Friday, May 8, 2009

Mom Dot 31 Bloggers in 31 Days- Tessuta Giveaway!


Welcome to Day 8 of the Mom Dot 31 Bloggers in 31 Days Blog Giveaway.


In honor of Trisha of Mom Dot's 31st birthday (May 31st, btw), Mom Dot has rounded up 31 of the participants and we've rounded up some birthday goodies. Instead of giving them to Trisha, we're giving them out to YOU! Not that Trisha doesn't deserve the gifts-she runs an awesome site with great resources for bloggers. If you haven't visited her site yet, make it a point to do it NOW!

Last month, I told you all about my new Game Day Bag from Tessuta. Since I wrote that, my bag has made trips to Disney, Sea World and worked the Census with me. It is the perfect size for those things you don't want to leave behind when you go out. In addition, thanks to the adjustable strap, it won't annoy you by getting in the way.


Tessuta joined in the celebration by offering a Game Day bag for you to win! Just in time for summer amusement park going, ball games, picnics and all those fun activities where you don't want to be bogged down by a big bag. Even better, you can show the world who you're rooting for with a beautifully made, sturdy woven bag.

To Enter:
1. Go to Tessuta'swebsite, take a look around, the come back and comment what items appeal to you and/or which Game Day bag you'd like to own.

Extra entries:
2. Subscribe to New Sue Review.
3. Subscribe to Suzanne Calling.
4. Vist MomDot and comment on a post there. (2 entries)
5. Grab the Suzanne Calling button and post it on your blog. (5 entries)
6. Display a MomDot 31 Bloggers in 31 Days Blog Party button on your blog, (5 entries)

Contest will run until Friday, May 22 at 12 noon. Winner will be notified by email and has 72 hours to accept the prize. Winner will be selected by random.org from all eligible entries.

Thank you, Tessuta, for helping MomDot celebrate Trisha's birthday!

Winner!

Sorry for the delay in picking the winner. I didn't want to give anyone this nasty, nasty cold we're dealing with right now.

Our trusty Random.org has chosen a winner!

True Random Number Generator Min:1 Max: 19 Result: 5 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Lucky number 5 is Carolyn G

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dole "Make Me A Chef" Contest and Giveaway

Do you like Dole's canned fruit products? Who doesn't? Tropical fruit, Mandarin Oranges, Peaches and the most important one-Pineapples!


In my house, we've always got cans of pineapples and mandarin oranges in the pantry. They're great for snacks for Chef Jr and to have for the many recipes that I have that call for fruit, like stir fries, salads and cakes.

So when I heard about Dole's "Make Me a Chef" Contest, I had to share the news (and go enter-let's be honest, here!). You can win a trip to Los Angeles in June to cook with Ben Ford at Ford's Filling Station
and share the meal with three of your friends. In addition, there are eight weekly giveaways of $100 in Dole products and two giveaways of $500 Visa Gift Cards.


To enter, visit the Make Me a Chef contest website, and write a 200 word essay about how DOLE Canned Fruit is a staple in your pantry. How easy is that? You can enter a daily essay until May 8th, if you choose! In addition, refer your friends and for each one you name (up to 5 daily), you get another entry.

This past week's What's For Dinner Wednesday at Suzanne Calling featured one of my favorite meals that's made with DOLE pineapple, the WDW Galley Salad. Then, Thursday, I put the recipe up over at MomDot.


Doesn't that look great? It was my favorite meal to enjoy in the Magic Kingdom. They don't serve it anymore, but you can still enjoy it, because I'm giving you the recipe:
WDW Galley Salad
Magic Kingdom’s Galley Salad

*2 cups Romaine Lettuce
*1/2 cup Pineapple Tidbits
*1/4 cup Pecans
*1/2 cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
*1/2 cup chicken, cubed
*Balsamic Vinagrette

Place first five ingredients in a large bowl, drizzle dressing on top and toss. Serves two.

DOLE has graciously offered New Sue Review readers a chance to fill their pantries with $25 in DOLE canned fruit products. To enter, you can do the following:

REQUIRED ENTRY: Visit the "DOLE-Make Me A Chef" website and tell me about the Ben Ford recipe you'd most like to try.

