Nov 30, 2009

Shower Power Lives!!!

My freshman year of college, I lived with five other girls in what was referred to as a "cooking dorm".  It consisted of three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a tiny eat-in kitchen.  We were not slobs by any means, but when the quarterly cleaning inspections would come around, the six of us would literally stay up all night cleaning.  You see, the dorm not only needed to be clean, it had to look brand spankin' new, despite the fact that these dorms were built in the 1950's.  (All you BYU alum will relate.) These nearly impossible standards were met through the use of one amazing product, Shower Power.  In fact, we were required to use Shower Power to clean the showers, tubs, faucets, and even inside the dishwasher because it was the only cleaner that could restore these things to nearly new condition after daily abuse use by six coeds.

A really pathetic picture, I know.  It's the best I could do.

After I was married, I continued to use Shower Power, convinced that I would never use another shower cleaner as long as I lived.  Then one terrible day, I couldn't find it on the store shelf.  So I went to another store, then another, and, well you get the picture.  It had disappeared, and I was ticked!  But I'm the type of girl who'd rather sit around and whine about a problem instead of actually do something about it.  So eventually, I gave up looking for it and tried another cleaner, then another, and, well you get the picture.

Then just a few weeks ago, my awesome sister called me and suggested I blog about Shower Power.  I said that I'd love to but I hadn't seen it on store shelves in years.  Then she told me about a magical thing called "Google" that will lead you to whatever your heart desires.  Duuhhhh!  Why hadn't I though of that?!  Apparently the company that makes Shower Power couldn't make it fast enough, so they decided to sell it exclusively through their own website.  Well, I felt like a total idiot.  All these years, all I had to do was order Shower Power online, instead of spending hours scrubbing my tub with inferior products.  As soon as I hung up with my sister, I ordered myself a couple of bottles, post haste!

Once my package arrived, I clutched the familiar blue bottle to my chest, and danced around the house singing "I can't wait to clean the shower!", over and over again.   I'm sure my husband thought I had already opened the bottle and inhaled deeply by the way I was behaving.  But seriously, this stuff really, really works, and I was delighted to find that the formula has not been changed a smidge since I used it in college.  My shower was pretty bad off since I was waiting to clean it until the Shower Power arrived and six of us use the same shower/bath daily.  (I need a bigger house!)  But with very little elbow grease, it was clean as a whistle again.  I love love love this stuff!

To order Shower Power bathroom cleaner, just visit their easy-to-use website.  A 2-pack of 32-ounce bottles costs $14.99 and a 64-ounce refill bottle is $13.99.  Buy 4 at a time to save a little $$.  If you love it as much as I do, let me know.  (Please read all directions before using.  This product should not be used on granite, marble, or any other natural stone surfaces because it will etch.)

Nov 24, 2009

Cooking Light Peanut Butter Taste Test Results

I promised myself that I wouldn't mention peanut butter ever again on this blog, but I'm breaking my promise today.  You see, the other day, I opened up my totally awesome December issue of Cooking Light and there it was, a PEANUT BUTTER TASTE TEST!  So, for those of you without a subscription, I thought I'd fill you in on what the professionals think is the best natural PB out there. 

The peanut butter voted the Best Natural Creamy was Adams 100% Natural Peanut Butter, which is a brand I simply could not get my hands on for my taste test.  The tasters said it had a surprisingly smooth texture for a natural peanut butter and that it costs about $4.00/16oz, but I know you can get it for under $2.50 here in SoCal.

The Best Natural Crunchy title went to Krema Natural Peanut Butter.  I had never heard of this brand, but it is made by the Krema Nut Company and is available by mail order only.  The raters liked "the hunks of peanuts, the crunch and the real peanut flavor". (Cooking Light, Dec 2009, p.67)  Krema PB is $3.29 (16oz) plus shipping.





