Category Archives: Reviews

BodyMedia FIT LINK Armband: Review

BodyMedia FIT Armband Review

Anyone who has made an effort to lose weight and get in shape knows that it can be quite the challenge.  In theory it’s so simple – eat healthier, cut out some calories and exercise.  But in practice it’s all a little more complicated.  How many calories should you be eating?  How much exercise do you need to reach your goals?  How do you get motivated on those days when you’re just not feeling it?

Losing a bit of weight and getting fit are two of my biggest goals for the year.  Since January I’ve been making an effort to make better food choices and get up off the couch.  I bought an inexpensive pedometer and made it a goal to reach 10,000 steps each day and most days I get there.  Without too much effort, I dropped about five pounds.  Then I hit a standstill.  Frustration was setting in, so I jumped at the opportunity to test out a BodyMedia FIT Armband, a wearable device that is designed to eliminate the guesswork and help you get results.

BodyMedia FIT LINK ArmbandThe BodyMedia Armband is designed to be worn up to 23 hours a day, and syncs with your computer via USB cable.  Using four sensors, the armband measures motion, heat flux, skin temperature and galvanic skin response.  These measurements are used to track calorie burn, physical activity, steps taken and even your sleep duration and efficiency.  You can view your activity as well as track your food consumption via the online Activity Manager, giving you a full picture of your daily calorie intake and expenditure.

There are two armband models to choose from, each with its own benefits.  The CORE Armband is sleeker, 1/3 smaller in size.  The LINK Armband is Bluetooth enabled, to deliver real time data to your mobile device via the BodyMedia FIT App for Android and iOS.  I opted for the LINK Armband as the Bluetooth capability was very appealing to me.

Getting started with the BodyMedia FIT system is fairly simple. Log into the online Activity Manager and enter some basic information including your gender, height and weight. You can then choose a goal: Lose Weight, Maintain Weight or Get Active. I set my goal as weight loss and soon I had a plan for losing 1.5 lbs a week: a personalized calorie target and an activity goal to help reach a daily 750 calorie deficit. Seeing my results on a daily basis has been very motivational for me, I’m driven to reach that daily activity target.

BodyMedia Activity Manager GoalsIt does take a bit of time to get used to wearing the armband day and night.  I feel a little self-conscious wearing the armband out in public, though this is a small price to pay for fitness.  That said, the armband wouldn’t be my first choice accessory for a little black dress and I do have a few long sleeved shirts for layering that simply won’t fit comfortably with the armband on.  Fortunately the weather is warming up and casual tees and tank tops will be my uniform for months.

Having used several other websites to track my food intake in the past, I’ve been spoiled by the their extensive food databases.  I was unable to find many of the foods I eat on a regular basis in the system and entering all of the calorie and nutrition values can be time consuming.  The good news is that once you enter a food into the system, it will always be there for future use.

BodyMedia FIT Dashboard

There is no doubt that I’m getting a much clearer picture of my physical activity with the armband than I was before.  Where before I was simply focused on reaching the 10,000 step mark, now I can see the difference it makes in calorie burn when I walk faster or run.  I don’t have to guess how many calories I’m burning when I torture myself with a Jillian Michaels video.  I have noticed that the step count I get on the armband is not accurate.  Wearing both the armband and a pedometer which I know to be accurate resulted in big discrepancies.  I’m not sure if this is to be expected from the armbands in general or just something off with mine.  Being that the goal here is calories burned and not steps taken, this isn’t a dealbreaker.

The BodyMedia FIT LINK Armband retails from $179 from the BodyMedia website and at retailers including Amazon.com.  Included with the armband is a three month subscription for the online Activity Manager, a subscription fee of $6.95 will be billed monthly thereafter.

If you are serious about losing weight and getting fit, a BodyMedia Armband is definitely worth a look.  You may find that it’s worth the investment.

Disclosure: I was provided with a BodyMedia FIT Armband and trial subscription for review purposes.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Just For U – New Personalized Savings Program from Vons

Vons Blogger Event

Chances are you have a few store loyalty or “club” cards hanging around your wallet.  They are a necessity if you want to get the best prices when you shop for groceries.  Until now, using your card simply enabled you to get the sale price on your purchases.  The tracking of purchases on your card helped the store learn about your shopping habits, but it didn’t do anything for you.  Vons has launched a new savings program that will make that purchase history work in your favor.  I recently had the opportunity to spend a day at Vons headquarters, joining some other So. Cal bloggers to learn all about the new Just For U program.  We spent the morning getting the scoop on the program, then headed to a local store to try it out for ourselves.  I’m excited to share the details of the program and help you take advantage of some extra savings on your grocery bill.

