Scoring sweet swag, reviewing awesome products and living the rad mom life.

Archive for October, 2016

My First Running Coach

*Disclaimer: I received 6 weeks of online coaching from Ekiden for free in exchange for an honest review.  This is an awesome perk of being a BibRave Pro.  Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro and check out Bibrave.com to review and write race reviews!

So what is Ekiden?  Well the name Ekiden comes from a long distance relay race that takes place in Japan.  Relays are a team effort and require a great deal of communication to be successful, which is what Ekiden is all about – communication between coaches and athletes.

Ekiden is an online coaching program that pairs athletes with coaches and communication occurs through phone calls, text messages, and an online messaging system.  I’ve been running for several years, but mostly casually with a few races here and there.  I’ve run one half marathon about two years and recently decided that I would like to run another in a few months – The Carlsbad Half Marathon to be exact!.  Since I have two kids under the age of four, it can sometimes be difficult to map out a running plan and stay consistent with training.

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I was really excited to try out Ekiden!  I figured this was the perfect time to experience this whole coaching deal and I liked the idea of it being online so I didn’t have to worry about scheduling appointments with the kiddos.

I was a little nervous about getting started with a coach.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect and I was kind of worried that the coach would think I was too slow or just not coachable.

The first step with Ekiden is filling out a questionnaire where you enter in your running routine, past races, racing goals and overall goals that you have with Ekiden.  Then you are supposed to pick from three coaches chosen for you by Ekiden.  They apparently skipped this step with me as I was automatically paired up with Coach Fiona.  Then you wait for a phone call from your chosen coach and get to know each other a little bit better.  This is the number that will be used to text back and forth between your coach.  Note: the coach can call you, but if you try calling the number you will learn that it’s an automated system.  I’m assuming this is so the coach isn’t bombarded with phone calls at all hours of the night.

Coach Fiona and I spoke for about 10 minutes.  I let her know how many days a week that I wanted to run and that I wanted to run a half marathon soon.  She was very friendly and explained her running accomplishments and qualifications as a coach.  Then she loaded up the first week of my plan into the Ekiden scheduling system!

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The Ekiden coaches use Strava to keep track of your activity so you will have to create an account.  If you use a Garmin, you can also sync your activity automatically to Strava using Garmin Connect.  I liked that my coach not only scheduled my runs, but also my cross-training days as well as my rest days.  They also use a “blue dot” system.  If you complete your daily goal you get a blue dot, if you don’t then you get a red dot.  And much like grade school, nobody wants any red marks on their record.

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One unexpected thing came out of my coaching experience – I started to enjoy yoga!  I’ve never been into yoga before because it takes a lot of focus.  But since I was already sticking to a plan I wanted to challenge myself to a new activity.  I also knew that I would be doing longer runs and  I wanted to get in more stretching and breathing.  So on most of my cross-training days I chose yoga as my exercise.  The kids even joined a couple of times! 😉 I really felt like I was getting stronger throughout the weeks as I was able to hold poses for longer periods of time.

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Coach Fiona also wrote in some encouraging messages along the way and asked how I was feeling a couple of times.  She also adjusted my plan when I let her know that I was actually running a 10k on one of my scheduled off days.

After a couple of weeks she began adding in a few more challenging runs.  Like asking me to run my last mile faster than the previous mile or incorporating some interval training and longer runs into my routine.  I liked that this happened gradually so that I wasn’t overwhelmed right away.

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So how much does this whole shindig really cost?  There are different Coaching Levels and packages that range in price from $59-$199, but you could do a personal coaching plan for as low as $49 per month.  Would I pay this?  Meh..for me personally, probably not as there are many free running plans available online and on Pinterest.  However, if I were super competitive or just had no idea where to start with running, then I would be all over this.

There were also two things that I thought could be improved in the system:  1.  It would be more convenient if there was an “add to calendar” option when the coach texts the daily goal to you.  2.  The coach uploaded my weekly plan every Sunday or Monday.  I would have preferred to know my schedule more in advance – perhaps every two weeks rather than each week.

