Mommy Review Monday: Dyson v8 Animal Vacuum Stick

This vacuum really sucks!

Ok, ok….I’ll cut out the cheesiness for now.

But really, this vacuum has been worth every penny.  It’s so great we named it:  Mike Dyson.  I know, I know….I said that I’d cut out the cheese.  I couldn’t resist though.

Is there anything sexier than a man doing household chores?!? Ladies, my husband is the best…and not just because he vacuums the floor…although that does help!

Here’s what we both like about it:

  • It’s rechargeable.  It’s got a little bracket that you hang on the wall, clip it in, and it’s charging.
  • It picks up almost everything.  When I say almost anything- stuff smaller than penny size for the most part.
  • The brush bar easily rotates around, making it easy to get under our kitchen cabinets, corners, and around the kitchen table (where we need it most).
  • It’s got a canister vs. a bag and is very easy to dump out with what they call the “hygienic dirt ejector.”
  • The filter is washable.
  • It’s very light, so much so that the kids can easily use it all over the house.  No more excuses.  Actually, it’s one chore that they don’t mind.
  • It cleans both hard floors and vacuums.  Our living room rug is a shag.  Just imagine how much it collects with 4 kids constantly playing on it- not to mention movie nights, eating dinner on it.
  • It’s got multiple configurations- from vacuuming the floor, to the furniture, to hard-to-reach ceiling corners) thanks to the different attachments.
  • It has regular and higher power suction (we only use the max power for the shag rug).  In the max power mode it runs up to 7 minutes but up to 40 minutes in the regular suction mode.  Vacuuming more than 40 minutes honestly sounds horrible to me so it’s not an issue for me.

Here’s Mike in his handy dandy charger. We put him conveniently on the wall in the laundry room, which is right next to the kitchen, where he gets the most use.

Here’s what I think could be improved:

…..

Soooooo, I couldn’t come up with anything so I asked Garen.  He also doesn’t have anything bad to say about it either.

Now that I think about it, it is quite an investment at roughly $400.  We bought ours at Bed, Bath, and Beyond after Christmas and used a 20% off card and a few gift cards so it was actually only about $225 for us after that.  And Mike Dyson been worth every penny for the convenience he provides us.

If you’re looking for a vacuum that is lightweight, convenient to use, and works really well, this is it.  I’ve not used the many other models but I’m sure they’re all pretty good as well.  Here’s the link to Dyson, where they have all of the models of the sticks (they just came out with a v10, which runs up to 60 minutes in case you MUST vacuum an extra 20 minutes).

Happy Mommy Review Monday everyone!

Disclaimer: I didn’t get paid for this and I haven’t had anyone from Dyson asking me to write a glowing review in exchange for a free vacuum but I’d probably be willing to take them up on that offer if their others work as well. Hint, hint, Dyson folks!

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Mommy Review Monday: Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack

For the girls’ birthday last year MaMa got the littles backpacks since they’d been trying to steal the bigs’ bags and backpacks for a few months.  After all, what toddler doesn’t like bags???

These Fairfax Pre-K backpacks have been FANTASTIC.  They are the perfect size for the littles and they LOVE to carry them around.  Without further ado, here’s my review (because I know you always want my opinion):

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Front

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack with Names

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Straps and padding

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Padding

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Pockets

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Pockets

What I like about them:

  • They have their names on them (see above).  Some people don’t like to have kids’ names on their backpacks and things for safety reasons and, as much as it may seem like I don’t care about my kids, I’m not worried about this for my toddlers.  They’re not going to go with a stranger just because someone knows their name…. The older kids might, but not toddlers who cower behind us even when we see a family member we’ve not seen in a few weeks.  Plus, we find thta people appreciate their labeled backpacks even more when your littles are twins since, despite ours being opposites in almost every way possible, they still get mixed up.
  • Ours are color coded- Kate is pink and Clara is purple (just like the most of their color coded stuff from our Phibian shoes to stuffed animals and doll clothes).
  • The stripes are nice vs. another pattern because there’s no battle over whether Clara has a unicorn and Kate has a rainbow…or whatever their flavor of the moment is.  Plus, stripes are classic.  I feel like this is a huge benefit over the super-cute but not so classic choices in the Mackenzie lineup, also from Pottery Barn.
  • They’ve held up great- despite being thrown down, stepped on, over-loaded, spilled on, and dragged around quite frequently.  And they still look good- even if they could use a good scrubbing.  Judge me if you like but I’m lucky if my kids are all clean, let alone their backpacks spotless.  The straps are very important because cheaper bags will wear out faster, especially with a lot of wear, on and off, that toddlers will inevitably do.
  • They’re the perfect size for toddlers- our girls just turned two when they got theirs and I’m guessing we won’t need to upgrade for a long time.  Ours are constantly holding a half-pack of wipes, 3-4 pull-ups or diapers, a change of clothes, a toy, a squeezy, and a granola bar with a sippy cup in the side pocket.  These have virtually eliminated the need for us to carry a diaper bag with two times everything.

