Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hello, 2015! Have We Got Plans For You!

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One of the most fun parts of working with Reviews, Chews & How-Tos is that it has given each of us the opportunity to get to know more about one another, and for each of us, there is increased motivation to work on our own goals when we know we might be accountable in a post!

While not all of us are into 'resolutions', most of us have plans and goals for the next year, and a few of the RCH writers have agreed to share theirs.  We'd love to hear about your plans for the next year too - leave a comment so we can all inspire one another!

~ ~ @ ~ ~ 

Every year, I resolve to keep my house clean, and while it is cleaner, I still have a ways to go. 

This year, I am going to focus on two specific goals, in hopes that one of them might actually happen!

Oh, the Paper!  

My first goal is to get the house, specifically, my kids’ school work, organized. 

When my oldest started school, I was surprised by all the paper she brought home. Now that my youngest is in kindergarten, we have three students in school and we are drowning in paper! It is truly mind-boggling, between projects, art-work and general homework, how many trees my kids are burning through. 

Last year, I put their papers in magazine holders, which split from all the paper. This year I made them a stacking paper holder, that was a total fail. Now, I have a binder for each of them. Since we have moved to tear-off textbooks, I am hopeful that this will also give them a starting point for studying, as well.

Mo' Messes, Mo' Problems

My oldest, turned 10 this year and her messes have gone from amusing to epic. Not only does she love to make slime and play doh and putty, but she can go on-line and get loads of recipes to feed her creativity. (Heaven help me when she discovers Pinterest!) 

Consequently, I am constantly finding half-filled bottles of supremely disgusting concoctions everywhere. I am sure that when she is an award winning chemist, this will be great. Until then… I find myself cleaning out slime, congealed oils and other grossness. 

My goal is empower my kids to clean up after themselves and/or to find a way to harness my oldest creative energies in a positive manner. Over Christmas, we gave her a sugar scrub kit and that went over quite well, so there is hope!

So, there are my two goals for 2015! Now, I must go clean up yesterday’s epic slime-fest. Let’s just say that food coloring, shaving cream, glue and glitter, should NEVER be used together, despite what you might read on Pinterest.
~ ~ @ ~ ~ 


Its that time of year where we all decide what changes we will make to better ourselves in the coming new year. I have to admit that I was always one to make a resolution and never worry much about it. This year is going to be different for me. There’s a lot of stuff I want to change but I am also being realistic about it and making decisions that I know can happen. Sure, the will take a lot of work, but I am willing and ready to put in the work. So here it goes.

I want to get off the couch more. I will donate my time and energy to local projects to better the community as well as just spend more time outside. That can be hard to do here in the Mojave Desert at times because of the weather, but I plan the make the best of what time I have here. I want to take my daughter hiking in the mountains so that she can experience the beauty that this place holds. If my wife is willing to accompany us she is more than welcome to join and enjoy the scenery.

I want to be an all-around better husband and father. I know at times I lose my patience with both my wife and oldest daughter. I want to include Hailey (age 5) in more that I do and treat Jackie to things that she has always wanted. I want to spend more time together as a family and less time connected to the internet.

And lastly, I will better myself physically and mentally. 

I’d like to work out more on my own. I want to lose at least 15 pounds in the next few months and would like to ultimately be back down to 160 by the time we PCS to Italy in October. 

I also want to dedicate to reading one book a month this year. I have never been much of a reader but I have been finding myself enjoying it much more often now that I ever have. 

I am also open to suggestions on what books to read! I am huge fan of fantasy novels. I have read the entire Lord of the Rings series including The Hobbit. I really enjoyed reading The Hunger Games series as well. I am currently about to start the Maze Runner series. Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions for me!

We here at Reviews, Chews, and How-to’s as well as the Snider Family wish you all a happy and prosperous new year. I hope you all work as hard as we do to achieve our resolutions and can find the drive you need to maintain your changes.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

 ~ ~ @ ~ ~


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: Moo n Cookies

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Even before giving birth to my beautiful daughter in October, I knew that I wanted to exclusively breastfeed her as long as I could. I had had problems breastfeeding my son, supplementing and eventually stopping nursing entirely at nine months old, and was looking for a fresh start with my daughter.

Being a stay at home mom, I am able to feed her on demand, but I knew that pumping and having some backup just in case was a good idea, especially as I had a gallbladder removal surgery scheduled for a month after giving birth.

Oh but The Fates can be cruel! Just as I was basking in the glow of a new and wonderful breastfeeding relationship, I found out that my little girl has PKU and needs to be supplemented with a special protein free formula.

