The Motherloot Blog: Product Reviews

Review: Lands’ End Sport Squall Parka & How You Can Help the Homeless!

Lands' End Sport Squall ParkaWe received a fantastic Lands’ End Sport Squall Parka coat to review and once again, I am impressed with the products that Lands’ End offers. I had bought a bulky winter coat for my son, but we were dealing with the same issues every single day that he wore it. Any mother, I am sure,  knows what I am talking about. With bulky coats there were always two difficulties- the difficulties with fitting the seat belt around the giant coat and booster seat, the other issue being that it was difficult to fit a backpack nicely over the girth of the coat. These two issues plague us in the winter, and I think that is why this coat is such a hit in our house.

The coat feels like a windbreaker with none of the heaviness of a typical winter coat. Despite how lightweight it is, the temperature rating is -10°/35° Fahrenheit which is perfect for these harsh Indiana winters. It also is windproof, the arms cinch to your child’s sizing to keep out the elements, and it has a fitted hood that is attached so your kid’s won’t lose it.

My son loves his new coat and I love the fact that there are no more tears of frustration trying to get our seat belts on and backpacks on. I love this coat so much that I am planning to get one for my daughter and thankfully, I have the opportunity to do that with a 20% discount.

More than the coat, I am most excited about Lands’ End and their new initiative to keep those less fortunate warm this winter. Just think about how hard winter would be if you did not have a coat. There are so many people who are without one this winter while many of us have extras tucked away in our closets that are gathering dust. Imagine if you could give that coat to someone in need to keep them warm this winter. Well, I have the perfect way you can help!

Lands’ End has joined forces with the National Coalition for the Homeless for the Big Warm-up.  The Big Warm-up provides an opportunity for people across the nation to donate a gently used coat that will then go on to warm one of more than 3.5 million homeless women, men and children in the United States right now – each facing a cold winter.

Beginning October 29 until November 30, Lands’ End is hosting Big Warm-up coat donation sites at its 252 Lands’ End Shops at Sears and 13 Lands’ End Inlets®.  Donated coats will be distributed via the National Coalition for the Homeless in communities nearby.  AND… Lands’ End is giving 20 percent off the purchase of a new coat for each one donated.

Visit WWW.BIGWARMUP.COM to see how each coat can warm a heart, track donations, find donation sites, watch an inspiring video and spread the word.

Go through your closets TODAY and get a great discount in the process!

Website for More Details: Lands’ End

Suggested Retail Price: $69.50, but currently on sale for $52.00

This product was received as a review sample. The thoughts and opinions expressed will always be honest and heartfelt and no reflection on receiving a sample copy.  We promise to always do our best to also give away each of these products to our readers because it is always better to give than to receive!  Want to know more about how things are handled here at MomAdvice? Be sure to read our Disclaimer which clearly states how things work and know that we will always offer only the best reviews to our readers! After all, it’s only what we know you have come to expect from us!

Giveaway Results: HP Photosmart Premium Printer with TouchSmart Web

HP Photosmart Touchsmart Printer

Sorry! This giveaway is now closed.  We would like to congratulate Commenter #7 (Shawn) on winning this fantastic giveaway! We hope to offer many more each Tuesday on the site. Thank you all for your entries!

I have to say that I absolutely LOVE my job. We are planning a slew of giveaways for the holiday season and nothing could kick this off better than a fantastically shiny new printer from HP.

My love for HP knows no bounds and we have happily become an HP family. This new printer is just another shining example of functionality with a streamlined design that I have come to recognize from this company.

I have put together all of my thoughts in our review of this new HP Photosmart Premium All-in-One Printer.

