Wednesday, December 30, 2009

simplehuman - Review

Touch-Free Soap Pump

With all the germs and super-viruses floating around, I think we’re all getting a bit paranoid, especially when it comes to bathrooms. We’ve been told and shown a number of times the unseen, lurking germs on faucet handles, toilets, sinks and yes, even our soap dispensers.

So I was thrilled when simplehuman came out with a hands-free soap dispenser. Beautifully designed to fit into any décor, and so easy to fill and use, I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t proudly display this state-of-the-art product.

Here’s how it works. Simply add the batteries, fill with you favourite liquid soap, set the volume dial for how much soap you want dispensed and you’re ready to go. Your guests will thank you when they swipe their hand under your beautiful bathroom dispenser and like magic the soap is squirted out.

No fuss. No mess. And most importantly…No GERMS.

Simplehuman also carries a full line of other bathroom and kitchen aids like;
• recycle bins
• bathroom caddy’s
• canister garbage receptacles
• grocery bag holders
• dish racks
• and so much more

To see simplehuman’s full line of household-helpers, visit their web site at;

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Return to Sawyerton - Review

The quirkiness of a small town is brought to life among the pages of ‘Return to Sawyerton Springs.’ Based on Andy Andrews real life, this book draws you into a what a small community is really like. Even though it’s based in a small town, you don’t have to be from one in order to appreciate the story behind Sawyerton Springs….

…”It is a place where the paper comes out once a week, and everyone already know what’s in it. When the pastor speaks on Sunday morning, his congregation already knows what he will say. As the children bring home their report cards, the parents already know their grades. This is a place of character and love and memories. Good memories…”

Whether it’s the idiosyncrasies of the town folk, or the way in which a small town newspaper and businesses are run, Andrews humour and love for this town is prevalent throughout. I found myself at least smiling if not laughing out loud several times. This book will even have you reflecting back on your own childhood – Halloween fun, fears of staying alone for the first time, camping, ghost stories and strange neighbours, it has it all.

In addition to a great read, ‘Return to Sawyerton Springs,’ also has a ‘Readers Guide’ at the very back, with general questions on every chapter. This is perfect for book clubs or even for further personal reflection.

Return to Sawyerton Springs by Andy Andrews is available at all major bookstores or on any electronic location.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas from Our Family to Yours.
May your day be Merry and Bright, filled with peace and love :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder of

By Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder of

Gift-giving can be confusing, especially when it comes to caregivers and other service providers. Determining the etiquette behind finding the right gift for the right person is a tough challenge! I've put together a few tips and tricks to help guide your family when it comes thanking your caregivers this holiday season.

Tips for Child Care Providers:

• Nannies and Au Pairs: If you have a full-time nanny, offer them a tip or a "Christmas bonus" that reflects 10-15 percent of one week's pay.

• Regular babysitters: If you have a regular, go-to sitter who takes care of your children regularly, thank her (or him!) with a tip or a gift ranging from one or two night's pay—whatever equals about a week's worth of service.

• Coaches, tutors, and instructors: I always like to have Adam involved in thanking his teachers with a small gift or a thank-you card and a gift certificate.

• Pet sitters: If you have someone regularly take care of your animals while you're at work or traveling, say thank you with a week's pay. And if your dog is like Blake and Sydney and requires regular visits to a groomer, don't forget them, either!

• Home-care attendants and caregivers: I suggest a thank-you of one week's pay, but give two weeks for extra special care or long-term service.

If money is tight, you can be creative about saying thank you for your regular caregivers. Often, families give them a few extra days in paid time off to use throughout the year. Your cost remains the same, but you don't have to worry about finding extra funds for gifts around the holidays.

But beyond the care providers you can find on, there are a lot of folks out there who bring care into our lives and deserve an extra thank you. Some of these people can be forgotten during the holidays—but not by you!

Other People You Should Tip:

• School bus drivers: I find they're often overlooked. A small thank you (a $10 gift certificate and a card signed by your children) is a nice "something extra" in December.

