‘Reviews’ Category

  1. Review: Little Passports

    May 17, 2016 by Jennifer Carsen

    Lorelei receives her highly anticipated mailing from Little Passports.

    Lorelei receives her highly anticipated mailing from Little Passports.

    I was fortunate to be able to travel a lot with my family when I was growing up, so it’s important to me to share those types of experiences with my own kids. My husband, on the other hand, never got to travel very far back then, so he’s excited to do more traveling now.

    The bottom line is that we’re both eager to get out there and get exploring with our monkeys, but it’s hard when the kids are so young (because they’re, you know, monkeys).

    Which is why I was super-excited to be asked to review Little Passports, a subscription service that sends your kids fun, educational travel-related materials every month in the mail. Little Passports currently comes in 3 versions:

    Early Explorers (ages 3-5): Each month has a different theme (such as oceans, landmarks, or music)

    World Edition (ages 6-10): Each month features a different country

    USA Edition (ages 7-12): Each month features two U.S. states

    We were sent the Early Explorers edition, which included a cute little suitcase; a world map; an activity book and trading cards; a letter from our fictitious travel buddies Max, Mia, and dog Toby; and more.

    Lorelei, who is almost 6, was delighted with the whole package, especially the world map we could affix our landmark stickers to (this month’s theme was landmarks). Everything was very informative and high-quality.

    (Plus, hey – real mail in the mail! Increasingly exciting for all ages.)

    While I was sent just one Little Passports mailing for review purposes, Lorelei was already looking forward to receiving next month’s installment (and beyond). The activities in the Early Explorers edition were definitely geared more towards younger kids, so I ordered her a World Edition subscription as an early birthday present.

    Whether you’re real-life family travelers or more couch-bound wanna-be versions, as we currently are, Little Passports is a great gift for the little adventurer in your life.

    Little Passports’ lovely PR folks sent me an Early Explorers package to review and write about on the site. I have received no other compensation and am in no way affiliated with Little Passports. We’re all about editorial integrity here at Mommy Tries.


  2. Book Review and Giveaway: Oh Crap! Potty Training

    July 9, 2015 by Jennifer Carsen

    Oh Crap Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki

    Nicholas turns 3 at the end of August. In recent months, it had grown increasingly clear to me that he was decidedly not one of those kids who would just spontaneously start noticing – and using – the potty on his own.

    I truly believe that, left to his own devices, he would have been more than happy to avail himself of the “go anywhere, anytime” convenience of diapers well into middle school.

    So it was through a great stroke of luck that I went to Amazon.com and discovered that a fun-looking book called Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right was scheduled for release the very next day – written by one Jamie Glowacki, the self-styled “Pied Piper of Poop.” This seemed like a program I could get behind.

    Let me cut to the chase and say that, in my opinion, Jamie is a rock star – smart, funny, and knows her stuff.

    Her premise is that your job is to move your child’s awareness from “clueless” to “I peed” to “I’m peeing” to “I have to go pee,” and the book is structured around making this happen in a logical, progressive fashion. She’s laid-back and non-judgmental, but she pulls no punches:

    In my experience, ‘waiting till they are ready’ leads to disasters…Once a child is three, he is well into the process of individualization, which is the process by which he begins to realize he is his own person and has his own free will and can make his own choices. Hmmm. What do you suppose will happen if he decides he doesn’t want to use the potty and that the diaper is working just fine for him? I’ll tell you what will happen: you’ll have a drama-filled disaster. It’s really hard to potty train children over three. They have free will, and they know how to use it.

    Rather than asking, “Is my child ready?” Jamie suggests asking, “Is my child capable of learning this right now?” This tends to happen younger than you might think – potty training is easiest, she says, when it’s done between the ages of twenty and thirty months.

    With Nicholas, in other words, it was well past time to get cracking.

    Her program is pretty much the polar opposite of the “your kid will eventually notice the potty” school of thought. Instead, you pick a start day and ditch the diapers altogether. That’s right – no diapers, no pull-ups, no net. (“Pull-ups are diapers, plain and simple. I have no use for them. They prolong potty training indefinitely,” Jamie notes.)

    But won’t my kid just be peeing all over the place? Yep. That’s why, for that first day, your job is to be on your kid “like white on rice,” as Jamie puts it, and place him or her on the potty whenever you see the pee emerge. This is also why your kid is naked that whole first day – I strongly recommend a summer start date if you live in a cold climate.

