Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Making My Way Back


I am on my way back!

Thank you for your patience while I've been on hiatus. There is much to say and I shall be saying it here soon.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Safety 1st BoostAPak

BoostAPak1I love convenience. I love products that have more than one use. My latest review represents both of those qualities. Please allow me to introduce you to the Trunki BoostAPak by Safety 1st. The BoostAPak is a child booster seat that is also a backpack with storage. How cool, is that?

You may have noticed that safety is an important topic for me and one I cover regularly. Here in California, kids are required to be in booster seats until they are 8 years old. I looked at the Governor’s Highway Safety Association chart and see that 48 states and DC have booster seat laws. Unfortunately, I have noticed that a lot of my kids’ friends do not use booster seats. I don’t know if it’s just ignorance of the laws (the age was raised to 8 just a couple of years ago) or figuring it’s not necessary. Proper seatbelt positioning on a passenger’s body is very important. The extra “boost” the seats give equals a boost in safety! Chip and Lulu are very much on the circuit of having play dates, getting driven in carpools and just generally in other people’s cars. I also often have at least one kid in the minivan who does not belong to me. The BoostAPak is a super easy way to make sure my kids and their friends have a booster seat.

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When the booster arrived, Lulu could not wait to check it out. She uses it the most. When I first learned about the seat, I thought it would just be an “extra” booster to have on hand. It turns out that it is Lulu’s preferred everyday booster. She has managed the conversion since the first use. It’s really intuitive: Pull up the flap, flip up the green arms (which serve as seatbelt guides) and belt yourself in. The reverse is just as easy with the added step of pressing buttons to fold down the green arms. It just takes seconds to do which is really important when everyone is rushing into school at drop off!

Regular booster seats can be cumbersome for little kids to carry. The “hands free” backpack design just can’t be beat. The storage area is the space under the seat. I would describe it as a nice size space to put a few items. I don’t think it is big enough to double as a school backpack. As you can see the size is compact but is 51WCMl2ENmL._SX425_comfortable for my 6 and 7 year olds. Lulu is taking a plane trip next month and is excited to be able to bring her BoostAPak on the flight. It fits easily into a plane’s overhead compartment.

I definitely recommend this seat. The only drawback I see is the height limit versus the weight limit. It doesn’t really make sense to me. Chip is just about 52” and 52 lbs with Lulu a few pounds and a few inches behind him. Obviously, according to the specs (see below), they will both be out of the booster (due to height) before they are 8 years old. It would be great if they could add to the height limit especially because some kids need boosters even beyond the legal requirement. Safety first!

Price: I have seen the Trunki BoostAPak available online from $43-$75. It certainly makes sense to shop around.

Specifications: The BoostAPak is a backless booster for kids 40-80 pounds and 43"-52" in height. Made of a durable plastic shell with high visibility reflective trim, Removable cover for easy spot cleaning and an ID tag. Product weight is 3.4 lbs. Product dimensions are 14.0 x 12.0 x 18.28.

Disclosure: I was provided one Safety 1st BoostAPak for review purposes. All written content and opinions are my own.

Friday, February 7, 2014

New Swiffer Sweep & Trap

Swiffer Big CircleI constantly have my eyes open for products that will make my life easier. I’m already a fan of the Swiffer products so when I was asked if I’d would like to review the new Swiffer Sweep & Trap, I didn’t hesitate. The first thing that caught my attention is that it multitasks…As the name says, it “sweeps” and it “traps.” I love things that do double duty because, theoretically, that should mean I don’t have to buy two separate things. That in turn should mean: I’m saving money!

I opened up the box and assembled the the Sweep & Trap. There are four pieces that click together to make the handle which was easy to do and took about 15 seconds. The handle goes into the Sweep & Trap. You then attach a Swiffer Dry Cloth (two are included in the box) and off you go. To me, this is like a carpet sweeper but it’s for hard surface floors. Although I have plenty of messes around my house, Swiffer actually sent me two packs of test items. The first was a handful of wood shavings and the second was a few nuts and screws which I dumped on my hardwood floor. The Sweep & Trap made quick work of both messes. I then continued around my house a bit testing it out on some travertine and tile. It does what it’s supposed to do, “scoop up” and trap the bigger particles and sweep the floor with the dry cloth.

