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Author Archives: karenmsmith77

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Decoding Sponsored Posts, Banner Ads, And Affiliate Links

I have been considering doing this post for quite some time, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. There always seemed to be something else on priority ahead of it. But in light of the recent GDPR laws and in the spirit of being completely transparent, I thought now would be a good time to talk about the different ways I have implemented sponsored posts, banner ads, and affiliate links to try to at least get the blog to pay for itself.

For those of you who have been following the blog from early on, you all know that I did not make any efforts to make money in the beginning. I started this blog with the intent to help other women with loving themselves, finding products that work for them, and just basically living their best life. I have tried to be really open about the ways that I make money through the blog now, and when I first starting putting ad banners on the site I did a post explaining why I was adding them. My basic goal for earning money has been to at least break even. I haven’t met that goal yet, but I at least am getting closer.

I think it is a good thing that the law is starting to catch up to the age of the internet. There have been recent laws put in place for Europe, but governs over anyone who has citizens of Europe visit their website. This is known as the GDPR. Make sure to click that link if you want more information on the laws implemented.

But before the European laws even took effect the FTC imposed more regulations late last year on how sponsored posts must be identified. If you want to read more about the FTC rules follow this link.

Let’s break this down one at a time. I want to talk about each of ways I am earning money, explain a little of what they are, current rules surrounding each of them, and my personal rules of how to incorporate them.

Banner Ads

I want to talk about banner advertisements first because I think they are the most straight forward and easiest to understand. I mean who doesn’t know what a what a banner ad is at this point? But lets pretend for a moment you have never heard of them. What are they? According to the website How Stuff Works, “A banner ad is simply a special sort of hypertext link….With a basic text link a bit of HTML code instructs a Web server to bring up a particular Web page when a user clicks on a certain piece of text. Banner ads are essentially the same thing, except that instead of text, the link is displayed as a box containing graphics (usually with textual elements) and sometimes animation.”

Banner ads can fall into two camps. Like a news paper sells ad space, some websites sell premium spaces to companies with banner ads. Cost and payment arrangements are up to the individual website owner and are generally paid up front with no guarantee of clicks. The other type of banner ads are affiliate links. With affiliate links the website owner would have a predetermined arrangement with the company that says they either get paid per click (these are very rare) or a percentage when someone buys someone buys an item after clicking on the link.

Currently, I only have affiliate link banners on my website. I have a couple of rules about what companies I will place banner ads on the site. The company must first fit within the categories I blog about and offer products that I think will benefit all of you, my readers. And the company must offer products that I feel comfortable recommending, products that I do/would buy.

Affiliate Links

While banner ads are a type of affiliate link, I wanted to talk about the other types of affiliate link, the ones that are more affected by recent laws. They are way more subtle than your average banner ad because they look just like any other hyper text link, but they lead to a tracked affiliate website. And when you make a purchase using one of the links, the website owner receives either a small percentage of the cost or sometimes there is a set fee. These links do not affect your purchase price, the cost is the same no matter what. Sometimes there is an added benefit of getting advance notice of sales and new releases from someone who is an affiliate of a company.

You may have noticed a few months ago the addition of some text to the bottom of all of my posts. It reads as follows, “Please note that some text links on this site may lead to affiliate links. However your prices will not be affected and you are under no obligation to use my link. Thank you to all who help keep this blog up and running.” I will also be adding a similar blurb to the top of all blog posts soon. I did this in a way that it appears on every post simply because it is easier for me. This way I don’t have to try to remember it every time I make a post. Better safe than sorry is the motto here.

I worded this specifically to say some text links because not all of the links on my website are affiliate links. Many post don’t have any affiliate links in them. I have actually heard a few bloggers/influencers/vlogger say they never share a link unless it is an affiliate link, but I just can’t get behind this idea. If my only goal with blogging was to make money, then I suppose that would be how I would do things. But as already stated, my goal when starting this blog was to help other women. Not to knock anyone else for the choices they make personally, I just feel that seems counter productive and a good reason not to trust someone’s recommendations if they only link to things they will make money from.

Sponsored Posts

This is the place where I feel things get the most confusing, mainly because there is more than one type of sponsored post and some companies blur the lines of the definition of a sponsored post. Traditionally a sponsored post would be any sort of post that a blogger/influencer/vlogger got paid for or received free product for in lieu of monetary payment. Click here to read more about sponsored post.

I do occasionally do sponsored blog post as well as social media posts. Because there are some big differences in what gets marked as sponsored on the blog versus social media I want to talk about them individually.

I think that the sponsored posts on the blog is what will fit closest to the traditional definition of a sponsored post. I haven’t done many, and the ones I have done have been mainly reviews. When I am asked to do a sponsored post I only agree if it is a product I have actual interest in trying. I also make it clear to the companies that I work with that I only do honest reviews but I do try to remain objective. Companies know going in I will say if there is something I don’t like, but I also try to be fair and tell if I think the product would work better for someone else. So essentially I treat my sponsored reviews the same way I do any other review I do.

Things tend to be a little different with sponsored posts on Social Media. There are way more nuances that I think can be confusing for the viewers. I usually try to say something in the post that indicates what sort of sponsorship the post is, but not everyone does this.

Just like a blog post, sponsored social media posts can fit the same description of a post that is paid either with money or product. Some of those paid posts can be pre-written by the sponsoring company, while others are done in the influencers/vloggers own words. Paid posts can range from mini reviews to something as casual as just showing the product. And occasionally a paid post could just be a link to someone else’s blog post (this type typically only get paid if people share or react to the post).

In addition to paid posts, there are also posts that get marked as sponsored that maybe the products were just discounted. Again if the influencer/vloggers do not include information on what sort of sponsorship this is you have no way to distinguish this apart from a paid post.

