Archives for January 2011

Tax Time already? Get Organized with SMEAD!

In addition to my product review blog, Experimental Mommy, I began a network of mom bloggers in 2009 with my good friend Cecelia of Cool Baby Kid.  With what started out as a network of 5 bloggers has exploded to almost 600 in just over one year.  We have added Twitter Parties, Review Campaigns and Consulting to our list of services and within the last few months made our business official by forming Double Duty Divas, LLC.  While our venture is exciting, it is imperative to stay organized so things run smoothly as tax time looms in the near future.

Cecelia and I have read many articles and sought the advice of professionals in order to make sure we are doing things correctly.  The best piece of advice we received is to make sure you stay organized!  Fortunately, I was recently introduced to a SMEAD line of products which will help me achieve this goal including the SMEAD Tax Organizer, the SMEAD Expanding File and the Smead All-in-One Income Tax Organizer.

tax organizer

SMEAD Organomics offers some advice in their online articles.  While reading the article entitled, “Tax Advice:  Making Tax Time Easier,” I learned that throughout the year you should separate paperwork into three files:  Income, Expenses and Taxes.  I think the Expanding File would be perfect for this tax!  The article also suggests placing a folder in your car and kitchen in order to quickly place receipts you may need in the future but do not have time to file.  Brilliant!

Because our LLC is new,  my favorite product is the Tax Organizer mainly because it has a great tax checklist on the inside cover.  The organizer also includes several pockets and pre-printed labels to sort paperwork accumulated throughout the year.  I definitely think this will help us be more organized and prepared when we file our taxes this year.

If you need to be more organized, check out the complete line of SMEAD products!

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  Others may have a differing experience with the product.  I received a gift card as compensation for my time, however all opinions remain 100% mine.

A Happy Birthday at Sip and Paint!

Tomorrow, my first daughter will turn six years old. How time flies, right?! Now that she is in grade school, a birthday party including both family AND friends is a MUST. After looking over many birthday party venues in New Orleans, we decided on Sip and Paint.

While my Mother works there as an artist and teacher, it is not the only reason we could not wait to host a party at Sip and Paint. For starters, the entire place was decorated with signs and streamers complete with balloons outside to let guests know where they could find the action. When we arrived, little easels were set up on several tables and my Mom was hard at work sketching the design the kids would paint. About a week prior to the party, Lily had decided that she wanted to paint Hello Kitty! We quickly placed our cake and refreshments on the provided table and Lily was ready to welcome her classmates. It really was the easiest set up I have ever done for a birthday party!

When most of our guests had arrived, the kids each chose a spot at the tables and got ready to paint. My Mom did an excellent job leading the class and letting the kids know that there are NO mistakes, just be creative! In no time, our budding artists were each painting their own canvas and the parents were amazed at how well they did. Honestly, I think it was very hard for the parents to resist picking up a brush and painting, too!

While we waited for paint to dry, we sang Happy Birthday and enjoyed cake, refreshments and even popcorn (which was included in the party!). Just after putting the finishing touches our their masterpieces, the kids gathered for a group photo with their canvases with big smiles on their faces.

Lily’s Sip and Paint party was a great experience. The kids had an absolute blast and left with the painting they created to hang in their own rooms. And from a parents’ perspective, this party was ridiculously easy. We walked in only fifteen minutes before party time, set down our cake and then were free to enjoy the party with our daughter. Sip and Paint took care of everything and allowed us to have just as much fun as our guests.

In fact, if the parents want to have a little fun of their own, check out the Walk in Wednesdays or even book a party! Don’t miss a thing by “liking” Sip and Paint on Facebook!

Thank you, Sip and Paint, for making my daughter’s 6th birthday a party to remember!  We will definitely be back!

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  Others may have a differing opinion/experience.  While a discount was given, all opinions remain 100% mine.

PiggyBack Bandz: Review and Giveaway

hypothesis PiggyBack Bandz will allow my girls to participate in the new bracelet craze and still show off their unique styles and individuality.

materials

PiggyBack Bandz in Glam, Alphabet and Groovy plus two girls who love the stretchy bracelet look!  About the PiggyBack Bandz:

“Piggyback Bandz at first glance looks similar to many other band bracelets until you slide it on your wrist and watch it stand at attention, upright. Layer the bandz with one, two or a half-dozen more to create a word, a secret code, a design or whatever the imagination whips up. Then trade with your friends!