Vons Just For U Signup

Signing up for Just For U is easy, simply go to Vons.com and click the “Register Now” button.  It takes just a minute or two, you can use either your Vons Club card number or phone number for registration.  Just for signing up you’ll score your first big savings – a FREE dozen eggs!

Once you are signed up and logged in, you’ll see that there are three different ways to save with Just For U.

Just For U Coupon Center

  • Coupon Center – In the Coupon Center you’ll find digital store and manufacturer coupons that you can add to your Vons Club card.  You can browse through all pages of coupons or sort them by category. Some coupons are valid for one time use, others are unlimited until the end date of the promotion.  You have to love coupons that you don’t have to actually clip and carry with you to the store.

Just For U Personalized Savings

  • Personalized Deals -  The Personalized Deals section is my favorite component of Just For U.  In this area, you’ll find unique offers that draw from your Vons purchase history.
  • Your Club Specials – Vons offers hundreds of Club Specials every week.  In this area of the website, you’ll find the current Club Specials filtered to include just those items you have purchased in the past.  You’ll find the deals that are relevant to you without having to search through pages of items you don’t buy.

Once you’ve added all the savings to your card, you can print out a shopping list to take with you to the store or opt to have it e-mailed to you.  Most store locations now have Wi-Fi, making it easy to access your shopping list via smartphone.  At checkout, simply hand over your Vons Club card or enter your phone number as usual and all of the savings you’ve added to your card will be deducted automatically.

The Personalized Deals and Coupon Center are updated on a regular basis, and the Club Card Specials are updated each week as the new weekly ad comes out.  You can maximize your savings by stacking manufacturer’s coupons with the Personalized Deals and Club Card Specials.  When using both digital and paper coupons, note that you cannot use both on the same item, but whichever coupon will give you the best deal will apply.

My Personal Experience with Just For U

For the record, I had not been doing much of my grocery shopping at Vons in recent history.  We made some changes in our diet a year or so ago, buying more natural and organic products.  At the time that we implemented these changes, it seemed that Vons didn’t have a wide variety of these types or items in stock or the prices were higher than I could find elsewhere.  The weekly ads rarely seemed to include organics.  I was pleased to find upon visiting the store during the VIP Blogger Event that natural and organic products seemed plentiful and prices were competitive.  I knew immediately that I would be doing more of my shopping at Vons in the future.  Due to my limited Vons Club purchase history, my Personalized Savings are a little thin and generic at the moment.  As I continue to shop more at Vons, I look forward to seeing more deals tailored to me. So far I’ve made three shopping trips with Just For U and I’ve been pleased with the savings.  Using the website makes it easy to plan my trip and helps me get organized.

Have you signed up for Just For U?  How are you liking the program?

Disclosure:  I was invited to a VIP Blogger Event for the purposes of learning about Vons Just For U program.  As a thank you for attending, I received samples of house brand products and a Vons gift card.  All opinions expressed here are my own.

RedEnvelope.com – A Luxurious Online Experience

 

I love giving gifts, whether it’s for Valentine’s Day, a birthday, anniversary, bridal shower or just because. A gift is a way to show people in your life you care. Many of my friends and family are easy to shop for and often a gift card will suffice. Then there are others who are a bit more challenging – they have everything. We all have people like that in our lives, don’t we?

I have friends who love RedEnvelope.com but I had never once shopped there myself, so this time around I decided to visit their site and take a look. The first thing that struck me was that their website was easy to navigate and everything looked wonderful. I spent quite a while perusing all the pretty jewelry, clothing, baby items, keepsakes and gourmet goods. I still didn’t even scratch the surface of all the unique gifts they had to offer. During my search something caught my eye – the Heart on a Sleeve Sweater.  I couldn’t resist giving myself a little early Valentine’s Day gift.

This sweater is made of silk and cashmere and the reviews on the website said it was very, very comfy. They also said the sizes tended to run small so I should order a size larger to be sure of a good fit.  The sweater just came today (a day earlier than expected) and I have to say it is very soft to the touch and it looked exactly like the picture online. I am thankful for the reviews because it does look like the sweater runs small just like the previous customers said. I like the cheekiness of the subtle statement it makes – I wonder if people will catch its meaning when they see it?

All in all I am very, very pleased with my experience at RedEnvelope.com. It is refreshing to not only find a website that is well organized and easy to order from, but one that has creative and unique gifts that will help me find something for that special someone that is difficult to shop for. I received a luxurious sweater from a luxurious website.