I do share sponsored posts on my various social media. The majority of the ones I post are the type that are just discounted products, but I have on occasion done paid posts. Most of those paid post have been the type where you just share a product or review it. But my philosophies on what jobs I accept pretty much follow the same rules as I do for choosing sponsored blog posts and affiliate links.

I hope have written this in a way that helps give you all some insight into how banner ads, affiliate links, and sponsored posts work as well as I how I incorporate them. I welcome any questions or comments, so put them in the comments. Let me know if you need me to clarify something.

 

 

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Product Review – Free & Clear Shampoo And Conditioner

Free and Clear Shampoo, Medicated Shampoo, and Conditioner

As the title says this is a review for the Free & Clear Shampoo And Conditioner. This is the third in a series of shampoo and conditioner reviews. Make sure to check out my last review on the Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing 3-Piece Starter Kit.

This took me a little longer to review as I initially started off with just the original Shampoo and Conditioner which I purchased on Amazon. However, shortly after starting to use this shampoo and conditioner I was walking through my local Walgreens and I noticed they have this line store. And, in addition to the Shampoo and Conditioner I had already purchased, they also had a Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. So I purchased that shampoo and decided to include it in this review.

 

My Hair And Scalp Type

(notice this section will be in every shampoo and conditioner review for reference. This is for convenience so you do not have to look back at earlier posts)

My hair is very thick and coarse. It tends to be very dry, and can turn brittle if I wash it too often or don’t condition it enough. But my hair is reasonably healthy outside of that, as I do not use heat on it very often and I try to take care of it to the best of my ability.

My scalp goes back and forth between dry and oily depending on the time of the year and the products I have used. My biggest struggle with my scalp is from the allergic contact dermatitis caused by my allergy to Balsam of Peru. This causes a dry, scaly, itchy coverage on the scalp that looks a lot like dandruff. I have never been able to get it fully cleared up on my scalp. At its worst, when I have a reaction to something, it also burns and can blister.

 

The Product

Free and Clear Shampoo, Medicated Shampoo, and Conditioner

These are all from the Free & Clear hair care line. As previously mentioned, two of these were purchased on Amazon and one from Walgreen’s. All my product links will be to Amazon because they offer it at a slightly better price.

This brand offers many other personal care and household products. Description from the brand:

Free & Clear shampoo has been specially created for persons who wish to avoid common chemical irritants found in most ordinary skin and hair care products. It is free of dyes, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, protein, parabens, formaldehyde, and other preservatives.

  • Sulfate-free

  • Betaine-free

  • Gluten-free

Both the original Shampoo and Conditioner come in a 12 fl. oz. size. The Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is available in an 8 fl. oz. size.

 

How It Performed

I had very different experiences with each of these products. I don’t want to lump them all together, so lets talk about each product separately.

I tried the original Shampoo first. And while I think its great that it doesn’t have any fragrance, that was where my love for this shampoo stopped. I suppose it did the job of cleaning, but if anything it did it too well. It seemed to strip my hair from any and all moisture it had. It left my hair feeling very brittle and even after using conditioner my hair was a tangled mess. I can’t feasibly see myself using this again.

So after using the original Shampoo a couple of times I moved on to the Medicated Anti-Dandruff Shampoo. This was somewhat better on my hair, but not by much. It seemed like it was slightly less drying, but overall I just didn’t see the benefit of it.

The conditioner I used with both shampoos. This had quite the opposite effect for me. I think I need some pretty concentrated conditioner at times because of my hair type. And with as much as the shampoos seemed to dry my hair out more than usual, you would think I would need something even stronger than the norm. And this was a highly moisturizing shampoo, just a little too much. I never thought I would fins a conditioner than I thought over did it on my hair, but this conditioner from Free & Clear left my hair feeling like a greasy mess. I can’t even imagine who would be able to use this conditioner. It certainly wouldn’t be anyone with thin hair or with my dryness or less.

The Allergy Effect

When it comes to how my allergy behaved with these, I think I went in with high expectations because they are fragrance free. Though, if you have read anything about the Balsam of Peru allergy, then you know that it’s not your typical fragrance allergy. You can react to lots of things.

Both the original shampoo and the conditioner, I don’t believe I had any sort of reaction to it. However my breakout I already had, it didn’t let it clear up either. And I think that as much as the shampoo dried me out, even if the skin on my scalp would have gotten better it would have had flakes from dryness regardless.

And with the Anti-Dandruff Shampoo, I actually think I had an allergic reaction. I am not sure to what. I can just tell you that within a few minutes of using it my scalp was very itchy. I had double the flakes. It just all around was not good for me. I do think its worth giving a try though if you have a different fragrance allergy than me.

 

Final Thoughts

If you have read this all the way through, you probably already know my thoughts are not favorable on these products from Free & Clear. I am sure that these would work for someone out there, I just don’t know who. I think even if I had not had the allergic reaction to the medicated shampoo or if any of them had helped clear up my scalp, I still could not have gotten past the feeling that it was damaging my hair.

 

I would love to hear in the comments if any of you have tried this brand before and if you like it. Have you tried any of the other products? If so do they perform better than the shampoos and conditioner?

 

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Product Review: Vibranelle Advanced Liver Support

Open bottle and pills from Vibranelle Advanced Liver Support

This is a sponsored post. As always my opinions are my own and all reviews are 100% honest and based on my own experiences.

Vibranelle (previously known as Nutrivee) recently reached out to me and asked if I wanted to try one of their products for free in exchange for an honest review. They actually had several products I was interested in trying, but I decided to go with the Advanced Liver Support. It is a Natural Detox and Cleanse. That is a cleanse in the traditional sense. But we will discuss that more in a little bit.

 

Vibranelle Advanced Liver Support

The offer was kind of great timing for me. If you have been following me for a while you know  that I have a lot of health issues, and as I said in my last post I have not been feeling well,  like more than normal for me.  And just a couple days before I got the companies email I had been thinking its time for me to do my yearly cleanse.

