Current Giveaways at Reviews by Cole

Date Fri, November 30 2012


Check back soon for new giveaways!


5 Things Every Giveaway Entrant Needs to Know

Date Thu, July 2 2015

As a blogger who hosts giveaways and a person who likes to enter them, I’ve become pretty familiar with both sides of the equation. Both can take time and effort, and I can feel as though I’m not getting much of a reward from it. But being a giveaway host does give me insight that readers may not have.

In fact, I am often surprised by how entitled and, dare I say, whiny some giveaway entrants are. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem that I have at Reviews by Cole, but many of the larger giveaway sites and communities deal with the naysayers on an everyday basis. To them, I have to say, there are things you just don’t know!

1. You’re Entering for a Chance to Win

Sure, you might rack up thousands of entries, but so is everyone else. And when it comes to luck of the draw, you might just lose. And even if you win, don’t count your eggs before they hatch. By that, I mean you can’t really count yourself a winner until the prize is in your hands.

I know how much this sucks — trust me, I do! — but things come up. Sponsors back out. Packages get lost, and sometimes bloggers just lie. Even when there are good intentions, you might not respond to the email in time. And you’ve got to follow the rules.

2. You Don’t Have to Do Every Item

When I enter giveaways, I take a look at the entry types. I look for those that are easier and do them (first). I skip most social media follows because I don’t like the clutter. I don’t mind clicking links, but I prefer not to watch videos because it takes too many times. So on and so forth.

What I’m saying is that each and every one of us has to find the happy medium between increasing our odds (see above) and spending out time in the most productive way. And if a prize isn’t worth much or at least worth much to me, I’m going to expend less energy. Unless you really want the prize, you don’t need to do a page worth of entries, which often entails following dozens of Twitter and Facebook accounts.

You don’t have to, okay?

And you also don’t need to complain about those optional entries. Sure, winning is great, but it isn’t everything. And it’s not up to bloggers like myself to make it easy for you. It is a contest, after all!

3. Sharing Is Caring

Some readers don’t like sharing giveaways to others because it reduces their chances of winning. While I understand this, I think you aren’t thinking about the long term. When you bring new visitors, who might become subscribers, fans and even friends, you’re helping us with our brand. We thank you. Not only that, but increasing numbers typically means we get better opps, which means providing even better giveaway prizes in the future.

You might want the prize all to yourself, but it’s nicer to share those giveaways with your networks!

4. Bloggers Validate Winners

So don’t cheat by entering from different emails if that’s against the rules. Don’t enter gibberish into the giveaway forms if it’s a text-box style entry. We’ll invalidate your entry, and maybe even all of your entries because you don’t know how to play nice! In the worst case scenario, you might be banned from entering any giveaways on a blog, and bloggers talk. Oh, do they talk!

5. There Is Small Print

I don’t have much small print on my giveaways. I update Gleam with shipping restrictions, but that’s about it. I think all the big forms — Gleam, Giveaway Tools and Rafflecopter — state that giveaways have nothing to do with Facebook and other sites. But the option is there, and some bloggers/sites/companies use it.

In fact, you might be surprised by what that small print says. You may be signing up for an email list without realizing it. I know that I wind up on a lot of them, which irks me like no other. You may be agreeing to share your information even more than that, or saying that you absolutely will review an item on the maker’s site if you win.

Now, I know that few of us will read all that small print, but it’s good to get to know the policy of bloggers who host giveaways that you frequently enter.

As a bonus, I think it helps to remember that hosting giveaways takes work. It starts with nailing down details with the sponsor or buying the prize. And some sponsors have additional requirements about the number and type of entries we have to include.

We have to craft the post and set up the entry method. We need to take or find photos, and sometimes giveaways accompany reviews. We post it, spread the word on our social networks and then submit to multiple giveaway listing sites. We need to constantly promote our giveaways to ensure that people see them.

It’s exhausting, and your kindness is appreciated!

What else do you think people who enter giveaways need to know?


My Blog is 4 Times Faster Than Your Blog

Products I Just Shouldn’t Review

Date Wed, July 1 2015

Now, I don’t just mean that I am a terrible reviewer or something. I just mean that I’m not so good at reviewing things if I can’t form strong opinions — either for or against — about a product. And some types of products just leave me feeling lukewarm by default.

What do I mean?

For starters, there’s cat litter. Unless it’s really, and I mean really awful, it’s okay. I’ll use it and maybe buy it again — or not. And I prefer clay-based litters, so they’re all pretty similar.

Nail polish is another product. I’ve had some formulas that were less than stellar, but I’ll keep using them or simply use them in combination with another nail polish that has a better product. They might dry slowly, but I use a quick dry top coat. I’ll forgive a polish if the color is awesome more often than not. Plus, even the more expensive polishes don’t often seem to be worth it.

