Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Getting Fit With FitBit Flex

I got a FitBit, the FitBit Flex, for my birthday. You've probably read a lot about the FitBit, including some news stories and comedic commentary which might make you concerned about whether or not the FitBit actually works. I thought I'd share my experiences with it.

I first learned of the FitBit after my brother-in-law had a heart scare and my sister got him one to track his healthy habits. I thought it was a neat, yet pricey, gadget; but once back home in my own routine, I forgot about it. Until the "FitClip" was shown on an episode of Drop Dead Diva, and I was reminded of my interest.

My main interested in the FitBit, or any sort of activity tracking device, was because as a  work-from-home writer and antiques dealer, I was aware how sedentary I've become. No longer do I have any little kids to chase after -- and every flea market I was aware how out of shape I've become. So I wanted something that would both track my activity and remind me to move. After researching a few options, I went with the FitBit Flex. It was the best priced option for me. (And the ones that clip on your bra or belt, well, I knew I would forget to put them on everyday -- which is the whole point! Plus, wearing it on my wrist is a very real reminder to get moving.)

Overall, I am thrilled with the FitBit. It reminds me to get walking. It reminds me that I just need 200 more steps, so at 11:30 at night, I'll get up and take the dogs for a walk until the FitBit vibrates by victory. Waring the FitBit Flex reminds me to reconsider that extra snack. It even reminds me to eat breakfast, a meal I am notorious for skipping (which is horrible for your metabolism, body, and mind.) It's great motivation.

I don't, however, use the FitBit to document my food intake or calories. This seems to be the one area where some people are complaining that the FitBit fails. Seems the caloric intake calculator is not one size fits all and that they've gained weight. But that's a chronic issue with dieting, and mainly why I avoid using that. I simply want to get healthier by walking and moving more.

Yes, you can fake the steps by moving your arm or other devious dead. But it's like Stacy said on Drop Dead Diva, "How can i trust someone who commits fit clip fraud?!" Lying to myself doesn't achieve the goal to get moving.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Is It Still Cold Where You Are? Get An Envi Heater Panel

We live in a 100 year old house and the landlord isn't exactly into upkeep and insulating; as a result, we have to do a lot of draft protection installations and work with small space heaters running while we are awake. To make matters worse, the room hubby and I sleep in is in the basement. Technically, it's what you'd call a "finished basement", but the heating ducts apparently do not know that and, in all honesty, we suffer with a bedroom temperature of less than 40 degrees during these 40-below Fargo, North Dakota, winters. (I have recorded a temp of 34 in that room!)

Sure, we use a heated mattress pad, have several blankets under an uber-thick comforter, and keep the door closed to trap our body heat inside the room. And those things do make the bed warm, eventually. But those tricks do nothing for the actual temperature in the room itself. At night, you walk on that cold (though carpeted) floor to turn the heated mattress pad on, then get undressed in that cold room and put on a frigid sleep shirt before diving between the still-not-warm sheets. You wake up in the morning, strip yourself of the warm bedding, and shudder in the cold air. You walk on that cold floor to get cold clothing out of the drawer and, at my age, try not to pee while doing so.

Obviously, I was excited when the folks at eheat.com contacted me about reviewing one of their electric panel heaters. But hubby was skeptical... Understandably, he didn't want to put out another fire in his underpants. But the Envi High-Efficiency Whole Room Plug-In Electric Panel Heater is not your typical space heater.

These 100% pure convection electric heating units are slim, safe, soundless, efficient, economical, easy to install -- and they are made in America.

What does that all mean?

First of all, the set up. The Envi heater is easy to instal. Hubby loved how the box was a hanging guide -- as in the box itself was a template of where the screws would go on the wall! Amazingly easy!

It's slim design, means it is not only unobtrusive in terms of decor, but safely out of the way from family and pets. And should someone touch it, the Envi remains cool to the touch.

Since there's no fan, there's no added noise to your house. No more turning the TV up louder and louder to accommodate all the household noise. Light sleepers will appreciate the no-noise factor (and small light that dims as well). Since it's that fan that really adds to the wattage in heaters, no fan means less wattage and lower bills.In fact, it takes less wattage to run the Envi than it does our mattress pad heater!

