Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Luxury Headphones - Avanti on-ear headphone review

Avanti headphones look and sound great
On my last flight, I offered to sit next to a crying baby.

Just kidding. In fact, I actually offered to switch my aisle seat to a dreaded, claustrophobic middle seat in the last row so the mom seated there could sit with her husband and infant, who were, indeed, next to me.

And, I was rewarded for this when the stewardess then moved me up to a premium economy seat so the family could be reunited

The reason I was willing to sit next to a baby was I was testing out a pair of high quality Avanti headphones. The on-ear headphones, by Moshi, are not noise-canceling, but they are super comfortable and I don’t even enjoy noise-canceling (they are called noise-isolating) - the sensory deprivation feels odd.

What the Avanti headphones do is let you relax and listen to your music, or podcast, or a video, without sticking ear buds in and giving you a true stereo sound.

Compactly packed for travel
They have also helped me when I work in my garden, recently redesigned as an outdoor office. I don’t mind some ambient noise, but my neighbor’s son sometimes blasts distracting rap music, not rally conducive to a work environment. In fact, maybe I should get him a pair.

With the money

The headphones aren’t cheap - $199 retail - but they have a luxury feel and sound and they come with a cool carrying case to protect them when traveling or just running around the city. And they fold up compactly so you don’t have to schlep a big tote to stash them in.

Garden office - headphones helpful
The headphones also look pretty cool, with a stainless steel part over the head, and either burgundy or tan ear cups.

Noise-isolating


Noise-isolating was not a term I was familiar with, but it means that sound doesn’t leak out. You know hone you are on the subway and someone next to you is blasting music though his ear buds? You can often hear it and wonder how the guy is going to hear when he is 40. But usually you don’t want to listen to someone’s second hand music. With the Avanti headphones, you won’t annoy others around you and you will enjoy high quality sound. A win-win.

Note: I received a pair of headphones for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated and opinions expressed are my own. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

8 Favorite Orlando Resorts: Family Hotels

Liki Tiki Village. Photo Credit: Vacatia
Orlando is a family travel Mecca, led by Disney World but buoyed by Harry Potter fans and Sea World lovers too. If you are only going to Disney, you may find it easier to stay on site, but if you are planning on visiting other Orlando theme parks and attractions, there are many family friendly hotels to consider. Below, 8 Orlando resorts that should be on your radar:

1.  Ritz-Carlton at Grande Lakes.
Ritz-Carlton at Grande Lakes: for well-heeled families this is the place to go. There is a Ritz Kids supervised program for ages 4-12, a kid’s night out program so parents can enjoy a dinner without their children, a kiddie pool and a playground. But most important, besides the luxury rooms and attentive service, is the The Protect Our Little Ones (P.O.L.O.) package: electrical outlets are covered in rooms and alcohol is taken out of the minbar, both the keep adult beverages away from kids and to provide refrigerator space.

2. Waldorf Astoria Orlando 
Waldorf Astoria Orlando is another top tier choice. The large luxury rooms easily accommodate families and the golf course adds another adult activity (the WA Kids Club tends to children ages 5-12 and Astoria After Dark gives parents a night out. There is a zero entry pool, and access to the Bonnet Creek adventure pools.

3. Marriott's Grande Vista 
Marriott's Grande Vista offers family villas with full kitchens, living rooms and washers / dryers. There are two pools, plus a kiddie pool, beach campfires, Kid's Night Out, and an indoor play maze for rainy or extremely hot days. There is also plenty of family friendly dining on site.

4.Doubletree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld 
Doubletree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld is next to both SeaWorld and the Aquatica waterpark. There are two kiddie pools and three large pools, miniature golf and a putting green. The luxury rooms include allergy-free rooms, great for kids with sensitive immune systems.

5. Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld
Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld has a waterpark,a kiddie pool and a regular pool. There is a game room and ping-pong tables (remember, table tennis is an Olympic sport!).

6. Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort
Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort, an all suite family resort features five pools with water slides, splash zones and lazy rivers, miniature golf, beach volleyball, BBQ & picnic areas, indoor game rooms and playgrounds. The suites have living rooms, fully equipped kitchens and washers and dryers.

7. JW Marriott Orlando
JW Marriott Orlando is luxury resort that has a Lazy River Pool, guided Eco-Tours by canoe and kayak, and large rooms with connecting rooms for big families.