Here are some of the highlights:

TOUCH THE WEB. PRINT THE WEB.
• Print Google maps, movie tickets, news updates, coupons, food recipes and more without using a PC1
• Access and print photos from Snapfish.com, plus upload photos to online albums without turning on your PC4
• Get up to 50% paper savings using automatic two-sided printing
• View, edit and print photos without a PC using the memory card slots and large HP TouchSmart screen
• Print photos without changing paper using the 20-sheet photo tray
• Produce templates and games, including fax cover pages, calendars, notebook paper and Sudoku puzzles, using Quick Forms
• Copy and scan documents and photos in the comfort of your own home
• Create photo reprints in brilliant color without going to the store
• Print Web pages without ads, menu bars and other unnecessary info using HP Smart Web Printing5
• Reduce interruptions: print up to 100 pages without reloading the paper tray

PRINT FROM ANY ROOM
• Set up your wireless printer with the touch of a button2
• Reduce the clutter of messy cables
• Share your printer with multiple people
• Print documents and photos from Bluetooth®-enabled mobile phones6 and PCs
• Print photos wirelessly from your iPhone® or iPod touch® using HP iPrint Photo7

BOOST YOUR CREATIVITY
• Produce everyday documents like Web pages, emails, homework and checklists
• Print creative projects like flyers, photo books, greeting cards and activities for kids

For project templates, tips to help you get started and more, visit the HP Creative Studio at www.hp.com/create.

SAVE ENERGY
• Count on this ENERGY STAR® qualified product

REMEMBER COMPATIBLE INK, PAPER AND ACCESSORIES
• HP, the #1 brand in ink is the #1 value
• Count on documents with sharp text and photos with bright colors using Original HP Vivera inks
• Choose higher-volume XL cartridges for more ink and lower cost per page8
• Print up to 65% more pages than bargain inks9 using Original HP ink
• Create impressive documents and photos using a variety of Original HP paper
• USB cable included in the box for wireless setup only

To enter this giveaway, head over to our review and read all about what this printer offers. Come back here and tell me which feature you think you love the most on this all-in-one printer. Entries will be taken through Tuesday (11/03) at 8PM EST. Our winner will be drawn at random. Good luck, everyone!

Review: Castle Knights Board Game

Castle Knights

We received a copy of a great new board game that we are so excited to giveaway to you this month too!

It is no secret that our family is a huge fan of great board games. Our board game collection is becoming a threatening tower in our office and I could become a skilled Jenga player trying to pull a game out of the pile. Alas, nothing screams, “FAMILY” to me like a good board game.

Castle Knights is more than a board game though, it actually looks like an heirloom toy that can be handed down from generation to generation. The packaging is sturdy and the pieces of the game are beautifully made and wooden. The price tag on this game reflects the quality workmanship in the pieces and this game will withstand the abuse from my children…and hopefully the abuse of the grandchildren someday!

The game is based around the story of the castle for King Duncan. The knights must hurry to erect the castle towers before King Duncan reaches the castle. Two to four players work together to build the tower using a stretchy band tool with wooden ball holders. The game is intended for children from age five to age ninety-nine.

The skills learned in this game are numerous including coordination of the eyes and hands, team spirit, and the ability to visualize in three dimensions. The most important skill learned for the mother of two squabbling children? Teamwork and cooperation, of course!

Website for More Details: Castle Knights

Suggested Retail Price: $35.00

This product was received as a review sample. The thoughts and opinions expressed will always be honest and heartfelt and no reflection on receiving a sample copy.  We promise to always do our best to also give away each of these products to our readers because it is always better to give than to receive!  Want to know more about how things are handled here at MomAdvice? Be sure to read our Disclaimer which clearly states how things work and know that we will always offer only the best reviews to our readers! After all, it’s only what we know you have come to expect from us!

Review: HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web

HP Photosmart Touchsmart PrinterI was so excited to receive a new HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web to review and also to giveaway to our readers this month.

If you knew the kind of circumstances I had been working under, you would understand the necessity for a better appliance. The lights in our office would dim when we turned on our printer because of its low energy efficiency. I would hook the scanner up and rest it on the floor to scan a document, hunched over just trying to make the darn thing work. Couple that with a fax machine from 1980 that I found on eBay, and you can see an office that wasn’t operating at its quickest efficiency.

Cue the singing angels as I hook up the HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web which is all three things in one. I have such high hopes for what this printer can deliver and how we can use it for our family. With a price tag of $399.99, it should do a lot of cool stuff for us… and in many ways it delivers. $399.99 worth of delivery though? I will let you be the judge of that!