ADDITIONAL ENTRIES:

1. Subscribe to New Sue Review with the follow button.

2. FIVE extra entries, for each time you head to the DOLE Make Me A Chef site from that link and enter the contest. Come back here after you do, and post a portion of your entry essay. You just have to do that in your first entry, but reference it in the next four comments.

The contest for the coupons will end at MIDNIGHT Eastern time on May 3rd. Winner will be notified by email and has 72 hours to claim their prize from the time stamped on the email.

What are you waiting for? Go head to the website and enter so you can WIN!!!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny by Lucy Adams

Today, I have the pleasure of sharing my recent interview of Lucy Adams, syndicated columnist and author of "If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny."
I recently had the pleasure of reading this book. ANY parent can relate to the funny stories Lucy shares. From children walking through interesting showers, tales of dining out that sound all too familiar, and musings about just how much paint is left in that spray can is directly proportional to whether it is being sprayed on an appropriate surface, Lucy has a gift of finding the funny in the every day!

Lucy took time out of her busy schedule. Four kids, teaching, writing-it makes me tired thinking about it, so I asked her about that and other things on my mind. Here's what she had to say-

1. Wife, mother of FOUR (bless you!), syndicated columnist and teacher. Where did you find the time to write the book?

For months on months, my husband supported me by giving me one free night a week. When I got home from work on those days, I went straight to my computer and started typing. He took care of everything else - dinner, getting kids to their activities, homework help, etc. Those blocks of undisturbed time in which to focus were priceless.

2. I noticed that each story in the book is two pages? Designed for busy moms or happy accident?

Most of the stories in the book originally appeared in my weekly newspaper column, which is about 600 words in length. That happens to also equal about two pages in book format. Two pages is about all a busy mom can read before someone comes knocking on the bathroom door asking if she's seen his dooma-flitchie and could she help him find it if she hasn't. And, yes, he believes it is an emergency.

Not design. Not accident. Definitely fate.


3. In reading the stories, I get the sense that each of your sons is wise beyond his years. Did they get that wit from you, your husband, or both?

My children come by their quick wit from my husband and myself. We seldom miss an opportunity to find humor in a situation or turn a play on words. Our home is a safe place to practice humor. They know we'll take it well, and they are usually rewarded with a laugh.

4. There were quite a few laugh out loud stories in the book. Your 7 year old (Mr. Outside the Box) and the plans to temporarily liberate the quarters from the video game to be able to play was priceless. The amount of spray paint in the can story also had me nodding knowingly. When life happens, are you there thinking "this will make a good story", or does that come later?

Usually, the story comes later, when I've had a chance to gain some perspective on the event. Most of the time, in the course of life's ups and downs, I find myself figuring out how to survive from one moment to the next, not composing a story. But, I do have paper and pen with me at all times and when something strikes me as humorous, odd, peculiar, or off-center, or even disconcertingly familiar, I write it down for future use.

5. Are your kids willing to rat each other out for the purpose of Mom writing it down, or does the child who provide writing fodder beg for you not to commit it to print?
My two older boys and my daughter don't give their own behavior or each other's much thought in terms of whether or not I might write about them. It's more about who wronged who and how can they spin it in order to have me render severe justice to the offending sibling. My youngest son, Mr. Outside-the-Box (he's 9 now), on the other hand, is another case. I recently had to sit him down and make it very, very clear that I do not want him to do things just to see if I will write about him in the newspaper. Any gray hair I have is due to him.

Generally, my kids can't predict what I'll write about, anyway. So much happens in a week, heck, in a single day, that there's a hundred options for one story. And often, what someone else thinks would make a good column is not at all what I would choose to write.

6. Do you find you can barter and get them to do something to avoid being written about? With mine, if I take pictures of their messy rooms and threaten to put them on the blog, they clean. However, a book and column are permanent!

That might work with my 13 year-old son, but the others rather enjoy the attention. I think even the 13 year-old only half-heartedly protests. They like flipping through If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny and reading snapshots from their lives. It sort of makes up for their incomplete baby books. I picture them taking it to their therapists someday as indisputable evidence that I warped them.

7. For the longest time, I couldn't get a good professional picture with two kids. Have you been successful with four?

There's a story in If Mama Don't Laugh ("Picture Day!," p. 4) about just that very thing. I took Say-Some-Evil, See-Some-Evil, Do-Some-Evil, and Tattle-Some-Evil to the photographer's studio and, well . . . I'll let you read for yourself how that turned out.

