Sunday, December 27, 2009

Virgin Mobile US & e.l.f. Cosmetics

How serendipitous that on the exact day my cell phone stops being able to charge, I would receive a cell phone to review?  Here’s my story: I’ve been having a blast working with e.l.f. cosmetics the past few months.clip_image002[5]  When e.l.f. contacted me to see if I’d be interested in test driving a Virgin Mobile USA phone in conjunction with their Sexiest Mouth in America Contest.  I told them to count me in.  A few days later, the exact day my own phone craps out, I received a Rumor 2 cell phone from Virgin Mobile USA!  I love this phone.  It is easy to use and navigate.  The best feature for me is the slide-out QWERTY keyboard.  For a commitment-phobe like me, the fact that Virgin Mobile USA has a no contract option, is fabulous.  All you need to do is buy the phone (The Rumor 2 is $129) and you then have the option of plans from ranging from $29.99 to $49.99 per month for unlimited voice.  Another really useful feature I discovered is Virgin Mobile Connect which allows customers to get all of their social networking updates, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and You Tube, on one single dashboard with a single login.  Make sure you stop on over to vote for The Sexiest Mouth in America on Virgin Mobile USA’s Facebook page before the contest ends on January 3, 2010.  I’ve discovered another reason I love Virgin Mobile and their no-contract plans.  My mother-in-law is currently visiting from Sweden and needs a cell phone.  How totally convenient that I can hook her up with my Rumor 2 and a one month plan?  She visits a couple of times per year, so this is the perfect solution to her cell phone needs.

elflogo I’d heard about e.l.f. eyes.lips.face., cosmetics for years but had never tried any of their products.  Working in Hollywood, I’m lucky that I get to try new cosmetics and have a number of friends who are make up artists so I feel like I’m really in the know.  Somehow, e.l.f. had eluded me.  Again, serendipity stepped in when I was in Chicago for BlogHer (blogging conference).  I was in the elevator at the hotel and a friendly guy was in there as well talking to another blogger about cosmetics and I thought I heard him say “e.l.f.”  I jumped in and asked if this was indeed e.l.f. that I had been meaning to try.  Turns out it was and I was invited to the e.l.f. hospitality suite to meet with the executives and make up artist and check the products out.  Now, as I mentioned, e.l.f. had been on my radar for a while.  What I knew was that every product sells for $1.  Turns out that is no longer entirely true.  They have expanded their product line and in addition to their original e.l.f.product line of $1 items, they also have mineral and studio lines.  As I perused the products, tried a few out and talked with the e.l.f. team, I knew I wanted to know more and tell my friends all about it.  After the conference, I kept in touch with the folks at e.l.f. and was really excited when I was chosen to host one of the first e.lf. MUAH (Make Up At Home) parties.

elfTable I recently hosted the MUAH party and invited a dozen of my friends.  None of them had heard of e.lf. so I knew I had a great audience to introduce to the line.  We were fortunate to have Hollywood make up artist, Shannon Hughey on board to do our make up.  This was the first time Shannon had ever used e.l.f.  After we watched a brief dvd giving us a bit of background and some tips, we checked out the huge assortment of products e.l.f. sent for us to try.  Everyone found several products they really liked.  Shannon did some amazing makeovers.  Since it was my friend Eunice’s birthday, Shannon did her make upelfShanEun first.  Check out Eunice’s blog post about her e.l.f. makeover including the before and after photos.  Speaking of photos, pro photographer, Laura Joyce, was on hand to party with us and document our fun and transformations.  I was thrilled to have Fresh Brothers pizza to sponsor our party.  Growing up in the Boston area, and having lived in Italy, I am acutely aware of how FreshBroself difficult it is to find good pizza in LA.  My difficulties ended when Fresh Brothers opened their LA locations.  All of their food is really fresh and delicious.  Fresh Brothers offers a   “create your own salad” which is unique in that it allows you to choose exactly what you want in your salad and then they make it your specifications.  Debbie, owner of Fresh Brothers brought us some of their most popular pizzas, including their famous Miller Special .  I also love, love, love their buffalo wings, as do my friends apparently,FreshBrosPizza because they were demolished halfway though the party.

Here is why I like e.l.f.: As a crazy busy mom, I can go days without wearing much, if any make up.  I can’t stand spending $20 for a lipgloss only to barely use it and then it just gets old and gunky.  I have noticed that e.l.f. products, tend to be sized smaller than other make up brands.  If that helps them keep prices low, I’m all for it.  Because, frankly, I’ve never used up an entire tube/jar/bottle of anything over the 20 or so years I’ve been wearing make up.  With e.l.f. products, you can try a bunch of different things and spend less than $20.  My personal favorites are the studio make up collections, especially the 83 piece Essential Make up collection for only $30.  Our artist, Shannon, used the $40, 141 piece, Master Make Up Collection at our party and gave it a big thumbs up.

elfLongtableEveryone left the party with lots of goodies from e.l.f., as well as new looks that Shannon Hughey taught everyone to be able to do on their own.  Shannon became a fan of e.lf. as well, and let’s be realistic, a celebrity maketrying on gloss up artist has her choice of make up, so that is all the endorsement I need.  She has been bringing her e.l.f. cosmetics to her Hollywood set work and especially raves about their Studio Brush Collection.  Although previously only available online, e.l.f. went into Target for the holidays.  I was really looking forward to finding the make up at my local Target because I actually didn’t get any make up at my own e.l.f. MUAH party!  I let all my friends take it all.  I figured I could pick up a few things at Target, but never was able to find any.  My sister-in-law who was at the party, found some, lucky her.  When I told my friends at e.l.f. that I couldn’t find anything, they told me that it was so popular, it sold out ahead of schedule.  But, I got some good news: e.l.f. is getting all geared up to relaunch into Target in March with even more products.  In the meantime, order online directly from e.lf. at and receive free shipping when you spend $75.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The 2011 Toyota Sienna

