Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Printer For Any School, Work, or Home Project

With the beginning of the new school year, I knew I needed a new printer. My old printer, an HP all-in-one, has been a reliable printer for over 4 years, and still works fairly well despite heavy use and abuse.

But my desktop computer has reached a point where it needs to be retired, and my printer is connected to that computer - a computer that no longer has access to the internet. Printing required us to load anything from our laptops to a flash drive, then upload it to the old desktop and print. I wanted an easier system, I wanted to get rid of the desktop, and I also wanted to print photos. I needed something new.

So when HP e-mailed me to tell me about their new products for fall, I immediately told them I needed a new printer. Originally I asked about the Officejet J4680, but my friends at HP asked me to try a similar printer to suit my needs. Less than a week later, I opened the box of my new HP Photosmart C7280 printer. This is an all-in-one printer that offers printing, scanning, copying, faxing, and photo printing. It has one other important feature, though: it can connect over a wireless network. I immediately set it up and decided to put it through a tough test.

Set-up was fairly simple (aside from network set-up - mentioned later), with a small color graphics display that guides you through most of the process. It does most of the work on its own. There are 6 ink cartridges for this printer that produce brilliant colors. The software was also just as easy to install.

The big question: can it print well? Yes! I can now print from my laptop in a different room from my printer, without the use of a flash drive. The HP Photosmart C7280 prints quickly, quietly, and brilliantly clear and colorful. The on-screen menus are intuitive and easy to use. It also has some added features, like built in templates for lined or graph paper, should you need some for school projects. (That will be extremely useful for my statistics class next quarter.)

On the top of the printer is a document feeder that lets you scan or copy more than one page without needing to manually switch out pages. Scanned images can be saved to a flash drive or saved to a computer on your personal network. Ports on the front of the printer can accept most memory cards (including the SD card from my digital camera) and USB flash drives.

The paper tray holds up to 100 sheets of paper, plus there is a smaller tray built in that holds up to 20 sheets of photo paper (4x6 or 5x7). Photo printing produces very good results - not as good as some photo labs, but still perfectly acceptable for framing or giving to grandparents. I'll continue to play with the photo settings to see if I can get the look I want.

The networking feature is by far the feature that thrilled me the most. With this printer, you can connect to your computer via a USB cable, an ethernet cable, or wirelessly using a wireless router and home network. The printer's network card can find and access your wireless network - you can enter your security code using the LCD panel to connect through any wireless security.

I had only one small problem with this printer, and it also involved the network. At first I had to deal with my computer constantly losing the printer in the network, even though it was visible on another computer. I solved this problem by not only adding the printer to my computer using the supplied HP software, but also by using the Add a Printer wizard from Windows XP and adding the printer's IP address. I haven't had any problems with it since I did that.

Overall, the HP Photosmart C7280 is a dream printer for a family. It can do anything I need it to do - print school papers, make copies of coloring sheets for my daughter, scan images, fax paperwork to Cordy's school, and print photos from my digital camera. With the power of wireless networking, it's also perfect for the busy family who all need access to the printer from different computers.

It's original retail price is about $300, but you can find it cheaper at Amazon and other online retailers. Amazon has it right now for $194.02 and free shipping. I consider that an excellent price for a multifunction printer that offers wireless access as well.

This printer is a very successful replacement for my old HP - it does many of the same things my old HP printer did, only now with higher resolution and additional features. I think it will do a great job under the pressure of my last year of nursing school as well as 2 years of preschool and hopefully a few years of elementary school to come.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Diaper Bag That Holds Everything AND Looks Good

With two children still in diapers (OK, one is in pull-ups), I can't escape the house without a diaper bag. For short trips, one of my small diaper bags works fine - a couple of diapers for each of them, some wipes, and maybe a change of clothing.

But for an entire day out or an overnight, when I need full changes of clothing, snacks, sometimes meals, sippy cups, sunscreen, lots of diapers, and any accessories for the day, one diaper bag rarely holds it all. We often must resort to two diaper bags - one to hold diapers, clothing and supplies for changes, and the other to hold food, drink and eating accessories. It's a pain to lug two bags around, and the second bag is often our backup bag - the ugly diaper bag given out by the hospital.

Enter Ju-Ju-Be. I was asked to review their new diaper bag, the WannaBe, a bag designed to hold everything you could need for a day out. I was skeptical that it could really hold enough to take my two kids out for a day at the pool or for an overnight stay with a friend.