Fairfax Dimensions

  • They’re water-resistant (and juice and milk).  This is also super-important since spills abound in our household (and in my car).
  • They have adjustable straps, which is great as they grow.
  • They have a front pocket for small things (our girls like to put flash cards, dinos, and/or little ponies in them).  These have a place for crayons, which would require us to keep up with them and you must know that doesn’t happen around here by now.
  • They have well-padded shoulder straps and back padding- cheaper toddler backpacks often skimp on this feature.  See above picture.  This only matters if you plan on your little one carrying these for more than a few minutes.  Ours have carried theirs for up to an hour at a time and I attribute that to them being comfortable.  The more they carry, the less you have to.
  • You can get other items that match- lunchboxes and water bottle for those of you who are matchy-matchy like I tend to be.  Our littles weren’t in need of a lunch box but when we’re ready to move up to the next size, we may get matching lunch-boxes but probably not water bottles since those seem to disappear from their special pockets. I sure don’t want a fancy, personalized water bottle to be left somewhere other than the handy pocket they’re perfectly sized for.
  • They have reflective piping on them.  You can sort of tell from the first photo above.  As a safety-nerd, I love this for those moments when one or two of my munchkins escapes into the dark….not that we ever have to deal with that…..
  • They’re very reasonably priced- especially right now as they gear up for back-to-school.  $19 for the backpack and $9.50 for the personalization.  While that may seem like a lot to some for a toddler’s backpack, consider how much they’ll carry them if you use them instead of a diaper bag like we do with ours.  Unless something changes, we figure they’ll use these until they go to Kindergarten, which is at least another two years.  That comes out to be less than a penny a day….

Fairfax Backpack checkout

What I would improve (but not deal-breakers):

  • They could use a slightly larger side pocket.  It’s rather tight getting a sippy cup in there, mostly in terms of it being “tall enough”.  In other words- it always looks like at any moment the sippy cup or water bottle may squeeze out.  You can see this from the picture above.  (Side note- the Mackenzie version looks like it might be slightly bigger.  If your little one has that version- see below- please comment and share)  In looking at the description, I don’t think the Fairfax is designed to hold a water bottle or sippy cup.  However, it works- just not as well as one would hope.
  • I wish it was machine washable.  I’m willing to guess that it might hold up to the washer but we’ve not parted with ours long enough to try (although you can clearly see they could use it).  If you’ve tried washing yours, please, please share your experience.  Again, this is wishful thinking as most backpacks are probably not going to claim to be washable- although I washed my good ol’ Jansport growing up multiple times before finally getting rid of it.  See my review of the Jansport backpacks, which my bigs will be carrying again this school year and I will soon be throwing in the wash.
  • I wish they’d put exterior connectors/metal loops onto the outside (like the small Fairfax backpacks have) or the actual straps that the Mackenzie version has.  We could use these to potentially on an extra baby doll or maybe a small blanket, although they’re actually designed to connect to their lunch box.  You could also use these with a carabiner to attach to your backpack or luggage fairly easily.

Overall, I just can’t say enough good things about these backpacks.  They really are a perfect gift for a toddler or pre-k student- one they’ll love AND their parents’ will love too since it won’t be another toy that takes up real estate.  So, thanks Mama!

Or if you’re getting ready to send your little one(s) to pre-k or you’re just flat tired of carrying all of their stuff for them, this is a great option, as are all of the Pottery Barn backpacks.  Plus, at the time of this post, they’re all on sale thanks to back-to-school season (even though its still July)…

Happy Mommy Review Monday!

Oh, and FYI- no one paid me or asked me to write this or gave me anything to try… although Pottery Barn, if you’re reading this, I’d be happy to take a few samples for my litter of littles.  Bahaha!

Mommy Review Monday: Panera Bread App

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Mommy Review Monday but was spurred into thinking of it today because this app is something I feel I should share. Since I’m on the road this week, I enjoyed a lovely meal from Panera Bread. (Half Turkey BLT and Half Green Goddess Salad). I pulled out my phone and opened my Panera Bread app. I quickly placed my order for rapid pickup and it was ready for me, bagged up and ready to go within minutes. It reminded me that there may be a few of you out there who don’t know about it and how great it is.