041 Sienna SE When Toyota invited me to come to their media event for the 2011 Toyota Sienna, I knew it was an event designed for me.  Although the word “minivan” plays a dominant role in the title of my blog, I’ve never revealed exactly which minivan I drive…Until now: Toyota Sienna.  I have to admit, when I heard they were launching a 3rd generation Toyota Sienna, I had minivan envy in advance.  So, off I went in my Sienna to the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel for the event.  Upon arrival, I met with Kazuo Mori, Sienna Chief Engineer who was really great to speak with.  I found out that he took a 7,000 mile road trip zig-zagging around the country in a large Toyota Minivan called the Alphard that is only available in Japan.  He went out looking for average Americans to get their impressions about minivans and what is important to them.  He came away with three words: comfort, cool and convenience.  With those words echoing in the background, he engineered the five new grades of Toyota Sienna: Sienna, LE, SE, XLE and Limited.  These five grades include two engine choices, 7 or 8 passenger seating, front or all-wheel drive and a mix of standard and optional features.  After hearing all this, I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel.  I paired up with fellow blogger Eunice and hit the roads of Orange County to test these babies out.  First up we took an XLE for a spin.  New for 2011 is the option to have a removable “8th seat” that also stores in a rear compartment in the interior wall of the car.  This is a really nifty option that allows you to keep an aisle when you need it and to easily add the 8th seat when you need it.  I wish I had this option in my current Sienna.  Another new feature is the footrests on the captain’s chairs in the second row.  I was able to sit behind Eunice while she drove and have my feet067 Sienna Limited totally up (I’m 5’ 7”).  I especially see this as useful when you are waiting in the car, say at your kid’s soccer practice.  Why not put your feet up and take a load off?  Next we took a Sienna grade 4-cylinder for a spin.  This is the first time the Sienna has been offered with a 4-cylinder engine.  I was interested to get it up to highway speed and was able to do so via an uphill onramp.  Although the acceleration was acceptable to me, I was watching the tachometer push 5,000 RPM.  We whizzed down the freeway and worked our way back to the Ritz via some back roads.  We did not have the benefit of a full passenger load or cargo to test how taxing that would be to the 4-cylinder.  If the lower price point offered for the Sienna grade 4-cylinder or better fuel economy allows you to purchase one, I support that, otherwise I wouldn’t dip below the 6 cylinder.

The highlight of our driving was the new SE or “sport” model.  First off, I noticed it sits lower to the ground.  I wasn’t thrilled with that because I started thinking it was a bit of a low-rider-Scion vibe, but from the outside it wasn’t particularly noticeable.  I only really could tell when I was getting in and while driving.  Then again, I’m used to sitting higher in my minivan.  I really liked the steering.  It was much more reminiscent of my BMW and even made me think of my experience driving the Lexus RX 450h a few months ago.  The tighter response just is more comfortable to me.  I don’t feel as in control when there is a lot of play in the steering.  The exterior features an SE-only sporty-mesh grill that gives it a more aggressive look.  It also has low, wide rocker molding and the rear has distinctive clear tail lamps and a sculpted lower fascia.  I’m not a fan of the clear tail lamps as I feel they are a bit cheesy-after-market-esque, but I can live with them.  Overall, I’m a fan of the SE and would recommend anyone who is a bit unsure of taking the minivan leap to look at it as a possible point of entry.

082 Sienna Limited
The interior of all the grades feels roomy.  In fact, they have added to the width and length of the Sienna without making it feel more cumbersome to drive.  Some of the new features for 2011 that were giving me minivan envy:  The industry’s first dual-view, dual-source rear entertainment system.  It’s a wide screen for the backseat that allows the kids to watch two different programs on one screen.  With Chip and Lulu so close in age, sometimes I really, really wish I had this!  The optional navigation system comes with up to the minute traffic—another option I wish had been available for mine.  The all-wheel drive minivans come with run flat tires.  Finally, there is a new panorama back up camera that gives the driver more perspective on the sides.  I really had a blast speaking with all the Toyota executives and engineers and designers.  One fun note was when I stopped by the test drive area with Lulu.  Kazuo Mori came over to speak to me and we found out that his daughter has the exact same birthday as Lulu!  They will both be two in a couple of weeks.  When you know the Chief Engineer of the new generation of Toyota Sienna is a minivan dad, you also know you are in good hands.  Toyota has streamlined the options for the 2011 Sienna, a move that I applaud.  When I was researching my minivan purchase last year, I especially found the various package options very difficult to get a handle on.  In his speech opening the event, Bob Carter, Group Vice President and General Manager of Toyota said, “Even though the new Sienna has a wide array of choices…it’s packaging and model complexity have been reduced by 80% from the previous generation.”  Yay, I say!  The new Siennas will be available beginning in February 2011 with a base MSRP of $24,260 for the Sienna grade 4-cylinder to $39,770 for the Sienna Limited all-wheel-drive 6-cylinder with all five grades available by April.  The main reasons I went with the Sienna when I was looking at minivans last year were: Toyota reputation, interior options and exterior looks.  I really think the Sienna is the least minivan looking minivan on the market.  As I said in my first post on this blog…You gotta love those sliding doors…

UPDATE: to read my June 21, 2010 Toyota Sienna post click here

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I went to IHOP for Holiday Hotcakes

