Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hellmann's? Where Did It Go?

Are you looking for the Hellmann's review post? It's over here now! Sorry for the mix-up!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Home Depot Fall Energy Review

We bought our house ten years ago. It was built in 1960 and not much had been updated since then, so over the years we've been gradually making changes. We had guys come and spray that shredded newspaper stuff all over the attic. When the roof needed to be reshingled, we also had roof vents put in. When my dad put in a second bathroom for us, he replaced the old drafty window with a modern energy-efficient one. When our electric water heater needed replacing, we replaced with a gas model. When we remodeled the bathroom, we chose a more water-efficient toilet than our old 1960s aqua one. (I would have been sorrier to see that pretty vintage aqua go if it hadn't been heavily stained with nicotine.) (I HOPE it was nicotine.)

You get the idea: it would have been incredibly overwhelming and expensive to swoop into our new house and convert it all at once, but by doing it gradually over ten years (mostly at points when a change needed to be made anyway, such as when there was a big puddle in the basement and we suddenly had no hot water), we've managed to make a lot of changes without too much stress or extra expense. Not to mention the money the changes have saved us on utility bills.

We also make a lot of smaller changes. I dithered over switching to fluorescent bulbs for AGES before realizing it didn't have to be all-or-nothing: if I didn't want fluorescent lighting when I was looking in the mirror, we could still switch to fluorescent in the basement and kitchen where I didn't care. And even though it would have been extremely expensive to replace every bulb in the house at once, it wasn't bad at all if I just bought a bulb or two at a time and replaced each incandescent bulb as it burned out.

Paul got some rain barrels on Freecycle and used them to water the garden this year, and we've been experimenting on a small scale with composting. We mess with the thermostat to try to find the point where we're not uncomfortable but also not wasting heat and air conditioning we aren't even appreciating (this is another area where it doesn't have to be all or nothing to make a difference: every single individual degree helps).

I put furnace filter replacement on the calendar so I won't forget to do it: it's not very efficient if all the air for the furnace has to be sucked in through a filter full of cat hair. We're trying to nag teach the kids to turn off lights when they leave a room (Elizabeth has over-learned this lesson, so that if I get up to get a snack, I'll find my reading light switched off when I return).

We try to concentrate on making the changes that are more appealing to us, to make it more likely we'll actually follow through. Paul LIKED the idea of rain barrels and composting, so those were easy changes and we didn't feel like we were martyrs for the environmental cause. I HATE calling repair guys, so it appeals to me to make each change as we go, when I have to call anyway for a malfunction.

And I get overwhelmed if I start thinking all changes have to be "perfect or nothing" (don't bother to compost unless you compost EVERYTHING!! don't bother to convert to gas unless you also LIVE IN FREEZING MISERY!! don't bother to compost and convert to gas unless you have $200,000 to do a complete environmental home remodel!!) so it's really helped me to work in small increments: one near-painless degree lower now inspires a second or third or fourth degree (and perhaps a pair of wool socks) later on; one almost unnoticeable $5 fluorescent bulb now inspires more extensive fluorescent bulb use later (but, really, not in the bathroom, thank you, no).

The Home Depot gave me $50 to spend on some of the small-environmental-change devices they carry: caulk and organic potting soil, environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies and fluorescent bulbs, composting bins and seeds for our garden. (They carry tons of large-environmental-change devices as well, but we were on a $50 mission this time so we tried not to get distracted by all the solar panel stuff that is our next big interest.)

Paul was keen on composters, but the ones he was drawn to exceeded the $50 allowance. Besides, it was MY post to write, so I chose a fluorescent lighting fixture---the shop-light kind.

Half of our downstairs area is unfinished basement, divided into Paul's workshop area and a storage/pantry area. Paul had put up fluorescent shop-lights over his workbench, but there was still an incandescent fixture in the storage area. Now we're fluorescent there, too---which is especially good at our house, where I'm likely to send a child downstairs to get a new box of cereal, and then go down hours later to find the light still on. (This'll be a two-part change: continue to nag and lecture the children, and in the meantime reduce the waste when they forget.) And it's made such a difference down there: the incandescent light got lost in all the shadows and beams and pipes, but now I can see every last can of tomato paste hiding behind the soups.

I'm not saying it's pretty. I'm saying it's AWESOME.

What big and small changes have you made at your house, and what big and small changes would you like to make in the future? (And do you want to play with solar panels like we do? Mmmmmm...solar panels.)