Did I enjoy my overall experience?  Absolutely!  I loved the accountability!  Some days I didn’t want to run, but knowing that Coach Fiona was “watching” gave me the boost to get it done!  I also wanted to see how many blue dots that I could get in a row and wanted as little red dots as possible.  I think this online coaching system is great, but just like any new program or product, there are always kinks that need to be worked out.  I’m just glad I was able to meet my goals while running with the kiddos! 🙂

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You can try Ekiden for yourself and save a little by using code “BibRave16”.  This will give you a free month of training when you purchase three months!  How’s that for swag?!

What do you think?  Have you tried a running coach?  Do you think online coaching is effective?

Can’t wait to review the next product!

~SM

 

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Love for Luvo!

My latest BibRave Pro opportunity was to review Luvo Meals.  These are healthy, frozen meals that cook right in their own little steam pouches!

I was really excited to try these because I’m not the greatest cook and I don’t have a lot of patience in the kitchen.  But I do like to eat healthy and since I am training for the upcoming Carlsbad Half Marathon, these came at a perfect time!  Frozen meals are usually hit or miss so I typically stick to Amy’s or Lean Cuisine, but those can get pretty bland and boring.  As soon as I opened up the box I was delighted to see all of the exciting and unique flavors!

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I liked that there’s no plastic trays or wrap to mess with. Everything steams right in the bag!  Just pull out of the box, put on a plate and stick in the microwave (or the oven) and in 5-6 minutes you have yourself a quick and healthy meal!

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The average calorie count ranges from about 250-350 and each meal is loaded with plenty of protein and veggies.  So were these little gems too good to be true?  How did they really taste?!  After trying 10 of the meals, I’ll give you my top picks and least faves.

My favorite picks were the spinach ricotta ravioli and the orange mango chicken.

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These were the most flavorful and the ones that most closely resembled the pictures on the boxes.  There were some other good flavors, but the appearance wasn’t as pleasing as these two.

Then there were a couple that missed the mark for me…

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Since it’s the fall season, I really wanted to love the turkey meatloaf mashed potatoes…but I just wasn’t feeling it and I felt a little disappointed.  The vegetable bibimbap looked okay, but was just a bit too spicy for me.  To be fair, it could also be an acquired taste type deal…I just wasn’t in love.

Overall, I was really pleased with this product! I love finding quick ways to incorporate more veggies and protein into my meals without having to do a lot of prep work or spending a ton of time in the kitchen.  The only drawback is that they aren’t in every grocery store just yet.  The closest location to me is about 30 minutes away.  Some flavors are available online…but a pack of 8 costs about an average of $85-$90 (per Amazon) due to the shipping process. Mine came shipped in a nice little box with dry ice so I could see how this could be costly.

I do have a love for Luvo and I would definitely purchase some of these flavors in the future if they come to some stores closer to me.  There is a product request form that you can fill out which is nice since it seems that these meals are a little bit harder to obtain than other brands.

What do you think?  Have you tried these “Steamazing” meals?!

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***Note: I was given this product free of charge in exchange for an honest and unbiased review as part of the awesome BibRave Ambassador program.  All opinions are my own.

And be sure to checkout #BibChat every Tuesday at 6pm PST on Twitter!

Can’t wait to bring you the next product review!!

~SM

 

Himalaya Toothpaste Review

My latest review is on Himalaya Toothpaste!  Who doesn’t love brushing their teeth?! (Besides maybe preschoolers or people with no teeth…hmmm.) Anyways, I was excited to receive my sample package from Moms Meet and see that it came with some….wait for it….Swag!!

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This is a beautiful pouch decorated with the traditional art form of block printing.  It’s also made with unbleached cotton and non-toxic or natural dyes.  You can learn more about the impact of Matr Boomie and view more designs at matrboomie.com/blockprint.

I also received a nice little tote bag…and we know that I love tote bags!