When IHOP’s PR rep contacted me and asked if I’d like to try their Holiday Hotcakes, I responded that I was up for it.  There are IHOPs all over the place, but I don’t think I’ve been to one in at least 7 years.  No particular reason, I just haven’t.  The offer included a $25 gift card to sample the holiday fare.  So today, Surfer Guy, Chip, Lulu, Surfer Guy’s Mom and I went to IHOP.  On the way in, I told Chip that when I was a kid, it was calledpancakes2 “International House of Pancakes” and they all had pointy roofs.  He just looked at me.  While we waited a few minutes for a table, I took the time to analyze the menu and speak with the manager.  Since the focus of my visit was the NEW Holiday Hotcakes, I aimed to figure out how I could try them all.  According to the press release that was sent to me, “IHOP is now serving NEW Holiday Hotcakes in traditional and beloved holiday flavors like spicy gingerbread, sweet pecan pie and pumpkin pie, and creamy eggnog”.  They offer four ways to order the hotcakes: a la carte, which is two pancakes only ($2.50) and combinations: The Sampler includes 2 eggs, 2 each of sausage, ham and bacon and hashbrowns ($8.69), The Big is the same as The Sampler minus the ham ($7.49), and The Regular is 2 eggs, hashbrowns and a choice of bacon or sausage ($5.99) note: prices vary depending on location.  While I was talking to the manager, I learned that I could order just one pancake for $1.25!  This little gem of an idea is not on the menu, from what I could tell.  Here is where you are going to laugh.  I really don’t like breakfast food that much.  I often eat lunch or dinner type foods for breakfast.  Surfer Guy and Surfer Guy’s Mom (SGM) love breakfast so they each ordered The Regular combination, SGM chose the pumpkin hotcakes and Surfer Guy went with the eggnog.  That left me needing to complete the quadruple play so I ordered one pecan pie hotcake and one gingerbread.  Chip and Lulu shared a kid’s order of mac & cheese, because, that’s pretty much all they ever eat.

Our food arrived fairly quickly and, as a side note, I was thrilled to see the kid’s mac & cheese came with a side order of fresh fruit.  Since I was on assignment, I grabbed a wedge of both Surfer Guy’s eggnog ‘cakes and SGM’s pumpkin ‘cakes before they tucked into them.  They also sampled my gingerbread and pecan pie.  Interestingly, all three of us ended up with the same opinion of the four Holiday Hotcakes.  Here it is broken down:  the eggnog is very good, the vanilla cream layer and the butter rum sauce make it especially yummy, the pecan pie is delish with pecan pie sauce and pecans.  Both came with tasty pancakes and were cooked by someone who knew what they were doing.  The pumpkin pancakes were good pumpkin pancakes, that’s about it.  They were kind of in an unfair competition because they just come plain, you add whichever “syrup” from the “syrup corral” you choose whereas the eggnog and pecan pie come “pre-sauced” if you will.  The disappointment on the table lay with the gingerbread hotcakes.  The consistency was just wrong, the taste was overwhelmed by a baking-soda-ish note coming through.  Chip was really excited about the gingerbread hotcake appearance because of the red and green sprinkles. Chip is all about sprinkles.  Let’s see…What else can I tell you…Ok, well, breakfast is served all day at IHOP.  I actually might recommend the eggnog and pecan pie pancakes as dessert more than breakfast.  I think it might be a fun thing to go in and grab a cup of coffee and one hotcake, nice inexpensive snack.  Also, I was interested to see that many IHOP locations are open on Christmas day, including the location we visited today.  I perused the menu and saw that they have a lot of lunch and dinner options that have nothing to do with breakfast as well as lighter option menu items that include the nutrition information.  I also noticed that my location has a kid’s eat free with adult entree purchase and a senior citizen buy-one-get-one free entree offer going on.  So, over all, I’d say we had a very nice experience at our local IHOP and I recommend it for people looking for an affordable family restaurant, especially this time of year.  Our bill came to a little over $32 (plus tip) which in addition to the dishes described above included two kid's drinks and two cups of coffee.  I still can’t figure out why they call them Holiday Hotcakes if the place is the International House of Pancakes…Maybe for alliteration?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Gift Guide of Awesome Things - 2009

Christmas is almost here and you have NO IDEA what to get.  No fear, you can do it.  I’m here to help.  Enclosed in my gift guide are all kinds of neat, practical, and fun gift ideas.  Keep your eyes open for my *Stocking Stuffer Alerts*  Take my list, check it twice and get shopping!


Lexus RX 450h

A few months ago, I had the awesome opportunity to test drive the 2010 Lexus RX 450h for a week.  At the end of the week, I seriously thought about hiding the car in my neighbor’s garage, I so did not want to give it back.01_2010 RX 450h  If you were to ask me now what my next car would be, I’d say the RX 450h.  It is a cross between my beloved BMW sedan and my necessary Toyota Sienna Minivan.  With room for 5 and decent cargo space, I can totally see this as the car for the next phase of family life.  The car is a luxury SUV that rides like a sedan, hugging the curves and handling like a sports car.  At this point, you are probably wondering what the “h” stands for in Lexus RX 450h, right?  It stands for hybrid.  With an EPA estimated mileage of 28 City/27 highway, that’s pretty good considering the 3.5-liter V6 engine and 295 horsepower.  I loved the navigation system that included up-to-the-minute traffic.  We took a road trip to Palm Springs and found the traffic updates to be very accurate.  The car comes with a “Remote Touch” controller in the center console that is basically a joystick that lets you maneuver through the onscreen system really easily.  Although I love cars, it’s not like I’m a total gear-head genius.  I ALWAYS read my owner’s manual.  The funny thing was that the owner’s manual actually hadn’t been written yet when I test-drove the RX 450h!  I must say, I didn’t suffer for not having it.  Everything is driver friendly and intuitive.  It fit Chip and Lulu comfortably in their car seats in the back seat, there was plenty of cargo room for a stroller and all our gear for a weekend in Palm Springs.  I had the car for a week in which I did my normal activities and the trip to Palm Springs and back and I only used one tank of gas.  Make my Christmas, and buy me one, please?  The Lexus RX 450h comes with a base MSRP of $42,000,