    Her program is not for the faint of heart – it requires a full-on commitment to almost nothing but potty training for a few days in a row, followed by consistency and patience for the next several days following.

    But it works. Less than three weeks after that first naked start day (which made my life resemble a Marx Brothers movie even more than it normally does), Nicholas is pretty much fully potty trained now – and is sleeping through the night with no diapers. We still have some lingering poop issues, but those are getting better every day – and Jamie has a whole chapter devoted to those very conundrums.

    From clueless to diaper-free in less than a month is incredible to me, in so many ways. “You are going to be amazed at your kid’s self-pride,” Jamie says. “You are going to be blown away by what she is capable of. Seriously…this is going to rock your world.”

    She’s right. Plus, the naked day – while admittedly exhausting – is pretty darn cute.

    .

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    Got a pre-potty kid of your own? As a special gift to you, dear readers, I’m giving away a free copy of Jamie’s fabulous book this week!

    To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post letting me know why you’d like to win. For one additional bonus entry, mention this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, and/or your own blog, and leave a separate comment here letting me know you’ve done so.

    All entries must be in by 6 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, July 11 – I’ll choose a winner at random after that time.

    Good luck!

    I have received no compensation for this review and am in no way affiliated with Jamie Glowacki – just a big fan. We’re all about editorial integrity here at Mommy Tries.

    UPDATE: The winner of our giveaway is Kate! Thanks for playing, everyone.


  3. Product Review & Giveaway: Brick Popper

    October 21, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen

    Brick Popper

    If you’ve got kids, then you most likely have LEGOs. And/or KRE-Os, Mega Bloks, and all other manner of interlocking building blocks that are the bane of bare feet everywhere.

    While we can’t help you with that excruciating stepping-on-a-LEGO-at-3-am problem that invariably leads to a truly impressive display of profanity, we can help you out with another timeless LEGO problem: The fact that, once assembled, the little blocks can be the dickens to unassemble again.

    Brick Popper is a cleverly designed little tool that separates the blocks quickly and cleanly – no more bruised finger nubs or broken finger nails (or, as I have been wont to do, dangerous separation attempts with the deceptively sharp paring knife from the kitchen).

    I tried out the Brick Popper on a few of Eric’s…um, I mean, the kids’…LEGOs around the house and found it worked like a charm. If you have a LEGO-heavy household, it’s a sound investment.

    Starting this Friday, October 24th, Brick Poppers will be on sale for three days at Zulily – $10.99 for two Brick Poppers (check out the Brick Popper Facebook page later this week for more details).

    Also, as a gift to you, dear readers, I’m giving away a free pair of Brick Poppers this week!

    To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post letting me know why you’d like to win. For one additional bonus entry, mention this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, and/or your own blog, and leave a separate comment here letting me know you’ve done so.

    All entries must be in by 6 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, October 24 – I’ll choose a winner at random after that time.

    Good luck!

    Brick Popper sent me a few samples to review and write about on the site. I have received no other compensation and am in no way affiliated with Brick Popper. We’re all about editorial integrity here at Mommy Tries.

    The winner of the giveaway is Bill! Thanks to all for your entries.


  4. Review: NYDP Deli Patrol

    June 30, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen

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    I was excited when NYDP: Deli Patrol asked me to sample and review some of their cold cuts. I’m not generally a huge fan of deli meat, as it’s usually so salty and processed. Not that I’m particularly against either of those things in the right context, but it seems a shame to feel so bad about yourself after eating a turkey sandwich.

    The folks at NYDP – whose tagline, which I love, is “Food should be real” – have a goal of bringing real food to the deli. The company was founded by a New Yorker living in Boston who grew, as he puts it, “noshtastic” for the tasty deli treats of his youth. But he wanted to do it better.

    “While most deli meat is macerated, formed and cooked in a bag, yielding a perfectly shaped tube of ‘meat-stuff’,” the company states, mincing no words, “ours are single-muscle roasts, deep-marinated and hand-rubbed.” The new all-natural line at NYDP takes this even further, using only vegetarian-fed meat that’s raised without antibiotics or growth hormones.

    Yesterday morning, Lorelei and I headed over to the local Market Basket and picked up samples of the three NYDP meats they had at the deli counter (Lorelei also got a bonus slice of cheese from the deli lady, which tickled her no end):

    • Holiday roast turkey ($8.99/lb.)
    • Holiday roast beef ($9.99/lb.)
    • Natural apple glazed uncured ham ($8.99/lb.)

