Archive for the 'something big' Category

Rock Star, Sponsored by Gap

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and GAP.

She’s a rock star and she knows it. She throws on her shiny pink hat with a cackle and heads for the door, petting her cat on her way out. She might need my hand as she walks down the narrow wooden steps to the alley below but after that she’s a girl on the move.

Nobody messes with Bug, the rock star. She's got style. From her bright pink shirt to her dark-washed straight-legged jeans from GAP, she oozes confidence. Her adjustable waistband is cinched to the tightest buttonhole because she’s a skinny minnie but you can’t tell that from the outside. Her jeans fit her perfectly. She cuffs her hems two times, just like Mommy. You can see her fancy shoes better that way.

“Of course they’re real princess diamonds,” she tells the Hawaiian-shirted grandfatherly man at the post office. Rock-star princesses always wear real diamonds on their shoes. Never mind that the “diamonds” are giant fake gemstones that reflect multi-colored rainbows in all directions…in Bug’s world they’re more real than anything you could find in any jewelry store. She shoves her hands deep into her gold-stitched pockets and pulls out a shell she found at the beach.

“This is REAL pirate treasure,” she tells everyone in line, her eyes wide. “I dug it up at the beach.” The Hawaiian-shirted man chuckles. Bug reminds him of his daughter when she was four, 34 years ago. He gets misty-eyed thinking about her.

“They grow up so fast,” he says over his shoulder as he moves to the front of the line.

As Bug spins around on one foot, her hat flies off her head and skitters to the floor. She pounces on it and throws it back on her head with a giggle. “Can we go to the park now, Mom?” she begs, bored of the rinky-dink post office. “I’ve got to show all the other kids my rock star moves.” She grabs an invisible microphone and turns her head to one side. She closes her eyes, soaking in the roar of her adoring fans.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I would like to say (as an official reviewer and not as some silly blogger trying to win a creative-writing contest) that these jeans are super cool. They’re rock-star—approved and mom-approved.

Since this is a sponsored review, I do have a $100 GAP gift card to give away. If you’d like to play along, please leave a comment telling me what you pretended to be when you were a kid (or what your kids like to pretend to be). Were you ever a rock star? A teacher? An astronaut? What outfit did you wear on your amazing kid adventures?

Leave me your brilliant comment below…or leave a link to your own blog post and/or twitter. That’s three chances to win total! The contest will run 7/29—8/4/2010 (one week). Make sure that the e-mail address you leave is correct.

Rules:

  • • No duplicate comments.
  • • You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.
  • • You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.
  • • This giveaway is open to US residents (Sorry Canada! Dang it!), aged 18 and older
  • • Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail.
  • • You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
  • Please see the official rules here: BlogHer.com GAP official rules

    Stream itStream it

Empowering women through music…and spiffy restrooms

Monday, July 12th, 2010

This is sponsored content from BlogHer and by the makers of ob tampons, CAREFREE Pantiliners and STAYFREE pads.

pretty flowers

You know what I love about this side job I have of reviewing random products? I love that I never know what I’m going to be doing next. Some days I’m sampling ice cream, other days I get to drive cars or test out new recipes and some days I’m reporting on bathrooms.

LiliPad Tent

Yep, you read that right. I have visited a restroom with my very keen eyes and sense of smell and I’m back here to report that it was AWESOME!

Perhaps the FREE concert tickets to Lilith Fair 2010 with Sarah McLachlan and a bunch of other headliners influenced my opinion of said bathroom but I do have to say that I’ve been to many concerts in my day and what I experienced at the Luxury Lilipad Ladies’ Room and their “Lilipad Lounge” was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. Like night and day difference, I’m telling you.

testing out the "lounge" fancy restrooms

There were no lines, no stinky sticky floors with wads of wet toilet paper everywhere, no overflowing trash cans or empty paper-towel dispensers. There were candles and fresh flowers and those incense sticks that make everything smell foofy, like you’re in a fancy boutique. There were mini magazines to read if you felt like sitting down on a white leather ottoman for a few minutes. It was crazy! I thought I was at a department store for a minute.

