Sunday, November 20, 2011

Safeway Winter Health Shop-Along-$50 GC GIVEAWAY

After our successful blogger lunch in Palo Alto, Baby E and I were emboldened to broaden our horizons and travel north up to El Cerito last week. We were invited to the Safeway Winter Health Shop Along at the recently opened "lifestyle" Safeway near the El Cerito Norte Bart station. The eco-conscious team at Safeway had planned the event there so bloggers could come by Bart. It turned out that we had all driven, which ended up being a good thing because we each got two grocery bags full of healthy food to take with us--more on that later.

The event was a walk through Safeway so we could discuss some of the ways that we could keep ourselves and our families healthy this winter season. Officially winter starts on December 22 this year, but any mom can tell you that it really starts when you have to take out the warm jackets and hats and when the cold and flu season starts. This week is the first week that we've needed to wear winter coats so it was perfect timing for the Safeway event.

We started off at the pharmacy where Dr. Risa Vatanka, Safeway pharmacist, spoke to us about the importance of getting an annual flu shot. One thing I hadn't known before is that there are healthy carriers of flu virus. Just like people who are naturally immune to other diseases, there are people who can carry flu in their bodies and not get sick. Since they feel fine, they don't take precautions to not spread it around to other people. They go around shaking hands and touching doorknobs, not realizing they are potentially making other people sick. So that is why it is so important that healthy people who don't get sick from flu also get the flu shot. That way if they ever get the flu virus, the antibodies in their immune system from the flu shot will kill the virus and they can't spread it.

Two other things I learned about the flu shot that I hadn't known before: 1) it takes 2 weeks for your body to build up the immunity after the shot, and 2) for children who have not had the shot before, they need to have two shots, a month apart, for full effect to take hold. My health care provider had failed to mention this, so it looks like I need to be taking in R for a second shot asap!

Next we moved to the soap and tissue aisle. What I learned here was interesting--there is no need for antibacterial soap. Dr. Risa said it best, "who cares if the bacteria on your hand are alive or dead when you wash them down the drain?" I'm definitely not paying extra for antibacterial soap in the future. She did agree that antibacterial hand sanitizers were useful for when you can't get to a sink.

Three things are really important when you are getting well from cold or flu: hydration, rest, and nutrition. Kerry Neville, registered dietitian and Safeway nutritionist, talked about ways to stay hydrated and get proper nutrition. Not only are decaf teas and coffees great for staying hydrated, they also contain antioxidants we all need to stay healthy. Also a great source of both hydration and nutrition are soups. There is something in chicken soup that shortens the length of a cold. I put this to the test immediately when I got home by making chicken noodle soup with the vegetables and chicken broth from the Safeway shopping bags. R had shown signs of the sniffles that morning and both he and H love chicken noodle soup. We had soup once or twice a day for the past four days and it was amazing. Usually R's colds can go for up to two weeks but by the end of the third day on soup, he was 90% recovered. Try it!

Back to the tour and Dr. Risa at the pharmacy. She spoke about the dangers of brand extension and overdosing children with over the counter medications. For example, if the doctor says to get some Triaminic and Tylenol, many parents don't realize that there are some versions of Triaminic that already contain acetaminophen (the drug in Tylenol). Too much acetaminophen can cause liver damage (and too much ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers) so making sure you and your kids get the proper dosage of these drugs is very important.

Some of the bloggers were getting flu shots after the shop along tour. The pharmacy had a very nice enclosed waiting area. I had noticed that the two Safeways closest to my house had pharmacies that were undergoing renovation and I was pleased to see what they would look like. Instead of feeling a bit unsettled by getting a shot in plain view of shoppers in aisle five, now people could have the privacy of a clinic setting behind pharmacy doors. Right now there is a promotion at Safeway that if get your flu shot there, you will get a coupon for 10% off groceries. If I had an insurance plan that would have allowed me to get my shot at Safeway, I would definitely have taken this deal!

As you can tell I learned a lot from this event, and could write a post even twice the length of this one but I think the best way would be if you go to your local Safeway and pick up a few of their helpful health and wellness materials available at the pharmacy. One lucky Random Mommy reader will have the chance to pick up healthy foods and drinks courtesy of Safeway with a $50 gift card (good at any of the Safeway family of stores including VONS and Dominicks)!