There are currently 8 Piggyback themes.  Choose from Glam, Football, Groovy, Sealife, Alphabet, Cool Rides, Safari and Extra Letters. Wear LOL with three bandz, display a glamorous ring or show off a racing car or football helmet. Whatever your personality, there’s a band that fits!

 

results

My two daughters have joined the shaped rubber band craze!  Santa brought a few packs in their stocking this year and we have entire bags of these accessories.  The only problem is that once you put on the bracelet, it is very difficult to tell what they are wearing?  Is it the princess?  The shoe?  The star?  Because it’s nearly impossible to tell, many fights have begun between the sisters.  When I heard about PiggyBack Bandz, I was so excited to introduce them to my kids.

What’s different about these rubber band bracelets?  You can actually tell what they are even when they are on the wrist!  Genius, right?  The company touts that this bracelet is “The Bandz that Stand!”  The bracelet is still shaped, but included a second piece that stands when worn.  For example, my daughter tried the Alphabet Banz and started searching through the letters to spell her name.  She quickly combined the letters and proudly wore her name which was displayed on the letters that stood up so everyone could still see what the bracelet was saying.  Just remember that if your name has two of the same letter, you need a second pack or the “Extra Letters” pack as well.  She was over the moon excited to wear her name around town!

PiggyBack Bandz

summary

The PiggyBack Bandz are definitely different from all the other types of rubber band bracelets my daughters have in their collection.  This is the ONLY band that still keeps it shape when placed on the wrist.  The true testament is that both my daughters grab for the PiggyBack Bandz when accessorizing their outfits over any other band in their collection.

Buy It: Each pack contains 25 bands (26 in the Alphabet pack) and can be purchased at PiggyBack Bandz for just $4.95!

GIVEAWAY

Are your kids part of the rubber band bracelet craze?  One winner will be able to select FOUR packs of PiggyBack Bandz!

How to Enter:

1. Visit PiggyBack Bandz and tell me which four packs you would choose!

Additional entries:

1. Blog about this giveaway and link to The Not-So-Blog and PiggyBack Bandz (10 extra entries).

2. Follow me (@BridgetteLA) and @PiggyBackBandz on Twitter and Tweet this giveaway. Every time you tweet you get an additional entry! Unlimited! (You must have over 50 Twitter followers to qualify for unlimited entries!)

3. Subscribe to my blog.

4. Become a Fan of The Not-So-Blog and PiggyBack Bandz on Facebook.

5. Place my blog button on your sidebar.

Contest ends at 11:59pm CST on February 14th. Prizes not claimed in 72 hours will be forfeited. Open to U.S. Residents only.

This review is the opinion of The Experimental Mommy. Other may have a different experience with the product. Thank you to PiggyBack Bandz for supplying the product for review.  All opinions remain 100% mine.

WINNERS

Are you ready?  Do you feel lucky?  Here are the latest winners from Experimental Mommy:

Mama Wants Her Body Back:  Shawna

Blu-ray Player from Redbox:  Ty

Constructive Playthings Cottage:  mframe

PEEPS: Linda L.

Sucre Macaroons: Carol G.

Hershey’s Cookie Exchange:  CJ

Hannah Montana DVD:  Bridgette B.

Bank of America Gift Card:  Kelly

Record a Story:  Traci S.

Tassimo:  Teegan B.

Bialetti Cookware:  Donna B.

Mrs. Butterworths:  Costana H.

Fresh Produce Clothing:  Cynthia R.

Puppy Pursuit:  Debbie S.

Whomp Charmz:  Karen B.

Tyson Anytizers:  Cheryl22

Prilosec Gift Card:  Jenn

Congrats to all the winners and thanks to everyone for participating!  The winners will receive an email shortly. Please make sure you read the Winner’s Policy before claiming your prize!

Got Fiber? Try FiberChoice Chewable Fiber Supplements!

January is almost over….did you stick to your New Year’s Resolution?  I actually made two this year:

1.  Take the stairs every morning.

2.  Join Weight Watchers and attain goal weight (again). 

I am proud to say that I have been sticking to my guns and accomplishing my goals throughout January.  As a member of Weight Watchers, one of the things you must incorporate into your diet is fiber.  I have done a decent job of choosing fiber rich foods, but I had no idea that a chewable fiber supplement was available!  About FiberChoice:

“FiberChoice® Chewable Fiber Supplement is a simple, convenient, natural fiber that provides the regular benefits of fiber, while also helping to support the immune system, digestive tract, and overall health.