Every year I try some sort of cleanse for my health. And when I say cleanse, I mean in the traditional sense of the word. Cleanses are meant to help clear out toxins from your system. Some people have misused the term over the years and now many people think of it as a way to lose weight. The truth is that you are unlikely to lose anything other than water weight when doing a cleanse.

I have done cleanses before that target the liver, but I have never tried one in pill form. I was really quite interested to see what sort of results I would get by using the Vibranelle Advanced Liver Support. Their products are all available through their Amazon store. And since they have Prime shipping, that means you can get your product quickly.

Each bottle contains 60 capsules. Assuming you are going to take the pills by direction, then one bottle will last you 20 days. That is just three pills a day. The formula comes in a vegetable capsule, which is what I really prefer because they are easier for the body to digest.

Open bottle and pills from Vibranelle Advanced Liver Support

I am obviously no doctor, so I can’t tell you who this is right for and who it isn’t right for. I can only tell you why I chose to take the Advanced Liver Support supplement and what I experienced as a result. And you have already heard the why, so lets talk about the results.

I would say the first five days or so I didn’t really see any signs of anything happening. Around the sixth day I started seeing some subtle things happen, at that time it was so subtle and minute that I wasn’t really sure yet that it was a result from taking the Advanced Liver Support supplement. I just noticed I wasn’t having so much indigestion and slightly less of a bloated feeling than I had been having.

It was around the 11th day that I was absolutely sure I was seeing results from the pills. I hadn’t had any indigestion at all for a couple of days and the bloated feeling was completely gone. And by the end of the 20th day I felt like I was also going to the bathroom on more regular basis. (Sorry if that was TMI, but that was a result I had).

Now that have been finished with my bottle for a few days I feel like the bloated has stayed away, at least for now. I am still going to the bathroom regularly. The only thing that I have had any signs of is some mild indigestion. Though I don’t know if it will ever be possible to completely get rid of that due to the long term use of prescription and over the counter drugs. Taking my meds has really messed my stomach up over the years guys.

I can honestly say I am very happy with the results of taking Vibranelle’s Advanced Liver Support. I do think I will be getting these again in the near future. If any of you are interested in trying them for yourself, you can find the product on Amazon and you can find out more about the company on Vibranelle’s website.(previously known as Nutrivee)

 

Let me know in the comments if you have tried this cleanse or any other cleanse. What kind of results did you see?

 

 

 

 

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Life Update: Why The Blog Was Out Of Commission, My Health, The GDPR, And Everything Else

I know I have essentially went MIA for the last few weeks. I haven’t made a blog post since early in May. My social media accounts have only been posted on sporadically at best. I really try not to skip out like that. I am an introvert, and my natural tendency tends to be to keep a of things to myself.

I know my reactions to major stress aren’t the healthiest ways to handle things, but they could be worse. Sometimes I shut people out when things get to be too much for me to deal with. I often feel I need more time than what is usual for me to center my thoughts and calm myself. Maybe some of you can relate.

I try to remind myself to at least update people about what is going on instead of just walking off and not saying anything. And I did make some attempts on social media. But the universe converged to throw a lot of things at me all at once. And my communication even with my closest of friends has been minimalistic lately.

I kind of feel I could have alternatively named this post Why I Came Close To Having A Panic Attack. So here are all the things that have happened:

My Physical And Mental Health

I have talked about my health issues on the blog many times. So you guys know, I struggle hard with fibromyalgia. This year I have been having more problems than normal for me further into the year. I really suspect that it is tied into the fact that where I live that precipitation has doubled in the last three years. And at the beginning of may through the third week I was hit by a major fibro flare. And subsequent issues followed through till the end of May.

It isn’t just the pain that I struggle with, it’s the brain fog that comes with it. I find it especially hard because it really hinders my brain functions at times. I can’t think clearly enough to form sentences let alone comprehend reading legal lingo. And I find the more severe this becomes the more depressed it makes me.

While there are other things that happened over the last month, my feeling is that my physical and mental state contributed the most to having to take down the blog for maintenance. But, there was definitely way more too it.

No AC

Yes, that is correct, I have no AC right now. In fact I haven’t had AC in a little over three weeks. As I write this I still don’t have AC in my home, but I am hopeful that as you all read this that my AC will be back on.

It took forever to get anyone to come look at our heat pump unit because everyone else in my town had their AC go out at the same time apparently. When I first called there were 50 people ahead of us. So two weeks was waiting for them to get to us.

Once they got here, they found a hose that was leaking. The replacement hose was something they did not have in stock. So another week to get it in. I heard from them today that they are suppose to be here tomorrow to fix it. That is if the person they have scheduled before me doesn’t have something go terribly wrong.

So keep your fingers crossed for me. I don’t do well in the heat, only slightly better than I do in the cold. One of my meds makes me extremely sensitive to the heat, and I easily overheated because my sweat glands don’t work right while on the med.

No Meds And No Doctor

So I have been on the hunt for a new doctor since back in the winter. I didn’t really want to switch, but it has become a necessity. My doctor of over 15 years now has slowly been seeing patients less and less. She currently is down to seeing patients one day a week. And between it taking 3 months to get in to see her and me having a hard time keeping appointments due to my actual ailments, I needed to find a new doctor. I need someone who can see me quicker and have more flexibility with my appointment times.

I actually have found a new doctor, or at least one to try. But like typical, the first appointment is always a longer one and the earliest appointment I could get was almost four months away. So it will be later this month before I can get to a doctor for refills in my prescriptions. The one thing I just ran out of, despite trying to spread them out, is my migraine meds. And yes my migraines have become far more regular.