Here’s what I like about it:

  • Easy to use app with good layout
  • Choose whether to order for rapid pickup, delivery, or order from your table
  • Rapid pickup allows you to pick it up in a bag, packed and ready to take out
  • The delivery is super convenient
  • The “order from your table” option allows you to go secure a table during busy times and order there rather than waiting in line to order- even though their new kiosks are quite convenient.
  • I can order assorted boxes of bagels with cream cheese options for pickup quickly for an easy breakfast meeting snack/light breakfast.
  • It shows you where the nearest cafes are.
  • It keeps up with your Panera Bread rewards and shows you what you’ve already used and what you have available. I’ve already earned a free drink, free cookie, and a discount.
  • You can look up the menu. The menu shows you the nutritional facts. If you’re tracking your calories or nutrition, this is very helpful.
  • You can easily customize your order to include what you do and don’t want…even things you didn’t know were options.
  • You can save your credit card on there for fast ordering. I think you can use Apple Pay too.
  • You can see some of the screen shots below.

What I would change:

  • I’d love to see the option to order for in-house dining (like rapid delivery but instead of being packaged to leave be ready to eat at your table.) Sometimes I’ll order online for rapid pickup but feel guilty having it in disposable takeout bowls rather than the reusable ones.
  • I’d love to see them add more group meal options for box lunches, drinks, etc. It’s easy enough to just call those in but, in true millennial-style, I’d live to just do it online or on my phone to get a quick confirmation. I agree that this is very much a first world problem.
  • That’s honestly all I can think of right now to be improved.

Like I said before, it’s pretty fantastic. If you eat at Panera Bread on a somewhat regular basis, this app is totally for you. It’s my go-to for when I’m on the road because I can consistently get a good meal, both from a taste and nutritional standpoint. The convenience of it, along with free WiFi available when I need to pull out my laptop for work, makes it an amazing cafe choice, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

If you like this app, you’ll also live the Starbucks app. Check out my post about it as well.

Happy Mommy Review Monday. I hope yours was as awesome as mine!

Mommy Review Monday: Full Focus Planner

I have mentioned in a few of my previous posts that I use the Full Focus Planner.  I happened upon this wonderful thing on one of the many podcasts that I listen to.  It’s been wonderful for me.

Here’s what I like about it:

  • It’s black and non-discrete.  There’s a lot of flashy journals out there and, for some folks that’s awesome, but I prefer something low-key.  It’s not too big, allowing me to fit into most of my medium size and larger purses.
  • It’s got two built-in ribbons that help in keeping your place like a bookmark.  I typically keep one on my current day and one by my quarterly goals list.
  • It has an elastic band to keep it shut, which is nice.  I sometimes will also use this as a third bookmark.
  • It’s got enough for 90 days to complete a whole quarter.
  • It has daily quotes that are inspirational, etc.  I have shared quite a few of these because they’re usually pretty wonderful.
  • It has your daily “Big 3”:  The 3 biggest things that are most important for your day’s to-do list.  There’s also a weekly “Big 3.”  Example:  My “Big 3” this week are- Stay on Noom, Work-out 3 times this week, and Stay Focused at Work and Don’t delay (yes, I know that last one sounds funny but sometimes I lose focus).  So far, I’m doing well on #1 and #2….it’s only Monday though, so I’ve got time to get back on track for #3.
  • There’s a checklist and system for deferring, delegating, checking off, or cancelling.  For a check-list lover like me, this is perfect.
  • Everyday is two pages- 1) The date, your “Big 3,” your checklist and 2) Notes- where you can either put more to-do items, as I usually end up doing, and/or write notes.
  • There’s an index and all of the pages are numbered to make it easy to find things.  I honestly would not have ever considered this but if you’ve got something really important that you know you want to know what page you can find things in that topic about.  For example:  I’ve got a project called “Grapevine Stadium” and I had a few meetings about it with notes on pages 4,6,20, and phone calls on 8, 10, and 24.  I can quickly go to these without flipping through every page.  You have full control over how you structure your index.  I only index things that I feel are really important.
  • There’s a goal setting portion in the front where you list your SMARTER goals.  Then you break your goals down by finding out why and what you need to do to make it happen, along with setting frequency and due date, etc.  It breaks it down into achievement goals and habit goals.  These are all important for making sure that you achieve the goals you have.
  • Each week you look over your goals, your “Big 3”, etc. and it asks you how you did and what you could do better.  It’s a really good reflection.  It also asks you to set your “Big 3” for the following week.  I take this time to look at what I have on my calendar for the week to help me with them.  Then I try to pencil in my “Big 3” for each day of the week, knowing that these will likely change throughout the week but at least I have a general idea of the most important things I need to get done.
  • There’s a full year calendar in there, which is nice to put the most important things you have on your calendar in one place.
  • There’s the option to buy a “subscription” and they will automatically send you a new journal every quarter.