Dynamic Frames

DynamicLil When my friend Tawna excitedly told me about Dynamic Frames, I listened.  After I got done listening, I checked the frames out for myself and they really are such a great idea.  Dynamic Frames “look like a frame and store like an album.  In other words, they serve a dual purpose of displaying your photographs and children’s artwork as well as storing them!  Here’s how it works, you hang one of the frames on your wall.  Your kid comes home and shows you their latest creation.  You pop open the “swing front door” of the frame (leaving the frame on the wall) and place the picture in the space, then you close the door.  It’s so easy and a brilliant idea. Dynamicgalleryfoot But, it gets better.  The next day, your kid comes home with ANOTHER picture.  So what do you do?  Repeat all the steps above, but you actually leave the “old” picture in the frame and place the new one on top of it.  It’s a spring-loaded storage system built into the frame.  The frames are slim and look exactly like a regular picture frame and some of the models include mats.  There are different frames for different needs, including: Li’l DaVinci for children’s artwork and Print-n-Frame which allows you to instantly frame your 8 1/2 x 11 images directly from your printer.  When you check out the Dynamic Frames site you can see that they even have frame solutions for scrapbooking.  One of the features I really like is that you can hang the same frames horizontally or vertically depending on the artwork contained or the space in which you are hanging the frame.  You can group several frames together to create your own ever changing collage.    As you cruise through the Dynamic Frames site, I guarantee you the ideas will become endless.  The slogan at Dynamic Frames is “life changes, shouldn’t your pictures?” and I couldn’t agree more.  Ranging in price from $24-$64, these frames are the perfect gift for anyone, because, who can’t use a frame?  Dynamic Frames has kindly offered a discount to my readers.  Enter code: TRYFRAME at check out to receive 10% off your total order.


The Shoul

TheShoulRed I discovered The Shoul (pronounced like “shoulder” minus the “der”) while attending the California Women’s Conference this past October.  I was strolling the expo area when I happened upon two nice ladies sporting shawl-wrap-scarf-ish items.  I was intrigued and began to speak with the founder who told me she invented The Shoul for travel.  I tried a red one on and was hooked.  It instantly transformed my outfit.  I proceeded to wear my new shoul for the rest of the conference and became even more hooked.  You can throw it on so easily and it warms you right up.  Made of acrylic (they also sell a cashmere blend), the shoul looks sharp and high end with a nice richness of color.  The acrylic fabric is lightweight, easy to wash and maintains a nice finish without pilling or snagging.  What I really like about the shoul is that it is so compact and lightweight that it fits in my purse and I can whip it out and put it on and it doesn’t look like it was jammed into my purse.  The design of the shoul is such that it stays on your shoulders easily without any fussing or shifting.  It also is a one size fits all and is a flattering look for all body types.  Did you hear me?  One size fits all and universally flattering!  Did I just find you the perfect gift for everyone on your list or what?  To add to that, I gave a black one to my oh-so-hip and trendy architect friend, Katie, for her birthday last month.  She loved it and said she was wearing it for some important meetings she had the next week.  I also gave a black one to my Swedish mother-in-law the day she flew in from Stockholm last month (early Christmas present, because I wanted her to have it to wear sooner!) and she really likes it, too.  I can’t wait to get one in camel for myself next.  What more can I say?  Stylish, convenient, versatile, perfect for travel and only $42.  Order Shouls for every female on your list and relax for the however-many-days-left-until-Christmas.  Available online at



 Dillon Rogers

dillonrogers As a crazy, overworked mom with two babies, I rarely get the chance to wear jewelry.  If I do get the chance, I want it to be baby friendly and non-fussy.  Dillon Rogers has some really great items that are hip, practical and easy to wear.  I actually found out about Dillon Rogers when I won a gift certificate from them.  Celebrities love Dillon Rogers, if you’ve read a fashion magazine over the past couple of years, no doubt you have seen a picture of someone wearing a Dillon Rogers original.  The personalized leather bracelets have been their top sellers.  I, however, am smitten by their personalized disc name necklaces.  TheyDillongRogersBracelets are a really stylish and interesting way to wear your kid’s names, or any names or words you want.  I have a silver 18” necklace with two discs with Chip and Lulu’s names engraved and I love it.  I also own a medium personalized leather bracelet in brown with Chip and Lulu’s names on it.  Something I love about the whole idea of having your kid’s names on jewelry is that it makes me stop and think in the middle of my typically crazy day and really focus on what’s important to me.  Really a blessing.  The next thing I want to get is a metal ID message bracelet that says “Lucky”, because I’m all about luck.  Dillon Rogers has so many swell gift ideas from belts to cuffs to key rings, all with options to personalize, there is no doubt you will be able to knock a few gifts off your list with an order on their site.  To make that order a little sweeter, Dillon Rogers has provided my dear readers a discount code: SIMPLE, when entered at checkout will give you a 15% discount off your total order and is valid until 12/30/09 at