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This beauty is made from upcycled saris worn from the women of India.  Himalaya Herbal Healthcare supports Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) by sponsoring this amazing bag!  I think this is a fantastic partnership and I really love seeing collaborations like this!

So on to the toothpaste!

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I was able to try out six different flavors as well as a 100% bamboo toothbrush.  I was really curious about the bamboo toothbrush, I mean how can bamboo be comfortable to brush with?

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Well, I was pleasantly surprised because the entire brush was very lightweight and the bristles were incredibly soft!  It felt like I was brushing my teeth with a pillow!  I find this especially pleasing because I have sensitive teeth so some toothbrushes can be a little rough.

The first flavor I had to try was the cinnamon.  I love cinnamon on EVERYTHING…I seriously can’t get enough so of course I had to go for the cinnamon toothpaste first.

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I could not believe how amazing this tasted!  It was like brushing my teeth with a pack of cinnamon Trident gum!  Now, I know cinnamon is not for everyone and many people are allergic…but for you cinnamon lovers out there, this is a must for your toothpaste collection. –I don’t know if anyone actually has a toothpaste collection, but you get the idea.

Then I tried the spearmint, mint, and peppermint flavors.

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The unique thing about this line of toothpaste is that it is gluten free, SLS free, carrageenan free and fluoride free.  I know there is some debate on whether or not fluoride is good for you, but if you are completely against fluoride then I definitely recommend this line for you.  –You can do your own research on the pros and cons of fluoride.  What I was most surprised about was the taste of all of the toothpaste flavors.  They tasted just like any popular brand toothpaste.  I was expecting it to taste a little bland, but was shocked at how good they all were.  I will say that there was a slight “fake sugar” aftertaste, but it wasn’t strong enough to be deal-breaker.

Then I tried the Whitening toothpastes!

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I was a little bummed that there wasn’t a cinnamon version of this one, but the mint and peppermint tasted just fine, too.  The flavors were more subtle than their non-whitening counterparts, but still tasted just like any of the popular brand pastes. Again, I have sensitive teeth so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the whitening products.  But, after a few brushes there was no irritation or sensitivity.  Win!  As for the whitening aspect, I’m not sure I used them long enough to see an effect.  I will have to continue using them for a while and then report back with an update.

Overall, I was pleased with this product and I like the idea that it doesn’t contain a lot of the harsh chemicals that can be found in other products.  You can learn more about the ingredients here.

You can also get a free sample for yourself by visiting this link –> http://himalayausa.com/complete-care-mint-toothpaste-opt

What do you think?  Is this something you would try?

I received this product for free from Moms Meet (momsmeet.com), May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my honest opinion on my blog. The opinions posted are my own.

Can’t wait to review the next product!

~SM

 

San-J Review

My latest review is for San-J, which is a brand that makes Tamari soy sauce and other quality marinades and gluten free products.  Again, I was provided this opportunity through the Moms Meet blogger program.

When the package first arrived, I was pretty stoked to see….you guessed it!  Swag!

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My package came with three different flavored sauces, a brush, a cutting mat, an adorable San-J shaped thumb drive, and a canvas tote bag.  I was excited to see a lot of fun stuff that I can actually use!

First, I tried the orange sauce (60 cals per 2 tbsp.) as a marinade on some chicken.

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This was my favorite marinade out of all three.  I liked that it just had a subtle hint of orange and wasn’t too sweet.  I would definitely use this one again as a marinade or as a dipping sauce.  The brush was also helpful and it’s a handy little tool that I plan to use with future recipes.

Then, I tried out the cutting mat!  At first, I thought it was just a flimsy little thing and I wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of it.  But I quickly changed my mind after learning how easy it was to use!  You just chop everything up, fold and pour into your pan, pot or even crockpot!  It was extremely lightweight, but thick enough to get the job done.  The food also slid off and didn’t stick like some cutting boards tend to do.

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Then I tried out the Mongolian sauce (70 cals per tbsp.). I’m not really a big beef or steak eater so I used it on some chicken and vegetables.