The low wattage used makes these heaters is economical, yes; but more than that, they are safe to use as they are not likely to overload outlets. Envi heaters also have an enhanced thermal cut-off, which means if the unit's air vents are blocked, the heater quickly shuts down. Because we can leave the Envi on 24-7, with no worries of fires, we sleep tight -- and warm -- now. (Not to mention just entering the room has greatly improved!)

It is rather remarkable that with such a low wattage that they are so effective. Our bedroom temperature increased by 15 degrees (or more on nights not so severely cold!) and that is huge in terms of living quality.

Whether you want to go green, or just want to save some money, I highly recommend the Envi heaters for warming up your house -- or other space. (Once the weather becomes more Spring like here, we plan on taking our Envi heater to the house we are restoring so that we can create a warm-up spot and start working earlier!)

Disclaimer: You should know by now that receiving review products doesn't mean anything other than the fact that I will give an honest review. I have given negative reviews of items I have received because they were, in my opinion, bad or even horrible. My recommendation of this heater is based on nothing but the use of it and not the fact that it was given to me for review.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Get Those Babies Ready For Spring!

I don't blog much about babies; it's been years since I've had any, and my advice all seems old hat. But when I spot a product line that I wish was around back in the day I was lugging babies & toting toddlers, I have to mention it.

Cozy Cover is a Minnesota company offering some great new items that make taking baby out and about easier and safer. First, there are nifty (and cozy) covers that go over infant carriers. The original designs are for warmth, but, just in time for Spring, there are new arrivals for protecting baby from sunlight, rain, and bugs.

Perhaps most exciting are the other products designed to make life with a baby a less clunky, more portable, affair.

The On-The-Go Changing Pad is a much smaller version of the old diaper bag. Along with the necessary diaper changing pad, there are expandable pockets for diapers, creams and wipes, and a zippered pocket for keys keys, I.D. card, and the like. The Velcro handle allows for it to be attached to stroller etc., which means less weight on your shoulders.

The Portable Easy Seat means no more packing up the highchair -- or hoping one is available at the restaurant. Simply unfold the Portable Easy Seat from it's matching carrying bag, and convert any chair with a back into a safe place for baby to sit. The 5 point safety harness and adjustable back keeps baby secure.

Cozy Cover products are also available at Amazon -- which is especially great for Prime members!

(If you are not a member of Amazon Prime, get a free trial here.)

Saturday, March 01, 2014

A Superhero In Underpants

A number years ago, while I was up late writing, I smelled smoke. I anxiously left the computer and began walking around the house, using my nose to lead me to the source. Before I could get all the way to the kitchen, the smoke detector went off upstairs. I ran to the stairs and looked up to the top to see my husband, sleepy-face and in his underpants, tossing water from a small bathroom Dixie cup onto a smoking wall by our bedroom.

When I got to the top of the stairs, hubby explained that the space heater we used to heat the upstairs had overloaded the outlet and started a fire. He held the now unplugged and melted plug up as evidence. The white wall was charred, but there was no more smoke. The wall no longer felt warm, but we were concerned that there might be fire inside the wall that we could not detect, so we called the fire department to be on the safe side.

All the noise woke Destiny (then all of 8 or so). She opened her bedroom door and zombie-walked out to see her dad in his boxers, the small cup still in his hand. We briefly explained the situation and that the firemen were on their way, just to be sure the fire was out. Her large blue eyes got even wider, but she didn't say a word and just went back to bed. Apparently, seeing dad on the job was all the reassurance she needed.

To this day, we discuss hubby's superhero costume as consisting of his underpants and a Dixie cup.

My superhero costume is very different; but that's another story for another day.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Getting Organized & Recharging In The New Year

The New Year means resolutions (and spending that holiday gift cash). If you're like me, one of your resolutions is to get more organized and make your home more enjoyable to live in. After all, for the next few weeks (if not months!), we'll all be nestled inside the house, and while we have lots more to do inside now than we once did, all the electronics and entertainment stuff can make your home full of annoying distractions too. Like all those loops of cable wires and cords that every device needs.

