Posted in Contest, My Life, Review

The ‘It’s In The Bag’ Giveaway

Congratulations to Annie Duncan who won the Large Utility Tote and to Maureen Tenney who won the Mini Utility Bin.

Thank you to everyone who participated in my giveway by visiting and commenting on my blog,  placing orders and helping to spead the word.

The first time my friend Dana approached me with her Thirty-One catalog, I shoo’d her away as I heard Gil’s voice in my head saying, “you don’t need ANOTHER bag”.  I knew his voice was right so I didn’t even look at the shiny pages of bag lady essentials. The second time she showed up in my doorway with the catalog, I decided it couldn’t hurt to just look and very soon I had selected a couple of items that I actually needed and placed my first order. I knew this would keep Gil’s voice quiet since I wasn’t actually ordering a ‘bag’.  Here are my thoughts on those first two purchases.

I always have a hard time finding a wallet that suits me so I thought I would give Thirty-One’s Soft Wallet ($22) a try. This wallet has an exterior zippered pocket for coins, 11 cards slots , and four more slots for bills or other items.

Soft Wallet

I love how expandable this wallet is. I tend to be very disorganized with my cards and receipts because I just shove them into any space I can. That’s what makes this wallet perfect for me. I can literally have an inch of receipts, cards, notes, etc., and because of the cloth material, it still zips up. I used my cell phone to demonstrate that you could even use this as a casual clutch in a pinch.

Soft Wallet – this really expands

The second item I selected was the Flat Iron Case ($22).

Flat Iron Case
Flat Iron Case – inside thermal lining

THIS has been a life saver several times. This case has a silver thermal lining that protects everything in my suitcase when I need to pack my flat iron while it’s still hot. And this happens a lot since my hair is the last thing I do when getting ready every day. I highly recommend this item if you travel with your flat iron.

So, I guess it goes without saying that the next time my friend came around with a catalog, I didn’t hesitate to see what other things I “needed.” And here they are.

Thermal Tote

This Thermal Tote ($18) has become my go-to lunch and cooler bag. Since I’ve been on Weight Watchers, the amount of food I take for lunch has actually increased. I find that I carry several containers of veggies, fruits, and healthful snacks so that I don’t allow myself to get hungry during the day. This bag has been great and it really is the perfect size.

Thermal Tote
Yes, all of this stuff did fit into the zipped up bag.

The thermal lining does keep food and drinks cool, especially if you toss in a chill pack. We made the mistake of adding ice on one outing to the soccer park and quickly found that the bag is not leak proof nor water resistant. In all fairness to Thirty-One, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t claim to be. I just wanted to share this info in case you might want one to use as an actual cooler. You may want to look at other options.

I blame the Organizing Utility Tote ($30) for turning me into a crazy bag lady. Because of this tote, I now feel I cannot live without my stuff within reach.

Organizing Utility Tote

I have used this bag as my road trip bag, filled with magazines, cameras, snacks, wipes, books, and a first aid kit. I used it for a time or two to take to our growth group/bible study. It was ideal for tossing my cell phone in a side pocket, along with some pens and highlighters. Then I just threw in my book, study guide, note cards, and notebooks. However, I’ve pretty much permanently ordained it as my ‘soccer mom’ bag.  The outside pockets are great for wipes, sunscreen, and bug spray. The inside is big enough I can toss in a magazine, a book, cameras, and other miscellaneous items. I usually leave room for my step-son’s portable electronic devices and I always include a first aid kit. I also try to keep it stocked with snack bars and gum or candy. It really is the perfect size for a day at the ball park.

The final item I ?needed” in this shopping splurge was a very special item. I fell in love with the Double Zip Cosmetic Bag (Hostess Exclusive $25). I was really disappointed when I realized I couldn’t get this since I wasn’t hosting an event. However, my dear friend Dana allowed me to get it as one of her hostess items. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever own another travel bag.

I can fit all of my bathroom and cosmetic necessities in this one bag. I’m talking a full size shampoo, body wash and lotion, deodorant, and a12 oz. bottle of saline solution. Of course, I was also able to fit all of my cosmetics and hair care products. Oh yeah, and one last small clear bag to hold any nail polish or remover I keep for emergencies.

Alright, that’s my stash and why I love each and every one of the Thirty-One products I own. I guess it’s pretty obvious that I have a borderline obsession going on here. I love these products and I love to share things I love with you. To make that happen, my dear friend and Thirty-One Consultant, Michelle Scott, has set up an online party for us. Aren’t you excited?!? I know I am. Now, who wants to go shopping? My party will be live thru May 30th so get your orders in before then.

