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Editor Reviews

 
Our Editors post real reviews on the products we use and the services we try. Stay tuned to our Contests page for an opportunity to win some of our faves.
 
 
 

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Editor's Review: Mabel's Labels
Written by Karen Logan   

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Mabel’s Labels. I received a voucher to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Next month is the month my mom takes off to treat all her grandkids for a week of fun at her house. For my nieces and nephews, it’s been a summer tradition for the past 15 years, and now that I have kids of my own, mine participate too. That’s about 12 little ones in all (and yes, it was Grandma’s idea)! While I look forward to my one-week “vacation from the kids” every summer, I DO NOT look forward to having them return home with less than what they left with. With everyone’s sleeping bags, clothes, pajamas, socks, shoes, stuffed animals, video games, hair stuff, etc. strewn all over the place, it’s easy for things to get lost. That’s why I decided to use Mabel’s Labels to keep track of everything this year. All of my kiddos items will be labeled, so there will be no question about “Whose is this?” when it’s time to pack up. Also, having things labeled will allow my mom to help the younger ones avoid mix-ups and lost items.

 

Although I’ve used Mabel’s Labels in the past, to facilitate my review of the product this month I was able to customize and receive a Mabel's Labels Limited Edition Camp Label pack – a Mabel’s Labels product designed specifically for campers to keep track of their belongings.  The process of ordering online was super easy. It literally took only a couple of minutes and I was done. I knew what the pack was going to include, but I was still surprised when I physically got the items from the mail and saw how many shiny, neat labels it really amounted to.

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Out of the Box Summer Fun: Owl Pellet Dissection
Written by Karen Logan   
I would have never guessed that dissecting owl pellets would be the highlight of our month! For only $4/each, I was able to purchase 2 owl pellets online from Home Science Tools, and they arrived to The Woodlands within a week's time. Even still, they sat in their packets for another 2 weeks because I simply had no interest in doing anything with them.
 
 
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Editor's Review: Educational, Fun-to-Read Books by Hands-on-Prints
Written by Karen Logan   

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Hands-on-Prints books. I received books to facilitate my review.”

Reading is an activity that takes place in my home many (many) times throughout each day. My family loves books, so when I received an offer to review a couple of Hands-on-Prints books by Christinia Cheung,  I jumped at the opportunity. With a M.A. in Early Childhood Education, Cheung’s inspiration for writing a series of 5 books came after she established a Montessori school that celebrates the learning differences of each student. Her books – or at least the two I’ve read thusfar – are examples of Cheung’s passion for presenting educational ideas to children in new, inspirational ways.

A Persistent Vine” is one of the more original stories I’ve read this year. It gives a fictional account of a young girl and her parents who live on a lushly landscaped estate that eventually gets taken over by the morning glory plant. From the perfect pace of the enchanting tale to page after page of fascinating illustrations, this book shines brightly. Its tone is somewhat mysterious, and its perfect ending is one that stays with the reader for some time. My daughters, ages 9 and 7, read this book several times over, each time taking care to examine the remarkable illustrations. There is “newness” to encounter on every page: Japanese architecture, the introduction of various species of plants, beautifully dressed characters… We love delving into different cultures, and any enjoyable read that’s educational too is a win-win! This book does not disappoint, and it’s no wonder it was awarded the Silver Prize for the 2013 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards. 

Another Hands-On Prints book I enjoyed reading with my girls is “Do I Have To? What if I Don't Want To?"

(Oh, if I had a penny for every time I heard that question in my house!) This uniquely crafted book addresses the child who needs help understanding why he/she HAS to do certain things they’re told to do by their parents and the possible consequences involved with NOT doing that thing. In my house, my answer is always “Because I’m the boss, Applesauce!” but that doesn’t go over too well with a child who’s frustrated and is feeling misunderstood. Written in first-person point of view, “Do I Have to?” includes some model conversations and several mini-scenario book inserts that provide great response ideas for parents dealing with an uncooperative or frustrated child. The illustrations are very kid-friendly, and the book is fun to read and makes for good conversation / talking points with your little ones. 

