Thursday, August 30, 2012

Educational Insights :: Teachable Touchables Review & Giveaway {Ends 9/9} US/CAN


I'm always on the look out for educational companies that can challenge Buddy but also help him learn new skills and concepts in a fun way. I'm excited to introduce you to Educational Insights, a manufacturer of educational products for classrooms and parents. Founded in 1962, Educational Insights offers kids unique, relevant, and engaging toys, games, and educational products that will inspire and motivate your children. Developed by educators and parents, their products are well-suited to your child's needs and appropriate for their age. 

I'm thrilled to now be partnering with Educational Insights on reviews of their educational products. If you read my blog at all then you know I enjoy making learning as fun as possible. Thankfully I have a preschooler that LOVES to learn and he thinks everything education-related is already fun. I'm trying to keep it that way by continuing to provide fun ways for him to learn. Educational Insights understands that learning needs to be fun to keep your kids engaged and excited to learn as evidenced through my first review of one of their products.

For my first ever review from Educational Insights I chose to review the Teachable Touchables. These texture squares are an awesome way for kids age 3-5 to develop a more descriptive vocabulary, communication and matching skills, and tactile awareness through this fun product of sensory exploration. I haven't spent much time with Buddy on the sense of touch so I knew I had to check these out and incorporate Teachable Touchables into our casual learning style. I also figured this would be a fun, relatively mess-free way to explore the sense of touch without having to create a Montessori style sensory bin (which I've done before and boy was it messy!).

Inside the included yellow drawstring bag are 10 pairs of 3" texture squares. Everything from fluffy and furry to scratchy and bumpy. The activity guide includes a bunch of different hands-on activities ideas using Teachable Touchables, and even more variations depending on your child and skill level. One of the games called "Feel and Find" sounded like the perfect way to test out Teachable Touchables. One texture square of each pair goes in the bag, and the rest are out in a pile. Your child chooses one, feels it, closes their eyes and tries to retrieve the matching square from the bag without looking. Buddy really enjoys matching games like Memory, so I knew he would understand what I was asking him to do. He picked up the concept right away!

A photo is worth a thousand words. Think he enjoyed this much? There's something about playing a game that requires a toddler to close their eyes that gets everyone into a laughing fit of fun!

I really, really like Teachable Touchables. They are teaching Buddy various textures and how to describe them using new words. It's an area I've yet to get to, and these are an awesome tool to help me. Now that we've played several games with Teachable Touchables and have sat down to talk about textures, Buddy now tells ME what the textures are when we play. He loves them because they're fun and I love them because he's having fun AND learning too! Absolutely mom approved!

Price: Teachable Touchables - $24.99
Buy It: Check out to buy online or find a retailer!

Win It!
One winner will receive their own set of Teachable Touchables from Educational Insights!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Baby Cargo 300 Series Stroller Giveaway! {Ends 9/14} #babycargo300

New parents want the latest and greatest in baby gear, right? Would you like to win a lightweight, full feature stroller? We are giving you a chance to win one! I've teamed up with a fabulous group of bloggers to bring you this great giveaway from Baby Cargo, an up and coming baby gear brand. 

The Baby Cargo 300 offers many features of a full size stroller in a compact package. A stylish ride that is comfortable for baby is just the icing on the cake. The wipe-clean fabric is easy to care for, it is suitable for babies from birth, and it will fit kids up to 50 pounds. With great maneuverability for all your travels, whether you're shopping, taking a stroll in the park, or jetting through the airport - the Baby Cargo 300 has all bases covered. Thoughtful details like the zippered back pocket and self-locking fold make travel a breeze! You can read the full review of the Baby Cargo 300 Stroller over at Eco-Babyz and see more photos. 

Our Favorite Features: 
  • Comes with cup holder and rain cover
  • Luxurious, soft, easy-clean fabric 
  • Adjustable footrest
  • Reclining seat, suitable from birth
  • Self-locks when folding
  • Weighs only 14.9 pounds
  • Holds kids up to 50 pounds

Buy It! 
You can buy the Baby Cargo 300 Stroller for $179.99. The Baby Cargo 200 is available for $149.99 and the 100 Series for $109.99. 