I have to take some responsibility for this one though. I think part of the reason it took me so long to decide on a doctor to see was anxiety. I didn’t really expect to have anxiety. Perhaps I should have expected it, but as I said its been over 15 years since the last time I had to look for a new doctor. The last time I had to go through a good 12 different doctors to find one that worked for me. I definitely wasn’t looking forward to it, but I thought I was prepared. And then the anxiety just kind of sprung up out of no where.

The GDPR

So if you don’t know what the GDPR is, you can read about it here. The very basics of it is that is a European law that governs your privacy rights. Some of you out there might be thinking but I don’t live in Europe, so why does this matter. And its complicated, which was part of the problem. There probably are a handful of people out there somewhere that are in no way affected by the new law, but those people probably don’t have internet service. Essentially if you live in Europe, have a website that has traffic from Europe, or do business with a company in Europe or a company that does business with people in Europe, then you are at least in some minute way going to be affected by this law.

Please don’t take any of what I am saying as though I am complaining about the law itself, I actually think it is a great thing that people’s personal information is going to be more protected. The part that I wish were different is all of the legal jargon involved. Everything I have read says its suppose to be put in easy to understand terms, but in reality you need a law degree to understand any of it. That is on top of me having the brain fog problems. This is the point where I almost had a mental breakdown. I really came close a couple of times to having a panic attack about everything that had to be done to make my website compliant. And to be honest, I am still not 100% sure that it is.

I did the best I could. You can read my new Privacy Policy here. But I have to say I am so grateful for the support my husband has given me during me trying to put everything together. I am a true believer that actions speak louder than words, and people show you how they feel about you way before they ever say how they feel. And my husband really stepped up and showed me how much he loves me during a really hard time for me.

Your still probably wondering how this all came to me shutting the blog off for a time. And honestly, it was a solution my husband came up with. I didn’t really want to shut the blog down, but it was preferable over the panic attack that was brewing. The deadline for being compliant was May 25. I knew I couldn’t be ready in time. So rather than losing my mind over something I couldn’t possibly do anyway. So the solution ultimately became putting up the under construction sign and doing it as I could.

I have actually read a lot of comments on the web essentially condemning those of us not ready in time. People are saying that it was put into law two years ago and everyone should have been ready. And maybe if I lived in Europe or was part of a business that had the financial means to pay someone else to do the work that would be an accurate assessment. But honestly the first time I heard anything at all about the GDPR was back in February of this year (2018). It was very obtuse at the time, no real details other than it was a law in Europe. So I honestly didn’t think it was something I had to do, because well not in Europe. It wasn’t until the beginning of May that I heard any more detail about it, and it was then that I had a oh shit moment. And after reading all of this, if you have made it through all of my ramblings, you realize this is probably the worst time it could have hit for me.

What is coming up

I have a lot coming up over the next few weeks. I had several things planned for the month of May, that now need to be squeezed into June. I have a couple of reviews coming this week. And later this month I have a feature on bathing suites. And there is a new dress challenge on Instagram for July, I am thinking I will be participating some in that.

As always, let me know in the comments if there is something in particular you want to hear about. Much love to all of you have stuck in there with me during my disappearing act.

 

 

 

 

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All Dress April 2018 – Week Four & Five

All Dress April

All Dress April

I really wanted to have this posted way before now, but this past weekend really took a lot out of me. I feel like that is the story of my life, but I am doing the best I can with my life circumstances. I think a lot of you get that, and maybe that is why you have stuck with me as readers of this blog. My life isn’t always Instagram perfect and I am going to be real about that.

But let’s focus on the positive. We are here now, and I am finally able to focus and am back to a semi livable energy level. So let’s talk about what I wore the last two weeks of All Dress April. I bunched the fifth week in with week four since week five was only two days long.

If you haven’t seen the previous weeks and want to get caught up, make sure to check out week one, week two, and week three.

Day 22

Wearing Forever21 Plus on day 22 of All Dress April

On day 22 my outfit is from Forever21.

The top is their Off-the-Shoulder Lettuce-Edge Crop Top. It is not a super short crop top, and since I have the skirt raised higher, you wouldn’t even be able to tell its a crop top. But this particular style from Forever21 Plus does work really well for those of us with larger busts.

The skirt is also from Forever21, it is their Scuba Maxi Skirt in Black and White. This however it is currently sold out. They do have some other items in black and white that you may want to consider. Check out the Striped Wide Leg Pants, Striped Scuba Knit Skirt, and the Faux Leather Striped Mini Skirt.

Day 23

I missed this day.

 

Day 24

Day 24 of All Dress April and I am wearing Reb Dolls

This is from Rebdolls. It is their “Rumor Has It” Maxi Skater Set in White. There is only a couple of sizes left in this set, so if you are interested, check it out quickly.

This was my first time ordering from Rebdolls, but I was pleasantly surprised at the size range and quality of what was offered. I did purchase one other item, which you will see soon hopefully. And I believe this won’t be my last time ordering from them, so more in the future.

Day 25

Wearing Simply Be for day 25 of All Dress April

On day 25 I decided to wear another Simply Be dress. And this one is still available. It is their Embroidered Stud Mesh Dress. I have it paired with some Aerosoles Pumps that I have had for a long time.

Day 26

On Day 26 of All Dress April I am wearing head to toe Amazon available items.

I think my outfit from day 26 was the most popular on social media out of all of my looks from the month, or at least it got the most comments and requests for the links. I purchased this look to wear to Pride this year, and I thought I would share it with all of you ahead of time. This look, head to toe, is available for purchase on Amazon.

The dress is the Summer Fashion Plus Size Rainbow Print Sleeveless A-Line Mini Dress. I am in a size 3XL. I do think the dress runs true to their size chart, or possibly a little large. The fabric does have a lot of stretch.

I have it paired with:

My unicorn shoes were in white, but unfortunately they don’t have that color left anymore.

