Tag - Reviews

1
» REVIEW: Open Goaaal Soccer Goal + Rebounder
2
» Dollywood: The Cascades at Splash Country
3
» Family Getaway at Tradewinds Island Grand St. Pete Florida
4
» Dollywood Season Pass – Bring a Friend Free
5
» Orlando Fun in the 2019 Mazda CX-9
6
» Home for Christmas, Nashville 2018
7
REVIEW: Brandless – Online Grocery Shopping
8
REVIEW: August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
9
National Geographic Explorer Academy and 2019 Almanac
10
REVIEW: Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics

» REVIEW: Open Goaaal Soccer Goal + Rebounder

Soccer is a big deal in our family. Between rec and travel soccer, it’s a yearlong sport for us. When we’re not on the fields, the backyard is the next best thing. After trying out various goals over the years, I think we have found our new favorite. If your house is anything like mine, soccer balls tend to find their way over the fence and into the neighbor’s backyard. This goal + rebounder combination from Open Goaaal makes things convenient and ultimately cheaper.

Installation:

Wherever you decide to place the net, know that it won’t be moving anytime soon. The goal will have about 10-12 anchor points that will go into the ground. There are a couple of other things to consider: The ball can still go over the net (and the neighbors fence) no matter what you tell your kids; If you put the net along a fence, you will need to account for enough margin so that the ball doesn’t hit against the fence when the ball goes into the goal. Open Goaaal offers three different sizes so there will likely be an option that works for your yard (we ended up landing on the Standard). With basic tools, one person can be finished in a couple of hours. There are still some moments where two people are needed but not necessary for the whole period.

Function:

We’ve had other nets before without a rebounder but as children grow, their strength and ball speed increase. That’s when our older and smaller nets just couldn’t cut it anymore. The rebounder does what it’s meant to do which makes practicing alone more enjoyable. You can adjust the tightness of the net with the supplied carribeaners, this is necessary for the ball to come back to the player.

Design:

This net is big! As it should be. So make sure you have enough space in your yard. The net goes a few feet deep and although the net is narrow, the mounting structure stretches out both width and depth. In about five minutes, you can take the net/rebounder off the ground and raise it up, similar to a set of blinds. This allows you to mow and edge easily.

Conclusion:

We have loved this product from Open Goaaal! Neighbors from all over, even some we had never met before, come over to kick around and play World Cup.

Open Goaaal website

buy on Amazon




I received this product from Open Goaaal to complete this review, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

» Dollywood: The Cascades at Splash Country

As always use Dollywood coupon code: DWINSIDERS to get $10 off your tickets when you buy in advance online!

Summer is in full swing and so are the soaring temperatures! Thank goodness for Splash Country and the break from heat it provides. Our family recently went on a three-day Dollywood filled adventure and chose to spend the first day in Splash Country enjoying the many water slides and working on our tan lines. 

We’ve realized over the years that Splash Country can be enjoyed several days in a row due the the size and variance of attractions. In fact, many people never make it to the back of the park where our favorite area lies in wait; The Cascades!

The Cascades area boasts an 8,000 square foot lagoon style pool with beach entry, cascading waterfalls (thus the name!), two slides, geysers, interactive water play areas, water jets and more! The pool area is also surrounded by generous seating and waterside retreats and canopies. The retreats and canopies are available for rent and worth every penny.

There is so much to do in this sizable area tucked in behind Fire Tower Falls and Bear Mountain Fire Tower. Our younger children delighted in the geysers and water play area while our older kids enjoyed zipping down the slides over and over again with little to no wait. It was easy to keep an eye on everyone from our perch at the beach entry side of lagoon and we had peace of mind as the ever-vigilant life guard staff patrolled the area. In fact, the Splash Country lifeguards have some awesome tips for parents here.

The Cascades is truly the perfect place to kick back while the kids explore. This “secret cove” is sure to become one of your favorite places to recharge and connect as a family while beating the summer heat. It has been for us!

As always use Dollywood coupon code: DWINSIDERS to get $10 off your tickets when you buy in advance online!

» Family Getaway at Tradewinds Island Grand St. Pete Florida

This November we spent three days exploring Universal Studies and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’m going to save my thoughts and tips on that experience for another post. Today I want to share about our beach time that we tacked on the end of our time in Orlando. There are several gorgeous beaches within 1-2 hours of the Orlando area. After braving Disney for seven straight days a few years back we came to realize that we enjoy our vacations a lot more if a little sand and sun accompanies the endless lines and $12 ice creams.

