Product Reviews


I don’t do a lot of product reviews on this blog, because, well, I don’t like that many products.  I did once consider doing ONLY negative product reviews, but decided even that would get old after a while.  Anyhow, here are some things that I have been impressed with as of late:

Book: The Green Parent by Jenn Savedge – I have given a couple presentations on “going green” this year, and in the process of doing research, I’ve decided that this is my favorite greening guide book.  Not to say that I’ve read all of them, but this one is great. It’s straight-forward, easy to understand, broken up into easily digested sections, and most of the information in it is relevant even if you aren’t a parent.  Added perk: I picked up the copy I read at the library. ; )

Music: Blink by Plumb – I happened upon Plumb via a post from another mom in a forum.  I immediately fell in love with her voice, which for me falls between Sarah McLaughlin and Enya on the “ethereal” chart. Plumb’s Blink album is completely inspired by motherhood.  It’s full of songs I could have written if I was a talented songwriter and that I would sing if I didn’t score a negative 8 on the ethereal chart.  Plumb is a contemporary Christian singer, which is not a genre I usually listen to, but I think this CD will be my new standard “new mommy” gift.  You can sample Blink on Amazon.

Home: Biokleen Spray & Wipe All-Purpose Cleaner – I have vowed to start making my own cleaners, but I’ll be keeping this one.  I love Biokleen’s All-Purpose Cleaner because it really is all-purpose and it is also a green cleaner.  It has gotten marker out of the rug, mystery stains off of the chairs, lifted milk and potty smell off of carpet and fabrics, taken red sharpie off the refrigerator, and tackled many other cleaning challenges that you probably don’t even want to know about.  And when Callen grabs it and squirts it at his sister for shniggles, I don’t have to worry.

Beauty: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer makeup – I don’t like to spend a lot of time getting ready to face the world.  Even if I didn’t have two kids.  So this makeup from Neutrogena, which is a 3 in 1 product, is great.  It contains retinol, SPF 20, and a tinted moisturizer.   It’s not thick like a sunscreen, but provides nice coverage.  The only problem I have with it is that it scores a 5 (moderate hazard) on EWG’s Cosmetic Safety Database.  If I can find a similar product with fewer chemicals in it, I’ll be madly in love.

Web: GoodReads.com – My friend Nicole turned me on to this, and I am hooked.  I love to read, but I don’t have time to keep track of what’s on the bestseller list, and I don’t have the mental capacity to remember the names of the books that people recommend to me.  That’s where GoodReads.com comes in – it’s like Facebook for people who read. In addition to creating your own virtual bookshelf sorted by to-read, currently reading, and read (with a 5 star rating system), you can also link up with your friends and see what they have on their shelves as well.  If you have a smartphone, it would be a great resource to pull up at the library or bookstore!

Leave a comment and let me know: What is floating your boat right now?

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As you might recall, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to complete  a triathlon this summer.  I’ve begun training, and have a couple potential races picked out, but I’ve been extremely underwhelmed by the presence of a triathlete “community” in Arkansas.  Luckily, I have found one great resource: Go! Running, a new local running store here in Little Rock.

Lauren modeling an Orca tri suit

I was surprised when I stopped in at Go! Running several weeks ago for a look-around. I found one corner of the store stocked with triathlon apparel, and tri racing shoes winked at me from the middle of the well-stocked shoe wall. Turns out that the owners, Gary and Erin Taylor, are both phenomenal runners who ran at the collegiate level for University of Arkansas.  Gary is a certified USA Triathlon coach, and is very passionate about the sport. Go! Running’s mission is to help people find success and happiness in a healthy lifestyle. They have great brands including Nike, Asics, Brooks, Mizuno, Saucony, K-Swiss, and my new favorite, Moving Comfort. More importantly, they have expertise, and truly strive to support all levels of runners, walkers, and triathletes.

