Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fruit2O Essentials Review and Giveaway

I enjoy drinking water, but there are times when I need a little something more than just plain water. Over the years, I have tried several different flavored waters, carbonated and not carbonated, but I have struggled to find one that was just right. I have decided that I do not like sparkling water, but I held out hope in finding a good "still" flavored water. Fruit2O Essentials came to my rescue and they have vitamins, minerals, and even fiber added to them.

There is a flavor choice for just about everyone. My personal favorite is Strawberry Kiwi, but I also really liked Cranberry Raspberry and Cherry Acai. Other flavors include Citrus, Blueberry Pomegranate, and Peach Mango, all of which are also very good. Each bottle has 0 calories and 0 sugar, but are bursting with fruit flavor that tastes natural and not chemically like some I have tried. They are sweetened with sucralose (Splenda is also sucralose), but there is really no aftertaste. All of the drinks have 1 gram of dietary fiber and a combination of nutrients that vary based on the flavor. The nutrients are similar to what you would find in the actual fruits that each is flavored to taste like.

I enjoyed these waters very much and would recommend them to anyone who is looking for a good, 0 calorie drink. They are a light drink , like water, so they easily quench your thirst and they taste wonderful. The downside for me is that I do not like buying individual bottles of water for environmental reasons and these are currently not available in a larger size (most flavored waters aren't). They come in 18 oz individual bottles and are also available as part of a 15-count variety pack. If you do choose to buy them, be sure to check the website for a coupon. Currently, you can get a coupon for $1 off two 18 oz bottles and we all know that every penny counts.

Would you like to win a sampler package of Fruit2O Essentials to try it for yourself? One person will win the same sampler package that I received with one bottle of each flavor.

To enter:
- Tell me what flavor you are most interested in trying. (mandatory entry)

You can earn bonus entries (one entry for each that you do) by:
- subscribing to my blog
- following my blog
- sharing this giveaway via your blog or other social networking site.

Please leave an extra comment for each bonus entry. The winner will be chosen on July 7th and they will have 48 hours to get back to me or a new winner will be chosen. I will choose the winner at some point in the evening of the 7th and entries will be accepted up until the drawing. Good luck!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Review: The Girls From Ames

I recently had the opportunity to review the book, The Girls from Amesby Jeffrey Zaslow. This book is the true story of 11 girls who grew up together in Ames, Iowa. The women (well, 10 of them, 1 passed away in her early 20s) are now in their forties and living across the US, but still maintain their friendship with regular reunions. Scattered throughout the book, the author has quoted various studies that have proven the health benefits of female friendships.

These girls are the ones that many of us disliked in high school. They were their own little clique that others could not be a part of. Even a few of the girls felt like they lived on the "edge", not fully integrated into the group until later. The girls were not disliked individually, but the exclusivity of the group is what caused others to dislike them.

The book delves into what these girls felt and experienced on an individual level and how their friendships grew. As their lives, and the book, progressed, the girls went their separate ways and experienced a wide range of experiences. There are marriages, the death of a friend, divorces, new babies, illness and death of one of their children, and personal illnesses that they have experienced. By getting to know the girls individually, it makes it a bit easier to look back on own high school years and look at the "it" girls a bit differently.

I also found that I was often thinking about my own friendships from childhood. Aside from facebook, there is really only one girl who I have maintained a friendship with through the years, but there are several who I know I could call if I needed them. My friends and I led somewhat "tamer" lives than the girls from Ames, but their stories are still relatable.

As for the writing style of this book, it was a bit different than I am used to. The writing itself is good, but as the book was compiled, there is a lot of overlapping and repetition. Even the studies that are quoted seem repetitious. Having said this, it is still a pretty easy read and while re-reading the same things over and over was a tad annoying, the book is still good. I walked away from it with a greater appreciation for my children and my friends, as well as a new perspective on people in general. I cannot say I highly recommend this book, but you will not be disappointed by it.