8. Liki Tiki Village
Liki Tiki Village has a water park with a water volcano, wave pool and water slides. There is miniature golf and plenty of family friendly dining.  If you prefer to cook, you have a full kitchen, plus outdoor BBQ pits and picnic tables.

Note: this post is sponsored by Vacatia.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Kale or Chocolate: is there really a choice?

Yum - a nice big box of Balance bars
Note: I was compensated for this post, but my opinions cannot be bought. I would buy these bars and feed them to my children. 

As a vegetarian, I really love kale - and arugula, endive, frisee, radicchio and spinach. Pretty much any fresh greens. But I also travel a lot and need snacks that are more nutritious than a candy bar. Plus a bag of salad gets all leaky in my purse.

I found a way to satisfy both my chocolate cravings and desire to get more fiber and protein in my diet with Balance bars. The tasty bars are handy if I’m running around in the city all day with my kids and I need a pick me up.


My usual running route
Consider the Balance chocolate peppermint patty bar. Actually, hold on while I unwrap one and sink my teeth in. 

The rich, delicious bar - in 2 patties so you can share or easily save half for later - clocks in at 160 calories, with 6 grams of both protein and fiber and just 15 grams of sugar. If you are craving chocolate - and who doesn’t - you can’t go wrong here.

The chocolate peppermint patty Balance barw
Other new Balance bar flavors include Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat, Dark Chocolate Pecan Turtle, and Dulce De Leche. 

I love that you can throw these bars in your bag to keep up with an on-the-go life. I track my steps and even not including 4 - 5 runs a week while I train for my first marathon, I regularly take over 25,000 steps daily.


For more information on Balance bars, go to www.BalanceBar.com. You can buy them here and follow Balance Bar for tips and nutritional information on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

You can also try Balance Bars for free! I am giving away 6-pack box of Balance in Chocolate Caramel Peanut NougatChocolate Peppermint PattyDark Chocolate Turtle or Dulce De Leche & Caramel varieties. Every comment on this post counts as one entry. The contest closes on August 14 and there is no guarantee of flavor preference. Prize value is $7.74


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Fierce Workout: Choose the Right Clothes

New Marika outfit
In an old Saturday Night Live skit, a character played by Billy Crystal says "it's better to look good than to feel good."

I say, why choose?

In training for my first marathon, I have definitely increased muscle tone, though weight loss ha so far eluded me. But I also pay close attention to what I am wearing. If I don't feel comfortable, I don't have a good run.

I had the opportunity to try some new pieces from Marika, including a cool top with huge air holes to make hot summer us bearable. And capris, which I like for biking since they offer a little more coverage than shorts, but don't make me hot.

The wicking fabric helps get rid of sweat and keeps me from smelling like a sewage plant.

Note: Marika provided me with these pieces but I was not compensated for this post. Opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, August 1, 2016

“Milkshake” Without Milk or Ice Cream: Lactose Intolerant Indulgence

Sugarpova chocolates are sealed with a kiss
A thick, sweet milkshake is a wonderful summertime indulgence - unless you are lactose intolerant, or watching your weight.  My daughter and I can’t drink milk or eat ice cream, though small amounts of milk chocolate are fine.

We are a family of chocoholics, so I was thrilled when I was sent samples of Maria Sharapova new Sugarpova premium chocolate line. There are four flavors of the lip embossed bars:  dark chocolate, milk chocolate, milk chocolate with strawberry and dark chocolate with toasted coconut.

The milk chocolate with strawberry inspired me to make a milkshake facsimile: a couple of squares of melted chocolate, with a frozen banana and strawberries, blended together. Tire resulting shake, or smoothie, is best thinned out with a little soy or almond milk, and is a lower sugar and calorie dessert than a scoop of ice cream. Plus its loaded with fruit and it tastes great.

The non-GMO, Kosher chocolate bars are 3.5 ounces, so ideal for sharing.


Milkshake alternative:


1 frozen banana
3 strawberries
1/4 cup unsweetened soy or almond milk (you can use regular low fat milk if you can tolerate it)
4 squares of milk chocolate with strawberry, melted

Chocolate, bananas and strawberries: yummy!
Put all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth 


Serves  - and delights - one

Note: I was not compensated for this post, but I did receive samples of the Sugarpova chocolate bars. Opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Did Your Kids Evolve? From Picky Eater to Foodie

As it should be: peanut butter tops the 'picky eaters' Lucky Bars
Back to school - learning to eat well
As a mom who has been in the trenches and come out the other side - with most of her sanity intact - I think I'm an authority on pick eaters.

