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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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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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Jerry Built Burgers
Written by Jenni Fisher   

Jerry Built is a locally-owned restaurant with locations in The Woodlands and Houston that serves organic ingredients and sources sustainable, seasonal items from local and regional farmers to provide only the freshest ingredients.  Don't you just love places that supports local farmers and businesses?

Last week the boys and I were treated to a tasting of some of Jerry Built's seasonal items and they did not disappoint!  Their menu is overflowing with wonderful burger options like the Truffle Mushroom and Swiss and the Houston which have both been taste-tested and approved by my family on previous occasions, but this time around I decided to go a different route and try their seasonal salad, the Autumn Harvest.  It was delicious and covered in pumpkin seeds, pears, goat cheese and their housemade local honey vinaigrette.  Two words:  Yu um!

The boys really had a treat -  their kids menu offers a hamburger, chicken strips and all-beef hot dog, but if you ask nicely theyll hook you up with some to-die-for mac and cheese that is picky-child approved!  Please remind your kids to save room for the milkshakes made with seasonal-flavored Blue Bell ice cream as well! 

 
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Yes, the food is delicious, but what you may not know is how kid-friendly is. While you wait for your food to arrive at your table, you and the kiddos can display your artistic talents on the floor-to-ceiling chalkboard wall or try out the nifty contraption near the kitchen and see what you think its for.  I'll tell you this, my boys did it over and over which is rare for them!  You can also watch your food being prepared right before your eyes in their open-concept kitchen. 
 
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On a side note, when you're there you must also try their fried pickles and blueberry lemonade with those great little ice pellets you cant just find anywhere.  Really, it's the small details that make a restaurant a great place to visit and Jerry Built has them in abundance! 

Locations:  THE WOODLANDS: 1335 Lake Woodlands Drive and WEST UNIVERSITY:  3501 W. Holcombe Blvd., Houston.  Visit them at:  www.jerrybuiltburgers.com or www.facebook.com/JerryBuiltBurgers where you can find all their seasonal specials, giveaways and contests as well as all the ways they serve our community. 

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Charmin bathroom tissue
Written by Karen Logan   

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Charmin. I received product samples and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

There’s something very uncool about using the restroom in someone’s home to discover they have the ultra-thin, cheap toilet tissue that you can hardly get off the roll because it keeps breaking!  Either that, or the toilet overflows (yikes) after you’ve flushed!

The holidays are here and it’s time for frequent visitors. Using Charmin toilet tissue has always helped me make a good impression with my guests.  When I’m getting my home ready for the holidays, Charmin is a MUST for my shopping list because it’s the absolute best toilet tissue on the market. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Charmin in the tissue used by plumbers more than any other brand. I grew up in a lower class household, and despite buying store-brands for some items, my mom always bought Charmin. It's just one of those things she didn’t skimp on.  As a mom myself, I’ve followed suit. With 5 girls in the house (myself included), we use a LOT of tissue! Charmin is strong and extra soft, and I know my toilets won’t get stopped up if we’re using Charmin because it has   Roto-Rooter’s stamp of approval to be clog-free and septic-safe. Do you know how embarrassing it is to have your toilet overflow during a Christmas party? (Neither do I, because, thanks to Charmin, this has never happened to me!)

Check out my video below of 2 great things about using Charmin!
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Mary J. Blige - "The London Sessions" - Editor's Review
Written by Karen Logan   

I participated in the Mary J Blige The London Sessions album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.  

Mary J. Blige’s highly anticipated "The London Sessions" (to be released December 2, 2014) is a musical delight full of powerful, inspiring messages – old love, newer relationships, encouragement, and even some faster tunes worthy of the dance floor. Mary has come a LONG way since her “What’s the 411?” rendition with Grand Puba (remember the 90’s)? London Sessions has (mostly) sophisticated, classy lyrics, with the exception of a double negative or two (“I’m not about to waste NO time”) and a few cuss words (compliments of track 8 – “Whole D-mn Year”).  All around though, the album is an enjoyable one and the instrumentation is much better than average.

The most impressive track on this album is song  1 – Therapy. If you’re a fan of India Arie’s music, chances are you’ll appreciate Mary J. Blige’s “Therapy”. With soulful, clear lyrics and an awesome acoustic humming in the background, this song makes reference to being stressed out due to a relationship that’s going through a trial. Who can’t relate? I actually like the sound of the music and her voice much more than I like lyrics. Not exactly sure what “…when I can go therapy two times a day” means.


Track 2, Doubt, lends itself to good old gospel music with its inspirational message, beginning piano tunes, and choir-like background vocals. This song of perseverance is sure to pop up at many a high school graduation next spring. Wanna bet?

Not Loving You seems more of the opposite of Track 2. In a soft ballad style and strong voice, Mary is gently speaking to a friend who is down on luck and needs to learn to start loving him/herself. Beautiful music, and I even like the “idea” of the song, but I wish Mary had gotten deeper into sending across a message. I guess I was hoping for more of a therapeutic approach – with a lyric about “smiling”, “everything is alright,” and “you’re beautiful and worth it”. Rather, she simply states, “There’s only so much I can do if you’re not loving you.”

Of the few upbeat songs – Right Now (great song for the dance floor), My Loving, and Pick Me Up (I love the sounds of the horn) – Right Now is by far my favorite. It boasts a sophisticated beat with some interesting instrumentals (I haven’t figured out what instrument is making the soft popping song, but I like it)!  

Mary J. Blige fans will not be disappointed with this album. Even my least favorite tracks were pleasant enough for me to listen to a second time.

Visit http://bit.ly/MJBLondon   to preorder/order The London Sessions on iTunes, or  http://bit.ly/MJBLS   to preorder/order on Amazon.

Enjoy the lyric video for Therapy, below. 
 
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Animalz by ReTrak Headphones
Written by Karen Logan   

They're the cutest headphones ever! My oldest girls (9 and 6 years old) LOVE stuffed animals, so when these Animalz by ReTrak volume-limiting, retractable headphones showed up at the house, they were absolutely smitten. 


In our home, in any given week, there're arithmetic games on the iPad, a Guatemalan-based online Spanish tutor via Skype, video-based math lectures on the computer (we homeschool), audio books on the Kindle Fire, and Bruno Mars on my iPhone - often simultaneously. The problem is, these girls would rather not wear headphones. That is, until our new Animalz headphones arrived last Monday. Since these little princesses are stuffed animal fanatics, they were giddy about being able to wear these adorable furry animals on their ears. 

Love this!! These are our first pair of retractable headphones, and they're great.  Before life with Animalz by ReTrak headphones, our regular non-retractable headphones and ear buds were always a tangled mess! The retraction on our new Animalz headphones works smoothly, so they’re easy to store and very portable.  

Volume limits! Sometimes my kiddos have a tendency to slowly (but constantly) increase the volume when they’re listening to a favorite song. We all know what studies show about hearing loss in children who listen to too much loud music with the wrong type of headphones / ear buds. I’m happy to know that the Animalz over-the-ear headphones set 85 decibels as the maximum volume for optimal ear protection.

They're cool! Animalz headphones are head-turning. Within the past several days, my 9-year-old wore them to dance classes, the grocery store, and the library, and we’ve tallied a number of  admiring glances!  It’s not often that she’s the trendsetter, but this time she is, and she’s thinking it’s pretty cool.

 

Animalz by ReTrak headphones are currently available in 6 adorable animal designs:  Biker Bearz, DJ Pandaz, Jam Bunneez, Scuba Sharkz, Skate Monkeez, and Surf Dawgs.   Available at more than 15 U.S. retailers including Amazon.com®, Best Buy® and Toys“R”Us®, they retail at $24.99.  For a full list and more details, visit: http://myretrak.com/ANiMALZ/

CONTEST ALERT:  We're giving away a pair of these adorable headphones to one of our lucky readers! Contest ends November 21, 2014. CLICK HERE to enter
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Blo Blow Dry Bar
Written by Karen Logan   
I'd heard fantastic reviews about Blo Blow Dry Bar (25 Waterway Ave., Suite 150),  so I had to try it for myself...well, for my girls, really. I called ahead and inquired about whether they can work with "kinky" hair. The lady who answered assured me that they absolutely can. I booked  appointments for my 6- and 9-year-olds  online (credit card required to reserve your spot; 24 hour cancellation).
 
We arrived 25 minutes earlier than our scheduled appointment time, and they were able to work us in almost immediately. The facility is bright, modern, and clean, and the staff is well-groomed and professional, as you might expect in most upscale salons. They were surprisingly very friendly and personable too (as you might not always expect). The waiting area is a bit smaller than I'd hope, but since I was the only one waiting, there were no issues with being there with my baby stroller.  
 
