very generously provided to me for all the hard work (and by hard work, I mean TV watching) I do for them as part of the Stream Team.

my parents got a new TV, so I thought I'd teach them about Netflix

If you’re not following quirkychrissy on Snapchat, you’re missing out on doodles, people watching and more.

My brother and I convinced our parents to stop paying for premium cable and instead sign up for Netflix where they can watch movies and TV (including some Netflix originals that you can’t watch anywhere else such as House of Cards, which Mama Bear is dying to watch).

So I though I’d share with you the shows and movies I think my parents are really going to enjoy, separately and together.

My parents just got a smart TV. I thought I'd give them a headstart in the wonderful world of Netflix.Netflix for Mom

She loves reality TV, a good drama without too much violence, solid sitcoms, and nostalgic movies.

  • She’s excited to watch House of Cards, though I think she might be surprised by some of the violence (although I guess not after reading this). Even so, that first season is wicked smart. And Robin Wright’s and Kevin Spacey’s performances are killer.
  • Chef’s Table is likely to be a hit with Mom, as she loves watching cooking shows and chefs at work.
  • Friends was always one of Mom’s favorite shows. So I think she’ll enjoy a commercial-free binge watch.

Netflix for Dad

He loves war movies, sci-fi, strong dramas, John Wayne, and musicals.

  • Men in Black II hits the sci-fi nerve that Dad loves. Plus he’s probably seen it so many times, he can have a cat nap while watching.
  • Coyote Ugly is chock full of romance and country music, which Dad loves and Mom despises (the music not the romance). I recommend he watch this when she’s at poker night.
  • The Walking Dead is likely to be entertaining for dad, for at least the forst couple of seasons. I suspect like Brian and I, he’ll get bored with the plot midway through the series and stop watching.

Netflix for my Parents

They share a love of romantic and laugh-out-loud comedies, adventure and disaster movies and TV, and animated classics.

  • Adams Family Values is one of their absolute favorites. My bestie, Lily and I just watched the original Adams Family movie last month and it was just as fantastic as it was when I was a kid, but this one is pure gold for Mom and Dad.
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is my favorite Netflix original to date. (Fuller House hasn’t started yet, but I’ve got some seriously high expectations for it). I think both my parents will love the cast and the story, particularly Titus Andromedon.
  • The Walt Disney short films collection is sure to be a hit. Mom will appreciate the brevity, and they’ll both love some of these amazing shorts. When watching Feast, there won’t be a dry eye in the room, but it’ll be worth every second.

Well, Mom and Dad, Welcome to the 21st century. I hope you love Netflix as much as we do! Cheers to a winter full of binge TV! Might I suggest a bottle of wine and a big ‘ole tub of cheese balls?

When your parents get their first smart TV, these shows may just make them addicted to Netflix. Click To Tweet

What Netflix shows do you recommend? We’re always looking for more recommendations, especially with hibernation season right around the corner.

Netflix Stream Team

This is a sponsored post for Netflix. I received a year’s subscription and a device on which to binge watch TV shows and movies in return for these monthly posts.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Karma Chameleon

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of AmazingKarma.com. All opinions are 100% mine.

I believe in karma.

Growing up, my mom would always tell me, “What goes around, comes around.” I try incredibly hard to adhere to that standard and treat others as I wish to be treated. As a general rule, I want to be treated with respect, love and understanding…and I want to show people how to enjoy life the way I enjoy life.

7 Easy Ways to Boost Your Karma

7 Ways to Boost Your Karma – Quirky Chrissy Style

  • Feed people when they come to your home; it’s best to give them something with cheese in it.
  • Wear brightly colored pants to give passersby something to talk about.
  • Ask if someone is okay when they fall down before laughing.
  • Make your public conversations as interesting as possible for people listening to what you say.
  • Fall down to make others laugh, especially if they’ve recently fallen down.
  • Bring shareable snacks to work.
  • Send adorable pictures of animals, babies and memes to make someone smile.