• Service industries: Think of the people that make your home life a little easier—your mail and newspaper delivery people and garbage collectors While you don't have to necessarily tip them a week's wage or the price of a recycling pickup, I always try to help them feel special around the holidays. A nice card with a $10 gift certificate for coffee or a plate of fresh cookies goes far when it's cold outside!

• Maintenance people: If you've hired a regular landscaper or have a building manager that regularly does work around the property, shovels walkways, and plows driveways, let them know they're appreciated. It doesn't have to be much—just slip 10-15% extra in their December bill as a thank you.

• Housekeepers: If you have a regular housekeeper or house cleaner, tell them thank you by giving them an extra week's pay during the holiday season. But if you only hire one for occasional tidying up, it's okay to just wish them a verbal "Happy Holidays!"

• Baristas/clerks: Some of us have those regular spots that we visit daily for our morning coffee or bagel. If you're used to seeing the same person and they give you great service, say thanks! Buy them a cup and give them a card. They'll be surprised, and pleased, by your consideration.

Again, just like mom always said, "It's the thought that counts." Don't feel like you have to get caught up in what you give or how much it cost. The point is to show gratitude for the people who matter to you and your family.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Whoops Bunny

Interview with Founder, Maude Humphris

We all try so hard to avoid mistakes in our lives that we sometimes forget they can be fun. Just ask Whoops Bunny’s Founder and President, Maude Humphris and she’ll tell you…a Whoops doesn’t discriminate, it unifies us all.

Having had her fill of the big corporate rat-race in Sydney Australia as a catalogue retailer, managing a procurement team for everything from toys to furniture & consumer electronics, Maude says, “The stress was phenomenal and non-sustainable and I really missed my kids.”

So when the opportunity to move to the USA arose, they jumped at the chance and moved to the mountains of Park City, Utah. “I love the change of pace,” Maude says. “The people here are so friendly and supportive. I enjoy being part of a community after years of being in the office and [also] being at home with my kids.”

Soon after her move tragedy struck her family. Maude confides, “For the first 6 months, I was settling in but really wanted to still do something work-wise without working for another big corporation. My step-father died around that time and left me some money; it was basically a decision of going on a holiday to Disneyland or trying to set up a company.”

Whoops Bunny-to-Be

Why vacation when you can embark on a whole new destiny? Maude continues, “Shortly after, my parents-in-law came to visit, my mother-in-law taught Edward, my then 3 year old, an old rhyme she had been taught in England by her uncle, nicknamed Bunny. It went like this, bunny, bunny, whoops bunny, whoops bunny, bang, bang, bang!

And so…Once upon a time a little bunny had a ‘whoops’. The bunny was jumping across the fingers on a hand and whoops…almost slipped off.

This simply children’s song soon turned into the basis for the entire Whoops Bunny philosophy. Maude says, “It was easy to develop a brand story with the products being related to a whoops - either to stop one or help with one.”

Whoops Bunny Now

With a full catalogue of eco-friendly products from stationery and organizational tools to gorgeous, all natural make-up for kids of all ages, vibrant, sturdy melamine dishware, non-fray hair accessories, practical yet fun gear: rain wear/chef apparel/play clothes/purses, Whoops Bunny continues to work.

Maude adds, “The most amazing thing about setting up this company is the involvement of my kids and their friends. Every day they have an idea for Whoops Bunny - a bit wacky, but some real jewels among them [that] are now part of our business plan for 2011.”

Where is Whoops Bunny?

Even though Whoops Bunny products are available at their web site, Maude reminds us that, “We have some stores already in Park City [Utah] but are in the process of appointing a sales force across the USA. They will then sell on our behalf into pretty much every kind of retailer.”

Maude finishes by telling us, “Once you start thinking about a whoops, it becomes contagious. I have people stopping me from every walk of life telling me what whoops they have had and what whoops product they want me to develop! I am really proud of the business and our values and product line-up. I can't wait to get Whoops Bunny out there!”