If you're in the market for a couple of good reads, consider giving these two a try! 
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Scented Socks & the Sweetest, Cutest Fashions for your Little Girl!
Written by Karen Logan   
LittleMissMatched Smelly Socks
"Farrah, that doesn't match!" I seem to have to tell my 7-year-old daughter far too often. When we're meandering through The Woodlands Mall, we need to look prim and proper, right?

Well, not anymore. There's a company that actually specializes in mix-matched fashions now, so I suppose I should stop giving my daughter so much grief about being a shade or two off. In fact, I'm really loving the super cute, adorable, colorful, fun  girls clothing from LittleMissMatched. For Farrah's recent birthday, we purchased her first bicycle without training wheels from Toys 'R Us, and it was Little MissMatched brand - white, green, blue, orange, pink, and probably a few additional colors.

Do you think your little one would like these styles? There's a "sweetness" and innocence about the products that I can't seem to get enough of. This season, we're buying LittleMissMatched Dresses and rompers, and we really love the scented socks (great for sleepovers). and the ball caps (we can use some of those NOW!). The bags (especially the sneaker backpacks) are super cute too, and make for a fun birthday gift. 
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Craft Time! Photo Explosion Box
Written by Karen Logan   
Disclosure: I received a sample product and a promotional item to thank me for my participation in this blog activation campaign with MyPrintly and MomSelect. All opinions are my own.
 
Have you visited MyPrintly? If not, you totally should! The website is full of inspiration and ideas for fun crafts and DIY projects, plus it showcases easy print solutions that you might not already know about. Check it out at MyPrintly.com.
 
Now, on to our craft, shall we? These days, you don't have to be "crafty" to turn out a great product. Just a spoonful of inspiration and some simple instructions, and you're cranking out something beautiful in no time. This week I needed to create a "thank you" gift for my mother-in-law, and I decided to put together this hand-assembled photo explosion box that I think she'll really appreciate. It has three layers of snapshots of our family, plus a few special embellishment like the "Thank You" note in the middle (found online and printed on regular cardstock).

 
 
 
This craft was so easy, and I love the way it turned out! I simply used HP photo paper, my printer (to print the pattern pieces and the photos), 4 sheets of cardstock (though you can use a lighter weight decorated paper if you have to), scissors, Elmer's glue, and some small printed photos (my photos were able 1.5 sqin each). I also embellished the box with a heart jewel and a satin flower, just to add a special touch.
 
Explosion boxes are nothing new. I remember many years ago when my friend, Katie, first showed us these cute little boxes that she'd learn how to make. I've been long familiar with the square boxes, but this time I decided to make a hexagonal box. The actual instructions and free pattern sheets can be found online here.
 
Have fun making your boxes, and please send us a photo of your projects!
 
EXTRA EXTRA: Here's an exciting  giveaway!  Entry is easy - simply follow @MyPrintly on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram, and then complete this brief entry form in order to be entered for a chance to win one of three (3) HP Envy Printers: http://bit.ly/MyPrintlyGiveaway.  The contest will end on Friday, May 15th and winners will be randomly selected and notified next week.  Please note, only residents of the U.S.A. are eligible to enter. Good luck!
 
 
 
 
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Editor's Review: Ready?? OK!!
Written by Karen Logan   
My 7-year-old tried out a tumbling class at Sideline Spirit this week, and it was a great class! It wasn't until we were headed to the facility's Budde Rd. address that I realized they are located at Legends Sports Complex (with a separate entrance). The facility is clean and modern (albeit a bit smaller than I'd anticipated).
 