Now that we have the results of a legitimate taste test, I promise I will not mention peanut butter again on this blog (unless I have a really good reason)!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 21, 2009

An Oldie but Goodie: Tupperware's Shape-O Toy

Mention the word "tupperware" and many people my age will have flashbacks of their moms in the living room with her friends, eating fondue, and ooh and aahing over avocado-colored bowls with lids that burp and trumpet-shaped, plastic cups in the shades of orange, electric blue, green and red.

But, Tupperware has kept up with the times.  Their website still offers the, almost indestructible, classics you remember, and several cool new items as well.  This post is not about cupcake caddies, though.  Today, I am raving about their shape sorter, the Shape-O Toy.  You know, the classic red and blue octagonal-shaped ball that requires the strength of Sampson to pull apart to get the yellow shapes to fall out?

My mom bought one for my kids several years ago and I muttered my thanks and didn't think much of it.  However, since that time, I have become increasingly grateful for this awesome toy.  Here are a few things I love about this toy:

1.  It teaches a total of 10 shapes, including a few unusual ones.  I don't think there's another toy sorter on the market that will help your preschooler learn the difference between a hexagon and a trapezoid, or as my 3-year old says, a "hex-gone" and "trapazazoid".

2.  It encourages adult interaction, especially to help your kids get the shapes out of the ball.  I have yet to see a preschooler open up one of these babies on his own.  It's kind of cool when my kids look at me like some kind of superhero because I'm able to pull the thing apart.  Just make sure you don't catch anyone's finger in it when it snaps back together.

3.  It's a great rattle as well as a shape sorter.  Kids of all ages LOVE shaking this ball!  Yes, at times it can be a little irritating, but it's worth it to see my child having so much fun with a toy that requires no batteries.

4.  It's extremely durable.  And if you ever need to replace yours, which is unlikely, you can rest assured that Tupperware will be selling this shape shorter long after our kids have outgrown them.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I played with one as a kid and I'm 3? years old.

For the holiday season, you can purchase the Shape-O Toy on Tupperware's website for the special price of $22.00 (regular price $26.50) and it comes in it's own decorative box and with an adorable Shape-O Toy key chain.  It's called the Shake, Rattle and Roll Set and makes a great gift.  And if that price is still too steep for you, you can get it for free by throwing a Tupperware party.  If you do, make sure to send me an invitation!

Nov 15, 2009

Have Games, Will Travel

First of all, I'd like to give a big thanks to Emily for guest blogging about her favorite crafting tools last week.  I don't know about you, but I saw one or two things that I'm adding to my Christmas list.

Speaking of the holidays...

...if your family is like ours, the holiday season brings long hours in the car, which means this time of year, I'm on the lookout for new ways to make the time in the car fun for our kids, and more peaceful for my husband and me.  Check out these great travel games from Melissa and Doug that I saw featured on MomsMinivan.com. They're called "Flip to Win" games and include:

 Hangman


Memory
 


Bingo

Bear Hunt (just like Who's Who)


and
Four-In-A- Row (like Connect Four)





The beauty of these games is that there are no removable parts to lose (except for the dry erase pen with hangman) and no batteries to change. These wooden games are well-constructed and very durable, just like you'd expect from Melissa and Doug.   


I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the box (I ordered a bundle of three from Amazon) and found the the game boards were bigger and sturdier than they appeared on my computer screen.  My kids immediately were enthralled with them and played with them so much that I had to hide them so they'd still be excited about them when it comes time to take the 6-hour drive to grandma's house. The recommended age for these games is 5 or 6 years and up, but my 3 and 1/2 year old loves to flip the wooden squares over just to discover what's underneath them.

By far, the lowest prices I found for these games online were on Amazon, especially if you buy the three pack of Bear Hunt, Memory, and Hangman (my girls' fave) for $37.15 with free super saver shipping.  The individual prices are as follows:  Hangman $10.24, Bear hunt $14.32, Memory $10.57, Bingo $15.89, Four-In-A-Row $10.61.

Happy traveling!