Drawing from experience, I know that even a little supplementing can take a big toll on my supply. Add on top of that, I was facing a gallbladder removal surgery where I was advised to pump and dump for 24 hours.

And I don't react very well to a pump, barely getting a couple ounces a session.

Oh but The Fates can be kind! Enter Moo N Cookies, gluten free lactation cookies and bars!

These goodies come in a wide variety of flavors and include four milk boosting ingredients: oats, almonds, brewers yeast, and flax.

The box I got contained two samplers, one double brewers yeast cookies and the other double brewers yeast bars, a bag of the trail mix in chocolate chip (which had unfortunately opened and spilled a little in the box, though not much), and a handy refrigerator magnet with the flavor abbreviations.

I had received my box of treats just before Thanksgiving and planned on eating them after our feast.

Enter another twist, where I ended up with a five day hospital stay that depleted my frozen milk stash before I could even try one bite, relying solely on my pump to keep my supply going.

I watched, helpless in hospital, as my output plummeted. By day five, I could only pump about 3 ounces for the whole day.

Thankfully, the Mister brought one of the Double Brewers Yeast bars for the ride home from the hospital. 


From then on I faithfully ate my 1-2 bars or 2-3 cookies every day, as recommended. And, to be completely honest, it was difficult to stop at just that amount. They were so yummy I had to stop myself from eating them all at once!



I found the trail mix to have too small of particles to really eat on its own, but is fantastic with some plain Greek yogurt! There was only one flavor I didn't like in my sampler, and that was the Pumpkin Spice cookie, which tasted of too strongly of cinnamon to me. Every other flavor was great though! Though it is tough to decide, my favorite flavors were the apple spice, which even had bits of apple!, and Heath bar with its toffee and chocolate bits.

 On the website FAQ, you are told that you might not see results until 5-7 days after starting, I definitely saw a difference much sooner than that.

 My daughter was not asking to nurse nearly as often, and was leaving me with extra to pump after feeding her. The most telling sign, however, was at night. I started leaking while I slept, waking up with a drenched top and needing to change the bedding, like I did when my milk first came in! It hadn't done that for weeks!


After a couple weeks, I woke up and fed my little girl as usual, and still felt so full I had to pump, resulting in 3 ounces! Remember, this is right after I already nursed until my daughter was full!

You can order your very own lactation treats from the Moo N Cookies website, or message them on Facebook. Cookies start at $15 a dozen and bars start at $18 a dozen. Trail mix is $14 for a 24 ounce baggie.

Keep an eye on their Facebook page for deals!

Every treat is gluten free, and there are many options for special dietary needs and allergies.

If you're not sure about your own dietary needs, they are more than helpful.

The only people who probably shouldn't eat these delicious goodies are those who have gallbladder issues, as they do contain a lot of healthy fats.

Each treat is of a generous portion, and leaves you feeling satisfied.

You should keep your treats in the freezer until you are ready to eat, as they are very soft. They will last in the freezer for 6 months (though I can't imagine them lasting that long before I eat them all!) and the trail mix can stay on your counter for 4 weeks.

I'm completely recovered from my surgery, but I still don't react well to my pump and would like to rebuild my freezer stock, so I know that I will be most definitely ordering some more of these extremely tasty treats!

For the next few days, you can try Moo N Cookies for yourself for 10% off orders of $30 or more by using the discount code "review".  Don't delay - this is only good though Jan 10!


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Monday, December 29, 2014

Review: ZenEvo Energy Chocolates

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There are two words in the English language that need to be married and should always be together. Those two words are “Healthy” and “Chocolate”. The masterminds at ZenEvo have officiated this wedding and created just such a union with their amazing dark chocolate. Little squares of delightfully rich, mysteriously dark chocolate infused with a kick.

ZenEvo produces three varieties of healthy chocolate:

Energy -  with ashwaganda, maca, ginseng and caffeine
Vitamin D - with 1000iu of vitamin D3
Fit - with raspberry ketone and green coffee bean extract


The folks at ZenEvo appealed to my desires and sent me an enormous amount of their confections. So much so, that even in the four weeks I’ve had to thoroughly test said product I couldn’t complete the task on my own. I had to call for reinforcements.

Fortunately my husband, an avid chocolate enthusiast was up for the task. I gave him the Fit Chocolates, a raspberry dark chocolate that he described as “quite good”. The Fit chocolates are designed to give you an antioxidant boost. Hubby enjoyed them.