Next up is moisturizer. Basic moisturizers without additional features just perform the same for me. Some contributed to breakouts, and a couple have felt too heavy, which makes me sweat, but that’s it. Other than that, it works good enough, and I don’t care how it’s made or what it’s made from.

Another makeup product that I just don’t bother writing reviews about is lip gloss. Is it shiny? Yes. Does it offer a little color? Maybe. Do I hate that color? Probably not. Lip gloss is typically sticky, but that’s the price of admission for shiny lips. and there’s no reason to talk about it more than once.

I think that’s one of the main reasons I don’t write reviews about certain products: I don’t want to repeat myself when what I would be repeating isn’t all that interesting.

There are a number of products that I just don’t care about enough to review, including personal lubricants and most drug-store mascara. And this isn’t even taking into consideration the products I won’t review because I don’t think it’s something that I readers of Reviews by Cole will find helpful.

I could be wrong, of course. I sometimes am. ;)

But I’d rather leave you wanting more.


Date Tue, June 30 2015

I think a lot of people want more motivation for working out and being healthy. I mean, something they can see now. You know what I mean?

The folks at FitStudio agree. What’s FitStudio, you ask? It’s a service you can connect to a variety of devices, including your phone, iPod and FitBit, just to name a few. The calories you burn or miles you walk turn into points that you can turn into Shop Your Way points. Those points can then be used to buy stuff from Sears and Kmart.

I already have a Shop Your Way account, a smartphone and an iPod, so I was curious to see whether FitStudio is a good fit for me. In fact, I listen to my iPod pretty much all day long and rack up several miles just inside my apartment. It seemed like something that I would literally have to do nothing extra for.

Connecting Devices to FitStudio

Connecting Devices to FitStudio

So I signed up for an account using my existing SYW account, but you can also sign up via Facebook or email if you don’t already have an account with them. The next step is to connect a device, and there are plenty of options as you’ll see from the image on the right. Because my iPod has Nike’s fitness app, I figured it would be a good fit.

That’s where I ran into some issues. My iPod has never quite connected to Nike+ right and because I wasn’t overly concerned with syncing, I forgot this. There’s no option to connect it after the fact — even after you reformat your device — as far as I can tell. This is a bummer because I always use this device to track my steps and activity and prefer to given its smaller size.

I’m not completely out of options, however. I decided to look into apps that are available for my phone, and settled on Map My Fitness. I’ve got other friends who use the app, which you can use to share your workouts to Facebook, too. It’s not the only app available for your phone, and you don’t even need a smartphone. If you’ve got a Fitbit or Jawbone’s UP, then you can connect your device.

Connecting your device and initial signup rewards you with points. After completing your profile to 100% and connecting your device, you’ll receive 5,000 points, which is the equivalent of $5 for doing pretty much nothing. After that, you’ll earn 100 points for every 2 miles walked or run or 200 calories burned in a day. There are also bonuses up to 5,000 points.

My profile does seem to be stuck at 67%, as it does for a number of other users. It seems like the profile section once had more information that got you to full completion. While Sears/FitStudio has been made away of this for months, they’ve done nothing about it. Hopefully this isn’t an example of how they’ll deal with other issues.

Let’s get back to the positive, though! A number of Facebook commenters said they make between $5 and $10 a week. Hey, free money!  The only real drawback I see is that points must be used with in 7 days of earning them, and you’re not going to get much for $10. It’s better than nothing, though!

I’m currently in the process of restoring my iPod and adding an app to my phone. If I can’t make my iPod work, I’ll simply earn less, but I see no reason not to use the app, other than the fact that keeping this app running in the background will deplete my phone’s battery far quicker than using Nike+ on my iPod will.

Because you can connect multiple devices, it seems like you could possibly scam the system. Not that I’m trying to, but the option is there.

I hope to report back with some happy news about FitStudio in the future.

Advanced Haircare – Smooth Intense Ultimate Straight

Date Fri, June 26 2015

If you think of L’oreal, you might think of makeup or hair color. However, the company also makes hair care products. I was given a chance to try the Advanced Haircare – Smooth Intense Ultimate Straight set, which consists of four products: shampoo, pre-conditioner, conditioner and perfexcting balm.

Now, I already feel like I use way too many products after the shower, so I was pretty wary about this step requiring 4 steps/products, including an an extra step after the shower and one in the shower.

I was pleasantly surprised to realize that adding a product during my shower really wasn’t a big deal. I use the shampoo and rinse, then put in the pre-conditioner while washing my face and doing any upper body shaving. I rinse that from my hair, add the conditioner, and cleanse and finish up any other shaving. It works out quite well.

The perfecting balm that you apply after the shower isn’t too fussy either because you just apply it to damp hair with your hands. You can stop there or style with your dryer or iron, and the heat will help activate the product.

Now, as someone with naturally straight hair, you have to wonder how much this products helps or whether it’s worth it. I would say my biggest issue is some frizz during the humid months and my hair liking to kink if I let it air dry or tuck it behind my ear.

When I just use the in-shower products, my hair seems pretty straight but I might still style or use a hairspray or similar product to get it to stay in place. This definitely seems to work best if you use your flat iron; although, not all my hair is long enough to do that with my asymmetrical haircut.  Even then, I’m not sure that I’m going to get 48 hours of complete straight hair, especially after sleeping and sweating in the summer heat.

I think that when my hair is longer, it’s easier to achieve straightness, and I could probably do so with just my flat iron. One thing I would be curious to know is whether the Smooth Intense Ultimate Straight line will help protect against any of the negative side effects of straightening and applying heat to your hair on a frequent basis.

I do still like this product. After using the shampoo and pre-conditioner, my hair feels soft and sleek. And everything smells so good. There’s a sweet fruitiness that’s not overpowering.

Another thing that I like is that this seems good for my scalp. I struggle with dry scalp and dandruff, even during the wetter seasons, and many specialty shampoos and hair products don’t help with it. So even if I’m trying to make my hair straighter, more manageable or prolong dye, I wind up going back to a product containing zinc oxide to deal with flakes, which seem to be an issue I’d rather deal with before some others.

Since my hair is so short right now — just longer than chin length on the one side — these large bottles will probably last me forever. You can buy the shampoo in both a 12.6 ounce and 25.4 ounce bottles; although, a smaller trial size might be good if you just wanted to try it. In fact, Influenster sent me some sample packets of the products, which I think I will give away to one lucky reader in the near future.


Date Wed, June 24 2015

**The links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

Little Passports is partnering with Princess Cruises to give away over $4500 in prizes, including a family cruise to the Caribbean!


 One Grand Prize winner will enjoy:


  • A 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise for a family of four on Princess Cruises, embarking and disembarking from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  • $750 airline voucher
  • $500 worth of merchandise from and
  • A 12-Month Little Passports subscription
    Additionally, Five Runners up will each receive:
  • A $50 gift certificate to

    The Sweepstakes ends on June 30th, so be sure to enter soon!

    NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. Caribbean Sail Away Sweepstakes begins 06/01/15 at 8:00 AM (PT), and ends 06/30/15 at 11:00 PM (PT). To enter, you must be a legal resident of the 50 United States, or the District of Columbia and be at least 21 years of age at time of entry. Void outside the 50 United States and D.C. and where prohibited. See official Rules, prize descriptions and odds disclosure at Sponsored by: Little Passports, 222 Sutter Street, Suite 750, San Francisco, CA 94108.


Skinvolve Body Boost Gel + Body Karate Cream

Date Tue, June 23 2015

There are two products from Skinvolve, and you can buy them separately or together in the Starter Kit. Those two products are Body Boost Gel and Body Karate. I want sent both to review!

Body Karate doesn’t just rhyme, folks. It’s a thick, moisturizing cream that smooths and tones your arms. Because it’s a lotion, it can be used anywhere and not just places where you want to tone your skin. I’ve used it after shaving, and you’re especially supposed to slather on a thick layer after bathing. So it’s become part of my after-shower routine. While I might not use the Body Boost Gel every day, this enables me to make sure I won’t miss a day.

This product is easy on my skin. I just realized that my arms are sensitive to cocoa butter — what gives? — so I’ve been using the Body Karate Cream there instead. The thickness feels soft and luxurious. This might because it contains argan oil. And although I don’t like it by itself, it works well in this lotion. Call me a fan!

The other active ingredient in caffeine, which can be beneficial to help your body do away with fatty tissue when used topically. It also has antioxidants.

The Body Boost Gel isn’t quite so passive, shall we say. What I mean by that is that it literally provides a tingling sensation so you can feel it working. This gel is great for working on cellulite and other fat that can result in uneven tone and lumps and bumps. After putting it on, it feels cool and tingly. If you’ve got a fan running, this seems to increase the sensation. I didn’t realize this, and it took me by surprise.  But it’s actually quite nice now that it’s warmer.

The tingling is due to menthol, while the other ingredients are:


  • Ginseng
  • Green Tea
  • Guarana
  • Aloe Vera
  • Vitamins A,B,C,E

And neither of these products has parabens or sulfates. Score!

The combination of ingredients creates a scent that reminds me of lemongrass. It’s more bitter than an actual citrus fruit. It might just be how menthol and green tea combine, but I honestly wouldn’t mind a hint of vanilla just to sweeten things up. The scent of this is pretty strong, too, and lasts for quite a while. The Body Boost Gel might not be for everyone.

According to the instructions, you should use it at morning and night. To be honest, I forget it in the morning. My routine is usually blurry-eyed, but I’ve been better using it at night.

Because I’ve been using both the gel and cream, I cannot say whether one works better than the other, but you certainly can use them together because they contain different ingredients. I’ve mostly been using them on my arms and tummy, which have some stretch marks since losing weight. I figured these ingredients would probably do pretty well with that, too, but cellulite isn’t a huge concern for me. The skin on my upper arms also isn’t quite as soft as I’d like — or any other part on my body.

The skin where I’ve been using the cream and gel is definitely soft, and I feel like the stretch marks are fading, too! My arms can especially be blotchy because I’ve got such a ruddy complexion,but I feel like they’re evening out. Getting a bit of a tan probably doesn’t hurt, too. I really like petting my arms because they’ve become so soft – ha!

I’ve only been using this about 3 weeks, and you’re supposed to give it 6 to see the best results. So I hope I’ll be back with even more happy words! Other reviewers have been using these products in addition to working out to get more tone, so if you’re working on your abs or thighs or some other body part, you might consider adding this to your routine. Plus, the cooling menthol will feel good after working up a sweat!

If you’re interested in either product by Skinvolve, you’ll definitely want to get them together to save a bunch of money. The combo costs $60 for two 8-ounce tubes.

Joy Williams – “Venus”

Date Thu, June 18 2015

Thanks to One2One Network, I’ve had the chance to listen to Joy William’s new CD, technically her first solo venture.
I was previously unfamiliar with Joy Williams, but I was the exception. As it turns out, Joy was one half of the duo The Civil Wars, which has a tumultuous breakup several years ago. Both Joy and her previous musical partner have kept mum about what split them up, but neither gave up their love of music. Thus, Joy Williams has released “Venus,” her coming-of-age album.

While The Civil Wars had an indie feel that focused on the emotion of two combined voices, Joy Williams seems to have turned the page and tried on some new influences and sounds, most of which are a bit more polished.

Let’s start with the lead single, “WOMAN (OH MAMA)” because, of course, we have to start there. The video is below.

Not only is “Woman” a far cry from the music that Joy used to make, but it’s also not a good example of what you’ll find on “Venus,” sadly. A lot of people have accused her of cultural appropriation and some other less-than-flattering offenses with this song. Whether I agree with them or not, I think this was a poor choice for a first single and, perhaps, a song that shouldn’t be on the album at all in terms of sound.

However, “Woman,” does explore the themes of being a woman, struggle, love, finding oneself so on and so forth that the listener would expect from a coming-of-age album such as this, and the theme is present in every song in the collection.

For example, my favorite song is “Until the Levee,” below.

It seems I’m not alone because a number of comments on the video indicate that this should have been the first single from the album. It’s poppy enough with hooks but also genuine. In it, Joy sings about standing until the levee on her heart breaks, a metaphor with which we’re certainly all familiar.

Another song that I quite like is “Before I Sleep.” It’s a great example of how Joy can use her voice in varied ways with depth and flexibility. I’m sure there’s a better way to say that, but it’s not flat in the least! It’s also right in line with her self discovery, when she sings:

I’ve got miles and miles to go before I sleep

Before I can feel anything

Before I’m free

Joy has really got the singer-songwriter thing down with “Venus,” and it’s worth a listen if you especially liked her voice or like female musicians like that. I’m thinking along the lines or Sara Bareilles or Ingrid Michaelson; although, I’d be surprised to hear anything from “Venus” on the radio. It’s still got some of her indie roots!

On “Venus,” Joy isn’t afraid to be bare and vulnerable. That’s all too clear in “One Day I Will,” a beautiful and clear but sadly powerful song that I can’t listen to on repeat lest I I cry! Joy talked about writing this honest song in a recent Q&A. She talked about Matt Morris, who told her:

You are so afraid to say anything wrong that you are risking not saying anything at all. You’ve got to be brave. If you’re feeling mad as hell, then we’re going to write a mad-as-hell song. If you’re feeling broken beyond measure, we’re going to write a broken-beyond-measure song.

“One Day I Will” was born out of that, with Joy writing line after line. She descibed how “It was literally me, just talking, one line at a time. And that’s pretty much how writing the rest of the record went after that.”

Even if the process differs between songs, there is an honest reflection and a sense of self-discovery on “Venus” that I think many people will be able to appreciate, so check it out on iTunes and Amazon.

You can also follow Joy on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.