Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Starbucks' New Vivanno Smoothies

Have you been to Starbucks lately? I recently found out about their two new drinks and had to try them out. No longer limiting themselves to coffee and tea, they're now branching out into smoothies. I was kind of surprised they decided to try smoothies, but Ohio doesn't have nearly as many smoothie shops as other states, so I was intrigued.

The new Vivanno flavors are Banana Chocolate and Orange Mango Banana. Each is made with real fruit, 2% milk and ice with juice or chocolate flavor mixed in. A protein and fiber powder is added to give you additional nutrients, too.

I tried the Banana Chocolate at BlogHer, and it was delicious. I didn't want to miss out on trying the other flavor, though, so I stopped by Starbucks yesterday and gave the Orange Mango Banana a go. I loved that one even more. (As did Mira, who whined until I let her slurp up the last fifth of the cup.) I don't know the full nutritional data, but I will say I felt full after drinking the smoothie and it kept me going until dinner.

Neither has an caffeine (well, the chocolate one does, but it's a very small amount), so these aren't for caffeine addicts. But either of these could be great for an on-the-go snack with some nutritional benefit.

I'm giving away two coupons to try out the Vivanno drinks as part of the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival. To enter, just leave a comment on this post. I will allow entrants until Sunday, August 3, 2008 at 11:59pm eastern time. When you leave a comment, please make sure I have some way to contact you if you win.

One winner (so you can try out both drinks!) will be chosen at random and contacted next week. Contest is open only to US and Canadian residents. One entry per person, please. And good luck!

Bloggy Giveaways Quarterly Carnival Button

Be sure to check my personal blog for additional contests this week, too!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Multiply Your Box Tops For Education

Cordy's preschool is located in one of the district's elementary schools, and as a result we get pleas from the school to help with the Box Tops for Education program. The school district is vastly underfunded, and while I used to think the Box Tops for Education program was silly and probably didn't help much, I've since been taught just how much our school benefits from it. They've managed to buy many school supplies with the money raised from the little box tops clipped off of products we've already bought.

I recently was told about a contest being offered by Kimberly-Clark with a grand prize of 100,000 bonus box tops for your school (that's $10,000!). The Rock Your School sweepstakes has already begun and runs thru September 15, 2008. The grand prize is 100,000 box tops, plus a concert for your school with Radio Disney star Jordan Pruitt. (I have no idea who she is - but parents of older kids might know.) 100 other winners will receive 10,000 box tops for their school, 200 will win an autographed Jordan Pruitt CD, and 1,000 more will receive just the CD.

The kids may be wanting the concert, but seeing that I can help my daughter's school with this contest has me excited. You have to register on the website to enter, and then you can gain additional chances to win by entering each day after that. It's totally free, and you have the chance at making sure your child's school has the supplies they need to give kids the best learning environment.

(And don't forget to keep clipping those box tops from participating products to give to your school!)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

With SavvySource, You'll Always Have Something To Do

I've already been promoting my new gig at SavvySource, Being Savvy Columbus, but you may not know about the other features of SavvySource. Aside from the city guides, SavvySource also offers preschool recommendations and a chance to rate your preschool. But by far one of the coolest parts of the SavvySource website is the SavvyQuiz and recommended activities as a result of that quiz.

You might have noticed the little SavvyQuiz widget in the sidebar. Clicking on it will start you through a long quiz about where your child is at developmentally. (Don't worry, if you can't finish the quiz in one sitting, you have the option to save and pick up where you left off.) You'll answer questions about your child's ability to do things for himself, number recognition, language abilities, musical recognition, gross and fine motor skills, and more.

Once you finish the SavvyQuiz, you'll receive a customized report showing you your child's strengths and where your child is developmentally compared to preschoolers in general. Best of all, each section has a link to SavvyPicks, where you'll receive a personalized learning guide featuring activities recommended for your child's level of development. These picks include recommended books and toys that can be purchased, or activities created by both experts and parents like you.