Day 27

Day 27 of All Dress April and it is the first day of the International Steampunk Symposium

Day 27 brought me to the first day of the International Steampunk Symposium. I didn’t actually get a picture of my costume that day, but I had this picture of the exact same thing I wore for Time Traveler’s Weekend at the Ohio Ren Fair. I actually think I did share this look before, but I am not 100% positive about that.

The dress is from Torrid’s Dr. Who Collection. And while this dress is long sold out, they do have a couple of sizes left in a similar dress. My boots are from Avenue, but they are long sold out. However, Torrid has several styles of lace up boots that would work well. To complete the look I have on a black felt derby hat from Spirit Halloween.

Day 28

Day 28 of All Dress April and day two of the Internationa Steampunk Convention

Day 28 and day two at the International Steampunk Symposium. This is the one and only picture I managed to get of my costume that day. Unfortunately it doesn’t show the whole costume. But once again, it is something I have had a picture of from a previous year, and nothing new here on the blog. The picture below is from two years ago in the same costume.

Unicorn Queen costume at day two of the International Steampunk Symposium

The black top is from Spin Doctor, but it has long since sold out. If you are looking for something similar, then you might try this Hell Bunny Scullion Blouse. The corset is a Daisy Corsets Women’s Top Drawer Cotton Steel Boned Overbust Corset With a Zipper Front in Navy Blue. My skirt is from Hips & Curves. It is their Victorian Bustle Skirt.

The accessories were both bought on Etsy. The necklace is from Dr. Brassy, but her store is currently empty and from my understanding may never be refilled again. The headdress is from the BlackUnicornShop.

Day 29

Day 29 of All Dress April and the final day of International Steampunk Symposium.

Day 29 was my last day at the International Steampunk Symposium. This outfit wasn’t complete, as I took off and forgot the jacket that was supposed to go with it. But here is what I have on:

As you can see, most of the accessory items are available on Amazon. I word of warning on the skirt. I have had a few issues with the fabric and seeming quality. But it is much more affordable than the average Victorian costume piece for a plus size skirt.

Day 30

I did not participate this day, I was just too worn out from the Symposium to move.

 

And that wraps up 2018 of All Dress April.

As a side not: Next year will be a bit different for me. Every since I started participating I have always had the Steampunk Symposium in there somewhere. Usually it is at the end. But next year things the Symposium got scheduled for a month earlier. So for those of you who look forward to the costumes, I will try my best to still do a post related to the Symposium. I am super excited about the theme that has been announced for next year. It will be Fantastic Beasts. Lots of plans have already started. Let me know in the comments below if you would like some posts about things I am making for costume and various things my steampunk group is doing.

 

 

 

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What You Need To Know About Amazon Prime – A Review Of My First Plus Size Order

Amazon Prime Wardrobe

Amazon Prime Wardrobe

I have been talking about Amazon Prime Wardrobe here on the blog since the news first came out this past fall. I knew this could mean something big for plus sizes, especially for those of you who live in areas where plus size clothing is just not that accessible. I know from personal experience that if you have a limited budget for clothing, it can cause a lot of anxiety when you want to try a new brand but have no way to try it on before buying.

So I wanted to make sure I shared my first experience with Amazon Prime Wardrobe so you can see exactly how it works and what I thought of the options available. So this will be part review and part explanation. I will also be sharing more in the future, but most likely those will just be strictly about the clothing and not as much about how it works.

How Prime Wardrobe Works

Prime Wardrobe works pretty simply, but you must have a credit card on file with Amazon to place an order. Unfortunately a debit card or prepaid debit card will not work, it must be an actual bank issued credit card.

First you can either search directly through Prime Wardrobe available items, or you can just look for the Prime Wardrobe badge on items as you shop. You need to add at least three items to your cart that are Prime Wardrobe eligible. And I believe eight items are the limit. There is actually a separate cart that your Prime Wardrobe items go into. So don’t be surprised when they don’t show up in the regular area that you check out in.

Once you have selected your items and checked out, they will be shipped to you. Some items may be shipped separately, but your try on period does not begin until you have all items in your possession. The try on period is seven days. Just be careful not to remove any of the tags. And this is just for try on. They are not meant to be worn.

During the seven day try on period you can decide what you want to keep and what you do not. Though you can absolutely send things back before the seven days is up. Once you decide what you want to keep, you wrap everything back up and put it in the easy seal reusable box it was sent in. Put the provided return label on the box. And then simply drop the box off at your local UPS or UPS Store.

 

What I Ordered

I want to share here what I ordered to try on. In this section I am sharing the pictures from Amazon, and I will share my own pictures a little later.

 

 

 

How Your Package Arrives

Your Prime Wardrobe order doesn’t come in the typical Amazon box or bubble mailer. All items come in a box like this:

Amazon Prime Wardrobe Boxes

Now you want to make sure you open these the way Amazon intended because you will be reusing these boxes and if you don’t open them the right way it could ruin it. There is actually a pull tab that you rip on one side. Then when you open it up you see there is a second sealable closure so the box can be reused for shipping items back.

Inside the box, here is how it is packed:

Packing materials inside the Amazon Prime Wardrobe box

You get the little booklet telling you what to do with the items and how to return anything. And inside is also return labels, so make sure you don’t toss this in the trash. And as you can see there is also plenty of the air packs included to keep items from shifting around too much during the shipping process.

You see that I received two boxes. My order was shipped in two parts. Now I don’t really have a problem with them shipping these items separately, but I do have a problem with what was shipped in the second box. In the second box was my necklace. That is all, just the necklace. The reason I have a problem with that is these are big boxes, and not just big but thicker than the average Amazon box. I really dislike being wasteful like this.

Trying Everything On

I have pictures of everything except for the Jessica Simpson dress, in this case I was sent the wrong item and in the wrong size. Most items I have pictures of it on me, but there is one pair of shoes I did not put on for pictures. If you have been following my All Dress April posts, then you may have already seen some of these pictures.