Last weekend, LUNA Moms Club had a moms night out at Go! Running.  Owner Erin Taylor graciously hosted us with refreshments, a full-on fashion show, and great information on running and fitness gear.  In addition to showing us the latest fashions, gear, and technology for our workouts, Erin taught us how to pick out, put on, and properly fit our sports bras.  Afterward, there was a retail-therapy feeding frenzy, with moms hunting down the “perfect run skort” they had seen in the fashion show, getting fitted for shoes, overflowing the dressing room and two restrooms in the stock room, crowding one another at the full length mirror, and even a few brave ladies who tried on clothes right out in the middle of the store.

Ready for the Fashion Show

Last weekend was also Go! Running’s “Triathlon Weekend”, and Erin invited any LUNA Moms interested in triathlon to arrive early for the moms night out event so they could meet with Gary.  I thought that was super thoughtful of her, and also very generous of Gary to stay after hours for us.  I learned more about the different resources that Go! running offers runners and triathletes in addition to gear.  Gary coaches an open-water swim every Friday morning at Spring Valley Lake, as well as various seminars and workshops (he was teaching a workshop on transitions the morning following our moms night out).  Gary also promised to get me on the local “triathalon email list” which

Erin Taylor educating us on technical gear

apparently is an organic sort of thing, and the closest Little Rock gets to a triathlon club.  Go! Running also has a Tuesday night run that is open to all ages and paces (jog strollers welcome!).  With the two kiddos, it will be hard to fit in the Friday swims and the Tuesday runs on a regular basis, but I certainly do hope to get out for both every once in a while.

Erin, whose career background is in Marketing, likes to sponsor community fitness events.  I first met Erin at the Dino Dash, a huge 5K event benefiting the Museum of Discovery.  She told me how she remembers bringing her kids to the very first Dino Dash years ago when there were just 50-some participants.  Now, she’s happy to see the event has grown to 1200 participants, and proud that Go! Running is a part of that success.  I have a feeling that Go! Running is going to be part of many successful athletic endeavors (for both individuals and community-wide) in the coming years.

My friend Nicole is leading a book discussion at MOMcation at the end of this month.  The book she picked is called Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy.  I wanted to write this post after I had read just the first couple chapters, but I can’t stop reading the book long enough to write the post!

The basic premise of Free-Range Kids is that we, as Americans, have been trained into a culture of fear, especially when it comes to our children.  Skenazy addresses issues such as crimes against children, the influx of safety products on the market, and the pressure on parents to raise an army of baby geniuses with a frankness and wit that is fun to read and easy to understand.  She bases her discussions on statistics such as the fact that violent crime rates have been falling since the early nineties, even though media hype has us all believing that there is a pedophile hiding around every corner.

For me, this book is interesting because I feel I am already a fairly laid-back parent.  I come from a childhood of playing in the woods, and in the creek, with no parental supervision, based on what I can remember, as early as age 6.  In 3rd and 4th grade, I roamed the neighborhood (and the 20 acres we lived on) on my bike.  In these same years, I owned a bow and arrow and a .22 rifle (both kid sized).  When I was 9, I spent the entire summer in the care of a babysitter who was 12.  At the age of 14, I traveled to the UK with a group of cross-country runners, and have fond memories of exploring London with a pack of 4-5 other teens.  And still, it is hard for me to imagine these same experiences for my own children.  According to Skenazy, it’s all in our heads.

So, I’m curious if anyone else has read this book, or is reading this book, and what your thoughts are.  I’m looking forward to hearing what other moms think about Free-Range Kids when we discuss it at MOMcation.  It seems to be very polarizing.  Some moms that I’ve mentioned it to have a very strong negative reaction to it.  One mom I know said, “I don’t care what the statistics are.  If it happens to your kid, the chances are 100%!”  So true.  Of course, her 12-year-old also cannot order for himself at restaurants or cut his own meat at dinner.   Other moms assume that these issues don’t apply to them, since their kids are too young to run down to the playground by themselves anyway.  However, thus far, I’ve found every chapter very relate-able as the parent of a 2 and 3-year-old.

I’m about half-way through, and I’ll be posting again about it after MOMcation, but would love to hear your thoughts and comments in the meantime.  Ok, back to reading now!