Pros-

This printer can print extremely fast. When I say fast, I mean lightning speed.  I would say 33 pages per minute is one of the fastest home printers I have ever seen.  The pictures also print quickly and look amazing. Printing fast is not as important to me as the quality of the printing job and this printer delivers on both accounts.

Great printing options- I love that there are so many options for printing. The options include two-sided printing, a fast/economical print that looks as good as my old printer did for its best printing job, and paper-saving printing.

Separate Photo Tray- I love that there are two trays on this, one for your paper and one for your photos. It makes running two different types of jobs easy and seamless.

Fun Parent Features- As a mom, I love when appliances have me in mind. This printer has on the home screen links directly to Disney and Nick Jr for free coloring pages, activities, and recipes.  Other features include a relationship with Coupons.com for customized coupons for your local area, Google Maps,  and Snapfish so you can print photos straight from the printer from your Snapfish photo albums. You can visit the HP Creative Studio to get more printing ideas.

Space- Saver Extraordinaire- One of my favorite features is that this is such a space saver in my office. The fact that it is wireless means that I can put this printer anywhere in my office and it frees up precious space on my desk. It also saves me from having a separate fax machine and scanner.  I love the streamlined look of this appliance and I feel like I gained an extra desk in workspace for my office.

Picture Quality is Amazing- The photos that I printed with this printer look like they were printed professionally. I can’t tell you how handy it is to be able to update the pictures around our house with just the press of a button. The colors are vivid and absolutely beautiful. I printed 4×6 and 8×10 photos and both were sharp and clear and not a hint of a home printing job. I think this is one of the things that I am most impressed with.

Separate Ink Cartridges- I love that this printer takes separate ink cartridges so you only need to replace what actually needs replacing. The cartridges are moderately priced.  I have not used the printer long enough to determine how quickly this model goes through ink, but I am hoping that using some of the faster and lower quality printing modes will help keep the costs low on printing.

After printing just a few pictures and a few pages though, my colored ink cartridges are already nearing the halfway point while black is holding steady with very little used. This is a cost factor that you would need to consider when purchasing this printer. HP does offer an ink cartridge recycling program.

Energy Superstar- Hurray for Energy Star appliances. My lights are no longer dimming in my home. I wish that was an exaggeration, but it is not. My 1967 home thanks you for your energy efficiency!

Cons-

Buggy Setup- Despite the simple step-by-step wizard, we found the setup of the printer to be riddled with problems. Two reboots were required on Windows 7 and four on Vista before we were able to print the test page. Even after several hours, we were never able to send a photo for printing over the wireless connection.

Scanner Not Communicating- The feature I was most excited to use was the “Scan to PDF” function. Unfortunately, no amount of waiting ever produced anything scanned to PDF. It seems to hold in the scanning mode and never get past it. I can get around it by using a memory stick and sticking it into the printer to grab the scanned image and then plop it into my computer, but I wish I could do this wirelessly and without getting up to do it. This seems to be a common problem with these printers as a quick Google search yielded people with similar problems.

Touch Screen is Touchy- The images should be able to move like the iPhone, but it doesn’t move very easily. Likewise, selecting on the touch screen can take a few pushes before it actually registers.

Pricey- A fancy touchscreen and wireless connection directly to the Internet comes at a cost. Sure you can watch a full theatrical preview of the latest Disney movie on your printer, but is that worth the higher price?

Overall, this is an excellent printer and other than the setup and scanning bugs, I have had no problems at all with this.  It has made my life considerably easier over these last two weeks and we look forward to making this one of our most used appliances in our home!