Win It! 
Baby Cargo is blessing one of you with the Baby Cargo 300 Series stroller in your choice of Simply Taupe, Eclipse, or Blacktop!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Getting Ready For School and Giving Back with Boys & Girls Club of America

Back-to-school season is in full swing for many of you. Whether you have decided to send your kids to public school or teach them at home, a new school year means lots of learning and growing. Are you ready? Do you have all the tools you need to be sure your kids will reach their full potential? There are lots of resources, tools, tips and programs available out there to help you and your kids have a great year. Today I'd like to share about what BGCA is doing to help kids in need and all parents this year!
Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) and their after-school programs have been helping kids around the country for over 100 years through programs and activities related to education, leadership, arts, fitness and other specialized programs. This year, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America has partnered with Disney to launch the Tools for Back to School initiative to help supply BGCA with school supplies. For every correct answer you make in this pop-quiz style game, school supplies are donated to BGCA to help a club kid in need! This is such an easy way to get involved and help such a great organization. There are just 5 quiz questions so it won't take much time at all!

Another way you can help kids succeed in school this year is by visiting your local jcpenney during the month of August and partnering with jcp cares. Just round up your purchase amount at jcpenney registers to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Seriously people, anyone can do that! Of course you can always choose to donate more and even directly to BGCA by clicking on the "donate" link in the top right corner.

Parents can also find lots of great tips and educational content from BGCA to get ready for the school year. Just check out under the "Get Ready" section for lots of great tips to download and use. Topics include time management, helping kids set goals, preparing kids for college and lots more. There are TONS of tips over there so I encourage you to take a few minutes and check them out!

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Boys and Girls Club. I received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Have Dinner Delivered With :: Review & Giveaway {Ends 8/31}

At you can order food online from your favorite local restaurants and have it delivered straight to your door. Started in 2004, there are now over half a million users every month that order from thousands of restaurants in over 50 cities nationwide. There were tons of restaurants available in my area! Everything from Chili's and Tahoe Joes to Rubio's. With just a few clicks online, you can find out what's available in your area, place your order and wait for your dinner to arrive.

We recently moved to a new home and lots of repairs and work is being done on a daily basis. Cooking right now? Nope, not much of that is happening. We're eating simple foods, sandwiches and easy snacks. While I'm excited to get back into a good routine in my new kitchen very soon, for now I'm excited to have options like I enjoy going out to eat on occasion, but right now it's very convenient to just have it delivered when I need it without having to wait at a table to be served.

When I first placed my order on for some Lucille's Bar-B-Que, it was quite a mess to say the least. After ordering at 5:25pm for 6:15pm delivery, I got a call (from my local third party delivery service who handles my area) at about 5:45 saying my delivery time was going to be about 1 1/2 hours late. I was bummed, but with no other plans we decided to stick it out and keep the order. Then at about 6 o'clock I got another call saying their power went out and they didn't know when it was going to come back on (how they were still able to contact me without power and a computer screen with my information is beyond me!). My options were to cancel my order, or wait to see how long it would take for the power to return. Well, that could have been even longer so I canceled. About 30 minutes later I received another call saying the power had returned, but by that point I was so over it all that I told them again that I still did not want my order.

Apparently once your order is sent to the restaurant, it's on the restaurant to deliver quality service. But in my case it wasn't the restaurant's fault at all and I feel like should be taking more responsibility for the entire process from order to delivery. I asked the customer service rep from the third party delivery service and she said it was their service that was backed up, not the restaurant. It sounds like this third party delivery service probably delivers for a lot of restaurants and not just Lucille's that I ordered from. I offered a billion times to just go pick up my order but they said in that case I'd have to just order right from Lucille's. But I had a gift certificate to! Because a local third party delivery service delivers most (or maybe all?) of's orders to you, there's definitely a bigger potential for orders to go wrong or get backed up. Maybe my first order attempt I ordered too late that evening, they were swamped, and so my order was at the tail end of their rush? I don't know. The power outage was bizarre and I understand things happen, but it definitely didn't help the serious time back-up they were already having. Either way, it left me feeling quite disappointed and without dinner or a back-up plan.

A few nights ago I decided to try again. I placed my order online over 6 hours in advance and my delivery lady arrived on time with hot food in hand! It was really a great experience and made up for my initial experience with Ordering from definitely has it's perks and times where it's appropriate, but I don't feel like it's something I would do all the time. I live in an area with tons or restaurants within a mile radius of my home so I'd rather go out and have the full experience of sitting down and being served. You're required to tip and pay a delivery fee anyway, so why not get the full dining experience if you're not busy? That's my take. I'm sure many of you would like to try out and enjoy having dinner delivered so I'm hosting a giveaway too!