The great thing about this gadget is that you don’t need to plug it in and it’s quiet. In the past I might have gotten out the vacuum or tried the dustpan and broom method. This is easier and faster than either of those. It is also small which allows you to tuck it somewhere handy--yet out of sight. When you want to empty the trap, you just open it and shake out over the trash. Easy. The only thing you have to replace is the dry cloth. I’m keeping mine. I can’t imagine anyone not being able to use one of these. Go pick one up at Walmart, where they have just hit the shelves. You can connect with Swiffer on Twitter and Facebook.

This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Swiffer. All content is my own.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jay Leno and me…We go way back

jay-leno-show_l2Tonight is Jay Leno’s final night of hosting The Tonight Show. Twenty-two years. As I start writing this post, I see it is nearing 11:30 on the East Coast. In honor of this occasion, I am going to tell you about my connection to Jay. This is something that I haven’t ever written about. Tonight seems the perfect time. So heeeeere’s my story! (Yeah, I know, wrong host. But Johnny passed the helm to Jay. Ok?)

The year was 1979. Maybe 1978, but I’m pretty sure it was 1979. I was down at the office of my elementary school, Bancroft School in Andover, MA. Mrs. Halbach, the school secretary asked me to take a man, who had just walked in, “up to your loft.” We called our grades “lofts” because they were large open classrooms…Like lofts. Our school was a really cool building. It looked like a modernist castle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t well suited to New England winters and the build up of snow caused the roof to leak in many, many places. As a result, there were a lot of construction workers around during that school year getting ready for a re-engineering project. I was sure the guy I was showing up to my loft was someone involved with the work. He had jeans and a plaid shirt on. I had him figured out. So up we went, I don’t think we talked. I brought him to Mr. Spencer, one of our teachers. All of us kids were called to the center of the loft and we sat on the floor.

Mr. Spencer proceeded to introduce this guy. He said, “This is my friend Jay Leno.” None of us knew who he was. But we soon learned that that he was “on TV” and lived in LA. He grew up in our town, Andover, MA and went to school with Mr. Spencer. He called Mr. Spencer “Billy” and we all thought that was a riot! This guy, Jay Leno, told us about himself, talked about growing up in our town and that his parents lived here. He answered lots of questions. Of course we all wanted to know when we could see him on TV. I can remember exactly what he told us, because I wrote it down and saved the paper for a long time. I’m sure that scrap of paper is still in with my stuff in my parent’s house. I wrote down, “Silver Bears,” Albert, “American Hotwax” and “Hollywood Squares” with two dates that coming July. Jay said he was in the movie “The Silver Bears” playing Albert, the movie “American Hotwax” and would be on the game show “Hollywood Squares” on two consecutive days in July. I asked him if he lived on Rodeo Drive and he laughed and said no. Rodeo Drive was pretty much the only thing I knew about LA at the time. Perhaps I knew Jay was going to make it big? He lives a stone’s throw from Rodeo Drive now! He signed autographs for each of us (about 75) kids. I was so excited to tell my parents I had met Jay Leno! They had no idea who he was. But they were really happy for me.

That summer, my mom allowed me to stay home from camp those two days to watch Jay Leno on The Hollywood Squares. Being that it was 1979, I knew I had a better chance of going to the moon than seeing those two movies he said he was in. But I kept an eye on the TV Guide. On the off chance, y’know?

From there our interactions with Jay were random but fairly constant over the next decade. He always remembered me. The next year or so, my mom and brother were at the McDonald’s in town and my brother spotted Jay. My mom thought it was a hoot because she still didn’t know who this guy was…That my brother and I knew. We would see Jay around town periodically. I got to high school in the late 80’s which coincided with the time he starting being a regular fill-in for Johnny Carson. Some of his teachers were still at Andover High and Jay would come in for visits. He was always such a genuinely nice guy. Joking around and reminiscing about his teenage shenanigans and being “Class Clown.” As his star was rising, local Boston TV stations would come out and do stories. Once I sat in on a staged study hall where he was interviewed sitting at a desk with the rest of us doing our homework. Andover High has a local access TV studio and during my years there, I hosted some shows. Jay would come by and say hi and sign autographs. Once we had a telethon and he called in from California with a very generous donation for the studio. I had friends who lived a couple of doors down from his parents. His mom and dad were super friendly.