Enter St. Pete beach, approximately an hour and a half drive from Orlando. St. Pete is a quirky, eclectic area outside of Tampa that offers everything from hand-rolled cigars to boardwalk ice cream, cuban food and high end beach resorts. For this stay we opted to check in with Tradewinds Island Grand resort. Tradewinds is comprised of two resorts, The Island Grand and Guy Harvey Outpost. Together they make up over 31 acres of prime beachfront fun. As we experienced firsthand there is plenty to do for families. Tradewinds offers a kids club, water sports, beach front pools, entertainment, fine and casual dining and family friendly suites. Our suite met the needs of our entire family AND the grandparents.

Tradewinds offers an experience that, while not all-inclusive, does include quite a bit. For example, cabanas and chairs on the beach are offered at no additional charge. Guy Harvey outpost also hosts a nightly beachside fire and smores experience at no additional charge. Other “free” activities include the massive High Tide water slide, surf wipe-out and paddle boats. There is also a daily schedule of poolside activities like bingo, which we all enjoyed.

Tradewinds offers various packages to help families add in a few extras. We did opt to try out adventure bands for our kids. This is essentially a little wristband that allows them to purchase snow cones, painting activities or other small attractions around the resort. If your child can keep up with money they may not need the band, but it worked well for our older kids who are only in the 9-11 year old range.

We spent time at Tradewinds Island Grand just as the off season was kicking in, late November. This meant lower crowds and plenty of beach space. It was just the dose of sunshine we needed as Nashville was headed into the 30’s that week. We’ve heard that a major renovation is on the horizon for this property and we are excited to see the suites and rooms get a refresh!

Bottom line, we highly recommend Tradewinds Island Grand and Guy Harvey Outpost for a beach vacation that has something for everyone. It’s family friendly with adult-only pools and areas as well. Best of both worlds!

» Dollywood Season Pass – Bring a Friend Free

Use promo code DWINSIDERS16 at dollywood.com to save yourself $10 on each one-day ticket you purchase

It’s no secret that Dollywood has more to offer than could ever be experienced in just one visit. The many festivals and holiday events have us coming back for more all year long. Just one reason why we love having a season pass! Our favorite feature of season passes, however, is the Bring-A-Friend-Free (BAFF) tickets we receive with our season passes. 

We reserved our Season Passes in advance this year and received an EXTRA set of BAFF passes for the magical 2018 Smoky Mountain Christmas. This extra set of passes gave us a golden opportunity to kick off Christmas break with great friends. Wearing out our kids at the BEGINNING of break was a priority this year. We also needed to distract our youngest as the Christmas countdown was far too much for him to handle any longer, haha.

Our children loved experiencing the park through the eyes of their buddies. It made familiar rides extra magical as they worked to position themselves at the front of Wild Eagle or participated in soda drinking contests at Aunt Grannys, all you care to eat! Shows, treats and train rides all became new again with the addition of besties! 

TIP: We love to pack small snacks and eat them throughout the day. We then enjoy a 4pm early dinner at Aunt Granny’s. The cost is not much higher than a typical quick service and it’s a great bargain for kids 9 year old and under. Eating at 4pm helps avoid the dinner rush, and it saves us money because we opt for 1 meal at the park rather than 2.

 Aunt Granny’s is also all you can eat comfort food and our kids tear it up.

The BAFF passes certainly allowed our kids to have an extra dose of fun, but Calvin and I weren’t left out. We had just as much fun riding Fire Chaser in the dark and kicking back with another couple to watch the kids ride when we had our fill of thrill rides.

Firechaser Express

Our plans for 2019 are already developing around introducing close friends to Dollywood and enjoying even more unforgettable multi-family memories. There is still plenty of time to purchase season passes for 2019. It’s a year you don’t want to miss as the highly anticipated opening of Wildwood Grove looms in the distance. Just imagine bringing your closest friends to experience a whole new expansion at Dollywood! I, for one, cannot wait.

» Orlando Fun in the 2019 Mazda CX-9

After a year of planning, our family escaped the Nashville cold to visit sunny Orlando! We started with Universal Studios and ended in the Gulf at St. Pete Beach. The 2019 Mazda CX-9 not only fit the six of us, but we managed to pack in a week’s worth of clothes and vacation memorabilia in the back. We drove the 2018 model earlier this year and we love the changes, inside and out, that the 2019 model has brought.

