Category: Gear

Is the Fitbit Charge HR Worth the Splurge?

Posted on Jan 30, 2015 by No Comments

If you’re fairly active and the Fitbit Flex just didn’t appeal to you because there weren’t enough bells and whistles, the Fitbit Charge HR may have caught your eye recently.

Hyped since around October it’s finally here (in black, at least). Is it worth it? I think so, if you’re already in the market for a fitness tracker that does more than calculate steps.

The Fitbit Charge HR tracks steps, distance, floors climbed, resting heart rate, heart rate during exercise, and sleep (it also tells you the time).

I love mine, and find it quite an improvement over the Flex. It’s a step up from the Charge, which was a replacement for the recalled Fitbit Force, since it does everything the Charge does, plus track heart rate.

I’m not sure this is the most accurate tracker out there, but it seems pretty accurate considering I don’t have to wear a strap around my chest (which isn’t exactly comfortable and really only feasible during workouts and doesn’t do much for resting heart rate over the course of the day).

I think overall, my heart rate is a little faster, but if I keep that in mind as I look at the data, I still get a good idea of what’s going on with my body. If I’m walking without moving my arms, like when I had my hands in my pockets to keep them warm during an outdoor walk, I won’t necessarily get credit for all of my steps or distance.

Unlike with the Flex, I do get credit for active minutes, as well, without the need to put workouts in manually. You can specify your workouts on the dashboard, but you can also keep it simple by putting the Charge HR into exercise mode and going from there. You can see the duration and heart rate information in the dashboard without doing anything extra.

I appreciate the automatic switch to sleep mode when I lie down at night and if I take a long nap, but I will warn you that the “gentle” vibrating alarm didn’t feel all that gentle to me. Maybe it’s less jarring than a blaring alarm, but it’s still not gradual or gentle in my opinion.

It’s interesting to analyze your sleep patterns over time, especially if you’ve been waking up feeling exhausted after a full night’s sleep. This and the nearly-24/7 heart rate monitoring are some of the most valuable features of the fitness watch, and I still find the Fitbit Charge HR the best on the market for sleep, heart rate, and general activity tracking.

Though it seems to have a few flaws when it comes to accuracy, I’m still obsessed with this little gadget and find it superior to the others within the Fitbit line (the Surge may be better in some ways, but it’s huge!).

Photo credit: Amazon

Link Round-up: Baked Sweet Potatoes, Valentine Ideas, and More

Posted on Jan 29, 2015 by 1 Comment

Today’s link round-up has loaded baked sweet potato skins, valentine ideas, kitchen gadgets, and more.

Chocolate Covered Katie taught us how to make loaded baked sweet potato skins.

Kenarry taught us how to remove a highlighter stain.

Create Craft Love showed us how to make a cupid’s arrow valentine (and shared a printable).

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Crafts by Amanda shared 10 valentine ideas for kids from preschool age to teens.

Confessions of an Overworked Mom showed us how to make a cat quilling Valentine’s Day card.

Crafts ‘n Coffee shared a tutorial for an adorable Valentine’s Day pompom wreath.

Luv a Bargain shared her top picks for the 25 must-have kitchen gadgets.

Photo credit: Chocolate Covered Katie and Crafts by Amanda

Too Much to Do? The Passion Planner Could Help.

Posted on Jan 21, 2015 by No Comments

If you feel like you have too much on your plate, as most moms seem to, the Passion Planner may be helpful.

It has the hourly layout of each day that’s typical of most planners. However, there are other empty spaces to catch all the things you might not be able to fit into those tiny boxes—errands, doodles, random notes, and your personal to-do list. It helps you prioritize the things you have to get done throughout the day.

The website calls the Passion Planner “your own personal, 24/7, inexpensive life coach.” Because there’s plenty of room for work and personal tasks, motivational quotes, space at the end of each week to reflect and write down the positive things that happened that week, and space to plan your goals, it may be able to help create balance in your life if you’re struggling with organization.

It’s faux leather and hand bound, with thick paper, and covers January through December. Each week starts with Sunday, not Monday.

If you’re curious about whether the layout would work for you, you can try it for free with a weekly PDF download from the site. You can even get a free printed calendar when you refer friends to the site and three of them make a purchase.

I feel like this is a great planner for moms who work in an office or at home, and it provides options for planning out your goals and the future.

I know sometimes as a work from home mom, I get bogged down in getting through one day at a time. Sometimes that works during tough weeks, but I’d like to keep myself motivated to keep moving forward and achieving personal goals, too. The prompts and empty spaces can help with that.