The main ingredient in FiberChoice® tablets is inulin, the same healthy fiber found naturally in many fruits and vegetables.  Inulin is “prebiotic,” which means it nourishes the friendly, “good” bacteria in the digestive system.”

Did you know that most people need 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber each day, but most of us get only 12 to 15 grams a day?  That’s a pretty big deficit.  By taking two tablets of Fiber Choice, you increase your daily intake of fiber by 4 grams. 

Why is it important?  I don’t know about you, but having a full time job, two small kids and a blog to run can cause some stress.  Stress can certainly cause your digestive system to get “out of whack.”  The prebiotics in FiberChoice can help the probiotics found in foods such as yogurt (or products such as Activa) to restore digestive balance and keep you feeling good!

FiberChoice® is available in four formulas: FiberChoice® original formula; FiberChoice® Weight Management; FiberChoice® Plus Calcium, and FiberChoice® Plus Antioxidants and in flavors such as orange, assorted berries (which didn’t taste half bad), and even sugar-free varieties. 

Buy It:  I found the 220 count Fiber Choice Chewable Fiber Supplement for just $22.15!

Learn more: Follow FiberChoice on Twitter!

“I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of FiberChoice and received a coupon to facilitate my review and a gift code to thank me for taking the time to participate.  Affiliate links are used in this post.”

Overcome Nighttime Fear with “The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari”

As a child, I firmly remember being afraid of the dark.  I could not settle myself to go to sleep unless the hallway light was turned on.  My kids are the same way.  Both of them have to have a light on somewhere in order to not be scared at night.  Because I hate the thought of burning electricity all night, even if it is just a little “night light,”  we have tried to transition them to sleeping without any lights on at all.  When I was asked to review The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari, I was excited to say yes!

Children’s books can be a great way to help cope with a sensitive or new situation, and this one is no exception.  With adorable, soothing illustrations and great dialogue, this book from Waterbrook Press follows Padraig the dragon and Roger the turtle on an overnight safari. Authors Donita K. Paul and Evangeline Denmark have done an excellent job on this latest installment in The Dragon and the Turtle series.   The boys are having a great time until it gets dark!  The reader will be able to relate when spooky noises frighten them, only to find out they are made by a kitten in the woods.  One of the bonus features of the book is an extra story and conversation starters so guide parents can delve into meaningful conversations with kids.

My kids loved The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari and asked to read it the following night as well.  It helped me discuss with my younger (and more spooked by dark child) that it is normal to be afraid of the dark, but just like Roger and Padraig, we find out there really isn’t anything to be afraid of!  Is your little one afraid of the dark?  Padraig and Turtle might be just the thing to help!

Buy It: You can find The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari on Amazon.com for just $8.63!

GIVEAWAY

Is your little one afraid of the dark?  Want to give this book a shot at helping out?  One reader will win a copy of “The Dragon and the Turtle Go on Safari!”

How to enter:

1. Tell me how you help your little one cope with night time fears.

Additional entries:

1. Blog about this giveaway and link to The Not-So-Blog (10 extra entries).

2. Follow me (@BridgetteLA) on Twitter and Tweet this giveaway. Every time you tweet you get an additional entry! Unlimited! (You must have over 50 Twitter followers to qualify for unlimited entries!)

3. Subscribe to my blog.

4. Become a Fan of The Not-So-Blog on Facebook.

5.  Place my blog button is your sidebar.

Contest ends at 11:59pm CST on February 10th. Prizes not claimed in 72 hours will be forfeited. Open to U.S. Residents only.

This review is the opinion of Jennifer of The Experimental Mommy. Other may have a different experience with the product. A product was supplied in order to facilitate this review, however she was not compensated in any way except for the complimentary product.

Valentine’s Pillow Pets: Review and Giveaway

Each night, I read a story to my daughter, pray and tuck her into bed….with about 5 Pillow Pets. She absolutely loves these things and I can’t say that I blame her. The Pillow Pets are so soft and cuddly that I was so excited to get the opportunity to review the brand new Valentine’s Pet, Love Pup!

