Monday, March 30, 2009

Taste-Testing Maranatha Organic Peanut Butter

As a child I went to school nearly everyday with a PB&J sandwich. It was an easy lunch for my mom to pack, and I never got tired of peanut butter. I still love it, too - despite the high fat content, peanut butter is a great source of protein.

But Cordy has gone far beyond my love for peanut butter. She practically worships the stuff. At school they serve PB&J sandwiches with graham crackers instead of bread, and she has been known to eat two or more of them. When she gets home for lunch each day, she requests a PB&J 99% of the time. Yes, I worry about last month's peanut scare, and I also don't like many of the trans-fats and additives in peanut butter. But I can't deny her peanut butter - it's one of her few sources of protein!

Parent Bloggers recently asked if I wanted to try some organic peanut butter by Maranatha. I was interested - after all, if my child's diet is going to contain this much of a single food, maybe I should look into finding the most healthy version of this food, right?

Why haven't I bought organic before this? It's mostly due to my laziness. I know, dumb reason, but most organic peanut butters have that layer of oil on the top, requiring stirring. Yes, I refused to buy it because I had to take the extra step of stirring.

However, I was informed that Maranatha has a no-stir peanut butter. Well now you're talking! Once I got my coupon I ran to the grocery to pick up my jar. (I found it at two local groceries in the organic section - no need to visit Whole Foods.)

I opened the jar and peered inside. The peanut butter looked more dense than my popular brand, and more oily as well. (But it didn't require stirring!) Maranatha peanut butters are trans-fat free and made in small, preservative-free batches. They're also low in sugar and salt. I grabbed a spoon and tried a bite. Yum!

It's very creamy and smooth. And while this may sound dumb, it had a strong roasted peanut flavor, as opposed to the sugary taste that I usually find in most peanut butters. The peanut taste wasn't overpowered by sugar and salt. In other words, I think I was tasting real peanut butter for the first time!

But what about Cordy? Would she like it? She's very particular about her peanut butter. When I accidentally used Aaron's reduced fat peanut butter, she turned her nose up at it. When I tried another variety, she again refused to eat. You can imagine how nervous I was as I prepared her sandwich, thinking back to the old Folger's commercials:

We're here at this everyday home where we've secretly replaced their usual peanut butter with Maranatha organic peanut butter. Can they tell the difference? Let's find out.

Cordy ate every bite of her sandwich, declaring it delicious. I don't know if she thought it was the same as or better than her usual peanut butter, but at least she didn't dislike it. Victory!

Maranatha organic peanut butter does need to be refrigerated after opening due to having no preservatives in it. You can also find Maranatha in a crunchy no-stir variety, as well as almond, cashew and macadamia butters.

Want to try Maranatha for free? Leave a comment below telling me your current brand of peanut butter by Friday, April 3 at 11:59pm EDT. I'll choose one winner by random draw to receive a coupon for a free jar of Maranatha. (US residents only.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Baby Einstein Takes on the World

At my first baby shower, I remember getting several Baby Einstein DVDs as gifts. We already knew the power of them - friends of ours had a son who would remain quiet for an entire Baby Einstein DVD so they could get dinner ready or take a quick shower. It was like a magic off button.

Cordy liked Baby Einstein as a baby, too, and we then reused our DVDs when Mira was born. It's been awhile since we brought out Baby Mozart or Baby Shakespeare, mostly because we thought Mira might be too old for them now.

However, I recently received a copy of Baby Einstein: World Music for review, and as I put in the DVD I wondered how Mira would react. She likes puppets, and she loves music, so I was hoping this would be a big hit.

I was pleasantly surprised by her reaction. She was entranced at first, then crawled onto my lap and began pointing towards everything she saw on the screen. At times she would jump down and spin in a circle - that's her way of dancing. As for the puppets - she couldn't get enough of them, as she pawed the TV trying to get to the monkey puppet who guides viewers around the world.

Baby Einstein: World Music introduces children to the world's distinctive sights and sounds with a cute puppet host, Jane the Monkey, as she travels across the globe to play music with her puppet friends. It features a mix of real-world images of global musical instruments, regional toys and animals, and puppet adventures set to music from every reach of the world.

And for a more customized experience for each family's stage and needs, the World Music DVD provides two settings - Grow with Me and Select-a-Segment. The "grow with me" setting offers a second viewing mode containing spoken words and additional content that grows with babies, while "select-a-segment" gives parents the choice of viewing shorter segments, such as five or ten minutes, as opposed to longer programming.

Mira enjoys this DVD, and I like exposing her to different types of music. I also received the Baby Einstein: World Music audio CD, and while it's a little too soothing for car rides, it makes a great CD to play at bedtime.

Thanks to Mom Central for providing this product!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Because You Know Cuts and Scrapes Are Going To Happen

The weather is finally warming up here, and that means my girls are already back outside playing in the backyard, at the playground or going for walks with us. And if your kids are like mine, you know that the incidence of scrapes, cuts, and general boo-boos will soon be on the rise, too.