Photo credit: Passion Planner

Personalized Valentine’s Pillows Are Sweeter than Candy

Posted on Jan 20, 2015 by No Comments

Whether it’s for your significant other or your child, these personalized pillows are a cute gift idea for Valentine’s Day.

I don’t necessarily like giving a lot of candy to my daughter for Valentine’s Day because she gets plenty at school, but I usually want to give her a little something. I think these pillows are perfect. They do each come with a small box of conversation hearts, but you can tuck those away for a later time if you need to.

They’re $19.99, and you can choose from red, pink, purple, blue, or yellow, and add your own message to them. You’re slightly limited on the length of the message—up to three lines, with up to 11 characters per line—but the messages will look best if they’re short and sweet just like the ones on candy hearts, anyway.

All the messages are written in red unless you order the red pillow (letters are done in white in that case). These pillows are not so holiday-centric that you couldn’t leave one or two out all year, and I think they’d look especially cute in a kid’s room.

With 92 reviews on the Personal Creations site, these have a 4.7 star rating (out of 5.0). People have commented on how perfect the colors are, how soft and cuddly the pillows feel, the good quality, and how much the kids of all ages have loved them as gifts. Some of the reviewers have been surprised by how big they actually are.

I love gifts that stick around well after the occasion so they can bring back memories long after the time has passed, which is one reason I’m not always a fan of giving candy or flowers. These are a cute option that will last a while!

Photo credit: Personal Creations

Link Round-up: Breakfasts, Cat Toys, Planners, and More

Posted on Jan 15, 2015 by No Comments

Today’s link round-up has breakfast ideas, cat toys, a planner, and more.

Chocolate Covered Katie shared a recipe for oatmeal trail mix cupcakes.

A Beautiful Mess showed us how to make junk food cat toys.

A Mom’s Take shared an idea for a healthy, easy Valentine’s Day lunch.

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Muslin and Merlot taught us how to make cracked marble pendants.

The Joys of Boys shared an easy Valentine’s Day breakfast.

Homemade Interest taught us to make tuna salad with avocado.

Aunt Peaches talked about the best $60 she ever spent—on a day planner.

Photo credit: Chocolate Covered Katie and Muslin and Merlot

Kidz Gear Headphones Are a Must for Little Techies

Posted on Jan 13, 2015 by No Comments

It never fails to amaze me how comfortable kids today are with using technology. One of my son’s most prized possessions is his Chromebook, which is used for both school and personal entertainment.

If your kids are also tech nuts, consider treating them to a pair of Kidz Gear headphones.

Kidz Gear Deluxe Stereo Headset Headphones with Boom Microphone - PinkRecently, my 10-year-old son and I had a chance to test out a pair of Kidz Gear headphones. The headphones are easy to adjust for a comfortable fit. My son really liked the padded ears compared to the headphones I had purchased for him previously.

He wasn’t thrilled about the boom mic, so he doesn’t often do anything on the computer that requires a microphone. But, the mic itself is fairly flexible so you can bend it out of the way if needed. (There is also a version that can be purchased without the microphone if you’d prefer.)

The sound output for the headphones is better than you’d expect for a child’s product, but comparable to other similarly priced adult headphones.

One feature I really like about these headphones is that they come with a volume limiting cord. The cord limits the volume to approximately 80 percent of the maximum volume output from most devices on the market today. This helps protect sensitive young ears from hearing loss.

Optional accessories for the Kidz Gear headphones include a handy drawstring carrying case, which is great for when you’re traveling. You can also purchase a headphone splitter cable, which I can see being useful if you have siblings who want to listen to the same thing.

The Kidz Gear wired headphones with boom microphone come in gray, blue, and pink. Visit the Kidz Gear website for details.

Disclaimer: Product samples were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of preparing this review.

Photo credit: Kidz Gear

The Stokke Trailz Stroller Is Ready for Anything

Posted on Jan 5, 2015 by No Comments

I wish this stroller had been around when my daughter was small enough to ride in one. I felt like I needed a variety of stroller options to do everything I wanted to do, and that resulted in a bad Craigslist purchase and money wasted.

This one says it’s ready for all terrains and seasons, so it can take you from the park to the mall to the (probably paved and well-traveled, but still) hiking trail.

You may want something else if you’re looking for a running stroller, but for the average user who just likes to switch things up a bit and change the scenery from time to time, this looks like an incredible choice.

Another thing the Stokke Trailz stroller does is lift the baby higher to encourage interaction.

When my daughter was in her stroller, there wasn’t a ton of distance between us as she rode around in the carrier attached to the base on the stroller, but once she got older and faced out and away from me, I would have to walk around and kneel to talk to her, to help her with something, etc.

