Wednesday, September 16, 2015

First Week of School

Here I am! I can't believe it's been a week since my last post, but school started last week and, well, need I say more? 

I'm not the only one who went back to school. Michaela started her second year of preschool on Tuesday of last week.

Here she is modeling her first day of school outfit:

My girl loves the camera, so she continued posing once she arrived at school:

Silly sweetie!

Although I signed Michaela up for a preschool class, she was place in a transitional kindergarten class instead. It turned out that the school needed to balance some classes because they have a high boy-to-girl ratio. So, while Michaela is really too young for a TK class, she has the right social skills and academic readiness to hang in there with the slightly older kiddos.

She loves her teacher!

Last night was Back-to-School Night at the preschool, and I really like her teacher, too.

Michaela has decided that naps aren't really her thing anymore, so this happens a lot on the way home:

I'm not quite that tired, thankfully. Compared to teaching fourth and fifth grade, sixth grade is more manageable. I have a lot more time every day for planning, prepping, grading, and contacting parents. I've been asking myself why I didn't make this change a long time ago?!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Product Review: Madison Reed Hair Color

(This post contains affiliate links. Should you use one of my links and make a purchase through that link, I will receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting Beauty for Ashes!)

Okay, are you ready to see some really awful photos of me? Keep reading! ;)

After I had Michaela, I lost a lot of hair. I've heard this is very common after pregnancy. As if I hadn't already been through enough...

Well, it seems that most of the hair that grew in to replace what I lost was gray. I didn't intend to do anything about it initially. Michael had expressed that he didn't want me to color my hair when I started to gray (eventually), and that was in the back of my mind as I noticed more and more grays coming in.

However, by the spring of 2014 I was ready to color my hair and cover the grays. I began by using a box of color by a very well-known line that you can purchase in grocery stores or stores like Target. It wasn't a bad product, but it took me three boxes (over a few months) to figure out the right color for me. The first time it was practically black even though I had chosen dark brown, and the second time it was too light brown.

Then last fall, I started having my hairdresser color my hair, and while that was a nice treat, it was considerably more expensive. When he had to take a leave of absence from work this summer, I decided to try something new.

I had seen advertisements for Madison Reed hair color on Facebook and Pinterest, and I was intrigued by the product. But it was this video that really motivated me to order a box and give it a try:

When you visit the Madison Reed website, you will complete a short survey about the texture of your hair, the present color, whether or not its been colored already, and how much gray you have. Based on that, they will recommend three colors for you to select from - but you can choose any other color in their collection, if you prefer. I went with the color in the middle of the three recommendations - trying to avoid the darkest and lightest shades.

I first tried Madison Reed in early August, and I really liked all that was included in the box - which was way more than what I'd been used to with my previous boxed color. Included are the color, activator, two pairs of black gloves, barrier cream, a towelette to remover any color around your hairline, a cap, and shampoo and conditioner.

Although directions are included, you can also download the Madison Reed app for your smartphone and have it walk you through the process. I tried that this time and found it very easy to use. The app even has a timer!

The first time I used Madison Reed hair color, I chose a shade just a smidge too dark for me (Venezia Brown - 4NGV). Either it lightened up or it grew on me within a couple of days, but when I left a mediocre review for the color (not the product), I was contacted by a customer service representative in a short period of time. Via email she made some suggestions about other colors I could try that weren't so dark, how to modify the time I was leaving the color on, and she even credited my account for the purchase price on my first order. I was very pleased with the way she worked with me to get the color right, and although it was so nice to be credited my purchase amount, I didn't expect that at all!

So this past weekend, I used Madison Reed hair color for the second time and used Bolzano Brown (4NMG). I do believe it is the perfect shade for me! It's a dark brown with just a bit of red - much like my natural color.

Here I am on Saturday morning with my hair clipped into four sections per the instructions:

Here I am after applying the color to my roots. I took their advice and left that on for twenty minutes before applying anymore color to my ends. Once I applied the color to my ends, I left it on for just fifteen minutes more. Madison Reed is free of ammonia, so my eyes weren't irritated at all while I applied my color and left it on.

And here's the result:

It's shiny, it's soft, and I don't think it looks like I color my hair. The color is so close to my natural color, and the coverage of the grays is as promised!

Madison Reed costs a little more than that box from Target, but it doesn't cost as much as going to my hairdresser. Because my hair grows fast, I prefer to color it every 4-5 weeks. Madison Reed allows me to set up a delivery service, and doing so lowers the cost of my color to $19.99. I can edit the time between deliveries, or chose another color whenever I want to.

If you've been looking for a hair coloring product that's free of harsh chemicals and full of natural ingredients, and that covers gray all the way, I think you'll like Madison Reed!

Madison Reed Better for You

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Alaska Cruise - Victoria, B.C.

It seemed like another rainy day when we first arrived in Victoria, but the sun made its way through the clouds eventually. Our time here was brief. I think we left the ship before nine o'clock that morning, and we departed at one-thirty that afternoon. Victoria is so charming that you really need more time there than that.

I had been to Victoria once before right after high school graduation. As a member of the concert choir at school, we took annual tours and in 1986 we toured Seattle, Victoria, and Vancouver, B.C. where we performed at Expo '86. I think we had more time in Victoria that day, actually. I've always wanted to go back, and I still feel that way.

Our shore excursion began with a bus tour of the city. The bus driver had a lot to say about the various sites, and he was pretty funny. The first stop was at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens.

Inside the exhibit were a several varieties of butterflies, birds, turtles, and frogs. It was a very nice exhibit, but I would have preferred to have more time at our second stop on the tour.

On my previous trip to Victoria, I had also gone to Butchart Gardens. I really don't remember how much time we had there back in 1986, but we had just an hour and forty-five minutes there this time. That is simply not enough time for such a magnificent place! I felt like it was a mad dash through the gardens, and we didn't see it all. Sad face!

It seems like a glimpse of Heaven to me! I haven't been surrounded by that kind of beauty since I visited Giverny ten years ago, and I'm tempted to say Butchart Gardens is even more impressive - especially when you consider that it started out as a quarry.

After our race walk through the gardens, it was time to get back on the bus and return to the ship. I really didn't want to leave. There is much more to see in Victoria.

Next time, my impressions of Princess Cruises.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Alaska Cruise - Ketchikan

Our last Alaskan port was Ketchikan, and we lucked out on the weather. Even in the summer, these Alaskan port cities are likely to have rain on any given day. But our time in Ketchikan was absolutely perfect.

We expected temperatures in the high fifties, but it was at least seventy degrees. Our jackets were unnecessary. As you can see, the marina is picturesque.

Our excursion was the Alaskan Lumberjack Show - chosen with my favorite four year old in mind. It was a fun show for all of us, though.

Michaela had her face painted the night before at the "Royalty Party" in the kids club. She was not ready to part with all that bling this morning.

After the show, she was ready for lunch and she wanted to get back to the kids club. Gee, what a surprise! So my parents and I wandered the town and did some shopping.

One of the areas we wanted to see was Creek Street. It has a sordid colorful past, but now it's mostly shops. Sadly most frontier towns have a history like this. People like to joke about it, but I find it to be tragic. Nevertheless, these days Creek Street has charm and is a great place for taking photos:

As we walked around town, we saw some striking totem poles.

Out of the three Alaskan port cities we visited, I enjoyed my time in Ketchikan the most.

Next time, Victoria, B.C.!