What I would change (there’s not much):

  • I’d add a pen holder, although I’m sure I could buy one for it.
  • I’d change the layout of the calendar.  It doesn’t give enough space to write hardly anything in there.  There are often times more than one thing I need to add in a day.  Now that I think about it, I might start noting the page number that items are on to make that easier.  But I still wish it was more in traditional calendar form so I could see what day of the week it was.  I’m sure it was done this way to save space and have fewer pages.  After all, you don’t want a planner that is too large.
  • I would’ve bought 4 journals at once rather than doing the subscription so that as I get closer to that next quarter I can start putting my to-do lists into their assigned days.

Overall, this is the best planner I’ve ever had and it really has helped me.  I’m slightly ADHD, so I need all of the (Full) focus I can get.  Pun intended.  I’ll continue to use this and I’m hopeful that I’ll see the change in the calendar maybe someday but, even without that change, it’s awesome.  I definitely recommend it if you’ve got a lot going on in your life and you’re into setting and achieving goals, whether personal or professional.

Happy Mommy Review Monday!

Mommy Review Monday: Batiste Dry Shampoo, Dark & Deep Brown

It took me a long time to break down and try dry shampoo, mostly because I always assumed it only worked for blondes. As I was getting my hospital bag ready for delivering the twins, one of the things I kept seeing on many new moms lists was dry shampoo. So I figured it was worth checking out. And I found that they make it for us dark haired beauties too. Duh. Of course they do. So, I went to Amazon and read a few hundred reviews before I decided to try out Batiste Dry Shampoo in Dark & Deep Brown.  It actually says Divine Dark on the spray can.

Mommy Review Monday- Batiste Dry ShampooAfter I got used to it, I was hooked. Here’s why I agree that it is divine dark:

  • It freshens my unwashed hair up. Obviously. That’s the whole purpose, right???  Second (or third day) greasy hair, be gone!  Don’t judge me….
  • It’s easy.  I saw online that there are some powders out there that you sprinkle on, which seems like (a) a mess for someone clumsy like me (b) time consuming (c) did I say a mess???
  • It smells good but isn’t too strong.
  • It doesn’t show up once you brush it out.  See comment below.
  • It provides camo for my stray grays that I’ve got peaking through.  I’ve got at least one for each kids growing right now…. plus one for the cat, Garen, the kitchen remodel, the yard sale….need I go on???
  • It’s reasonably priced.  $23.05 for a three-pack.
  • It’s available on Amazon.  Available in 2 days, which is usually plenty fast.
  • It’s not a huge can.  When you travel as much as I do, you consider things like the size of your cosmetics and products.
  • It gives me a bit of extra body.  Disclaimer- some people may not like this because it does make your hair a bit stiffer and full.  I, on the other hand, can use all the help I can get with my super-thin hair.

Here’s what I’d love more:

  • I’d love it more if it didn’t show up at all when you sprayed it on your hair.  Yes, I’m lazy enough to say that I’d rather not to have to brush it out.  However, you do need to brush it or you’ll look like you walked into a cloud of baby powder.  Once you brush it out, it’s as good as new though.  It’s still faster than washing and drying my hair….
  • I wish it was readily available at more stores.  Even though it’s on Amazon, there are times that I get somewhere and I’ve forgotten to pack it.  Dun, dun, dun…. Most stores don’t carry it and I’m just stubborn enough not to try another brand so I just have to wash my hair.  First world problem, right?!?
  • It gets your hands (see photo below) and can get your clothes dirty if you’re not careful.  It will also wash out brown in the shower.  The first time that happened I had forgotten about it and thought to myself, “Man, how did I get that dirty???”  Then I remembered.  Duh….Mommy Review Monday- Batiste Dry Shampoo

There you have it.  Now any of you beautiful dark headed ladies can enjoy dry shampoo too if you haven’t already.  And if any of you have a brand you like more, please let me know!  I’d love to try it out compared to Batiste but I’m hesitant without a recommendation from a fellow dry shampooer….

Happy Mommy Review Monday!

Mommy Review Monday: Member’s Mark 14 Inch Non-Stick Fry Pan

I love my Member’s Mark 14 Inch Non-Stick Fry Pan. I bought my first one about 10 years ago from Sam’s Club. In the last year or two it hasn’t been sitting evenly on my stove-top. I believe, between Garen and I, one of us probably washed it before it was completely cool, causing it to warp. Easy mistake and it wasn’t a huge deal but I planned to replace it and just kept forgetting every time I went to Sam’s.