Before I give you the wrong impression that the makers of STAYFREE© pads, CAREFREE© liners and o.b.© tampons (who are sponsors of the 2010 Lilith Tour) went out and built new swanky buildings or invented some kind of out-of-this-world portable toilets to set up at each and every Lilith Fair venue, I should clarify that they did not. They just cleaned up and decked out the existing restrooms. The walls were the same, the cement floors were the same, even the tight, cramped stalls were the same. But a little cleanliness, some free products, some mood lighting and attention to detail go a long way when you are hot and sweaty at a concert.

fresh cool cloths

And the cool refrigerated cloths at the Lilipad Lounge were genius! They were flavored (aka scented) in peach, mango and lemon, and refreshingly cool! Such a great idea. I stashed a few in my purse because they make great washcloths. These are the kind of hand-outs I like. You can keep your bendy pens and key rings, the way to a woman’s heart is a nice cool cloth on a hot and sticky day. They had lots of other samples there too, and an interactive photo booth where you could take your picture and put yourself on stage or walking down Abbey Road. That was pretty cool too, but I really liked the refrigerated cloths.

So how was the concert, you want to know? It rocked! I had so much fun.

Sarah talks about beauty

Even though I’m just a blogger who reviews bathrooms, I was invited to a press conference and we sat in the front row, merely feet away from some of my favorite female vocalists. I was a bit star-struck. I was dying to ask some really good questions like, “I’ve heard rumors that sales are soft and a lot of big-name performers are pulling out of the tour. Is this true? If so, how do you plan to continue Lilith Fair in the upcoming years in light of our economy’s recent downturn?” AND more importantly, “WHERE IS NORAH JONES, my favorite musician of all time?!!!”

But I was too shy. Surprisingly, not many other journalists were asking questions either so I gathered up all the courage I could and sort of mumbled something into the microphone I was handed. I truncated my real question and asked Sarah if she planned on continuing Lilith Fair next year and the year after that. It was totally lame and my voice was shaking. But she looked me in the eye and smiled and said, “I hope so.”

I really hope she does too.

Obviously I don’t know all the ins and outs of organizing a tour like Lilith Fair but I imagine it is no small feat. I do know that having some of the big-name artists pull out of the tour did make opportunities for lesser-known artists to shine. While I missed my darling Norah, I was blown away by music and talent I had never even heard of before. I admit I do tend to live under a rock now that I’m a stay-at-home mom whose big outing on most days is a trip to the park or the grocery store but this concert was just all around entertaining and enriching.

Brandi Carlile

From Brandi Carlile’s gristly-voiced, Patsy Cline-esque ballads to Miranda Lambert’s firecracker, boot-stompin’ power-country songs…the talent kept me riveted to the stage.

Miranda Lambert and her rifle mic

singing with a side of tequila sunset act

What really caught me off guard was Jenni Rivera and her full mariachi band. I thought it was just some lively intermission music at first but then this amazing full-figured woman in a tight purple satin dress sashayed onto the stage and belted out torch songs in Spanish. I didn’t understand a word but if I’d had a bundle of roses, I would have thrown them on stage and pledged my admiration. What a performance!

summertime at the amphitheatre

Of course Emmylou Harris was her old wonderful self. I’ve seen her in concert before and I always love her. She just seems to get more amazing and beautiful with age. She sang an a capella song at the end of her set to her children (and granddaughter!) and it almost made me cry.

Amazing Sarah

And then there is Sarah. Sarah, Sarah, Sarah.

Sarah Mclachlan

She seems so down-to-earth and normal when you meet her in person. Her hair is a little bit fly-away, her jeans a little tight. She’s just a mom like me, and we could probably share stories about teething and potty-training…UNTIL she opens her mouth to sing!!! Then the world stops and angels fly out of her mouth. The notes from her piano chase each other like rippling waterfalls. Okay that sentence is a little bit flowery but if you are a fan, you know exactly what I mean. Her music takes your breath away just like the lyrics to her songs. Only someone like her could invent something as wonderful as Lilith Fair.

grand finalé

Maybe if she keeps it up, women will take over the world someday. Just imagine it: world peace, and it will be completely normal to visit a concert restroom that is clean, smells pretty and has no lines!!! Now that would be empowering!

