Archive - 2016

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» REVIEW: Philips Hue
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» How We are Remembered: Kelley Frost, 1981-2016
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» REVIEW: Click and Grow Garden
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» Review: MegaFood Vitamins, Fresh from Farm to Powder
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» REVIEW: NeilMed Nasal Solutions
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» The Benjamin Andrew Lance Foundation
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» Goodbye… normal?
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» REVIEW: LIFX Color 1000 Light Bulbs
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» Celebrating FIVE years of life!
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» Review: PrAna Sustainable Clothing

» REVIEW: Philips Hue

Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to try out LIFX bulbs. That experience really convinced us that smart lights were an asset to our home. After researching all the smart bulb options, I wanted to give the Philips Hue line a shot.

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I was pretty thrilled when we were given the opportunity to try out the White Ambiance Starter Kit. At night time, we like to keep some lights on for the kids as they wind down. However, many nights I am already in my own room reading and decompressing before the kids actually fall asleep. When it’s time for me to go to bed, I want all of those lights that I had to leave on to be off…  Hue allows me to do lights out without having to walk back through the house. This is just one of many benefits of a home set up.

Set up

The Philips Hue Kits comes with a hub that will need to be plugged in directly to your router. Your next step is to screw the bulb(s) into any existing ceiling light or lamp, then make sure to power it on. As expected these days with smart home products, all of final set up is controlled through their app (iPhone for me) that will walk you through step by step directions to get your lights connected. Super easy, you will be up and running in about five minutes.

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iPhone App

The official app is easy to use and I’ve been able to bring the lights from full brightness during dinner time to a lower light setting when it’s time to settle down, this is currently my way of giving the kids an early hint that it’s time for bed. Turning the lights completely off is even easier with the widget’s feature on the new iOS.

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If your schedule is predictable, you can set up routines and schedules or allow your phone’s GPS to know when your home or not to turn the lights on/off. I had no real issues with the app however I do prefer the look and feel of the LIFX app a little more, but it’s not a deal breaker. If you’re more savvy, Hue works well with IFTTT, Wink, SmartThings, and Alexa/Echo.

Conclusion

The White Ambiance Starter Kit comes with a separate remote switch that is a huge selling point for me over LIFX. It allows me to turn lights on/off and control the brightness level without always having to use my phone. The whites on these bulbs are comparable to the LIFX bulbs. I didn’t get a chance to compare colors as we tested the white ambiance kit. However, the new Hue color bulbs boast that they now have “richer colors”. The bulbs we did try are great to keep in high traffic and common areas. I tested them in different rooms and found them to be most valuable in my kitchen. The White Ambiance Kit is just one sliver of the Hue line and is a great introduction to smart home lighting for anyone. They have plenty more bulbs and other lighting solutions that we will be adding soon. One bridge (that is included in this kit) can support up to 50 bulbs!

Buy on Amazon

Philips Hue website

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Disclaimer: The folks at Philips Lighting kindly provided us the Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

» How We are Remembered: Kelley Frost, 1981-2016

Our feet crunched through the orange and yellow leaves as we made our way to the cemetery. And for a moment my ponderings became whimsical in the dark way that whimsical thoughts manifest themselves in the first stages of mourning. I thought… I want to be remembered in the Fall. Before it gets cold, and when the leaves have covered all the ugly parts of the ground. When things smell fresh but also like bonfires and the relief from Summer heat is just new enough to savor it. And then, needing to make it known, I spoke that sentiment out loud to a friend, as if she could somehow influence how and when I would be remembered.

How we are remembered is completely up to us.

I was reminded of that this week as we said goodbye to Kelley Frost. A good friend and a great husband to Laura and a present dad to their three. Kelley wasn’t perfect. He was the first to tell you that. I had barely known him a few months when he unleashed tales that made me grab Laura’s arm and ask “is he telling the truth?!” He was.

Kelley was tough and wild and made his mark growing up. But Kelley was also redeemed. Kelley was free in Christ. And when he tasted that freedom it didn’t change who Kelley was… but it released him to live an even bolder life. A life that proclaimed the Gospel without pretense or legalism.