Want more tips on how to become eco-conscious?
Visit the Prizes & Promotions Section on BlogHer!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Winner! (Don't Fret The Sweat)

The winner of the Don't Fret The Sweat giveaway ($100 Visa gift card and a giftpack) is Juliloquy! I'll email you!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Don't Fret The Sweat---and a $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

You have probably heard someone describe their son's room as "smelling like a hamster cage." And I have four sons. It has been an eye-opening and persuasive argument against acquiring actual hamsters.

The younger two are 4 and 6, and those are not the ages that contribute to the smell at our house; it is the 10.5-year-old and the 12.5-year-old, and it is only getting worse as they get older.

They're nice boys,
just a little LESS THAN ENTIRELY FRESH from time to time.

The weird thing to me is that I have to keep nagging them about taking showers and using deodorant. I'm imagining if someone pointed out to ME that the air in my general vicinity was reminding them of rodents kept in small enclosed spaces, and how few milliseconds would pass between that announcement and a new policy of showering twice-daily and spreading cakes of deodorant on a tarp so I could roll around on them after each shower.

Perhaps it's puberty that flips the cleanliness switch, or perhaps it's the feedback their peers will soon start casually flipping their way. I'd like to protect them against that sort of feedback, so for right NOW, what I do is wait until they're buckled into the car and I'm going about 60 down the highway, and then I make them listen to me discuss whether they DID or DID NOT manage to address the SCENT issue that morning, and WHAT exactly defines "addressing." (What? I'M nicer about it than a middle-schooler.)

I use Degree® Women and Dove® deodorants myself (which is why I was motivated to take this review: so easy to write honest positive reviews about things I already like and use), and I've been buying Degree® for them. I like how it doesn't have the strong cologney scent of so many men's deodorants, which I'd prefer not to smell on an oily 12-year-old.

The clearance stickers aren't pretty (except for those of us whose hearts leap at the sight of that shade of orange), and they're non-ideal for showing off the sponsor's name. But you'll notice they cover up the "Women" so the boys don't notice, which is why I can't remove them. So I put Paul's Degree® Men deodorant in the picture, too, for brand-showing purposes. (Also, please note that one of these deodorants HAS NOT EVEN BEEN OPENED. Sigh.)

Part of the point of this post is to direct you to Don't Fret The Sweat's Facebook page. Unilever (they're the ones who make Degree®, Dove®, and Suave®, so they're the sponsors of this post) is ON-BOARD with the idea of keeping tweens non-sweaty/non-smelly even in stressy/sweaty situations such as middle school, so they gathered their own assortment of experts and advice and tips. Parents can add their own ideas for helping children transition from smelly little savages into fresh and sweet-smelling little savages.

I clicked through to make sure I wasn't directing you to anything I wouldn't feel comfortable directing you to---and I found some stuff that I'm going to use with my hamsters sons (and I suppose my daughter as well, though I remember my own tweenage years as a time of near-excessive grooming/deodorizing, so perhaps I will not have to trap her in the car first). There's a Product Matchmaker (you have to click the "Like" button in order to access it), and a FAQ section that has questions like how young is too young (I was using a search engine for that very question a few years back), as well as questions about aluminum.

The Giveaway: To enter to win the $100 Visa gift card and a Don't Fret The Sweat gift pack from Unilever and BlogHer, leave a comment on this post between October 4 and November 4, 2011, saying how old you were when you started using deodorant, OR how old your kids were. (Or both if, like me, you find this discussion kind of fun.) I was twelve years old when I first made my parents buy me deodorant. Three of my kids aren't old enough, but one of my sons was 9 and the other was 10 when I first thought "...What is that AROMA? Surely it is too early for this sort of thing?"

For more chances to win, visit the BlogHer Prizes & Promotions section. For more information, visit the Official Rules. For the quick version of the rules:

No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry
  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post (click on the "2 seconds ago" or "5 minutes ago" part of your tweet to get to the Twitter page with that tweet's URL)
  3. Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, the official rules contain information about an alternate form of entry
This giveaway is open to U.S. residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

(Again, the Full Official Rules are available here.)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

ARM & HAMMER® Spinbrush® MY WAY! ™ Toothbrush and Orajel ® MY WAY!™ Kids' Toothpaste---and a $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway

This is a review of:
  • ARM & HAMMER® Spinbrush® MY WAY! ™ battery-powered toothbrush for Girls,
  • ARM & HAMMER® Spinbrush® MY WAY! ™ battery-powered toothbrush for Boys, and
  • Orajel ® MY WAY™ Kids' Toothpaste

For the review, they sent me five complete toothbrush sets: five containers of toothpaste, four "for Boys" toothbrushes, and one "for Girls" toothbrush.