I was invited by Mom Central to try out Neosporin and their new Neo To Go! antiseptic/pain relieving spray, and the first thing they asked me to do was take a look in my medicine cabinet at what I already had. Specifically, I was asked to examine the expiration dates. Oops. Turns out my tube of antiseptic cream expired at Christmas - in 2007. Many products lose their effectiveness after the expiration date, leading to thinking you're protected when you're not.

We've used Neosporin in our house before, usually applying it to any open wound to create a protective layer to keep out bacteria and prevent infection. Add a Dora bandaid, a hug and a kiss, and everything is all better again. I've never tried the Neosporin with pain relief, but after a small cut on my finger earlier this week I appreciated the pain relief part of it! The pain disappeared within a minute.

Quite possibly my new favorite product is the Neo To Go! spray. It's a travel-sized hard container of Neosporin antiseptic/pain reliever designed for one-handed use. I love how small it is - it takes up a tiny amount of space in my purse. And it's perfect for trips to the playground.

Cordy scraped her knee on a metal mesh walkway at the playground, and it was easy to whip the Neo To Go! spray out of my purse, spray the scrape, wait a minute for it to dry, and then let her go back to playing. She quickly forgot about it, and I knew the scrape was better protected against infection without having to go home immediately.

The Neo To Go! spray now has a regular place in my purse, right next to the hand sanitizer and tissues.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Come on down to Bunnytown!

Anyone who watches Playhouse Disney regularly will know Bunnytown. When the show first premiered, Cordy was instantly obsessed with it. She loved the bright, colorful bunnies, the songs, and the funny skits. I noticed right away that the puppet style of the bunnies and the voices were very similar - turns out, they're made by the same folks who created Jack's Big Music Show on Noggin.

For those who don't know, Bunnytown is an entire world of bunnies. There are bunnies of every type - young school bunnies, scientist bunnies, bus driver bunnies - even pirate bunnies! Each episode features lessons on sharing, problem solving and teamwork, combined with lots of singing, music, humor and one or two bunny trips up to the "real" world for Silly Sports.

When Disney changed their lineup recently, Bunnytown was no longer on during a time when Cordy could watch. She asked where the pirate bunnies were, and would she see Space Bunny again soon? We had one episode Tivo'd, and while she never got tired of it, I wanted a little more variety than a single episode.

However, just this week Bunnytown: Hello Bunnies! was released on DVD! The DVD contains four episodes of Bunnytown, plus a sneak peek at the new Mickey Mouse Clubhouse movie "Mickey's Adventure in Wonderland."

Both of my girls are partial to childrens' programs with puppets versus animation, and Bunnytown has yet to leave the DVD player. The songs are catchy and upbeat without being too repetitive, and some of the scenes are genuinely funny for adults, too. Cordy and Mira would give it 5 stars (out of 5), and I give it 4.5 stars, only because it doesn't have auto-repeat, haha.

Win one!

I've got an extra copy of the Bunnytown: Hello Bunnies! DVD to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, leave a comment below telling me your child's (or grandchild or niece/nephew) favorite TV show. Comments are open until Thursday, March 26 at 11:59pm EDT.

One winner will be chosen at random using Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address so I can contact you if you win.

Good luck!

Monday, March 09, 2009

I'll Admit It: My Carpets Stink

It's true. I have two children, three cats, and wall-to-wall carpeting. Of course my carpets aren't always fresh. We generally have the carpets steam cleaned twice a year, but due to the economy, the recession, and uh, no job...we have to use cheaper ways to keep our carpets in good shape.

While we have several carpet cleaning products, they often leave behind a strong smell, either from the cleaning product or the smell of what was there before the stain was lifted.

I have to admit, I'm now a fan of Carpet Fresh Carpet & Room Odor Eliminator. Mom Central asked me to try this product, and I accepted with high hopes.

Carpet Fresh is a quick-dry foam that you simply spray on the carpet and let dry. It can also be used on car upholstery and drapes, although I haven't tried it on anything other than carpet yet. The spray nozzle is easy to use and sprays an even layer of foam onto the carpet. It took around 10 minutes to fully dry, but since I was only testing it on a small area of carpet, it wasn't hard to avoid the area. After it dried, there was no residue on the carpet - it felt soft and plush.

There are five different scents available - I tried the Super Pet scent, seeing how I have three bulimic cats. The scent was a little strong for me at first - a slightly perfumey floral scent - but after a half hour or so the scent had diffused and wasn't so strong. I'd like to try the other scents, too. Apple cinnamon may be a better fit for me.

Lately I've noticed our carpet's odor when I've been working out. While we use odor eliminating candles, they don't help when your face is close to the carpet for pushups. Carpet Fresh does a good job of conquering pet odors easily without taking up a lot of my time. Spray it on, go make lunch, and by the time you're done the carpet is dry and smells fresh.

Want to try it for yourself? Carpet Fresh currently has coupons available for download on their website!

A Little More Light, A Little More Sleep (Hopefully!)