The kind folks at CableOrganizer.com sent me a couple of products to review that address some of these issues. While they have a lot of stuff for organizing your home office and entertainment systems (especially, of course, those cables!), they do have some neat little things that help too.

The BlueLounge® Milo™ Smartphone Holder is a simple, yet elegant, way to hold your smartphone, MP3 player, etc. I don't know about you, but we save our old phones and use them as MP3 players. That way, we are recycling and keeping plenty of storage space free on our current smartphones and their storage cards. This way, we also avoid getting bored with the same-old songs and playlists all the time. Milo will now remain in my home office, on top of the recycled vintage refrigerator drawers, ready for use.

There's a micro-suction "sticky" back which holds the phone in place on the stand, and more of it on the bottom to hold the stand on a flat surface. I can vouch that the stuff is reusable; we have pets (and, I'll confess, dust lol). If the micro-suction pads seem to lose their stickiness, just use some adhesive tape to clean the debris off the pads will be like new again. Honest.

Because the micro-suction pads are reusable, I can move the stand and place it anywhere. And I can rotate which cell phone I now use as an MP3-player -- or remove for charging, as needed. ...Though with the Juicebar® Multi-Device Pocket Solar Charger, I could get months of use out of the same setup!

The Juicebar® Multi-Device Pocket Solar Charger is a neat little charger -- mainly because it is also a solar charger. Sometimes the problem with portable pocket chargers is that you forget to charge them. But the Juicebar holds a charge for months -- so long as you leave the solar part face up. (That's aimed at you, youngest male child!)

The Juicebar comes with a USB cable for standard charging. Simply reverse the connections to send the charge to a device. The device can hold a charge for months, but the built-in LED indicator lets you know when the charge is fading. It also has a flashlight feature, which my kids found pretty neat. (They must prowl around at night more than I thought -- because they sure aren't cleaning under their beds lol)

The only bad thing I can say about the Juicebar is that the shiny stainless steel finish shows fingerprints and smudges. Because of that, and the whole kids-forget-to-charge-the-charger thing, I'm giving the Juicebar mobile charger to my 13 year old son. He definitely does not mind smudges. *wink*

Both the Milo micro-suction stand and the Juicebar mobile solar charger are little things which can go a long way to organizing your home and making it more livable. Now, if we can just get the husbands to do something with all those loops of cords and cables... (Hint, hint; nudge, nudge.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Have Tech Gadgets; Will Travel (But How Long Will They Last?)

As parents we often wish we had magic wands -- perhaps at no time is this more desired than during long family car rides.

Our monthly visits back home are roughly 9 hours long; that's a long time for a family to be contained in a moving vehicle. While all the children ought to be kept busy with their phones and gadgets, there comes a time when batteries run low. A can of pop, a snack, and some conversation will help the driver (if not, there's a switch of drivers); but when the batteries on the tech gadgets run low, well, that's a tougher fix. If you've ever driven in a car with three kids, you know it's tough enough without having to add in the problem of dead electronics. One whiny kid can cause a whole lot of problems -- including annoying and provoking the other kids. And when the kids are grumpy and loud, they make for one cranky driver. That's not the safest way to travel.

The simple math is that there are at least five devices but only two plugs on the car charger. But let's face it; as adults, our calls, email checks on our smartphones, use of Pandora, etc. are necessary. And we parents insist that our phones must be kept charged in case of, you know (*knock on wood*), an actual emergency. Knowing that giving one child the gift of recharging means we need to give the other children the same help makes us a bit reluctant to open that whole can of worms.

So, facing another trip back home for the holidays, I was excited when the folks at Powerocks offered to send one of their latest creations, a pocket-sized mobile charger to review. ...But could it be too good to be true?

The Powerocks Magicstick 2800mAh Universal battery charger is indeed a portable and lightweight mobile charger. Once charged, it has enough power to recharge your phone up to two times (or two phones, one time each).

