Archive for the 'Product Reviews' Category

Bridesmaids and Girlfriends

Bridesmaids and Best Friends

Bridesmaids and Best Friends circa 1994

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about hosting a party to celebrate the DVD release of the movie Bridesmaids. While my post was carefully worded, my post was not entirely true. Let me explain:

When the Bridesmaids PR team asked me if I wanted to host a pre-screening party, I jumped at the chance. (Friends? Laughs? Wine? Kristin Wiig? Count me in!) But the timing of the DVD release coincided with my best friend’s *surprise* 40th birthday weekend get-away. I wanted to write about the movie-watching party, but I couldn’t give away the surprise on my blog. I had to choose my words carefully.

Turns out, the timing was perfect.

You see, if I am going to host a party like the one I described in my post — a party where we look at old wedding photos and use my actual wedding napkins - I want that party to be with my best friends. You know, the friends who were in my wedding, and I was in theirs. I wanted the chance to laugh at wearing bridesmaids dresses with giant shoulder pads, using way too much hairspray and dancing to Push It by Salt-N-Peppa… with the ladies who witnessed it first-hand.

The four of us traveled from our hometowns of Austin, Orange County and Des Moines to the delightful town of Kansas City. We spent the weekend laughing, dancing, drinking, shopping, and oh yes, remembering our weddings. No husbands, no kids, no laundry, no cooking. Just uninterrupted time together. Adding Bridesmaids, a hilarious movie about best friends sharing live-changing moments, was the perfect topper for the weekend. Just like the friends in the movie:

  • The four of us have evolved and grown as people and as friends.
  • We met as kids, and are still best friends 25+ years later.
  • I know exactly what I would put into a personalized “memory box” to present to each of my friends.
  • I know which friend would take us to the exotic restaurant, which friend would create uber-creative and personalized bridal shower invitations, which friend would do something embarrassing on an airplane to make us all laugh, and which friend would grab a microphone and break into song.
  • We were inseparable, and we took time when we needed to focus on building our own lives.
  • And we always came back to each other.

When we were in high school, our go-to movie was Shag because it was about four best friends who went on a high school Spring Break trip together. I think we now can add Bridesmaids to our list of must-watch-and-repeat movies because we are all grown up now and we still love to laugh together. And we will always be there for each other… no matter what.

- LTV Mom

Photo credit: Really? Some things are better left unsaid. But yes, I am the Bridesmaid on the far left. The other three gorgeous ladies are my best friends. Hairspray and curling irons sold separately.

I was provided with a free copy of Bridesmaids on DVD and a party pack of goodies by the PR team representing Universal Studios. I was not compensated for this post, and the words and opinions are my own.

Activeion: I finally have my “Green Machine”

Activeion: My Green Machine

Activeion: My Green Machine

When I was a little girl, I really wanted a Green Machine to ride around the block with my friends. Do  you remember those funky tricycle-like toys?  I had a Big Wheel that I rode for hours and hours, but those Green Machines looked so darn cool.  Alas, I never got one.

However, a few weeks ago I attended an event with Bill Nye the Science Guy who introduced me to a new kind of Green Machine… and this one is pretty cool too. It’s also environmentally friendly and my four-year-old loves to play with it. I am talking about the Activeion (pronounced Active-Ion) cleaning solution.

Those of you who know me can stop laughing now.  I am not the uber-domestic type and I rarely (never?) talk about cleaning products. (After all, I hired a house-cleaner as soon as I could afford one, and I would lose my mind without her!)  But, I am going to tell you about this particular cleaning product since I believe in its benefits and  purpose.

After both fathers died of cancer within seven short months,  my husband and I decided to do whatever we can to create a clean and green home for our family.  We no longer cook with a microwave, we use chemical-free laundry detergent, we wash with plant-based soaps and shampoos, and we eat organic food whenever possible.  We have tried some “green” cleaning supplies… some good, and some not-so-good. Needless to say, when the folks at Activeion invited the moms from the Silicon Valley Moms Blog to discover a healthier way to clean our homes, we were all ears.

Now, what I am about to tell you will blow your mind. The Activeion will clean your home, and practically eliminate germs and bacteria, using tap water. Of course, it took someone like Bill Nye to explain how it works.  My husband (who, along with Bill, has a degree in Mechanical Engineering) was in love with the concept.  Here’s what I heard:

You fill the container with normal tap water, blah blah blah, electric charges flow through the water, blah blah blah, water grabs dirt, blah blah blah, water grabs germs, blah blah blah, windows are clean without streaks, blah blah blah, your house is clean without chemicals.”

I was sold. Of course, I took an Activeion home and “played” with it. (It lights up green when you use it!) I cleaned everything from my windows to my car to my toothbrush holder. Everything is clean, and there is not a chemical in sight.