Cordy has always been an early riser. No matter how much we try to adjust her schedule, she's always up before the sun. Sometimes as early as 5am. It wasn't a problem when she was younger and wouldn't leave her room, but now she wakes up, opens her door, and wanders into our room. This is how the conversation goes most mornings:

"Mommy, Daddy, it's a beautiful day. Will you take me downstairs?"

"Cordy, it's still nighttime. Go back to bed."

"But my eyes are open."

"You're big enough to go down on your own."

"I can''s too dark."

"Go turn on the living room light."

"But the stairs are too dark."

And at that point Aaron usually gets up and goes downstairs with her. She's right - the stairs are too dark for her, and we don't want her falling down them in the dark. We've been dreaming of inventing a device that, when she opens her door, would trigger a series of lights along the stairs to light up so she could go downstairs on her own and buy us at least another 15 minutes of sleep.

While we don't have a device like that, we have found one that works nearly as well. The Sylvania PalPODzzz portable nightlights are both nightlight and wandering flashlight all in one. There are two cute designs: a ladybug and a rocketship. As you can probably guess, Cordy wanted the rocketship.

Sylvania PalPODzzz rocketshipThe PalPODzzz is made up of two pieces. The base is a nightlight and also recharges the flashlight when it's connected. The flashlight is small and perfect for tiny hands to hold. The unit has a light sensor so that the nightlight is brighter as the room is darker. It also conserves energy by keeping the nightlight off during the day. The nightlight could best be described as a gentle glow - it's not quite enough light, so Cordy still has her other nightlight in her room, too.

The flashlight is not the same as an adult's flashlight. While it provides enough light to brighten dark areas, it's not so bright that it will burn your retinas if shined in your eyes. It automatically activates when taken off the base, but it also has a button on the side to turn it on and off. (And on and off and on and off and on...)

The flashlight has a four hour battery life before it needs to be recharged. The only downside is sometimes Cordy will grab the rocketship off the base early in the night, and then fall asleep with it on, so that in her (our) time of greatest need, it won't work and we endure the bedside wake-up again.

I love this little flashlight. Cordy can now use it to go down the stairs in the morning and find the light switch. Flashlights are favorite toys of hers anyway, as evidenced by our house full of dead flashlights, and the rocketship design makes her want to use this one over all others. I appreciate that the PalPODzzz is rechargable, saving me from buying batteries for yet another device my daughter will leave on all day.

I'm thankful that PBN asked me to review the Sylvania PalPODzzz, because it has solved a big problem in our house! Now if we could only find a device to make her breakfast and turn on the TV...

Check out PBN for more reviews on this product.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Rockin' With Dan Zanes (Contest, too!)

I'll admit that I wasn't one of the hip parents who automatically knew about Dan Zanes and Friends from the beginning. I didn't - it took Playhouse Disney and their clips of Dan singing "Catch That Train" and other songs for me to discover this quirky and vibrant band. I love how his songs aren't your typical collection of songs about the alphabet, an itsy-bitsy spider, or a lamb and its neglectful handler, Mary. I don't feel silly singing along with Malti or Down by the Bay.

I recently had the chance to review the latest Dan Zanes CD, The Welcome Table. It's described as "songs of inspiration, mystery, and good times" and that's exactly what you get when you press play. These tunes are upbeat, yet vaguely calming - my daughters love to bop along to the beat, while I feel a wash of tranquility and happiness wash over me, all from the same song.

While we're not a particularly religious family, I still enjoyed songs that were of a religious nature because no single religion is being promoted here. The purpose is to present songs of hope, joy, and togetherness. According to the liner notes, a portion of all sales from this CD will go to The New Sanctuary Movement, an interfaith group dedicated to helping immigrant families in the US.

If you're looking for songs both you and your children will enjoy, Dan Zanes and Friends is the band to look for. I have yet to be disappointed with any of his albums. And I've been told his concerts are a blast, too.

Win A Copy of Nueva York!

I've got four copies of the Dan Zanes and Friends CD, Nueva York, to give to four lucky readers! To win, leave one comment below and be sure to leave a valid e-mail address. Entries will be accepted until Sunday, March 8 at 11:59 pm EST. Four winners will be chosen by random drawing.


If you're in the Columbus Metro area, or live close enough that you're willing to drive in, I'm giving away one set of tickets for a family to see Dan Zanes and Friends at the Wexner Center on March 28, 2009 at 11am. If you're a fan of Dan, you know that the band doesn't tour in Ohio all that often, so this is a very special treat!

To enter, leave a comment below saying you want to attend the concert and be sure to leave a valid e-mail address. If you're trying to win the CDs, too, just indicate in your comment that you'd like to be entered for both contests. Entries will be accepted until Sunday, March 8 at 11:59 pm EST. One winner will be chosen by random drawing from those entries indicating they want to be included in this giveaway.

One entry per household, US residents only. Winners chosen by random drawing using

Good luck!


This contest is now closed. Congrats to our winners: Staci, Karen, Yadgirl, and Katie, all receiving CDs, and to Katie for winning the concert tickets as well!