Nov 10, 2009

My Favorite Crafting Tools by Emily

Helloooooooo everybody out there in blogland!
It's so fun to be here and be able to guest post about some of my favorite CRAFTING TOOLS!
(Drool)
There's nothing I like doing more than talking about CRAFTING (and crafting stuff)!
(Drool again)
Ok, so here we go.
I'll start off with my very, most favoritest (yes, that's a word.......my kids use it) tool.

My computer!!
Yup! That's right, my PC (yes, I'm a PC)
Anyhoo, there are soooooooo many crafts I use my computer for.

 Most recently my fun magnetic chore chart.
The BEST software to use for doing crafty stuff like that (in my opinion....which is why I'm here :), is Microsoft Office Publisher.
You can design ANYTHING with that!
It came free when we bought our new PC a few years back, and now it's my very favorite!
The other big thing I do with my computer, is designing vinyl creations for signs, or just to stick on the wall. And then cutting it out with my vinyl cutter (another fav!)
Ok, next on my list is my Speedball brayer!

This baby is SO versitile!
I believe it was originally used just for inking and stamping, but now they have 4 different rollers you can get to use for different jobs.
I LOVE the original rubber roller, but may have to try the others soon!
 This is great for when you adhere paper to any craft. Roll this baby over the paper using a little presure and it helps it adhere better and will get the bubbles out when using wet glue.

Especially great for Mod Podge creations like my cute tool carryall.
I also use it for all my vinyl signs to help me make sure the vinyl sticks well to the wood.
Another great use is in stamping and inking stuff.
You can find this at any craft store or art supply store for $10~$12 bucks......but be sure to use your 40% off coupon :)
Next up: Adhesives!

First......if you've ever read my blog, you can guess that my FAVORITE adhesive is E6000 glue.
It is (according to the packaging), flexible, paintable, waterproof, non-flamable, & safe for photos.
AND
can be used on all sorts of surfaces like: wood, metal, glass, paper, fabric, beads, ceramic, and just about anything else you can think of!

It's great for all kinds of projects, like these cute magnets.
You can get a 2 oz. tube (will last you a LONG time) for $2.67 at good 'ole WallyWorld or slightly more at your local craft or art supply store. And they recently started making the tubes with easier to clean nozzle.
Just make sure to use this in a well ventilated space.....it's stinky.
ANOTHER adhesive I really like for things that won't stick with regular glue....

Aeene's Tacky Glue (the clear kind). Works great and grabs hold of those projects using really thick paper (or photos) or other heavier embellishments. And it dries clear!

I used it to adhere the pics on these photo blocks I made for my baby sister's wedding.
You can get this for $1.50~$3 bucks.......very reasonable.
Last, but not least......

My awesome Carl 12" paper cutter!
I got this baby at Sams Club a few years back, and haven't looked back since!
This cutter makes sharp, straight, precise cuts every time. And you can cut up to 10 sheets of paper at a time! I've even cut 4 layers of flannel fabric with it (yup, you heard me.......4 layers of FLANNEL FABRIC).
Boy, was that the straightest cut fabric EVER!
I love this cutter because it has a locking rail that you just push down on to keep your paper in place and the blades are carbide and make the sharpest cuts and will last forever!

I used it to cut the paper for this cute invite!
You can find it at most office supply stores, but I think Staples is cheapest at around $36~ish bucks. When it does come time to buy replacement blades.....go back to Staples and get them for $6~$7 bucks. They also have scoring, perforating, and other decorative blades.
K, so that wraps it up......I don't want to use up too much space on Angie's awesome blog.
BTW, a huge thank you to her for letting me guest post here and talk about some of my favorite crafting tools
(Drool again)
Stop by my blog when you get a chance and check out more fun crafts made using my cool tools!
Have fun!

Nov 9, 2009

Craft Tool Teaser

Tomorrow I'm going to have my very first guest blogger on I Love These Products!  Since crafting is not my forte, my good friend Emily is going to write about some of her all-time favorite crafting tools.  Emily is the author of one of the best crafty blogs out there, Not So Idle Hands.  Her projects are easy, inexpensive, and oh-so creative and cute.  So be sure to check back tomorrow, and in the mean time, you can visit Emily's awesome blog.  lotsalove!