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I really liked the hints of ginger and garlic in this one and I think it would be great to use on more stir-frys or even some salads.

Lastly, I tried the Thai Peanut sauce (80 cals per tbsp.).

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I knew it was going to have a little spice to it, but I was kind of surprised at how spicy it actually it was.  It wasn’t inedible, it just wasn’t pleasant.  I probably would not use this one again just because of the spiciness. Obviously, you could go Pinterest-crazy and find some really awesome recipes to incorporate these sauces!  I just kept it simple with chicken, veggies and rice so I could really taste the product.

Overall, I was pleased with San-J!  I like that they keep their sauces free of preservatives, artificial flavors, GMO’s and gluten.  I will definitely use these  (except probably the peanut sauce) in some future recipes!  What special recipes would you use for San-J?!

I received this product for free from Moms Meet (momsmeet.com), May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my honest opinion on my blog. The opinions posted are my own.

Can’t wait for the next review!

~SM

 

MegaFood Review

The latest product I had the opportunity to review through the Moms Meet Blogger program is MegaFood children’s supplements!  These are vitamins in a powder form that contain no coloring, flavorings or sweeteners.  There are a few different varieties, but I tried the Kids Daily Multi, Kids Daily Immune and Kids Daily B-Centered.

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I also received a tote bag and a few recipe cards or as they cleverly called them: “Vitamin Hiders”.  I like simple stuff and my kids are at a picky age so I didn’t delve too much into the recipes they suggested.

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So this is interesting…you can actually log onto Megafood.com/livecams and checkout out their facility.  This is all part of their Big T Transparency initiative and it does give me a little peace of mind knowing that I can see a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes.

Well, let’s crack ’em open! 🙂

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They basically look, feel and smell like someone took a bunch of rocks and threw them in a food processor.  These are definitely not a gimmicky, sugar-coated type of children’s vitamin.  I first added the Kids Daily B-Centered to my daughter’s juice and she said it tasted like a weird blueberry flavor and wasn’t real thrilled.

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So I had to think a little bit more creatively on how to hide these supplements.  Here a couple of the ways I hid them:

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Surprisingly, despite the grainy texture of the vitamins, there were no complaints and she didn’t seem to notice that I had added some extra nutrition to her snacks! I even snuck it into one of her treats!

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There are actually many foods where you could hide these: applesauce, pudding, yogurt, oatmeal, etc. Note: The serving size for each of these vitamins is one scoop for children ages five and up.  Since my daughter is almost four, I only did about three-quarters of a scoop.  Overall, I really enjoyed this type of vitamin for my kids.  The chewable and liquid form of vitamins haven’t worked too well for us and I never liked all of the added and artificial ingredients to make it more appealing.  I would definitely purchase this product again for my little picky eaters!  What do you think?  How do you get your little ones to take their vitamins?

***I received this product for free from Moms Meet (momsmeet.com), May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my honest opinion on my blog. The opinions posted are my own.

~SM

 

Six Reasons to Attend the San Diego Kids Expo & Fair!

Every April and October, the San Diego Kids Expo & Fair comes to town and it’s a whole weekend filled with fun for the whole family!  So why should you go?  I’ll give you six reasons!

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  • Del Mar – The event is held in the coastal and picturesque town of Del Mar at the Fairgrounds.  It’s right off the freeway and it has a fairly large parking lot.  I’ve always found a parking space fairly close to the entrance with no issues.  It’s also right near the beach!  So after you attend the event, you can drive a few blocks and see some pretty amazing views!

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  • The Shows and Performances – The expo provides an opportunity for local dance and drama groups to show off their awesome talents!  These shows are all included in the price of admission so check the performance schedule before you head out so you don’t miss your favorite group.

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  • The Animals – Keep an eye out for your chance to get up close and personal with a unique animal or reptile!