To find out more about Whoops Bunny or to view their full product line, visit their web site at

Friday, December 18, 2009

Five ways for parents to teach children the true spirit of the holidays

The holiday gift-giving season is an appropriate time to involve children in charitable giving and teach them why the old adage, “It is better to give than to receive,” is true. Here are five great ways for parents to lead by example and teach their children the true spirit of the holidays.

1. As a family, select a charitable organization you'd like to support. Use online tools like Charity Navigator to find an organization that you trust. Give your children a budget and encourage them to decide how your family will donate to that organization this holiday.

2. Cherish the stories of your family. Have your children talk to their grandparents and write down the stories of their past. Create a book to share with the entire family or record it online through Story Corps.

3. Consider do-it-yourself gifts, like no-sew fleece blankets, that you can make with your children. Donate those blankets to a local homeless shelter. Find other homemade gift ideas at’s Family Crafts page.

4. Work with your children to create a coupon book for your neighbors that might need an extra hand this year. Coupons could include shoveling their sidewalk, watching their children, or providing a meal.

5. Bake cookies or sweets with your children and deliver them to your local nursing home or school-in-need. Get started with this list of holiday recipes.

Devin Hermanson, a charitable giving expert and national director of World Vision’s Gift Catalog, is seeing a return to meaningful giving through the Gift Catalog. Despite the recession, Gift Catalog sales are higher than last year's figures at this time.

"The holiday season can be a stressful time of year. There are gifts to purchase and wrap, cookies to bake, and family and friends to visit, but when we pause to help our neighbors in need, we all experience Christmas in a more meaningful way," says Hermanson.

For each item in World Vision’s Gift Catalog, the giver makes the purchase in the name of a friend, family member or business associate. World Vision then sends special cards to those individuals, describing the gifts and their impact. Last year alone, World Vision’s Gift Catalog raised $25 million and provided assistance to more than 500,000 people worldwide. The Gift Catalog launched in 1996, and while a goat ($75) is still World Vision’s number one seller, there are many affordable items for $35 or less.

For more information, visit

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Decrease Pain and Inflammation Naturally

Each year, the use of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), account for an estimated 7,600 deaths and 76,000 hospitalizations in the United States. NSAIDs include: aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, ketoprofen, and tiaprofenic acid. Researchers are now linking inflammation to an ever-wider array of chronic illnesses such as hay fever, heart disease, depression, diabetes and colon cancer. Practitioner, Dr. Steven Arculeo, DC, suggests cleaning up your kitchen cabinets to help alleviate pain and inflammation without the risky use of NSAIDS.

Foods often found in kitchens that cause inflammation in the body and should be avoided include:

· Hydrogenated or Trans Fats
· Processed foods
· Caffeine
· Red Meat
· Sugar
· Soda
· Alcohol

Instead, fill your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, lean meats and cooking ingredients which can decrease inflammation and rid yourself of sickness and pain:

· Apples & Blueberries: these fruits are packed full of nutrients and are natural anti-inflammatories
· Kale: contains over 80 nutrients per serving
· Fish: one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods, fish contains heart healthy and anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. Choose cod, salmon or tilapia instead of the fatty deep water bottom dweller fish such as shrimp or catfish
· Ginger: aids in digestion
· Garlic: lowers hypertension and cholesterol
· Basil, Parsley, Rosemary, Turmeric, Thyme, Chili Peppers & Cinnamon: all are proven to have anti-inflammatory properties
· Oil: use cold pressed extra virgin olive oil to aid in decreasing inflammation

For more information visit Chicago Helaers at

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Gift of Three; Secret Giving Strategy

By Guest Blogger, Jennifer Melnick Carota

I bet you’d like to make a splash on your next gift giving occasion but don’t want to spend a fortune? Try my super secret gift giving technique called “The Gift of Three” and make your gift giving experience more personal, affordable, and memorable. Better yet, the Gift of Three strategy is fun and easy…anyone on any budget can do it!