Nov 6, 2009

Hairspray Fidelity

I don't have much brand loyalty when it comes to hair care products and will buy whatever looks good to me on the shelf if the price is right.  However, I've been very disappointed with my last several choices of (cheap) hair sprays.  So, when I saw a glowing review of Loreal Paris Elnett Satin Hairspray in a magazine and noticed it's available at Target, and not a salon, my interest was peaked.  Then I went to Total Beauty.com and looked up this product.  Twenty-four people reviewed it and twenty-three of them gave it a 9 or 10 out of 10 stars.  Not bad.

I guess this stuff used to be available only in Europe and it only recently began to be sold here.  So I ran out to Target and picked up a shiny gold can of it to see if it lived up to the hype.  What's supposed to set this spray apart is the fact that it holds even after you brush through it and leaves your hair softer, shinier, and more manageable than before you put it on.  That's practically unheard of in a strong holding hairspray. 

My opinion?  This stuff rocks!  I have very fine hair that doesn't hold any style well, but with Elnett, my bangs stay side swept, my curls stay intact, and my pony tails stay smooth.  Plus, my hair is so freakin soft right now, I can't stop running my fingers through it.

Elnett Satin is more expensive than the cheapo sprays I usually buy, but well worth it.  I paid $14.99 for an 11oz can that also came with a 2.2oz travel size.  That's still several dollars less expensive than the one other spray I really like, Big Sexy Hair.

It may be a little too soon for me to say that I'll remain faithful to this product, what with my wandering eye and all, but this just may be the one that will make me change my ways.

Do you have a favorite hair spray? 

Nov 3, 2009

Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Taste Test: The Results!

I am soooooo sick of peanut butter right now!

Sorry, I just needed to get that out.  Now, onto the main event.
Let's meet the contenders:



Vons Organics Old-Fashioned Crunchy Peanut Butter ($3.89/18oz Vons)
Laura Scudder's Old Fashioned Peanut Butter, Nutty ($2.49/16oz, Albertsons)
Trader Joe's Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter ($1.79/16oz).

I must mention that Trader Joe's also has an organic variety of the same PB for slightly more.  I'm kicking myself that I didn't write down the cost last time I was there, but I believe it was around $2.50, still a great value.

I didn't include Adam's or Smuckers PB in this comparison because they are distributed by the same company as Laura Scudder's so I'm pretty sure you can only find one of these three brands in a store at any given time.  You can order all of them from Smuckers website, but you have to buy a case of 6 at a time.


I'll start with my two daughters' preferences (ages 6 and 8).  As you can see, my son isn't too picky when it comes to peanut butter so I didn't even ask him.  He devoured all three without a blink.  My girls both agreed that they liked Von's Organics brand the best, but also agreed that Trader Joe's had the strongest peanut flavor.  Since younger kids typically like milder flavors, their choice didn't surprise me.

As for my husband's and my observations/opinions, I'll review each PB individually.

Vons Organics: Sealed for freshness, light peanutty, almost sweet aroma upon opening, mildest peanut flavor of the three, saltiness wasn't overpowering, stickier than the others, somewhat difficult to stir in the oil, the only organic brand of the three, $0.22/oz

Laura Scudder's:  No freshness seal, a roasted, almost burnt aroma, strong peanut flavor, salty but not too much, by far the most difficult to stir and incorporate all of the oil, $0.16/oz

Trader Joe's:  Sealed for freshness, darkest color and strongest peanut aroma, strongest peanut taste and the saltiest, the easiest to stir, oil incorporates easily, $0.11/oz


(Scientific looking, huh?)

It was interesting to me that the saltiness varied so much between the peanut butters since they all have close to the same amount of sodium per serving.  The other thing to note is that all three were tasted at room temperature.  Old-fashioned peanut butter must be refrigerated after opening and the strength of the flavor diminishes when cold.  For stronger flavor and easier spreadability, I'd recommend nuking the jar (lid off, of course) for several seconds before using.