Are You Too Techy for this Momma’s Review? Here are some technical specifics:

Technical Specifications

  • Print Specifications(11)
    • Print speeds of up to 33 pages per minute (ppm) black and up to 32 ppm color; 4 x 6-inch photos as fast as 18 seconds
  • Scan Specifications
    • 4800 x 9600-dpi optical resolution scanning(12)
    • 48-bit color scanning
  • Copy Specifications
    • Up to 33 copies-per-minute (cpm) in black and up to 32 cpm in color(11)
    • Up to 4800 x 1200 dpi black copying with 1200 scan dpi
    • Up to 4800 optimized dpi color copying
  • Fax specifications
    • Fax speed of up to 33.6 kbps
    • Up to 300 x 300 dpi in black and photo faxing and up to 200 x 200 dpi in color
  • Dimensions/Weight
    • 17.99 inches (w) x 19.33 inches (d) x 7.76 inches (h)
    • 16.53 lbs.
  • Support/Connectivity
    • Pictbridge
    • USB High-speed 2.0, 802.11 b/g/n wireless, Ethernet and Bluetooth
    • Microsoft® Windows Vista™ or XP SP1 or higher; Mac OS X v10.4, v10.5 or v10.6
    • Windows 7 ready. Some features may not be available.(13) For more information go to www.hp.com/go/windows7.
    • HP products are backed by HP Total Care—service options in and out of warranty plus access to 24/7 real-time award-wining chat support and e-mail response in about an hour.
    • Enhanced support services include an exclusive toll-free number featuring trained experts and one-year repair with “Next Business Day Turnaround,” including brand new units for the first 30 days after purchase. More information is available at www.hp.com/support.

Website for More Details: HP Photosmart Premium with TouchSmart Web

Suggested Retail Price: $399.99

This product was received as a review sample. The thoughts and opinions expressed will always be honest and heartfelt and no reflection on receiving a sample copy.  We promise to always do our best to also give away each of these products to our readers because it is always better to give than to receive!  Want to know more about how things are handled here at MomAdvice? Be sure to read our Disclaimer which clearly states how things work and know that we will always offer only the best reviews to our readers! After all, it’s only what we know you have come to expect from us!

Drugstore Dish: Purex Natural Elements

purex-natural-elementsI will admit that I am a Tide detergent girl through and through. I have tried lots of the more inexpensive brands with less than positive results. Ideally, at some point I plan to try making my own homemade detergent, but until that day comes I will be buying it at the supermarket or drugstore.

I have not tried the Purex brand in years, but what I remember of it was that it did not perform as well as Tide and that I never felt like my clothes were as clean. Purex came out with a new line of environmentally-friendly cleaners though that I thought would be worth a try called Purex Natural Elements. Even if I am not a fan of a brand before, I am willing to give things a try again if a product interests me.

For an effective performance test in the Clark household though, detergent must do three things:

1. It needs to get stuff clean. My children are more than happy to put any detergent that we use through a good test of every type of unimaginable nastiness known to man. The detergent needs to stand up to these tests.

2. It needs to not make us break out in hives. I rarely ever try new detergents because my family has severe reactions to new detergents. If everyone is breaking out in hives than this can cause a downward spiral of rewashing laundry and making our lives miserable trying to figure out what the culprit is. Seeing as I list laundry on my least-favorite-things-to-do list, I am hesitant to try new detergents.

3. It needs to smell good. When I say that something needs to smell good it needs to smell delicious, but not overpowering. No heavy floral scents or heavy fragrances, but things that smell clean or yummy.

I put the Purex to these three tests and it met all three of my standards. I can only vouch for the yummy smell of the Cherry Blossoms & Vanilla though so you would need to see if the Apple & Melon or Linen & Lilies were pleasant smells to you.

The environmental factor was a great bonus. These scents are derived from 100% natural cleaning ingredients and natural fragrance extracts. I think it is these natural factors that made it so our normal hivey reaction did not happen. The company also says that it is hypoallergenic and free from phosphates and dyes.

Of course, the best selling point about Purex for all of my frugal readers, is that Purex is at a lower price point than other detergents. The suggested retail price on these bottles are $3.49 for a 50 ounce bottle & $6.99 for a 100 ounce bottle.  Even with coupons, you don’t often see Tide at these price points.

The bottles are smaller  because it is a concentrate so you only need half the detergent to get the job done. This isn’t an exclusive-to-Purex feature, but they do highlight it as another way that they are environmentally-friendly.

I never thought I would say this, but I think this is going to be our new favorite detergent because it is less expensive and because it met the Clark test.

