Friday, January 30, 2009

Plant A Seed To Bring New Life To Old Fields

When I was a kid, I played in our county's youth soccer program. There were several teams by age, and we all played on a couple of fields around town. If you didn't play in the field behind the church, surrounded on three sides by corn (and hope the ball didn't go into the corn), you played on the front lawn of a manufacturing plant, right next to a busy county road.

At the time, there were no other places to play soccer. Our local park had a baseball diamond, but it was often filled with adult softball leagues. There was no way the football players would let us use one of the school football fields either. So we had two poor excuses for sports fields to use, and no other choice. It took years before the community came together to create dedicated soccer fields for the kids to use.

However, many sports fields across the country are falling into disrepair, due to city budget cuts or lack of community involvement. In Columbus alone, numerous rec centers and pools are closing soon to save the city money. Who knows if the city fields will be kept up when outdoor sports begin in the spring?

To combat this national problem, Kellogg's Frosted Flakes Earn Your Stripes program has initiated a call-to-action for a national field renovation program that kicks off this coming Super Bowl Sunday with a commercial entitled "Plant a Seed."

The ad will focus on the role we all play in building stronger communities and making a difference in kids' lives. Because the Earn Your Stripes program is about inspiring kids to be their very best, "Plant a Seed" shows that before anyone can earn a single stripe, someone has to plant a seed and help give kids places to realize their promise and potential.

The field renovation initiative is currently accepting nominations for fields that need help. From this list, semifinalists will be chosen and then everyone can vote on which 30 will make the final cut. Through this program, fields will once again become central and vibrant places of activity and community in cities and towns across the country.

If there's a sports field in your city that could use some TLC, don't wait to nominate your local field for the Kellogg's Frosted Flakes Plant a Seed makeover. Your action could be the seed that revitalizes an entire neighborhood.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

VTech's Perfect Family Phone (Win One!)

I don't know who the brilliant person was who designed our house, but one thing they failed at was the placement of phone jacks. We have a grand total of two: one upstairs, one downstairs. While this is generally OK on an everyday basis, it does make it difficult to run to the phone if you happen to be on the other side of the downstairs. And should we stay in this house, can you imagine the battle for the phone with two daughters in a few years?

I was recently sent the VTech CS6129-3 cordless phone set for review. Unlike my current cordless phone, this one has a base unit with a digital answering machine, and two remote units. These two remote units don't require a phone jack - they only need an outlet for electricity. Now instead of two phones, we have three phones, giving us one additional location. I put the third phone in our kitchen, making it easier to answer the phone when making lunch or dinner without having to drop whatever I'm doing.

This phone system also has callerID, call waiting and speakerphone available. The phones can be used simultaneously, used to transfer a call from one handset to another, or be used as an intercom between the three handset locations. The transfer calls option is extremely useful - imagine answering the phone and it's someone calling for your husband, who is upstairs. Instead of yelling for him to come down, or taking the phone up to him, just transfer the call to the other handset.

I'm impressed with the clarity of calls. My old cordless sounded nearly as bad as a cell phone in a spotty area at times, but the VTech phone produces clear audio with no interference. The volume adjustment is easy to use, too. In fact, all of the different features are easy to use, with intuitive buttons and menus.

Best of all for this family, these phones are WiFi friendly - they don't interfere with the WiFi signal in your house, and they can't be heard across the baby monitor. Should someone try to listen in to your call, the phone scrambles the signal for security.

I'm thrilled with this phone, and I think it's the perfect phone for a family who needs to stay connected.

Win One!

I'm giving away a VTech CS6129-3 cordless phone set ($79.95 value) to one lucky reader! (US entrants only, sorry!) To enter, leave a comment below telling me about your current phone and what you like or don't like about it.

You can also earn additional entries in one of the following ways.

Extra entries:
1. Tweet about this contest on Twitter.
2. Subscribe to my blog (this one or A Mommy Story) or let me know you're already subscribed - only one entry here, even if you're subscribed to both.
3. Write a post on your blog linking to this contest.

