Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Groovy Lab in a Box Review and Giveaway!

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Each month through the Groovy Lab in a Box subscription service, young STEMists (your children!) will receive fun, hands-on projects and an engineering design challenge – all focused on that month’s STEM topic. All STEMists will receive a Lab Notebook, where they can read about that month’s topic, perform investigation activities and document their findings. They will investigate, brainstorm, plan, build, test and redesign their own creations.

STEMists also receive access to the “Beyond…in a Box” online learning portal. This is a unique feature of Groovy Lab in a Box because it gives STEMists a deeper understanding of that month’s topic. “Beyond…in a Box” has videos and more interactive activities to supplement what they are learning from the box projects, which also helps the STEMist even more when completing the design challenge. Additionally, the monthly box contains bonus supplies exclusively for the activities available through “Beyond…in a Box.”

While the investigation activities have step-by-step directions, STEMists won’t have detailed directions to complete the Engineering Design Challenge. Instead, they must rely on their critical thinking skills, and what they’ve learned through the investigation process from the Lab Notebook and online activities. The Engineering Design Challenge is the culmination of your STEMist’s learning experience – the ultimate project where he/she must apply the knowledge gained from that month’s activities.

Review: Subscription boxes have become very popular so I was very happy to see one offered that is educational and fun at the same time. My children, Jackson (11) and Bella (8), disagree on most things but they do have fascination of science in common. A kit like this is perfect for them and I absolutely loved that there were multiple experiments contained in the box and that everything was included (there is nothing more frustrating than my kids showing an interest in something that is not electronic and then having to disappoint them when I tell them that we don't have some obscure item on hand to help them with their experiment). 

The Here Comes the Sun kit we received had several different experiments with a common theme: the sun. To make the kit even more fun, the activities also pose the following challenge: "You're shipwrecked on a deserted island with only your Groovy Lab in a Box. Inside your groovy box are the materials to design and build a solar balloon, solar oven, conductivity tester, and desalination plant. How can you eat, drink, and get someone to rescue you using only your Groovy Lab in a Box material?" How fun!! 

My husband and daughter had some great father-daughter time bonding over these activities. The directions were easy to follow and I really loved how there were thought-provoking questions and basic illustrations that helped with the overall instruction but did not ruin the surprise of the outcome.  The activities took just long enough to keep her engaged, but not too long that she lost interest. She also loved showing off her finished product to the kids in the neighborhood. I would definitely recommend this subscription box if you have a little scientist in your home! 

Bella and her solar balloon
Buy it here: You can join the subscription service from the Groovy Lab in a Box website.
$26.95 / Month - Billed monthly
$25.95 / Month - Billed every 3 months
$24.95 / Month - Billed every 6 months
$23.95 / Month - Billed every 12 months
Non-recurring packages and Single Boxes are also available for purchase.

Enter the code GROOVYNOW20 for a 20% Discount off the first month of your Monthly Subscription!

Win it here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Back to School Essential: Carmex Moisture Plus Lip Balms

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As you are stocking up on back to school supplies and uniforms, don't forget that your daughter will need to keel her lips moisturized during the fall and winter and she might as well do so with style! Carmex offers some adorable Moisture Plus Lip Balms in great styles that will be perfect for the in-between-class touch-ups. 

I was thrilled to receive each of the lip balms along with a locker mirror to try out for myself. I am not a huge fan of the sticky or caked-on feel that comes with applying lip glosses and lip sticks so this line of lip balms is perfect for me. I cannot tell you how great my lips feel after applying Carmex Moisture Plus. They are extremely moist and soft and it adds a slight shine that makes them look really healthy. The length of moisturization is comparable to similar products; however,  I can't say that other lip balms in the market come in such fashionable tubes. Pre-teens and teens alike will likely love these products that are both functional and stylish. They could have fun matching their tube of lip balm to their bag, outfit, or even locker decor. These are definitely a back-to-school must! 

*I was provided with the above mentioned product for the purpose of facilitating this review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Celsius Cola Review and Giveaway!

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Whether you drink soda or not, you probably are certain about one thing: sodas are not good for you. What if there was a healthy and tasty alternative to traditional sodas that allow you to have all the flavor you have come to love without the guilt? Celsius Sparkling Cola is a cola drink from the makers of Celsius (the world's first and only negative calorie drink, backed by multiple clinical studies). Studies show that drinking a great tasting Celsius before exercise helps you burn up to 100 calories and more per serving, boosts metabolism, reduces body fat, increases endurance and provides lasting energy.