To view my online party and catalog, just click here.

Once you get to the site, click on Shop Now to get started. While you are looking around the site, be sure you check out the monthly special.

All-In-One Organizer
May Special

For May, this is the All-In-One Organizer. This tote sells for $20 in the catalog, but you can get it for only $5 when you spend $31 this month. As a matter of fact, for every $31 you spend, you can get one of these great deals for $5. This organizer bag measures 8”Hx12”Wx6.5”D and has two external mesh pockets on the end. This one has 7 different print options and can be personalized. I haven’t used mine yet but I’m seeing all kinds of uses for this little gem. The price will be automatically adjusted during the order process if you qualify for this sale.

Also note that when you place an order, you can chose to have your item shipped to me or have it shipped directly to you. Since this party is open to readers, friends and family around the country, I would ask that you select to have it shipped direct to you. If you are local (Tampa Bay), please select either option you prefer. I’ll deliver the bags as soon as I receive them.

The Giveaway

Now, let’s talk about the freebies. Michelle has graciously donated an incredible tote for me to use as a Giveaway to one of my lucky readers. The bag is the Large Utility Tote and it sells for $35 in the catalog. And let me tell you, when they say large, they are not exaggerating at all. This tote can hold a lot of stuff. Check this out.

All of this stuff….
…fit in THIS bag.
Large Utility Tote – Buy it or WIN it

Don’t you just love the Black Happy Dot print?

This oversized tote measures 11.15”Hx21.5”Wx 10”D and has two very sturdy cloth handles and a rim that keeps the bag open. It’s extra nice because when not in use, it easily collapses down for easy storage. This tote can be personalized and comes in 15 different print and color choices. This tote would be great for trips to Sam’s or to use as a ‘trunk’ space in your SUV.  Please note that I only removed this bag from the plastic long enough to take a few photos. As soon as I was finished with the pictures, I wrapped it right back up.

If you would like a chance to win this bag, simply place an order. That’s right, place any size order and I’ll enter your name into a drawing for this bag. It’s that simple.

As a special treat, I’m going to do a little bonus giveaway. I know that not everyone can or even wants to place an order right now, so I don’t want to exclude those readers.  I purchased the Mini Utility Bin ($22 value) about a month ago but have not used it. I opened the plastic wrap and then put it away until I came up with a use for it. I can think of no better use than to reward one of my friends and readers with a chance to win this really cute and functional storage bin. This contest does not require a purchase. To win this bag, all I ask is that you visit my Thirty-One party page and then come back here (on my blog and not on Facebook please) and leave me a comment telling me which bags, totes, accessories, purses, or wallets top your wish list, and how you would use them. I love discovering new ideas and new ways to use these incredible products and I can’t wait to hear your ideas. I’ll enter your name into this contest for one chance to win. (Please note, this bonus giveaway is only for those who do not place an order with me at this time.)

Bonus entries for both contests:

  1. Share this blogpost on Facebook. You’ll get a bonus entry for each share (no more than 1 per day please).  I will need for you to let me know you are sharing so come back here and leave a comment that you’ve done so, or just tag me in your post.
  2. Share this post on Twitter. Be sure to include my Twitter name, @purrfectlee, and I’ll know each time you tweet it out. You will get 1 bonus entry for each tweet and again, no more than 1 per day please.  Suggested tweet: Want to win the organization battle with form AND function? It’s in the bag! #thirtyone #giveaway @purrfectlee
  3. Tell your friends via email or word of mouth about my party and giveaway. Use this shortened URL to get the word out: and then tell me you’ve shared this page in a comment below.
  4. Sign up with Michelle to become a Thirty-One Consultant.
  5. Sign up to host your own Thirty-One party.
The Fine Print
The deadline for entering both contests is May 30th. I will draw a winner on May 31 and notify the winners by email, as well as announcements here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. If you are local to me in the Tampa Bay area, I will personally deliver the prize to you. If not, I will ship it within 5 days via USPS Priority Mail. I’m sorry to my international readers but I’m going to have to limit this contest to those with a US mailing address. The winner will have 48 hours to respond once they’ve been contacted. If the selected winner does not contact me, I will select an alternate.
Disclosure – All of the products I have reviewed are items I have purchased, with the exception of the All-In-One Organizer. This, and the Large Utility Tote were provided free of charge to me for the purpose of reviewing the products and as giveaways to my readers. All opinions are my own.
Posted in Food, My Life, My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge, Post A Week Challenge

258/365 Live and Let Live … or Kill These Suckers Now?

I discovered some caterpillars on my passionflower today. I know what caterpillars do to vegetation and I am not happy about the impending doom of my beloved flowers.