Win It!
One winner will receive a $40 gift certificate code to!

Dinner In 30 Minutes With GalloLea Pizza Kits -- A Gluten Free Option Too! {Review}

Quick, wholesome dinners. Something I think every mom dreams of, right? With GalloLea's convenient Pizza Kits, dinner is ready in just 30 minutes. It's not just any dinner either, it's pizza! I'm sure I score some brownie points with Buddy here since making pizza at home is also fun family activity in my house.

GalloLea Pizza Kits come in gluten free (what I reviewed), whole wheat, and low sodium. I thought that making homemade pizza (or eating any pizza at all!) would be a thing of the past when I went gluten free recently. Not so!! Each kit includes a sauce pack, dry crust mix, round cooking paper, directions, and recipe suggestions. It makes a 12" pizza which is perfect for my little family of 3 along with a salad, a side of fruit and even a couple pieces leftover for lunch the next day. Toppings are not included, but that's where you come in to make your homemade pizza your very own.

Gluten Free Pizza Dough Ingredients: Organic brown rice flour, organic buckwheat flour, teff flour, sweet rice flour, yeast, organic raw sugar, sea salt and vitamin C.

Pizza Sauce Ingredients: Organic whole peeled tomatoes (tomatoes, sea salt, citric acid, calcium chloride), organic tomato paste (tomatoes, citric acid), organic extra virgin olive oil, organic garlic, organic raw sugar, organic basil, organic oregano and more organic spices.

The ingredients of the included crust mix and sauce are definitely on the natural side which I'm super happy about. Gluten-free and natural together is often hard to find! Many organic ingredients are used, and you could potentially make your own pizza by gathering all these ingredients. REAL ingredients!! Yay! But who wants that hassle, right? That's why these pizza kits exist! Heck knows I don't have all these ingredients on hand at a moments notice. These kits are all about convenience, but still allow you to make a quick, homemade meal that's delicious.

Making your pizza couldn't be any easier. You literally just add water to the dry crust mix, mix it up into a ball and spread it out onto oiled cooking paper. Then you par-bake it just a little, add your sauce and toppings, and then finish baking in the oven. It's SO easy and such an easy clean up!

Buddy LOVES helping me in the kitchen!

Viola! The finished product! There's 1/2 mushroom, 1/4 feta cheese and sun-dried tomato, and 1/4 plain cheese for Buddy. Try customizing a pizza for delivery like that! Ha! This was SO yummy!

I'm very, very impressed with these pizza kits. I was initially skeptical about how the texture would turn out without gluten, but it's actually really great. It crisps up nicely, holds together well enough to pick up a piece without falling apart (just don't add too much water to the dough!), and doesn't taste dense like cardboard. It's actually quite light. It tastes a little earthy, hearty and definitely unique. I love it and my food-critical hubby gobbles it up too! The sauce is also delicious and has a spiced, sweet flavor to it. It's really hard to believe that it's all gluten free and I can enjoy one of my favorite foods still. If you're gluten free, you're in for a major treat with GalloLea Pizza Kits!

You can purchase GalloLea Pizza Kits online HERE, or check to see if there is a retail location near you. Pizza Kits are $6-7 each.

Connect with GalloLea on Facebook and Twitter
Disclosure: I received free product in exchange for my review. No other compensation was received. This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest Post :: REALFood Transitioning Snacks & Drinks

The following guest post is written by Sara from Your Thriving Family.

My biggest struggle with our transition to real food has been when I get the snackies and miss my soda.  So, I have been trying to find good alternatives to sugar laden drinks, chips, cookies and all those other easy to reach for empty foods.  Here are some alternatives I have become obsessed with.

First - don't buy them! If they aren't in the house they won't be easy to reach.

- My husband and I have never been huge candy people. In fact after most holidays I end up sending a bag full of JUNK to school with him - poor high schoolers. But I have found myself wanting chocolate - I do still indulge in the occasional high quality dark chocolate, but savor every bite of that small piece!

Mostly, I've been eating Strawberries or Gala, Fuji and Honey Crisp Apple.  In fact there was one week I think I had at least two apples a day.  Don't forget to try out your kids foods - I had completely forgotten how good raisins are!  Also, the homemade lemon curd yogurt I've been making has been a good alternative when something creamy is wanted.