What is your favorite laundry detergent? Do you make your own? Please share!

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drugstore_dish1

I am so excited to open our Drugstore up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Tuesday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

Feel free to grab our “Drugstore Dish” banner and add it to your entry (optional)
Rules for Participation:

1. Please share a review of a product that you find at your local drugstore. Feel free to plug current product deals/coupons with your review or just share your experience with a product.

2. Link back to our entry. Let your readers know that you are participating in this week’s dish and provide a link back to us!

3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- The MotherLoot (Schick Intuition Razor)

Thank you so much for participating and saving our readers money by sharing thoughtful reviews on products that we can score at our local drugstores!

Drugstore Dish: Schick Intuition Razors

schick-intuition-razorI am so excited to kick of this new fun feature for all of my fellow drugstore junkies! Each Tuesday, I will be providing a review of a drugstore product and giving you a spot to link up to your own reviews to drive traffic back to your blog. How fun is that? I hope you will feel encouraged to participate and share about your experiences with commonly found drugstore items to save us all some cash & time when hunting at our stores.

Today I want to share my thoughts on the Schick Intuition Razor because I currently have about sixteen of them in my stockpile since they run killer coupons for this razor in the paper. I couple these coupons with the current CVS deals and can usually score these normally expensive razors for about two bucks a piece. I, of course, stockpiled them before really trying them out so now I will be using them whether I like them or not. This is the life of a drugstore junkie so please take pity on me!

If you haven’t tried the Schick Intuition Razor, it is a fantastic concept for a razor because it has the shaving cream built into the razor so you don’t have to mess with doing anything other than wetting your legs and gliding the razor over your legs to shave. The head on the razor is intended to swivel a bit to get around the tricky areas on your legs like your knees and ankles. The head also adjusts to the level of the soap that you can ensure getting an even shave every time.

I have really wanted to love this razor, but there are a few shortcomings with the design execution. For one, when beginning to use this razor to shave the shaving soap is actually taller than the razor. What happens when I first shave with this product is that it actually glides easily over the leg, but only shaves off the very top of the hairs, rather than giving a close shave. It takes me two applications to get the soap to a point where I can use it and actually get a good shave.

The soap on these shavers lasts for only six applications so it does require a new refill more often if you want to be able to have the shaving soap built in. For me, when it gets too far down, I just go back to using the shaving cream until the blade is too dull.

Once you have officially dulled up that blade (or dulled it beyond the point of recognition like me) you will need to buy refills for it. And this is where you really start to hemorrhage the money because these refills are very expensive. The scenario reminds me a lot of buying a cheap printer and then discovering that the ink cartridges are more than the printer themselves. Be sure to utilize every coupon scenario and deal known to man or be prepared to pay the cost. Six refills cost $19.99 and 3 refills will run you $10.99 at CVS.

That being said, these little razors are so handy to take when you are traveling and help to cut down on what you need to carry on. With all of the airline standards, anything that makes getting through security easier is a great product for me!

What is your favorite razor? Have you tried this product? Please feel free to share!

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drugstore_dish

I am so excited to open our Drugstore up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Tuesday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

Feel free to grab our “Drugstore Dish” banner and add it to your entry (optional)
Rules for Participation:

1. Please share a review of a product that you find at your local drugstore. Feel free to plug current product deals/coupons with your review or just share your experience with a product.

2. Link back to our entry. Let your readers know that you are participating in this week’s dish and provide a link back to us!

3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- The MotherLoot (Schick Intuition Razor)

Thank you so much for participating and saving our readers money by sharing thoughtful reviews on products that we can score at our local drugstores!

Review: Dell’s Tiny, Inexpensive, & Earth-Friendly Computers

Ok, I admit it. We have more computers in our house than people. While it’s nice to be able to read up on the latest celebrity gossip from anywhere in the house, one thing that is always in the back of my mind is the amount of energy we’re burning. My husband swapped the some parts in his desktop with some energy-efficient replacements, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Recently, we had the chance get our hands on two really interesting computers from Dell that are built specifically to address the Earth conscience consumer. First up is the shockingly tiny Inspiron Mini 9. To give you a sense of its size relative to “normal-sized” laptops out there, I took this picture:

img_5732

That’s the tiny little Dell on top of my husband’s 17″ laptop from work. On either side are two 15.4″ laptops which are the most common size sold. As you can tell, it looks almost like a toy compared to the others. Also, unlike my husband’s behemoth that he has to haul around, this machine weighs just a little over 2 pounds. Even so, I was surprised how nicely it was built.