Have you heard of Pillow Pets?  Just in case you haven’t hugged one yet, let me explain:

Made of ultra-soft chenille, Pillow Pets™ plush foldable stuffed animals are much more than a stuffed animal. With a strap that closes underneath to transform the pillow into a friendly pet, they are an ideal travel pal, naptime buddy and all-around cuddly friend. Pillow Pets™ plush foldable stuffed animals are available in jungle animals, farm critters and sea creatures – 36 different animals to choose from – and are just one part of the Pillow Pets™ family of products, which also includes books, blankets, slippers, and games.”

How can you resist this face?

When the Luv Pup arrived, I decided that it was MY turn to own a Pillow Pet and claimed him as my own!  He is just as soft as the others in the series and incredibly cute with hearts on his belly.  His nose is even shaped like a little heart!  If you are looking for a great gift for your kids (or even your sweetie), the Luv Pup from Pillow Pets would make a great snuggle buddy!

GIVEAWAY

Do you need a snuggle buddy?  One reader will win their choice of a Pillow Pet Luv Pup or Luv Kitty!

How to enter:

1. Visit Pillow Pets and tell me if you would choose the Luv Pup or Luv Kitty and who you would give it to!

Additional entries:

1. Blog about this giveaway and link to The Not-So-Blog (10 extra entries).

2. Follow me (@BridgetteLA) on Twitter and Tweet this giveaway. Every time you tweet you get an additional entry! Unlimited! (You must have over 50 Twitter followers to qualify for unlimited entries!)

3. Subscribe to my blog.

4. Become a Fan of The Not-So-Blog and Pillow Pets on Facebook.

5.  Comment on the Pillow Pets Blog.

Contest ends at 11:59pm CST on February 11th. Prizes not claimed in 72 hours will be forfeited. Open to U.S. Residents only.

This review is the opinion of The Experimental Mommy. Other may have a different experience with the product. Thank you to Pillow Pets who provided the product for review. I was not compensated in any way except for the complimentary product.

Dremel Multi-Max Oscillating Tool: Review and Giveaway

Flowers?  eh.  Chocolates?  eh.  Sappy Cards?  Not so much.  After 10 years of marriage, I know not to buy my husband any of these things for Valentine’s Day.  But if you wave power tool in front of his face, he’s mine forever! So, when I had the chance to let him test out the new Dremel Multi-Max Oscillating Tool, I knew he would be thrilled!

But, let’s face it, I do not know my power tools, so I needed to read up a bit before doing this review.  Here’s what I learned from the website:

Dremel Multi-Max “Oscillating tools are compact, yet full-featured multi-tasking tools designed for a wide range of home projects, especially repair, restoration, installation, remodeling and renovation work. A variety of blades attach to the tip of the tool and oscillate from side to side at high speeds in a small arc so that the blades appear to be vibrating. By switching out the blade, oscillating tools can be used to tackle a wide variety of applications and materials, including wood, laminates, metal, grout, adhesives and drywall. Many people know that oscillating tools cut and sand. What they might not know is that they can be used for so much more, including grinding, scraping, flush cutting, plunge cutting, caulk removal, grout removal and more.”

Who knew?

So what makes the cordless Dremel Multi Max so special?  My husband, much like a kid in a candy store, ran around the house looking for projects to finish (and we certainly have no lack of uncompleted projects in this house).  He first used it in our tiny Master Bathroom to trim baseboards.  He noted that the Dremel allowed him to work comfortably in tight spaces.  He moved on to the porch to sand down a wooden bench before volunteering to replace the wooden rails on our Mardi Gras float.

My husband also liked the organization of the carrying case which allows space for extras.  The charge indicator which monitors battery life and the rechargeable 12VMAX Lithium-ion battery helps finish projects quickly.  Overall, he absolutely loves his new toy!

The Dremel Multi-Max Oscillating Kit can be purchased at Amazon.com for just $124!

GIVEAWAY

Do you know someone who would like to own the Dremel Multi-Max Oscillating Tool?  I have one to give away to one lucky reader!

How to enter (mandatory entry):

1. Tell me what project you would do first with the Dremel Multi-Max Oscillating Kit?

Additional entries:

1. Blog about this giveaway and link to The Not-So-Blog and Dremel (10 extra entries).

2. Follow me (@BridgetteLA) on Twitter and Tweet this giveaway. Every time you tweet you get an additional entry! Unlimited! (You must have over 50 Twitter followers to qualify for unlimited entries!)