     

    The turkey and the roast beef were both very good – flavorful and much less salty and greasy-tasting than their standard deli counterparts.

    But the ham was truly exceptional. As with the turkey and roast beef, it was markedly less salty than regular deli ham, and you could actually taste the “apple” part of the apple glaze. It was tender and completely lacking that unpleasant rubbery quality you sometimes encounter with lesser deli ham.

    Eric, our resident deli meat expert, concluded that everything was so good that it warranted his eating two sandwiches for lunch instead of just one. I have to agree – there’s some seriously good stuff coming out of the NYDP kitchens.

    NYDP deli meats are on sale all this week for $8.99/lb., and available at the 70+ Market Basket stores in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire – with further distribution to come. Great picnics await.

    I received a Market Basket gift card so that we could buy and sample some of the NYDP deli meats; this post reflects my candid impressions. I have not received any compensation for writing this review and am not otherwise affiliated with the good people at NYDP: Deli Patrol.


  5. Review: Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt

    June 24, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen

    I don’t do many product reviews, but when someone offers me the chance to talk about something edible, I’m usually all over it. Such was the case with Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt pops (I cropped out the top of the box, which looked like a famished bear – that would be me – had ripped it open):

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    These are good, people – really good. Smooth and creamy and big enough to feel like a real treat, yet they have 6 grams of protein and only 130 calories apiece.

    Lorelei’s verdict? “YUMMMM-Y!” I knew she was hooked when I asked for a second bite and she tried to fob me off on Nicholas instead: “He’ll give you a bite of his, Mommy.”

    I tried to get a cute photo of the kids eating theirs, but the best I could do was this, which looks something like one of those indecipherable album covers from the 1980s:

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    In any event, these were a hit at our house and I will definitely be buying them again. Two small caveats:

    1) I wished there was more chocolate coating, but I kinda always wish there was more chocolate coating.

    2) At suggested retail of $4.99 – $5.49 for a box of 4 pops, they’re a bit more pricey than your standard frozen icle-type creation, so possibly impractical for larger families or those on a tight budget. But still a steal compared to hitting the local ice cream shop with the whole gang.

    In addition to peanut butter cup, which we tried, other new flavors include mint chocolate chip, chocolate fudge, dark chocolate raspberry, and sea salt caramel. I may never leave the freezer section again.

    I received a coupon for a free box of Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Pops to sample and review; this post reflects my candid impressions. I have not received any compensation for writing this review and am not otherwise affiliated with the good people at Yasso.


  6. Paper Box Pilots

    April 14, 2014 by Jennifer Carsen

    PBP_LgFnl

    I’m a pretty obscure mommy blogger, yet you’d be surprised at how many pitches I get for various things. I almost always turn them down, unless they involve fantastic family weekends in Vermont or food.

    But today I got another one that I just couldn’t say no to.

    From the time she was tiny, Lorelei has preferred playing with things around the house to actual toys – just the other day we had a magical paper plate trail leading from our living room through the kitchen.

    Nicholas, following in her footsteps, recently had to be divested of both my car keys and a lime we couldn’t pry from his tiny toddler hand (even after he bit a chunk out of it and gleefully shuddered).

    Boxes, of course, are playtime gold, as I’m sure they are at your house, too. The idea behind Paper Box Pilots is beautiful in its simplicity – stickers that your kids can affix to the big boxes they’re already flying around the house in to enhance the airplane illusion.

    And oh, by the way – the founder of the company, Noah Cahoon? He’s 13. In his email to me, he mentioned that he started the company last summer and has already sold to 47 states. The lone remaining holdouts are New Hampshire, Vermont, and Delaware.

    So, Granite State Moms! Green Mountain State Moms! And whatever you Delaware Moms call yourselves! Check out Noah’s site – cute kids (Noah and his brother, Milo), cute product (and super reasonably priced at $6.99), and a great story.

    It’s important to support budding entrepreneurial talent – even (or especially) when it’s not yet old enough to vote.

    I have not received any compensation for writing this post and am in no way affiliated with Paper Box Pilots. We’re all about editorial integrity here at Mommy Tries.


