Momma Told Me: August 2012

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Some Thoughts On....The Rising Costs of Weddings

It all started a week ago, flipping through a random Women's Interest magazine, in the waiting room of my doctor's office. It's a funny source of inspiration, I know; have you ever found the collection of magazines and topics ironically inappropriate at such times? The last thing I want to do is peruse Italian Vogue before a breast exam, or read about Paula Dean's home cooking prior to my bloodwork results! Yes the media is inadvertently half to blame for most of the health struggles I have, and my parents the other half (okay, I have some control, but that's all I'll admit for now).

In any case, this particular issue of this particular magazine happened to have a lengthy feature on Fall weddings and brides. I use the term 'feature' quite loosely, as it was obvious most of the pictorials were blatant ads (and some gorgeous, full page, ads at that). Now, I don't claim to know a thing about the wedding industry, though what few words were inside this article did inform me that Fall weddings are, by nature, "extravagant". And the term was used in such a colochial manner that one might think dropping $5k for the lowest end (of these dresses) was just the way things were if you wished to get married in the Fall. To have a Fall wedding meant you (the bride) needed to spend more on dress/venue/entertainment- and that anything less would be such a travesty you should move your date to the following Spring, now.

Of course my reaction was 'hogwash!' I know, having skipped the alter and joining at the courthouse, for marriage number 1 (no, I'm not looking to add #2 anytime soon), I may not seem very 'pro ceremony'. However, my feelings on the topic are far from rooted in personal preferences. Trust me, I love a good bedazzle and Dove release like the next gal- but when you get into all of the floral arrangements, choreographed wedding party processions, and cocktail hour; your relationship (and your wallet) will be lucky to survive. I may not have had a big wedding, but I do know, a marriage takes work. I'm not a big believer that the beginning, the middle, or the end is any harder than the next; I believe it is just plain dirty, often thankless, but completely worth it- work. Taking your relationship to the next level, marriage, is huge. It is no longer just about you and your partner, it is about both of your families, joining, and your potential family to be.

Now, two individuals taking the plunge, introducing new relatives, merging finances (debts and responsibilities); why would they need to drain their pockets to get there? A $5k dress? If you're with the right man, he should think you're a Queen in a prom dress from Macys. Your family? They'll love you and show up whether the chicken is served alongside lobster or mac n'cheese. Those memories? They'll be just as heartfelt and touching whether you book the most extravagant chapel, or get married beneath the willow at a local park. My point being, I sometimes wonder if we get so caught up in all the planning and rituals that we forget what the day is really about; all the ingredients are already there. Adding the dress, the band, the food, the entertainment, the limo- that's just icing. And if your cake ends up melting, or delayed, or the wrong flavor, well, that's life. You're getting married, expect a lot of melted/wrong flavor/late cakes along the way- it's not easy, but it's so worth it!

So, while I personally (someday far off) want an intimate sunset wedding in a field with nothing more than a tent, a dance floor, and some home cooked food by twinkle lights; I do understand the dream to feel like a princess on that one special day. Just remember, weddings became such a big to do, originally, because divorce was not an option, and when people 'traveled' to attend, they took boats and journeyed by carriage for days. The times have changed, so can your wedding, and it can still be just as special. You don't have to pinch pennies, but maybe, just maybe, there is an equally beautiful dress out there for .....say....$1k? And you can put that money towards your future- you're going to need it with a house, kids, healthcare.... Again, just remember, the most important part of your big day, the people, will love you no matter what you wear or where you wear it!

What about you? Did you have/Do you want a big wedding? Do you see merit in toning things down, yet still celebrating?

Update: Momma's response to this post:
My dress was only $89.95 at Hot Topic. Still happily married (10) years later..."

Wordless Wednesday: Sweet Imitation- Cake That Looks Like Food

**Hamburger Cake features: White Cake 'Bun', Buttercream 'Mayonnaise', Shredded Coconut 'Lettuce', Brownie 'Patty', White Chocolate 'Cheese Slices', Frosting 'Ketchup and Mustard', Candied Applewood Bacon, Rice Krispie 'Sesame Seeds'. Ice Cream Cone Mini Cupcakes: Mini Kids Cones with Cherry Chip and Yellow Cake baked center, featuring Cherry Vanilla Frosting and White Chocolate Raspberry Frosting.

TANDA: Zap- Compact Blue Light Treatment for Clear Skin Giveaway and Review~ 9/15

Momma Told Me: There's no magic wand for zits!