***Disclaimer*** I received a copy of the book The Girls from Amesfor review. No monetary compensation was received and my opinion was not influenced in any way.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Encouraging kids to read in the summer

A child's summer vacation is often full of playing with friends, swimming, and yes, even video games. By the time they return to school in the fall, often, children have regressed a bit in the learning process. One way to prevent this is to encourage your children to include reading in their summer activities. Children who enjoy reading will have no problem adding some reading time in, but there are many who would rather watch grass grow than read a book. So here are a few tips for encouraging those reluctant readers:

- Check with your library for a summer reading program. Many local libraries offer incentives for reading throughout the summer. If your library does not have a program, create one of your own. Award points or small prizes for each book read or for a certain amount of time spent reading.

- Find books that the child can relate to. If your child enjoys dinosaurs, bring them to the library and find some books on dinosaurs, or whatever topic interests them. There are also books about kids dealing with different health issues from asthma to diabetes to celiac disease; and more that deal with all sorts of living situations from divorce to siblings with drug abuse issues to pregnancy. If your child is in one of these situations, see what books are available for them.

- Create a place where the child can go to read. This could be a comfy nook tucked away in a corner of the playroom or a special spot under a favorite tree. If it is an indoor location, be sure there are plenty of books available nearby for them to choose from.

- Read with them. Have them read aloud to you for a few paragraphs and then you take a turn reading to them. This not only encourages reading, but also allows for some one-on-one bonding.

For more ideas, you can find links to additional blog postings at TwitterMoms.

Disclaimer- I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms blogging program to be eligible to get an "I Can Read!" book. For more information on how you can participate, click here.


It has been a while since I posted, but I am currently participating in a bird flu vaccine study that has me in an isolation unit for 12 days so I am planning lots of posts over the next several days. The study is being done by the University of Rochester and is an investigational nasal vaccine. This is the second time it has been tested on humans and so far most volunteers have not reported symptoms. Those who have had symptoms reported them to be very mild and localized (stuffy/runny nose). I received the vaccine yesterday morning and have had no symptoms at all. The reason for the isolation is that the vaccine, like many vaccines, contains weakened, yet living flu virus. By keeping us isolated, it keeps us from spreading this into the general population and causing an outbreak.

The isolation itself is not terrible. Obviously, I have Wi-Fi and I planned ahead and brought lots of stuff to do with me. The food is hit or miss, sometimes it is great and other times it is terrible. I planned ahead for that too and brought a bottle of Red Hot and some sea salt with me so I am able to doctor up the not so great food and make it much more palatable. Plus, we set up the home computer and the laptop with Skype so the kids and I can at least see each other during this time.

I am sure some of you are asking yourselves why in the world would someone volunteer for this. I wish I could give you a noble answer and say I am doing it for the greater good of mankind, but that would be an outright lie. The truth is, I am not a fan of flu vaccines for those who are not at high risk. My family and I do not routinely get any flu vaccines at all. I do take comfort in knowing that if there is a massive outbreak of bird flu in the near future, that I will be one of only a few people vaccinated and therefore able to truly assist my community. However, the real reason I am doing this is that the pay was phenomenal and with my dear husband recently losing his job, we really need the money. I have also educated myself on medical research over the years and I know that while the medications are investigational, they are generally pretty safe. In fact, my husband participated in one a few years ago that was for high blood pressure medication. By the end of the study, his blood pressure was back in a normal range and his frequent nose bleeds had stopped. Eight years later, things are still the same for him.

If you have ever considered participating in medical research studies, I encourage you to look into them. Some do require you take an investigational medication, some you may get the medicine or you may get a placebo, and some are simply a matter of donating your blood for study. My kids and I are also currently participating in a family flu study where twice a year we go and have a vial of blood drawn. We also record any flu symptoms during flu season and if one of us has flu symptoms, we go in for a nasal and throat culture. There is no requirement to get the flu shot and no medications are given through the study. The best part is that each time we go in, each child receives a $25 Toys R' Us gift card and I get a $25 check. Plus the past two years, they have also given me a $30 Wegman's gift card during our spring visit. With 4 kids, that equals over $200 in Toys R' Us gift cards each year for doing nothing more than giving a little blood.