Kelley lived a big, fast life. Full of spontaneity. He didn’t hide behind social graces or expectations. He just lived the life he wanted and took many along for the ride. We remember Kelley’s life for being loud, passionate, opinionated, motivated, FULL of ideas and mostly consumed with plans to live out his life on a beach or lake at some point. But we also remember Kelley because he was real. I think I switched between like and dislike of that man for all the years I knew him. But he knew that and I’m certain he took extra care to pick on me whenever possible. He also liked to solve all my problems, he had big proposals that would end world hunger, the crisis in Haiti and the orphan epidemic. He wasn’t afraid to tell me how to do my job and honestly… someday I might just implement some of his crazy ideas.

But one thing I really loved about Kelley was how he loved my friend Laura; his wife. I’m not sure if she noticed how he looked at her. So Laura… he looked at you something fierce girl! No marriage is perfect, but you guys were working through life together and loving it.

So now we find ourselves at the very fresh beginning of deep grief. A mother and father have lost a son. Brothers and sisters have lost a brother. A wife is without her husband and her children without their father. But what a legacy Kelley left us. Go big. Live big. Love Jesus without apology. And of course he left in a season with leaves that crunch and change. A season that’s not too cold or hot. A season that is perfectly unique among seasons. Fall is a time for drawing close, for thankfulness and for remembrance. I pray that this gives his family and friends comfort as the weeks become months and the months become years. I’m certain that Kelley, if he had considered it, would have wanted to be remembered in the Fall as well.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Philippians 3:20-21

» REVIEW: Click and Grow Garden

Fall is officially here and winter will be here before we know it. Our Nashville climate isn’t conducive to growing much outdoors once that shift happens and we love having fresh herbs in the kitchen. The solution? And indoor herb garden with Click and Grow.

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Set up

The Click and Grow unit has three pods allowing you to choose to purchase and insert any combination of refill cups as you’d like. The kids really enjoyed peeling off the lids and being able to pop each cup in. It’s like a garden Keurig! On the left side, there is a water reservoir that has a floating piece to let you easily see when more water is needed. When the tank is full, it lasts about four weeks until it is completely empty. This is pretty amazing for people (like me) who forget to water plants. Once the pods were in we simply plugged the unit in (first thing in the morning) to allowed the light to do it’s job. The unit’s light will stay on for 16 hours and then shut off for 8 all on it’s own.

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Basil, Basil, Basil

With three basil cups in place and a tank full of water, we were ready to watch our little garden grow. In about two days, we started to see little sprouts. From there, the plants grew and grew at such a surprising rate. For two months we’ve been able to trim off a few pieces every few days and only have to refill the water reservoir as needed.

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Conclusion

A year-round garden is always a challenge as the seasons change and especially in the fall and winter months. Click and Grow makes it easy for busy moms to keep some nice fresh herbs or vegetables on hand. The kids also enjoyed being part of the opening and setup process. Three pods can feel limiting, especially if you’re trying to grow strawberries or cherry tomatoes. If you’re looking for a more complete solution, the Click and Grow Indoor Farm (fits 38 and 57 pods) may be worth checking out.

Buy on Amazon

Click and Grow website

 

Disclaimer: The folks at Click and Grow kindly provided us a unit for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

» Review: MegaFood Vitamins, Fresh from Farm to Powder

I have a vitamin hider in my house. Her name might be Charlotte. She takes her carefully selected whole-food vitamin and smiles at me… already scheming where she will dump it. I’ve found it in a plant, in the toilet (slowly dissolving), in a bathroom drawer, in the dog’s food or even on the trampoline. We had many talks and still the vitamins find new homes that aren’t in her tummy.

Enter MegaFood Vitamins. They are full of fresh fruits and vegetables and even have turmeric for good measure. (And no extras like sugar or food-coloring!) The powder is easily digestible and just a small scoop provides them with the support they need for the day. Because we all know how difficult it can be to get enough servings of veggies into these little mouths.

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In our experience MegaFood Vitamins worked best in strawberry yogurt smoothies. We simply blended frozen organic strawberries, apples, yogurt and ice with a scoop of the vitamin powder. The kids happily drank away not realizing all the additional benefits they were receiving. We also tried the immune-system support powder and will likely stick with this during cold and flu season. Tip: blend the powders with thick liquid. We did try it in orange juice but it wasn’t a success. Blending in a smoothie is really the best choice.

