Thursday, October 23, 2014

Consumer Critique: Laurie Berkner

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

Laurie Berkner is a familiar face to many preschoolers and young kids due to her appearances on Nick Jr. and Sprout. She has a sound similar to female pop/rockers like Sheryl Crow, but appropriate for youngsters. The Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band Collection was recently released, and she also has concerts coming up in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York. You can check out her website to watch quite a few videos; my favorite is her partnership with Seventh Generation.

Laurie's music is easy for kids to listen to because it speaks to their level and is developmentally appropriate. It's easy for adults to listen to because the sound is talented and mature. Her music makes it easy for kids to learn, express themselves, and have fun, all at the same time!

Contest: 60 Years/60 Words

For the past 60 years, Guinness World Records has inspired millions of people to achieve record-breaking feats. To celebrate these amazing feats, Guinness World Records is launching the 60 Years/60 Words Challenge on September 8, 2014.

Kids 7–12 can enter this national competition by selecting their favorite GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® record and telling about it in EXACTLY 60 words! The entries can be poems, raps, videos, posters and/or short essays, but they each must include PRECISELY 60 words! The competition winner will earn a $500 scholarship, a copy of the  Guinness World Records  2015 book, their photo in the 2016 book, and a $500 grant for his/her school. 10 semifinalists will win a copy of the  Guinness World Records 2015 book. Kids can enter online or by mail at Entries will be judged on creativity, originality, and representation of the record. The competition ends December 1, 2014.

Educators, youth groups, and parents can also access fun English Language Arts activities on the website under the Parents and Educators/Youth Groups buttons. These activities get kids’ creative juices flowing!

"The competition is a fun way to celebrate 60 years of record-breaking achievements," said Stuart Claxton, Marketing Director for Guinness World Records. "I am looking forward to seeing some of these kids break their own records in the future."

About Guinness World Records
Guinness World Records ( is the global authority on record-breaking achievements. First published in 1955, the annual Guinness World Records book has become one of the biggest-selling copyright titles of all time, selling 120 million copies to date in 22 languages and in more than 100 countries. The internationally renowned brand is now also available across a number of platforms—GWR's global television shows are watched by 250 million viewers annually; digital media and online record-processing services attract more than 50 million visitors a year; and the live events team annually entertains and inspires 1.5 million people around the world. GWR receives more than 1,000 applications each week and has a specialized team of multi-language record managers and adjudicators who travel the globe to verify official record attempts. GWR also has a commercial division (Guinness World Records Corporate) that offers accessible record-breaking business solutions to other organizations and brands.

About By Kids For Kids
By Kids For Kids® (BKFK®) is an organization that empowers youth invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship. BKFK partners with leading corporations to inspire and promote product development and crucial 21st century digital skills with a cycle of innovation that provides a unique platform for young people to develop and showcase their concepts. The company provides educational resources, curricula, and challenges that promote social change and entrepreneurial endeavors. For more about BKFK, visit

Consumer Critique: Alex's Ten-Dollar Adventure

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

Right now, my kids are in the huge "I want" phase where they want practically every toy they see on TV, in the store, or at a friend's house. I've tried to help temper it by sharing that things aren't always as cool as they seem, and it helps somewhat, but what helps even more is the fact that they get a small allowance and have to save for things they want. It helps because by the time they've saved up enough, they usually don't want last week's toy anymore.

Alex's Ten-Dollar Adventure is a great book to help kids learn the lesson about wise use of money. When Alex gets some birthday money he runs off to the store to buy the toy he wants - but spends some along the way and learns an important lesson about budgeting and patience. It also incorporates math problems and a craft project to make a piggy bank.