HOW TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY:  Contest period runs from Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 1:30 PM (Pacific) until Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 at 11:59 PM (Pacific). Enter by leaving a comment on your favorite cold remedy, and leave your e-mail address OR sign in to comments using your Blogger ID, making sure your Blogger profile is public and includes your e-mail address.

Bonus Entries (leave a separate comment for each entry, it counts if you've done any of these so leave a comment for each one)
1) Follow me on Twitter
2) Tweet this contest and leave the tweet url (once per day)
3) Follow my blog with Google Friend Connect by clicking on the sidebar

If you don't leave a qualifying comment and your e-mail address or public Blogger profile, your entry will be disqualified. I reserve the right to extend the contest period. At the end of the contest period, I will utilize to randomly choose the winner. The winner will be contacted by e-mail and will have 72 hours to respond to my e-mail. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, the prize will go to the next place winner as decided by This contest is open for US Residents onlyGood luck and have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

I did not receive compensation for this post. I did receive a Safeway giftcard and product samples to facilitate my review.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Baby E's First Blogger Event: Tiny Prints 2011 Holiday Party

When I received the invite from Tiny Prints to their Holiday 2011 Blogger Party, I was hesitant to accept because I didn't know whether I should or could take Baby E. She behaved fabulously at BlogHer (a blogger conference not a singular event), but would she be equally well-behaved as a more awake four month old? I decided I didn't want to use her as an excuse not to do something so bravely RSVP-ed "Yes"! I know, something crazy like projectile vomiting or a diaper explosion could have happened. She could have cried nonstop or been disruptive in another way. But I trusted her past performance to be indicative of future results and I'm glad I did because she was the perfect lunch partner.

Baby E slept through most of the event so I was able to listen to and see the Tiny Prints marketing team present the 2011 Holiday Cards. There were some beautiful cards that really captured people's characters rather than the typical family pose. I really liked the ornament cards and the ones that incorporate design on top of the photo. The ornament card called Red Lantern (above) was designed by Bridget Moynahan for the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation. Finally, a holiday card for charity that looks great! This is only one of the Celebrity Cards available through Tiny Prints this season. There are also many designs that overlay the design on top of the photo (right). I think cards like these say to the recipient, "we really thought about how we wanted to share our family with you this year."

The team at Tiny Prints also shared a really great idea for displaying holiday cards that they made from some thick posterboard. I am going to copy it as a craft that my boys and I can do during the Thanksgiving Break (no school all week!). I'll be using the scissors and then I'll have them color and bedazzle the tree! Then we'll tape the tree to the wall instead of the cards. This is such a perfect idea for displaying Tiny Prints cards because many of them have images on both sides that you want to be able to ooh and ah over throughout the holiday season.

Ed Han, the CEO of Tiny Prints, was at the event and spoke to us about the new Tiny Prints photo books. I didn't know this, but Shutterfly acquired Tiny Prints and its sister company Wedding Paper Divas earlier this year. (The M&A lawyer nerd in me was thinking, "what a synergistic transaction!") So it only makes sense that photo books are now available on both these sites. I used Tiny Prints and Wedding Paper Divas earlier this year to order invites for a baby shower and my sister's bridal shower, respectively. I was really impressed by the ease of the design process, quick turnaround and the high quality products I received. I expect that the photo book process would be similar and can't wait to make the one provided us by the company in our gift bags.

Ed talked about how he made one as a time capsule with his kids and that they would make one every ten years to document their lives. I LOVE that idea! I think that will be the project the boys and I will do during Winter Break. Baby E woke up after Ed's talk and he came over to say hello to her. Her first CEO photo opp! She took it all in stride. All in all, the Tiny Prints Holiday 2011 Blogger Event was a really great time for me to connect with other bloggers and with a company of which I have been a long-time fan. Thank you Tiny Prints for a delicious lunch and a fun event!

I was not compensated for this review. I did receive a gift bag at the event and will receive product samples as a result.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Holiday Vacation Days Approching: Explore Winter! Review

Lately I've been thinking of home schooling because everyday H complains about being bored at school. I vowed I would never do it (I'm not a very patient teacher), but if I don't help him be the best that he can be, then why am a SAHM at all? Last year when H had school break I was happy to let him play because his preschool was really academically focused so he needed the break. This year, I am determined to teach him something during those off days so his brain development won't stagnate even more. If it goes well I will think about home schooling more seriously. If it doesn't? Well, then I might have to go back to work full time so I can pay for him to go to private school! 