If you have a vitamin-hider in your house MegaFood is a great way to ensure your child gets what they need without the hassle.

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Disclaimer: I received MegaFood vitamin powders as a Moms Meet blogger. As always, these opinions are my own.

» REVIEW: NeilMed Nasal Solutions

There has been a lot of snot talk around here lately. Sinus pressure, sinus drainage… tis the season for Fall allergies and colds. Fortunately NeilMed products have us covered. We are long time Neti-Pot fans but NeilMed has recently expanded their lines with some great child friendly products for clearing the nasal passages. The Naspira provides moms and dads with a gentle way to clear up a stuffy baby and the Sinus rinse system is easy to use with school age children.

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Additionally, the NeilMed devices come with their safe and effective Sinus Rinse solution.

The solution can be used with the Neti Pot and the NeilMed SINUS RINSE The rinse is an easy squeeze bottle system that allows you to deliver the saline solution with positive pressure to clean the nasal passages thoroughly, while maintaining your head in an upright position. If you are still trying to figure out how one actually uses a Neti Pot check out this video for a through tutorial. This is why the Rinse system works a bit better than the pot for kids. You have complete control of the pressure and volume of solution, ensuring a gentle, soothing and therapeutic experience. Daily rinsing is safe and will keep your nasal passages clean, healthy and open.

Use For

  • Nasal Allergies, Dryness & Hay Fever
  • Sinus Pressure & Nasal Stuffiness
  • Nasal Symptoms from Flu & Cold
  • Nasal Irritation from Occupational & House Dust, Fumes, Animal Dander, Grass, Pollen, Smoke, etc.
  • Post Nasal Drip & Nasal Congestion

Advantages

  • Soothing, No Burning or Stinging Large Volume & Low Pressure System for Saline Nasal Irrigation, Moisturization and Daily Nasal Hygiene
  • Single piece, custom-designed rounded black cap fits any nasal opening. No push and pull components make for easy cleaning.
  • Preservative, Drug, Iodine, BPA, Gluten and Latex Free
  • Premixed Packets of USP Grade Sodium Chloride & Sodium Bicarbonate (Purity level 99% or higher)
  • Excellent cleansing prior to spraying nasal corticosteroids
  • pH Balanced & Isotonic, or Hypertonic with two or more packets
  • Smooth Flow with easy squeeze bottle
  • Empties nearly 95% in upright position
  • Suitable for use after sinus surgery and during pregnancy. Consult your physician with concerns.
  • Portable for travel

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NeilMed products can be found pretty much anywhere: Babies R Us, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Harmon, Kinney Drugs, Shop Rite, Brookshire’s, amazon.com, drugstore.com, and neilmed.com. They are inexpensive, drug free and extremely effective. We love using these products to keep sinus infections and pain away.

Buy on Amazon

NeilMed website

Disclaimer: I received these NeilMed products as a Moms Meet blogger. As always, these opinions are my own.

» The Benjamin Andrew Lance Foundation

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Steve and Melodie Lance. They have a beautiful story and a beautiful foundation. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to lean in to their story.

The Benjamin Andrew Lance Foundation is more than just a Foundation. It’s a story. A story of tragedy turned into hope. Today we want to share a glimpse of that story as we introduce you to an inspiring family, foundation and the young man who started it all.

Benjamin Andrew Lance, “Andy”, was born in 1984 in Rolla Missouri. A blonde-haired, beautiful firstborn baby boy. His dad, Steve, had a busy career with Chevron that started in Missouri and eventually allowed the family to live all over the world, including Bangkok, Thailand.

Andy had just graduated from high school when the rest of the family (His parents and two sisters Amanda and Rebecca) relocated to Thailand and remained in the States to complete a Bachelor’s in Nursing on his path to becoming a Nurse Anesthetist. However, he did join the family in Thailand during his school breaks.

While on break, Andy began to join his mother, Melodie, at an orphanage she volunteered at regularly. This is when Andy’s heart for the orphan became very evident. He was able to visit twice per year and he spent much of those visits playing with and caring for children at the Pakkret Babies home.

Melodie recalls Andy saying “If every family in our community would adopt one of these children, this place would be empty!” Andy felt strongly that children needed to be in loving, Christian homes.