I’ll Never Buy Another Textbook

CampusTextbookRentals.com Logo

Thinking back to my college days, one of the things I dreaded the most was the trip to the bookstore each semester.   Shelling out hundreds of dollars on textbooks was hardly the highlight of my college experience.   I chose used books when they were available, but the discounts were small.  I scoured the bulletin boards on campus hoping to find a student selling the titles I needed for less than what the bookstore wanted.  Once I was finished with the books, I could sell them back to the bookstore for a fraction of the price I had paid or deal with the hassles of trying to sell them myself.  Several times I went to sell the books to only to find that a new version had been released and the resale value of my book had dropped significantly.

These days, there are more options.  You can buy new and used textbooks online.  Even better, you can rent them for a fraction of the cost.  CampusBookRentals.com offers textbook rentals at a savings of up to 90%. Ordering online is simple and you’ll receive your books in 7-14 business days (expedited shipping is available at an additional cost).  Once you finish your class, simply return the book in the prepaid envelope provided.

Here’s a humorous yet helpful video that answers many frequently asked questions about textbook rental.

Benefits of Textbook Rental from CampusBookRentals.com

  • Free Shipping Both Ways
  • 30 Day Risk Free Returns
  • Flexible Renting Periods
  • Large Selection
  • You can highlight in the books

CampusBookRentals.com has teamed up with Operation Smile, an organization that performs life changing cleft lip surgeries on children whose families could not otherwise afford the procedures.  For every book rented, a portion of the proceeds is donated, towards a goal of funding at least 1,000 of these life changing surgeries.

If you or someone you know is heading back to school this semester, check into textbook rental.  You have better places to spend your money than on overpriced textbooks!

Summer Grilling with Mrs. Dash

Grilled Mexican Chicken

I’m not sure what I like best about summer – the long sunny days, having my husband (a teacher) home to help wrangle the kids, shorts and tank tops, playing in the sprinklers…it’s a long list.  Somewhere near the top has to be the days when I give the kitchen a break and turn over dinner duty to the man of the house who’ll make many a tempting meal on the grill in the back yard.  As I mentioned a few months back, we’ve been experimenting with Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blends and they definitely do a great job of bringing a little spice to the grill.

Using the Mrs. Dash Grilling Blends for Hamburger, Chicken and Steak is pretty much a no-brainer – mix some into your ground beef or rub it on to the chicken and steak and you’re done.  For a bit more variety, I’ve been mixing in some new recipes and thought I’d share a couple that were big hits with my family.   That chicken you see above is Grilled Mexican Chicken, delicious on its own, even better as fajitas.  The Southwest Chipotle Blend may well be my favorite of the Mrs. Dash line.  I prepped the chicken myself, but passed the grilling duties along to the expert.

Grilled Mexican Chicken
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 40 min
Cook Time : 10 min
Ready In: 50 min
Ingredients
2 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash® Southwest Chipotle Blend
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 half red onion, slivered
4 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. black pepper
cooking spray
Directions
1. Gently pound chicken breast halves to 1/4 inch consistency.
2. Toss with Mrs. Dash® Southwest Chipotle Blend, red onion, garlic and pepper. Let stand 30 minutes at room temperature.
3. Preheat grill or cast iron grill plate. Spray with cooking spray.
4. Cook chicken about 4-5 minutes on each side. Carefully mark on both sides turning evenly for equal lines to form cross marks. Remove.
5. Rest partially covered with foil.
Nutritional Information
Calories: 152
Total Fat: 3 g
Trans Fat: 0 g
Sodium: 65 mg
Potassium: 316 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 2 g
Protein: 27 g

This chicken may be little spicy for some, but if you like a good kick you’re sure to enjoy it.

Another recipe that has become a fast favorite in my house are these potato wedges.  They make an easy side dish for hamburgers and I can whip them up while my husband grills.

Baked Potato Wedges

Crispy Baked Potato Wedges
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Ready In: 40 min
Ingredients
2 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash® Original Blend
4 medium-sized red potatoes, cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, slivered
juice of half a lemon
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
2. Dry potato wedges on paper towels, rub with 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1/2 Tbsp. Mrs. Dash® Original Blend.
3. Roast on baking pan about 30 minutes, turning at 15 minutes to evenly brown potatoes.
4. Mix garlic, lemon juice and remaining olive oil in a small pan with remaining Mrs. Dash® Original Blend. Serve alongside roasted wedges for dipping.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 247
Total Fat: 10g
Trans Fat: 0g
Sodium: 21mg
Potassium: 1016 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 35g
Protein: 4g

Don’t hesitate to experiment with different seasoning blends – I really love these with the Garlic and Herb or Southwest Chipotle Blends, the Original Blend really isn’t my cup of tea. I also personally find the dipping sauce unnecessary and my kids wouldn’t dream of anything but ketchup.

For more tempting recipes that to get you grilling with Mrs. Dash this summer, be sure to check out Mrs. Dash on Facebook.

I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Mrs. Dash and received product samples and a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.