I'm a big fan of the SavvyQuiz because Cordy's abilities are all over the map. Cognitively she's sharp and needs to be challenged, but she lags behind in social skills and some gross and fine motor movements. The activities recommended to me are never too easy for her, but provide the right level of challenge to keep her interested and learning. Best of all - the quiz and many of the activities are completely free! The only cost is if you choose to purchase any of the toys or books recommend for your child.

As an example of one of the recommended toys, I was sent the Leapfrog Tag Reading System to try out. If you haven't seen this, it's an electronic pen that goes with a series of books that are designed to work with the pen. When you purchase a compatible book, you can download the book's contents into the pen, and then the magic begins. Your child can then "read" the book on her own with the help of the Tag pen. The pen can be touched to an image to read the entire page out loud, or if your child is already in the beginning stages of reading, she can touch individual words to be read the word, or select to sound out the word.

Knowing that I love cool gadgets, this has to be one of the coolest kids' gadgets around! I enjoy reading books to Cordy, but I don't always have the time to do so. Now she can take the Tag pen and let the pen help her read a book. The pen is chunky and easy for little hands to hold, and so far I have yet to see it not recognize something on the page. (Another cool feature? You can touch the characters in the illustration on the facing page and each character will speak the words they say in that page of the story.)

I'll admit I'm biased, since I work for SavvySource, but I really do believe that their activities and recommended products are high quality and worth a look, and the SavvyQuiz is an incredibly useful tool. I've used several of the activities recommended for Cordy, many of which are quickly becoming favorite games in our house. She loves the Counting Beans activity, where we sort and count dried beans into different cups.

The widget is also something you can have on your blog! The Parent Bloggers Network is looking for more people to spread the word about SavvySource and earn a little money in the process by displaying the widget. If you think this is something you'd like for your blog, leave a comment here with your blog name and I'll let them know you're interested in participating in the widget advertisement.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Win A Free BlogHer Pass!

The blog WonderSpot is giving away a BlogHer pass and hotel room stay for FREE to one lucky winner! All you have to do is leave a comment at her site, although hurry, because the contest ends tomorrow night at midnight Pacific time.

If you don't have your BlogHer pass yet, go now!

A Stylish Yet High-Tech Lock

Ok, I know door hardware doesn't exactly inspire excitement in a lot of people. Normally, I wouldn't care that much either. But that inner geek in me (who am I kidding - outer geek is more like it) loves to see a technology edge to anything. And when it works? Even better.

So that's why I agreed to review a new lock by Schlage, because an electronic keypad lock sounds like something out of a James Bond movie. And I loves me some gadgets.

When the lock arrived, I was really impressed. It's a stylish lock, with gentle curves in a satin nickel finish.

Honestly, the hardest part of installation was getting the lock out of the box. They provide very detailed instructions on how to install the lock, but nothing to figure out which pieces to unscrew in order to remove it from the styrofoam.

When I saw the first instruction was to line up and measure the deadbolt hole in the door to make sure it would fit this lock, I had nightmares of having to drill into my door with some drilling type device that I do not own. (I'm not much of a do-it-yourselfer.) Thankfully, there seems to be some kind of standard size, because the hole from the old deadbolt and the lock matched up perfectly.

The actual installation wasn't too bad. It took longer than the 30 minutes that Schlage says it will take, and it took two people, but as I've said, Bob Villa I am not. There were a few times I wasn't sure exactly what to do, and in these cases I turned to the video instructions provided on the Schlage website.

The lock comes pre-programmed with two key codes, although you can reprogram them to a code you can remember or add more codes if needed. Having at least two codes is a great idea. You can give the second code to a house-sitter, babysitter, or anyone else who needs access to your house, and then change or delete the second code when you no longer want them to have access.

I really like the keypad deadbolt so far. The greatest benefit to me is not having to fish out my keys when carrying a toddler and several bags up to the door. I also like the security of not worrying about a key that could be stolen. (They do provide a set of keys for keypad override, should you need them.) It has a useful backlight so you can see the numbers at night, and a low battery indicator to tell you when you need to change the 9V battery.

If you're looking for a new door lock, consider an electronic keypad from Schlage. I can see this lock being very useful when my daughters are older. Better for them to remember a short number sequence to get into our house than have to keep track of a set of keys.