It was a great book and perfect timing for my girls. I definitely recommend it to any parent or adult who wants to help kids start to become savvy consumers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Consumer Critique: Amazon Burning

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

Amazon Burning by Victoria Griffin, published by Astor and Blue, is a thrilling tale about a young woman with aspirations of becoming a journalist. She accompanies her reporter father on a trip to Brazil, and once there, ends up involved in a murder mystery. Incorporating characteristics of romance, mystery, and adventure books, this story will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Emma is a strong female character, and I'm always happy to read books with good heroines. It's written for young adults, but would also interest many adults with an engaging storyline and suspense throughout. The setting in the Amazon is both realistic and imaginative, making the book even more engaging.

Healthy Habits: College Dorm Room Health

College students have spent time on campus this year, but dorm rooms aren’t exactly the cleanest or most sanitary living quarters in the world, and staying healthy is important to succeeding in school.
Healthy space designer Robin Wilson is president of Robin Wilson Home in New York City and one of the pioneers of the eco-friendly movement.  As the ambassador to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and the spokesperson for consumer giant Panasonic’s line of products for the home, she offers these healthy dorm room must haves:
·         Disinfecting Wipes - Removes germs, bacteria, kitchen grease and countless other nasties you find lurking in a dorm room.
·         Toothbrush Sanitizer - Clip-on toothbrush sanitizers fit any standard or electric toothbrush and kills germs for up to 3 months! - No cables or batteries required! 
·         Hypoallergenic Bedding – To fight the dust mites, dirt and other bacteria living in old dorm room mattresses.  Available in pillows, comforters, mattress covers and fiber beds. 
·         Non-toxic All-Purpose Cleaners – All-purpose green cleaners are inexpensive and good for disinfecting baths, showers, toilets, sinks, windows, desks, countertops and more.  
·         Hand Sanitizer – Great on-the-go product for students to eliminate bacteria in public places, from the dorm room to the classroom and public restrooms, one small squirt will fight germs and keep you healthy.
·         Air Purifier with HEPA Filter – Available at most major retailers and some models deliver 99.97% efficient air cleaning and filtration, eliminating odors, pollutants and allergens.
·         High-Quality Stainless Steel Water Bottle – Look for BPA-free, high-quality stainless steel bottles that won't leach toxins or funky flavors into your water, juice, smoothie or drink of choice.  Perfect for the student constantly on the go.

Healthy Habits: 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting a Supplement

Walking into a nutritional supplement store and finding the right product can be overwhelming. The shelves are lined with products that can do everything from cure ailments to help you lose weight. According to the experts at BioRhythm, most people fall victim to three pitfalls of choosing a supplement – the main one being price.
“Most supplement companies fight for that space by appearing to offer a premium product with bargain prices. However, logic tells us that if you find a Ferrari with a Kia price tag, something is wrong,” says BioRhythm CEO and founder, Mark Mangieri.
Here are the 3 mistakes you need to avoid when selecting supplements:
1.    Cheaper is not better. The most important factor supplement users give when choosing a supplement is price. But there are many ways to reduce the quality of a supplement while maintaining a perceived value.  Keep an eye out for fillers, proprietary blends that contain more than two or three ingredients and serving sizes that are unrealistically small. “You only have one body and you shouldn’t waste time trying to get professional results with a buy one, get one sale,” Mangieri says.
2.    Overconsumption of protein.  More is not better, Mangieri says.  Protein consumption studies show up to 1.5 grams and sometimes 2.0 grams per kilogram of protein per day can be beneficial for an elite heavily trained athlete. No additional lean mass gains or body fat reduction is noted over 2 grams of protein per kilogram (2g/2.2lb). After a workout, 20 grams for a 185 lb. trained athlete is the “Goldilocks”/ideal zone (approx. 0.1g per lb).
3.    Packaging and store placement. Yes, the shiny label in the cool textured bottle stacked in a giant pyramid at the front of the store can make you feel like a bug attracted to a florescent light. However some of the most innovative formulas backed by solid science may be on the bottom shelf at the back of the store. Many companies pay to be in the front and as a result may have less in their budget for real science in the bottle. 
About BioRhythm
 BioRhythm is a premier product line formulated with fitness goals, not production cost, in mind. Our synergistic compounds and recommended stacks are put in place with the singular goal of more results faster. BioRhythm was founded on the most basic principles of product development: You get what you pay for. Competition for shelf space in retail stores and internet sites is at an all-time high for dietary supplements. Most supplement companies fight for that space by appearing to offer a premium product with bargain prices. And all of our senior staff members have at least a decade of professional sports supplement experience.