Each toothbrush kit contains one ARM & HAMMER® Spinbrush® toothbrush (this is the same brand we already use), plus 141 stickers for custom decorating---including alphabet stickers, which is awesome because the night before last, I broke up an argument about whose toothbrush was whose, so I was especially keen on the idea of PERSONALIZATION.

Although the official names of the toothbrushes include "for Girls" and "for Boys," the boxes themselves don't include those words---which I think was a good decision. I already feel a little uncomfortable with the division of "the stickers in the blue box" (dinosaurs, race cars, sports, robots) and "the stickers in the pink box" (make-up, unicorns, high heel shoes, princesses, rainbows, flowers). The 12-year-old son said, "Hey, no fair---it's all cars and sports. Can I have some of the rainbows and smiley faces?" The 10-year-old son said indignantly, "I got THESE [held up a sheet of skateboards and a sheet of race cars] and Elizabeth got THESE [held up a sheet of cute animals]. AND she got 'LOL' and 'OMG'! Those aren't anything to do with girls! They should be in all the boxes!"

There are way more stickers in the box than any one toothbrush can hold, so I had the boys wait until Elizabeth was done with hers, and then they used the extra cute animals for their brushes. I suggested they use their alphabet stickers for writing things such as LOL.

Perfectly happy with her stickers

The toothpaste has it right, I think: one single variety, orange box, and an assortment of stickers including animals, rainbows, sports, princesses, skulls, and cars. Message: Anyone might have any variety of interests! Choose your own combination!

Left to right:
ARM & HAMMER® Spinbrush® MY WAY! ™ for Girls
Orajel ® MY WAY™ Kids' Toothpaste
ARM & HAMMER® Spinbrush® MY WAY! ™ for Boys

One option is to have the child open the toothbrush and toothpaste at the same time, so the child would have access to the more general assortment of stickers from the toothpaste box to use on both the toothpaste and the toothbrush. I should have thought of this as soon as the trouble started brewing. That's what I'll do next time.

I KNEW William and Elizabeth would be interested in this: they're the ones who routinely sit down with craft supplies ANYWAY---special fun project or no. We keep stacked bins in the living room full of crayons, colored pencils, stickers, paper, card stock, scissors, glue, cotton balls, etc., just in case of a craft attack. And those two WERE very interested, but really they ALL were.

Five toothpastes is too many for the bathroom counter, so I divided the kids into two groups: Rob and William shared one, Elizabeth and Edward shared one, and Henry bowed out because he'd gotten a little overexcited with all the stickers and needed a lie-down.

Sticker ease-of-use report: One child (one of the 5-year-olds) had a little trouble getting the tiny letter stickers peeled off the sheets; four children (including the youngest) had no trouble taking stickers off the sheet and applying them to the toothbrush/toothpaste, as long as you are not particular about getting the stickers completely flat as directed, which I was not.

Fun-level report: all five kids LOVED this project. Sure, there was the little kerfuffle about the boy/girl stickers, but if I'd better anticipated that I could have divided the stickers differently, or had them open the toothpaste stickers at the same time. Everyone hugely enjoyed choosing the stickers and where they should go, and there was lots of happy discussion and some trading, and every child was so pleased with his/her resulting toothbrush. When I wanted them to use the toothbrushes for a photo, everyone WANTED to.

And last night, when I started brushing Elizabeth's teeth, she said, "Oh, you're using my FAVORITE toothbrush and my FAVORITE toothpaste!!"

The toothbrush head is not replaceable, so the entire toothbrush needs to be replaced when the brush head wears out; the package recommends doing this every 3 months. I have a feeling the children would be happy to decorate another by then.

The Giveaway:

There is a giveaway associated with this review:
BlogHer and ARM & HAMMER® will give away one $100 Visa gift card to a randomly selected winner. To enter, see the rules below. To enter with method (a), below, the question/prompt is: If YOU were decorating a toothbrush (as I badly wanted to by the time this project was over), are you more the "Several well-placed stickers" type or more the "PILE THEM ON!" type? (I'd be filling every square centimeter.)


No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post (above, the part about how you'd decorate a toothbrush)

b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older, from May 12 - June 9, 2011. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. For more details, see the Official Rules.

For more information about Spinbrush:
the Official Spinbrush® MY WAY! ® site.
For more information about Orajel:
the Official Orajel® MY WAY!™ site.