Of all the trials and tribulations of growing up, I think few have been saturated with as much 'motherly' advice as skincare/acne. Whether your face resembled an oil slick, or you had the complexion of an angel- it's almost certain you've dealt with pimples on more than one occasion. Of course, a pimple is not a sign of acne; a much more tormenting and ongoing condition, often associated with age, diet, and/or stress- it is merely the indication of a clogged pore. Even those with the cleanest of beauty rituals can succumb to these unsuspected, and ultimately unavoidable, pests; and often at the worst times! And, while I believe, in a way, it is atually more traumatic for those unaccustomed to dealing with them (rather than those who battle most of their lives), we all find ourselves wishing we could snap our fingers and just Zap them away.

An early bloomer, I experienced the phenomena of puberty related acne well before the majority of my class. Momma has already forewarned me of the terrors she had endured as a teen (she always said, out of my Aunt and her, she got the boobs and my Aunt got the good skin). Luckily for me, the 'acne' battle was not as severe as I believe Momma's was, but it was enough to be constant and annoying for several years; pimples here and there in areas such as the T-zone and chin. Momma, I assume afraid I would relive the negative parts of her childhood, always had me on some regimen of scrubs and soaps that would dry out my face to the point of being painful. In all honesty, it was the harsh washes, scrubs, and peels, that irritated me far more than an outbreak here and there. I was far from the only teen at my school with acne, by high school. Even more frustrating for me, was the seemingly never-ending advice, that always contradicted itself. Everyone had their own experiences, an they all had their 'secret' tips. And, while drinking tomato juice for 3 days, or washing with charcoal soap, might help some, one simple truth remains constant- nobody's skin is the same, and no biological conditions are exact. The causes of pimples, and acne, are varied and often even hard for a dermatologist to pin- so what does the accountant next door know about YOUR acne?

I've bragged a little on here about the way my complexion has cleared over the past few years. I'm surprised to find myself, more often than not, astounded at the texture and uniformity of the skin around my face. Of course, it's only natural that, when a breakout does occur, I tend to panic. I've grown used to the nice clear skin, and want to get rid of all signs of trouble as fast as possible. Again, there is often no one cause, and no one solution; I am always prudent to try and lock down the specific triggers of the incident and work on altering them and their impact. But what do you do once the offenders have made their presence known? The average zit has a lifespan of 7-10 days, with 5-7 of them often showing visibly as red scars, bumps, and even black/whiteheads. Momma always told me that there was no magic wand, "Once zit, always a zit" she'd say- but, perhaps she was wrong.

It's no surprise that today's curiosity comes from TANDA, one of the leaders in consumer based beauty technology. Their clinically tested, in home, skincare devices harness some of the most cutting edge dermatological advances, currently used today. They essentially take the concepts and shrink them down to powerful consumer safe treatments that an dramatically cut costs over office visits and strict regimins. I hope to one day try their highly acclaimed Me hair removal system that uses a similar light technology as the TANDA Zap, the company's answer to pop up blackheads. Pried less than your average dermatologist co-pay, the Zap is an extremely easy to use blue light deliverance system that combines 2 equally powerful methods of treatment, vibration and heat. Together, the vibration aids in stimulation upper epidermal cells to expose more of the trapped bacteria (clogging your pore and causing the pimple), while the gentle warming results in wider pores and a deeper reach for the naturally oxygenating blue light (that specifically targets bacteria known to cause pimples). If it sounds a little 'sci-fi' I was skeptical too.

Out of the box the TANDA is underwhelming, that is, considering the expectations one would have from such a high tech device. Because it lacks frills in presentation, with a simple plastic casing/shell, it is more affordable for the modern consumer. I would, however, suggest finding a small velvet pouch to store it in before tossing it into the makeup/travel bag/purse. Included are 3 AAA batteries, which have run our unit over 4 hours, thus far. The Zap has a single button operation, on/off functionality, that is timed for 2 minute treatments. The instruction manual suggests treatments twice dialy, a process we stuck with during our testing phases. There are also warnings, regarding the potentially harmful blue light- though this is only in cases where one might stare directly into the light for any period of time. I highly suggest, for safety purposes, you keep it out of the hands of children, and turned off, when not in contact with skin.