Words to Sweat By  *Stocking Stuffer Alert*

WordstoSweatBy Maybe I’m getting a little personal, but, I gotta tell you, when I work out, I sweat.  And I mean sweat, as in drenched.  No way I can just go “straight to brunch with friends” after a workout.  I need to towel off and hit the shower.  I’m all about sweating, inspiration and personal messages and Words to Sweat By is all about all that.  Their catchphrase is “Workout Towels with Attitude” and with sayings like “whatever you do, don’t hold your breath” and “10 more reps and that cupcake is history” printed on your towel, they get you through your workout with humor.  When you are on the stairmaster and your legs are screaming, all you really can do is laugh or cry and I choose the former.  In addition to the “humorous” towels, they also have “motivational” ones with sayings like “Strength. Compassion. Peace.”  At just $8, Words to Sweat By workout towels can fit into anyone’s holiday budget and into anyone’s Christmas stocking.  Words to Sweat By is offering my readers a special promotion: Buy 3 towels, get one free.  Just leave a “message to seller” at checkout specifying which towel you would like. 




Every year I come screeching up to Thanksgiving with the idea in the back of my mind, that I need to get my photo Christmas photo cards ordered.  I usually just take the easy route and order some cookie cutter design from my local bargain warehouse.  This year, November was crazy and I really pushed the envelope (pun intended) and didn’t get my order in until December 1st.  I had my cards in 3 days from Paperspring and they look really unique.  It was easy to upload my photos and try different combos out.  I really like photo cards that allow me to have more than one photo and Paperspring offers several options, I went with “Snow Stars: Spruce” andPaperspring designed it with one photo of Chip, one of Lulu and one of them together.  It’s really cute.  If I say so myself.  Another cool thing about the ordering process is that you get the option to order just a few more envelopes.  I ordered 5 extra because, I always screw up about five envelopes each year and get all stressed out about not having extra envelopes.  Brilliant and simple that Paperspring has this option.  They also have other types of holiday card choices, including DNA which stands for Digital Name Art and you just have to see it to understand.  They also have all your typical stationery store type invitations and announcements all in their unique designs.  While I was ordering my Christmas photo cards, I also ordered some of my family photos on their StickyStock.  StickyStock is like a post-it note, but it’s not at all sticky, you can literally put it on a wall or fridge without any adhesive.  The ordering process for the StickyStock is not ideal at the moment.  It’s difficult to go back and actually see what you’ve ordered and I was forced to fly a bit blind.  However, I’ve spoken with the folks at Paperspring and they have let me know that they are rolling out a new order process in early 2010.  They provided really good customer service and were easy to get on the phone, which is important to me.  I’m really pleased with the StickyStock pictures and would order them again.  You can view a video demo of StickyStock in action at  For those of you who procrastinate like me, they are currently offering site wide complimentary free shipping.  Simply select 2-day shipping at checkout and it will be free.  So, yes, Virginia, there really is time to get your Christmas cards out!



ShowerCaddyPic I’ve been a fan of simplehuman ever since I spotted their Grocery Bag Holder in a store several years ago.  When I met one of the reps from simplehuman, I was really interested to hear about their wide variety of shower caddies.  The shower setup in one of my bathrooms is quite strange.  A simple hang-over-the-shower-neck caddy doesn’t really work.  After discussing my needs, we settled upon the Tension Shower Caddy which retails for $119.99.  I must say, that as long as you have a floor, a ceiling and a corner, there is no way this caddy won’t work for you.  In fact, it will even work if you have a bathtub/shower combo as you can just put it in the rim corner.  The tension shower caddy is height adjustable and comes with three vertically sliding shelves so you can customize their position to fit your stuff and needs.  I have some tall bottles and it’s nice to set a height that works for them.  Chip and Lulu have started taking showers a bit, they might jump in with me or I’ll put them both in and do a quick hose off after the beach or something.  I have a shelf adjusted to “toddler height” so they can get their products on their own.  Who would’ve thought of that feature without actually trying it out?  Ha!  Adjusting the position of the shelves is easy: simply flip up the small tab and slide the shelves up or down. Flip the tab back down to lock the shelves in their new position.  The caddy also has two hooks for hanging items like mesh sponges.  There is a swing arm double hanger that can hold facecloths or small towels.  Other features include a built-in soap dish and razor holder.  It’s also really easy to install, no tools needed.  I’ve seen these at Bed, Bath & Beyond as well as The Container Store and of course,


Hallmark Party

HallmarkHo There seems to be no end to the items you can put your family’s photos on.  When the PR guy from Hallmark e-mailed me and asked if I’d like to take their new Personalized Party Plates for a spin, I had to chuckle.  It’s either funny, cute or egotistical, right?  I mean, here’s a slice of cake and you can look at my face as you eat it!  But, since I have two little kids and lots of parties, I was game to try it.  You can order the Personalized Party Plates in packs of 10 for $10.  To be sure, $1 per paper party plate is not inexpensive, but, they are personalized and made to order, so there’s that.  The ordering process was fairly easy, you choose the plate you want, you can then choose to add a photo or text or both.  The only bump I encountered was using the photo editor to move the image within the specified image range on the plate.  I found that the up, down, left and right arrows didn’t “respond” initially.  In fact, I found that I had to click in one direction and then go back to click the direction I wanted in the first place.  So, my advice is to keep at it if you can’t seem to move your image at first.  It took me designing a couple of plates before I figured this out.  I then easily went back and fixed the plates to my satisfaction.  I tried 5 of my kid’s photos in 4 different plate designs: Cowgirl, Green Camouflage, Cinderella Dreamland and Mickey Clubhouse.  You can also name each of your plate designs and have the name printed on the back of the plate.  I had an interesting thing happen after I placed my order for the 5 sets of 10 plates.  I received an e-mail saying that they made an error and did not include the names I had selected on the back of the plate in my original order.  They went on to say they were re-doing the order and sending that out.  So, I received my first order (without the names on back) and then the next day received the second, corrected order.  Honestly, it wasn’t a big deal and really a minor detail, but since they do offer the naming feature, I think it was the right thing to do to send me an entire corrected order.  It seems they may be working out some issues, but, I don’t see any reason not to order.  Their customer service seems to be very good.  The end product is what I would consider a sturdy, high quality paper plate.  I’m happy with them and would definitely use them for my parties.  The plate also has a glossy coating which adds to the durability.  Regarding size: they state that the plate is a 9” dinner plate.  I measured the ones I received and the width at the widest point is just over 8.5” with 7” of usable plate surface.  Looking at the plate, I would say it’s more dessert size or appetizer size.  Colorful holiday motifs are available for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. In addition, more than 250 plate designs including birthday, wedding, graduation, pet birthday, baby celebration, retirement and anniversary, are all available.  Now through 12/31/09 receive free shipping on party orders over $10 by entering code: party919 at checkout when you order on



