Monday, October 27, 2008

New! Ghirardelli LUXE Bars

Something I can always be passionate about is...well, a second thing I can always be passionate about is chocolate. When I was in high school, my best friend and I went to spend a week with her adult cousin in the 'burbs of San Francisco. Coming from a very small town, it was exhilarating to drive into the city and walk around the wharf, see all the fun shops and visit the North Shore and Chinatown. The summers I spent there were so important to cultivating a taste for more than could be found in my little town, and there are so many times that I look back and realize just how fortunate I was to have been exposed to all that.

I remember going to Ghirardelli square and buying all the different little squares of chocolate and being so excited (okay, and a little smug) that I'd be able to go home and tell everyone that this was the real chocolate experience. A little different than buying Kit Kats at our tiny local grocer.

When MomCentral announced that they were looking for bloggers to try out the new LUXE bars from Ghirardelli, I couldn't sign up fast enough. The five bars arrived in the mail and it was very difficult to eat just one square of each; a serving is four squares at just over 200 calories, but I had five and savored every morsel. What?! I had to try them's part of my job!
The varieties are: Luxe Milk Almond, Luxe Milk Hazelnut, Luxe Milk Milk, Luxe Milk Crisp and Luxe Milk Duet. I was a little surprised when I saw the price printed on the wrapper because they were just over $2 each. I was expecting closer to the $3-4 range because these are generously portioned bars.
I have to say that trying out this chocolate did more than just fill my belly with chocolaty goodness. Just prior to the birth of Charlie and for the months following, I have had what you might call a little bit of a sugar addiction which, a la Tommy Boy, leads to 'a little bit of a weight problem.' I had become so accustomed to having sugary foods every day that I wasn't really enjoying them anymore. I was just eating them because they were there.
The night I received my chocolates J was working an overnight. After I put the kids to bed, I turned on a movie, made a cup of coffee and unwrapped my chocolates one at a time. I have to say it was probably the most satisfying dessert I've had in a long time, due mainly to the fact that I really concentrated on each square, letting it melt in my mouth so that I could get all the flavor, and it served to bring me back to the real idea of dessert. It should be savored, it should be coveted, and it should be a treat instead of an entitlement. Quality ingredients with a great rich flavor, the combination can't be beat.
I can't pick a favorite of the five, but I will say the order in which I ate them that night because it's obviously how they must have appealed to me then. Almond, Duet, Hazelnut, Milk and finally Crisp. But it's kind of like ranking which of your children you like better; it just depends what you're in the mood for that day.
Run, don't walk to get your own at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Borders and Linens-n-Things (although I'm not sure how long as they're going out of business). They will soon be found at Blockbuster Video, Cost Plus and Target.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

30 Days to Natural

From buying more organic produce to trying my hand at cloth diapering, I've slowly been dipping my toes into the waters of going green. Awhile ago, I started writing about the little lifestyle changes I was making after getting nauseated by the fumes of my cleaning products. MomCentral's latest blog tour about the new Clorox website 30 Days to Natural piqued my interest, so I decided to check it out.

You start by 'planting a daisy' and then have the option to have daily 'going green' tips sent by either phone or email. The site also gave a great overview of the new Clorox GreenWorks products including a list of ingredients, their applications and where you can purchase them. I also thought it was impressive that they had partnered with the Sierra Club and Design for the Environment, which I thought gave it all a little more credence.

My first email tip was "Stoke a green fire. Enjoy a cozy fire, but make sure it burns cleanly by using artificial logs made of wood only. Avoid those that contain paraffin, a petroleum-based by-product." I like that they aren't radical tips, but point out all the little things you can do on a daily basis to contribute. I know, for myself at least, that being environmentally friendly has been a much easier prospect when I don't have to take the all or nothing attitude.

When I logged onto the website on my second day, I had the following tip "Freshen up your air freshener. Create your own natural air freshener with water and lavender or lemon." See? Completely do-able.

There's also a one-page kitchen check-list flyer with simple tips like loading the dishwasher after each meal, but not running it until it's full. Easy steps like this make easing into the green world a lot less daunting. I've read some articles or lists of ideas and all I thought at the end was 'That sounds like a lot of work!" When you add the workload to parenting your kids and all that entails, it can be overwhelming and off-putting, albeit worth the effort.

Recently I decided to start using gDiapers, in conjunction with cloth diapers, while still using disposables at night. It will definitely be something to get used to, and I'll track my costs for a couple of months, but I can't see how I could possible spend more than disposable diapers on water and electricity since I have an energy efficient front-loader and All Free and Clear costs about $11 for the mega jug of concentrate at BJ's (I know, the name kills me every time too!).

While 81% of moms surveyed reported that they were 'green', it's important to remember that there are many shades of that color. I think our good friend Kermit didn't have all the facts; being green can be easy!
*The bag pictured can be purchased for $10 ($3.65 of which goes to the Sierra Club).

Monday, October 6, 2008

Wd-40 Spot Shot

When J and I moved out to New England, we made an initial trip to go house-hunting in the hopes that we wouldn't be living in apartment-land forever. One of my primary must-haves was a carpet-less eating area.