So basically, feed people and make them laugh = karma win.

In all seriousness, guys, I do actually try to do my part in this world in real, tangible ways. BUT…when I do something others might consider charity, I’ve recently been trying to keep that to myself because I don’t want to brag about it. I know in my heart that I’ve done something nice for someone else, and that’s all I need.

Of course, you know how I love games…and when I discovered Amazing Karma had turned the idea of “What goes around, comes around” into a game, I was intrigued. I started looking into this idea and thought it was a fun way to acknowledge people who do amazing things for you with the green karma cards. (And when people aren’t super awesome, you can acknowledge their negative karma with the red karma cards). Obviously, I jumped on the bandwagon and ordered a set of these cards, and I’m looking forward to sharing them in November.

Right now, Amazing Karma Gives away 200K Free Karma Cards so you can play the game of karma and watch as your karma is passed around to others and registered on the site. As people register and pass karma around, you earn points to donate money to a charity of your choice.

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Do you believe in Karma? What are some things you do to boost your karma in the world?

Visit Sponsors Site

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

7 Things to watch on Netflix to get you Excited for Halloween

It’s almost October, and my Halloween excitement is growing. I’ve started pumping myself up with movies and TV shows that either scare me or get me thinking about Halloween. Now that it’s practically October 1, I feel as though I can totally start going Halloweenie on you and not just Brian (who may be distressed that Halloween threw up all over our front room).

my Halloween skull collection
Do you like my Halloween skull collection?

Last weekend, one of my best friends was in town and we watched The Adams Family on Netflix to get some ideas flowing for Halloween decor, creepy snacks and an overall ambiance of spooky goodness (with a big heaping side of laughter). Other than pointing out my need for an organ and a tall creepy guy named Lurch to wield it and the distinct possibility that I could be Cousin It for Halloween, we didn’t really gather any useful information…but we did laugh like it was 1994. I forgot how funny it was!

In this vein, I thought it would be fun to share with you my top Halloween movies streaming on Netflix to watch next month to keep you in the Halloween mood all season long!

7 Things to watch on Netflix to get you excited for HalloweenA Nightmare on Elm Street

The original Wes Craven Nightmare, Freddie Krueger haunted my dreams from a young age when I used to watch horror movies with my best friend at her grandparents’ house. We’d order a Little Caesars pepperoni pizza and curl up on a couch, waiting for Freddy to get us…Did I mention her grandpa’s Freddy Krueger costume?

Pet Cemetery

What’s a Halloween movie list without a little Stephen King to rev you up? This creepy flick about animals that come back to life still terrifies me…but not as much as it scared the crap out of a girl I used to babysit. I babysat her and her toddler cousin, who happened to look just like Gage…And so  I may have been just twisted enough to teach him to tell her, “I played with Chrissy and I played with mommy. And now I want to play with you.” She was terrified (probably because I let her watch Pet Cemetery in the first place).

The Nightmare Before Christmas

You guys know how I feel about this movie. I made a Sally Halloween costume, I’ve painted my nails to match Sally Skellington’s dress…it’s kind of an obsession. We watch this two to three times a year – Halloween, Christmas, and somewhere in the middle when we’re missing the Halloween Christmas joy.

The Walking Dead

If you’ve never seen The Walking Dead, my recommendation is to watch the first season DEFINITELY, and possibly the second season…and then just pretend the rest of the show never happened. It’s better that way. I promise.

Teeth

If you want to watch something truly horrifyingly bad, might I suggest Teeth. This movie is about a vagina with teeth. That’s all I really need to say. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, you’re probably better off.

Saw

Remember when I wrote an apology to Cary Elwes? I still love him, even in this twisted movie. After watching this in college, I left my friend’s apartment and turned every light on and opened every closet door. Just in case.

Scream

I figured it would be best to honor Wes Craven by bringing it back around to him. Less scary, and more aware of its own genre, this movie is ripe with clever lines and fun plot twists. In high school,  this was a super quotable flick that we watched over and over.