Andy was a positive and kind presence in the orphanage, and everywhere else for that matter! There was one little girl in particular, Napassorn, who connected with Andy in a special way. Nappassorn was about 6 years old when she first met Andy. The orphanage staff needed assistance putting on her braces and Andy was just the guy for the job. They bonded quickly after that moment and Andy returned to spend time with her as he was able, even making quick phone calls from the States to sing Jesus Loves Me.

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Andy taught Nappassorn that Jesus loved her. Not only with words, but with actions. Eventually Nappassorn was matched with a family in Kentucky.

Andy had the opportunity to see Nappassorn with her forever family a short time later. Melodie recalls how emotional he became after seeing her home, thriving and no longer pulling herself around on a concrete floor. Once again, he spoke about the need for children to be in loving, Christian homes. Today Nappassorn is 18 years old. She is educated, loved and has the tools she needs to live a full life.

Tragically, In 2008 Andy passed away due to a weather-related car accident. A bright, shining light in this world too quickly extinguished. But in the grief and sorrow of the aftermath Andy’s family remembered his constant love for the orphan and his desire to see each child become part of a family.

In Thailand they were exposed to the difficulty and expense of preparing a child’s file for adoption. They saw first hand the extended wait this caused at times. They also realized that funding was part of the issue. In their son’s memory, Steve and Melodie decided to start a foundation to address and fund this particular issue.

Steve and Melodie spoke with their pastor, Kevin Donaho and his wife Rachel. They had recently completed the adoption process through America World. Kevin encouraged Steve and Melodie to speak with AWAA and establish a fund with their partnership.

So much of what Andy brought to light during his time in the orphanage, the need for loving Christian families, aligned with the core goals of America World.

Eight years later, it’s Andy’s birthday week. A fitting and appropriate time to celebrate his life by unveiling this foundation and making it available to those who also feel that paperwork, or expense of paperwork, should never make a child wait longer than necessary for a family.

The Benjamin Andrew Lance Foundation was established in Memory of Andy. A passionate, kind and extraordinary young man who believed children belong in families. His foundation will provide funding and ease the financial burden on orphanages as they complete the necessary investigations and medical appointments for children waiting to be adopted.

In honor of Andy’s birthday we encourage you to rally around this beautiful cause. In honor of a life that was spent loving others.

Visit the website here and select the Benjamin Andrew Lance Foundation from the designated fund options to give in Andy’s memory today.

Steve and Melodie today with their daughters and son in law

Steve and Melodie today with their daughters and son in law.

» Goodbye… normal?

I am post-parathyroid surgery by three weeks now. And my bod is still not with the program. My blood work looks good, things are beginning to regulate… but I’m still very exhausted, weak and fatigued. Those are all pretty much the same thing, but it feels different throughout the day. I’ve poured over message boards and have found that many people have experienced the same thing after surgery. But shhhh… don’t tell the surgeons, because they will tell you they haven’t heard or witnessed that.

The rest of this post would end up being complain, complain, I’m sad, I can’t go on long runs, complain, I go to bed at 8pm and lie awake all night, complain.

So I’m just going to stop it right there and tell you what IS happening that doesn’t involve the above.

I’m praying a lot. When I go on my 5 minute walks, those are for praying. For the person who last texted and asked for prayer or for the children in my kids’ school. For me, to stop worrying so much about me. When my worry over whether I’ll be me again takes over I’m finding that looking out is the only solution.

I began interviewing a woman this morning who lost her son. In response, they formed a foundation in his name that benefits orphaned children. She shared with me that the longer they move forward in life the more they realize how fleeting life is on this side of Heaven. They now celebrate the life he had here on Earth and use their grief to benefit others. Looking out was the solution for them and looking up was the solution for them. Our lives here are a vapor and what can we do but use those lives to love others and give glory to a God who loves us?

I have so much faith that my struggles are very temporary, that my body will regulate and heal in time. But while I’m in the struggle I pray that I’m refined and changed. That my small struggles will teach me how to cope with big struggles. Because they will come. I pray that God sees fit to fill me with resolve and strength… because I’m finding I don’t possess enough of it to do very well on my own.