For each of these additional entries, please leave a separate comment. For #1 and #3, also give me the link to your tweet or blog post.

Also be sure I have a valid e-mail address to contact you if you should win. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday, February 3 at 11:59 pm EST. One winner will be chosen at random after that date and contacted via e-mail.

Good luck, and be sure to watch for my other giveaways being held this week on this blog and my other blog in participation with the Bloggy Giveaways carnival!

This contest is now closed - thanks to all who participated!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Helping Allergy Sufferers Get Some Sleep

We are a family of allergy sufferers. My allergies are year round, usually consisting of dust, some pollens, and mold. Aaron's allergies are mostly specific to ragweed, making late July to September a miserable time for him with a stuffy nose and watery eyes. He's also slightly allergic to our cats. Cordy has skin allergies and we have to be careful what touches her skin for worries she'll break out in dry, itchy patches or red bumps.

While we do a lot of combat allergens in our home, I never really thought about our beds. I mean, I wash the sheets regularly, but other than that I didn't do anything specific to combat allergens. Did you know that it has been estimated that two million dust mites can thrive in an unprotected mattress? Combine that with other allergy triggers such as pet dander and pollen, and your mattress can become a haven for allergens.

I was recently sent a Protect-A-Bed mattress protector and pillow protector to try out. The mattress protector works just like a mattress pad, stretching over the mattress but under the sheets. It's soft, breathable, waterproof and prevents stains on your mattress. But this mattress protector also provides a barrier against dust mites and allergens and prevents bacteria from multiplying. The pillow protector is a zippered case that encases a pillow, underneath the actual pillowcase, and serves the same function.

I'm impressed at how soft the Protect-A-Bed products are. We have always used a mattress pad between the mattress and sheets, but this one is far more comfortable. I've never used a pillow protector before, but I'm completely sold on it now - it keeps my pillow clean and I've noticed I'm not waking up with a stuffy nose as often. The true test will be in the fall, of course, but for now they are doing a good job to keep allergens to a minimum.

The Protect-A-Bed mattress protectors are available in sizes from crib to King. They also have a line of mattress encasements that completely surround the mattress for ultimate protection.


I have one set of Protect-A-Bed mattress and pillow protectors to give to one lucky reader! The winner can choose between the AllerZip mattress protector, the Premium mattress protector or the Crib mattress protector. One Premium pillow protector will be included.

To enter, leave a comment below telling me what allergies you or a family member has. You can also earn additional entries in one of the following ways.

Extra entries:
1. Tweet about this contest on Twitter.
2. Subscribe to my blog or let me know you're already subscribed.
3. Write a post on your blog linking to this contest.

For each of these additional entries, please leave a separate comment. For #1 and #3, also give me the link to your tweet or blog post.

Also be sure I have a valid e-mail address to contact you if you should win. Entries will be accepted until Saturday, January 31 at 11:59 pm EST. One winner will be chosen at random after that date and contacted via e-mail.

Good luck, and be sure to watch for my other giveaways being held this week on this blog and my other blog in participation of the Bloggy Giveaways carnival!

This contest is now closed - thanks to all who participated!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Do You Know Your Drugs Well Enough?

Many of you know I'm only a few months away from finishing nursing school. As a student nurse, I've become very aware of just how many medications the average American is taking. If you're over 40, it's a very good chance that you're taking one or more medications on a daily basis. I'm only 32 and take one medication every day.

I've seen people in the hospital who were prescribed one medication by their family doctor, another by a specialist, and yet another by a different specialist. Without a national medical records system (something I wish we had), it's easy for medication errors to be made by taking drugs that interact with other prescribed drugs. Often the pharmacy will catch many of these errors, but if you go to different pharmacies, it can be near impossible to check for interactions., a comprehensive online drug information guide that I've used many times, is now offering moms an easy place to keep track of all their family's medications in one place. Their recently released tool, MedNotes, provides a free online personalized medication management program that can be used to track the whole family's medication profiles.