3. Subscribe to my blog.

4. Become a Fan of The Not-So-Blog on Facebook.

5. Place my blog banner on your sidebar.

6. Subscribe to my Feed.

Contest ends at 11:59pm CST on February 11th. Prizes not claimed in 72 hours will be forfeited. Open to U.S. Residents only.

This product review is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy. Other may have a different experience with the product. I was not compensated for this review other than a product sample provided by Dremel. All opinions are 100% mine.

Get Healthy Hands with Wet Ones and Bill Nye the Science Guy!

You just have to love winter, right?  The cozy sweaters, the crisp air, roaring fires, hot chocolate and….the flu.  With kids staying indoors more during the winter, germs seem to have a field day.  Recently, Wet Ones launched the Healthy Hands Zone to help kids learn about the importance of clean hands.  Bill Nye the Science Guy steps in to make learning fun with several interesting Science experiments (which is right up my alley!) to do with your little scientists!

I decided to try a few of the projects with my daughters (ages 3 and 6) and they had a ball while learning all about germs.  Check out the following video to see what we did!

After three days, we checked on the progress of our bread experiment.  As you can see in the picture below, both the “dirty” and “washed” breads had grown black and green mold while the “Wet Ones” slice was clean!  So, our conclusion was that when soap and water are not available, the Wet Ones Antibacterial Wipes (which kills 99.99% of all germs) are a suitable alternative.

Want to try the bread experiment with your kids?  Here’s how to join the fun:

What you Need:
  • A paper towel
  • Water
  • 3 plastic, sealable sandwich bags
  • 3 slices of bread
  • Dirt
  • Wet Ones® Antibacterial Hand Wipes
Experimental Procedure:

1.    Tear the paper towel into three pieces of equal size.

2.    Dip each piece of paper towel in water.

3.    Place one piece of paper towel in each of the plastic bags.

4.    Rub your hands in the dirt.

5.    Touch your dirty hands to one slice of bread.

6.    Put that slice in one of the bags (along with the wet paper towel).

7.    Seal the bag tightly.

8.    Wash your hands well with soap and water – take a full minute.

9.    Pick up another slice of bread with your clean hands and put it in the second bag. Seal it tightly as well.

10.    Rub your hands in the dirt again.

11.    Wipe your hands clean with a Wet Ones® Antibacterial Hand Wipe.

12.    Pick up the last slice of bread and put it in the third bag. Seal it tightly.

13.    Label each bag so you remember which one is which.

14.    Put the bags aside in a warm, dark place for three to seven days.

If you did the experiment, what were your findings?  Did the Wet Ones kill just as many germs as washing your hands?  If you are now a Wet Ones believer, check out this coupon for $0.75 off your next purchase!

“Energizer Personal Care provided the supplies and Flip UltraHD video camera for this review at no cost to me. This review is not being administered or sponsored in any way by Playtex or its affiliates, but solely by Experimental Mommy. Any questions or comments regarding this review must be sent to me at Experimental Mommy and not to Energizer Personal Care.”

Easy (and Yummy!) Stuffed Shells Recipe

I am always looking for dinners that I can make ahead and pull out of the freezer.  Our weeknights tend to get so jammed up with homework and sports practices and I refuse to become a fast-food family.  Last year I found this recipe for stuffed shells and have made it countless times and shared with quite a few friends.  While making it this week, I decided to share it with all of you!  And let’s face it, we all know Bridgette needs some ideas in the kitchen!  🙂 

PS:  It’s meatless, so this is great for those of us who observe Lent!  It’s coming up!  Even better, it makes a bunch, so you will have plenty for leftovers! 

EASY STUFFED SHELLS

What you need:
  •  1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 large egg, well beaten
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 (24-ounce) jars marinara sauce, divided
How to Make It:

Easy Stuffed Shells In a large stockpot, bring water to a boil over high heat. Add shells. Cook until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.

  1. In a large bowl, combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, 1 cup mozzarella, egg, garlic, and Italian seasoning, stirring well. Spoon spinach mixture into shells.
  2. Pour 1 jar marinara sauce into the bottom of a 15-x-11-x-2-inch baking dish. Arrange stuffed shells on top of sauce. Top with remaining 1 jar marinara sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1.5 cups mozzarella.*
  3. Preheat oven to 350°.
  4. Cover and bake until cooked through, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove cover and bake until cheese is bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes.
Note: *If you’re making this dish ahead, cover it and freeze it at this point. Thaw in refrigerator overnight before baking.
Happy eating!