I found the caterpillars because I had been drawn outside with my camera to capture the beautiful butterflies fluttering around my bright pink flowers.

Yes. I know caterpillars become butterflies, but I didn’t exactly connect these dots right away. It wasn’t until I came in and started exploring the Googles with a search on “how to kill orange and black caterpillars” that I started to make the connection.

Did I mention how much I love my passionflower?

Then I started noticing a lot of images of these caterpillars, butterflies and passionflowers together. A few clicks later I came to realize that not only is this butterfly called the Passion Butterfly, or Gulf Fritillary, but my beloved plant is the larval host plant for this species.

So now I’m torn. Do I allow the leaf chomping larvae to completely defoliate my plant in the hopes of reaping the benefits of a backyard filled with the beautiful butterflies?

Well, what do you think? Let them live or save my plant?


Posted in Food, My Life, My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge, Post A Week Challenge

257/365 First Harvest

While my mom was waiting for us to build her raised garden beds, she went ahead and planted seedlings in a few large planters. And she waited. And waited. And, while we struggled to find the time to build her beds (which we did on Mother’s Day), her seedlings producted plants that produced…..FOOD!  Yep, she gathered the first zucchini and eggplant of the season and I couldn’t wait to cook it up.

I had seen several pinned recipes on Pinterest for zucchini chips but none of them were quite what I was looking for. So, I hit up Food Network and found the perfect recipe for Zucchini Parmesan Crisps (Weight Watchers point value = 3).

I started by slicing the zucchini (and eggplant) into 1/4″ rounds. I then drizzled the olive oil over the slices and stirred to coat all the pieces. I then mixed up Kraft Parmesan and bread crumbs with salt and pepper. I didn’t have fresh Parmesan on hand, like the recipe calls for, but I will for the next time. As wonderful as this dish was, I can see where the fresh grated cheese would make it even better.

I then dredged each piece of the cut up veggies in the dry mixture before placing them on the prepared cooking sheets. In the oven they went while I turned my attention to the other dishes.

Several weeks ago my mom and I spent most of a Saturday preparing bags of crock-pot freezer meals (another Pinterest discovery that I still plan to write about). Earlier this afternoon I had placed one of those meals, Hearty Black Bean Soup (Weight Watchers point value = 3), in the crock-pot in preparation for dinner later tonight.  This recipe called for fresh cilantro to be added to the pot about 5 minutes before serving. It just so happened that mom had fresh cilantro growing in one of her container gardens and she gathered up a handful for me. I chopped it up and added it to the crock-pot and started some rice in the rice cooker.

After about thirty minutes, the rice, soup and veggies were ready to eat. And so were we!

Dinner is served.

Posted in My Life

Happy Birthday, Daddy; and Thanks for the Parting Gift

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Today is a big day for me. It would be my daddy’s 67th birthday. It’s been 11 years since I’ve been able to wish him a happy birthday. Well, sort of.

The loss of my father was not unexpected. Years earlier he had battled cancer and won. Unfortunately, the damage the treatment for cancer does to a body is often as devastating as the disease itself. He was left with severe liver damage, and after a hard four year fight, God decided to call him home. I miss him terribly, but I find that I don’t cry much for the loss of my father. When he left us, he gave us one of the greatest gifts we could have ever asked for and I wrote about that earlier this year. Being witness to this amazing event was the greatest gift my father could have ever given me. But, days later, I would find that he had something else in store for me. It was something that would bring me a type of peace that I never expected.

On May 3, 2000, we buried my dad. It was a dreadful kind of day with the realization that I would never see him again. I would never feel his beautiful, caring, nurturing soul near me again. Or would I?

We were all filled with grief as we left the church and headed home. My mom and I got home and went about doing some mindless tasks. I can’t remember what I needed to go outside for, but I stepped out her back door and almost trampled right on top of the tiniest, most adorable kitten ever. Mama Kitty was just sitting there looking at me as if to say, “This is for you”. It took a few minutes to process what I was seeing. I knew the mama kitty because she had been a barn cat that had been around for years, and my parent had told me that she had been pregnant but they had not seen her in weeks. If you know barn cats, you know this is their MO. But, she was back and she apparently had a gift for me.

When I was a little girl, I had lots and lots of pets. Our home was a revolving door for dogs and cats. However, there was one constant cat in my youth and her name was Fuzz Buzz. (Don’t judge me) She was a beautiful long-haired orange and white tabby that purred so loudly you could hear her from across the room. I’ve always had an affinity for these orange beauties, but another never seemed to find its way into my life after Fuzz Buzz. In the years before Daddy died, I had often expressed an interest in getting another orange kitty. However, I’m not sure I ever made that declaration in front of my dad.