If none of these flicks tickle your interest, you can always watch one of my favorite bad horror movies Playing on Netflix like Big Ass Spider or The Leprechaun.

What gets you excited for Halloween? Do you have any go-to movies or TV shows to get you in the mood?

I’m a member of the Netflix Stream Team. While I wasn’t paid to write nice things about Netflix, I did receive a gift subscription and a device on which to watch my favorite shows.

Netflix Stream Team

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Freedom!

If you imagined pre-crazy Mel Gibson, half naked and about to be decapitated? Well played.

Now let’s talk about something a little more serious.

You are being watched.

You are being watched

Is that creepy? Because I think so. Everything you do. Everything you watch. Every website you visit. Every word you type is tracked. Sure the government may be reading your email. The NSA maybe be tracking your Skype chats. Homeland Security might even be keeping tabs on your shit. (I watch a lot of Person of Interest, and so I’m all engrossed in the world of government agencies spying on everything we do and say. Those red light cameras weren’t put up to ticket us, homies – more on that another time.)

But even creepier is that there are corporations out there. Watching you. Websites and internet spies watching your every move, ready and willing to send your information to the highest bidder. Do you check the permissions before you download an app to your devices? There’s a reason I don’t use the Facebook app or the Twitter app. I use browsers. Because if the apps are on your phone, they have access to your internet connection. Your personal information. Your user history. Your contacts. Everything.

Facebook

Basically, everyone’s trying to put a price on your information. But you can protect yourself, at least a little bit. I never download an app without looking at the permissions that it’s requesting. If I’m downloading a photo editing app, I check the permissions to see what it “needs,” because it probably doesn’t NEED much. In addition to checking permissions, I’ve been running F-Secure Freedome on my devices. This handy protective app blocks websites that could be tracking my information. It checks out my apps when I download them. It blocks tracking attempts. It basically protects me from myself and those “harmful” websites I visit.

Screenshot_2015-03-02-11-23-30When a site is harmful, F-Secure says NO. Bad. Don’t go to that site. Which happened when I went to check out a site that sent me referral traffic on my blog. I was appreciative. Screenshot_2015-02-28-06-40-28

It’s super easy to use and keeps you secure by encrypting your data on free Wi-Fi networks, keeping your virtual identity anonymous, changing your virtual location so you can’t be tracked, and blocking harmful sites and apps. This video sums it up pretty succinctly:

If you’re interested in trying out F-Secure Freedome for yourself, you can do so (and I’m loving it) by visiting Freedome VIP. I even have a special code for my readers so you can try it out for free for 90 days: qsf257

After the trial, the annual subscription is only $16.99, and the monthly subscription is $1.99. I spend more than that on a single nail polish. And it makes me feel better about being on the internet all the time.

As an added bonus, if you try F-Secure Freedome, you’ll have the chance to win an iPad mini and a free year of F-Secure Freedome to keep your privacy safe on your new device. You can enter via the Giveaway tool below.

Blog Friends, what do you do to protect your privacy online? Do you use any apps or tools to keep yourself anonymous? Are you going to try Freedome?

This post was sponsored by F-Secure. I received compensation and a free trial for Freedome to tell you about my experience. As always, I only work with brands and products that I wholeheartedly support.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Meet the McSmoky Triple Cheese Burger – My McDonald’s Create Your Taste

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to take my pal Cletus over to a McDonald’s near-ish me in Downers Grove. We used to live in Downers Grove, so this was near and dear to me. They closed the McDonald’s that I knew and loved, and opened a new one a mile down the road. And this new McD’s was special.

KioskThe first of its kind in Illinois, the Create Your Taste menu offers a build-your-own burger feature. When Cletus and I walked into the McD’s we were greeted by one of the many helpful team members, who showed us how to operate the order menu screen.

Building my own sammy in DG at @Mcdonalds #MyPerfectSandwich ##McDPtr

A video posted by Quirky Chrissy (@quirkychrissy) on

With so many menu options to choose from, I could make whatever burger I wanted.