The stylists really had their work cut out for them. After a summer of swimming in chlorinated pools, sun-bathing in Texas middays, and enduring skinny braids, my girls' heads were a force to reckon with.

Here's the BEFORE:

 
They were washed, carefully blow dried, flat ironed, and curled. We were all very pleased with the results. I personally thought the oldest girl's hair could have been gotten a bit straighter, but at a cost of $25 a head (for children 10 and under), I'm still very satisfied.
 
Here's the AFTER:
 
 



 
 
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Huggies Little Snuggers - Editor's Review
Written by Karen Logan   

Disclaimer: I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Huggies & Target. I received samples for this review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

Do you have a little snuggler at home? Then you might want to try out the NEW Huggies Little Snugglers diapers that are available in grocery stores and mass retailers nationwide. True to its name, these diapers are very snuggly, and my six-month-old daughter seems to be very comfortable wearing them. The unique stretchy SnugFit* Waistband provides a gentle, secure fit, and the diapers are woven with a New GentleAbsorb* that helps draw the mess away from her skin. My Jasmine has super sensitive skin, so this feature is a big plus for me! Another plus is the wetness indicator which makes it easy for my 9-year-old  "babysitter-in-training" to let me know when it's time for a diaper change. 

I started using Little Snugglers just before my daughter turned six months, and we started feeding her solid (baby) food shortly thereafter. I was extremely fond of the diapers up until this point. As she began eating solids more regularly and making a bit more waste in her diapers, I was not pleased with the diapers’ leak protection despite the pocketed back waistband that’s designed to keep in the runny mess. In fact, we've experienced quite a few changes of clothes due to leakage.

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"Boy Craft" Rubber Band Launcher Kit by Horizon
Written by Jenni Fisher   
As a mom to 2 boys, I find it a little frustrating walking through the craft aisle at the big box and toy stores.  If you're a mom of boys too, you may have noticed how most of the craft projects down these aisles include shiny sequins, heart stickers and rainbows.  If you're a mom of girls this might irritate you as well, not all girls are into all the glitter and glam!  That's why I was so excited to stumble upon a box titled, "Boy Craft:  Rubber Band Launcher Kit" one day back in January while I was perusing the discount aisle at one of our local discount stores!
 
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La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa - Awesome Getaway!
Written by Karen Logan   

Did I enjoy my overnight stay at the La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa?  Here's a hint. Before I left to come home, I was already planning to come back. Seriously, this place is where it's at!  The quick drive up from The Woodlands (less than an hour) and the gorgeous AquaPark and lake access is enough to make you go, but the beautiful golf course, luxury spa (I think it's one of the best ones between Houston and Dallas), elegant dining options, upscale accommodations, man-made beach, and tennis courts are enough to make you want to come back at least once a quarter (which is exactly what I intend to do). Check out this beautiful lobby/atrium area (below). How can you not love these magnificent windows?

 

Of all the AAA four diamond hotel resorts I've stayed in, this one has been the best value. I love clean, modern, and upscale, and this is what I found upon entering my room at the resort. These people aren't faking it, either. Purple hues, satiny fabrics, granite counters, luxurious bedding… If this is the kind of thing you appreciate, you won't be disappointed here.

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Omni 3-in-One Travel System
Written by Karen Logan   
Editor's Disclosure: I participated in a Blog Blast on behalf of Mom Central for Urbini. I received information from Urbini to facilitate my post as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Have you seen the irresistibly cute new Omni 3-in-One Travel System by Urbini? They were on shelves earlier this year and they sold out within a month. The good news is that these stylish travel systems are BACK (sold exclusively at Walmart stores and Walmart.com). The Omni travel system offer a variety of traveling positions for your little one – from nesting in an infant car seat, to relaxing in the cozy bassinet, to riding forward or parent facing in the convertible stroller seat.  

We’re glad to see these products back in the stores, because they’re surprisingly priced very well below competing brands. Plus, check out the reviews online – they’re excellent!

In addition to the 3-in-One Travel System, products from Urbini include the Hummingbird, the world’s lightest full-featured stroller with a one handed closing capability, and the Touri, a stroller and Petal Infant Car Seat creating the ultimate on-the-go travel system.  