Amazon Prime Wardrobe Plus size dress

Here I have on the Tiana B dress paired with the Naturalizer Sandals. And here is a closer look at the Sandals:

Naturalizer Sandals from Prime Wardrobe

I did not keep either of these items. The shoes, while extremely comfortable were just a little too loose on me. I ordered them in 9W, and I think I would have needed a medium width in these. If they are still available when I get my next box I may try them in the medium width. The dress fit comfortably, but I felt it just wasn’t the best look for me. If it had been cut a little different I probably would have kept this.

Plus size dress and necklace available through Amazon Prime Wardrobe

Here I am wearing the Lark & Ro dress with the Panacea Necklace. And here is a closer look at the pendant on the necklace:

Panacea pendant necklace available in Amazon Prime Wardrobe

Again, the pictures are just not doing this justice. It is an unbelievably beautiful necklace. And I did end up buying the necklace. The dress I thought looked great on, but the fit just was not good for me. It wasn’t tight or anything, but because of the cut combined with the type of fabric used it didn’t work well with a larger bust. So if I raised my arm the whole dress raised up way too high. I think this would be perfect for someone with a smaller bust than me.

Bella Vita shoes available on Amazon Prime Wardrobe

This is one of the two items I did not take pictures of on me. That is because even though I ordered a 9W, as I did with the other pair, it was extremely tight. The other item was the third dress ordered, but as I said earlier, they sent the wrong dress and wrong size.

Sending Things Back

The process of sending things back is really quite easy and does not cost you anything. You just pack everything back in the box provided. And if you got your items in multiple shipments you can totally put all of your items in one box, assuming they fit. You seal it up using the easy seal strip, simply peel off strip the plastic strip and then press the box lid down. Affix the label, and it is ready to go. You just have to drop it off at UPS. This part was super convenient for me since my mail box is at the UPS store.

Before your try on period ends, and before sending everything back I do recommend you log in and use the checkout. This is simply you letting them know what you are keeping and what you are sending back. If you do not do this you will be charged and then refunded when they receive the items back. But if you use the checkout you are only charged for the items you are keeping and don’t have to worry about waiting for a refund.

Final Thoughts

Before I tried Amazon Prime Wardrobe I thought this had the potential to be great. After trying it, I think it is currently a good service that still has the potential to be great. I think this works better for me than similar services out there right now.

I have tried a couple of clothing boxes where you try on and send back, but they all choose for you and charge $20 styling fees each time. After trying those multiple times I have yet to receive items I actually would purchase from either of the ones I tried. But with Prime Wardrobe you choose what you want to try yourself, and there is no additional fee beyond what you pay for a Prime Membership.

There are definitely areas Amazon could improve on. The plus size selection is slim, especially when it comes to the more affordable options. I have been told they are planning on increasing the selection, not just for plus size but all sizes. I would like to see them have an option for post office drop offs for anyone who may not have a UPS in their town. And I hope they work out a way that would make it possible to use a debit card for the transaction, that way it could be more accessible to everyone. But only time will tell what sort of improvements are actually going to happen with this service.

 

Let me know in the comments if you have tried Amazon Prime Wardrobe yet and what you thought.

 

 

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All Dress April 2018 – Week Three

All Dress April

All Dress April

This month is moving along so fast, I can’t believe it is almost over. Week three of All Dress April is already completed, and we have just a week and a half left.

If you missed previous weeks, don’t forget to check out week one and week two before you leave.

This week is unfortunately a little light on the outfits, as you may already know I missed a couple of days due to life circumstances. And I am unfortunately out of any backup photos.

Day 15

Plus size cold shoulder maxi dress from Torrid on day 15 of All Dress April

This is the Cold Shoulder Jersey Maxi Dress from Torrid. I am wearing it in gray, which I got last year. They no longer have this color, but I have linked to it in the black color they have this year. I also saw it in olive green earlier this, and was a little sad that I missed out. I keep hoping that Torrid will bring that one back.

My jewelry is from Earth Bound Trading Company, and the shoes are from Skechers.

Day 16

 

I missed this day due to illness

Day 17

vintage style lace dress from Kiyonna for day 17 of All Dress April

For day 17 I had on this Luna Lace Dress from Kiyonna. I don’t know why, maybe its the simple elegance of this dress, but I always feel the need to put my hair in some sort of updo when I wear it.

I have it paired with some basic black pumps that I have had forever. An I also had on a pair of Betsey Johnson Cat Ear Sunglasses.

Day 18

Off the shoulder plus size maxi dress from ASOS Curve

Day 18 had me wearing a dress from ASOS Curve, and I think this is my favorite out of the newer dresses that I have purchased. This is the ASOS DESIGN Curve Bardot midi dress in floral print. They call it a midi, but to me it is a little long to consider a midi, I think of it as a maxi. I ordered this dress at the beginning of April, and at that time they had this dress in every size. However, as I am writing this, they seem to only have a couple of sizes left.

I have it paired with some green peep toe wedge heels that I got on Zulily several years ago.

Day 19

Plus size wiggle dress from Unique Vintage for day 18 of All Dress April

The dress I wore on day 19 seems to be the overwhelming social media favorite. This is the Unique Vintage 1960s Style Yellow Floral Long Sleeve Mod Wiggle Dress.  I picked this up on one of Unique Vintage’s $25 sales, and the plus sizes are now sold out. But it does look like they have it in some misses sizes. But if you just like this style, then Unique Vintage has lots of patters in their Mod Wiggle Dress.

I have it paired with a pair of rounded toe heels from Steve Madden. I have actually had these heels almost 20 years. I keep hoping they will come back because they are amazingly comfortable.

Day 20Lace Mod Dress from Simply Be for day 20 of All Dress April

On day 20 I wore this Simply Be Lace Dress With Tipping. If you are following along on any of my social media, then you know this was not my favorite dress on me. I love the dress itself, but think it would look better on a different body type. I want to be clear though, this isn’t me saying there is anything wrong with the dress or my body. Don’t be surprised if there ends up being a blog post on this topic soon.