Here are a few things we especially love about the 2019 Mazda CX-9:

Seats Seven – This might sound like my 2018 test drive and review but there are not many vehicles that can fit a family like ours. The CX-9 is compact but we can still fit our dog, an extra family member, or friend.


Interior – The interior of the CX-9 is just as sleek and sophisticated as the outside. Everything you need is within arms reach allowing you to control the temperature, radio, etc. without distracting you from the most important thing, keeping your eyes on the road. One of my favorite additions since last year’s model is the ability to see who in the second and third row is buckled (or not).

CarPlay – We love the fact that more and more cars are working with Apple’s CarPlay. The ability to have the Apple interface makes an unfamiliar car feel familiar immediately. I can quickly type a destination on my phone and at the same time see the route on the larger display the dash offers.

The Advanced Heads-Up Display displays the speed limit, your current speed, blind spot warnings and more right onto your windshield. The Birdseye view magically pulls up an aerial view of the car on the dash display when backing up or parking. No more playing guessing games with how much clearance you have on those awfully tight spots.

Conclusion about the Mazda CX-9

We had a blast driving through Disney and Universal parks and surrounding areas in the CX-9. Our drive to St. Pete beach an hour away allowed us to test the longer commute. The comfort and the handling of the car made the trips feel painless and quicker than they actually were. This vehicle could work for a family of six but would be ideal for a family of four or five. The extra room on a daily basis would be nice and comfortable with margin to add visitors or extra luggage for the longer trips.

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2019 CX-9 Grand Touring. As always, these opinions are my own.

» Home for Christmas, Nashville 2018

Nashville has a lot to offer when it comes to the year of less. If you haven’t been following along, 2017 for our family has the been the start of attempting to buy less stuff, but instead have more experiences together together. The year of less is slowly turning into a lifestyle of less. Our family is spending another December at home (for the third year in a row) and we’ve found lots to look forward to in doing so. Here are a list of events we are especially making plans to attend in December.

1. SCHERMERHORN SYMPHONY CENTER

The Schermerhorn is a breathtaking venue that feels special no matter what you’re there for. For the last couple of years, we’ve attended Dave Barnes’ Christmas show, which we highly recommend. This year we’ll be going to Home Alone in Concert (performing on 12/5 and 12/6)! Experience John Williams’ delightful score performed live (by the Nashville Symphony and Nashville Symphony Chorus) while the movie is shown on the big screen.

We’re also excited about a Very Merry Christmas with Dave Barnes (12/2), Drew and Ellie Holcomb’s Neighborly Christmas (12/17 and 12/22), and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Big Band Holidays with Wynton Marsalis (12/7). Also Handel’s Messiah (four performances to choose from), which has really become an annual holiday tradition for many families.

Full schedule and tickets available at NashvilleSymphony.org

2. NASHVILLE’S NUTCRACKER
Nashville Ballet has performed Nashville’s Nutcracker for over 10 years. This has become a huge tradition for families, with fifteen performances to choose from. Our (young) family especially loves the early afternoon show so that we can grab dinner at Milk & Honey after the show!

Visit magical lands with the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Mouse King, the Nutcracker, the Dancing Bear and many historic characters from Nashville’s past.

Nashville’s Nutcracker will be at TPAC’s Jackson Hall for fifteen (15) performances:

  • Saturday, December 1, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 2, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 8, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 8, 2018 at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 9, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 15, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 15, 2018 at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 16, 2018 at 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 16, 2018 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday, December 21, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Friday, December 21, 2018 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 22, 2018 at 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 22, 2018 at 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 23, 2018 at 1 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 23, 2018 at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets available at NashvilleBallet.com

3. NASHVILLE PREDATORS

IMG_3108

The only cold temperature we enjoy is from the Nashville Predators ice. Our kids love hockey when it comes to the food, the chants, and the crazy fans. Liam still loves singing (and shaking it to) Tim McGraw’s “I like it I love it” every time the home team scores.

There are plenty of home games in December to check out. Tickets available at Ticketmaster.com

4. Marvel Universe Live!

If your kids can’t get enough of the Marvel movies or too young to watch them, this live performance might be a fit for your family. Witness cutting-edge special effects, aerial maneuvers, pyrotechnics, martial arts, motorcycles stunts, and vast video projection in this completely new thrilling adventure.

Seven shows available from December 6-9. Click here for tickets

5. Dollywood – Smoky Mountain Christmas

If you’re home but willing to drive a few hours, Dollywood should always be in consideration! Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas featuring Glacier Ridge is the most beautiful holiday addition yet. There’s no better way to spend your holiday season, and there’s no place quite as uniquely beautiful as Dollywood.