And I wanted all the cheese.

The menu boasts three different cheese options including a pepper jack, white cheddar and the traditional American.

Now, I’m not a big fan of American cheese in a lot of circumstances, but there are some food stuffs that are classic and nostalgic and exactly what  I want…and a cheese burger with American cheese is one of them.

Cheese

Of course, I clicked the buttons for all three cheeses on my burger.

How many burger patties? I only need one. I’ve already got cheese, cheese, and cheese.

What type of bun? I want the artisan roll – it’s the most like the original bun.

Add Bacon

Add bacon for a small charge? Yep. Definitely.

What sauce did I want? Oh, I’m thinkin’ the sweet barbeque (which is actually sweet and smoky).

What extras? Let’s go with pickles, lettuce and red onion for the win.

Fries? Oh heck yes.

When it was Cletus’ turn to order, he opted for a specialty build, instead of his own creation.

Build Your BurgerThe Hot All Over had pepper jack cheese and jalapenos, and was an obvious win for Cletus, though he was disappointed that he couldn’t find pineapple on the menu.

Specialty BurgersWhen a team member delivered our food a little less than 10 minutes later, he was SUPER helpful, offering to bring me extra BBQ sauce and ketchup. The fries were OMG served in the CUTEST little fry baskets, making this a serious happy lunch hour for this girl.

Fry basketI may have already eaten half the fries by the time I remembered to take the picture. Don’t hate.

McSmokyAnd of course, the piece de resistance. The McSmoky Triple Cheese Burger. The cheeses melted together in a magical cheesy burger land. The smoky BBQ added a rich flavor and the rest of the ingredients were exactly what I wanted on my burger. Thanks McDonald’s! This was delish.

Create your taste

The giveaway has ended, but I’m still curious…

What burger toppings would you put on your dream burger (and while pineapple is not currently on the menu at McD’s, you’re free to suggest it as a dream burger topping for your sammy Cletus’ orders)?

This post was created in partnership with McDonald’s. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

21 AWESOME Themed Christmas Trees to Decorate Your Home

If you didn’t already know this, I have a Christmas tree problem. I mean…Brian calls it a problem. I think it’s a fun way to celebrate the holidays. Luckily, I’m not alone in my crazy. I certainly didn’t get this way all on my own, and I don’t think Brian’s childhood was completely immune to the idea of a themed Christmas tree – or an overabundance of Christmas in general. But I LOVE themed Christmas trees. I came across an article on Yahoo! DIY that had a variety of unique tree ideas, and it really got me thinking. My people (and Brian’s people) are evil geniuses when it comes to Christmas tree themes. I knew that I had to share the joy. Without further ado, I’d like to present you with my friend-sourcing project for the holidays. Below you’ll find the Christmas trees that we, along with our friends and family, put up for Christmas.

I’ll start with my themed trees. I know that Hallmark isn’t really a “theme” but you know what? I’ve wanted one ever since I saw Katie Kelly’s mom’s Hallmark tree, so you bet your bottom dollar that I planned to have one when I grew up. The family trees pictured belong to myself, my mom, and my aunt (you’ll meet some of their other trees later in this post). Try to guess which one is mine. The bird tree is a tree that I received on my doorstep this year (courtesy of my aunt) with ornaments that belonged to Brian’s mother. It’s my all-time favorite tree. The shoe tree started as a random collection, much like my martini glass collection, and was upgraded from a 3-foot tree to a 4-foot tree last year, and this year has become a full-grown, 6-foot tree. The book tree was upgraded from a 12-inch tree to a 4-foot tree, but she’s got a ways to go before she’ll grow up any further.