The great thing is after you have stopped having the overly sweet foods for a few weeks they are no longer as appealing.  Every 10 to 14 days your taste buds get new nerves.  Which means if you are diligent all those foods that used to be desserts when sugar was at a premium can once again be treats.

I spent quite a few attempts figuring out a less processed granola bar, then I realized these "cookies" I was already making have the some ingredients, plus quite a few more nutritious ones.  The reason I use quotes around cookies, is that they are not cookies to someone having store bought chocolate chip ones.  The sweetest thing about them is the dark chocolate.  Having said that, my kids love these.  And I don't feel guilty giving them these and some fruit for a light dinner.

Carbs - Sometimes I just really want to sit down with a can of pringles or some pirates booty.  After starting this post over six months ago, I actually don't crave this very often.  But when I do I've been having homemade salsa and chips with flax and chia seeds.  Once you start eating more hearty chips, crackers and breads you won't want the lightness of the tortilla chip or "100% whole wheat" bread.

I have also been making a lot of muffins and quick breads.  These are great for throwing in a 1/4 cup of sourdough starter for an amazing rise and some added digestive help.  This is not just bananas!  Apples, carrots, root veggies and squash all make some tasty muffins.

Don't discount a hand full of seeds or nuts either!  I've been loving toasted spouted bread with a little butter or a nut butter.  Sometimes a little cinnamon does the trick as well - which is a natural for tricking your taste buds into a little sweetness.

My main focus for all of us is that what we are eating is providing nutrition, not just filler.

What about family and social functions?  Let yourself cheat . . . if you want to.  I usually allow one day on the weekend to have some soda.  I am happy to say that most of the time I am disappointed with it. I've also started my Water Kefir journey - which I'll be posting about soon - and recently had my first successful batch of carbonated kefir.  I was really pleased with how well it turned out, now to repeat it!

Teas, especially some with slightly fruity flavor, are a good choice for less sugary drinks.  But good old water can be quite refreshing if you get yourself used to it!  For quite a while I was having a small glass of juice in the evening to nip the cravings.  Brushing my teeth soon after dinner also discouraged the evening munchies as well.


What real food alternatives do you enjoy?



Sara is a full-time mama to Sissy – almost 6, her brother, Singer – almost 3, and newly joined baby brother on 3-6-12. She is a wife to a her husband of almost 8 years, who has an amazing heart for working with youth. She is also a homemaker, doula, Theatre Tech and adjunct. She writes about family, food, marriage, kids, miscarriage, pregnancy and God. Pushing her family to THRIVE not just strive to survive! Visit her at Your Thriving Family.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lauren Nicole Gifts :: Victorian Wax Seal Initial Necklace Review & Giveaway {Ends 8/29}

Lauren Nicole Gifts is a fantastic online shop for all your hand stamped, custom jewelry needs. They offer necklaces, bracelets, rings, charms, chains, jewelry for men and lots more. With each order made just for you, you can be sure you're getting a specially handcrafted piece of jewelry that was created with plenty of care and attention to detail.

I had the pleasure of reviewing this gorgeous Wax Seal Initial Necklace. It features a solid sterling silver wax seal charm with the letter "R" for Reynolds in the Victorian font. The charm is 3/4" in diameter and is on an 18" sterling silver chain with a freshwater pearl. With 10 fonts available, various beads and chains to choose from, you have the ability to completely personalize your Wax Seal Initial Necklace to what you want. It's also very easy to make your selections when you order.

I absolutely adore this necklace and enjoy wearing it often. It's a relatively casual piece, but still sophisticated and unique. I own a few customized pieces of jewelry from other small businesses, so I can definitely vouch for the high quality of the materials used in this necklace from Lauren Nicole Gifts. Not only does the impeccable quality increase the beauty of this piece, but also the longevity of use (which means it should last for many, many years!). 

If you're looking for a shop that offers a really wide selection of jewelry that is completely customizable, I encourage you to check out Lauren Nicole Gifts. Here are just a few of their other designs!

Buy It: Check out to start shopping now!
Win It!
One winner will receive a Victorian Wax Seal Initial Necklace!
(winner may choose 16" or 18" chain and an initial)

Winners Announcement!

The winner of the If You Care giveaway is...  
Rafflecopter Entry #893 Brittney M.!

The winner of the Diggin BoxSet giveaway is...  
Rafflecopter Entry #637 Mechele J.!