Celsius is powered by MetaPlus®, a blend of ingredients designed to work together to increase calorie burning over a three-hour period. The formula is the result of years of research and testing and while the mix is proprietary, consumers readily recognize and trust the healthier blend of its ingredients such as: Green Tea with EGCG, Ginger, Calcium, Chromium, Caffeine, Guarana, and Vitamins B & C.

Review: I am all for any drink that will help me boost my metabolism and burn extra calories during my runs. I have tried Celsius flavor packs in the past and loved the energy I received. I am not a big fan of soda, so my distaste for the bubbly drink probably tainted my view of this drink so I enlisted some help from my family. My son, who loves soda (and is rarely allowed to actually drink it) really loved the Celsius Sparkling Cola. He commented on how much it reminded him of classic sodas and he was very impressed that it was a negative calorie drink. I was most impressed that there was a cola and energy drink available that does not contain any artificial ingredients. Personally, I will stick with the Celsius flavor packs, but you would probably love this if you are a cola lover. 

Buy it here: You can purchase Celsius Cola by the case from Amazon.

Win it here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I was provided with the above mentioned product for the purpose of facilitating this post. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dorm Room Essential: Taylor Mini Bath Scale

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If you have ever had the chance to see the inside of the teeny-tiny rooms college campuses call dorms, then you know that space is at a premium and students need to get very creative about having essential items on hand without taking up too much room.  The new Taylor Mini Bath Scale, available in black and white, is perfect for people who are heading off to college. It is designed to take accurate weights but is so compact (9" x 5") that you can store it in a drawer, purse, etc. 

  • Digital scale with expandable display for easy reading
  • 9" wide x 5" high x 0.8 " deep - expands to 7" high when display is pulled out
  • LCD digits in 1" overall readout
  • Tempered glass platform
  • Instant on, auto zero, auto off, low battery indicator
  • Capacity 350 lb
  • Lithium battery included

Review:  I was amazed at how teeny-tiny this scale actually is.  My husband and I both weighed ourselves on our current scale and then weighed ourselves with the Taylor scale and they were exactly the same indicating that the scale is accurate. The weight calculated instantly and was very easy to read on the LCD screen. It was a bit strange to stand on such a small surface and my husband had a difficult time balancing himself on it. I had an easier time because I have smaller feet but I could appreciate the uneasy feeling he had. However, if you need a compact scale or one that can be mobile, this is definitely a great scale. Plus, it is affordable at only $20. 

Buy it here: You can purchase the Taylor Mini Bath Scale from Target or from Amazon

*I was provided with the above mentioned product for the purpose of facilitating this post. All opinions expressed are my own. 

How to Make Graduation Cupcakes

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graduation cupcakes

Yesterday was my brother's graduation party and we celebrated with a party and some graduation-themed cupcakes! I made two dozen of three different flavors (chocolate with peanut butter filling and chocolate buttercream, white with Oreo filling and buttercream, and yellow with Bavarian cream & blueberries and buttercream) and they were a real hit. To help dress them up, I put chocolate molds of graduation caps and books and also made some adorable fondant diplomas!

Here is how you can make your very own graduation cupcake toppers:

Step One: Make Marshmallow Fondant
8 oz white marshmallows
1 Tbsp water
4 cups powdered sugar (though you will not use all of it)

1. Melt the marshmallows and water in a double boiler or melt in the microwave.
2. Place half the sugar in a bowl and make a well in the middle.
3. Add remaining sugar slowly using a kneading method. Add sugar by the tablespoon as you are kneading until the mixture is no longer sticky. (I use my KitchenAid mixer for this last step and it works well).

Step Two: Roll out fondant 
Using a rolling pin, roll out white fondant to a fairly thin consistency on a surface that has been greased with shortening. Make sure any fondant that you are not currently working with is covered to prevent it from drying out. This will also mean that you will only want to work on rolling a few diplomas at any given time. 

Step 3: Cut out shapes
Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut out strips of 1 inch by 3 inch slices of fondant (approximate).

Step 4: Roll the diplomas
Using your fingers, roll one end of the diploma (like a roll of paper towels) so that the fondant is completely rolled. Using your fingers, slightly press on the center of the rolled fondant so that the finished piece will show additional dimension that resembles paper that is wound tighter in the middle thanks to binding. Roll out as many diplomas as you will need.