Sweet head-butt kisses

Once I processed what was happening, I began to believe this kitten was for me. As a matter of fact, I’m sure of it. I was crying and sad and then this little bundle of fur seemed to take that away. I was no longer focused on the loss of my dad. My focus was entirely on this tiny little kitten. I scooped him up and took him home with me, and that decision changed my life and the way I dealt with the loss of the most important man in my life. For the first few days I called him Papi, but that never seemed right so it soon morphed into Peppy, the Sunshine Kitty.

This furry, four-legged creature has been the one constant in my life for 11 years. He has loved me unconditionally. All it takes is for one teardrop to fall and he comes out of nowhere to lick it away. He has an uncanny ability to recognize when I’m sad and he will climb up on my chest, wrap his paws around my neck and somehow suck that sadness right out of me.  He has removed the hurt from physical and mental ailments. He protects me and calms me. He listens to my thoughts and knows exactly when to head butt me with his special form of kisses. He even lets me sing silly songs like “You Are My Sunshine” without running away in agony like most humans do. This cat’s love for me is not like a typical human/pet bond. There is something deeper and almost supernatural about the connection we share. Others have witnessed it and once they do, almost always agree that there is something extraordinary about this animal.

Helping to soothe my physical pain after my ankle sprain

I believe my Peppy is a blessing from God, a vessel in which my father’s spirit continues to grace and to soothe me in my most trying times. People find comfort in all sorts of things after the loss of a loved one. They may feel a rainbow is a sign that everything is okay, or they may sense a deceased loved one’s presence in the birth of a child. I believe that angels walk among us and I chose to believe my father sent a guardian angel to me in the most fitting form possible, the form of a cat.

Today is the 11th year that I’ve looked through the eyes of my sweet Peppy and into the soul of my father to say, “Happy Birthday Daddy”. It’s in those eyes that I find comfort, happiness, kindness and the kind of love only a father can give his little girl. Or in this case, the kind of love a father can give his little girl through a beautiful, golden-eyed, orange and white tabby ball of fluff and flab.

Posted in My Life

Strike Widow

I started writing this blog post over a week ago, right about the one week mark of my life as a strike widow. I just read the 1300 words I wrote that day and have decided to delete those words and start anew. Besides, I was one angry bitch a week ago and I’m not sure you are ready for the kind of loathing and hatred I was about to unleash on Verizon and their striking CWA and IBEW union workers. Actually, I think my ire was aimed at every union worker that has ever existed, my dad included, as well as every Verizon executive both past and present.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still really mad at the things that have happened in the last 15 days or so but tonight, my mood is more hopeful than hopeless.

It’s been two weeks and a day since Gil left on his business continuity assignment for Verizon in the NE where union workers from Virginia to Massachusetts have been striking against what they perceive as unfair contract demands by their greedy corporate employer (their words, not mine).  Oh look, I almost let the anger creep right back into this blog.  Anger…be gone!  Okay, back to Gil. He’s been cursed at, tailed by angry union mobsters members (Damn. Sorry! There I go again.), and called a scab probably more times than he can count. He blogged throughout the whole experience and you can read all about his adventures starting with this blog post.  He’s had some really bad experiences in our 15 days apart but he’s had some really great ones, too. He was super blessed with his assignment and by that I mean he’s been in an area where the striking union members had some decency and common sense, he was assigned with a group of amazing people he’ll have a bond with for the rest of his life, and he got to experience the beautiful scenery and friendly locals of the Kingston, New York, area. It’s like he was on vacation but working his ass off the whole time.

For as much as Gil has endured and even enjoyed in the past two weeks, I’ve had my own moments, too. The first week was mostly spent ranting and raving about what was happening to Gil and many of his co-workers as a mob-mentality seemed to set in with striking union members. It’s so sad to see how much mankind is willing to demean, belittle, and bully each other when they are basically given permission to do so. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I feel the union leaders have done throughout this ordeal, and I’ve been on my little one-woman/wife/friend crusade to bring those stories to the public.  If you follow me on Twitter and decided to unfollow me over the past weeks, I just want to let you know the coast is clear and I have taken a half-step down from my soapbox. I’m not completely done but, I’ll be taking it down a notch or two if you’d like to take a chance to follow me again.