Now, we could find no suggestion in the instructions regarding pre-treatment of the designated area; nonetheless, I suggest washing your face and removing all makeup/lotions/product, prior to treatment. Not only will this reason to keep the device more sanitary, and help avoid the spread of bacteria from one treatment to the next, but serve to help eliminate barriers between your pores and the Blue Light. My other half has been battling with oily patches, and breakouts, a lot through the summer, and was happy to put the Zap to the test. Of course I, as well, have been testing the unit. You will see the 24 hour test results most dramatically on his complexion, illustrated when used as instructed with 2 treatments in 24 hours. The 2 minute treatments are incredibly painless, as the device is quite light, though I wish there ws more of an indicator when the treatment was up. The Zap does generate enough heat to be felt on the surface of the skin, more noticeable than the gentle vibrations (and textured head). If you are looking to treat a large area you will need to split the treatments up into multiple sessions. The Zap is primarily intended to treat flare ups and stray zits, though customer reviews have claimed it equally successful for Mild to Moderate acne sufferers.

As expected the Zap did not make the pimples disappear, that is, entirely. There was still some redness and a little swelling on the large pimple, the following day. I've had more luck treating pimples when I first feel them beginning to develop (if you've had acne, you know how to tell, it's like a Spidey sense). Treating the pimples in their infancy seem to eliminate them all-together, while Zap treatments on a current breakout appear to cut the appearance time up to 50%. I, personally, feel this will be most effective if the unit is sanitized, in addition to the skin, prior to, and after, treatment. Naturally, if you are breaking out because of poor hygiene (which can men more than not washing your face regularly), or stress, just using the Zap will not be as dramtic as using the Zap with lifestyle changes. In summary, I feel the Zap is a must have gift for any teen, or even college student, bride to be, or new mom. The price point makes it a worthy curiosity for any skin-type; but be sure to educate yourself bout the cause of your breakouts as well.

Here are some of my, personal, tried and true tips for clearer skin:

*Limit the amount of time spent touching your face.
*Wash your pillowcase once a week (more if you're an adorable drooler).
*Drink 8 glasses of water a day.
*Use a separate towel to clean and dry your face (don't use your bath towel).
*Remove your makeup before bed.

What Daughter Says: The TANDA Zap helps cut the lifespan of a pimple with an easy to apply, pain free, 2 minute treatment.

One Momma Told Me follower will win a TANDA Zap!

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Hoover WindTunnel Air: Powerful Vacuum With Intuitive Controls

Momma Told Me: Trust the one in Red.

I grew up with Hoover. For me, my childhood memories on this particular brand go back much further than Dad's favorite brand of boots, or Momma's preferred baking mix. This was the first chore I ever learned, the first identity I had as a valuable part of my family, my first responsibility. Not only has my family trusted the Hoover name for generations, but the very same unit I once pushed through our condo hallways later went with me to my very first apartment. And, on an even more sentimental scale, Hoover was there for us when Momma became ill, and my father looked to me to help her out. Yes, there are photos of me, in our family album, proudly pushing our little Hoover stick vac (the kind with the tall chrome pole and a big billowing red bag), with the silliest grin on my face. I couldn't have been older than 5, and Hoover's (then) revolutionary lightweight vacuumed ensured I could help Momma with the chores in our family's time of need.

Of course, there was one other household name,in our family, concerning vacuum devices; the equally trusted (often portable) Dirt Devil machines. That cherry red color, each and every Dirt Devil and Hoover, seemed to come in, always stuck out in my head. Our Dirt Devils were even more lightweight, and easier for my small frame to maneuver, though they were often built for tidying up, and small cleaning projects. I still have my family's first Dirt Devil handvac, right next to my trusted Hoover, in storage. It's no coincidence that these two names should come up alongside one another- for they are both owned and maintained by TTI Ltd. Outside of splurging on a Dyson (which, in honesty would only be from all the hype and exclusivity of their products), I consider Hoover to be my brand of choice, concerning home cleaning electronics. I purchased a Max Extract several years back, when I was leasing a home, and am still found preaching it's value to strangers today!

This all being said, I did go through a dark time more recently. When I had to downsize from a 4B house into a space equivalent to a loft, I had to give up a lot of my electronics and cleaning tools. My biggest regret, of course, was letting go of my Hoover. Through the course of our 5 month stay, waiting to move into our condo, I went through an astounding 4 vacuums! My intentions, the entire time, being to invest in a nice Hoover when we moved into our new home, and to pick up a cheap (small canister) unit to get us through the few months. Well, where we were staying the carpet was piled quite thick, and also fairly new, so each off-brand unit would collect the surface layer of fibers, human hair (I shed a lot), and kitty litter and fry within 2-3 uses. Call us tough on our vacuums, but I point the finger at device after device promising to be 'tough on pet floors', or to 'never lose suction'. Ha! Needless to say I simply could not wait for my Hoover, and began shopping well before we finally moved.