  7. Review: Ribert and Robert’s Learning League: Awesome Animals

    October 7, 2013 by Jennifer Carsen

    I recently received a lovely dual gift for review: a LeapsterGS Explorer and a new LeapFrog app, Ribert and Robert’s Learning League: Awesome Animals.

    For the uninitiated (as I was until recently), Ribert and Robert are an early-education version of the buddy film: Robert, a real-life guy, and Ribert, his insatiably curious, animated toad friend.

    Ribert and Robert are a bit of an odd couple – Ribert wants “to know everything,” while Robert is more of a stick in the mud. He initially declines the opportunity to go on a nature walk, for example, as it would mean missing his usual Saturday activity of “staying home and relaxing.” By the end of each episode, however, Ribert always brings Robert around to the value of new experiences and new ideas.

    The app features three separate 26-minute episodes of Ribert and Robert’s WonderWorld in which Ribert rides around on a rollercoaster – the WonderWorld Express – learning about a featured topic (animals, insects, and dinosaurs).

    Each episode is highly educational, featuring different segments on animals, drawing, other activities (like magic and dance), and a secret vocabulary word that is revealed at the end of the episode following the successful acquisition of three “keys” that are unlocked via correct answers to short puzzle questions (there’s an audible peanut gallery of “Power Pals” kids’ voices in each episode).

    Lorelei, my 3-year-old, was a particular fan of the keys, as well as the drawing segments – speaking as an early devotee of “happy little clouds” artist Bob Ross, I liked those, too.

    I was a bit surprised that the app wasn’t interactive – then again, my experience with apps of any type is somewhat limited, so maybe this isn’t all that unusual – but the show itself is very sweet, earnest, and engaging for young children. Lorelei is notoriously hard to pin down these days, but she raptly sat still and watched the full dinosaur episode from beginning to end (and couldn’t wait to tell me about the keys she’d collected).

    The app says it’s recommended for ages 3-6, but I personally would say it’s probably better for a slightly younger crowd – maybe the age 2.5-to-4 set – who would also benefit most greatly from the lessons on kindness and friendship that are deeply embedded throughout the show.

    As stated above, I received a complimentary LeapsterGS Explorer device and Awesome Animals app to try out and review; this post reflects my (and Lorelei’s) candid impressions. I have not received any compensation for writing this review and am not otherwise affiliated with either of these products or their companies.


  8. Book Review: Toddlers on Technology

    July 23, 2013 by Jennifer Carsen

    You may have a “Digitod” (digital toddler) if…

    …Your child asks you to “pause” a bedtime story, as Lorelei did last night.

    …Your child knows that “A is for App.”

    …Your living room features something like this on any given day:

    Lorelei, more Digibaby than Digitod, back in 2011.

    Lorelei, more Digibaby than Digitod, back in 2011.

    In their new book, Toddlers on Technology, authors Patti Wollman Summers, Ann DeSollar-Hale, and Heather Ibrahim-Leathers explore the brave new world of the “Digitod” (a wonderfully descriptive term they’ve coined): toddlers who are growing up with advanced personal electronics as part of their everyday lives.

    Unlike their parents, children of the ’70s and ’80s who were first introduced to computers around the time they started school, today’s Digitods are exposed to iPhones and iPads (and their ilk) almost from birth. And they permeate every aspect of life, from daycare to the food store to the playground. The days when there was a dedicated room for the personal computer now seem almost quaint.

    So what does all this mean for the Digitods and how they learn and develop? Quite a lot, actually. The authors are somewhat surprisingly (to me, anyway) pragmatic and pro-technology in ways you wouldn’t expect:

    There is no stopping [Digitods] from learning in this new way, so it is not a good idea to try. In fact, these children will need to be technologically literate…The most important issue is a different one. How can we, their parents and teachers, make sure that children are learning what they need to know to enhance their intelligence and still be a complete human being?

    The book advocates selecting apps that are age-appropriate, of course, but also suited to your child’s specific temperament and learning style. There are in-depth discussions and examples of twelve different learning styles, which I found fascinating even though I wasn’t able to definitively pin my kids down to any one style in particular (Lorelei is a Spiderman-loving enigma wrapped in a princess dress…and Nicholas still eats lint off the carpet. But we’ll figure it out).

    Wisely, I think, the book suggests coupling app time with “see-saw” activities designed to balance out your child’s real and digital worlds. For example, the suggested see-saw activity to accompany a “Wheels on the Bus” app is constructing a bus from paper and cardboard, as well as going on a walk to spot and count real-life buses.