8. And totally out of left field- If you could change anything about your life, what would it be?

It's so odd that you should ask this question. I was just talking to my husband about this last night. (It wasn't him I was trying to change. I like him most of the time just the way he is, and the times that I don't like him, I forgive him.)

Since I think it is impossible to change the busyness in my life, I won't say that. The one thing I would change is how I earn my money. I would be a full-time writer. But, I couldn't change that without starting a chain reaction of events that would affect my entire family, not just me. So for now, I'll keep writing during those slivers of "between time" that I manage to find here and there.

Thank you, Lucy, for stopping by New Sue Review on the If Mama Don't Laugh Blog Tour. I am glad for the opportunity to read the book (and revisit my favorites) and share my conversation with you with everyone.

If those taxes have got you in a funk, I suggest visiting Lucy's blog. Better yet, visit Amazon to buy yourself a copy of "If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny" and read a few excerpts-you'll be laughing in no time.
And the winner of the "If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny" Hat is:
Rock City!
True Random Number Generator Min: Max: Result: 5 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

RockCity said...

Whenever my daughter announces she has to go potty!
April 11, 2009 6:53 AM

Congratulations, Rock City!


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tessuta

With April comes thoughts of baseball. If you're the average sports fan, you're digging out gear to show your support of your favorite team. In my case, it means I'm grabbing my beloved Mets ball cap and wearing it proudly.

Lets be honest, for years, if you were a girl and you liked sports, you were relegated to wearing the same stuff as the guys, tee shirts and ball caps. Maybe a key chain. There wasn't much for us to show the world we loved our team.

Enter Tessuta. Andrea Claster Greenspan founded Tessuta to provide great woven products. From pillows, to purses, to memo boards and more, Tessuta makes products for many colleges and recently entered a deal with major league Baseball to offer a variety of licensed, high quality woven items.


I recently got Tessuta's Game Day Purse featuring my Amazin's on the front. The thing that struck me when I first opened the package is how striking the bag is with grosgrain ribbons of black woven with the Mets royal blue in an elegant basket weave.


Even more impressive was that this bag has substantial weight for its size. The grosgrain ribbons are paired with a heavyweight cotton in royal blue. This is one bag that is built to last.

Probably the thing that's the greatest is that the Game Day Purse fulfills a need with style. When you're headed to the game, you don't want to be lugging your usual handbag, but you have essentials you can't be without. For me, the bare minimum that I have to carry is my camera, wallet, keys and cell phone. The Game Day Purse easily held these items in the front zippered compartment (wallet), middle magnet snap closure pocket (camera and keys) and the back pocket (cell phone). If pressed, I could fit more in here, but honestly, who needs more for a game? Or a concert, for that matter.


After checking mine out, it got put into service for quick trips to the store and for the days when I am working and don't have pockets in my pants (I work outdoors and need to have ID and keys on me). I love how the strap is adjustable, as I like bags to be slung low on my hip. Your preference might be different, and Tessuta put in that nice feature, rather than offer a one size fits all strap.

I have a new favorite bag for sightseeing. Thanks, Tessuta!

You're probably wondering what other items Tessuta makes. Currently, their MLB products include the Game Day Bag, Narrow Memo Board and Square Pillow.

The other products Tessuta offers that I am excited about is their Collegiate product line. While my school currently has no products available, I was able to take a peek at the product line, as offered at other schools. I cannot wait until the messenger bag is offered for USF, because I want to carry my books in style!

If you want to show your team spirit with something stylish, well made and practical, go check out Tessuta today!

Monday, April 6, 2009

"If Mama Don't Laugh" Book Tour and GIVEAWAY!

Join me here on April 15th to meet Lucy Adams, author of "If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny," and you can WIN your very own "If Mama Don't Laugh" baseball cap!

At tax time, we all need an extra laugh, and syndicated columnist Lucy Adams delivers a book full of them!


I had the pleasure of laughing at Lucy's tales of life with four kids and will interview her about the book.


Now, about that prize. Lucy has generously donated this hat to one of my New Sue Review Readers:


This is a nice, high quality ball cap, suitable for a day at the park, covering the bad hair day or trying to disguise yourself when your child has embarrassed the heck out of you.