We could barely hear each other when I walked and pushed her at the park or down the sidewalk. This design looks like it could help with those issues.

If you like to take a lot of gear with you or use your stroller on shopping trips, you’ll love that there’s a compartment at the bottom to store your bags. It’s large and waterproof, too.

There’s one other serious perk here that I should mention—the maneuverability.

My regular stroller from Graco I bought about eight years ago was relatively easy to maneuver (I could turn it, at least), but the running stroller I got with tires designed for outdoor use did not turn at all—it was designed to go straight and that’s it. I had to push down on the handle, lift it up, turn it on the back tires, and change directions that way.

These tires do turn, which will make it so much easier to manage indoors and outdoors.

Photo credit: Black Wagon

Is the Fitbit Flex Worth the Cost?

Posted on Dec 31, 2014 by No Comments

I’ve been considering a fitness tracker for about two years now, maybe more. Since I recently slacked off on getting up and getting moving, I decided now was the time to finally put in some serious research time and find the best one for me—and get up off the couch again (okay, my office chair more than the couch, but still).

I checked out the Garmin Vivofit, the Fitbit Flex, the Fitbit Charge, and the Fitbit Charge HR (which isn’t available yet).

The Garmin Vivofit sounded good, but the reviews said they tend to fall off and get lost, plus the heart rate monitor requires a separate chest strap. I know I’m not likely to take the extra minute to put that on, especially not when I often sleep in my workout clothes and it’s cold.

You have to wet the chest strap before putting it on your skin, from what I understand. Though heart rate tracking is important, I talked myself out of going for one that had the capability simply because of that strap.

The Charge seemed a little bulky for me and didn’t have enough additional features that fit my needs, so I went for the less expensive, thinner Flex. I wore it for two days, tracked everything (workouts, water intake, steps, miles, food, and sleep) in the amazing Fitbit program (app and on the computer), and was impressed at first.

Then I realized I could work out for 30 minutes and only get credit for four to seven “very active minutes.” Probably because there was no heart rate tracking feature. Boo.

The pros: The steps, distance and sleep seem mostly accurate. I felt like it told me I slept better than I actually did, but it was a good estimate, overall.

It made tracking my health way more fun and helped me not only move more but remember to drink more water. It was easy to track what I was eating because the dropdown list was very detailed—I could do more than just choose “almond butter,” for example. I could choose the brand and get all the nutrition information added to my daily totals.

The cons: I wanted active credit for those workouts! I knew when I bought the Flex that it wouldn’t track my heart rate, tell me how long I was in my target zone, or anything like that, but I did think it would register more than it did.

I could manually enter workouts on the computer, but I didn’t get the very active minutes for them. If I had done some serious running, I may have gotten them, but I don’t do that type of workout all the time.

Ultimately, I took it back because even though I really liked it and it felt comfortable on my wrist (even though I type all day), I didn’t feel like I was getting a true overview of what I was doing. I decided to wait for the Charge HR to come out in early 2015 and see what that’s like. It doesn’t require a chest strap to track the heart rate.

If you’re just looking to track your food, water, and steps throughout the day—or if you prefer to use walking and running as your primary forms of working out and aren’t worried about “active” minute tracking—I still recommend this one. It just wasn’t right for me.

Photo credit: Fitbit

Ocarina Lets You Make Music on the Go

Posted on Dec 23, 2014 by No Comments

Have you ever looked at your favorite necklace and thought, “This would be so much cooler if it played music?” If so, you need an ocarina necklace from STL Ocarina.

The ocarina is an ancient flute-like musical instrument popularized in the US during WWII. STL Ocarina is dedicated to bringing this unique and affordable instrument to music lovers of all ages.

I am not the most musically inclined person by any means, but it is fairly easy to grasp the general idea of the ocarina and the tutorials on the STL Ocarina website are quite helpful. However, the necklace is a little tricky to play if you have large hands. My son has one of the STL superhero ocarinas that is much more comfortable for me to hold for long periods of time.

From a design standpoint, the necklace itself is quite pretty. I really like that the knots on the back are adjustable so you can fiddle with the length a bit to match the neckline of whatever you’re wearing.

The design is also unusual enough that it’s a great conversation starter when you’re out and about. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by the idea of wearing a tiny musical instrument around your neck?

Visit STL Ocarina to see the full selection of necklaces or to purchase one for the music lover in your life. STL Ocarina also offers a teacarina model that would be a fun treat for any tea drinking musician.

Disclaimer: Product samples were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of preparing this review.

Photo credit: STL Ocarina