Our most recent Hoover adoption, the WindTunnel Air, uses the brand's patented WindTunnel technology to channel suction through 3 chambers, preventing common clogs and belt issues. This entirely bag-less upright features a multi-cyclonic filtration system with rinse-able HEPA filter and 99.97% micron reduction rate. This impressive figure is due largely in part to the WindTunnel chambers, which eliminate most blow back and expulsion of finer particles and dust. What this means to our home, with low pile carpeting, simulation wood floors, and plenty of kitty litter dust, is a more breathable atmosphere during and after cleaning. If you've ever tried to vacuum kitty litter before, you've likely seen the cloud of white smoke kicked back by clay based litters- I've experienced none of this with my WindTunnel Air.

Out of the box, the WindTunnel are is clearly a modern take on the classic WindTunnel uprights. In honesty, I miss the days of solid Red Hoovers, but understand the company's desire to showcase the WindTunnel action and technology upgrades. It's nice to be able to see into the bag free canister, and even view the base brushes at work during use- but the lime green accents are a turn off for me. Hoover has spent a bit of time researching methods to make their unit's controls as accessible and intuitive as possible. They've highlights all the key latches and buttons in lime green, with bold tactile and visual cues. The placement is perfect, and the color is certainly easy to see, but it makes the unit look more like a toy, in my opinion. However, one feature along this point truly did stand out as a desirable innovation. When plugged in, and on, the WindTunnel Air will run it's motor, though the suction will not kick in until the user tilts the body back. The brand has eliminated the need for a kick pedal, or latch, and the vacuum tilts entirely on it's own, with the user's urge; generating a slightly louder electronic whir of suction. This feature most reminded me of self propelled units, though this is not one, the sounds and ease of (push) operation are quite similar.

A common pro/con for vacuums is their weight, and I would be remiss if I did not praise the 12lb footprint, I consider light. There were quite a few back and forth discussions as to how genuinely 'lightweight' this was, and my final answer is that weight should be considered with power and capacity. Yes, I can purchase a 6lb vacuum, but will it handle tough dirt and pet spills the same way as my Hoover WindTunnel Air? My simple answer is, No. 12lbs is light enough for most young children 7+ to maneuver, and certainly a tribute to the standards I grew up with in the brand. One reason I may find this unit to be so lightweight (even knowing it's weight), is the sheer ease of maneuverability. The 30' cord is exceptionally long for a mid level vacuum, and covers over half our condo without a re-plug. The canister, as a result of size and weight, does tend to fill fast, however, requiring 2 dumps during our first use. Keep in mind this is in part due to the lack of power and suction from our old unit. Subsequent touch ups have been on cleaner floors, meaning less debris to pick up. Regardless, the canister does seem to be a little small in capacity for the power of the unit.

Cleaning and assembly of the Hoover WindTunnel Air is just as intuitive as the controls. Decals aid the user in washing and assembling the HEPA filter, while the hose attachment system is clearly explained as well. Unfortunately, I found the hose to be the downfall of this unit, and consider it a non-selling point. It is functional, and nice to have when needed, but not something that would encourage me to use it on a regular bases. The hose seems to flop out of the guides from time to time, as well as the snap on brush- and having to bend all the way down to switch intakes can be a concern for elderly or disabled users. Other features include the intuitive telescoping handle (for height adjustment), carry handle for storing and transport, and unique brushroll switch (which effectively converts the device from carpet to hard surface cleaning. The unit also tilts back quite far, to recline for cleaning under cabinets and furniture, though this only gains about 1' of depth with the round base and bagless chamber.

The Hoover WindTunnel Air includes a 2 year manufacturer's warranty with no-scuff bumper base, to ensure peace of mind in purchase, though I feel I should sum this up by stating; this particular device is not a one-fits-all scenario. I do not consider that there is any one vacuum great for every home- the WindTunnel Air is a more compact, yet air friendly and powerful vacuum. I feel it is perfect for apartments, offices, condos, dorms and small homes. It is great for pet families, and various flooring, though I expect the bin will fill much faster in a residence that is entirely carpeted. What this unit does do, is exemplify the WindTunnel technology; which is sold in a variety of units and capacities- I highly praise these technology and the Hoover brand. Based on this experience alone, I can best remind buyers to shop for the WindTunnel that fits their space needs the best. Based on a lifetime of brand loyalty, I can attest to the versatility and durability of these units, especially the WindTunnel technology.