Tell me your funny story in the comments and we'll pick a winner on April 15th!

Extra Entry!!! Become a follower of this blog and comment to let me know!

See you then!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sensible Portions Cheating With Chocolate


If you like sweet snacks, but are watching your calorie intake, Sensible Portions Cheating with Chocolate snack packs are the perfect answer.

I recently had the chance to try two different flavors of this product, the Cinnamon Roll drizzled with white chocolate and the the Smores, which had a dark chocolate topping.

The Cinnamon Roll snacks were light and the soy was crunchy and had great flavor, There was cinnamon throughout every bite and the white chocolate was a good complement to the crunch and cinnamon. Unlike other 100 calorie snacks that I have tried, there was enough in the bag to make you feel like you were getting a decent snack. Granted, these will not fill you up when you're hungry, but if you want a sweet treat, this will definitely take care of the issue with only 100 calories.


I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of smores, as I find them way too sweet. However, the Chocolate version? It satisfied the chocolate craving, had the crunch and a hint of marshmallow flavor.



Both flavors reminded me of breakfast cereals with the noisy crunch. I don’t know about you, but if it’s supposed to be crunchy, I want to hear it.

At the end, I saw a little bit of crumbs in the bottom of one of the bags. I freely admit it, that was two calories that I thought I’d be getting-the bag went up and those crumbs went into my mouth. That’s how good these snacks were-I didn’t want to miss a morsel.

If I've got a rumbling stomach, I'll reach for something more substantial, but if I want something sweet that's better for me than a candy bar, Cheating with Chocolate fits the bill.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The WAT AAH Challenge

Recently, Kim at What’s that Smell told of trying a new beverage for kids, WAT AAH. It really piqued my interest and I contacted WAT AAH to participate in the “WAT AHH CHALLENGE”.

In our house, we don’t usually have a lot of soda. Partly due to the expense and partly because I’d prefer my kids not be loaded up with all the junk that’s in it. Looking at my husband and my weight issues, I know that soda is full of empty calories that I’d rather the kids didn’t consume.

About a year and a half ago, I started bringing Vitamin Water into the house on occasion. It’s a product I find tasty, the kids find irresistible and it’s better than soda. I had a concern with it, though-the vitamins in it are geared towards an adult’s nutritional needs, not a child’s. I watered it down, mainly so that I got the benefits and the kids didn’t get TOO much vitamins.

Enter WAT AAH. Two moms created this vitamin fortified beverage in four types, each formula designed to pack a specific nutritional need into simple water. This was the answer to my concern-I could let the kids grab a bottle without worrying that they were getting too much of a nutrient, like I sometimes do with the Vitamin Water.

WAT AAH is different. It's the first premium bottled water designed by kids (and their moms) FOR kids. There are four varieties, each with nutrients formulated to benefit the portion of the body specified: Brain, Bones, Body and Energy. We tried Brain and Body, but I'll be happy to get my hands on the others. While they're not in our local stores, WAT AAH makes it easy to purchase online.

The question now was “will they drink it?” The day the box arrived, containing two bottles of WAT AAH, I was in luck. There happened to be two very rare bottles of soda in the fridge, a gallon of Kool Aid (I make it with half the suggested sugar-Invisible variety), some Vitamin Water and milk. The two bottles were placed in among everything else, and I knew it was only a matter of time. Would they choose it over the rarely seen soda?

Honestly, I had to scramble to get video, because Chef came home and hurried to the fridge for a drink (it was hot that day). I heard him exclaim “Whoa, what is THIS?” Take a look:
video

He says he’s only going to have a little bit, right? I almost didn't get a sip for myself. Even after being a bad mom and telling him incorrect information-WAT AAH is not flavored in any way. He still loved it.

Ten minutes later, we were in the car and on our way to Scouts. Chef lamented the fact that we didn’t bring the other bottle along. Then I explained that they were samples for us to try. He asked to go by some, and I had to break the news that we can’t buy them here in Florida-yet.
video

As a result, he drank the second bottle a little slower than the first. But he has asked several times when we’ll be able to buy more WAT AAH. That, my friends, is pretty impressive for a drink that isn’t flavored, sugared or colored in any way. It’s just full of the good stuff. So, when ARE we going to get it in Florida-because I want to make sure we can have some more in the fridge!

Would YOU like to take the WAT AAH Challenge? It's easy! Head over to WAT AAH's website and you'll find all the information you need to get a package of two bottles of WAT AAH! I have to say from personal experience, if a bottle says "Brains" on it, your kid will grab it first.

If you'd like to WIN a WAT AAH prize pack, head over to What's That Smell?, because she is having a WAT AAH! Giveaway through the 31st!

Boo, these are empty-we need more WAT AAH!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Punky Monkeys Giveaway-UItimate Blog Redesign

If you haven't visted Tena at Punky Monkeys, you should. She has such a positive outlook on life, even when things aren't so rosy. She's also got another blog called the Crazy Book Slut-which endeared her to me even more!

Recently, Punky Monkeys got a beautiful facelift and to show her gratitude for the great work that Sara at Subjective Beauty did, she's hosting a giveaway of a custom blog design, regularly priced at $60.00 (but truly a $300 value).

A custom blog design includes:
Custom Template (2 or 3 columns)
Custom Header (the sky is the limit)
Custom background
Navigation image (umlimited links)
Unlimited sidebar images
Social buttons (Twitter, Facebook, BlogHer, Feed, etc.)
Hosting space via my serverButton for linking (150x150)
Post signature
Email image
Post divider
Favicon (bookmark icon)
Flash animated greeting messageInstallation
*Rollover effects per request.

If you're in the market for doing a spring overhaul of your blog, go check out Sara's portfolio-I honestly love what HER blog looks like. Then, head over to see Tena at Punky Monkeys to see what you can do to win the chance to have Sara make yours look great!

Don't delay, this contest ends at noon PDT on March 23rd.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tide Loads of Hope

Have you ever wondered what would happen to you if a disaster struck your area? Fire, flood, earthquake, tornado or hurricane would not only wipe out your resources, but those of your neighbors, friends and family.

What about food, clothes or shelter? Electricity to keep food fresh or to clean clothes?

Tide has thought about this and created Tide Loads of Hope. They've partnered with Feeding America, and they travel to communities affected by disasters. Tide offers free mobile laundering services to those who need it, via their trucks and vans. The trucks have 32 high capacity washers and dryers, and the vans partner with local laundromats to do 300 loads of laundry a day (the same as most of us do in a YEAR).

Loads of Hope was borne out of the need of Louisanans affected by Hurricane Katrina. Since its inception, Loads of Hope has cleaned 35,000 loads of laundry for 20,000 families. Proctor and Gamble is asking for your help in keeping the program running. By purchasing a Loads of Hope T Shirt, you can help make sure that communities affected by disasters can have one small comfort-clean clothes. All profits from the sale of the shirts goes towards continuing this project.


Consider giving those in disaster areas a little bit of Hope.

Hip T Giveaway!

Stefanie at Mommy's Quiet Time reviewed the Hip T and is having a Giveaway, too!

I love the idea of the Hip T, because after two kids, I don't want my belly showing and that's what happens with a few of my favorite shirts. They've been retired, but it looks like a Hip T can restore them to the rotation!

Go check it out! Contest ends March 20th.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Keurig Platinum Brewer Giveaway at What's That Smell

If you're like me, you don't want to drink a whole pot of coffee. I'd much rather have a single, fresh hot cup, because there's nothing yuckier than coffee that's been burning in the pot in the name of keeping it warm.

Enter Kim at What's That Smell with the most awesome giveaway, The Keurig Platinum Brewing system! You can use that bad boy to make a cup, whenever you want it.


I'm not sure which part I like best: fresh hot coffee, no cleaning out the filter, no griping that I don't have the beans I prefer, no burnt coffee taste or no science project when I forget that there was about 4 oz of coffee left in the pot the last time I made it. All of the above.

Go check it out! And go check out Keurig's website, because I am drooling. The only thing that would make me happier is if they started carrying Indigo and Barnie's Coffees.

Contest ends April 3rd.

Oh, and if you're the winner, would you invite me over for a cuppa joe?

Kolobags Giveaway at the Not So Blog


Bridgette
is hosting a giveaway of a Kolobag laptop bag. Do you want to carry your laptop in style to BlogHer? Then you need to visit the Not So Blog to win the Room It Up pink messenger style laptop bag, regularly a $50.00 value.



Don't delay, because this giveaway ends March 11th!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Why a Front Load Laundry Pair Saves You Money

Here is a Resource Comparison of Top Load versus Front Load Washers that I did for my customers in my last job. To determine your cost benefit, take your water bill and determine your cost per 1,000 gallons to find out what it will cost you.

Your average Front Load uses 15 gallons of water PER LOAD. Your average top load uses 80 to 120 gallons PER LOAD. (We’ll use the low end for comparison purposes)

Per load, a front load washer uses 65 gallons less per load. (Realistically, this could be as much 105 gallons each load)

Let’s say you do 4 loads of laundry per week.
4 loads x 65 gallons = You’re saving 265 gallons per week.

This means, each year, you are using 13,500 gallons less water. (Possibly you are saving 21,800 gallons depending on your model washer)

Currently, that saves you $42.98 in water costs from Lakeland water. (or $88.44)

That water has to go somewhere, right? That’s where your sewer charges come in. You’ll save $44.66 in sewer fees. (or 70.18)

So, the average of four loads per week in a front load saves you $87.64 a year, right? Nope! Double that, because the front load capacity is twice your typical top load. On water resources ALONE, your customer is saving $175.98!

On a $2000 laundry pair, your water savings pays for the set in 11 years. Just from using less water. That said, consider how much ENERGY it takes to move 80-120 gallons of water (a gallon weighs 11 pounds, so 880 to 1320 pounds per load). Additionally, a front loader moves only the clothes through the water, not both. If your local electric company is like ours, that can save you HUNDREDS each year.

So, if you would like to upgrade to a front loader and your spouse says "No, we can't afford it", show them this to prove that you can!

Are You Buying a New Refrigerator?

You're in the market for a new refrigerator. If it's been more than 5 years since you last purchased one, boy, are you in for a surprise!

Stainless steel is the most popular finish and French Door style refrigerators are rapidly overtaking side by sides as the most commonly purchased style. I'm sure you have many questions about the different styles and which is the best for you. I will answer those questions in another post. Today, I'll tell you about one very important feature: Water Filtration.

You may be thinking that you've lived a long time without it or that you've already got a water delivery service. I have a few questions for you to help you decide if spending the extra money up front is cost effective in the long run.

Are you ready? Here we go:

1. Do you drink bottled water?
2. How many bottles do your family drink a day? How much do you pay per bottle?
3. Multiply the number of bottles by the cost.
Example 6 bottles a day by 1.29 a bottle = 7.74
4. Calculate your expense per week by multiplying the daily cost by 7
Example 7.74 per day multiplied by 7 = 54.18
5. Then multiply the weekly total by 52.
Example 54.18 multiplied by 52 = 2817.36

That refrigerator’s water filtration has paid for itself in the first year!

Another example:

1. How many gallons of water does your family go through in a week?
Example 3 gallons
2. Multiply the gallons by the cost
Example 3 gallons by .89 cents a gallon (Publix cost) = 2.67
3. Multiply the weekly cost by 52 for annual cost.
Example 2.67 X 52 = 138.84
You won’t see the benefit as quickly, but your benefit of water filtration will be seen in a $1099. refrigerator in eight years.


A simple feature that you may not have considered important can mean big savings for your family!

I hope this helps you in determining if adding water filtration to your new refrigerator is right for you.

Monday, February 9, 2009

LeCrueset

As a kid, I avidly watched all the cooking shows on PBS with the fancy French cookware. The delicious meals they created just seemed that much better because they were being cooked in those colorful pots that just mesmerized me. I didn't know who made them back then, I just knew they were cool and what real cooks used. If it wasn't for an astute husband, I wouldn't have become such a huge fan of the Le Creuset product line.

If you watch any cooking shows (and who doesn't?), you've seen Le Creuset. Those colorful dutch ovens and stock pots can be found in every TV chef's kitchen to make soups, stews, and other savory treats. Their bold colors make you notice the food being prepared, especially since so much of what we use in our own kitchens is black, gray or silver.

My love affair with Le Creuset began with this humble two quart Tomato stockpot:

I am a cook and my husband is a serious foodie and capable cook in his own right. The quality of our cooking was not matched by our cookware. In late 2000, we each did a bit of research as to what better quality brands we would replace the middle tier pots and pans we owned at the time.