The winners have been contacted by email! Congratulations to you both!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Guest Post :: A Guide to Socially & Environmentally Responsible Internet Shopping

The following guest post is written by Vincent M. Smith –PhD from Silent Springs.
A few years back sociologist Thomas Lyson coined the phrase "civic agriculture."  In Lyson's mind, civic agriculture is everything that industrial agriculture is not.  In civic agriculture communities and individuals are directly connected to the food they purchase.  In civic agriculture, farmers respond not to the whims of market and trade politics but to the needs and desires of the communities they serve.

What Lyson was really doing in his work was re-defining the way we think about doing business.  Rather than doing business with an anonymous world market, we do business with people we know and trust.  You and I have heard this response to global marketing before.  We hear it every time we wander down to our farmers market or attend an event sponsored by our local chamber of commerce or business guild.

Civic business requires community-oriented producers and retailers, but it also requires community-oriented consumers.  Community-oriented consumption is not new.  Hopefully we buy from our local farmers, perhaps we support locally owned businesses, maybe we even try to source locally manufactured products...but what do you do when the products you are looking for aren't available locally?  These days, if you are like me, you turn to the internet.

Trends in internet shopping suggest that when it comes to an internet purchase our social and environmental responsibility is temporarily placed on hold.  We use price comparison websites (essentially available only to the largest corporations on the internet) to buy exclusively on price.  Now I like a good bargain just as much as you, but when we shop exclusively on price on the internet, we end up purchasing from a company that has managed to set up shop in a developing nation where labor and resources can both be easily exploited. We may also end up shopping on a website owned by a corporation with thousands of websites.  These websites all have different domain names, they each have a unique color scheme, but they are essentially just large departments in one enormous department store (with a U.S. address actually based overseas).

Shopping on the internet does not mean you need to leave your interest in creating a better world at the door.  There are now a growing number of e-stores on the internet that permit you to develop relationships with the people behind the store and the artisans behind your products.

Silent Springs ( is designed explicitly for the thoughtful consumer who wants a great deal, but also wants to know that her or his purchase supports a responsible business.  At Silent Springs you can not only meet the family behind the retail and website, but you can meet the artisans that manufacture the products, you can learn about how the products are made, and you can shop without needing to abandon your goodness.

Silent Springs partners only with artisans with a proven commitment to social and environmental responsibility.  Thus, when you search for a great deal on a new skirt, you will first know that the artisans you will be able to choose from have all demonstrated an eagerness to do what is right in the world.

Please don't fall into the trap of industrial internet consumption.  Get to know the people behind the stores and blogs you support.  If you rely exclusively on typing in a keyword, scanning the results, and selecting what appears to be the best price, you'll support only the companies with the largest advertising budgets, those with the largest number of poorly paid employees, those selling products with the lowest quality, and those willing to exploit resources and laws to compete on price.  Find websites you can trust and support them!

Vincent M. Smith - PhD


Vincent M. Smith –PhD is the author of The Organic Times Blog and co-owner of Silent Springs.  Vincent is also an assistant professor of environmental studies and sociology at Southern Oregon University where he teaches and conducts research on coupled human-environment systems.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Gfreely Launches ‘Back-to-School’ Discount Program for Gluten Free Students!

This post is brought to you by Gfreely. They are offering an exciting discount for new subscribers, just in time for back-to-school!

Gfreely’s gluten free subscription box service and online store help students on a gluten free diet discover healthy, sustainable gluten free options without paying the ‘gluten free premium’.

BROOKLYN, NY, August 17, 2012 -- Gluten free care package provider, Gfreely, announced its back to school discount program today. Parents and students who join the care package service will receive a 50 percent discount on their first month’s box if they sign-up before Sept. 15, 2012, using special discount code “BK2SCHOOL”.

Gfreely’s subscription program delivers a surprise care package containing a variety of new gluten free products each and every month. Subscribers discover six to 10 new gluten free products including snacks, healthy on-the-go foods and recipes at a fixed price of $19 per month. According to the company, each month contains products whose retail value ranges from $25 to $40.

Dining away from home and managing a food allergy can be daunting and expensive. Students on a budget may find it hard to cope with the hefty premium gluten free products demand.  Gfreely’s new discount program is specifically geared towards helping students discover and purchase gluten free products without reading every label or paying health food store prices.

“We work closely with health conscious brands, enabling customers to discover delicious gluten free food for a tremendous value,” says Dan Schiffman, founder & CEO.