1. *Think of an experience that you would like to give rather than a specific gift. For example, if you would like to give the experience of relaxation to a special lady on your list, you can begin you build a theme around a home spa or pampering experience.

2. *Choose one central gift that will be the foundation or centerpiece of the gift experience. Remember, you are building a gift with three crucial components. This gift should be the main focus.

3. *Choose two smaller gifts that will tie the theme together. To save major moolah, consider making gift items by hand, baking gifts from your kitchen, or pull from your emergency gift stash. Re-gifting is OK, but make sure the item is in excellent condition or has a clear sentimental value. Just make sure they fit in with your theme, and you’ll be amazed at the results!

For Example: The Gift of Family Time

Gift One: A family friendly DVD the entire family can watch together
Gift Two: A board game or jigsaw puzzle the family can build together
Gift Three: A disposable camera to take pictures throughout the evening and capture precious memories at the same time!

For more great gift ideas please visit my blog at for creative gifts and gift giving themes using “the Gift of Three (3)” technique.

Jennifer Melnick Carota (a.k.a. the Gift Therapist) is an expert gift giver and bargain shopper featured nationally in major market gift guides, personal finance websites, and lifestyle columns throughout the US and Canada. Check out her new free holiday gift giving survival guide, ‘Giveology’ and learn how to spend less but give more!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Luggage Charms - Don't Travel Without Them

Looking for a unique gift for the traveller on your list? Check out Luggage Charms by My Charmed Life.

These sturdy decorative tags will make finding your luggage at the airport or bus station fast and easy. The long, durable ribbon can easily be fastened to any handle, and the laminated tag is large enough to put all your contact information on in case your luggage is lost.

Luggage Charms come in a variety of styles and colours. You can choose a themed tag (e.g. golfing, baby, bridal, or tennis) or get a monogrammed one for that extra personal touch.

Not sure a Luggage Charm is what you’re looking for? No problem. My Charmed Life has a wide selection of merchandise from bracelets and necklaces to pins, key rings, zipper pulls, and so much more.

Still can’t decide? My Charmed Life also offers gift cards.

So don’t waste another moment! Pop on over to My Charmed Life at

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Winter - Time to think about that Snowboard

By Dr. Margaret Lewin – Medical Director, Cinergy Health (

With all the inconveniences of winter (driving and walking on rain and ice-slicked roads, dressing in clumsy layers so you’re not too cold outside and not too warm inside, feeling weighed down by the gray skies) , your thoughts just might be going farther north – where the cold and the snow can be enjoyed on the slopes! The following are a few tips for enjoying some healthy time on that S.N.O.W.B.O.A.R.D.!

Stay away from sick people – at least 3 to 6 feet, when possible. If the passenger next to you on the plane is coughing and sneezing, and you can’t change seats, offer him a packet of tissues and turn the air vent toward him.

Never go outside without wearing a good sunscreen. The combination of high altitude and reflected light from the snow expose you to significant damaging UVA and UVB rays. Not only is sun exposure a risk for skin cancers, but it’s also a major cause of pre-mature wrinkling. (Just look at the skin of the year-long ‘ski bums’ around you – they’re probably at least 10 years younger than you’d predict by looking at the lines and crevices on their faces!)

Obtain your flu shot(s) at least two weeks before your travel, so you have time to rev up your immune system for your trip.

Wash your hands scrupulously before touching your face or eating. There are only two ways to catch a cold or the flu: by getting the virus from an ill person’s sneezing or coughing directly at you, or by his coughing into his hand and then touching a doorknob or banister which you yourself touch – picking up the virus. Once you touch your face or food with that contaminated hand, you’re well on your way to spending part of your well-deserved vacation huddled under the covers alone except for some aspirin and a cup of lukewarm chicken soup… looking wistfully out the window at the happy, healthy skiers.

Be sure to get enough sleep and fluids. Winter vacations can be physically exhausting, and your system needs enough rest for you to enjoy the next day’s activities. You also need plenty of fluids to compensate for the dry, cold air outside and the warm dry air in front of the fireplace.