Because this is a sponsored review, I do have a Blogher $100 Visa gift card to give away. That’s how these things work. But I have a twist this time that is purely for me. I’d love to hear what you would have asked the women on the Lilith Fair panel if you’d been me sitting in the front row of a press conference with a microphone. Who knows, maybe I’ll meet Sarah or Brandi or one of the others in an elevator someday and I’ll be able to redeem myself with one of your brilliant questions. If you draw a blank, that’s okay too. (I know the feeling!) You can just tell me who your favorite female vocalist is. But seriously, humor me.

To enter this contest, leave me your brilliant comment below or you leave a link to your own blog post and/or twitter. That’s three chances to win total! The contest will run 7/20—7/26/2010 (one week). Make sure that the e-mail address you leave is correct.

Rules:

  • • No duplicate comments.
  • • You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.
  • • You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.
  • • This giveaway is open to US residents, aged 18 and older?
  • • Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail.
  • • You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
  • Please see the official rules here: Official rules

Rollin’ Big with the Lincoln MKT

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

This is a compensated review from BlogHer and Lincoln.

Cabazon Dinosaurs

I admit it. I signed up for this review because I wanted to drive a big, fat, tricked-out American car for a week. Bring on the seat warmers and a GPS and cup holders that can hold anything from my skinny morning latte to the biggest super-size blueberry slushie, right?!! I could almost taste the quiet I would enjoy while Bug watched one of her favorite dvd’s from the comfort of her own private backseat theater.

So I was a tiny bit disappointed to learn there were no dvd players in the Lincoln MKT, but it had everything else and a little mini-refrigerator too so I decided to keep it—for a week that is. I’m not ready to trade in my low-end Audi just yet but the Lincoln was definitely fun to drive. I’m selfishly glad I didn’t pass this assignment on to my sister-in-law like I did last time.

packed up for a picnic!

The first thing we decided to do was to take the Lincoln out for a little road trip. To me that’s the best way to really test out a car and see what it’s made of: sit in it for two or three hours straight and then see how you feel about all the luxury gadgets and gizmos. We didn’t have time to take it out for a really epic road trip but a good long drive to Palm Springs was perfect to test out the car’s capabilities and give me, my mom, Bug and my nieces a much-needed break from our winter doldrums. We packed up the back area with everything we could think of that we might need for a picnic and still had plenty of room for more.

I really liked how the seats are so easy to fold down and up and flat and all over the place. Just pick a lever (don’t worry; they are labeled so it’s easy to know which one) and kablamo! There’s plenty of storage area or seating—your choice! Just make sure there isn’t a kid sitting in the seat when you try to magically fold it away. Actually, this did happen to us (those darn kids were crawling all over the car) and nobody was hurt. While the forward motion of the seat folding is impressive, it’s not that forceful.

ready to go! pulling off to program the GPS

Once that was all worked out, we were locked and loaded and ready to go! Palm Springs here we come! Um, maybe?

Did you know you can’t program a GPS navigational system while you’re rolling down the road? I did not know that! I guess it’s a good thing, so you don’t go driving over little old ladies on the sidewalk while you argue with the system over whether the street you want is a boulevard or an avenue. But it was a little annoying to me, since I was riding in the passenger seat on the first leg of our trip and was very much looking forward to my status as official copilot with toys to play with. Anyway, we pulled off the road and figured that out pretty quick.