I have been keeping the Energy chocolates in my purse for whenever I’m feeling like I need a quick boost of energy. They have about as much caffeine as a cup of espresso. The taste is rich, dark and slightly sweet. The texture is smooth, crisp and dry. They remind me of a chocolate covered coffee bean.

The Vitamin D chocolates are fabulous. The taste and texture are the same as the Energy chocolates, but the Vitamin boost is a great benefit. I nibble them in the morning with my breakfast and feel like they really help me focus and get a jump start on my day.

Vitamin D is something I definitely need more of in my life and this is a very pleasurable way to get it!

ZenEvo products can be ordered in three sizes: A 7 day supply for $6.99, a 30 day supply for $29.70 or a 72 day supply for $71.28.

Recommended serving is one chocolate per day so that works out to a little less than a dollar per serving. You can purchase ZenEvo chocolates at several health food stores along the East Coast and Midwest or you can order ZenEvo chocolates on their webpage and learn more about them by visiting their Facebook page.



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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Review: Nov. PetBox for Dogs

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We've had the pleasure of reviewing Petbox Subscription Boxes twice before - once for cats, and once for dogs.  I am very excited to announce that we have been given the opportunity to do so monthly in 2015!

As of now, we are an affiliate of PetBox, which means that I will be receiving a surprise PetBox for our dog, Sadie (who was far too excited by this to stay still for pictures!) each month for review - and we are able to offer a standing discount code for our readers for new PetBox accounts.  There is a small bonus for sign ups  that use this code, which will allow us to offset some of the costs of the blog itself.

To receive 10% off your own PetBox subscription, use the code RCHREVIEWS at check out!

It was a big deal for us to agree to be an affiliate - we took great care to ensure that our reviews will be able to remain honest and objective . Our main concern, as always, is to be able to help our readers find the very best products out there!



Today, I am sharing with you the box we received just after Thanksgiving.  Sadie dived her nose straight into it as soon as it was opened!  Little wonder! Not only did she get a couple of great toys, but there were tons of snacks for her in there as well!

Let's mention the toys first - Sadie is very close to 15 years old, and her days of tearing toys to shreds as fast as possible are pretty much behind her.  She has a couple plushies she likes in her bed with her, and never really has been much for rubber toys.  Which is a shame, because they're a lot easier to keep clean!  She got two of them in this box and was curious about both of them, although she lost interest quickly.  A different dog would adore these!

First, there is this delightful ball - there's a whole lot going on in this little blue package.

The soft spikes offer both gripping support and an interesting texture, and the ball squeaks when it is squeezed.

If you toss it on the ground, there's an added surprise - on impact, there is a flashing blue light that blinks for a minute or so.

I think she'd have been all over this ball about five years ago - as it was, the squeaker held her attention each time she heard it.  This is a great toy - unfortunately, no packaging was included to tell me the brand.

The other toy included in the November PetBox is the Jolly Bone.  It's just the right size for a medium dog's mouth, made of tough yet pliable rubber that can hold up to the strongest of gnawing teeth.

No jingles, no light ups - but it floats, making it a great toy for dogs that like to swim and fetch!

The first time we gave it to Sadie, I admit I put a little dab of bacon grease on it, which was enough to tell her it was hers, all hers!  She's since dragged it into her treasure lair under the dining room table, and eventually I expect it is going to go the way of most chew toys and rawhides - buried in the yard to be proudly dug up every month or two.

Onto Sadie's favorite part - the snacks!  She lives for treats and boy, did she get treats!  Trying to get pictures of Sadie when there's a treat nearby is about impossible, but we tried!


There were four full-sized snacks/supplements in the November PetBox:

Exclusively Dog Cookies - Mini Grahams
There was a burst of graham cracker scent when we opened these that made me hungry.  And they made Sadie do something she's never done before - grab the whole box and try to hide it under the dining room table. (It wasn't a well thought out plan, but E for Effort, Sadie!)  These are thin little squares, just the right size for a tidbit snack, and as you might guess, she loves them a whole lot.

Tomlyn Relax & Calm for Med/Large Dogs
These are supplements hiding out as treats - packed with L-tryptophan, chamomile and ginger to promote relaxation and calm. For every 20lb of dog, one of these tiny little bone shaped bites daily will help keep nervous dogs a bit less hyperactive.  Sadie basically has only two modes - freaked out and comotose, so she's getting two of these daily, and it's hard to say if they're working, but she gets very excited at the sight of them!