On each personal family member profile you create, you can enter the names of all the medications being taken and then register to receive drug safety or interaction alerts to ultimately help reduce dangerous side effects and avoid unwanted drug interactions. In addition, MedNotes will send you new drug and specific condition news released by the FDA or drug makers related to the medications your family members take.

I've seen patients in life-threatening situations due to taking medications that interacted with each other. MedNotes is a great way to take charge of your own healthcare and ensure the medications you (and your family) take are as safe for you as possible.

Hat tip to Mom Central for telling me about this new service!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Meet Your Fitness Goals With Game Stop

Probably half of us made some New Year's resolution to get fit earlier this month. I was one of them, and to assist me in my goals, I have gathered an arsenal of tools. I have water bottles, weights, workout DVDs, my Wii Fit and the Nintendo DS game My Weight Loss Coach.

A few years ago I never would have considered video games to help me get fit. But advances in game development have changed that, and I have to admit I'm glad they did it.

If you're considering using a video game or two to help you get fit, either mentally or physically, you should check out Game Stop's new Sharpen the Mind, Shape The Body promotion. Playing popular videogames like Wii Fit, My Fitness Coach or Dance, and Dance Revolution make exercise fun, while games like Brain Age or Crosswords DS give your brain a workout. GameStop stores offer these titles and more and have associates on hand to help you and your family find the titles that are right for you.

As a special incentive, all shoppers who spend $35 or more on designated products will receive a free 12-month trial subscription to their choice of Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Redbook, Good Housekeeping or Esquire.

I recently purchased My Weight Loss Coach from Game Stop and so far I've been impressed with the game. It lets me record my daily food and exercise, and offers challenges and encouragement.

So if you're looking for a new fitness game, for body or mind, stop by a local Game Stop and demo a game soon! (PS - They also buy back used games! Grab all of those unused games from your kids - or husband - and trade them in for something you want!)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Keep Your Sweets With Truvia

The holidays were brutal to my figure. There were so many goodies, and I couldn't exactly say no when Cordy asked to bake cookies. I've already committed myself to cutting calories and exercising, but the lure of sweets has always been my downfall.

I've tried sugar-substitutes in the past, with little luck. Most had an aftertaste or couldn't be used for baking. One of my favorite drinks when I cut out soda is iced tea, but I've never found a substitute for sugar with my tea.

I was recently send a box of Truvia to review, and at first I wasn't sure what to think of it. It's an all-natural sugar substitute with zero calories. Unlike genetically modified sugar substitutes, it's made from the leaves of a plant that already exists in nature: the stevia plant. It's safe to bake with, and is actually sweeter than sugar, requiring less wherever you'd use sugar.

Let me reiterate that last statement: you don't need as much. To try out Truvia, I brewed a pitcher of iced tea, choosing to use Truvia instead of sugar. The sample I was sent contained 40 packets, and I wasn't sure how many to add. I decided to keep adding until it came close to equally the amount of sugar I put into the 3 qt. pitcher. After about 15 packets, I realized I wouldn't have enough to equal the amount of sugar I put in, so I stopped at 30 packets, expecting the tea to be not quite as sweet as normal.

Instead, on first sip I gasped at how sweet it was! It was probably 1/3 less than the sugar I normally use, and it tasted over twice as sweet. The taste was just like sugar, with no aftertaste. As I've had glass after glass the past few days, I felt guilty each time, having to remind myself that I wasn't drinking a day's worth of calories in each glass.

I'm completely a Truvia convert now. It sweetens just like sugar, it tastes like sugar, it has no artifical taste, it's from an all-natural source, you can bake with it, and it has zero calories. I keep waiting to find out what the catch is, but I can't find one. It's even safe for diabetics to use. I recently bought another box and keep packets stashed in my purse.

My only complaint is that Truvia is only available in packets at the moment. I can only hope that they'll soon produce bulk bags or boxes of Truvia, like you find with sugar.