For more information, contact Gfreely Investor Relations at or visit

Gfreely boxes and ships the art of surprise, discovery and simplicity for the gluten free community. A gluten free diet is adhered to by over 6 million Americans, and Gfreely is the only service that matches people with the products and recipes to make their gluten free diet simple, healthy and fun.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hoover WindTunnel® Air™ Bagless Upright Vacuum {Review}

Hoover. A trusted name in household cleaning products for over 100 years! Just imagine my excitement when a big box containing one of their newest products arrived at my door. A new vacuum! The Hoover WindTunnel® Air™ Bagless Upright gives a whole new meaning to the word "clean". This lightweight, compact, easy-to-use vacuum picked up A TON of junk from my carpet on just the first pass in our family and living rooms despite cleaning with my old vacuum just the day before. So much that I just had to show you (keep scrolling!). I don't know whether I should jump for joy or be totally disgusted, so I'm just going to say that I've finally found the perfect vacuum. Well, maybe it doesn't surpass my love for my KitchenAid Mixer, but that's cooking, and this is cleaning! Both are very important aspects of running a home, and this Hoover vacuum cleans my carpet like nothing else.

With little packaging and just a few tools to attach, I found the initial assembly to be a quick and relatively easy process. The tools that fit together and store on the back of the vacuum is a clever use of space. The handle (which can easily be adjusted up and down for height) doubles as the extension wand to use with the tools. I found that vacuuming baseboards and above door trims to never be so easy with the extension wand! I never have to get low to the ground or grab a chair to reach high because of the convenient extra hose, extension wand and tools. Although I don't have stairs, I would imagine that cleaning stairs would also be a breeze with this vacuum. Even with the extension handle being used with the attachments, you can still easily carry and move the vacuum since the top of the dirt cup has a handle too.

Since the WindTunnel® Air™ Bagless Upright is just 12.4 pounds, maneuvering it is so easy as it glides over carpet and hard floors. It also reaches a bit farther under couches and other furniture because of it's ability to deeply recline back and still run. When put in the upright position while on, the brushroll will automatically shut off. This is perfect if you have kids in the house because inevitably I end up stopping with the vacuum still on in an upright position to pick up a few toys. With this feature I know I won't destroy my carpet with continuous brushing in one spot! Also, next to the on/off power button is the brushroll on/off button. If you have hardwood floors or any hard floor for that matter, this gives you the ability to manually turn the brushroll off so that just the suction is used. Since I have carpet and hardwood floors, this feature is used a lot and it's just a simple button to use.

I thought my prior vacuum did a relatively good job at picking up the food crumbs, dust and dirt. It picked up a lot (so I thought), but the filter and design of my old vacuum often spewed dust all over my house and left it pretty stinky for hours too (and left me sneezing and suffering). Featuring a HEPA media filter that traps 99.97% of dirt, dust and pollens down to 0.3 microns, the WindTunnel® Air™ Bagless Upright completely contains everything inside it's bagless dirt cup. It leaves no musty, dusty evidence of being used at all. Also, emptying the dirt cup couldn't be any easier. With just the push of a button the bottom of the dirt cup opens to release the contents quickly and completely. Taking apart the dirt cup is simple and allows you to completely clean that portion of the filtration system, including a washable filter (you don't wash the HEPA media filter though).

Yep, just one pass through our family and living rooms!! GROSS!
We just moved to a new house last week and the carpet was, well, quite gross. Not only was it matted down in high traffic areas, but apparently a cat (or a few) lived here before we bought it. Seeing the great results we had with the carpet in our apartment over the course of a couple weeks, I knew this vacuum could more than handle the job. Each room had to be vacuumed 10 times before being steamed! That might sound like the vacuum wasn't working or something, but each time the WindTunnel® Air™ Bagless Upright's dirt cup was filling to the max line with cat hair, dust and fine dirt. It was quite disgusting! It's really great to know that this vacuum picked up literally everything, so much so that it revitalized the old carpet to the point that we won't be needing to replace it until at least a year from now. I really could go on and on about how much I love this vacuum. With a multitude of features and a smart design, this is one product that no household should be without. If I were really considered a "super mom", I'd definitely want the WindTunnel® Air™ Bagless Upright as my sidekick.

Price: $179.99 

Buy It: Check for a retailer near you!
Disclosure: I received a sample of this product to facilitate my review, but my opinions are entirely my own. No other compensation was received. This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Guest Post :: Sunflower Seed Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies {Recipe}

The following guest post is written by Jenn from One House Schoolroom and The Great Cloth Diaper Experiment.