For more reviews and chances to win, visit the Exclusive Offers section.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Winner! (La Crème)

The winner of the La Crème giveaway ($100 Visa gift card) is sweetsue!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Winners! (GE Ecomagination)

I have the winners of the two $50 light bulbs from the GE Ecomagination giveaway! The winner of the first week's bulb is DawnA of the February 21, 9:02 a.m. comment! The winner of the second week's bulb is s8r8l33! I've sent your email addresses to my boss, and she'll be contacting you for your mailing information!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

La Crème Coffee Creamer Review---and a $100 Visa Gift Card Giveaway!

This is a sponsored review from BlogHer and La Crème.

May I recommend aspiring to a career that allows you to receive Rush Delivery of packages? It is super satisfying, and there are cool stickers for you and the kids to try to figure out.

We THINK this one means it's perishable and liquid
but not a hazardous chemical.

Inside this particular package was an assortment of La Crème coffee creamers for me to try. They need to be used within a week of opening and I opened all four, so please do come by for coffee if you're in the area.

From left to right: Hazelnut, French Vanilla, The Original, and Cinnamon Vanilla

I normally use powdered or liquid non-dairy creamers, always the sweetened/flavored ones. Let's compare my creamer usage to yours, so you know how to incorporate the review. This is the color I like my coffee to be:

(I keep thinking that's a drip down the front of the bottle)

I like to be able to taste the coffee, not just the creamer, but I also want distinct creaminess, sweetness, and whatever the flavor is.

I first tried The Original, which is unsweetened. I do sometimes take my coffee with a slosh of milk or cream and no sweetener, and that's exactly what this was like. Since La Crème is lactose-free, this would be the perfect one for someone who wants real cream in their coffee but needs to avoid lactose.

I next tried the Hazelnut. Again, very good creaminess. Less sweetness and flavor than I'm used to: I don't think I would have known it was hazelnut.

I next tried Cinnamon Vanilla. Very good creaminess, light sweetness. I could taste the cinnamon but not the vanilla---but I find vanilla very hard to detect in coffee. I have a bag of vanilla-flavored coffee that's supposed to be intensely vanilla, and I find the vanilla mild even in that.

The French Vanilla smelled AMAZING, like melted ice cream, or like buttercream frosting, so I put in twice as much as I usually would. It was delicious, and with the double dose I could taste the vanilla---but I couldn't taste the coffee anymore. What I had was like a delicious French Vanilla non-chocolate hot chocolate.

So, overall, comparing the flavored/sweetened three dairy creamers to the non-dairy flavored/sweetened creamers I'm accustomed to, I'd say the La Crème creamers have significantly more creaminess with noticeably less sweetness and flavor. The perfect thing for me would be a combination: the actual dairy and creamness of the La Crème, but with more sweet and more flavor like the fake-dairy ones.

And I'm picturing some of you saying, "Wait--I never use those artificial creamers, because they are TOO SWEET and I hate the fakey flavors!" In which case, OMG YOU HAVE TO TRY LA CRÈME! You will be so happy!

I know it's what's on the inside that really matters, but I'd also like to praise the bottles, because they really do look classy and awesome. If I wanted to give someone a coffee gift (mug, package of good coffee, creamers), I would choose these every time because they're so pretty. They look EXPENSIVE. And I don't know if you can tell from the photos, but the coating is satiny rather than shiny, so it not only looks nice but feels nice.

To enter to win a $100 Visa gift card, leave a comment on this post by March 31, 2011, saying which creamer flavor you'd want to try first: Original, French Vanilla, Cinnamon Vanilla, or Hazelnut.

Rules: (copied directly from BlogHer)

No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

a) Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

d) For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here: The Official Rules.

To read other reviews (and to enter their sweepstakes), visit the Exclusive Offers section. For more information about La Crème, visit the official site.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

GE Ecomagination, and Two Giveaways of a FIFTY DOLLAR Light Bulb of Awesomeness!

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and GE.

Here are some changes we've made at our house that haven't made any difference:

1. Stopped using fabric softener, except with a particular blanket that is otherwise a mass of painful, sparky static.

2. Reduced the amount of laundry detergent we were using by about a third.

3. Set the wash time for most loads from 10 minutes down to 8 minutes.

4. Stopped using the "pre-wash" compartment for dishwasher detergent.

No noticeable change in results. And this is exactly the kind of environmental change I like to make: a change that DOESN'T BOTHER ME AT ALL. (And in all these cases, also happens to save us money.) Better yet are the changes we've made out of a feeling of environmental responsibility but then ended up LIKING BETTER:

1. Switched to cloth napkins. (They're so pleasant on the hands! They don't tear into little shreds! They feel gratifyingly like wiping our hands our on clothes! They're fun to choose!)

2. Switched to cloth, er, feminine products. (They're so soft and comfy! They're available in fun fabrics!)

3. Switched to handkerchiefs. (They're so soft and comfy! They irritate our noses less! They keep stuff off our hands so much better!)