In 1992, Jay became the permanent host of The Tonight Show. In 1994, my brother and I visited LA. I put a call in to the Tonight Show and said I knew Jay from Andover and was interested in getting tickets. I had no idea how it worked. It turned out my cluelessness got us put on a list at NBC Studios Guest Relations and meant we didn’t have to wait in line. I remember wearing an Andover T-shirt and wondering if Jay might spot it in the middle of the audience. Original idea, huh? In 1996 I ended up moving to LA. I worked at Disney Studios in Burbank and every day drove past NBC where the Tonight Show is taped. Over those next couple of years, I saw Jay a few times driving in one of his many cars. He was always in a good mood and waving to people. I met three people during those years who were helped by Jay when they were having car trouble. Jay is well known for pulling over to see if he can help someone. I marveled at the “small town Andover” way he lived his life in the huge city of LA. I think it was around 1998 when my friend Anna came out from Kentucky with her friend who had never been to LA. I called the Tonight Show and again said I was from Andover. Without hesitation, we got on the Guest Relations list. The next few times I went to The Tonight Show it was because I had a friend at NBC who got me tickets. I always went not knowing who the guest was going to be. I ended up attending two shows when Bridget Fonda was a guest. What are the odds? Once I went and David Bowie was the musical guest. I. About. Died. Huge fan. That made my year. You are probably wondering if I ever tried to connect with him in person. The first time we went, on the way out of the studio, we asked someone if Jay was around because we knew him from Andover. The guy seemed genuinely disappointed to say that he was leaving right away. Jay is a really hard worker and on many (most?) nights after he tapes a show, he goes and does a gig somewhere. Other than maybe a chance to connect with him after a taping, what was I going to do? Call him to do lunch? Ha, ha, ha! He’s such a nice guy, I bet he would’ve had lunch with me. I lived a few blocks from where he taped his “Jaywalking” segment on Melrose Avenue every week. My husband would drive past him on his way home from work. I meant to make it over there sometime. Life was busy and I never did.

The last ten years or so have been hectic. I got married, had two kids back to back. Time flies. Last year it was announced that Jay would be ending his run in February 2014. I felt sad because Jay’s career has been such a part of my life. He made it to the top. I cheered the whole way. Last Spring, my kids’ school was having their annual silent auction and I was working on auction items. I wondered if after all these years, could I call and say I’m so and so from Andover and get some tickets donated? I called and again, spoke to someone who was so nice. That’s the thing I always experienced when I called or when I was there. Every single person who works for Jay is so NICE! They arranged four VIP tickets and a VIP meet and greet after the show. Of course, they said they couldn’t guarantee the meet and greet because Jay may have to leave right after the show. I said, “Oh, I know. He might have a gig.” I felt that giving my “semi-inside knowledge” might help to legitimize my phone call. I asked his assistant if she would please express to Jay how grateful I was. And if you could tell him it’s Elizabeth and l listed off a bunch of ways we know each other. She was so nice and said she would. So, did I have an in with Jay? Do I still have an in with Jay? Or are they just so nice at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno? Who knows? What we all know though, is that Jay has been top of the ratings for over two decades and he is going out on top. Leaving on a high note as the class act he is.

Here we are. February 6, 2014. Jay already taped the show. It will be airing here shortly. The last show has already been seen in our hometown. I have a feeling Jay isn’t going into retirement. Maybe I could ask him to go to lunch? Maybe he has a little more time now? After all, Jay and me. We go way back.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Being Safe with Kidde

Logo_Versioning_TemplateMany of you know that safety is an important topic for me. While attending Mom 2.0 this past Spring, I met some representatives of Kidde. I think the first thing out of my mouth was, “I have one of your CO [carbon monoxide] alarms!” However, I wasn’t very familiar with the rest of their offerings. Kidde is the world’s largest manufacturer of fire safety products including: smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers and escape ladders. Recently, a member of the Kidde team e-mailed me to ask if I would be interested in writing about winter safety in the home. I said, “absolutely!”