Fryerfighter Although there are so many new toys out on the market, I am still drawn to many of the ones I remember from when I was a kid.  Mr. Potato Head seemed to be stuck in a fashion rut when I was playing with him as a child.  Nowadays, he has so many variations, and a wife, the characters you can make seem endless.  Two new variations to the family this year are Fryer Fighter and Captain Potato Chips (, $9.99).  Chip loves pirates and firemen (as do most toddlers) so I particularly wanted to review those two.  Fryer Fighter has the fireman’s hat and firePirateSpud extinguisher and Capt. Potato Chips has the eye patch, hook and peg leg.  I think the most fun is when you have a whole bunch of Mr. Potato Head parts and you can get all nerf-n-force wacky and creative.  Continuing with the pirate theme, the Nerf N-Force Marauder Long Sword (, $17.99), lets you be all swashbuckling without getting hurt.  Chip has the one in red and although he has fun with it, I would recommend it for bigger kids as it is fairly long.  The toy that probably got the most use in our house when I was growing up was the Sit-n-Spin, I can still picture the royal blue with yellow/orange decals.  I can even sit n spin remember what it was like spinning around so fast and seeing the 70’s decor spin by in all it’s psychedelic colors.  The Sit-n-Spin of the new millenia is frankly, not as cool as when we were kids.  It also makes crazy music that adds to the roar and craziness that is a house full of kids and their stuff.  But, it is still a must have in my book, so I went ahead and bought one for Chip and Lulu at Target for $20 and I had a coupon for $10 off so it was a really good deal.  I anticipate they will play with it more as they get a bit older.  Continuing on my walk down memory lane, we come to Toss Across, except now it’s Electronic Toss Across (, $29.99).  I’m convinced that the only difference between our parent’s parenting and ours is that we need more batteries.  Basically, it’s just a glorified game of tic-tac-toe that combines eye-hand coordination.  The game is fun and is something I actually like playing even has an adult.  They have single and multi-player levels as well as several more gamTossacrosses  programmed in.  UNO Moo! (, $20.00) is a fun game designed for preschoolers based on a simplified version of UNO.  The object is to be the first to get rid of all your barnyardUnoMoo animals by matching color and figures to get your animals in the barn.  Both Chip and Lulu had fun playing Uno Moo! and the game is cute and perfect for toddlers.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Downtown LA: Autoshow & Disney on Ice

LA_Auto_Show_Logo_HighResIt’s a peculiarity of Los Angeles that unless you work or live there, you can easily go months without ever going downtown.  I recently had the opportunity to go to the LA Autoshow at The LA Convention Center and will be going to Disney on Ice at the Staples Center next week.  I really like the downtown area and all they are doing to revitalize it and make it a family destination.  So, let’s start with the Autoshow.  What a fun event for someone like me who is all about cars.  We were invited for a special early-beat-the-crowds entrance which made parking a breeze.  Next we were given an overview of the convention floor, and by overview, I really mean OVER-view.  We were in a room a couple of stories above the floor lookingLAAutoShow down.  Wide array of cars as far as the eye could see.  I couldn’t wait to get down and talk horsepower with the “spokesmodels”.  But, I had the family with me so we made the Kid’s Fun Zone our first stop.  In this area, kids had the run of two bounce houses, an inflatable obstacle course and, Chip’s favorite part, a driving course with kid sized cars!  The Kid’s Fun Zone also offered other activities, but we never made it to them because Chip and Lulu were all about the bouncing and the cars.  After we bribed the kids away from the “zone”, we headed to the main convention area.  Every single manufacturer and every brand were in attendance.  I was really interested in checking out the 2011 Buick Regal as I had attended the unveiling in Hollywood last month.  I had minivan envy as I chatted up a “spokesmodel” about the 2011 Toyota Sienna--love the dual moonroofs.  I walked down memory lane as I strolled amongst the BMWs….Gently whispering, “I’ll be back.”  Speaking of which, while I was in the elevator with the kids, my mom and Surfer Guy were taking the escalator and who did they walk right past???? The Guvernator himself!  My mom said, “Hello, Mr. Governor.”  And he totally ignored her.  Not. Cool.  Let’s hope he either didn’t hear her or was focused on bringing more car manufacturing jobs to California?  ‘Kay?
The Los Angeles Autoshow runs from December 4-13 and is open on weekdays from 11am-10pm, Saturdays from 9am-10pm and Sundays from 9am-8pm.  The Kids Fun Zone, is open on weekends from 9am-8pm.  Admission for kids 12 and under is free and there is no additional charge for the Fun Zone.  For more information, go to