So, there’s my pitch. I highly recommend you visit the Activeion Web site and check out the video that explains how it works.  (Trust me, Bill Nye does a much better job than LTV Mom!)

ALSO, amazingly enough, the team at Activeion is giving an Activeion cleaner to one lucky LTV Mom reader!  Please go to the comment section and share your best tip for keeping a clean and green home!  I will draw one lucky winner at random on Monday, June 23.  Yep, one week to share and enter.

You also can click HERE to order an Activeion, and you too can have your very own green machine!

– LTV Mom

LTV Dad, Bill Nye, LTV Mom

LTV Dad, Bill Nye, LTV Mom

Much to Your Chagrin: A Memoir of Embarrassment

Much to Your Chagrin by Suzanne Guillette

Much to Your Chagrin by Suzanne Guillette

“People who don’t have embarrassing stories are untrustworthy.  Or at the very least, they aren’t telling the truth.”  These words of wisdom come from author Suzanne Guillette, whose first book “Much to Your Chagrin” takes a fresh look at the moments in life — big and small — that are simply embarrassing but make you who you are!

I’d like to add a third category for people with embarrassing stories: people (like me) who are actually private and only tell their closest friends their most embarrassing tales.  Of course, many embarrassing moments are a direct result of being socially awkward or from over-consumption. Yep, PR speak for too much wine, beer, cosmos, or whatever potion I was enjoying at the time. My loud laugh and inability to keep my opinion to myself have certainly caused more than one embarrassing moment.  Let’s just leave it at that.

Reading this book brought back great memories of my dear friend Kristin, who has been an important part of my life since third grade. Kristin is the Queen of being goofy to the point of wrong.  Nine times out of 10, she will pull a stunt to get a laugh from her friends, and usually ends up with an “OMG moment” that lives in infamy.  Her spirit and energy are contagious, and even her goofs and spoofs are endearing and down-right hilarious.

With that, I am going to present my copy of “Much to Your Chagrin” to Kristin, the woman who could write her own memoir of embarrassment that I would love to read almost as much I loved witnessing.

– LTV Mom

This post was inspired by the Silicon Valley Moms Blog book club selection, Much to Your Chagrin by Suzanne Guillette.  The book is an honest memoir of embarrassing, laugh-out-loud, and oh-no-you-didn’t moments.  The book is available at Amazon,  and Barnes & Noble.

Taste This! by Gina von Esmarch

Taste This! by Gina von Esmarch

Taste This! by Gina von Esmarch

I had the pleasure of testing a new cookbook written by San Francisco-based chef (and mom blogger) Gina von Esmarch.  Gina comes from a foodie family; in fact, her grandparents founded, and her family still runs, the famous Aliotos on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

Gina’s new cookbook called Taste This! is perfectly suited for this working-mom who would love to be on Top Chef, but is content cooking for her family and friends. Gina’s collection of recipes for appetizers, entrees, salads, drinks and (amazing) desserts are both flavorful and (hallelujah!) easy to prepare.

Let me just say this: when it comes to a dinner party, I am an appetizer girl because I believe the appetizer sets the tone for the evening.  We always open our best bottle of wine first, so it’s important to serve good food from the moment a dinner party begins.  Gina provides some great ideas, here are my favorites:

  • Red Grapes & Red Onions – roasted grapes and onion, served on goat cheese, with crackers or bread.  This dish is super-easy to prepare, with delicious flavors and perfect texture. Rave reviews at my last dinner party! (Recipe is on page 11of the book.)
  • Cucumber Pillows — cucumbers, bread, spices (think funky finger sandwiches).  Light, refreshing and beyond easy to make. (Recipe is on page 15 of the book.)
  • Parmesan Crisps — bread, cheese, garlic, olive oil.  This recipe makes little slices of cheesy-Heaven.  (Recipe is on page 21 of the book.)

If you are intrigued, check out posts from other foodies:

Author Gina says: “The goal of Taste This! is simple, bring good food and good flavors back to the table.  Whether you are a working parent or a career individual that wants to bring people together at the table, you will find ideas to inspire your inner cook.”

Thank you, Gina. I am inspired!

Click HERE to purchase Taste This! for $30 (includes S&H).

- LTV Mom

Sharpie Blog: Write out Loud!

Sharpie Pen

Let’s take a quick moment to pay homage to one of my favorite household staples, the Sharpie pen!