REVIEW: Brandless – Online Grocery Shopping

We tried out Brandless last week! If that name doesn’t sound familiar to you it’s basically an online shop of “brandless” items that are mostly organic, all gmo-free and other things like gluten-free as well. Every item is either $3 or two for $3.

The experience:

The site was easy to use and shipping was free after hitting a certain price point. This was pretty easy to do as it was around $30. I found plenty of staples that we use on a regular basis and some new items to try as well. This was my first time ordering and I received six dollars off my box as a bonus. The boxes came about two days later and they were well packed. Nothing was leaking or broken. This was impressive to me, I’ve used other services that don’t go the extra mile with packing and it shows.

The products:

The products were all high-quality and very tasty. We are a folic acid free family due to MTHFR genetic mutations and we were excited to find pretzel chips without that additive. We love them with hummus! Some of the products, however, are not worth the $3 price tag. I’m actually going to make you a list of the best and the worst. This should help when and if you decide to give Brandless a try.

Brandless Best from our order:

Blueberry Muffin Mix
Pretzel Chips 2/$3
Organic Ketchup 2/$3
Granolas, all flavors
Lentil Soup 2/$3
Olive Oil
Spray Olive Oil
Organic Pasta 2/$3
Organic Pasta Sauce
Organic Coconut Oil
Organic Dried Fruit
Popcorn 2/$3
Pistachios
Organic crackers (all flavors)
Whole wheat organic animal crackers
Maple Syrup

Brandless Worst (these items are cheaper/same in the store):

Beef Jerky
Candy (all flavors)
Applesauce Pouches
Granola Bars
Cookie Thins (not much product in the bag)
Almonds (same price per ounce as store)

Is Brandless worth it?
Overall I rate Brandless as a good, and useful service. There is absolutely no monthly commitment, you can order as you please or never again if you want to! It’s a nice way to get gmo-free and organic pantry staples for a consistently low price. A lot of items are cheaper than stores with a handful being equal or slightly more (see list above). I would say, try it out with a $6 code, be sure to hit free shipping amount, and see what you think! Our family will definitely order again.

Shop Brandless

 

 

REVIEW: August Smart Lock Pro + Connect

We are in the midst of yet another renovation. Smart technology and monitoring our home continues to be a top priority. Our family is constantly on the go and we have four kids who can’t seem to remember that doors should be locked on the way out. And I’ll be honest, as mom to those busy four I’m notorious for locking myself out. We added some great, smart solutions to our last home but I’m excited to share that we’ve discovered an even better solution for our new place: the August Smart Lock Pro.

Installation:

Installing the August smart lock was a breeze. The August app gives step-by-step instructions on how to get things going. The only tools needed were a standard screwdriver, drill and a couple of drill bits! The lock worked with our existing (Kwiskset) deadbolt and the entire install was complete within ten minutes.

Function

The lock can be accessed from our smart phone using the August or Smartthings app, Siri through our Echo device, or by the existing key (hand-turn from the inside). In addition, DoorSense is a magnetic sensor that lets you check if your door is open or closed, this is especially great with kids running around! We opted to add the Smart Keypad to the exterior to our home as a fourth access option as well.

The phone app allows us to check the lock from anywhere, lock or unlock from anywhere and give the kids (or other family members and friends) their own access codes to input at the door if needed. The app keeps a log of which codes have been entered so we know exactly who unlocked the door with exact times. We’ve already employed these options in various ways. It was a snap to give access to the dog sitter or remotely unlock the door for a friend to grab an item when we weren’t around. The August Lock has provided both freedom and peace of mind to our daily routine.

The August App also has a cool feature called the 24/7 Activity Tracker which lets me know when different members of my family come and go through the front door.

Design:

We love the sleek, modern look of the August Smart Lock Pro. It comes in two great color options (silver and black) that will compliment any home. As a bonus the exterior portion of the door hardware is not altered by the August lock. I love this because I don’t have to add another key to my keychain and to an outsider, the lock doesn’t bring any extra attention to itself. The smart lock itself is a bit bigger than the exterior of the existing deadbolt, but does not come out any farther than the door handle. This is acceptable, especially considering it needs to house AA batteries (included) and a motor.