When it arrived, my first thought on opening the box was that the pattern is beautiful. I received the citrus/green, and the colors are so vibrant and bright they make me smile just looking at the bag. As I lifted it out, I was then surprised at just how large this bag is!

I'm happy to say, this diaper bag holds everything. It has several generous sized pockets to keep things organized, including a large insulated pocket for drinks and snacks. It even has a pocket for your iPod. A pocket on the exterior is useful for keeping items for yourself, while two removable, see-thru wet bags are great for keeping wet or soiled items away from everything else. (Or for keeping more delicate items away from wet items!)

If you're going to the beach, the WannaBe has an amazing feature. After loading up everything at the end of the day, unzip the bottom of the bag to reveal the Sand Trap mesh bottom. Give a good shake to get all of the sand out of the bag while keeping everything else in place. Genius! There's also a towel holder on the outside of the bag to hold a rolled up beach towel.

You can carry the WannaBe in two different ways. First, the tote shoulder straps can be adjusted for the most comfortable single shoulder or arm carry. But if you are hefting a full bag across a beach to get back to the car, use the backpack straps to distribute the weight and free up your hands.

The Ju-Ju-Be WannaBe is an amazing diaper bag, and I'm in love with just how useful it is. Even after the girls have left diapers behind, this will still be a go-to bag for trips to the beach. It's stylish design doesn't scream "diaper bag" like so many do. The bag is also waterproof, machine washable, and the lining has an anti-microbial treatment.

Want to win a Ju-Ju-Be diaper bag? I'm giving away one of the BeLight diaper bags (it's a small diaper bag, great for short trips) in the color of your choice! To enter, visit the Ju-Ju-Be site, then leave a comment here telling me which bag color you like the best. Contest ends August 29 at 11:59pm eastern. One winner will be chosen at random after that date. Be sure to leave a way for me to contact you if you win.

And if you aren't the winner, check out the Pink Room at the Ju-Ju-Be website for the Real Mom Giveaway. Each week Ju-Ju-Be gives away one diaper bag of the winner's choice (ANY bag!) - enter by answering the question of the week.

**This contest is now closed.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Confessions of a Children's Clothes-aholic

When Cordy was little, I was completely addicted to Gymboree. She was dressed in head-to-toe Gymboree most of the time, even sleeping in Gymboree PJ's. I couldn't pass a Gymboree in the mall without stopping and falling in love with some new outfit. I followed message boards about upcoming lines, looking at pictures and planning what I'd buy next.

If you've never been to Gymboree, I'll add in this: it's expensive. Children's clothing is already expensive considering you blink and that loose-fitting top you purchased a month ago is now a crop top. Most of the dresses are usually between $25-38, with very simple, plain tops often starting at $12. I suppose there are a lot more expensive clothing options out there, but for a middle class family, Gymboree was our high fashion.

When I switched from full-time to part-time work, I knew I wasn't going to be able to spend so freely on Cordy's clothing. So I searched online and found that some people had Gymboree buying down to a science. They purchased during big sales, took advantage of the Gymbuck program, and then sold their outgrown clothing on eBay or Gymboree message boards.

I started shopping with an eye for value. I shopped the sales racks, and often waited for the severe markdowns. I'd buy pieces during the end-of-season sales, buying an entire year ahead: for example, I'd buy fall and winter pieces in larger sizes when they started to bring in spring and summer lines, and then save them until the next fall and bring them out. I'd also plan my spending so that I could earn Gymbucks (which are coupons giving you $25 off each $50 you spend) and plan more sale purchases during the redemption period, using the Gymbucks to give me even better deals.

Once she outgrew an outfit, I'd decide if I wanted to save it or sell it. I always took very good care of Gymboree clothing, knowing it has a high resale value. Selling an item right before it comes into season (like spring clothing in February) usually gives you the best resale price. I sometimes traded for other clothes I wanted on special websites designed for selling or trading Gymboree, too.

I loved buying dresses that were originally $34 for $12 or less. If I could work in a Gymbuck, too, all the better. My best bargains, though, were the clothing I bought on sale at deep discounts that I then resold for more than I spent on them! I once sold a fancy Christmas dress on eBay for $30 - I bought it two years before in the after-Christmas sales for $10, then Cordy wore it once a year later for a holiday party.

