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Product Reviews: Lose It! App

Yes, I am trying to lose some weight. If you are one of my regular readers you already know that. (And are also probably asking, so what’s with all the brownie and cupcake recipes, huh?)

So, this pin caught my eye:


I have been using this smart phone app Lose It for two weeks. My goal has been to lose a pound a week, and so far I have lost four pounds. Yes, I’m ahead of schedule!

Lose It has you log the food you eat every day. You can search a database of foods. It is impressively thorough, and includes most restaurants and brands of foods you find in the grocery store. It also has a “My Food” section where it stores foods you have already added so you can easily get to foods that you eat frequently. You can also enter recipes, and it will calculate the calories for you. It even lets you scan a barcode. Cool, huh?

You also log your exercise, and you get extra calories to eat for the day based on the type of exercise you do and how long you do it.

The app even tells you the percentage of certain nutrients, like sodium, protein and fat, that you have taken in for the day.

The program has more features online that allow you to connect with others. For example, you can take on challenges. My current challenges are the Downton Abbey Hobbledehoy Loggers, where you see who can log their food the most days during the entire season of Downton Abbey (I LOVE Downton Abbey!) and the Green Giant Vegetable Challenge which gives you one point for every 30 calories of vegetables you eat every day.

I sincerely hope that these challenges and the interactive features will win out over my chocoholic, sweets-loving side. So far, I really like it.

Until next time, happy pinning!


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Product Review: Smart Taste Pasta


I love pasta and I eat a bunch of it (probably way too much!), but I also like to eat whole grains and most pasta is not whole grain. That’s why I love Smart Taste pasta. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you know I love to use this pasta in my recipes, like the Homemade Hamburger Helper Cheeseburger Macaroni posted this Wednesday.

Smart Taste pasta is enriched with fiber, calcium and vitamin D. It has 2.5 times the fiber of regular pasta, but doesn’t taste any different.

I’ve tried whole wheat pasta in the past, but my kids Austin and Kaelin just didn’t like the grainy texture or the heavy, earthy taste. Smart Taste pasta has the same light texture and taste of regular pasta but with plenty of fiber.

Smart Taste comes in these varieties:

  • Elbows
  • Rotini
  • Spaghetti
  • Thin Spaghetti
  • Penne Rigate
  • Angel Hair
  • Extra Wide Noodles

So, you can use them in almost all of your favorite pasta recipes.

Ronzoni also has a pasta made from carrots, tomatoes and spinach called Garden Delight. Every portion gives you half a serving of vegetables. I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds intriguing. Right now, in celebration of their Garden Delight pasta you can enter to win a $500 debit card.

Next time you’re cooking with pasta, try Smart Taste.

What is your favorite healthy substitution?

Until next time, happy pinning!


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Product Review: Auto-Off Surge Protector


Living in a home with a husband, teen son, and preteen daughter, you know I have a house full of electronics – TVs, computers, laptops, video game systems, cell phones… I could go on. All of these really suck up the electricity.

I hate to waste electricity. But that’s exactly what happens when TV, DVD players and video game systems are left plugged in all the time. The technical term is standby power, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimates that in the U.S. standby power wastes at least $4 billion every year. Due to the increase in electronic devices, the amount of wasted power is still growing.

Manufacturers are starting to use technology to solve this problem, but until then, there’s a way to reduce the energy we use and save money on our electric bills: Auto-Off Surge Protectors.

One we use and love is the Belkin Conserve Smart AV.  We plug our TV in the master plug and then the DVD player and video gaming systems go in the master controlled plugs. When the TV is turned off, all of the electronics turn off and stop eating up electricity. It also has plugs that aren’t controlled by the TV in case you have a cable box, lamp or other appliance that you don’t want to turn off with the TV.

So, family, bring on your electronics! I’ll save the earth and money, too, with my Auto-Off Surge Protector.

Until next time, happy pinning!


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Product Review: 12-volt A23 Battery = $40 of Button Cell Batteries


The $40 Hidden Inside a 12V Battery

It seems almost every toy we have for our children or gadget for ourselves requires batteries. And we need them in all shapes and sizes. Small electronic devices such as keyless vehicle entry systems, home security systems, garage door openers, and Bluetooth headsets commonly use the 12-volt A23 dry cell-type battery (also known as 8LR932, 8LR23, GP23A, MN21, 23AE or ANSI-1181A). Then there are those small gadgets like laser pointers, keychain flashlights, and little toys that make sounds, move and/or light up when you squeeze them, which typically use the 1.5-volt LR932 alkaline button cells.


The cost of batteries varies as much as the size, shape and voltage of the batteries themselves. When the battery in your garage door opener needs replaced, you can purchase a 2-pack of Energizer’s A23 batteries for an average cost of $1.88. Unfortunately, the typical laser pointer uses 3 LR932 batteries, which cost an average of $5 each. If you’re like most people, you usually opt to replace the gadget itself rather than its batteries, because it’s actually cheaper. I realize this doesn’t make sense, but that’s the way it is.

Now for the amazing part… Did you know that each A23 is constructed of eight individual LR932 alkaline button cells? Furthermore, using a small screwdriver you can peel away the outer housing of the A23 (there’s a split in the label/housing) revealing a piece of paper. Inside that paper you’ll find a stack of eight 1.5-volt LR932 button cells which may be separated and used individually. That’s a $40 value inside each A23 battery.

So, the next time you find yourself needing 1.5-volt LR923 button cells, remember that an investment of less than $2.00 for a 2-pack of A23 Energizer batteries will provide you with $80 worth of replacement cells.