Step 5: Color the remainder of the fondant

If you do not know how to add color to fondant, Wilton has a nice tutorial.  I would suggest using school colors for the remainder of the fondant which will be used to make the ribbon.

Step 6: Roll fondant to make ribbon

Pull sections of the fondant into a long, thin piece and then place it on a hard surface. Roll the fondant back and forth to create a rope. 

Step 7: Tie the Ribbon

Cut the "rope" with a knife or pizza cutter so you have just enough to wrap around each diploma. Drape the ends of the rope across each other. 

Not too hard, right! These can be made ahead of time, just make sure they are kept in a sealed container. 
DIY Cupcake Stand Tutorial: You can also make your very own cupcake stand by following the instructions here, using graduation themed ribbon.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Live Happy Review and Magazine Subscription Giveaway

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Live Happy is the first-of-its-kind publication that combines the science of happiness with personal stories and exclusive interviews.  In celebration of summer, a time of year when people focus on spending time with family and friends, the new July/August issue of Live Happy focuses on the theme of COMMUNITY. Through research, it has been found that surrounding yourself with uplifting people is essential to your happiness and what better way than to get involved with your community? This new issue of Live Happy offers content and articles that reveal how our interaction with others is at the core of our overall happiness – whether you’re cheering on the local baseball team, or having a block party with neighbors! 

I love the concept of Live Happy. People are always commenting on how they just want to be happy, but that can be easier said that done.  Having an entire publication dedicated to the topic is a great idea. After all, reading about fashion and celebrities can only make someone temporarily entertained while this magazine has tips for building lasting happiness in your life.  The set up of the magazine is very similar to others I have read. There are editorials, interviews with celebrities, recipes, and shopping suggestions. However, the articles are much more positive in nature with a self-help spin.  This edition focused on just about every aspect of your life to include family, work, and personal time.  I really enjoyed the magazine and did feel like I was doing my mind and body good  by reading it!

Buy it here: You can find Live Happy on newstands for $5.95 an issue. You can also subscribe to Live Happy for a 58% savings.

Win it here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I received a sample magazine in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ozeri Epicurean Digital Kitchen Scale Review

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A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to review my very first kitchen scale. It was one of those products that, after I used it, I could not believe I lived without one for so long! It became a staple in my kitchen so I was looking forward to upgrading to the sleek Ozeri Epicurean Digital Kitchen Scale. I have become a huge fan of Ozeri after working with them on several other campaigns and I instantly fell in love with this scale.

About the Ozeri Epicurean Digital Kitchen Scale:
  • Celebrated design features a contoured base layered with a reflective glass sheet for understated elegance and d├ęcor
  • Shatter-resistant glass weighing platform is completely separated from the touch buttons to ensure the highest possible accuracy
  • Reinforced sturdy base keeps the scale in place during operation
  • Features an instant-response Unit button to effortlessly change the unit of measurement, and an instant-response Tare button to calculate the net weight of your ingredients
  • Large high-contrast LED screen displays weights up to a maximum of 5000 g (176 oz) in graduations of 1 g or 0.1 oz
Review:  The very first impression of this scale was very positive. I kept my other scale tucked away in a drawer but this design is so attractive that I would have no trouble leaving this out to display with my kitchen appliances. The scale is extremely easy to use and provides you with an instant, easy to read weight. I loved the LED screen which was bright and easy to see regardless of the amount of lighting.  I weighed a few items with this scale as well as my other kitchen scale and found that they both provided the exact same weight indicating that the reading is accurate. With some of the items, the read out did fluctuate 0.05 ounces as it sat there, but I am assuming this is because it only reads to the 0.05 ounce and the item was somewhere in between 0.01 and 0.04. The only thing I would have liked to see is an option to measure pounds as I do, on occasion, need to measure sugar by the pound when I am baking. Aside from this, I am quite happy with this scale and am pleased to replace my old, plastic scale  with this new attractive Ozeri one!

Buy it here: You can purchase the Ozeri Epicurean Digital Kitchen Scale from Amazon for $35.00 with free shipping. 

*I was provided with the above mentioned product for the purpose of facilitating this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

All But Gluten Review and Giveaway - 3 Winners!

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It seems like every month or so I learn about another friend or family member who has discovered that they are gluten intolerant. All But Gluten™ products are made in facilities that have been certified to produce gluten-free products. The North American production facilities are dedicated, gluten-free facilities that have been certified by the Gluten Free Certification Program as endorsed by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA). The products imported from Europe are produced in facilities that are certified to be gluten free by the country specific Celiac Society.