My daughter has been asking to try gymnastics for the longest, but her primary interest is "flips", so I figured a beginning tumbling class would be our best bet. Sideline Spirit offers a one-hour class that suited us perfectly, and the initial class is a FREE trial. It was a combination of  tumbling (cartwheels, handstands, bridges, rolls, etc.) and exercise and strengthening (jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, jogging), and I can't think of a more exciting way for her to meet the required dose of daily physical fitness.
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Win a $500 Babies "R" Us Gift Card!
Written by Karen Logan   
Disclaimer: I participated in a Blog Blast Activation on behalf of Influence Central for GB. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.
 
What would you do with a $500 Babies "R" Us gift card?  I would LOVE to see one of our very own WoodlandsMommy.com readers win this Grand Prize that's being offered in the GB Travel Safe Sweepstakes, so please enter! It wouldn't be the first time one of our readers have won a nice prize from a national contest we've publicized, and we're feeling quite lucky!
 
GB is launching the GB Travel Safe Sweepstakes to help promote their car seat safety campaign and the launch of their  Asana35 AP car seat. (Have you seen the unique 3-way FirmFit System on these car seats? Brilliant!) Even if you don't win the G $500 gift certificate Grand Prize, there's still so many other chances to win! You could  be awarded a GB Asana35 AP Car Seat and GB Zuzu Stroller (second prize), a GB Asana35 car seat (3rd prize), plus each week, two Sweepstakes participants will be randomly selected to win a $50 Babies "R" Us Gift Card, and each week one Sweepstakes participant will be randomly selected to win a $100 Babies "R" Us Gift card.
 
Are you feeling lucky? I hope so! The GB Travel Safe Sweepstakes is all about accumulating points (you gain points quickly by performing easy tasks like watching a video about the GB products, or posting a message to your Twitter account, etc.) If you're an expectant mom and add the Asana35 AP to your Babies "R" Us registry, you'll  get extra points!
 
You can enter the sweepstakes via the website at http://www.gbtravelsafe.com, or simply use the below widget to enter:  GB Travel Safe Sweepstakes
 
Best of luck to you!
GB Travel Safe Sweepstakes
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Montgomery County Fair & Rodeo
Written by Jenni Fisher   
The Montgomery County Fair and Rodeo takes place this week through Sunday, April 19.  This is one of my family's favorite events of the spring!
 
Start your visit by heading to the arena for some great rodeo shows performed by cowboys and cowgirls from all over the state.  There's not a bad seat in the house!  Next, head over to the livestock area and see local 4-H and FFA student's prize-winning rabbits, chickens, turkeys, pigs and cows.  Check the schedule for livestock judging and auctions while you're there.  
You can also enjoy traditional fairgrounds with rides for any age, lots of carnival games and fried food on a stick!  All rides, games and food require tokens which you can get anywhere on the fairgrounds - $1/token.  During the week-end, enjoy concerts outside the arena from local country bands.   
 
On Monday and Tuesday this week, it's Kid's Day.  Kid's can enjoy educational exhibits, including goat mountain, baby chicks hatching, laying hens, rabbits, a petting zoo, entertaining activities and other ag-related demonstrations.
 
The best thing about the Montgomery County Fair is that you get the feel of a good Texas rodeo without the massive crowds!  Gate admission is free during the week and $10 for adults and $5 for kids Friday-Sunday.  The fair is located in Conroe just off of Hwy 336.  For more information visit:  www.mcfa.org.  
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Carson-Dellosa Test Prep – Editor’s Review
Written by Karen Logan   

participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Carson-Dellosa Publishing Group. I received a free product to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation, but all opinions included below are my own.
 
Raise your hand if you like “TEST” time! Yeah, I didn’t think so. As if weekly exams and pop quizzes aren’t stressful enough, there are the even weightier standardized tests that are just plain old nerve-wracking. In Texas, there’s the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, known as STAAR . STAAR tests measure the progress of students from 3rd grade to 8th grade, as well as high school. 

The going rule is, if you want students to make good grades in school, make sure they get a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast in the morning. Well, Carson-Dellosa Publishing Group – the 35-year leading supplemental education provider for teachers, parents, and students - has some some additional (proven) tools that help to ensure success at school and alleviate anxiety for parents, teachers, and students.