Compatibility:

To access the lock remotely, just use the included August Connect Wi-Fi Bridge and your app can lock and unlock the door from anywhere. The August Smart Lock Pro gets even smarter when we combined it with voice-activated commands through Amazon’s Alexa. Locking the door couldn’t get any easier! We simply ask Alexa to lock the front door or check the status of the front door and she does the work for us. If you choose to ask Alexa to unlock the front door she will prompt you for a four-digit passcode. Not just anyone can unlock the door!

Conclusion:

The August Smart Lock Pro meets our many needs. It installed quickly and it looks great. We now have greater freedom to let friends and family in as needed while maintaining greater security in our home. The lock also has some great companions: The August Doorbell Cam and the August Keypad I’ve already mentioned. These items can be added to give even more flexibility and control over the security of your home.

August website

buy on Amazon

 

 

 

 

I received this product from August to complete this review, but the opinions expressed here are my own.

National Geographic Explorer Academy and 2019 Almanac

We have both avid and reluctant readers in our home. Library and bookstore trips are often weekly adventures for us as we seek to fill up the avid readers and at least get the reluctant ones reading their minimum. There is honestly a lot of subpar reading choices for young readers so we are constantly on the look out for enriching reads that are also highly entertaining. Developing a love of reading early on contributes to a love of life-long learning, which is why it’s such a priority in our home.

National Geographic is a highly recognizable brand, but I had no idea that they produced children’s literature and books until this year! Our family recently had the chance to check out their 2019 almanac and their brand new Explorer Academy book series.

The Explorer Academy series starts with the book The Nebula Secret. This series is unique because it combines scientific facts with fictional plots and characters. Some stories are even based on real-life adventures from actual National Geographic explorers! Kids are encouraged, through the example of 12-year-old main character Cruz Coronado, to get curious about their world, problem-solve and find their own big adventures. The vivid illustrations that pop up from time to time are also helpful for engaging the more reluctant readers. Our kids devoured this book during their bedtime reading each night.

The 2019 National Geographic almanac has been a fun family read. We enjoy pulling this out on Friday nights rather than flipping on the TV. Incredible animal stories and the 2019 sky calendar have been the stand out favorites. We are already planning when to head out to view meteors and planets in the night sky. Did you know there is something called a zombie star? It’s a surviving fragment of an exploded star. Who says science can’t be entertaining?!

As a family we are thankful for the entertaining, educational and action-packed books now offered by National Geographic. We even enjoy the occasional read through the Weird but True series. This typically involves a lot of giggles and disbelief from the kids. Reading as a family is definitely more fun with National Geographic!

 

 

 

** A big thank you goes out to Moms Meet and National Geographic for allowing us to read, enjoy and review these titles. All opinions are my own.

REVIEW: Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics

A few years back I learned that you are supposed to rotate and change out your probiotic sources periodically to expose your gut to different probiotic strains for optimal results. For this reason I was pretty excited to partner with Moms Meet for a special review of Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics. It was definitely time to get out of my probiotic rut!

I was immediately intrigued when I discovered that these particular whole-food based probiotics were created with a three year fermentation process. Fermentation maximizes the natural health-promoting properties of each ingredient. Mushrooms, vegetables and spring water are all part of this amazing fermentation process.

What makes this probiotic different? Definitely the fermentation process, but also the blend of pre-biotics, probiotics and post-biotics. You get all three of these necessary strains that promote optimal gut-health in one capsule. This allows your body to grow its own healthy bacteria, something our bodies need to thrive. This formula is also free of gluten, dairy, allergens and GMOs, so it’s a great pick for even the most sensitive systems.

Cold and flu season will be here before we know it and gut health is a huge factor in how well our immune system fights for us. There is no better time to start a great probiotic to support your immune system. I began to notice a difference in my digestive health just days after starting Dr. Ohhira’s supplements. I experienced more regularity, less heartburn and I even lost a few pounds after using them for about three weeks. I chose to do the jump start for intensive rebalancing as suggested on the packaging, and took five capsules in the morning and five capsules at night for the first six days. I feel that this was a key part of my results and a great way to rebalance quickly. I now take just one capsule per day and continue to experience great results.

It’s nice to know that I’m also experiencing greater nutrient absorption as well as the more tangible benefits I shared above. If you are looking for a new, high-quality probiotic I certainly give my gold stamp of approval on this one. But thankfully you don’t have to take my word alone. Dr. Ohhira’s probiotics are the seven-time award winner of the Best of Supplements award as well as the Clean Choice Awards winner of 2015.

Click here to read more!

 

 

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal