Friday, November 21, 2014

Consumer Critique: SweetLeaf Cola Drops

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

I had an opportunity through Moms Meet to try out a great-tasting alternative to cola - SweetLeaf Cola Sweet Drops. My husband likes to drink cola, so I thought he'd love this alternative. It didn't taste quite the same as his regular cola, but he still enjoyed it, and really liked that it was lower-calorie than traditional soft drinks, and safer than traditional diet drinks. Plus, he liked being able to make it with exactly the amount of flavor he wanted.

We also experimented with using it in mixed cocktails and baking. Although I'm not a huge fan of cola flavor, it did add a unique touch to brownies and chocolate cake when I added it. It's definitely something we'll buy again!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Giveaway: The Tree of Water

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

The Tree of Water  is a great fantasy fiction book for young adult readers. Although I haven't read the first three, I was quickly drawn in to the story, and will be looking for the first three! You can read an excerpt to get a taste of the story. The book is exciting, with characters that are well-developed and a well-designed plot. There are also little bits of word play to add interest along the way, and it appealed to me as an adult reader as well as it likely will with younger readers.

I have a chance to give a copy away. To enter, leave a comment with what you or your child like best about reading. Deadline is November 26th.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thrifty Thinking: Simple Tips for Families on a Budget

Raising a family isn’t cheap! While slashing household expenses requires time and effort, families don’t have to go the route of extreme couponing or sacrificing quality time together to make money-saving changes happen. Jenna Fernandes, CEO of CareBooker.com, the only FREE “Open Table” of family and pet care services, offers ideas for parents to save for what matters like adding to a child’s college fund, planning for retirement or making some overdue household repairs.
 
From planning family meals in advance to shopping smart, here are 4 easy ideas to save money:
 
1.       Trade a vacation for a staycation: Instead of taking two vacations per year, trading one of them in for a staycation can save thousands. Investigate local towns as well as surrounding communities to see what type of fun things are offered nearby. Roadtrippers is the best go-to guide for nearby attractions such as national parks, old-school diners, art galleries and more all organized on a map with directions. The most important thing isn’t the destination, but that families are bonding and spending time together.
2.       Meal planning is a must: Swinging by the drive through multiple times per week can burn a hole in anyone’s wallet. Instead of spending $25 to $40 eating at a restaurant, plan budget-friendly meals at home. When planning meals ahead of time, families always know what’s for dinner and are less likely to resort to fast food. Plan to Eat is an easy and effective online meal planning service that generates shopping lists based on the meals that people want to eat for the week, helping families spend less time and money grocery shopping.
3.       Smart food shopping matters: For those who hate clipping coupons, there are smartphone apps that make the job much easier. Favado, for example, locates which store has the best discounts based on a grocery list and emails the coupons for printing. It is also easier, if possible, to keep kids at home while grocery shopping— intercepting cookies and other items they try to fling into the cart is not only distracting but can cause more spending than intended.
4.       Home entertainment is fun: Instead of going to the movies, check out a video from the local library and spend the night at home watching movies and popping popcorn with the family. Library rentals are free and for less than $2, popcorn can be enjoyed from the comfort of home. For newer movie options, the Redbox app locates nearby kiosks where families can reserve just-released movies to rent for as little as $1.20 a night.

Consumer Critique: Euroflex Monster Vac

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

I recently had a chance to try out the Euroflex Monster Vac. I was very surprised. When I got it, it really seemed tiny - the main part was about the size of a hand vacuum. It's definitely not going to be used as my main vacuum, with the tiny little disposal area. However, I absolutely loved all the attachments, and it is so much easier to clean up quick messes than lugging our main vacuum all over. It does plug in instead of being cordless, but that's a plus too - our former hand vacuum kept dying and would only work for a few minutes without running out of juice unless we kept it plugged in non-stop, and we don't have space for it.

It came with attachments for car detailing (which also work well for tight spaces and cleaning electronics and appliances) as well as various hoses and brushes. We've cleaned up crumbs, a broken lamp, and cobwebs that are hard to reach, and have been very happy with the results. It would be a great second vacuum to have for light-duty cleaning, or for a house without much carpet.

Smart Safety: Childproof Your Home for Holiday Houseguests

Part of the magic of the holiday season is that it brings together family and friends from all over the world. People gather to eat delicious meals, exchange gifts and share memories. The holidays can also be quite chaotic between gift wrapping, decorating and cooking, that often child safety hazards can be overlooked with the many distractions of preparations. As you ready your home for weeks of holiday celebrations and visitors, be sure to follow these childproofing tips provided by the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC), to help keep your loved ones safe.
 
• Keep all window pull cords and inner lift cords out of the reach of children.  Make sure that
   tasseled pull cords are short and continuous-loop cords are permanently anchored to the
   floor or wall.  Make sure cord stops are properly installed and adjusted to limit movement of
   inner lift cords.
•Keep children away from the oven. The oven will be hot and children should stay three feet
  away.
• Make sure young children stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from
   vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
• Turn handles of pots and pans on the stove inward to avoid accidents
Avoid decorations that are sharp and easily breakable that can be at child’s reach.  
• Be sure electric cords from any appliance are not hanging off the counter within easy reach of a child.
• Move all cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords, preferably to another wall.
• Make sure that your home has working smoke alarms in every sleeping area and on each level.
 
To learn more about window-cord safety, or to order free retrofit kits for older window coverings, visit the Window Covering Safety Council’s website www.windowcoverings.org or call toll-free at 1-800-506-4636. Parents and caregivers can also learn more about window covering safety by connecting with WCSC on Facebook and Twitter.
 

The Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) is a coalition of major U.S. manufacturers, importers and retailers of window coverings. The Council assists and supports its members in the industry’s ongoing efforts to encourage the use of cordless products in homes with young children, its redesign of corded products, and to support the national ANSI/WCMA standard for the safety of corded window coverings. WCSC’s activities in no way constitute an assumption of any legal duty owed by its members or any other entity. Consumers who need to retrofit rather than replace their older window coverings can order free retrofit devices through WCSC’s website at www.windowcoverings.org or its toll-free phone line at 1-800-506-4636.

Consumer Critique: Bend Your Brain

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

Bend Your Brain  is a book written by Marbles: The Brain Store. I absolutely love that store and go into it every time I go to the mall. I think about half of my wish list for myself or my daughters comes from that store. So I was very excited to check out the book - and I wasn't disappointed. The book is arranged into five brain-stretching categories: visual perception, word skills, critical thinking, coordination, and memory. It even justifies puzzles that might seem basic, like connect-the-dots.

Some of the puzzles I could help my young daughters feel successful completing. Others were a challenge for me - and I love brain teasers! All in all, I was very happy to work through parts of this book, and I'll be checking out another copy to give to my mom, a math teacher who also loves puzzles.

Healthy Habits: Tips for Hemorrhoid Sufferers

The itching and burning associated with hemorrhoids and other anorectal disorders can leave you feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed and wanting to scratch where the sun don’t shine. No one is exempt and hemorrhoids can make you feel trapped in your own body. What’s worse is that the pain and discomfort of a hemorrhoid may cause you to miss out on the important moments in life, because you are too uncomfortable to sit or even stand.

While there are things you can do to make yourself more comfortable, the first thing you should do is check with your doctor before using any product. One of the ways you can lessen your discomfort is to use an anorectal cream such as RectiCare® (Lidocaine 5%) Anorectal Cream.

Another way to help make life with hemorrhoids more manageable is to watch your diet. Avoiding certain foods and beverages such as spicy BB-Q and hot sauces, coffee and soda is one way that may help. These foods can exacerbate anorectal discomfort, so look for alternatives that may not irritate your system as much. 

RectiCare® Cream is a topical, local anesthetic that contains the highest non-prescription lidocaine strength available. It works quickly to relieve pain, itching and burning associated with hemorrhoids and other anorectal disorders. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should check with their physician before use. Each tube of RectiCare® Cream comes with a supply of “finger cots,” little covers that fit over the finger. They promote hygienic application, since the finger (skin) doesn't come into contact with the product or the area to which it is being applied. RectiCare® Cream retails for $29.99 and is available at Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS stores without a prescription. For more information or coupons, please visit www.recticare.com.

Caring Causes: Vitamin Angels

Ferndale Healthcare®, Inc. announced today that its Heliocare® brand has committed to support Vitamin Angels and Walgreens in their effort to help at-risk populations in need – specifically pregnant women, new mothers, and children under five – gain access to high-quality lifesaving and life-changing vitamins and minerals.

In 2013, Vitamin Angels connected nearly 30,459,000 children and mothers in over 40 countries, including the US, with the vital nutrients they need as a foundation for good health. In 2014, the non-profit organization hopes to increase this number to reach 40 million children and mothers in approximately 45 countries. 

Through 2017, a percentage of each Heliocare purchase at any Walgreens location will be donated to help Vitamin Angels provide 100 million children and mothers with the vitamins and minerals they need to live healthy lives. Heliocare® has a Suggested Retail Price of $29.99 and can be purchased in-store or online at www.walgreens.com. To learn more about the program or see a full list of products and participating vendors, please visit: www.walgreens.com/vitaminangels.

About HELIOCARE®:
The powerful antioxidant formula in each capsule of HELIOCARE® is derived from Polypodium leucotomos extract (PLE), a fern native to Central and South America that has been used for centuries as a remedy for skin related conditions. This fern, which was once an aquatic plant, adapted to life on land and created its own protection from exposure to harsh UV rays. By utilizing the extract of this organically grown plant, HELIOCARE® delivers antioxidants that help the skin protect itself from the first day of use*. For more information, please visit: www.heliocare.com.

About Ferndale Healthcare®, Inc.:
Ferndale Healthcare®, Inc. is an affiliate of Ferndale Pharma Group Inc., a fully integrated holding company. Ferndale Healthcare® targets several key specialty markets which encompass disease states that range from benign anorectal disorders to various skin conditions. The company’s mission is to provide high-quality, value-added products that help patients get back to what matters most in their lives—living well. Many of Ferndale Healthcare’s products are leaders in their respective categories. For more information, please visit: www.ferndalehealthcare.com.

Giveaway: Roaming Reindeer

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own. 

There are plenty of holiday traditions out there, including objects that move around as the kids are asleep. There's a new set designed to not only make it fun and easy, but also gently encourage good behavior. Roaming Reindeer come in pairs - but when one sees something that is unkind, it disappears to report to Santa. The other stays behind to let it know when it's time to return.

This can make a great visual reminder for kids to help them check their behavior, and they're cute enough to fit in with any decor! They also come with a charming storybook.

You can learn more on Facebook or @RoamingReindeer.

You can save $5 through November 27th with code ROAM2014. You can also enter to win a set by leaving a comment by November 23rd with your favorite holiday tradition.

Consumer Critique: The Magic of Friendship

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own. 

In today's competitive culture, a gentle lesson about mutual support and tolerance is a much-needed aspect of children's literature. In The Magic of Friendship by Subhash Kommuru, the focus is on friendship and its healing effect, particularly for a lonely person. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is easy for beginning readers, but still enjoyable for older readers.

I had a chance to interview the author to learn more.


What inspired you to write children's books?
Thank you Bekah for giving me the opportunity to post on your distinguished site and great readers.
Bekah, I have a philosophical answer to your question.There is a poet in Indian movie industry in his early days he wrote lots of hits movie where central theme has been lots violence and they were mostly based on revenge and resentment. In fact he is credited as someone who brought the concept of angry young man as a lead character to Indian movies. But after he got married his stance changed completely and he started to write romantic songs. Over they years he has written many romantic songs and they are all very touchy. Lyrics are so rich that you can enjoy them without the music.
I want to believe that having a son in Arya, did that to me. It arose a writer in me. I always used to make up and tell stories to Arya, mostly by observing him and then trying to teach him using stories as mode of communication. But as he started to grow older he would remember not just stories but words and every time I narrate a story he would remind me that my story/dialogues have changed. That forced me to actually write it down and then read those stories to him that way consistency was there.
The Magic of Friendship is a very inspiring story in itself. I wrote this story and its core message one afternoon and by the time I was done I knew immediately that I have a great material in my hand. It went through quite a bit of modification since then and I have added quite a few more characters and also family relation but the core theme of the story has always been intact.
You write in two languages: Hindi and English. Can you share a little bit about that?
Both me and wife, we speak in Hindi at home. Or I should say that she gives her commands to me in Hindi. The whole idea of book has its roots in Hindi. Arya absolutely loves books so when we were looking for books we would always find English books. We even travelled to India but only to find English books or Hindi instructional books. So we thought if we ought to give him orders in Hindi then we better make Hindi fun for him.
The Magic of Friendship is only in English but I am hoping in next few months to work on a Hindi edition of this book as well.
Can you share a little bit about the artwork for The Magic of Friendship?
I wish I could take whole credit for those pictures, those are amazing so much so that first few times when kids look at the book they don't want to read story they just want to look at illustrations. Arul Augragh Ross is very good with drawing. Since objective of the book was to bring indian culture all the illustrations in the book has Indian backdrop to them. All the characters have indian name and even the forest were the whole story is based is “Tadoba” a real tiger preserve in India. All the characters were put to life and has exceeded my expectation of what and how dynamic they should be. I worked with Arul very closely but he really put down all his effort into it so much so that he started to think like those characters by the time book was done.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a children's author?
That is a unique way of asking that question Bekah I was often asked the question of How can one become children's author. I will speak to the difference in a minute here ;
Broadly speaking There are really 2 categories one is the professional ones and others are like me who are parents. For parents like me, I would say that you need to focus and spend time with your kid. What matters is 'Why' you want do this once you know that, How does not matter. In fact that is a central theme in my next book 'Mother's love can conquer any fear!'
And for people who use greed as their way and cling to use slangs or bad words to be funny in their books/movies wrapped around racing or such, just know that Parents like me are coming to stores near you!
I would say that if you are parent then there is a author in you. All you have to do is focus. If you are multi-tasking with your family then you will not do justice to anyone. If you stay in the moment with your kids you will know what he needs and how to communicate to him/her.

The Magic of Friendship truly stands out when it comes to writing something meaningful for your own kid. It has a central message of friendship, diversity and strengths of individuals but at the same time it is very entertaining. It does not put any pressure on them to read anything and at the same time does not miss the opportunity to fill up those tiny brains with encouraging message.