I think I credit my parents with setting a good example for fire safety preparation. We had smoke detectors, an escape ladder and a plan for getting out of the house with a meeting point. When I was about seven, our neighbor’s house caught fire and the parents weren’t home. I remember my mom going over to get everyone out and call the fire department. One thing I did not grow up with is a carbon monoxide alarm. Although I knew about CO poisonings and deaths, having heard about them on the news, it didn’t really register that it could happen to anyone. That reality blindsided me when a college friend died of carbon monoxide poisoning, at age 27, in a home with a faulty heater. I will always have one in my home.CO infographic - high-res

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), most home fires and CO poisonings occur in winter. Someone in the United States dies in a house fire every three hours, amounting to 3,000 deaths each year. Besides heating appliances, seasonal activities such as increased cooking, using candles and decorating Christmas trees all add to the risk. I took the following quiz to see how ready I am. I encourage you to take it too. I’ll tell you how I did below.

Home Safety Quiz

One in four older homes needs to update fire safety equipment. How old are your alarms?

· Replace smoke alarms every 10 years. Replace CO alarms every five to 10 years, based on the model.

· Purchase an alarm with a 10-year sealed lithium battery, such as Kidde Worry-Free smoke and CO alarms, to receive hassle-free protection for a decade --no need to change a battery or hear a low battery chirp. Available nationwide at retailers like The Home Depot and Walmart, each alarm installed will save you $40 over its life in battery costs.

Seventy-five percent of homeowners don’t know where to install smoke alarms. Do you have one on every floor, and inside/outside all bedrooms?

· Choose alarms with room-specific features, such as an LED light in the hallway, or a voice notification for the bedroom.

· Place a CO alarm near sleeping areas and on each floor. Keep them 10 feet away from fuel-burning appliances.

Do your alarms incorporate the newest features and technology?

· A sealed-in 10-year lithium battery continuously powers the alarm for 10 years.  It’s tamper-proof and can’t be removed. 

· A digital display shows the level of CO in the air and updates the reading every 15 seconds.

· An intelligent multi-sensor responds faster to real fires and CO, plus it reduces nuisance alarms like those commonly caused by cooking.

· An end-of-life warning lets you know when to replace your alarms.

Do you need other safety products?

· Fire extinguisher – place one within reach in rooms where fires often begin: kitchen, garage, bedroom, living area

· Escape ladder – place in second and third-floor rooms as an alternative escape route

Have you developed a family escape plan?

· Practice it regularly. Know two ways out of every room and who will assist children and loved ones with mobility/health issues.

Do your children know their address and how to dial 911?

· Post your home address and emergency phone numbers on the refrigerator.

Are your appliances and chimney winter-ready?

· Have a professional inspect fuel-burning appliances to ensure they function properly and that they vent outside.

· Have a professional clean or inspect fireplaces annually. Birds and small animals can make nests and leaves can build up on top of the chimney, preventing carbon monoxide from venting properly.

· Have you created a 3-foot clutter free zone around fireplaces, space heaters or wood stoves?

LCD CO Alarm - packagedDid you take the quiz? Here’s how I did: My smoke and CO alarms are under 10 years old. I did not know that they need to be completely replaced every ten years. I have my CO alarm in my kitchen, however, I live in a ranch house so I think that placement is ok for my layout. My smoke and CO alarms are about five years old, thus they don’t have the newest technology. I love the 10 year batteries (in the Worry Free alarms) mean we don’t have to hear that beep (it inevitably happens in the middle of the night) telling us the battery is dying. Here is a link to the Worry-Free alarms product line. My CO alarm doesn’t have a digital display. Hmmm, maybe I should be upgrading sooner than I thought? We have two fire extinguishers. I know these do expire and should be replaced every 12 years. You should also check the pressure gauge periodically to make sure it is pressurized. Chip and Lulu do know their address and how to call 911. It’s something we practice with them. We had our chimneys cleaned about two months ago. I’d say I did really well! For more information and a downloadable checklist, visit worryfreealarm.com. I also highly recommend the Safety Made Simple area of Kidde’s site as a great starting point in your quest for home safety knowledge. I’m passionate about safety and I hope you will also be passionate about making your home safe this winter.

This is a sponsored post for Kidde. All written content is my own.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Orange County Moms You Should Know

Mary TranMy latest post on CBS Los Angeles is about my top picks for online moms in Orange County. The list provides a nice variety covering different ages and interests. These gals make being a parent in OC much easier! So head on over to read Follow These Savvy Mom Bloggers for Parenting Advice in OC



Mary Tran & Family of Let’s Play OC