    Overall, the book is a quick yet informative and engaging read. I personally wish there had been screenshots of the apps to give them more context – and the “app review” section could have been laid out in a more reader-friendly way. But the info is good, particularly the suggestions about which apps are best for which learning styles. And the companion site, www.digitod.com, provides additional info and updates.

    Now if I could just figure out where my own Digitod stashed the damn iPad.

    Author Patti Wollman Summers sent me a complimentary copy of the book to read and review; this post reflects my candid impressions. I have not received any compensation for writing this review and am not otherwise affiliated with the book’s authors.


  9. Product Review: HelloFresh

    June 18, 2013 by Jennifer Carsen

    When the nice folks at HelloFresh offered to send me a free box of food to try out and review, I accepted immediately and excitedly told Eric about it. He had some questions.

    “That’s great! What kind of food is it?”

    “Ah, um…not sure.”

    “Is it dinners?”

    “Dunno.”

    “Will you be cooking the food, or what?”

    “Urm…”

    “Let me guess – you heard nothing beyond ‘we’ll send you food.’ Am I right?”

    The man knows me too well.

    Now that I have had the full HelloFresh experience, I can fill in the blanks: It’s a subscription service that sends you, in a single chill-pack box, the ingredients for three complete dinners each week (for two, four, or six people).

    Meals contain both meats and veggies (or just veggies, if you pick the vegetarian option), as well as complete recipes and instructions. Happily, they don’t assume you have a pantry full of staples that rivals Martha Stewart’s. Other than butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, and sugar, everything you need to make your meals is in the box.

    They also give you exactly enough ingredients to make the specified meals. You won’t wind up with a huge bottle of barely touched balsamic vinegar, for example, or a big pile of wilting basil. I found this reassuring.

    When our box arrived and I dug into the contents, Eric and I were duly impressed. “We’re going to eat like kings!” Eric exclaimed. And, in fact, we did.

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    The portions were very generous, easily enough to feed me, Eric, and the always-ravenous Lorelei. (Nicholas, alas, was in bed before dinner all three nights – and still eats mush most of the time – so was therefore unable to weigh in on the HelloFresh experience.)

    Day 1: Balsamic steak with garlic zucchini. 

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    Lorelei’s verdict: “You did it well, Mommy!”

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    Day 2: Pasta with snap peas, basil & spinach.

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    Lorelei’s verdict: No official statement from the peanut, though she did abscond with – and consume – many of the snap peas before I could get the meal cooked.

    Day 3: Chicken with mushrooms.

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    Lorelei’s verdict: Ate the chicken (with ketchup) but was unimpressed with the mushrooms; gave one a half-assed try and then demanded “a special surprise” (i.e., dessert) for her trouble.

    Personally, I loved the HelloFresh experience, and not just because they sent me free food (though that certainly didn’t hurt). I was impressed with the whole presentation, as well as the quality and freshness of the ingredients, and I liked the recipes. You can also keep and use the recipe cards again for future meals, if you like.

    Eric pointed out that this is a great way to get out of the rut of making the same few dinners over and over. And I was surprised how nice it was to have dinner in the fridge and almost all set to go every night.

    You still have to do the actual cooking, of course, but oftentimes it’s the shopping/measuring/deciding that makes getting a meal on the table night after night seem daunting.

    If you have never cooked a meal from scratch before, HelloFresh is not for you. Nor would it be ideal for the brand-new mom who is too exhausted to even comb her own hair, or the bachelor who’s happy to leave a congealed pizza out on the counter and work off that for a few nights.

    But for anyone with even a little cooking experience, who likes the idea (but not the hassle) of eating more veggies and home-cooked meals during the week but doesn’t have a ton of time to spare, HelloFresh is a great option. And Mommy Tries readers can get $30 off their first box with this special code: SBWSGBX.

    Happy cooking!

    As mentioned above, HelloFresh provided me with a free box of their food to cook and review. This post reflects my candid impressions of their product.


  10. And the Winner…

    April 5, 2013 by Jennifer Carsen

    …of our I Just Want To Pee Alone giveaway, selected at random, is Rhonda! Congrats, Rhonda – I will email you privately to get your address and send your book out shortly.

    Thanks so much for everyone’s entries and great comments! I’ll try to do another book giveaway soon; they’re a lot of fun.