I'm thrilled that I was introduced to this product, because I can now watch my calories without feeling like I'm missing out on my sweets. If you're trying to cut back on your sugar or calories as well, Truvia would be perfect for you, too.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My Last Post About Christmas

We took down all of our holiday decorations earlier this week. As I sifted through all of the ornaments, garlands, lights, and random homemade ornaments, I decided it was time to rid ourselves of some of the old stuff that didn't even get used this year.

We had a pre-lit garland that no longer worked, so it was purged from the box. And we also had several ornaments that didn't even make it onto the tree this year due to being too fragile, or breakable, or too likely for the top to come out with the slightest tug from a child. Some of the light strands were inherited from my mom, who probably bought them when I was Cordy's age.

Some of our new decorations this year were big winners for us. The Home Depot sent us some unbreakable ornaments in early December, along with two sets of LCD lights in blue and white. First off, I had no idea you could even buy alternating blue-white strands of lights! I have to give kudos to my rep, Megan: when she asked what colors I liked, I told her we liked blue and white, and somehow she found exactly what I wanted.

The LCD lights were amazing - so much brighter, and they use far less energy than traditional lights. Our electricity usage for early December (we put the decorations up right after Thanksgiving) was less than it was a year ago, and I'd like to think the LCD lights helped.

The unbreakable ornaments lived up to their name: despite a few being yanked off the tree by kids or swatted off and batted around the floor by cats, they didn't break or come apart at the top. They were also even prettier than our old ones, prompting compliments from visitors.

One other item that Megan added was a package of LCD tealights. If you like having candlelight during the holidays (or any time of the year, really) but either have to keep the candles very high up for fear of small person or feline getting too close, these are a great alternative. Put them in a tealight holder made of frosted glass and you can barely tell the difference.

So big thanks to the Home Depot for coming up with some great holiday decorating ideas. We're planning to slowly convert all holiday lights to LCD lights (our local zoo converted part of their Wildlights display to LCD this year, too), and I think we'll be looking for more of the unbreakable ornaments, too.

Friday, January 02, 2009

There's Chocolate, and then there's CHOCOLATE

Who doesn't love the gift of chocolate? I was given a few boxes of chocolate over the holidays, and have to admit that it's a gift that never goes out of fashion. OK, maybe if you're on a diet, but that's about it.

Now, while I've said before that there are no bad chocolates - and I stick with that statement - there are varying degrees of chocolate. A Hershey's chocolate bar is good. A Cadbury bar is even better. Ferrero Rocher is truly fine chocolate. And Ghiridelli and Choxie are somewhere close to divine.

I recently received a box of See's chocolates to try. Before this I've never sampled or even heard of See's chocolates. But seeing how I had to report to all of you what they're like, I took on that challenge to try out the chocolate sampler I was sent. See? I was doing it all for you. Ahem.

The poor box of chocolates never saw it coming. I don't think I've ever had chocolate disappear that fast. I tried to hide the box so that only I could enjoy them, but Aaron soon found them and reminded me that sharing our chocolates is probably part of our marriage vows. And then my mom visited and saw the little red box, reminding me that she did go through labor for me, and the least I could do was give her a little chocolate in return.

The kids didn't get any, though. I know, I'm a horrible mom, but they think Play-Doh tastes good, so I wasn't going to waste fine chocolate on their less sophisticated palates.

If you haven't figured out how well I liked it, I'll add that it has joined the ranks of close to divine. Both the milk chocolates and dark chocolates were full of flavor, and fillings that I never thought I'd like were good, too. The caramel and nut ones, though, were my absolute favorites.

In my area, See's is only available during the holidays at the mall. But you can order online, and See's has a great fundraising program available for charities, schools, youth groups, etc. So if you want to make sure to have See's within reach, you could always suggest a chocolate fundraiser at your next PTA meeting. What a delicious way to show support.

As for me, I know what I want for Valentine's Day: a box of pecan buds. Yum.