We had a family get together where I passed it around. Everyone was shocked at the size and that it was a fully functioning laptop. Sure, the hard drive and memory is small and it doesn’t have a CD drive, but it’s perfect for everyday tasks like email and surfing the net. Actually, my father-in-law immediately started pricing them out immediately after seeing it as he travels all the time and having something that easy to carry would be a huge benefit.

That brings me to the other huge plus for this laptop: the price. Starting at just $249, it’s one of the least expensive out there. Adding options like more memory and a bigger hard drive can double the price, but that’s still incredibly cheap.

dell-inspironDell has also released a very cool desktop computer along the same lines call the Studio Hybrid. Boasting it as their most energy efficient desktop ever with 70% energy savings over a typical desktop, they’ve really gone to extremes to make sure it’s as Earth-friendly as possible. Arriving in tiny packaging that’s 95% recyclable, I honestly kept looking for a big box that would have the actual computer. What I found instead was a computer less than 8 inches high and less than 3 inches wide. That’s smaller than some books I’ve read. It’s so small we actually placed it next to our Nintendo Wii and hooked it up to the TV.

The design is definitely chic and like nothing I’ve seen before. They come with your choice of a rainbow of colors and you can even get it wrapped in leather or bamboo. If you get tired of one color, you can buy one of the other shells and swap them out like a Swatch watch.

Again, the tiny size means a tiny starting price: $399. Unlike the Mini 9 laptop, there are a lot of options that you can pack into the box. Pimp it out with everything, like a player for Blu-Ray movies, and the price will easily skyrocket to $1300. On the upside, this means you’re not limited to a low powered machine if you need some extra “oomph”.

With the energy efficiency and low starting prices, both of these computers are extremely appealing to me. Though they wouldn’t fit everyone’s needs, I would highly recommend considering one if they fit yours. If that’s the case, I’d start your shopping at Dell’s online outlet, which usually has both of these available at even better prices.

Website For More Details: Dell

Canopy Living Bedding & Bath

I was first introduced to the Canopy Living brand while visiting for my Eleven Moms trip. I came into my hotel room and stroked all the pretty bedding and towels that were in my room, never realizing that Walmart had arranged for us to get to enjoy their new line while we were staying there.

When I came into my room in the evening and curled into the silky sheets and warm comforter I read that Walmart was going to let us pick accessories and bedding from their new line to take home with us. I will admit that I had to resist the urge to crawl out of bed to look up my choices because I was that excited.

We received our boxes of goodies this week and I can’t begin to tell you how incredible the Canopy Living stuff is. It is very high quality and has the look of every higher price brand out there, but comes at a more affordable price. While I wasn’t able to sample a couch or any of the amazing furniture that they had in their catalog, they did set us up with a room where we could snack and gab on their new furniture at the hotel. This was not the put-it-together-yourself variety that you find in the store. This was high quality, well-made furniture that could have rivaled the looks of Pottery Barn.

I will admit a weird thing about myself and say that I am a sucker for well-made sheets. I have a pillow top mattress and I have difficulties finding sheets that have a generous enough pocket on them to accommodate my mattress. I washed these sheets as soon as I received them and they did not shrink up at all. In fact, the sizing is so generous that I can put the sheets on with great ease. The fabric is wrinkle resistant so no balled up sheets in the dryer. Instead, the sheets lay nicely and even seem to dry at a quicker rate than some of the other sheets on the market.

Everything that they sent is beautiful and we have been enjoying our nice warm comforter on these cooler nights. The accessories for our bathroom have been put to good use and we love the generous sizes of the towels and bath mats that Canopy carries.

Suggested Retail Price: Pricing Varies On Items

Website for More Details: Canopy Living