Reader, I also WAS the picky eater.

My kids were also picky eaters, a term I really think should be called owner of a refined palate. And honestly, when those picky eaters grow up, they really do turn into foodies.

How the evolution started
As a Jewish mother, I had that classic food issue: food is love. If my kids are rejecting my food, they are rejecting me.

Yes, those are condiments!
But hard as it is to to let this go, I had to let my kids develop their own palates. It helped that I remember how I grew to love pickles.

When I was a kid, I hated all condiments (which mostly revolved around mayonnaise and ketchup, two things I still can’t stand). I lumped pickles into that category, but I noticed that people were always happy when they were eating pickles.  So I forced myself to eat them, developed a taste for them, and now pickle my own vegetables.

At the #KidzVuzBTS back to school event, two ends of the spectrum were represented.  

Picky Eaters Unite 
The Backyard Food Company's pickles
First there was Luckybar, founded by the mother of a picky eater. These tasty bars have more protein than two eggs, so you don’t have to worry about your kid not getting enough nutrition. As a vegetarian, who raised three vegetarian children, I am particularly sensitive to protein availability. The bars have no gluten or GMO ingredients and come in five kid friendly flavors: Pirate Peanut Butter Chocolate, Cosmic Chocolate Caramel Almond, Chocolate Campfire, Crazy Coconut and Strawberry Sandcastles. 

In the interests of journalism I sampled the PB and almond bars, which were delicious.

And yes, I am still picky  - er , of refined palate -and won’t eat marshmallows or coconut.

Once your kids are over the hump
When you have more adventurous eaters, you can introduced The Backyard Food Company. This Rhode Island company, started by two dads from their backyard bounty, is basically ALL condiments. 

The Backyard Food Company makes apple butter, sweet tomato jam, and, yes, pickles. I tasted the crisp bread & butter pickles, slices that go well on a sandwich. The Rhode Island Red relish, made with red peppers, habaneros and ginger, pairs well with mild cheese.  


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Which is for you? All-inclusive vs A La Carte Hotel

What is your vacation jam?
One of the reasons to travel is to experience the local cuisine. But this can also be a burden; sometimes, you just want everything taken care of for you. 

This is especially the case when my vegetarian family travels together.  We love exploring local restaurants, and all the free things to do with kids in each place we visit, but there is work involved in sussing out the food and activities options.  This is where staying in an all inclusive can be advantageous . You don’t have to do any thinking - everything is taken care of, and you can just spend your time relaxing.

If you are trying to figure out which is better for you, remember that your needs change all the time - what is right for you now may not be right six months later, or a year.

Are you a joiner?
If you and your kids like organized activities, than an option like  all-inclusive resorts in Cancun could be for you. When my children were younger, they really enjoyed the supervised children’s programs at resorts, and staying at an all-inclusive meant we didn’t have to consider the extra cost each time we dropped them off. 

For one week long stay in Cancun, we split our time in two; half the time at an all-inclusive, the rest at an a la carte hotel, where we could dip our toe into local restaurants and spend the day sightseeing or playing at the beach with our children.  After all, part of a family vacation is time together!

All inclusive options usually include alcoholic beverages
Do you like to drink?
Most all-inclusive resort residences include free alcoholic drinks. If you and your spouse want to have a couple of drinks during the day, you don’t have to consider cost. But if you never drink, remember that the price of your all-inclusive is based partly on you taking advantage of the ‘free’ drinks. Your deal isn’t as sweet if you are a teetotler.

Do you like staying in an upscale resort?

It may be hard to believe, but some people prefer roughing it on vacation, staying at a dive where they can slob around in ratty t-shirts and let the kids be as messy as possible. 

Then there's the rest of us. Hot spots like the all inclusive resorts in Cabo San Lucas include family sized villas with marble floors, spa tubs and private balconies. You have plenty of space to spread out, and access to such resort amenities as a full service spa and a children's pool.

Do you like privacy?

If you stay with your children in a suite, it is often a living room with a pull out couch, and a bedroom. So when the kids go to sleep, you have to be quiet; sometimes, you can’t even access the bathroom without walking past the kids. At the resort residences, https://vacatia.com, the kids can have a separate, private place to sleep and you and your spouse can enjoy each other’s night-time company.


This post is sponsored by Vacatia.