I never did try out the voice-activation function of the GPS system or the nifty iSync phone system which is kind of a shame. It would have solved the pulling-over-to-the-side-of-the-road problem AND it’s probably pretty cool. But I’m a slow learner when it comes to super-technical things so I stuck to admiring the sleek lines of the car, the way it handled and of course making sure there was chocolate ice cream in the tiny cooler in the back. You know, the really important stuff.

blind spot light

What I really liked about this car were the safety features. I love the little round light that lights up on the rear-view mirrors when someone is in your blind spot. The way cars are built these days, with the back windows getting smaller and smaller, it’s harder than it used to be to just crane your neck around to double check and see what is behind you. Between those little blinking lights and the rear-view camera for backing up, Lincoln has pretty much solved the lack-of-visibility problem in the back end. I admit it is strange to trust a robot’s eyes over my own but more than once those robot eyes saw dangers I didn’t.

Which brings me to another feature that I discovered after our little road trip. When the guy dropped the car off he didn’t even tell me about this feature. Maybe he thought I was a very safe driver and would never need it. Ha! I drive in Southern California where people don’t use their blinkers. Anyway, you can imagine my surprise when a car suddenly stopped in front of me and a row of little red lights flashed across the front window right below my eye level. There was beeping and lights and for a minute there I thought about having a heart attack.

There is NO falling asleep at the wheel in this car. If you suddenly come up on a stopped car or someone swerves into your lane, this car will tell you about it. In fact, I would be so bold to say that if you get in a wreck in this car you must be seriously inebriated or dead already. It startled me at first but the second time it happened I was thankful. I drive a quick-handling sports car already and could have easily avoided the car that stopped suddenly in front of me, but it made me feel safer that the Lincoln was looking out for me too.

Of course none of this happened on our breezy little trip to Palm Springs. That drive was delightful and the only complaint was from my teenage niece in the very back who claimed that the windows weren’t big enough for her to see out of. Not that she was actually looking out them or anything, Little Miss Texter Thumbs.

Palm Springs Rocks

We arrived quickly (that car has power; a V6 engine that performs like a V8) and safely and had a wonderful picnic.

thumbs up!

With chocolate ice cream from the tiny backseat refrigerator of course! Now the kids think that’s the only way to roll.

I drove home from Palm Springs and I have to say I was impressed with how easy the Lincoln handled. I drive an Audi A3 so I’m a little bit spoiled when it comes to nice driving cars. I expected to hate this car and I didn’t. I’m used to driving low to the ground in something small and compact, so the Lincoln seemed really big to me, but it took curves tightly and accelerated just as quickly as my super sporty car.

hmmm... it fits my favorite cup

The giant wide-swinging doors were lost on me though, since where I live we have to park on the street and the door immediately crunched right into the curb when I tried to get out. But I think someone who lives in suburbia with lots of room to sprawl might really enjoy those giant doors. (I did like how the cupholders fit my extra big coffee cup though.)

There is nothing small about this car. You need lots of head room? You got it. You need nice wide comfortable seats? You got it. This is not economy class. Lot of leg room, lots and lots of head room…you could even crawl out of the sunroof, it is so big. You have a parade to be in? Climb on up and give the world your best Miss America wave!

Probably my favorite BIG thing about this car was the stereo system. My brother says Ford has always had the sound systems figured out and I have to agree. The speakers in the back were huge and the sound as impressive as a theater. If you were the type, you could drive to a mountaintop and hold your own mini rave party under the stars.

grand finally

Or you could just stage your own one-woman show in the IKEA parking lot like Bug did.

There are so many more things I could write about this car and other bloggers have, so make sure you check them out on BlogHer’s review page. There are some serious sweepstakes going on over there, like a “Night on the Town” valued at $1,500 where you get to drive the 2010 Lincoln MKT for an evening, enjoy a spa package for two, dinner AND a stay at local hotel. That’s better than my gig, so go check that out!

And just for reading my long rambling review you also get a chance to win a FIVE HUNDRED DOLLAR VISA GIFT CARD! CHA-CHING!

To enter, leave me a comment below and tell me your favorite technological feature in your car—or in your dream car—or you may leave a link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. The contest will begin March 15th and will end March 31st (2010). Make sure that the e-mail address you leave is correct.