Hallmark Ornament Tree

Hallmark Ornament Tree

Heirloom/Family Tree

Heirloom Trees

Bird Tree

Bird tree

Shoe Tree

2014-12-21 21.24.01

Book Tree

Book tree

Chicago Bears Tree

Comic Strips from Christmas past

Comic strips from Christmas past

My mom has her family ornaments strewn out on two separate trees in the family room and the living room/front room. She also has a 5-foot tinsel tree in the front hall. She’s even put lights on a palm tree to remind her of Florida. But the tree that amuses me the most? The Charlie Brown Christmas tree in her family room.

Charlie Brown Tree

Charlie Brown Tree

My aunt, who is one of the most Christmas-loving people I know and the very lovely benefactor of one of our many trees, goes all out for Christmas. I can only hope to have the time and energy to fill my home with as much Christmas joy as she does. The next several trees were all her creations, and I have to admit I’m completely jealous of all of them. I’m working toward a Grinch tree for Brian. My aunt does that one for my cousin who doesn’t seem to love Christmas as much as she and I do.

Grinch Tree

Grinch Tree

Sports Tree

Sports themed Christmas tree

Vintage Tree

 Vintage Ornament Christmas Tree 2

Flocked Santa Tree

Mr and Mrs Flocked Santas

Handmade Ornament Tree

Handmade Ornament Tree

Angel Tree

Angel Tree

Vintage Bone China Tree

Martha Stewart Tree with Vintage Bone China Ornaments

My mom’s best friend who is basically my second mom, has a vast collection of Barbie ornaments from Hallmark. When I was a child, I received many of these from her for Christmas, so I could very well have my own Barbie tree also. Right now, those ornaments live on my Hallmark tree. She has a beautiful pink tree loaded with Barbie, and oh boy is it beautiful!

Pink Barbie Tree

Pink Barbie Tree

One of Brian’s cousins sent me pictures of her stunning Disney-themed Christmas tree as well as her Disney advent calendar tree and S’mores-themed tree (Hey Joules! Lookout!). The Disney tree has 550 ornaments and 2000 LED lights to set a magical atmosphere that makes me wish I was in Lake Buena Vista. I am actually hoping to have a Mickey Mouse Christmas tree one year, and possibly a Disney princess or Disney villain tree as well. So this Disney tree is pretty much amazing. The Disney Advent Calendar tree would fit right in with the advent calendars article I read on Yahoo! DIY , as you can find each day of advent on the tree! The marshmallow tree has S’mores branded ornaments with little S’mores marshmallow men.

Disney Tree

Disney Tree (2)

Disney Advent Tree

 Disney Advent TreeMarshmallow S’mores Tree

Smores tree

My darling best friend on the planet, Katie (of Words for Words fame), with her darling penguin obsession has (obviously) a penguin tree. Which is so full to the brim with penguin ornaments that I stopped buying her penguin ornaments. And occasionally I will buy her penguin-y things…and keep them for myself. Because she has plenty of penguins. And everyone needs a tuxedo bird pal.

Penguin Tree

 Penguin tree

Another friend of ours, Kelly (who also sells amazing soap on Etsy), has a tree that she is absolutely in love with (and I certainly can’t blame her). This stunning peacock tree stands out in her home with teal, green, and blue feathers, magical sparkly ornaments and lots of help from her adorable tiny humans. This tree reminds of our bird tree, only with more sparkles and purples. I’m a huge fan.

Peacock Tree

Peacock Tree

And last, but certainly not least, my friend Joules, over at Pocketful of Joules, has her own really amazing tree that makes me super jealous I didn’t think of it first. She has a Wizard of Oz tree with all the fabulous characters from the beloved movie. With almost twenty-five ornaments, in an ornament collection/obsession that begun with gifts from her grandparents, this tree oozes of delicious joy.

Wizard of Oz Tree

Wizard of Oz Tree

Blog Friends, do you put up a themed Christmas tree? Do you celebrate Christmas? If you DID put up a themed tree, what would you WANT it to be?  Have you been following #YahooDIY for ideas and other fun goodies?

Thank you Yahoo! for sponsoring this post. While this was a sponsored opportunity from Yahoo!, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!