Finding gluten-free products that are still tasty is one of the most difficult struggles for individuals with an intolerance. All But Gluten is dedicated to offering products that can help bring life, or at least eating, back to normal. They want people with gluten intolerance to still be able to enjoy baked goods that taste like traditional products.

I was sent a variety of All But Gluten products to review. The Chocolate Chip Cookies were my favorite of the samples. They look and smell just like classic cookies and are soft and chewy. They are a little bit on the gritty side, but they were still fairly tasty and I really loved the sweet chocolate morsels. My son absolutely loved the Blueberry Muffins. He ate one almost every day until they were gone. I will say, no one in the house suspected these were gluten-free. They tasted just like any other delicious muffin! The breads were on the denser side so these were not quite as easy to fool my kids. They were dry so they needed some doctoring. The Cinnamon Raisin Loaf tasted better with some honey butter and my kids did enjoy the French Toast I made with the Sliced White Loaf.

Buy it here: Unlike other gluten-free baked products, which are usually sold frozen, you'll find All But Gluten in the fresh bakery section. You can use their product locator to find a store near you.

Win it here:

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*I was provided with the above mentioned products for the purpose of facilitating this review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Propresser Garlic Press Review

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The Propresser Garlic Press is fashioned from 100% stainless steel. It was designed to remain rust-free and break-free.  It was created with ease of use in mind. To use, you simply hold the garlic press in your hand. With a garlic clove nestled in the basket, the handles are the ideal distance apart to maximize leverage. Then, you gently squeeze the handles together and you gave minced garlic! To clean it, you simply flip up the basket, rinse it under your faucet, and you're done!  The company believes so much in this product that they actually offer an unprecedented 200% satisfaction guarantee. Yes, you read that right. If you have ANY problems with the Propresser Garlic Press for the lifetime of the product, you will be refunded every penny of your purchase AND sent a brand new unit free of charge! 

Review: I have never owned a garlic press and, quite frankly, never really had a reason to until a couple of years ago when I finally got over my anxiety about cooking and gave it a try. I realized after make a soup, that working with garlic can be a tricky - and stinky - process. So, I was more than willing to give the Propresser a try. 

The  Propressor's stainless steel look is sleek and attractive. Having never used a garlic press before, I was not exactly sure what to expect but it was extremely easy to use and very effective at chopping up garlic. To demonstrate how quickly you can mince garlic, I created this video with only my second try at using the Propresser. See - easy as can be!

The mincer is heavy duty and built to last. Since I only need to mince garlic on a rare occasion, I can't foresee ever needing to replace this gadget. It did require me to use both hands to but through the garlic, but I did not have any difficulty.  I could not exactly get away with not touch the garlic at all as it does stick a bit to the press, but it was certainly better than having to mince it all by hand. Clean up was extremely easy and running the basket under water did the trick. I am very happy with the Propressor and am thrilled that I will no longer have to mince garlic by hand! 

Buy it here: You can purchase the Propressor from  Amazon for $19.87 (free shipping eligible on orders over $35).

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Reebok Spartan Race Giveaway + Discount Code!

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My first 5K is still several weeks away but I have been actively scoping out other race opportunities to keep me motivated for next year. Races that have different themes or activities seem like the most fun so I loved reading about the Reebok Spartan Race. Spartan Race is on a mission to get you active, healthy, excited about change, and return to our ancient roots where running through woods, getting dirty, and facing adversity was part of everyday life. Recently partnering with Runner's World, it has been voted the #1 obstacle race by Outside Magazine and is the global leader in obstacle racing since 2005

Their events challenge the familiar, today’s perception of normal living and getting you out of your comfort zone! At Spartan Race, they do this everyday and it shapes everything they do.Having experienced many different racing events, the wanted to make adventure racing more accessible to everyone, but do not be fooled by the word ‘accessible’, as our events have a challenge for everyone’s needs. Spartan Race now introduces a level for everyone beginning with the entry level Spartan Sprint, intermediate level Super Spartan, the advanced Spartan Beast, and the ‘99.9% need not apply’ extreme level Death Race. Whatever your level, Spartan Race will test your strength, stamina, and sense of humor.

Discount Code and Upcoming Spartan Race: There is an October 4th Ohio Spartan Race – there will be a sprint, super and beast all in one day! There are also some other great Spartan Races across the US and they are offering blog readers a special 10% discount! Just enter SPARTANBLOGGER at sign up!

Win it here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize and information provided by Spartan Race.