Rules:

  • • No duplicate comments.
  • • You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments.
  • • You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments.
  • • This giveaway is open to US residents, aged 18 and older?• Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail.
  • • You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
  • Please see the official rules here: Official rules

Chevy Traverse Reviewed by CC!

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

OMG!!!!!

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back before Thanksgiving, Brenda was contacted by GM to see if she was interested in driving their new crossover vehicle. She said no thanks, she loves her car too much…but she was pretty sure her sister-in-law wouldn’t mind, since there are multiple vehicles parked in my yard that are not running and holiday travel plans were looming. After a few emails back and forth a decision was made to put me in the driver’s seat of the brand-new Chevy Traverse LTZ for a week. In my opinion that is just not fair. I mean, we all know that a week isn’t nearly long enough when playing with a new toy. 

2009 Chevy Traverse LTZ

I am not a minivan mom, so the first thing I did was look up the Traverse on Chevy’s website. It is one very sweet-looking car. It’s got great lines inside and out. This may seem silly but one of the things I hate about minivans are those tacky plastic shields that usually run along the bottom. They were smart and kept the plastic shields to a minimum. I watched every video they had about the car on their site and learned something interesting: the Traverse is the first car that Chevy has had women lead the design team. This car wasn’t just built for moms; it was built by moms. That pretty much means the Traverse is a fully-loaded, blinged-out, mom-friendly, kid-approved vehicle. Sign me up!

I love this car!!!

They dropped the car off just before it started to rain on the Monday before Thanksgiving. We met them in the driveway and Bug (who I was babysitting) and SuperChic were begging to go for a drive before I could even sign my life away on the dotted line. The drop-off guy asked if I wanted a tour. I usually prefer to play around with things on my own but this car was a whole new ball game, so I said yes. When the tour was over he gave me a piece of paper and said, “Give this to the cop if you get pulled over.” Not in case of an accident, but if I got pulled over for speeding. He knew I had to test the car’s get-up-and-go. I’m happy to say it does 0-60mph quickly, quietly, and with little effort. It also corners well and handles curves like a car, unlike most SUVs.

Anyway! This car has a lot of features (see bulleted list in the extended entry) and he went over every single one of them with me! My job, if I chose to accept it, was to try to use every single feature. The GM guy left with a wave and we were on our own.

Going home

I managed to pack two kids, a dog kennel, three suitcases, a laptop bag, my sewing machine, a rifle, three handguns, an old-fashioned porta-crib, and our winter coats into the back and had no complaints. The girls loved the captain seats in the middle row. They had plenty of space and of course the DVD player sweetened the deal. There was plenty of storage in the middle row, including a perfect little compartment for the girls’ MP3 players (which could be plugged into the rear console or the front one) and the remote for the DVD player. A larger compartment for DVD storage and the wireless headsets kept everything nice and neat. Well, as neat as 10 1/2- and 6-year-old girls can keep things.

Control

For when I want to be tortured

The sun and moon roofs were fun to play with, especially when trying to get the kids’ attention away from the DVD player (though pausing a movie from the front controls worked pretty well for that too). I really liked the simplicity of using the window controls while going down the road. They were easy to find and operate, unlike some cars I’ve driven. My only complaint about the windows is that at speeds over 40mph there was a lot of wind noise. A shield over the front lip of the window would have been a nice feature to avoid the excess noise.

wingle wangle

Driving is fun, but driving on the freeway with blind spots is not. Luckily, those mom designers thought about this and added a cool little bubble type mirror to each side mirror. These blind-spot mirrors show you vehicles as they enter your blind spot. So essentially there is no blind-spot with the Traverse. We had been trying to figure out what the little mirror was for, because it was pretty much showing nothing but the curb. Finally the light bulb came on over my head and I figured it out as I was getting on the freeway at 60mph.

It was so cool I had Shawn watch his mirror so he could see it work too. He was not as impressed, saying he’d figured that’s what it was for, but I don’t believe him. He was just being a guy and not admitting that he didn’t know something.