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Editor's Review: Doctor On Demand - Convenient Doctor's Visits without leaving home!
Written by Karen Logan   

participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Doctor on Demand. I received a free trial coupon code to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation, but all opinions included below are my own.

Lucky me! There’s a service called Doctor On Demand, and I had a chance to review it for free! (Don’t be jealous. YOUR first visit is free too. Keep reading).

I’m a homeschooling mom of 4 girls, so usually when I go anywhere, we’re rolling 5 deep. Obviously that’s not the ideal situation for going to a doctor’s appointment, which is why I rarely go to the doctor for myself. When I ask the hubby to stay home from work, or when I hire a babysitter, it had better be for something more exciting than a doctor’s visit.  So I rarely see a doctor (unless I’m pregnant), I self-diagnose via Google, and I can’t tell you how many wrong illnesses I’ve diagnosed myself with! (You too?)

I jumped at the chance to try Doctor On Demand, and I’m glad I did. The online, video-based service is staffed with board-certified physicians, psychologists, and even lactation consultants. Insurance isn’t needed for the service, and Doctor On Demand doesn’t collect insurance information and doesn’t contact your insurance provider. Signing up was easy peasy. I use the Google Chrome browser, so I accessed www.doctorondemand.com from my computer,  but an alternative to connecting would’ve been to download the Doctor On Demand app on my smartphone or tablet. My coupon code for the free visit was easy to apply, but the service still required my credit card number which conveniently stays on file for if/when a charge  incurs in the future. By the way, because of their current promotion, everyone’s first visit is FREE when you use the unique coupon code WOODLANDS15. After your free first visit, your cost is $40  for a 15-minute Medical & Pediatrics visit and $50  for a 25-minute Psychologist session.

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"Mommy Mondays" at La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa
Written by Karen Logan   

On Mondays, La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa offers "Mommy Mondays", a unique weekly experience that includes a Tabata Boot Camp (beachside!) and 25 minutes of stretch yoga followed by a neck, back and shoulder massage and a visit to the Turkish Hammam steam room.  I had the privilege of checking out Mommy Mondays this week, and it was like a much needed vacation for me! In fact, it was a vacation since I opted to stay overnight to maximize my experience at the resort. (Remember my review of the resort from last year? If not, click here to read it now.)

After a quiet, relaxing evening in my room sans the hubby and kids, I was ready for my Mommy Monday day to begin at 9:00am I met up with Roxi, my boot camp instructor, along with a couple of other women, and we headed down to the beach. La Torretta has a beautiful private sandy beach that’s the perfect spot for so many activities – picnicking, flying a kite, building a sandcastle, sunbathing… but on this day we used it to get our bodies “beach ready”. Boot camp drills, yoga poses, a playlist of lively music, and 3 new friends. I was fulfilled!


 
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"Heart & Seoul" exhibit at Children's Museum of Houston
Written by Karen Logan   

We're studying South Korea in our homeschool this month, and the best part of our adventure has been a trip to the Children’s Museum of Houston. Their interactive “Heart & Seoul” exhibit is a highly engaging highlight of Seoul, the capital city. Earlier this year, my 6-year-old took a kuk sool won class (Korean martial arts), and at the museum exhibit we learned that taekwondo is a Korean martial art as well. Overall, the exhibit was outstanding! We were able to practice martial arts moves with video instruction, watch and dance to Korean hip hop videos (my 4-year-old's favorite part, by far), learn about kite flying (a popular pastime in S. Korea), enter a Korean home (take off your shoes first!), visit a Korean cafe and examine some of the food dishes, visit a S. Korean classroom setting, visit a modern S. Korean high rise apartment, and much more.