I will never understand why they install carpet, cheap carpet at that, in an area that will be designated for eating. Kitchens and bathrooms are two areas that should never have carpet! While the quest for a home was fruitless, we did find a great apartment. But you guessed it, carpet in the dining area.

In the past, it was always almost a blessing to live in an apartment that had been around for a few years because I could exclaim "Can you believe the piggies that lived here? Just look at this carpet!" This time we were the first tenants, so I can only point the finger at my little piggies.

I was more than happy to test out the Wd-40 Spot Shot when I heard about it from Mom Central. I own a carpet shampooer, and use it about once every other month for our living room and main traffic areas, but the stubborn stains at the entrance area to the dining room from the kitchen never seem to say bye-bye, it's more like Au Revoir.

Here are some pictures of chocolate on the sample swatch of carpet that they gave me to try. They also gave a small bottle of ammonia to test the removal of pet smells, which I was loathe to try because, well, who likes the smell of pee? Because I am a bit of a lush and like my red wine, I decided to throw in a test of my own with red wine, plus an old stain on my carpet as they say it even works on old ground in stains.

The kit I was provided with, plus my own contribution of a glass of wine. Okay, I admit that I was not planning to try the wine, but was drinking it anyway and when I went to move it out of the picture's frame I had an a-ha moment.

Ammonia was sprayed in the upper left-hand corner, and the chocolate and red wine are hopefully fairly obvious.

After the first treatment; the carpet is still wet, so it's hard to see, but the chocolate is gone and the red wine needed only one more treatment. I think that the lighting and my camera weren't great for this shot, because the upper-left hand corner where the ammonia was looks stained, although it didn't have anything there in person.

A small stain on my carpet near the kitchen table. I have about 1.5 million of these as the result of having a cute little boy who doesn't always keep his food on his plate. While they fade with regular cleanings, I don't feel like they're ever gone. This really seemed to get it out.

This is after only one spray on the 'stream' setting, and a quick rub with a cloth.

I was really impressed on all accounts. It took only one treatment to completely remove the chocolate, ammonia and 'old' stains and two for the red wine. When I say two treatments, I simply mean two times of spraying 2-3 squirts on the area and blotting within a 5 minute period, it was really easy! I am so excited to have this product as the most important features are that it's certified bio-degradable, non-toxic and safe for children.

After all, the whole point of cleaning my carpet is so that I don't have to worry or have a shiver of revulsion when I lay C down to would be just a touch counter-intuitive to hose the carpet down with toxic liquids and then lay my baby in it.

I'll be using the Spot Shot to pre-treat all the little spots on my carpet the next time I shampoo and I can't wait to see my 'good as new' carpet again!

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Like a lot of people, I have a habit of overextending myself in an effort to be everything to everyone. After having to get the crappy slot at the OB/Gyn for the umpteenth time because I didn't have my schedule on-hand, I requested a Palm Pilot for Mother's Day this year just to start being a little more organized. I got the most basic model, as I wasn't sure how much I'd use it, and found that I use it all of the time!

I participate in a lot of activities, and coordinate a number of events, so am faced with the constant struggle of not only keeping myself straightened out but ensuring that others are right in line with me as well.

Enter Jooners. I was asked to check out the Jooners website by my friend Alex at Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting. I had been talking about how busy my life is, and was excited to hear about something for free that will keep my life in order. That's right, I said free.

One great thing about Jooners is that it's not just another on-line calender. It's got an evite-esque function, organizers for snack duty, carpool, volunteer coordinators, event planners, a place to make lists...and the list goes on and on. Not only can you create all these calenders and planners and lists, but they can be shared with a group (family, sports team, class parents, etc).

I get really tired of being in on the planning stages of something and sifting through email after email, hoping that I have the most current copy so that I know what's happening when. This function would hopefully eliminate that annoyance.

There is really a lot to the site, and I haven't yet been able to explore all that it offers, but I'm excited to incorporate it into my life.

Now the next time someone requests a sit through my baby-sitting co-op, I can jump on those waiting tokens because my schedule and computer will be in the same place! Yes, I know that I can sync my palm to my computer, but I don't really do it that often. I'm not sure yet if there is a way to sync my Palm with the Jooners calendar, but I'm emailing them with that question, so if it's not a feature now, maybe it will be in the future?

I recently became chair of a committee that organizes meals and services for members who need them, and I really hope to find this an invaluable tool. If I set up a meal service and need 6 people to make meals on different nights, they'll just respond by clicking on the link in an email sent to them and signing up for what works. If you open up a free account, you don't even have to do the double work of writing what you signed up for in your own calender because Jooners will automatically add it for you, and then it sends reminders for that specific event in addition to a weekly calendar sent each Sunday for the following Monday through Saturday.

Lastly, there is a resources section so that people can add people, places and services that make life easier, and then people can review those resources. So if you are looking for a caterer in your area, you can search them and read reviews in one spot. Resources cannot be deleted, which can be good and bad, but hopefully there would be enough balanced reviews to make an informed decision.

From what I've done with the program thus far, I've been really pleased. The best part? If you don't like it, you didn't waste hundreds of dollars (or even one) on software that doesn't fit in with your lifestyle. You literally have nothing to lose.