Sunflower Seed Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies- YUMMY!!

As a family we have been eating Gluten-free for a while for health reasons.  In that time, I have tried to find alternatives to some of our favorite gluten-filled goodies so my kiddos don't feel like they are missing out on the good stuff.  
One of our family favorites are these yummy alternatives to the classic Peanut Butter cookie-the Sunflower Seed Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies!!  And they are SO yummy.

Let me first address one question we get when we take these little goodies on the road and share them with friends.  Most people wonder why we use Sunflower Seed Butter rather than peanut butter considering that peanut butter does not contain gluten.  There are several reasons- the main reason is that peanuts contain a large amount of mold and mold and yeast in our bodies works together to create the health problems we are trying to avoid.  

The good news is that after using sunflower seed butter for several months, I could not convince my kiddos to go back to peanut butter for anything.  They are hooked- this stuff is good!! So- here's how we make these yummy little treats:

First- the ingredients:
(You might notice we have a slight obsession fondness for Trader Joes!!)
1 3/4 cup Almond Flour
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Aluminum-free Baking Powder
1 cup Sunflower Seed Butter
3/4 cup Raw Honey
2 tbsp. Coconut Milk*
Lots of Chocolate Chips!!

* Please note that we have stopped using Coconut Milk since realizing that it contains Carrageenan- a potential carcinogenic ingredient. You can substitute any kind of milk here. I recommend unsweetened soy milk or goats milk.

Now for the mixing:
  • In a small bowl, mix or sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

  • In a larger bowl, mix together the sunflower seed butter, honey, and coconut milk.

  • Gently mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Stir until well mixed.

  • Add LOTS of Chocolate Chips- seriously as many as you want.  Fold into mixture.
    • If you notice the mixture is very stiff, you can add additional milk in 1/2 tsp. increments until you have a good consistency. 
It should look something like this yummy goodness!!

Now for the fun:

Using your hands, make small- 1 inch- balls with the cookie dough mixture.  
You have two choices at this point- you can leave them as yummy cookie balls (which my children prefer) or you can flatten them by using a fork to make a crisscross pattern on the top of the cookie (much like a standard peanut butter cookie).
Yes- my children do not like the "standard" and instead prefer cookie balls!!

Now you wait- but not for long:

Bake these little goodies at 350 for 6-12 minutes.

This makes between 12 and 18 cookies depending on their size.

This has to be the worst part of the whole experience - my children seriously beg me every time not to bake them-" just let's eat them now!!" LOL- my kiddos are so funny.

And for the reveal:
Yes- a bit anti-climatic considering they look identical to when I put them in the oven.

BUT- the yumminess abounds from these little yummy treats!!

Jenn Walden is a small town girl at heart who converted to a city living mom of three by way of life and circumstances.  She and her husband, Chris, enjoy caring for their busy family, whose ages span from 9 months to 9 years old.  Jenn's passions include homeschooling, writing, blogging, home-making and networking with moms from around the world.  Jenn's heart is to encourage women to enjoy their lives right where they are- not striving to be perfect, but enjoying life for all that it offers.  She is head blogger at One House Schoolroom and The Great Cloth Diaper Experiment.  You can connect with Jenn on Google+TwitterPinterest, and Facebook.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Winners Announcement!

The winner of the organicgirl/Save Mart GC giveaway is...  
Rafflecopter Entry #124 Jayedee D.!

The winners of the Just For Baby Giveaway Hop are...  
Hazelaid - Rafflecopter Entry #31 Tennille!
Stork Stack - Rafflecopter Entry #540 Ruby Y!

The winners have been contacted by email! Congratulations to you all!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Guest Post :: Recycling Beyond the Curb

The following guest post is written by Kristina at The Greening Of Westford.


Recycling Beyond the Curb

Reduce Reuse Recycle.  The 3R’s are the basics of all that is green!  If you are just starting out making your household more eco-friendly, recycling is an easy way to start.   

Most communities have access to some sort of recycling whether it’s curbside or a transfer station.  Find out what you have access to and start to recycle all the paper, plastic, aluminum, etc. that your community offers.  Municipalities pay big money for waste removal.  If they are paying for it, you can bet they will be more than willing to help you reduce what you throw in the trash.  If you are paying for it, well, then this can be a way to reduce your costs.