Looking over all I've spent and resold, I've probably made back at least 3/4 of the money I spent on Gymboree clothing. And I still have several dresses, tops and leggings that Cordy wore that I've saved for Mira. Once Mira is done with them, I'll probably try to sell some of those items, too, saving the pieces with the most sentimental value in her memory box. I don't buy Gymboree much anymore, now that finances are tight, but I still have a lot leftover for Mira to wear, and once our situation improves I know I'll be drawn into it again.

If you like Gymboree, look at message boards and trading groups and learn how to follow the sales. There's no reason to pay full price for it, especially knowing that nearly all of their clothing has a regular markdown schedule. If you shop smart and can buy ahead, you can dress your kids in Gymboree without taking out a second mortgage for a new wardrobe!

You can find even more shopping tips this weekend over at the Parent Bloggers Network. They're running a blog blast featuring best bargain stories, sponsored by Eight gift cards are up for grabs for those who participate!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Come Meet The Sight Words

Cordy has recently discovered the fun in letters and spelling words. Programs like Word World and Sesame Street on PBS are now the most requested in our house. She can spell words like rocket, water, bed, and any other word that was built on the latest episode of Word World.

When Parent Bloggers Network asked me if I wanted to review Meet the Sight Words I took a look at the packaging and agreed. The words looked like little people, so I figured Cordy would love it.

Meet the Sight Words teaches kids some of the most common "sight words" - words that children have a hard time reading without just memorizing them outright. The 40 minute DVD covers sight words that kids will use most often, like of, that, he, the, said, and play. Each word is shown one at a time on the screen, followed by the word morphing into an animated character (or two) and being portrayed in a little animated scene. For example, the word "for" becomes a camel, traveling across the desert in Egypt, and "of" is a little round guy with a wrench fixing a leaky pipe.

While I found the DVD to be a little dull for me, with no plot and the same words repeated over and over, my daughters both enjoyed it. (But hey, it's not for me, is it?) Once she figured out the format, she'd see each new word and ask, "What word is next, mommy?" She really wanted to learn the words. And the simple animations captured the attention of Mira, too.

My only complaint with this DVD is that many of the word animations have nothing to do with the word itself. I would have liked to see the animation tie into the words better, perhaps even using it in a sentence that explains what's happening in the animation to show kids where the word fits. The part I liked the best was at the very end, when a short story is read, with each word being highlighted on the screen, showing how they all fit together.

Overall, Meet the Sight Words is a good learning tool for helping your early reader memorize sight words.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Here are the winners for all of my contests last week! All winners were chosen by random integer generator from

Nintendo DS - theangelforever #104

Snapfish prints - janelle #66

ModMum baby sling - Faithful Mommy #44

Starbucks Vivanno certificates - ChristiS #29

Congrats, and thanks to everyone for playing!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Avoiding the Embarrasing Wedgie With Hanes

We're still currently teetering on the edge of potty training here in my house. Some days Cordy will go to the potty like clockwork, other days she decides the potty is the root of all evil and won't go near it.

However, I'm still trying to bribe her with stickers and big girl underwear, and if she stays dry for several hours, she then requests a pair of big girl underwear and I let her put them on. Lately we've been trying out the new Hanes underwear for girls with the "No-Ride Up" feature for the Parent Bloggers Network. These cotton undies declare themselves to be "wedgie-free" and so I had to put them to the test.

As expected, these briefs stayed in place. This kid does a lot of twisting and climbing and moving in ways that only a three year old can move all day long, but each time I checked her there was no bunching of fabric. Even her diapers give her wedgies, so I was surprised by this.

The waistband seemed comfortable for her, and didn't leave any red mark around her middle. They're also tagless - a feature that is always good for a child with sensory issues who can be put in a bad mood by something as simple as a tag rubbing against her.

Hanes has a Comfort-Fit Promise, where they will refund your money if they aren't as comfortable as you or your child expected. In our case, they lived up to expectations, so there would never be a need to seek a refund. The Hanes no ride-up cotton underwear for girls are cute, colorful, and fit well.

And in full disclosure, I can say that they soak through just as fast as other underwear. Ah, the fun of potty training...

Keep watching the Parent Bloggers Network blog for an announcement on 8/22 as to how you can win some Hanes-wear for your kids!