DOI-FairiesFinalImage Next stop in downtown LA, and right across from the LA Convention Center, is Disney on Ice at The Staples Center!  I’ll be attending with my family next week and we are really looking forward to it.  Especially something that they sure didn’t have when I was a kid: The Disney Princess Pre-show.  One hour prior to each performance families will be able to view an exclusive collection of enchanting ball gowns and mementos from the Disney Princess stories.  This is a bonus experience that is included with your show ticket and includes a special appearanceLionKingDOI by a Disney Princess.  Once the show gets going, there will all kinds of action by Disney characters such as stunts by Lightning McQueen, “Circle of Life” with the Lion King and Tinker Bell and her fairy friends making their world premiere on ice.  Many of my loyal readers know how much I love Disney and that Tinkerbell is my favorite character!  The info I’ve received promises skating, special effects and animatronics.  This sure isn’t the Disney on Ice of my childhood.

There are four Southland venues with shows running from December 17-January 10.  Ticket prices range from $16-$65 with Opening Night seating at each venue set at $12.  Disney on Ice has offered a special promotion for my readers: enter coupon code MOM at checkout and receive 4 tickets for $44 (weekday matinee shows) or $4 off single weekend tickets.  You can order tickets online at or

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holidays at Disneyland – 2009 edition

"A Christmas Fantasy" Disneyland Holiday Parade I love Disneyland.  I just do.  I love the holiday season at Disneyland.  It’s so different there this time of the year, I can’t really explain it, it’s just so fun!  I’ve had the opportunity to attend twice the past couple of weeks.  Both times I was able to check out both Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure and I’m here to report back.  Come with me as I guide you on the “must see” parts of Disneyland this time of year.  Let’s start with California Adventure.  They are making big changes over there and there is quite a bit of construction going on, but it’s going to be fabulous.  I’ll be updating you all about that in the future.  If you are here during the holiday season, you can visit with Santa in his Victorian Gazebo on The Paradise Bay boardwalk.  Both days I was there, the line to visit with Santa was very short.  The two must-do rides are Soarin’ over California and Toy Story Mania which are two of my favorite rides in the whole resort.  Most of the holiday action is over at Disneyland so that is where we spent most of our time.  When you enter Main St., the Disneyland Christmas tree, every inch covered by an ornament, is gawk-worthy.  The tree is specially designed to present a nightly holiday light show, with more than 62,000 energy-efficient LED lights.

Moving on down Main Street, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is all decked out for the season and is the focus for the evening’s “Believe … in Holiday Magic” fireworks, which is worth seeing if you can stay into the evening.  The best part is that at the end of the show, snow comes swirling down!  It’s so awesome to watch the kids see it for the first time.  As you head through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, make your way to “It’s a Small World” which is redone for the season inside and out (with more than 300,000 glittering lights on the facade).  Next, head to Frontierland and my FAVORITE part of the holidays at Disneyland: Santa’s Reindeer Round-up.  Being in this area is like being in a rustic mountain village, it’s just such a nice relaxing area.  If you are hungry, you should stop into my favorite restaurant, Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue.  After you’ve filled up on the all-you-can-eat chicken, ribs and fixin’s, mosey on over to check out Santa’s Reindeer, justCELEBRATING THE HOLIDAYS – When it comes to celebrating the magic and sparkle of the holidays, there’s no place like the Disneyland Resort where, now through Jan. 3, 2010, the season shines more brightly than ever. The newest Disney princess, Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog,” is the star of a new show in New Orleans Square at Disneyland Park. Other holiday experiences include “A Christmas Fantasy” parade, special holiday versions of “it’s a small world” and Haunted Mansion, and a nightly snowfall on Main Street, U.S.A.  
 (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland)         relaxing and storing up their energy for The Big Trip on the 24th.  Then around the corral, there is a fun arts and crafts area staffed by cast members.  When we were there, they had reindeer cut-outs for the kids to color.  There are also various characters stopping by.  We saw Pluto sporting his Christmas sweater.  Santa and Mrs. Claus’ house is next to the crafts area.  We met Mrs. Claus standing on her front porch and waited about 10 minutes to sit on Santa’s lap.  It was funny because Chip didn’t want to see Santa a first so he stayed outside with Surfer Guy while Lulu and I waited.  Then after a while, I saw Chip talking to Mrs. Claus and she apparently talked him into meeting her husband.  So he stepped inside and joined us in line.  Of course, when it was our turn to see Santa, Lulu, refused….I can’t blame her, strange guy, big beard….But he was really nice and Chip gave him a laundry list of what he wanted for Christmas, so it all worked out.

Next on your “must-do” holiday adventure is The Haunted Mansion, which is celebrating it’s 40th Birthday this year.  I really get a kick out of  “The Nightmare Before Christmas” theme that features Jack Skellington and his skewed vision of the holidays.  This ride is not scary at all (for my kids).  Both Chip and Lulu had a really fun time looking around at everything.  Once you’ve done Haunted Mansion, you have covered all the rides on my list.  Next you can focus on the entertainment.  New for the holidays is “Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee!” – inspired by the new Walt Disney Pictures animated film “The Princess and the Frog.” The rousing, colorful show has a jazz-filled holiday celebration vibe. It begins with a Mardi Gras-style cavalcade from New Orleans Square to the Mark Twain Riverboat
in Frontierland. At the landing, Princess Tiana, Prince Naveen and other “Princess and the Frog” characters move onboard and, as the boat takes to the river, Tiana and company entertain guests on shore with a musical show that includes songs from the movie.  The parade, “A Christmas Fantasy” is a nice chance to take a break and soak in the holidays.  The parade is so fun because it has every Disney character doing something fun and festive.  There are dancing reindeer, toy soldiers playing real horns, Mickey and Minnie ice skating and of course Santa Claus.  Although we didn’t do this, I did see some guests taking the guided holiday tour, “Holiday Time at Disneyland Park,” that provides entry into the “it’s a small world” holiday and Haunted Mansion Holiday, reserved seating for the Disneyland “A Christmas Fantasy” parade, a keepsake remembrance, a sweet surprise and entertaining information about the history behind Disneyland holiday traditions.  You can get information about this tour at City Hall.