To be honest, as much as I admired the LeCreuset products I saw on TV, I hadn't given the pieces serious consideration. I had seen them featured on Julia Child, Earl Payroux and Justin Wilson's cooking shows in my youth and knew if they had used them, they had to be good. When I looked at the price tags, though, they seemed a little too rich for my wallet.

So, we set our sights on other brands, like Calphalon and All Clad. A going out of business sale in 2001 netted a top of the line Calphalon Commercial Non Stick set and a Lodge Chicken Fryer for half of retail. I'd grown up cooking with my great grandma's two cast iron skillets and was a huge fan of the even heating cast iron provides.

Then, my husband found a steal of a deal in his Amazon Gold Box one evening. The above pictured Tomato-for 75% off. He wanted Le Creuset, he knew I wanted it and without hesitation, he bought it. To his way of thinking, we'd been picking up open stock of every other brand to see if they were a good fit, why not Le Creuset? Let's see if it is as incredible as those french ovens seemed when seen on TV.

It was all that and more. That little tomato has the even heating of cast iron combined with an enamel surface that is as easy to clean as non stick. It is dishwasher safe and oven safe. And it quickly replaced my rice cooker, because it did a better job of cooking my Basmati than the purpose built item! My only complaint was that we didn't pick up the pepper, apple or pumpkin when they were Gold Box deals! I talked my husband out of at the time because seriously, who needs four 2 quart pots?

The Tomato convinced us that we needed bigger pieces. It had become a workhorse of the kitchen for making side items, and had a permanent home atop the stove, thanks to nearly daily use. Thus, our travels in nearby outlet malls brought us into a few LeCreuset stores. We'd gone from thinking LeCreuset's products were too expensive to agreeing we needed more, but disagreeing about the colors and sizes. (I'm a fan of Sonoma Blue, my husband, Flame.)

Eventually, we stopped in an outlet in South Carolina on our way back from a trip to Florida and found a great deal on a 5 1/2 quart in the color I wanted, Sonoma Blue. The first time I made my Marinara sauce in that pot, I was so thrilled that I didn't have to stir it constantly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Even better, no matter what had been cooked in it, pot roast, marinara sauce, pasta, soup, or my strawberry syrup, a run through the dishwasher and it was ready for duty again. I can't do that with the Calphalon pieces.

One of the main reasons why the LeCreuset gets called into duty before my other stock pots is because the cast iron cooks more evenly at lower temperatures. When we purchased the Tomato and the 5 1/2 quart pot, we had a gas stove and found that the even heat distribution it does by itself meant my heat diffuser stayed in a drawer. A later move to Florida necessitated to switch to electric burner stoves, but there was no change to the LeCreuset's quality of cooking, unlike some other pieces in our arsenal.

Now, we have a glass top oven. The manufacturers discourage the use of traditional cast iron on these cooktops, because the rough serface pits and scratches the glass. However, the enamel coating of LeCreuset cookware is safe to use, thanks to its smoothness. This is something to consider if you like cast iron cooking.

Another other great feature of the LeCreuset product line-you can cook in each piece, then refrigerate your food in it. When you're ready to reheat, just put it back on the stove top or in the oven. The silicone handles are oven safe to 425 degrees.

These two pieces we owned were used so much that once we moved to Florida, I decided I needed a third pot in between these two sizes. Thus, the 3 1/2 quart French oven was added to the stable a few years ago:

You're thinking, is it really worth that price tag? Yes, it is! LeCreuset backs it up with a lifetime guarantee. They're not joking about it, either. I'd made a batch of strawberry syrup one time and the candy like syrup stuck to the bottom of my 5 1/2 quart pot. I didn't think it'd come off and called their customer service department in a panic. The representative quickly gave me a return tag authorization and told me they'd be happy to replace it. However, an overnight soak and a little bit of elbow grease got every bit of stuck on syrup off. They truly stand behind their product. Lifetime guarantee really means LIFETIME when you purchase their product!

Now, if only I had a LeCreuset Skillet, Roaster and Wok, I'd be all set. Sooner or later, though, they will be in our kitchen.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Redbox

Way back in 2000, I remember our local McDonald's getting a Redbox display. The concept intrigued me back then. You could peruse movies, select one and for a small fee, a machine would dispense a movie for you. At the time, I never had occasion to use it, but the concept was a cool one. Especially if you wanted to grab dinner and a movie all at the same time.