The exhibit occupied a large area and there was so much to do and learn! Playing the janggu and buk (traditional Korean drums) and locating S. Korean on an interactive electronic map were other highlights we enjoyed. We were also able to read a S. Korean fairy tale about croaking frogs, and we learned that the number “4” is unlucky in S. Korea (as such, many buildings won’t have a “4th’ floor. The floor after floor 3 is floor 5).

 
Heart and Seoul: Growing up in S. Korea will be an exhibit at the Children's Museum of Houston through May 10, 2015.  I highly recommend checking out this fun, educational exhibit while it's in town!

 
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Schlotzsky's Hard-Carved Ribeye Steak Menu
Written by Karen Logan   

Attention steak lovers! Schlotzsky’s has new menu items featuring Hand-Carved Ribeye Steak, but it’s only around for a limited time. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to sample all 5 new items, so I visited the Bakery-Cafe, ordered one of each, and called it “dinner” for my family of 6.

 

Everyone’s favorite entrée was the Hand-Carved Ribeye Steak Flatbread that was loaded with great flavor – steak, green onions,  roasted peppers, roasted tomatoes, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, blue cheese crumbles, mayo, and topped with an Andouille cream sauce. I’m not a fan of blue cheese, but I forgot to ask them to omit it from my order. No regrets. The blue cheese went along so well with the other flavors that I’m glad we left it on. The flatbread was also very visually appealing, something I would cut into pieces and lay out on a wooden cutting board as an appetizer for my Girl's Night In guests.

 

My other favorite, the Chophouse Steak Salad, was just as impressive as the flatbread. The sweet (not tart) cranberries gave the salad a bold, fun flavor without overdoing it. I was given my choice of hot or cold steak (I choose hot), and I enjoyed every bite. The fried onions dress up this not-too-complicated salad and really make it a star.

Other hand-carved ribeye steak menu items include:tar. Even more, the garlic bread served with the salad is some of the best garlic bread I’ve had this year – soft, so buttery, and a perfect amount of garlic.

Steak ‘n Bacon Bacon SmokeCheezy Sandwich: Tender hand-carved ribeye steak, sliced bacon, roasted red peppers and smoked cheddar cheese topped with Southwest chipotle majoy served oven-baked on a Fresh-from-Scratch sourdough bun.

-  This sandwich was moist (not dry!) and flavorful; the generous portion of  steak was tender, and the peppers were sautéed to perfection.

Steak, Guacamole and Red Peppers Sandwich: Tender hand-carved ribeye steak, Pepper Jack cheese, roasted vegetables, guacamole and chipotle pesto served oven-baked on a Fresh-from-Scratch jalapeno-cheese bun.

-        - This flavorful sandwich seemed a bit toned down, and I didn’t taste as much guacamole as I was hoping to. The jalepeno bun adds a nice kick.

Chophouse Steak Wrap: 

-          -  I didn’t sample this one, but the ingredients are the same as the delicious salad, but they’re wrapped in a healthy grain tortilla with your choice of dressing.

Schlotzsky’s Hand-Carved Ribeye Steak menu is available through December 28, so hurry in to try it!

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Idina Menzel "Holiday Wishes" album
Written by Karen Logan   

I participated in the Idina Menzel Holiday Wishes album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.

I’m always excited to hear new Christmas albums that include my favorite classics, and this year I’m excited to report that, Idina Menzel’s Holiday Wishes will be the main album played at my family’s holiday Open House gathering. Like most people, I like hearing the Christmas songs I’ve grown up signing, but hearing it sung by different artists always livens things up, so I try to pick a new artists each year. While I can’t say I’m over the moon about Menzel’s album, it’s one of the best new ones I’ve heard this season. In all fairness, I have 4 daughters and I’ve heard Menzel’s song “Let It Go” as Elsa on the Frozen movie soundtrack no fewer than once (or 10 times) every day for the past year. In fact, my ONLY experience listening to Menzel is via the Frozen movie / soundtrack. Although most of the songs on Holiday Wishes is a far cry from her passionate rendition of Let It Go,  there are some really good tracks on the new album that I’ve enjoyed hearing over and over.

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