I have it paired with a pair of Soft Style by Hush Puppies Women’s Gianna Dress Pump. You can’t really see them well, but they are a vintage looking pair of Oxford heels.

Day 21

On day 21 I missed again. I was off gallivanting around a college campus with my niece all day on her first college tour. Too much fast paced walking and climbing stairs for me to comfortably wear a dress. I had plans on wearing one when I got home, but the day went on for a longer than expected and I went to bed immediately.

 

That wraps up week three. Tell me in the comments what your favorite dress from this week was.

 

Lane Bryant

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All Dress April 2018 – Week Two

All Dress April

All Dress April

I can barely believe it, but we are already two weeks into April. And that means its time for another recap. If you missed it, you can check out week one.

Week two was a bit of a whirlwind for me. I had a lot of work to do, but I also had a lot of days where I just wasn’t feeling well. But it looks like the tide is turning. Our weather has finally warmed up a bit with no precipitation. And I have had a few days in a row now that I actually felt well.

But you guys are here to find out about the clothes. As always I will link to anything that is still available, or alternatively if the item is not available but something extremely similar is available I will also link to that instead.

Day 8

Unique Vintage Plus Size 1950s Wine Purple Delores Swing Dress with Sleeves

This is the Unique Vintage Plus Size 1950s Delores Swing Dress with Sleeves in Wine Purple. Now this is no longer available in this color, however this dress is available in many different colors and patterns. It is available in both misses and plus sizes. Make sure that you check the sizing. Just like most vintage lines, their brand runs very small. I am in their largest size a 4X which they say is equal to a 20. That seems accurate, though there is extra room to stretch with the fabric.

I have it paired with some Bandolino peep toe pumps in a similar wine color.

 

Day 9

This is the Power Dress from Society Plus. It comes in five color options. If you are interested in getting this dress, act now. Society Plus is clearancing this style out. If you want more information on the fit check out my previous blog post about this dress.

I have paired with it some Madden Girl Peep Toe Pumps that I have had for a long time.

 

Day 10

This is a maxi length sweater dress that I got from Simply Be back in the fall. It is no longer available. But if you like the look of the dress, but don’t care if it is a sweater dress, then their T-Shirt Maxi Dress should give you a very similar look.

 

Day 11

This is a SWAK Designs maxi that I have had for the longest time. This particular style is no longer available, however the Lois Maxi Dress is very similar. The biggest difference is that the Lois Maxi had 3/4 length sleeves. If you are a maxi dress lover take the time to look around the SWAK website, they really have some great styles for all body types and they are very size inclusive.

 

Day 12

This was my fun outfit for the week. I think everyone needs some clothes that are just fun. Both pieces are from Forever 21. I have on their ETA Stripe Tiered High-Low Skirt (this is available in other colors as well)  and the Ruched Crop Top. The crop top is adjustable so you can show as much or as little skin as you like. And it definitely is one that works for larger busts. If you haven’t looked at Forever 21 in a while, then you should check them out. Their plus size selection has grown a lot and they are starting to include other brands on their site.

 

Day 13

As many of you know I ordered my first Amazon Prime Wardrobe box. And while I don’t want to get into a review here since there is one coming very soon, I did share some of the things I got in this week looks. This is the Lark & Ro Women’s Modern Stretch Cap-Sleeve Fit-and-Flare Dress.

I have it paired with the Panacea Jet Tassel Pendant Necklace that I also got on Prime Wardrobe along with a pair of Jelly Pop heels that I already owned.

 

Day 14

And on the final day of week two I wore a second dress from Prime Wardrobe. This is the Tiana B Women’s Split Sleeve Patchwork Print Dress.

I have paired with it the Naturalizer Women’s Neina Huarache Sandal, also available on Prime Wardrobe.

I will also be adding this and all the other items I got on Prime Wardrobe to my Amazon recommended list to make it easier for everyone to find at any time.

 

 

plus size valentine's day lingerie

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Product Review: Dr. Praeger’s Black Bean Chipotle Pollock Burgers

Choosing the Black Bean Chipotle Pollock Burgers from Dr. Praegers

I was recently sent a coupon for a free item of choice from Dr. Praeger’s new frozen seafood line to be redeemed at my local Krogers. Since I am always looking to try something new and this fits in perfectly with my Pescatarian Diet, I was excited to try something from their line.

Coupons and booklet about Dr. Praegers

I made my way over to one of my local Kroger’s stores to check out what was available. My options from the coupon were Black Bean Chipotle Pollock Burgers, Spinach Potato Pollock Burgers, Fish Taco Bites or Lightly Breaded Fishies. But when I found where the items were placed in the freezer section the Lightly Breaded Fishies were not available at the Kroger I went to.

Dr Praeger's in the freezer section.

I actually have been searching for a good alternative burger choice for a while, but haven’t been able to find something I really enjoyed enough to buy again. So I decided it would be an opportune time to try one of these burger alternative. I ultimately decided to try the Black Bean Chipotle Pollock Burger, but you probably already knew that from the title of this post. They are both gluten-free and made from certifiable sustainable seafood.

Choosing the Black Bean Chipotle Pollock Burgers from Dr. Praegers

Each box contains 4 patties, and they are all individually wrapped. I really liked this because there are times when I don’t want to fix a whole box of something, and then the part that is left over ends up getting frost bite in the freezer before I am ready to make the rest of it.

The directions on the box gives both options for baking or for frying. I decided to prepare mine in the oven. The preparation was really easy this way. It just took 20 minutes to cook, so it was relatively fast too.