Happy Howie's Turkey Sausage
These are pretty substantial sized sausage treats - firm enough to make the dog work for it a bit but not hard to break up into smaller bits if you'd rather use them as smaller rewards.  Sadie spent a couple of minutes happily working this one over and licked her chops joyfully once it was all gone.

J Nicolay Bakery Pumpkin Cinnamon Treats
I put these soy, wheat and corn free treats in the 'substantial' category, as well.  As you can see, they are solid hard and crunchy squares that are thick enough that Sadie has to soften it up a bit before she can bite into it.

This keeps her busy for a couple minutes, and I count that as a good thing.  The scent is mild and if her reaction to them is any indicator, I am sure they're quite tasty!

J Nicolay Bakery makes several varieties of dog treats, and they're made to order by hand.

 The last item in our box was Tomlyn Eye Opticlear. This is a sterile eye wash that can be used to flush out a dog or cat's eyes, sooth eye itching, and otherwise help keep them comfortable and healthy.

We didn't have cause to use it during the review period, so we've tucked it away for the spring, which is when she usually winds up spending a lot of time snuffling around in the yard.

As with most sterile solutions, this one has an expiration date - ours will keep until August, 2015.

Speaking of PetBox grooming aids, when I did our previous review, I mentioned a little tool for safely removing tics that we had had no occasion to use.

We've since had to use it three times, most recently on Christmas Eve (yuck!).  It works like a charm, and I'm so happy that PetBox introduced us to it!

Finally I want to let you know that I'll be doing a pair of unboxings next weekend - I would add them to this post, but they were Christmas gifts and haven't made it to their homes yet.  I took advantage of a great special PetBox had over the holidays, and bought a small-dog Holiday Box for my mom-in-law's chihuahua, Harley, and a cat Holiday Box for my daughter's calico cat, Frankie.

There was a glitch during ordering and they accidentally shipped here instead of to the recipients.  Since I had them, I couldn't resist peeking - once they've gotten to where they belong, I'll show you what was in them.  It was a whole lot of awesome, is what!

Remember, if you'd like to sign up for PetBox, using the code RCHREVIEWS will get you 10% off and help us offset the cost of this website.

PetBox Website
PetBox on Facebook


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Monday, December 22, 2014

Review/Giveaway: Spencer & Ivy Reusable Coloring Placemats

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Whether it's at home or out on the town, meal times can be rough with a toddler. There may be 5 solid minutes where you can sit down beside them and attempt to get a few bites of your own food. It's hard to keep them entertained and I know with my daughter personally, I refrain from giving her crayons at restaurants because she liked to eat them more than color the paper placemats.

But when I heard about the reusable coloring placemats by Spencer & Ivy, I was very intrigued! The thought of a cute fun child's placemat that we were able easily roll up, and take to a restaurant to entertain Rhylee seemed so convenient! One side of the placemat had a full color image and the opposite side of the placemat is a black and white version of the image that your child can color like a coloring book. The placemats also came with their own 10-pack of washable markers.


Rhylee loved having such a vast choice of colors and had such a great time coloring with one of the images that she chose - the Garden Fairy Placemat. She usually won't color for more than about two minutes at restaurants with the paper and crayons they provide because she either eats the crayons or breaks them then gets upset. I was so pleasantly surprised by how long she stayed occupied and happy drawing with her markers when we brought her own Spencer & Ivy mat. She did not have any urge to eat the markers and they were not easily breakable like the crayons.

Since you can flip the placemat over and color on either side, Rhylee also liked switching back and forth to the color side and then back to the black and white side therefore giving me even more valuable time to enjoy my meal. This was the most pleasant dinner we have had in a long time, simply because my toddler was happy and thoroughly entertained.

When we took the mat home after eating, cleaning was just as quick and simple as the care and handling instructions described.

I took a lightly dampened paper towel, lightly wiped each side and the marker came right off! It took less than 1 minute to clean and looked brand new again.

You can buy just one reusable placemat for $14.95 or choose from the bundle of two placemats together for $24.95. Both choices come with the pack of 10 washable markers of assorted colors.  It was an absolute pleasure reviewing these reusable placemats from Spencer & Ivy. I know I will be purchasing many placemats in the near future!

Spencer & Ivy Website
Spencer & Ivy on Facebook


Spencer & Ivy is hosting a giveaway of two different placemat sets (four placemats total) - the Princess and Ballerina Placemat Set, and the Barnyard & Zoo Animal Train Placemat Set...valued at $50.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY 
and will end just before midnight ET on 1-5-15. 

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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