If you like to eat out, shop, or travel (who doesn’t like at least ONE of those things?)  then it’s time to get your copy of 2010 entertainment bookthe 2010 Entertainment Book.  The Entertainment Book contains over 400 coupons, many of which are BOGO for restaurant entrees, specifically for your local city or region.  I picked up my 2010 Entertainment Book last week, and was happy to find that there are 13 coupons for $5 off at Kroger again this year. Those coupons alone more than pay for the book.  In addition, we often turn to our Entertainment Book for discounts on last-minute hotel bookings, venue tickets for places such as museums and plays, car rentals, and the occasional online shopping venture.  All in all, my local book (Little Rock) offers over $12,000 in coupon savings, separated into the categories of Fine Dining, Casual and Family Dining, Fast Food and Carryout, Entertainment and Sports, Travel and Hotels, and Retail and Services. The book has two indexes, one sorted by location and another sorted alphabetically, that make using the book really easy.

On the downside, the cost of the book went up from $20 last year to $35 this year.  However, if you use at least 5 of the BOGO coupons, you should earn your cost back.  If you can find someone selling the book as a fundraiser, you can get it for $30.  I picked mine up at Barnes and Noble.  You can also order the book online at http://www.entertainment.com. When you order online you get a $25 restaurant gift certificate with your purchase. However, I will say that I experienced some really terrible customer service from this company when trying to order my book last year, so it was worth it to me to buy from somewhere else.

What?  You don’t want to pay for your Entertainment Book?  Well, then, I have a contest for you.  Coupon Cravings is giving away an Entertainment Book here.  Good Luck!

Once you buy your book and register your membership on the website, you can also print more coupons online.  This includes coupons for other cities, which is great for when you travel.

I have a really bad habit of checking books out from the library and then keeping them forever, avoiding late fees by renewing them online over and over and over.  Today I got one of those “Your library books will be overdue in three days” emails, and when I went online to renew, the system told me that I had renewed too many times.  Drat it all.  I suppose 5 months is a long time to have a library book.

fal001So, I after I dropped the kids at parents day out this morning, I made a trip to the book store to actually PURCHASE a book I’ve been hoarding.  I know that I cannot be without this cookbook I’ve been using for the past several months.  Frozen Assets, Lite and Easy: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month by Deborah Taylor-Hough has been of huge assistance in helping me get supper on the table on a regular basis.

Frozen Assets is set up on the concept of spending one day cooking several meals and storing them so that you don’t have to cook again for the rest of the month. In addition to a wide selection of recipes, Taylor-Hough offers straight-forward information on preparing your kitchen for cooking day, and a supply list for stocking your kitchen and pantry. The recipes are arranged in mini-sessions.  Each mini-session features four to six recipes and has its own shopping list, prep instructions, and main ingredient theme (chicken, pork, pasta, vegetarian, etc.). So, you can combine two or three mini-sessions and cook a month’s worth of meals, or you can just tackle one mini-session at a time. There are several reasons why this cookbook works for me.

  • Even if I don’t have a whole afternoon to dedicate to cooking an entire mini-session, I can break the work up even further.  One day I shop for ingredients.  The next day I do all the prep work. Then, over the next few days, I put all the meals together.  Putting meals together goes very quickly when all the prep work is done.
  • Each recipe is sized to serve six, which makes it easy for me to prepare half the recipe for dinner that night and freeze the other half for later, OR I can double the recipe to use as a meal for my Supper Swap.
  • The fact that instructions on how to package, freeze, thaw, and reheat each dish are included is very helpful to me as a non-cook who doesn’t know how to handle that sort of business.
  • The recipes are all “lite”, meaning they are lower in fat and sodium, so I can feel good about feeding them to my family.
  • By buying a large amount of the theme ingredient when it is on sale, I save money.  When the freezer starts to get a little empty, I look at what is on sale to pick which mini-session I will cook next.
  • My kids are a little young now, but when they are older, doing a mini-session with them will be a great way to share time with them while we all learn about cooking.

There is a non-light version of this cookbook as well with different recipes.  You can buy both books at Amazon, but of course I recommend checking to see if your library has it so you can try it out for three or four months before you buy. ; )