The only other blind spot I would say this car has is the front pillars. For me they are not a problem, but then I regularly drive my mother-in-law’s Honda Pilot so I’m used to it. Changing from a car to a cross-over vehicle would probably be more challenging, but it’s easy enough to get used to. Being short of stature, I tend to find blind spots on vehicles that other people don’t notice.

The rear window is smaller than most SUV-type vehicles, slightly limiting your field of vision when backing up. The optional rear sensors and camera took me a little while to get used to. Especially since they beeped at me every time I backed out of our gate. I really liked this function, because if your kid (or in our case, one of the dogs) decides to run behind the car and she is shorter than the back window, the sensor beeps and the camera highlights whoever is closer to you than is safe.

However, do not rely on the camera to back up. You cannot accurately gauge distance with it. And in the rain, forget about it.  We found that when it’s raining hard, the backing-up sensors can’t accurately read distance. I imagine the technology is similar to what cops use to measure speeding cars. You don’t often see cops “taking pictures” in the rain, probably for the same reason. But I wouldn’t know. I’m not an expert on radar.

With or without sensors, the Traverse parked like a dream. It had a great turning radius and slid easily into any parking spot. Adding a few sensors to the front bumpers would have been nice. The front end slopes enough that you can’t actually see the front of the car. In tight situations this can be a little nerve-racking. More than once I got out of the car, looked at how much room I had between me and the front of the parking spot, got back in, and then finished parking. After having the car a few months, I’m sure this wouldn’t be such a problem. 

Jam

enjoyed driving the Traverse, even in traffic. After the trip to my parents’ house, we went home for a day and then headed to the beach for our second Thanksgiving. Which brings me another feature I really appreciated: the navigation system.

It was nice knowing that if I got off at the wrong exit, I didn’t have to figure out which way was west and keep heading in that direction until I recognized something. I do not have a good sense of direction. I once got off on the right street, in the wrong city. Yeah. Even though my husband was in the car with me and he knows the route to SAJ’s by heart, it was nice having a visual reminder for myself.

I highly recommend setting your destination on any trip, even if you know the route by heart.  You don’t have to have the map fully displayed but if there is some kind of traffic alert ahead, or you try to get off on the right street but in the wrong city, you’ll know about it. This only works when you have a destination set before you leave. You can look for places near where you are going while driving, but you can’t set an exact address. So set your destination, ok? Ok.

I know what you’re all dying to know and I’m getting there. You want to know what’s under the hood. You’ll laugh when I tell you. Really, you will. Are you ready?

blocked by the shield!

It’s a big plastic shield. Yep, that’s right: a shield. It’s every guy’s worst nightmare, to get a new car and not be able to show off its parts to all his buddies. (That is a concept I don’t get. To me, it seems kinda like a guy’s girl getting new boobs and him telling his friends to take a peek.) You should have seen the faces Shawn and Tom made when I popped the hood and they were met with a big old black shield. They couldn’t examine the Traverse’s parts. They were very disappointed. Honestly, I was too. I’m married to a mechanic and if my parents would have let me, I totally would have taken auto shop in high school instead of accounting.

For those women who get overwhelmed and a little panicky when their husband asks them if they checked the oil, this is perfect. It’s easy to locate the dipstick and the windshield-wiper fluid reservoir, because everything else is covered.  And if by some chance you happen to kill the battery and need a jump, there are special posts to hook the jumper cables up to. No more trying to find a ground and figure out what goes where.

The only feature that really annoyed me was when I changed the mirror setting to look at the ground when backing up. It’s cool for parallel parking but not cool when trying to back out of the driveway. Luckily, it’s a setting you can have on/off or on only one mirror or both.

kid approved

All in all this is a great car.  Have I said that already? Probably, but it really is. In a few years when the economy is better and I can (hopefully) afford it,  I’ll be back to take it for a spin and see what’s changed. But if I won the lottery, I’d definitely be on my way to the nearest dealership today.

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