Over-the-counter vitamin D (at least 800IU daily) is thought to offer some protection against colds and the flu. (You also need vitamin D for good bone health, and it may even offer some protection against the eventual development of heart disease and dementia.)

Allow plenty of time to get in shape before your trip, concentrating on exercises which protect your knees, hips and balance.

Remember to check your health insurance when you schedule your vacation. Make sure that you’re generously covered for medical evacuation… just in case. If your policy isn’t adequate, take a look at such internet sites as to find inexpensive travel health and accident coverage.

Don’t forget to eat healthily just because you’re on vacation. You will have burned up about 400 calories every hour you’ve skied, giving you the chance to sneak in some extra calories during the day. Aim for light, healthy snacks (such as fruit or trail mix) – remembering that you don’t ski your best on a very full stomach. You really can eat your evening meal healthily without feeling deprived by following a few simple rules.

· Eat slowly – it takes at least 20 minutes to ‘feel full’, so you’ll eat less and enjoy it more if you just slow down.

· Skip the bread (or share a piece)

· Order a great salad as an appetizer – dressing on the side

· Choose any fabulous main course (as long as it’s not fried) – sauce on the side

· Share your dessert

· Order wine by the glass so you and your companion won’t feel compelled to finish the bottle.

So enjoy the sun, enjoy the slopes, enjoy the food, and have a wonderful, healthy time on that S.N.O.W.B.O.A.R.D.!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Winter - Get Ready for Some BEACHTIME!

By Dr. Margaret Lewin – Medical Director, Cinergy Health (

As the weather gets colder, the snow shovel’s at the front door, you can’t find warm enough gloves, and the car’s heater takes forever to warm up, your vacation thoughts just might be going south to some sun and surf. The following are a few tips for enjoying some healthy B.E.A.C.H.T.I.M.E.!

Be sure to use sunscreen whenever you’re outdoors and cover up during the sunniest part of the day. Not only is sun exposure a risk for skin cancers in the long term, but it’s a major cause of pre-mature wrinkling in the shorter term. (Just take a look at the unprotected middle-aged faces sharing the sun with you –they’re probably at least 10 years younger than you’d predict by looking at their skin.)

Eat healthily. One of the great attractions of travel is eating all those wonderful new foods, tastefully prepared by someone other than yourself. You really can eat healthily without feeling deprived by following a few simple rules.

· Eat slowly – it takes at least 20 minutes to ‘feel full’, so you’ll eat less and enjoy it more if you just slow down

· Skip the bread (or share a piece)

· Order a great salad as an appetizer – dressing on the side

· Choose any fabulous main course (as long as it’s not fried) – sauce on the side

· Share your dessert – or order some wonderful tropical fruit

· Order wine by the glass so you and your companion won’t feel compelled to finish the bottle

Always wash your hands carefully before eating and before touching your face. There is only one way to catch a cold or the flu: by getting the virus directly from an ill person’s sneezing or coughing directly at you, or by his coughing into his hand then touching a doorknob or banister which you yourself touch, picking up the virus. Once you touch your face or food with that hand, you’re well on your way to spending part of your long-awaited vacation huddled under the covers alone except for some aspirin and a cup of lukewarm chicken soup.

Check the weather reports for your destination, so that you take proper layers of clothing in case of inclement weather.

Have all your medications in your carry-on luggage to prevent missing doses if there are unexpected delays or your checked luggage gets lost.

Take with you a list of all your medications (and their doses) and any allergies; and put the list - together with your doctor’s business card - in your wallet… just in case.

Inspect your health insurance policy before you leave, making sure that you’re covered during your trip. If not, take a look at such internet sites as to find inexpensive travel health and accident coverage.

Make sure to get your flu shot(s) at least two weeks before your travel, so it has time to rev up your immune system for your trip.

Expect delays during your travel, and take healthy snacks with you so you’re not dependent on the unhealthy (and expensive) fast foods available when winter weather slows air and ground traffic.