 Luckily just as I've been having all these thoughts, I was given the opportunity to review one of the books from Nomad Press. Nomad Press is an educational publisher located in Vermont, dedicated to sparking the interest of young readers in the fascinating world around them. Nomad Press books promote independent and interactive learning with fun, hands-on projects that help kids explore the history and science behind a wide range of topics. H and I looked through their catalog of books and he chose Explore Winter! as one he'd like to try. It was absolutely the perfect one for us to try during the upcoming Thanksgiving and Winter breaks.

Explore Winter! starts off with a discussion on winter and why the seasons change. Each of the chapters explores a different aspect of winter. H can read, but this book is a little advanced for him so it worked best if I read it to him. Older elementary school children could definitely read this on their own and do the activities with minimal parental interaction (of course you can interact more if you want!). I decided the boys would like to start with the hibernation chapter because they love to play in boxes. We talked about which animals hibernate and discovered many new facts. Did you know that some amphibians freeze solid under leaves on the forest floor? Or that the word for reptile hibernation is brumate and they do this by letting their bodies grow cold which means their hearts beat only once every few minutes? Fascinating stuff!

The boys had great fun with the activity. Contrary to what most people believe bears don't hibernate in big caves. They hibernate in spaces that are just barely big enough for them to fit inside so it acts as insulation. So the boys and I found a box for them that they could barely fit. Then they each wanted a box and flashlights and played hibernation on and off all day. The boxes were destroyed by the end of the day! I'm looking forward to teaching the other chapters and doing the activities during the upcoming no school days. I know they will LOVE the chapter that involves making ice cream. This is such a great book I've decided to give it and other Nomad Press titles as Christmas gifts. Wish me luck in my teaching endeavor!

I did not receive compensation for this post. I received a product sample to facilitate my review.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What do I get my FIL for his birthday: Wikets Search Feature

I have run out of ideas on what to get my father-in-law for his birthday. Past birthdays and Father's Days we've gotten him belts, shirts, nature DVDs, golf balls, and even a large screen LCD TV for his 60th. I don't want to get him something we've already gotten him so I am getting a bit desperate since his birthday dinner is on Friday. (He doesn't read my blog so writing about it here won't ruin the surprise.) If only he were on Wikets, then I could figure out what he likes (that I could afford). I actually don't like the Amazon wishlist because when someone buys me something off the wishlist, it means they didn't have time to think about what I would want on their own. With Wikets, you can see what your friend likes and get him/her something similar. You can look at their recs and even search by category either from their profile page or through explore.

Beyond the gift idea, maybe you really trust your friend's opinions on something or know that you guys have similar tastes. I have to admit, seeing that Barney Greengrass was one of the alpha testers of Wikets made a huge impact on my decision to sign on to the project. BARNEY GREENGRASS! Anyone who loves deli food in NYC knows who I'm talking about. Barney Greengrass is THE place to get bagels and lox on Saturday mornings on the UWS. Just seeing his name made images of my NYC life flash before my eyes. And I could now see what he likes through Wikets! He's actually a descendant of the Barney Greengrass that is the restaurant's namesake (the deli is over 100 years old), but he still has connections to the NYC restaurant scene that would make any foodie green with envy. So of course I trust his restaurant recs. Meaning, the next time I'm in NYC I will be trying one of these restaurants that I found through this Wikets search!

But that still doesn't help me with my current dilemma. I only have three shopping days before the dinner. What can I get my FIL that is not hackneyed and overdone? I thought I had the best idea ever when I saw a book on Amazon entitled Best American Poetry 2011. MY FIL is a published poet in Korea and I know he also reads poetry in English. But then I read the reviews, which were not so good. I don't want to give him something that he would just put aside as not being up to par. Making him something with the grandkids photos on it has already been done and there are only three days left anyway! If you have a suggestion on what I can give a golf-loving poet, please share. Better yet, rec it on Wikets and I can buy it and get us both points!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My link to Steve Jobs: Connecting the Dots to Wikets

After Steve Jobs passed away, like so many other people I listened to his famous Stanford commencement address. Something he said resonated with me, "Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

Ever since I started blogging I've wondered on more than one occasion why exactly I was blogging. At first it was to record my life and times as a SAHM but then it seemed to take on a life of its own. When I started, one of my good mommy friends who was also a blogger told me that the LA Moms Blog was looking for writers at the time. Once I joined the SV Moms syndicate (now a part of Technorati), I was invited to all sorts of blogger events. The boys and I had great fun at these events; I met a lot of fabulous women and learned about the blogging world. But my motivation in blogging? It wasn't to become the next Dooce or STLMommy or Momfluential. I had no ambition to crush the world of mommy blogging. It was an education, but to what end? And then this past August, a couple of days after BlogHer, it all sort of came together.