Note: This is an easy hack that takes less than a minute to do. While most online descriptions caution that you must use the Energizer brand A23 12-volt battery. However, some people have claimed that Duracell’s MN 21/23 12-volt battery also contains 8 individual 1.5-volt LR932 alkaline button cells.

(Today’s blog entry is authored by my husband Kenn. Thanks, honey!)

Until next time, happy pinning!


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Product Review: Vinegar


I was having a terrible time finding a mop that didn’t break within six months of buying it. Though I had my theory that it was mostly caused by everything being made in China where they now care as much about making quality, lasting products as my kids care about getting their clothes in the hamper, putting their dishes in the dishwasher, cleaning their room, saying thank you for my years of unselfishly caring for them (I could go on but we’d be here all night), but I thought maybe I was just not buying the right brand.

So I asked my friend who cleans houses for a living. She told me that she doesn’t use a mop. She takes vinegar, water, and a rag and uses them to clean the floors by hand. It leaves the floors sparkling clean without harsh chemicals, she said. I tried it at home, and it made my floors glisten with cleanliness.

That incident started my love affair with vinegar.

Another one of my favorite uses is as an inexpensive, harsh-herbicide-free weed killer. Do a search on Pinterest for vinegar and you will find vinegar used in insect repellent, science experiments, soil testing, home remedies, all sorts of homemade cleaners, a trillion recipes, to remove stickers (again, I could go on but we’d be here all night).

Best of all, it’s in ketchup, and as my children will tell you, there isn’t much that doesn’t taste better with ketchup.

What’s your favorite use for vinegar?

Until next time, happy pinning!


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Product Review: Duct Tape


I asked my daughter what the product review should be for this week and then rattled off a few choices. Once I got to duct tape, I got no further. I can’t blame her. Who doesn’t like duct tape?

This miracle product now comes in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and according to books, the internet and MythBusters, can do just about anything. (If you don’t believe me, watch the MythBusters episode. They pretty much weren’t able to bust any of the “myths” about duct tape.)

In our house we keep duct tape around as a general repair-all to avoid having to replace something that can be patched up with a little zebra print (or tie-dyed or whatever color is on-hand) duct tape.

Also, it’s great for all types of DIY projects. In elementary school, my daughter and her friends started a business selling 3-D glasses wrapped in duct tape and bows from duct tape attached to bobby pins. Their business produced a nice little side income for the three of them.

Duck brand duct tape is made right here in Ohio in the town of Avon. They have an amazing selection of patterns including NFL teams, college teams, glow in the dark and all kinds of patterns and colors. Want something fun to do with the kids? Their website includes a list of ducktivities—all sort of fun projects made from duck tape created by their company and submitted by fans.

They even have a Duck Tape Festival in Avon every year.  Sounds like a fun family trip for us in 2013!

What do you do with duck tape?

Till next time, happy pinning!


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Product Review: All You Magazine

I don’t have much extra time to read in my crazy busy life of working, taking care of two kids and a husband, social obligations, and I could go on. (I know many of you feel my pain, right?) So, I have to be very selective.

But All You magazine is one subscription that is truly worth it. It has your standard girly magazine content like clothes, hair, makeup, and crafts, but the true value is that it focuses on ways to save money.

All You Magazine

Each issue features articles about saving money on all sorts of necessities—on your car, groceries, home décor and more. Another regular feature is a profile on a super saving woman, giving you her greatest tips on ways to save money and links to websites or other tools she uses.

Best of all, my subscription is basically free. The magazine is filled with good quality coupons on things I actually use. After redeeming them, the magazine has basically paid for itself. It also includes discount codes on e-tailers that are valuable.

On the All You website, you can find more coupons to print out and daily free samples:

So, have your indulgent girly magazine and feel no guilt on spending some bucks. And when your hubbie asks what you’re doing, lounging around in your PJs in the middle of the day reading, you can tell him truthfully, “I’m saving money!”

Until next time, happy pinning!


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Product Review: King Arthur Whole Wheat White Flour

For my product reviews, I would like to focus on products that save you money, are as environmentally friendly as possible, keep you healthy, give the kids something to do, or make a busy mom’s life easier. So, you might wonder why I am reviewing King Arthur flour since we all know we can get the store brand cheaper.

King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour

First of all, the quality of this flour is always topnotch. I have never had trouble from a recipe when using this.

And this whole wheat white flour is a secret weapon to get your kids to eat healthier.  Here’s an explanation of what whole white wheat is from the Whole Grains Council:

Q: What is whole white wheat?

A. White wheat is a different type of wheat that has no major genes for bran color (unlike traditional “red” wheat which has one to three bran color genes). An easy way to think of it is as a sort of albino wheat. The bran of white wheat is not only lighter in color but it’s also milder in flavor, making whole white wheat more appealing to many people accustomed to the taste of refined flour.

The term “white flour” has often been used to mean “refined flour,” so “whole white wheat flour” sounds like a contradiction in terms. But it is simply WHOLE flour – including the bran, germ and endosperm – made from WHITE wheat.

I’ve tried substituting regular whole wheat flour into things I’ve baked for the kids, but they don’t like the heavy taste that it gives or the texture. This flour is still wholegrain, but the kids can’t even tell I’ve used it. I usually substitute about half the standard flour for this flour.

The only caution is that any whole grain flour can make your mixture a little dry. You might have to add a little more of the wet ingredients (a little extra milk, some more applesauce, etc.). But I rarely have to add much.

It’s great to have your family eat healthier, and cooking from scratch saves money also. And healthier people mean fewer trips to the doctor and the doctors’ bills associated with that.

Let me know your experience with whole white wheat flour or other tricky ways you get your family to eat healthier.

Until next time, happy pinning!


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