It charges like most any other gadget, with a USB port cable connection; you know the Magicstick is fully charged when the push-button LED light is blue. To use it, just detach the cord, then flip the cord around so that the USB connection is in the Magicstick and connect the other end to your phone or gadget. Easy!

The LED light also lets you know when the Magicstick needs to be recharged. The green light means it's about half-charged; the red light means it's about out of power.

Just under 4 inches, the Magicstick fits easily into purse or pocket. The USB cable is compact enough to not be a problem -- yet long enough to not make charging awkward.  And the Magicstick comes in several colors, so each family member can quickly identify their own.

While we haven't yet left for our holiday road trip, hubby and I have already put the Magicstick to good use. As "pickers" and antique dealers, my husband and I do a fair amount of driving around. That means we use our mobile smart phones quite a bit. Between the navigation apps to find the barns and out-of-the-way places, the camera to take photos of what we find, and the necessary email and phone communications, our phone batteries are drained quite easily. Believe me, it is quite embarrassing to be standing in someone's barn and not have enough juice to take a photo to email to another expert. (Mike & Frank aren't the only one's who have to do that you know!) Having a Magicstick in your pocket means you can manage your business and not look like a fool.

Now that our family trip is just days away, I'm excited to be able to better manage our family's cell phone and gadget power. (I'd say "without looking like a fool," but you know we parents are always made to look like fools, right?)  

Powerocks Magicsticks may not be the almighty magic wands we parents are looking for, but when it comes to cell phones and gadgets, these portable chargers do wonders.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Teaching Baby To Read

Those "teach baby to read" programs that you see and hear advertised are not as new as you might think...

Here's a retro example i just spotted in a thrift shop: Glenn Doman's Better Baby Reading Program kit, produced in part by Encyclopedia Britannica. This kit dates to the 1980s; and there's evidence this all works. (Like everything else, though, moderation and not pushing are key.)

Thursday, August 08, 2013

On Kids & Collecting

Collecting is a self-directed activity about passion. In our world of (sometimes overly) scheduled activities, the meandering, self-directed, self-motivated journey of collecting is quite foreign to many -- including children. They go from school, to organized activity to another organized activity. Even video games have pretty rigid rules (at least if you want to win!). And so the free-wheeling dealings (free-stylin’, as the American Pickers say) of collecting can seem incredibly foreign to many.

It's rather a shame, as kids, including special needs kids, can learn a lot from collecting -- everything from how to handle money to becoming becoming self-starters, and even create more nerds (and the world needs more nerds!).

To help parents and others encourage children to collect, I've written Ten Ways To Encourage Kids To Collect.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Choice Of Motherhood

This is difficult to write -- but then that's why I feel it must be discussed.

Feminist and author Alice Walker and her daughter, Rebecca Walker, have been at odds over motherhood. Rebecca, after so much prose about snuggling and the like with her son, says:

You see, my mum taught me that children enslave women. I grew up believing that children are millstones around your neck, and the idea that motherhood can make you blissfully happy is a complete fairytale.

In fact, having a child has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Far from 'enslaving' me, three-and-a-half-year-old Tenzin has opened my world. My only regret is that I discovered the joys of motherhood so late - I have been trying for a second child for two years, but so far with no luck.

I was raised to believe that women need men like a fish needs a bicycle. But I strongly feel children need two parents and the thought of raising Tenzin without my partner, Glen, 52, would be terrifying.

As the child of divorced parents, I know only too well the painful consequences of being brought up in those circumstances. Feminism has much to answer for denigrating men and encouraging women to seek independence whatever the cost to their families.


I can't help but feel that Rebecca is a bitter (adult) child, who wishes her mother was the fantasy mother so many of us feel pressured to be by society. No doubt, Rebecca feels her mother was selfish -- but there is also no doubt that she herself has benefited from the very thing that she feels abused by: feminism.

I think few people appreciate their mothers; even fewer appreciate mothers who have dedicated so much of their lives to careers, including movements. And this is less likely to be done when it is fathers who have taken on such dedication of purpose. Do we call presidents, leaders, and activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr. "selfish"? No. And it's not because their children didn't miss their fathers. But they were taught to understand their purpose. And, of course, there were mothers there to pick up all the slack from men who were, if not always away, not focused on their children so much.