4. Switched to reusable grocery bags. (They hold so much more! They don't tip over in the car! The handles are comfy and don't cut into our hands!)

I talk about these things on my blog sometimes, and in fact I've done giveaways to try to persuade other people to try them too, to see if THEY like them. But the thing is, we do these things because we PREFER them and we like them BETTER---so if someone else DOESN'T prefer them and DOESN'T like them better, you're not going to catch me trying to push them or guilt them into it. They should find the environmental changes THEY prefer. We're not ALL going to do EVERYTHING---so it makes sense that we'd all choose our own most-appealing assortment. Some of us will use cloth diapers but think cloth feminine products are gross; some of us will be the opposite; some of us will use neither but will be faithful composters, or have a hybrid car, or take shorter showers, or switch to cloth napkins.

Pretty, pretty cloth napkins.

I talk about this with the kids, too: there are some things you should do whether you like it or not (that empty can is going into the recycling and you're not going to complain about having to walk the extra two steps; turn the water off when you're done using it), but there are other areas where we can actively seek out the things we don't mind doing---or at least mind doing LESS. I think it's important, with a subject as big as Environmental Improvement, not to get overwhelmed and discouraged by the vastness of the task. It's tempting to think, "I don't even compost---isn't it kind of lame/hypocritical to turn down the heat?" NO. No it is NOT. Which is better for the environment: not-composting and keeping the heat at 72 degrees? or not-composting and keeping the heat at 68 degrees? Dang straight: it's better to do something than nothing.

And when you do something, you might find it leads you to do the next thing. When we started recycling paper, we found it more appealing to turn the thermostat down; when we turned the thermostat down, we found it more appealing to reduce the minutes the washing machine ran; when that worked out fine, we found it more appealing to try reducing the detergent too. It starts to feel almost like a game, instead of a painful sacrifice---and making changes gradually help them not to be too overwhelming.

Or to turn the subject to light bulbs since that's the giveaway, it's overwhelming to think of going out and buying twenty expensive fluorescent light bulbs to replace all the bulbs in the house, but it's easy to buy just one to replace the next bulb that burns out. And then maybe the bulbs go on sale and it's not too hard to buy a few more. And pretty soon the job is done, with much less pain, and now you're used to the price of the bulbs and you barely even flinch anymore.

In this case, the prize is for something I'd consider VERY PAINFUL to have to purchase: a FIFTY-DOLLAR light bulb. It's an LED bulb that lasts TWENTY YEARS and saves about $85 in energy costs over its lifetime. Comments will be taken for two weeks, and there will be one bulb given away each week. So not only can you make an easy change that might inspire you to make further changes, you DON'T EVEN HAVE TO PAY FOR IT. (Or replace it for twenty years!)

GE is doing this giveaway to draw attention to their Ecomagination Challenge, which is a massive idea-hunt for clever new ways to make good environmental changes (saving, managing, and even creating energy) at the household level---not the tip-sharing we all do, but, like, genius new ideas no one's thought of before. Yes, YES, I think we all know that the biggest, highest-impact changes could be made by corporations and factories---but as with the "not-composting plus thermostat-lowering," small changes ADD THE HECK UP, and our choices affect corporations. Furthermore, our changes get us in a frame of mind to feel invested in pushing for bigger change at a bigger level. AND, when we make these changes, we bring up our children to do these things automatically: I had to learn how to sort recycling and use a handkerchief, but my kids have grown up with it as the norm. AND-and, if people come up with some really genius ideas, perhaps those ideas will have even more impact even at the household level than the usual household-level changes do---and perhaps they could ALSO be used by corporations and factories.

To enter the light bulb giveaway, leave a comment on this post by February 28, 2011 about some of the energy-use challenges in your household, or some of the environmental stuff you find easy or pleasing to do. (To enter the GE Ecomagination challenge, see below after the light bulb giveaway rules.)

Rules: Contest is open to U.S. residents age 18 or older. No duplicate comments. Winner will be selected by random drawing, and I have to hear back from the winner within 72 hours or else I have to select a new winner. You may receive up to 2 total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
For more details, visit the Official Rules. To read what other bloggers had to say on this topic (and to enter THEIR light bulb giveaways), visit the blogger round-up page.

For more information on GE and their Ecomagination Challenge, and/or to submit a genius new idea, visit their site and their Facebook page and their blog.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winner! (MasterCard MarketPlace)

The winner of the MasterCard MarketPlace giveaway ($100 gift card) is Cori! I'll email you!