Consumer Critique: Connected to Goodness

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

Connected to Goodness is one of those books that sort of made me uncomfortable in premise. The tagline "manifest everything you desire" rubbed me the wrong way originally. However, it basically boils down to the power in positive thinking - and that's something that most people believe in on some level.

I don't believe that you can treat God, a higher power, or the universe (depending on your beliefs) like an ATM and get exactly what you say. However, it is possible - and verifiable - that positive thinking produces positive results, and it can be explained in a variety of ways, again depending on your belief structure.

Instead of being some secret magic formula for instant success, author David Meltzer shares his principles for success in his years as a businessman. One of the most important things, more so than the title or tagline, is that he feels he has achieved a balance in life between pleasure, success, and social good.

If you're interested, you can download an excerpt to get a taste for his writing, and find out more about the book.

Thrifty Thinking: How to Make Smart Charitable Choices for End of Year Annual Gift-Giving

Take a wild guess – how many registered charities are there in the United States? You might be surprised to know that there are approximately 1.5 million registered nonprofits, according to the NationalCenter for Charitable Statistics. So, how does a person select the right charity to support especially around the holiday season, which brings in the most charitable dollars than any other time of year? Here are some resources you can use to find the right charity that meets your desire to help someone or some cause as well as questions you can ask the charity or charities once you make your selection.

What are the best Charity Watchdog Organizations?
Donors are in luck because there are three extremely reputable groups that have been monitoring and ranking charities for years:
  1. Charity Navigator has been in existence since 2001 and gives a Star Rating 1 through 4, one being the lowest, 4 being the highest for about 7,000+ best known and lesser known charities. It examines the charity's efficiency by looking at its financial health, accountability and transparency. Charity Navigator is now looking into adding an “effectiveness” rating, how effective the charity has been in carrying out its mission. I happily serve on the board of Operation Homefront, which provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of our service members and wounded warriors. From personal experience I can share with you that, when I speak with donors and ask “How did you hear about us,” 9 out of 10 people say they searched Charity Navigator and we have a 4-star rating. That gives them confidence that when they give to Operation Homefront their gifts will be used immediately and to help those who serve our country.
  2. GuideStar gathers information on IRS-registered nonprofit organizations. It provides information on the nonprofit's mission, legitimacy, impact, reputation, finances, programs, transparency, and governance. Tax exempt organization must file an annual Form 990 which lists the charities’ income, spending, mission and executive salaries. Most people use it to compare charities or to check to see if the charity is spending charitable dollars on high salaries or high overhead costs.
  3. BBB Wise Giving Alliance monitors and assesses nonprofits using a set of 20 guidelines, and publishes over 1,000 comprehensive reports on charities that evaluate their key attributes of accountability.
What are the red flags to avoid?
Once you have narrowed down your search, you can go to the charity’s website and view or download the past 3 annual reports. Having worked in the nonprofit sector for over 20 years, let me share with you some secret tips in these reports that will help you with your selection:
  1. Board and Staff Turnover. Simply compare the names listed in the last 3 annual reports. If you see different names year after year in either the board or the staff that signals something is not right. Many organizations have a 1-year board requirement (most have at least 2-3 with the right to renew for a second term) but you should see some names with consistency. Also, if the organization has different executive directors or directors of development that look like a revolving door, that signals a great dissatisfaction with the organization. If you really want to contribute, I highly suggest a telephone call to the CEO or board chair and ask, “I’ve been reading over your last few annual reports and see a tremendous turnover in board/staff. Can you tell me why?”
  2. Where did the funds go? Most reports have the pie chart that shows the breakdown of where the funds go. Make sure a majority, at least 80%, of the funds raised are going direct to services or programs that matches the mission of the organization. For example, if a pet and animal charity has a mission statement that its purpose is to “rescue stray animals” in your community, yet the annual report shows that 20-40% of the funds went for “advocacy” purposes, you have to decide if you want to support advocacy or immediate rescue of stray and neglected animals.
  3. Where did the funds come from? Giving USA 2014 ( reports that a total $335.17 billion was raised in the United States. 72% came from individuals. If you add bequests (because it is an individual who places a charity in a will), total individual giving is really 80%.
Compare these ratios to the charities you are interested in supporting. If the organization is too reliant on foundation or corporate giving, there is a warning sign that they are not moving in the direction of individual giving, which is the largest giving area. This would merit a telephone call to the chief fundraising officer and ask “What strategies do you have in place to capture more individual gifts,” and add “Is this part of your strategic plan?” If they answer yes, request they send you a copy of that plan. You want your hard-earned dollars to go the organizations that will use that money wisely – so, ASK wisely!