So enjoy the sun, enjoy the water, enjoy the food, and have a wonderful, healthy T.I.M.E. at the B.E.A.C.H.!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Great Games Book - Contest

Christmas is here, and as we all know, that means trying to find gifts for family and friends. If you are looking for gift ideas that are different, fun, and meaningful - then I have the perfect solution for you. My friend Matthew Toone just published a book entitled: "Great Games! 175 Games & Activities for Families, Groups, & Children." This book is literally full of fun game and activity ideas for people of all ages, groups of all sizes, and there are games for any category or setting. You can check it out at:

3 lucky people, however, will get a free copy of 'Great Games.' In order to be entered into the contest to win a free copy, simply send me a one paragraph response about a time where you played games with your family or friends and it created a fun memory, strengthened relationships, or simply brought your family closer together. The deadline to send your story in is Dec 15th. If your story is chosen, you will win a free copy of 'Great Games'
Please send your entry to with 'Games Contest' in the subject line.
Good Luck :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

True Stories About Saving Animals - Review

What do a smelly puppy, a three-legged cat, an abandoned kitten, and two orphan owls have in common?

They’ve all been rescued and live on a one hundred-year-old farm with Old Farmer Samuel and his wife, Cheri. And they’ve all had books made out of their stories.

Read about these lovable misfits in the four-book series, which comprises Stinky Little Scroungy, Our Orphaned Owls, The Three-Legged Kitten, and The Miracle of the Little Kitten. Published by Little Five Star, a division of Five Star Publications, these books are written for ages 3–8 but are sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone who loves animals. Written and illustrated by Samuel Lopez himself (Farmer Samuel), these delightful books not only tell the tales of each of these rescued critters, but you’ll also find a sweet mixture of illustrations and real-life photography among their pages.

“Samuel and his wife, Cheri Lopez, founded Compassionate Pet Sanctuary as a haven for lost, abandoned, and injured animals. Over the years, they have rescued hundreds of dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, owls, goats, geese, and other animals.” The ones that aren’t placed in their loving forever homes are always kept safe and nurtured on the old farm. The proceeds from these wonderful books go directly to supporting Compassionate Pet Sanctuary.

Stinky Little Scroungy: When Farmer Samuel’s nephew, Mossy, takes a walk down the country road he happens upon a large cardboard box filled with rags. Mossy wonders what could possibly be so smelly in the box. When he opens it, to his amazement there’s a small, sickly puppy buried amongst the old clothe. The puppy is near death, but Mossy knows just what to do. It’s back to the farm where Aunt Cheri and Uncle Samuel jump into action.

Our Orphaned Owls: Every year on the hundred-year-old farm, the owl family makes a nest high up in the huge eucalyptus tree not far from the house. However, when a brutal storm with icy winds and cold rain pummels the nest for five days, Mom Owl soon abandons her babies, with Dad Owl not far behind. How can these orphaned birds survive? It’s Farmer Samuel and Cheri to the rescue once again.

The Three-Legged Kitten: Tossed out of a speeding car and left to die in a junk yard, a little kitten finds the strength and courage to go on. With a little help from Farmer Samuel and Cheri, Tri-Ike the three-legged kitten finds a new home and a real chance at happiness.

The Miracle of the Little Kitten: After several days of hearing the mewing sound of what can only be a kitten, Farmer Samuel knows he has to find it. But it’s Stinky Little Scroungy who finally solves the mystery when she shows up one morning with a tiny, cold, stiff kitten in her mouth. Once again Farmer Samuel and Cheri know exactly what to do.

This four-book series, True Stories About Saving Animals, is available at bookstores or through,,,,,, and To find out more, visit the web site at


*Stories for Children Publishing, LLC. (SFC) and its divisions do not receive any compensation for product reviews beyond a sample and/or limited access to a paid website. SFC donates all books sent for review to a charitable organization. SFC may do a contest or giveaway of samples we receive.