But even on a smaller scale, raising a child comes with responsibilities which can and often do interfere with one's personal goals. And tradition places this more squarely on the shoulders of women. Mothers are expected to assume these duties as if this is their calling, their one true purpose and joy, to the exclusion or detriment of anything else. This belief is not just in my head either.

Employers, especially men (who still hold the majority of powerful positions regarding hiring, firing, and pay), view that it is difficult for mothers to be successful traders because connecting with a child is a focus “killer.”

Rebecca Walker can enjoy her role as mother. She may find it her greatest passion, her destiny, her true purpose -- even to the exclusion of anything else. Good for her if she has found her bliss.

However, for many of us, motherhood is far more complicated.

We struggle with our own identities and feelings of fulfillment beyond the role -- however enjoyed -- of Mother. We don't want to choose between parenting and careers -- but the very fact that we feel forced to see parenthood as a choice is a millstone around our necks.  Many of us struggle feeling pulled in different directions or parent or provider, of mother or person. Why should we have to choose? Why should we be blamed or suffer finger-waves like Rebecca's for wanting something "more" than motherhood?

Heck, many of us wish we had the luxury to even view role of parent and role of provider as options -- for providing for our children in a world which not only prevents us equal pay, but control over our own bodies, leaves us with no choices at all. Just millstones everywhere you look!

If we, including Alice Walker herself, are to respect Rebecca's feelings and choices -- shouldn't Rebecca respect ours too?

Motherhood should be a choice. Yes, "Choice" with a capital "C". As well as a choice women are less imprisoned by -- and that includes the right to feel that we are people, not only mothers, and to pursue things which take us away from our children.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Adopt Steve The Pit Bull Cross!

I cannot have another dog right now, but I really want this dog named Steve.

I know, I know; "Steve" isn't the name I go for in a dog. Or give a dog. My dogs are named Toodles Squirrel-Face Davidson III and Mr. Oliver T. Puddington. But read on, you'll see why I am so enamoured...

Steve's available at a a Fargo-Moorhead dog rescue right now. (I only looked because I saw a commercial on TV and wasn't sure if the group was local or not -- I swear!) Anyway, Steve is an awesome looking dog -- and his foster family writes the such entertaining things about him, he's won me over:
Steve thinks that he is too sexy for his collar but not TOO sexy for you! He wants to be your boy!

Steve is also highly intelligent, as his *enormous* head might suggest.

Do you ever watch a dog in motion and marvel at the perfect synchronization of muscle, agility and grace? Well, that's not Steve but what he lacks in coordination, he makes up in character and an unabashed joy for life.
For those that worry about a Pit Bull cross, don't. They are sweet dogs. It's people, as usual, who ruin them.

If you adopt Steve, let me know -- I'd love to visit him!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Linguistics and the Study of Comics

Because I've talked about comics and autism as well as comics and literacy here, I thought you might be interested in this review of Linguistics and the Study of Comics (edited by Frank Bramlett).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Breastfeeding In Public

The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) officially declared August as National Breastfeeding Month and The Bump is celebrating by designating August 15 as Public Display of Breastfeeding (PDB) day.

There are lots of conflicting issues surrounding breastfeeding for moms -- from body image and sexuality to personal feelings about privacy in intimate moments -- and I've no desire to add to any pressures to make a mom feel like she has to breastfeed in public. But I do recall feeling isolated and shunned simply for doing what was natural and healthy for my baby, i.e. having to hide while breastfeeding my baby just so other people wouldn't freak out. Which is damn silly. Avert your eyes if you are so uncomfortable! So I'm all for making breastfeeding less of a cultural taboo and making mothers pariahs along the way. If breastfeeding is something you feel better about doing privately, that's your choice -- but let's make it a choice, not something women and their children are forced to do in secret.

Last month, in preparation for this public awareness campaign, The Bump placed a call for photos and videos of moms breastfeeding in public, so I'm guessing we'll be seeing those images soon.