For more information on Urbini, visit the company on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest! #sponsored #MC
 
 
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Austin Road Trip: Lakeway Resort and Spa - Editor's Review
Written by Karen Logan   

Summer is the perfect season for a road trip! My family and I took a beautiful drive to Austin last weekend and enjoyed our stay at the Four Diamond award-winning Lakeway Resort & Spa, a newly renovated lodging resort and the only waterfront resort on Lake Travis. (Don’t you love Lake Travis?) Our goal was to simply get out of town for a couple of days and have some fun family time. Mission accomplished!

We were delighted with a very welcoming front staff, modern accommodations, some of the most comfortable beds we’ve ever slept in, spacious bathrooms, and a superb view of the lake from our balcony. The girls enjoyed having an adjoining room, and they were thrilled with their balcony view of deer grazing the lawn.

  
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Editor's Review - Royal Cleaning Services
Written by Jenni Fisher   

Royal Cleaning Service is owned by Andrea Canales and serves The Woodlands and surrounding areas.  Andrea is a mom of two and an entrepreneur with a passion for her business!  "I love to clean and I want to help my fellow moms, stay at home dads and working parents.  I want to give them a day off from cleaning so they can enjoy life and not stress over the house work!  &Not only am I a people person, I am trust worthy, dedicated, a great cleaner, a little OCD and very professional," says Andrea. 

She is right about that!  Andrea stopped by my house on the eve of my Mother-in-Laws visit and not only was I thankful I was able to schedule with Andrea so quickly and easily, she did an absolutely wonderful job that my Mother-in-Law approved of.  Thats saying something!

 
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Video Star for iDevices
Written by Jenni Fisher   

Do you have a budding star at your house?  Someone just waiting to become that famous singer, dancer, rock star?  I have two.  They sing and dance and rap and air guitar on the porch, in the shower, at Chuys.  Everywhere.  All the time. 

So, I was super excited to find this fun little App for the iPhone, iPad and iPod called Video Star.     All you (or your kids) need to do is pick a song from your playlist, find a friend to record for you and go to town.  It really is that easy.  The fun part is that there are all kinds of effects you can add to the video while youre singing and dancing to make it really feel like youre on MTV.  You can modify the effects after the video is shot if you want to change the heart background to the purple one and also take snapshots of scenes in the video to share.  

This App has entertained my kids for hours.  They have a blast doing it with their friends and even more fun watching their masterpieces when they are done.  The videos are easily share to You Tube or on Instagram if you want to get your little stars out there into the big, wide world to be discovered by Usher or something!

Did I mention its free?  Have fun:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id438596432?mt=8.

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 Here's a snapshot of my little guy going to town to Def Leppard on the couch during a snowstorm.
 
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Restaurant Review - Blue Mug Cafe
Written by Jenni Fisher   

altI have been hearing such wonderful things about Blue Mug Café snuggled back off of 2978 just east of Woodlands Parkway, so we decided to go give it a try this weekend. It's a must-visit!  Blue Mug Café opened in April and is a nice change from the area chain restaurants. 

When we pulled up, we were happy to discover a nice, outdoor seating area under a pergola with lots of table seating, couches and great music piping over the speakers. 

The inside of the restaurant is warm and inviting as well, with bar seating on one-side of the restaurant with additional seating on the opposite side with large tables with booths along the window that would be great for a large group.  They also have a reservable-room towards the back that I was thinking would be a great place to get together with the girls for the holidays!

But, it was a gorgeous day, so we ordered our food at the counter and headed out to enjoy the weather.

The menu is very dynamic with a little bit of everything from tacos, pasta, cheeseburgers and everything in between.  My husband got the Pot Roast Grilled Cheese (yes its as beautiful as it sounds) and I ordered the Pasta Ala Western Elm with shrimp, tomato cream sauce, sun-dried tomatoes. . . is it lunch time yet?

Theres the usual fare for the Little Mugs, too  chicken strips, cheeseburger sliders, pasta and the like.  My boys favorite part was the freshly-baked, ooey, gooey chocolate chip cookie that came along with the meal for dessert.

Blue Mug has great food, friendly service and a great atmosphere.  We had a good time sitting outside chatting while the boys sat on the couches listening to the tunes.  They just happened to be playing some of our favorite 80s music, so it was a good educational experience as well!

I havent tried their breakfast yet, but I hear their waffles are TO DIE FOR!  Ill see you there this weekend with a big blue mug of java and a plate full of waffles! 

To see their location, photos and menu, visit www.bluemugcafe.com.

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