One of my best friends told me her husband was launching an iPhone app and he needed someone to work with him to reach out to women bloggers. I told him that I wasn't an expert by a long shot, that I only knew just enough to call myself a blogger without embarrassment. I heard his pitch and the app seemed interesting. Even though this man had driven me to the hospital when I was in labor with R, that alone would not have been enough to convince me if I didn't see value in the project. After all, I didn't spend all those years valuing companies for corporate M&A transactions for nothing. I took the plunge and signed on as a consultant to Wikets. It was only after I read the words from Steve Jobs' speech that I realized that the dots had connected. Since then (which in tech time seems like ages ago), I've been working on this project that launched last night at midnight. Of course, the connection to Steve Jobs is also made complete by the fact I'm working on an iOS app.

Wikets is the first social mobile commerce application designed to enable anyone with a mobile device to share their best recommendations for products and places with people they trust. For launch it has been designed for the iPhone (iPad users can also download it but will be using the iPhone interface), but it will become available to other platforms down the line. It's like Twitter in that there is a feed that shows a certain number of characters per rec. But unlike Twitter, that rec can expand out to a mini review that captures more of what someone has to say about a certain product or place. Also unlike Twitter, Wikets is designed to be about your social community; you follow only the people whose recs you trust.

What made it compelling for me was that I would have my friends available to me at all times via their recs. How many of us have wondered what a friend would recommend for something at the very last minute? Like you land in Austin or you're at Best Buy and you want your friend Corey to tell you where to eat or what computer to buy and the timing doesn't make sense for you to call/text/email/FB Corey. Well, if you and Corey are both on Wikets, you can just look up Corey's recs! A couple of weeks ago, I had to buy a present for Stewart's niece who was turning 7. It was near midnight, when I do all my shopping online, and I thought, I wish I could ask Nellie, my friend with the 7 year old daughter, what she would recommend. Of course, she lives on the East Coast so it was 3 AM her time and there was no way for me to ask her since I had to buy the present at that moment in order for it to get to Stewart's niece on time. If I could have found her recs on Wikets, that would have been perfect!

What makes this app so great for busy moms is that you can store all your favorite things in one place. Unlike some of the other apps that have recently launched, it's not about rating the most delicious dishes on the planet or finding the most beautiful things on the internet and getting someone to notice that you found something extraordinary. Wikets is a way for us to share our favorite kid-friendly places, doctors, toys, books, music, snacks, and anything else with each other to make our lives easier and better. For the product recs, it even comes with the ability to buy those exact things through our phones to save us time. So if someone finds a great deal on diapers on Amazon and recs it, you can buy through the app and get it right then instead of going to your desktop or going to Amazon through your phone's web browser.

And, wait for it, the best part of the app is that you get something out of it every time you use it! Making a rec and re-recing/wishlisting someone's rec come with points. One point for each action. Then if someone buys through your rec, you and that person get the amount of points for the sale price that the product. 2500 points = $25 gift card! So when you are playing the mom waiting game those times when your baby falls asleep in the car, you're outside the school to pick up the kids, or you're standing on the sidelines at soccer practice, you can make recs and get points that will ultimately get you something that you can use to buy something for yourself. I like it because it's something that's easy and fun that I can do in as many minutes as I have. I get to read my friends' recs and re-rec or wishlist if I'm not up for making recs myself, but if I have a little more time then I can make recs that are related to what I'm doing or not. I made this rec at the Grove last weekend because I saw the restaurant and remembered the great breakfast I had there, even though I wasn't eating there that day.

So if you are open to trying a great new app on your iPhone or iPad, use the promotional code "randommommy" for 200 bonus points when you sign up for Wikets. It's free and it's available at the app store right now. I will be blogging the rest of this week about more features of Wikets so come back to learn how to maximize the app and your points!

I was not compensated for this post. I am a consultant to Wikets as their blogger outreach manager but the opinions in my blog are my own.