Member’s Mark 14 Inch Non-Stick Fry Pan

My birthday came along and Garen gave me a new one. Yea! I kept the old one in case I need a second one to cook two things at once. We even named the new one.

Peter. Peter Pan.

Garen gets the credit for that little piece of humor.

Likes:

  • Price. At $26.98, if it only lasts a couple of years that’s still awesome.
  • Non-stick. It is super easy to clean. That’s a must in our house.
  • Dishwasher safe. It barely fits into the bottom rack but it does. Most times we just wash it by hand though because it’s so easy to clean. It’s always nice to have the option to be a little on the lazy side though.
  • Size. At 14″, it’s big enough to cook a nice one-pot dish or about 3-4 pancakes at a time. That’s important when you’ve got lots of mouths to feed.
  • Cooks well. I should start by saying that I’m not a chef. However, for the dishes I make it seems to cook pretty well. Especially for the price.  If you’re a chef, this may not be the quality you want but it works great for me, as an amateur on a budget.
  • Long life. Despite us warping it, it has held up well. I am pretty good about not using metal utensils with it so that does help. I would imagine it’ll last another 10+ years if we take care of it.

What I would change:

  • An Additional Handle.  I’d add another handle. It’s pretty heavy to handle if you need to move it when it’s fully loaded.  Imagine draining meat.  I can do it with one hand but it’s a job.  Thankfully I’m always lugging around one (or more) toddlers and have forearms of steel!
  • Ovenproof. I wish it could be put in the oven. It is what it is. You can’t have you’re non-stick skillet and bake it too….or at least not in this price point.
  • Add a Lid. I wish it had a lid. Again, I could probably pay more and purchase one that came with a lid or potentially find one that would fit right. When I need one now, using foil works pretty well for a poor man’s lid.

Member_s Mark 14 Inch Non-Stick Fry Pan

This may be one of my next kitchen purchases: Tramontina 3-Piece Deep Sauté Pan Set (Assorted Colors).  It seems to do everything that I listed as “likes” above and then all of the things I wish it also had.  Plus, it comes in red, which is awesome!!!

In the meantime, I still love my big commercial kitchen frying pan and my sweet hubby for giving me Peter Pan!  What’s your favorite stove-top pan?  I’d love for you to share!

Mommy Review Monday: Ceramic “Non-stick” Instant Pot Bowl

After the first two times cooking in the Instant Pot, Garen, who usually cleans the kitchen after I cook, suggested that we look for a “non-stick” version.  Sooooo….I went to Amazon.  Where else?

Ceramic "Non-stick" Instant Pot BowlHere’s what we found and purchased:  Genuine Instate Pot Ceramic Non-Stick Interior Coated Inner Cooking Pot- 8 Quart.

Positives:

  • It is lightweight.  I read some reviews that people thought the lightweight properties made it not as great to use but I’ve had no issue with that affecting our dishes so far.  This could be a issue later potentially if it bends but I think being careful with it will prevent that.  Only time will tell.
  • It wasn’t as expensive as I expected, ringing up at $24.99 at the time I purchased it.  I really think it’s worth that much just to have a second bowl should I need one with a meal that requires multiple dishes cooked in your Instant Pot.
  • It seems to cook just as well as the original for the dishes I’ve used it for.
  • It fits fine into my Instant Pot even though I did read some reviews that some people got pots that would not fit correctly.
  • It cleans better than the regular pot it came with.  Yes, I am the mom that hates having to soak and/or scrub dishes.  And I married to a man that hates it too and since he does most of the kitchen clean-up when I cook, I’m going to make his job as easy as possible when I can.

Negatives:

  • I wouldn’t say it’s still completely non-stick but it’s still way easier to clean that the original pot.  See above comment. 
  • This isn’t really a negative so much as an added requirement- you must use non-metal utensils.  This isn’t an issue for me since I rarely use metal anyway due to almost always cooking in non-stick pots and pans.
  • You can’t use the metal steamer insert your Instant Pot comes with.  Actually, you can but I don’t recommend it because it will scratch the coating, just like metal utensils would.  Because of this I’m still using my original pot for boiling eggs, steaming, etc. but you can be assured that this silicone steamer set is my next purchase.  I’ll let you know how it works!

Ceramic "Non-stick" Instant Pot BowlWhat are your favorite Instant Pot accessories?  I’d love for you to share!

Happy Instant Potting!

For the record, I’m not getting any compensation or free stuff for writing this review.  These are strictly my opinions.  I’m just a crazy, working mom, trying to share ways to make your life easier!