As for toppings, neither my husband or I are fans of traditional hamburger toppings. We don’t like mayo, and I can’t have ketchup anymore because of my allergy. And don’t even get me started on my feelings about lettuce. So I decided that since it already has southwest/tex-mex kind of vibe going on with the ingredients I would use toppings that are similar to what they have pictured on the box. I used a fresh guacamole along with some pico de gallo. I just made old bay seasoned fries to serve with it.

my finished Dr. Praeger's burger.

But let’s get down to what everyone really wants to know, what the product taste like. It doesn’t taste like an actual burger, but I didn’t really expect it to. But, I am happy to say that it was pretty good. I think they did a good job of balancing the flavors and textures so you aren’t really overwhelmed by one thing. And this is the first burger alternative that I actually would willing eat a second time. I may even give their other burger option a try.

Tell me in the comments if there is a burger alternative that you really like.

 

 


 

 

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All Dress April 2018 – Week One

All Dress April

All Dress April

Week one of All Dress April has finally come to an end, so it must be time for a recap. These always seem to be some of my most popular posts, so I decided to make a couple of changes this year. Changes that I hope are for the better.

You all know that I live with a few chronic pain conditions, some of which are affected by the weather, especially in the winter and early spring. So in previous years this has left me not posting about one to two days a week. In an effort to not leave these spots open, and to be able to share more items with you, I will be sharing photos previously taken but not posted for one reason or another.

Day 1

Mod print dress from Tiana B on Day 1 of All Dress April

This is a Tiana B. dress in a mod 60’s style print. I really love this style, and this dress is so comfy and great for minimal effort days. I paired it with a pair of wide calf boot’s I got from Zulily’s Journey Collection. I have had both of these pieces for quite some time, so I don’t think either of these items are still currently available, but you can get the same style of dress from Tiana B. as well as dresses in similar prints.

Day 2

Foil Leaf print wiggle dress from Avenue

This was a bad pain day for me, and so this was the first case of using a previously taken photo.

This dress is from the Avenue. It is their Metallic Floral Scuba Dress. It is a recent purchase, but unfortunately it sold out fast. I guess everyone loved it. It is definitely in a bodycon/wiggle style, but like most of the dresses from Avenue it is made to be more forgiving of any extra curves and rolls you may have in the middle. While they no longer have this exact dress, they do still have a similar dress. It is their Scroll Flocked Scuba Dress (limited sizes left in this dress).

The shoes I have paired with it are the Bandolino Women’s Mylah Peep-Toe Pump. These were actually the shoes I wore for my wedding, and I was kind of surprised to even find limited sizes of these still hanging around.

Day 3

Plus size maxi dress bought on Amazon

This is the Roiii Boho Floral Sleeveless Maxi Dress I got for the Hidden Gems of Amazon series I do here on the blog. Many of you loved the way this dress looked, but at the time sizes were selling out. I am happy to say it looks like they are finally restocked now. Sizes go up to a 3XL. For information on the fit and sizing make sure to check out the original post this dress appeared in.

Day 4

Dress from Boohoo Plus and leggings from Simply Be paired with Booties from the Avenue

This is the Plus Megan Tartan Frill Sleeve Smock Dress from Boohoo. I have it paired with black lace leggings. I bought mine at Simply Be a few years ago, but very similar ones are available now on Amazon. The booties are a pair of Cloud Walkers from the Avenue that I got a few years ago.

Day 5

Plus size Vintage inspired dress from Lindy Bop

For day five I went with something more to the roots of All Dress April, meaning something vintage style. This dress is from Lindy Bop. It is their Alanis Swing Dress in Black Polka Dots. (Just a note the link is to the UK site, but you change it to your country of preference. If you are in the USA, you can order from the US site or the UK site. I prefer the UK site because the sizing is easier. Don’t forget to change the currency as well.)

I have it paired with a basic black crinoline. and pair of kitten heels I bought on eBay a long time ago. The shoes are no longer available in the kitten heel size, but you can steel find the pump version from many different sellers on eBay still.

Day 6

Faux wrap dress from IGIGI plus size designer brand worn on day 6 of all dress april

This is the Truda Dress from IGIGI. It is a faux wrap dress. It is no longer available in this pattern, but the style is still available. If you follow me on my Instagram, then you already know that I don’t really care for the way this dress fits me. I love all of my other IGIGI dresses, but this one just doesn’t hang on me right, and I think it would suit a different body type better. It will most likely be going up on my Poshmark listings for sale relatively soon. So if you love this print and are also a size 20, make sure you are following me on there. If you are just joining Poshmark for the first time use my code KARENMSMITH77 and they will give you a $5 shopping credit.

The shoes are from Aerosoles, and I have had them for year. They are super comfortable as most Aerosoles are. But this particular style is not available any more.

Day 7

Trying out Fashion Nova Curve on day 7 of All Dress April

So if you didn’t know, skirts are also acceptable for All Dress April. So that left me able to also participate in my friend Jamie’s (aka retrocutie) style challenge Band Tee Saturday. Graphic tees are also totally acceptable for her challenge. Make sure you check out her blog No Delusions Of Grandeur too.

So since so many people had expressed interest in Fashion Nova over the last couple of months, I wanted to bring you a look from them. So both my skirt and top are from Fashion Nova. I have on the Kiss Me On The Lips Sequin Tee and the Charmer Bandage Skirt in Light Pink. I am sure that a lot of you would like me to go into my thoughts on Fashion Nova right now, but I don’t think I could put everything I need to say here. But don’t worry I promise there will be a blog post coming within the month about Fashion Nova.

The shoes I have on are a pair of velvet sneakers in light pink. The brand is Wanted and the style is called Valance. They are so comfy, and available in other color options.

 

If you didn’t see something like this week make sure to keep checking back, there are still 23 more days to go, and that means 23 more looks. Tell me in the comments below what you like, what you didn’t like. I still have some wiggle room on filling request if there is something you guys want to see this month, so make sure to let me know that as well.

 

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