Information from Laura Fredricks, owner and CEO of THE ASK© for PHILANTHROPY, BUSINESS and EVERYDAY LIVING. Find out more:

Sweepstakes: Bil-Jac Obesity Month Contest

Bil-Jac, a family owned company since 1947 and passionate about creating premium dog food, is celebrating the month of October by encouraging consumers to enter the Bil-Jac Obesity Month contest. Consumers will go to to take the Fat, Fluffy or Fine quiz, answering obesity questions (aimed to share knowledge about pet obesity as a growing epidemic) for a chance to with a prize pack from Bil-Jac including Little-Jacs treats and swag to help dogs become more active.

One grand prize winner will be selected at random, as well as three runners up. The grand prize winner will receive a prize pack of Bil-Jac worth $600 and the three runners up will receive a $100 prize pack including a coupon for a free bag of Bil-Jac Dog Food along with swag to help dog owners get their pup in shape.

Sweepstakes: José Eber

Arguably the most recognized hairstylist in the world, Beverly Hills-based stylist José Eber has had his hands in the hair of Hollywood’s most beloved stars for four decades; something no other stylist has ever accomplished. Now the chance for you to visit the iconic stylists’ salon is up for grabs.

Valued at $10,000 one lucky winner will win a trip for two and a makeover at the luxurious José Eber Salon in beautiful Beverly Hills. To enter, please visit

Can’t wait for the lucky winner to be revealed? Prior to the grand prize winner being announced, José Eber will also be giving away free products between now and Christmas to celebrate the sweepstakes. Tools up for grabs include the 13 mm Clipless Curling Iron for sexy spiral curls, the 1" Hair Straightener  Signature Series for super sleek locks, the Wave Styler for luxurious waves and the Wet or Dry Styling Iron 1.5” for a super sleek look with less style time.

Win a José Eber 13 mm Clipless Curling Iron

Contest begins: October 15th

To enter: Follow @joseeberhair on Instagram and like a post

Winner will be announced: October 29th

Win a José Eber 1" Hair Straightener Signature Series

Contest begins: October 29th

To enter: Follow José Eber Hair on Pinterest and repin a pin

Winner will be announced: November 12th

Win a José Eber Wave Styler

Contest begins: November 12th

To enter: Follow José Eber on Facebook and like and comment on a post

Winner will be announced: November 26th

Win a José Eber Wet or Dry Styling Iron 1.5”

Contest begins: November 26th

To enter: Follow and tweet @JoseEberHair on Twitter

Winner will be announced: December 10th

Win a trip for two and makeover at the luxurious José Eber Salon

Contest ends: December 25th

Winner will be announced: January 2nd, 2015