So without mincing words, my favorite was Trader Joe's, my husband's was Laura Scudder's and my kids liked Vons Organics the best.  I'm chuckling to myself as I write this because after all the effort and planning, we couldn't agree on which one was the best.  I guess I didn't take into consideration personal preferences.  But I agree with my husband that the differences in taste were not so pronounced that we'd recommend spending any more money than you have to.

I'm fooded out for now.  I think my next review will be about something much more important, like..... hairspray. haha  lotsalove!



Nov 1, 2009

Peanut Butter Primer

No, I'm not suggesting you smear your walls with peanut butter to prep them for a new paint job.  I just thought that before I post my natural PB taste test results, I'd don my dietitian's cap and fill you in on what a nutritional powerhouse peanuts are and why switching from regular to natural PB may be a really smart and healthful move for you and your family.


Peanuts are actually not nuts at all.  They are from the legume (or bean) family and are a great source of high quality protein and fiber, just like other legumes.  They are also a good source of several vitamins and minerals.  Just to name a few: the antioxidant vitamin E, folate and other B vitamins, magnesium, copper, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus.  They are also a good source of phytochemicals which are naturally occurring plant chemicals that help our bodies prevent chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

What turns some people off of eating peanuts or peanut butter is the high fat content, but the fat in peanuts is mostly monounstaturated, which means it helps lower our cholesterol levels.  In fact, studies show that people who eat peanuts and other sources of monounsaturated fats on a daily basis have lower levels of heart disease.  What makes most peanut butters unhealthy is not what's in the peanuts, it's what PB manufacturers add to the peanut butter.

My definition of "natural" is a little different from food manufacturers'.  I consider PB that contains no added fats (hydrogenated oils or palm oil) and no added sweeteners (corn syrup, sugar, molasses, etc) to be truly natural.  Really, there should only be 2 ingredients in peanut butter: peanuts and salt.  Now, I know too much salt is not good for us either, but have you tasted salt free PB?  Unless you've got severe high blood pressure, cutting out the salt in PB really isn't necessary.

There are some so-called "natural" peanut butters on the market now that have added fats and sugars, but because the ingredients themselves are not processed, they are allowed to use the "natural" label.  Don't be fooled by these imposters.  All they have done is substituted palm oil for hydrogenated oils and sugar or molasses for high fructose corn syrup.  Palm and other tropical oils are mostly saturated fat and are no better for us than trans fats.  Added sugar is added sugar, no matter what form it takes.  Our kids' diets are already so full of added sugars and unhealthy fats in the form of snack foods and lunch box staples, they really don't need it on their sandwiches too.

Although I'm a dietitian, I'm definitely not a health fanatic.  When things get busy, I give my kids chicken nuggets and mac and cheese from a box just like any other mom.  But I'm a staunch believer in moderation.  Whether or not you should switch to natural PB really depends on your family's overall diet and how much peanut butter you eat on a regular basis.  If you're kids are like mine and eat PB several times a week, think about what other processed foods they eat and how much added sugars and unhealthy fats they're consuming regularly.  Start looking at ingredient lists on food labels, and then decide if it's worth the added expense and extra stirring.  As parents, we stress about making sure our kids are buckled into their car seats  and we teach them about ways to protect the environment, but often overlook the little things, that over time, can have a big impact on our kids' health.  And health is something that if lost, is almost impossible to get back.

We switched to natural PB several months ago and didn't tell the kids.  They've never said a word about it and honestly, I can't even stomach regular PB anymore.  It tastes so un-natural to me.  I like my peanut butter to actually taste like peanuts.

I apologize if I've sounded at all soap-boxy (if that's even a word).  My job is simply to educate and you take care of the rest.  Natural peanut butter taste test coming within the next day or so.  Take care of yourselves!  lotsalove!

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