Chip and Lulu’s favorite activity this year as well as last is the cookie decorating.  This year, it’s at Plaza Plaza Pavilion, the restaurant at the end of Main Street, U.S.A. near the entry to Adventureland.  The cookie kits come in three designs to choose from: Gingerbread Man, Christmas Tree, and Snowman.  The kits include the cookie (nice size and quality) frosting of different colors, m&m’s, sprinkles of various colors and candy cane sprinkles.  I think the cookie kits are a really good deal and really fun and a nice way to pace the day.  Chip and Lulu loved, loved, loved making their cookies.  And when we got home, they kept wanting to look at their creations and take little bites at a time.  I tell ya, those kids got a ton of fun out of those $6 kits!

I also had the opportunity to test out the Mobile Magic phone application from Verizon Wireless.  Mobile Magic is the first Disney-developed mobile application that enables Verizon Wireless customers to easily navigate Disney parks.  When I used it I was able to check on the wait times of rides, look up where I could find a certain character and get an overview of dining options across the resort.  This is exclusive to Verizon Wireless customers and is available for download and purchase for $9.99 for a 180-day subscription.  Although I don’t think this is a “must have” for Disneyland, I can see it being useful for some guests.  I found it to be a fun application and fairly easy to use.  You can check out the and for more info.

The Holidays at Disneyland runs from November 13, 2009 to January 3, 2010.

Coming up in 2009 Disney Parks is launching a program that celebrates the spirit of volunteer service with a simple proposition: “Give a Day. Get a Disney Day.”  Disney hopes to inspire families to volunteer in their communities during 2010 through this first of its kind program.  One million people who perform volunteer service for a participating organization will receive a free one-day admission ticket to a Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort theme park.  Starting Jan. 1, 2010, guests can go to for the United States and Puerto Rico or for Canada to search for volunteer opportunities available in those areas through HandsOn Network, the nation’s largest volunteer network, and sign up for a day of volunteer service. Many of the opportunities will be for projects that entire families can participate in together.

Disneyland has some vacation offers going on now as well as just after the new year.  For more info about Disneyland Resort at the holidays, visit

I also recommend a visit to UpTake for a compilation of information about Disneyland from all over the internet.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Win an Ipod Touch, yes, really

IphoneMintThank you all for entering and for your patience.  A winner was selected by  however, they did not respond within 72 hours per the contest rules.  Thus, the second place entrant was contacted and they have claimed their prize: #11, Tara from CA!  Congrats to Tara and I hope you enjoy your new Ipod Touch.

How seriously excited was I when the good people at Intuit contacted me and asked if I wanted to try out their new Mobile application and would I like an Ipod Touch to try it out on?  Oh, and, would I like another Ipod Touch to give away to one of my loyal fans?  I think of an Ipod Touch as a cross between and Iphone and an Ipod.  You can download music, tv shows, movies and applications (apps) and have them all available on the touch screen right in your hand.

Almost everyone needs to keep track of their money.  Do you every wonder where all your money went? is an awesome website that allows you to do all kinds of things to manage your financial life, from tracking spending to calculating your net worth.  But, let’s be realistic that saving receipts and entering it in on your computer is a hassle for a lot of people and something they just don’t have the time to do.  Now you have no excuse.  You have your mobile app available at your fingertips and getting it won’t affect your budget….It’s a free download!  The free iPhone app gives you the same simple, secure and powerful experience you get from the web service.MintiPhone-Budgets Check your balances and deposits.  Know exactly where your money goes.  Budget with ease.   Alerts show up right in the app, so you’ll know immediately when you've gone over budget or encountered some unusual spending.  You can check how much cash you have in your checking account, your total credit card debt, and all your other account balances right from your iTouch/iPhone. You’ll always have the freshest data, synchronized with your account, and updated automatically.  I have taken the app for a spin and am amazed at how easy it is to use.  Anyone can download the free software for their computer at, so even if you don’t yet have your iTouch or iPhone, you can still utilize the same great features.  Can’t wait to get started, right?  So here is your chance to win your very own Ipod Touch and make the Iphone App your first download!

The excellent people at Intuit (yes, home to TurboTax) have provided me one 8GB iPod Touch to be awarded to one of my readers.  With a retail value of $199.00, this would be a fabulous Christmas present for one of my loyal followers.  Here is how you enter: Contest period runs from Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at midnight (Pacific) until Monday, December 14, 2009 at midnight (Pacific). Enter by leaving a comment stating what your favorite thing to spend money on is (have fun, be creative, your answer has no bearing on your chances of winning), and leave your e-mail address OR sign in to comments using your Blogger ID, make sure your Blogger profile is public and includes your e-mail address. If you don't leave a comment that includes your favorite thing to spend money on and your e-mail address or public Blogger profile, your entry will be disqualified.  One entry per person.  I reserve the right to extend the contest period.  Winner must provide a US mailing address. At the end of the contest period, I will utilize to randomly choose a winner. Winner will be contacted by e-mail.  Winner has 72 hours to respond to my e-mail. If winner does not respond within 72 hours, the iPod Touch will go to the second place winner as decided by Good luck!