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  • Outdoor Activities – Make sure you take the kiddos outside to jump in one of the many bounce houses or take the zip line for a spin.  There are also bungy jumps, human hamster balls and rock n’ roll bands providing some sweet entertainment!  This is where the tiny ones can burn off some serious energy!

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  • Interactive Exhibits – The main focus of the San Diego Kids Expo & Fair is to educate the community on all of the awesome opportunities for the kids of San Diego.  Take some time and visit the vendors and partake in some of the demo activities that many of them offer.  The kids might be able to kick a few balls, run through an obstacle course, tour an ambulance or hop in a photo booth. They will also love spinning the prize wheels at some of the tables! And if you have super tiny kiddos, don’t worry…there is a mommy and daddy lounge for nursing, changing or just some quiet time for sleepy babies.

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And last, but not least…my favorite part of the Expo!! Can you guess?!

  • SWAG! – You will not leave this event empty handed!  You will be loaded up with samples, coupons and maybe even some prizes!  I actually won free movie tickets and got free photo booth pictures!  My daughter also loved spinning all of the prize wheels and getting lots of stickers and tattoos!

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These are just a few reasons to attend the Kids Expo!  Checkout the website for a full list of vendors and schedule of the entertainment and shows.  Also, note that this expo comes around twice a year and each time the vendors change.  So basically, it’s almost like a new event each time you attend!

What about pricing? Tickets are $10 at the gate (children 12 and under are free), but you can save money by purchasing on the website.  The outdoor activities also require a wristband which is a separate purchase. But, again, you can save money by bundling and purchasing packages online.  Also check Groupon for group deals! I received free tickets both times I attended through local mom’s groups (I scored these tickets from Mom’s Guide to San Diego).  Check out mom’s groups on Facebook and Instagram and search hashtags for a chance to win free tickets!  Unfortunately, parking is $10 and there really isn’t any way around that.

Have you attended the San Diego Kids Expo in the past?  What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s event?  I’d love to know what you think!

See you at the next event!

~SM

Homestyle Ragu Sauce

My latest review comes courtesy of the Moms Meet Blogger program.  I am able to receive certain products for free in exchange for an honest review. It’s a great website to discover new and healthy products that can benefit the whole family!

This time, I was selected to try Ragu Homestyle Pasta Sauce.  I received free coupons to purchase the product on my own as well as a recipe to go along with the sauce.

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I didn’t care for the supplied recipe, so I just made spaghetti with vegetables along with the sauce all in the crockpot (because the crockpot is the only thing in my house that doesn’t need my undivided attention.)

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The sauce is available in five different varieties, but I went to a small Vons near my house in Southern California and only found these two flavors.  I did also look for this sauce at my military commissary, but they didn’t have it in stock.  So with a little chopping and mixing and simmering, a pretty easy dinner was in the works.

The sauce had an Italian aroma and a fairly thick and chunky consistency. I was really excited about this sauce because it is supposed to be healthier than other sauces. I like that it doesn’t contain artificial colors or high fructose corn syrup and it is only 100 calories per half-cup serving.  So another hour passed by and BAM – spaghetti!

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Then it was the moment of truth!  Was this new sauce everything that my dreams were made of?  Healthy sauce in a jar?  Could it be? Welllll….yes and no.  I liked everything about it, except I wasn’t quite sold on the taste.  It almost had too much Italian flavor, to the point that it took away from the vegetables and sauciness of the meal.  I typically add in my own spices and flavors when making spaghetti so I wasn’t quite ready to relinquish control of my spice levels to this new sauce in town.  But my one-year-old felt differently and totally embraced it all.

Overall, I wouldn’t proclaim this new product as awesome-sauce (get it?) But, I like where Ragu is going with this new line and perhaps the recipe could be slightly tweaked.  I would be even more excited if they came out with a less-flavored version of this healthy sauce.  I can’t wait to see if this new Ragu gains popularity!  What do you think of the new sauce?  Have you tried it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Can’t wait to try out the next product! *As a reminder, I was given this product for free in exchange for an honest review.

~SM

 

 

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