Say it's 2am, you can't sleep, there's nothing on Direct TV and Blockbuster is closed. You could just hop in your car, roll up to the Mickey D's and be on your way in minutes with a movie or three to get you through your sleep deprived night.

Now, nine years later, Redbox appears to have made it big. Our local WalMart and two Walgreens have Redbox vending units. Back in 2000, I recall a rate of 2.50 or 3.00 per movie-now it's an extremely enticing ONE dollar. For the price of a candy bar, you can rent a movie for a night. Who can pass up a deal like that?

Well, for a long time, I passed it over. We have an extensive collection of DVDs, and my 9 and 12 year old sons watch about three dozen of those in rotation over and over. Our habit in the past was to buy a desired movie as it came out, because it was a better deal to spend $15 or $20 on the movie than for our family of four to see it in the theatre. Our local rental places charge $8.00 per rental, so buying didn't seem that bad a deal.

However, I lost my job last August and watch my pennies far more carefully. We haven't purchased or seen a new movie since then. The kids, however, would still ask to go to the local theatre or buy whatever movie we happened to see while out and about. The thought of checking out what the Redbox had to offer always came too late on a weekend or on a weeknight, when schoolwork would prevent the kids from watching the chosen movie.

Yesterday, the idea to try Redbox hit me about 4pm-still early enough that the kids can watch the movie. What's cool is that technology helped me out. I asked the kids "Is there a movie you'd like to rent?" and both said "Clone Wars." Hey, we're in agreement here.

Next, I went to the Redbox website to see if we could check if that was one of the choices. Not only could we check to see where the nearest Redboxes are, we could check to see what movies were in each one. If a movie was part of that location's inventory, but already rented out, the website told you-saving you from making an unnecessary trip. Even better, we could RESERVE a movie if it was listed as available. This is a lifesaver for a mom with a kid who does not do well with changes in routine.

To reserve a movie, all I had to do was register at Redbox (it was super simple-put in an email address and a password and you're done!), then choose the movie you want and pay via credit card right there on the website. To pick it up, all you have to do is run your credit card through the card swipe on the Redbox location you selected and lickety split, you've got your movie and can head home to enjoy it!

My kids enjoyed the movie last night, and then this morning with several of their friends from our neighborhood. Two viewings of a movie for a buck can't be beat. But wait, there's more!

You can purchase previously viewed movies from that same Redbox for $7 bucks. So, for the cost of a rental at any of those other movie chains, I can own one? Seriously?

Tonight, when I dropped off Clone Wars, I decided to check out the titles available for purchase. Surprising to me was that the same Clone Wars we'd just watched was also available to own. As my boys both enjoyed it a lot, I figured that it was worth it to own. If you can get over not having the original DVD box, just the clear plastic Redbox case, then you can have a great value, too.

All in all, this one rental and subsequent purchase have won me over to Redbox. It would have been easy enough to drive up to the one I knew was inside my nearest WalMart, but to go to the website and find a box locator, reserve a movie and scan the titles IN each box? They've made an already great value a timesaver, too.

Thanks, Redbox. In the immortal words of the Terminator "I'll be back!"

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It's The New Sue Review, Coming Right at You

Since I've been hanging out at MomDot, its becoming clear that here are other opportunities that I'd like to explore within the blogging world.

Rather than contribute them all to my current blog, I am thinking that it makes more sense to create a separate blog for reviews and contests that are all over the internet. When I go to my own website (hopefully) by the middle of he year, I'll combine all the blogs into the one site and tab them. For now, you'll just have to bookmark this one, too.

The blogroll will go up shortly. In it you'll find links to mom blogs, contest sites and various other review and product sources.

If you are a company who would like a retail management professional with over twenty years experience to review your products here, feel free to contact me at NewSueReview at Gmail dot com.

I also encourage you to contact me if you are a blogger who reviews products and/or has contests and giveaways, so that I may add you to the blogroll.

(and for those who know where the blog title comes from, No you will not see Henrietta, Charlie or Freddie. Unless someone comes out with an updated version of the show, that is.)