What Daughter Says: While the colors may have evolved with the technology, Hoover is just as integral a part of my daily routine as ever.

As Required By The FTC: I received a sample of this product to facilitate my review, but my opinions are entirely my own.

Rubbermaid: LunchBlox- Bento Style Lunch For The 21st Century

Momma Told Me: Don't forget your lunch!

When I was growing up 'bento' style lunches weren't even a concept in North America. Most of the things being unpacked from my school lunches were pre-packaged in bags, and conveniently shelf stable. While Pop always was sure to write encouraging notes in Sharpie on my Ziploc baggies, for the most part, lunch was not my favorite part of the school day. And, judging by the haphazard composition, packing it was not Momma's favorite, either. So, when the Bento craze his us just a few years bag, an Moms nationwide began Pinterest collections of food that doubled as art, and 10 course mini meals, I was a bit jealous. Concepts such as 'hot dog octopus' and 'cheese strand pencil' inspired me to begin packing a lunch for my other half. However, I was quickly reminded just how tedious this can be. I'd either reach for an overwhelming amount of junk, or end up fighting with fitting all of the objects into a tight fit space.

When Rubbermaid released their newest food storage innovation, LunchBlox, I was intrigued, yet skeptical. While a click and lock, modular, based food transport system seemed ingenious, there were many concerns about functionality. I received a basic LunchBlox Sandwich Kit for feature here on Momma Told Me. This kit is sold in grocery stores, and mas retailers, nationwide, for around $13. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this concept is the ability to build and expand your packing power infinity with various sized and shaped 'blox' containers. The Sandwich kit includes a Sandwich Container with 3 blox footprint, Blue Ice cooling pack, 2 Snack Pack containers (1/4 the size of the sandwich footprint), and 1 Side Container (1/2 the footprint of the Sandwich base). Add on containers are most easily available directly from, and average $5 a pair. You'll also find 'Entree' containers, larger than the sandwich size, for storing leftovers or packing for adults.

Included with our Rubbermaid Sandwich Kit were some valuable coupons to purchase all the basic 'sandwich essentials', and a sample of French's Dijon with Chardonnay Mustard. I'll admit, pulling the neat cubic system out of the packaging, and seeing just how compact everything was, kind of excited me. I am near OCD when it comes to cleanliness and organization, and I knew this system would not only inspire and challenge me to pack exciting lunches, but make storing them a breeze. The entire Lunch Blox system fit onto our most narrow fridge self, completely packed and ready to go. The lids of each piece feature cut-outs with notches to interlock into the tabs on the bottom of each container. The pieces don't seem to lock as tightly as I'd prefer, or expect, and the smaller Snack compartments tend to get knocked around from time to time; though the general functionality is there.

The base of the LunchBlox kit is the perfect size for one standard sandwich, where the Side compartment fits carrots an a snack pack peanut butter, and the Snack compartments are perfect for a small dairy and/or sweets portion. I've yet to find a day where I couldn't pack perfect portions of just about anything in our kitchen. This makes me feel better about my packing choices, because the high calorie stuff is kept to actual portion sizes, and the other half enjoys the variety and surprises. There are also measurement markers on the size to indicate quantities (for portion control and dieting). While the Blue Ice will interlock into any park of the Lunch Blox system, we prefer to place it between the layers to efficiently cool the entire lunch.

I'm always hesitant about how interlocking, and lid based, plastic containers will hold up, but Rubbermaid is known for high quality materials. The LunchBlox system cleans and dries wonderfully in our machine, or even by hand. If you are washing by hand, be sure to leave the pieces apart and open sufficiently enough to remove all trapped moisture. Replacing lids too soon can breed bacteria and even mildew. While the LunchBlox kit provides the freedom to rearrange, I like that the sturdy blox structure is much more stable than bags and foil which can crush and even leak in transport. Of course, the entire LunchBlox system is BPA free, and entirely microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe. Head to the Rubbermaid website now to print a $1.50 coupon off your first Lunch Blox purchase, in store.

What Daughter Says: LunchBlox, by Rubbermaid, makes it easy to pack and store lunches.

As Required By the FTC: As a member of the Rubbermaid Buzz Review Program I recieved the above product for consideration. No other compensation was provided. My views and opinions were not swayed or altered in any way.