Once you have maximized your easy-to-recycle items, expand your recycling. There are many other items that can be recycled with just a little more effort.  Take a look at the following and see what you can do to recycle more.

Brita Filters   Every WholeFoodsrecycles Brita filters through the Gimme 5 program.

Cell Phones   While cell phones are accepted with other electronics at Best Buy and Staples, many Senior Centers collect them.  With any cell phone, they are able to get emergency phones for Senior Citizens free of charge.

Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs)    Because of the mercury content, these should never be put into the trash.  Most hardware stores and larger stores such as Home Depot will recycle these.

Cosmetic Tubes or Jars   Origins CosmeticStores will accept any brand cosmetic packaging including jars, bottles and tubes for recycling.


Best Buy’s national electronics recycling program accepts all kinds of items.  They will accept, FREE OF CHARGE: Computers, Monitors, TVs (Tube < 32”, Flat Panel LCD, Plasma, LED), Modems/Routers/Hubs, Memory cards, PC game controllers, Video Game Consoles, Shredders, Software, Speakers, DVD/Blu-ray player, E-readers, GPS (portable, in-dash and outdoor), Stereo Receivers, Turntables, Two Way radios, VCRs, Webcams, Digital Photo Frames, digital cameras, camcorders, DVD/CDs and their cases, fans, gift cards, mp3 players, Vacuums (Upright/canister, robot, brooms/stick), random cables from items you no longer have.

Check your local Best Buy for specifics in your area.  You should note, that if you bringing an old computer or other hard drive, YOU are responsible for making sure any data cannot be read.  There is information on how to do this on their website.

Staples has a similar program and accepts many of the same items.

Eye Glasses  The LionsClub has collection boxes in many locations or ask a local eye glass shop or eye doctor.

Hearing Aids   Help the Children Hear gives hearing aids to children who cannot afford them.

Inkjet cartridges   Staples, you will receive $2 to use at Staples.  Many schools run fundraisers recycling used inkjet cartridges.  They are also accepted at Best Buy.

Packing Peanuts   Most delivery type places like UPS will take these.

Pizza Box  Some recyclers will accept pizza boxes without too much grease.  THIS IS VERY RECYCLER-dependent, so ask, it could ruin lots of other recyclables.  Even if you can’t recycle greasy boxes, you can rip the top off and recycle that.

Plastic bags   Plastic bags can be recycled at most grocery stores.  I use reusable bags mostly, but there are so many more items that can be recycled  at the big "Plastic Bag" bins at local grocery store. Check your local grocery store.  In our area, Hannaford and Stop and Shop accept any bag labeled #2 or #4.   I have found this on carrot bags, grape bags, toilet paper wrappers, bread bags, produce bags, cauliflower wrappers and more.  Check for more information in your area.

Plastics #5   If your local recycler does not accept these, they can be recycled at any Whole Foods via the Gimme5 program

Un-wearable Textiles   You already know that many charities will accept used, wearable clothing.  Did you know that some will accept any textiles to recycle? This includes stained or otherwise un-wearable fabrics, including stuffed animals.  They are able to sell these items to companies who use them for wiping rags or as filler for furniture.  They just need to be dry, clean and free of contaminants (such as motor oil, mildew, or paint).  Salvation Army and Goodwill are among these charities.  Check here for other participating recyclers near you.

Used Greeting Cards  Any greeting card can be sent to St.Jude's for repurposing.

Wine Corks  All Whole Foods locations collectnatural wine corks in conjunction with Cork ReHarvest. 

Yoga Mats  Recycle Your Mat will recycle your used up yoga mat.  You can find a location near you or ship your mat.

Other Non-Recyclables  There are over 40 random items that can be upcycled through a company called TerraCycle.  These include chip bags, granola bars, used writing instruments, candy wrappers, toothbrushes and more.  While this program takes more effort, it can be a great fundraising opportunity for schools or non-profit organizations.  TerraCycle pays 2 cents for each item sent in and pays the shipping. I started a TerraCycle program in my town called UpCycle It!.  In a little over 2 years, we have raised over $6500 for our schools.

[Photo used under Creative Commons from Steve Snodgrass/Flickr]

Kristina Greene is the founder and editor of The Greening Of Westford.  She focuses on practical eco-friendly actions anyone can do to save time, money, aggravation, oh, and the planet! Connect with her through her blog, facebook and twitter.