My ranting has not been aimed solely at the unions. I’ve been really angry about Verizon putting so many people in harm’s way without giving them a choice. I wonder how many non-union members would have volunteered to take on this assignment if the big red machine had asked for them to do so.  Unfortunately, we’ll never know because this was not a voluntary assignment. Men and women were forced to leave their homes, wives, husbands, parents, friends and children. They were told to go or face disciplinary action. I just pray that these people will be protected should there be any future reductions in force (RIFs). I also hope that this corporate giant remembers what their non-union employees have done for them in the past few weeks, and I hope that they have a true sense of gratitude for the sacrifices these men and women have made for the company.

So anyway, I found I had this voice, which I never really knew before. I am one person with one voice but I was not afraid to use it. I’m not sure what my tweets and messages may have accomplished over the past two weeks but I know that I connected with people in places I never would have otherwise. I felt a kindred spirit with a husband whose wife was on assignment and being tormented every day. I felt a connection with a striking union worker whose wife was also a union member on strike and they were scared of what the future held for them.  Whether I was DMing with a news outlet, being retweeted by a Boston mobster (former mobster, of course) or asking someone within Verizon who had the power to help when Gil and his coworkers needed it, I felt like I was making a difference. And all I needed was my voice. I’ve never been one to keep my mouth shut when I felt a need to speak up but this was a feeling of usefulness that I’m not sure I’ve felt before. My motivation was deeply rooted in helping my husband and spreading the word about what was happening to them.

Besides finding a voice I never knew I had, I found something I had been looking for since I moved from small town America. I found community. I’ve talked about it before with the Hazelnuts but this was something even greater than that. This time I watched as Hazelnuts, coworkers, fellow church members, social media friends and complete strangers poured out their support for Gil, and for me. I never once had a sense of being alone during this time. I had Facebook messages, tweets, text messages and phone calls coming in non-stop, just to check to see if I was ok, needed anything or simply to let me know they were thinking about me (us). I felt prayers lifted for us in ways that I had never felt before. I felt a genuine love from the people in my life and it filled me with a peace that I needed more than ever before. I came to realize that I don’t need someone bringing me dinner when I’m sick or arranging potlucks after a funeral to know community. In today’s world, my community is only a tweet, poke, IM or phone call away. And I’m really ok with that.

Speaking of prayers, I feel a need to say a very special thank you to our pastor, Paul Wirth. Just hours before Gil boarded his plane 15 days ago, we stood hand in hand with Paul in the moments before service that Sunday. That day, Paul delivered a message to the church audience about using our talents for the kingdom of God.  I don’t know for certain what my talent is but there is no doubt that Paul used his very God given talent to provide us with words of comfort, love and grace that morning. It was such a testament to Paul’s ability that when he said amen, a feeling of warmth and easiness washed over me. It was so real that I felt it in my flesh and in my soul. I will never forget that moment and will always cherish how close I felt to God in that little 3-person circle we formed. I believe in my heart that Paul summoned a guardian angel that day and he/she’s been with Gil since we walked away from that prayer.  Paul, thank you for sharing your talent with us.

Have I mentioned the strike has ended and Gil’s coming home Tuesday (TODAY)??!!?! This is clearly the reason I’m feeling less hopeless this final evening of my strike widowhood. Verizon and the unions still have a very long way to go but for now the union members have agreed to work with a previsou contract extension.  But, I really don’t care tonight. I may care again in a few days but for now, all that I care about is that my husband is coming home.

I’ve found it funny the ways I’ve missed him. The silliest way I’ve missed him is how I could barely bring myself to sit at the computer in our (his) home office. This has been the one room that’s been the loneliest for me during this time. I’ve wanted to write and catch up on emails and complete some online classes I registered for but I just could not bring myself to sit in this room without Gil. This is his space and I miss him the most when I’m in here. This is where we sit so close but don’t have to talk or touch to feel the other near. This is where we share our online and offline worlds with each other. We have deep, meaningful conversations within minutes of laughing our asses off at some crazy cat Youtube video. This is the room where he spends his days when I’m at work, this is where he is when we have most of our telephone conversations.  This is the only room in the house that’s ours; that we put our hard work and sweat into remodeling and making our own. I have missed his presence the most while in this room. However, tonight is different. I almost felt a need to actually be in this place, in his place.

In about 12 hours, I’ll be in his arms again. It’s only been 15 days but it feels like an eternity to me. I have a much greater appreciation for couples who have these separations on a regular basis. I’m just not sure I could be one of them. I have thanked God many times in the past few days that this is temporary and that when he comes home, he comes home for good. In addition to finding my voice and my community, I’ve also found out that I have no desire to do this life alone. I need Gil by my side to complete what’s not whole inside of me. I need his touch and his heart to fill me with love every day. I need his presence near me so that I can feed off of his beautiful, positive energy and continue to become the person I’m supposed to be, because of him, with him.