This mom always has a handful of Sharpie pens in my house for three reasons: 

  1. I use my fine-tipped Sharpie to write my kid’s name on everything that goes to school. It’s a must-do if I ever want to see that sweater, coat or Tupperwear ever again.
  2. My Sharpie is a must-have when sending packages from Calif. to my family in Iowa.  The names and addresses won’t smear or smudge, so I don’t worry about sleet or snow.
  3. My favorite Sharpie secret is that I use my trusty pens to “fix” the annoying little scrapes in my black high-heeled boots.  I fix the toes and the heels, keeping my black boots looking clean and lasting a little longer!

If you are a Sharpie fan like me, check out the new Sharpie Blog for other creative ideas for the ink.  You also can connect with Sharpie on Twitter, just reach out to @sharpiesusan for a personalized touch!

My only request for the blog is the folks at Sharpie share some great photos of David Beckham (he certainly will make me “write out loud!”)

– LTV Mom

Even Moms explore reading with Leapfrog

Leapfrog Tag

While I blog about my obsession with television and random pop culture, I actually am a passionate reader who desperately hopes to share my love for books with my daughter.  (If you doubt me, I just finished 900-page Pillars of the Earth and quickly dived into 1000-page World Without End!)

Humor aside, I take reading seriously and quickly jumped at the chance to join the ladies of the Silicon Valley Moms blog for an afternoon event hosted by the good people at Leapfrog. I have always admired Leapfrog from afar, first as a non-parent and then the parent of an infant.  But now my infant is a toddler, and she is prime for Leapfrog products.  Needless to say, I was an eager participant in this meet-up.

The foundation of the afternoon was a Q&A session with Leapfrog Advisory Board member Dr. Anne Cunningham, University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Education.  Dr. Cunningham shared her ideas and research on how to help children learn to read… and how they can learn to love reading.  As an avid reader, I desperately want my child to love and appreciate books the way I do.  Thanks to Dr. Cunningham, I realize (or at least appreciate) how reading to a child is much more than a hoping for a lifelong hobby, rather setting the foundation for a life of education and success.  Here are highlights of the conversation with Dr. Cunningham and my blogging mama friends (in my words):

  • Expose your children to “rare, rich and extensive” language from 0-3 years.  The results have a huge effect on your child’s language development and reading skills.
  • Developmental milestones for literacy must be acquired at home or Pre-K to succeed in Kindergarten.
  • This can easily be achieved by talking to your kids and exposing them to multi-syllabic words and complex subjects. Just talk, don’t worry about them “getting” it all… they are absorbing words and concepts which are so important for language development.
  • Read out loud to your kids every day… they learn new words, and equally important, they learn the meaning of language and the structure of language.
  • The key to success is phonics… teaching kids how to sound-out and decode words.
  • Intelligence is not what you’re born with, but what you do with it.
  • Studies show that avid readers can trump people who are considered “smarter.”
  • The goal is a rich vocabulary by 3rd grade; if that does not occur, the delay becomes a bottleneck in 4th or 5th grade academics.
  • Teachers agree that most “overachievers” are the result of parental involvement with school.

Thank you, Dr. Cunningham, for your time and wisdom. I walked away feeling empowered and (quite honestly) more equipped to help my child read.  What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Of course, the huge bonus of a Leapfrog event is receiving Leapfrog gear to try at home. I came home with a Leapfrog Tag reading system for my 4-year-old daughter, and she has not put it down since we opened it.  She works with it (literally) every day, and I highly suggest it for other moms who want to help kids explore reading. 

If you want to learn more about Leapfrog, please explore the Leapfrog Community which can be found HERE. If you need smart holiday presents, go HERE and feel free to use the blogger discount code HY8BHPR at check-out!

– LTV Mom

The Three Martini Playdate

Once upon a time, I belonged to a Book Club.  We met once a month to discuss the book we all read and drink some wine.  We read classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, trendy books like The Da Vinci Code, trashy books like The Nanny Diaries, and amazing books like Lovely Bones.

Now I sit on the couch (oh yes, laptop in lap) with American Idol on the tube.  (Side note: American Idol is perfect laptop television … takes zero brainpower and it totally entertaining.)  Anyway, here’s a book recommendation for ALL MOMS who want to read, but can’t find the time:  The Three Martini Playdate.  It’s more than a book filled with quick wit, subtle humor, and clever anecdotes.  It’s a mantra.

Seriously, this is a funny book that can be read one short chapter at a time.  There are some great tips that remind you that our kids are not going to break and it’s okay if we mess them up a bit. Here are some of my favorite chapters:

-          Your Cost-Efffective Tomboy

-          Screaming: Is it Necessary?

-          Diaper Bag or Steamer Truck?

-          Bedtime: Is 5:30 too early?

Happy reading!  It’s worth the time – and a chapter can be completed during the 5 minute window between crawling into bed and crashing to sleep.  It will inspire you to bust out the Grey Goose or SKYY at your next playdate.