Romans 8:18

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

» REVIEW: LIFX Color 1000 Light Bulbs

Putting four kids to bed is not for the weak. LIFX bulbs can’t help with bath time, bed time snacks or reading books out loud, but they have been ideal for setting the mood right and making sure lights out really happens. The different colors and brightness settings can create an environment to help kids get focused when it comes to cleaning or reading on their own, then easily changed to calm and relaxing when its time for sleep.

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Set up

One of the best features that set LIFX apart from other smart light options (that I’ve found) is that LIFX bulbs don’t require anything additional, such as a hub. All of the initial set up is controlled through the app. You just screw the bulb into a ceiling light or lamp, power it on, and go through the step-by-step instructions on your phone or tablet. A total of about 3 minutes per bulb. I used my iPhone 6 for everything and didn’t run into any issues.
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iPhone App

The app is super easy to use and just makes sense. Which is silly to type but I have had too many good products or services get ruined by the app. A simple swipe up or down changes the brightness level and a turn to the left/right easily changes the color. Some of my favorite bed-time features include being able to make lighting schedules or setting a timer on the fly.

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I’m also looking forward to the holidays when we can bring in a little green and red for Christmas. Speaking of themes, LIFX provides a handful of fun effects (like candle flicker, strobe lights, music visualization, and more) without having to download anything additional.

Conclusion

LIFX seems to have the best smart bulb out on the market when it comes to quality of light and the app is great. $59.99 a pop can get expensive really quickly but a single bulb is expected to last for 28 years (based on 3 hours a day)! I assumed that this kind of bulb would cost more to operate but was surprised to see that it’s only $1.32 per year. With these costs, we can see these bulbs as more of an investment purchase for our home. We’ve been able to use them nightly for the kids and been able to utilize them for movie nights, too. As winter time approaches, these bulbs will be useful for getting the kids asleep…and awake!

Buy on Amazon

Lifx website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The folks at LIFX kindly provided us Color 1000 bulbs for this review. As always, the opinions are my own.

» Celebrating FIVE years of life!

Liam we’ve had the joy of seeing you grow for the past 4 years. I still remember seeing your picture for the first time, it feels like yesterday. You challenge us in our parenting daily and help us grow. You are such a lover and you give the best compliments. I’m just so glad you’re our son. So glad. Here’s to five whole years of the world being a better place because you’re in it. We love you so much!

» Review: PrAna Sustainable Clothing

I was thrilled to review a few pieces from the prAna Fall line as a Moms Meet blogger. Not only because the Fall line is gorgeous, but because this clothing line represents much of what I value when choosing a company to purchase from. prAna uses sustainable materials and most of their clothing is manufactured in Fair Trade certified factories. As a family, we have become painfully aware of the hardships others face to create items for our first-world lifestyle. Buying Fair Trade clothing is a step in the right direction for all of us.

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For this review I chose the Bridget Flannel top and the Kara Jeans. This is pretty much the outfit I want to wear until Summer reappears again next year. The Bridget top fits perfectly, true to size, and it’s lined with a cozy thermal layer. The buttons snap like lovely old vintage shirts and the sleeves roll up nicely. This is a great layering piece… AND it has a pocket! Bottom line, this shirt made me want to pack up the car for a camping trip the moment I put it on. Better start making some plans!

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The Kara jeans are basically jeans that are secretly yoga pants. They are stretchy and flattering and very comfortable. They are a mid rise and perfect for an active day while still keeping your look somewhat pulled together. The jeans are pretty long, I’m 5’3ish, so I would imagine these would be great for long-legged gals. I easily added a cuff and solved my short-girl problem. They also come in many colors, giving you plenty of options. I read the sizing chart carefully and received the perfect fit, straight from the website. That rarely happens with jeans.

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From sizing, to comfort to ethical manufacturing… prAna is pretty much doing it all. I am looking forward to spending many days in this comfy and versatile outfit throughout the Fall and Winter season. Check out their entire Fall women’s line here and grab yourself some beautiful and sustainable apparel. Additionally, I have a discount for you! Use code MMLPGOOD and receive 15% off your order! Happy Fall!

AND! If you hop over to the Goodbye Normal Facebook page this week you’ll have a shot at winning my outfit, in your size of course. Happy Fall, go get your wardrobe started!

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal