Tag - Reviews

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» REVIEW: Ring Video Doorbell Pro
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» Touring D.C. in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
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» REVIEW: Nashville’s Nutcracker 2017
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» Commuting in the 2017 Mazda CX-5
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» REVIEW: Cavalia’s Odysseo
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» REVIEW: Coola Sport SPF 50 Guava Mango Sunscreen Spray
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» REVIEW: Burrow Couch
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» REVIEW: Hyatt Zilara Rose Hill – Montego Bay Jamaica
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» Review: Himalaya Botanique Toothpaste
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» Review: Jarrow Probiotics

» REVIEW: Ring Video Doorbell Pro

A little over a year ago, we had the opportunity to review and install a Ring Video Doorbell and loved it.

When we moved last September, we knew a Ring Doorbell was a must have security device. When Ring asked us to test out the Pro version, we were looking forward to the narrower, sleeker look compared to the original Ring doorbell. In addition, the higher resolution video footage (1080p vs 720p) is one of the other main differences that set the Pro apart. Just like our older model, the unit came with interchangeable face plates to match our wall color/preferences (white in our case), and customized alert zones in the app help a ton. Without setting up the zones, the Ring Pro picked up lots of unwanted (for us at least) car traffic, but the customized alert zones and motion sensitivity were able to correct false notifications. The Ring Pro can only be hardwired to the existing doorbell wiring but we knew that wouldn’t be an issue for us.

Even with the smaller profile, we had to cut out a piece of our door trim, which added about 10 minutes to the installation. Without having do to that, it took about 15 minutes to connect the necessary wires and mount the doorbell. Just like the original Ring, the Pro uses our home’s wifi to alert us and record a video anytime there is motion detected or someone rings the doorbell. The 160-degree range of view helps catch most activity that happens in the front yard and for us, even the street.
The videos are good quality, include sound, and are generally about 30 seconds long (from the beginning of the detected motion until the motion ends, which is usually about 30 seconds for someone crossing our yard or approaching our front door). We now know exactly when our mail or packages are delivered each day! The videos are stored via Ring’s cloud servers for $30 per year.
Some of the other existing features from the original Ring Doorbell are not lost. The Ring Pro still has doorbell functionality and rings our existing doorbell in the house, as well as alerting us on our iPhones that someone has rung the doorbell. From our iPhones, we have the capability to “answer” the doorbell by seeing a live view of the person on our porch and the option to speak to them if we choose to. This allows us to answer the doorbell whether we are in our house (and just don’t want to open the front door / get out off the couch) or away from home.

Conclusion

With four kiddos and a dog running around, a few more eyes and ears outside never hurts. We saw this peace of mind as a huge benefit in our last house so getting another was a no brainer. I have found the Pro to be a little more reliable than the first version and definitely notice the better video quality. The cloud video recording is optional but anyone should just plan on adding that service. We love the additional security of knowing who is entering our yard or approaching our house and when packages are delivered. If you don’t have the wiring infrastructure, I would still recommend the original Ring Doorbell (or Doorbell 2) but if you do have wiring, splurge for the Ring Video Doorbell Pro.

Ring website

Buy Ring Video Doorbell Pro on Amazon

» Touring D.C. in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Earlier this month, Calvin and I decided to spend our joint birthday present on a quick trip to D.C. Our last experience with the (2016) Outlander Sport in Houston was excellent, so I was excited when we were afforded the opportunity to test the 2018 model. The driving atmosphere is way different than Nashville with pedestrians and more cars at every turn but the 2018 Outlander Sport handled things nicely. We had an enjoyable trip, thanks to this fun small SUV.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

We thoroughly enjoyed both the vehicle and visiting places such as Georgetown Park, the grand opening for the Museum for the Bible (among all the other museums), Chinatown and tons of places to eat.

We stayed about 15 minutes away from the Monument so we had to drive into the museum district each day to enjoy the sights and sounds D.C. has to offer. The Outlander Sport provided a smooth ride into town then responded well to the multiple turns and stop-and-go traffic that pedestrians often cause. We even enjoyed testing the vehicle with a longer 45-minute trip to Baltimore which also proved to be a comfortable ride. Here are a few things I especially liked:

Panoramic Moonroof – We were fortunate to visit during a mild, rain-free winter where we could enjoy this awesome addition. The moonroof spans across the front and back seats so all the passengers can enjoy the view. I love how this feature can make a car feel bigger than it actually is.

Folding Side Mirrors – The side mirrors on this Mitsubishi fold in automatically once the engine is off in park. This feature is especially useful in cities like D.C. where parallel parking is a necessity. In Nashville, it’s not as common to parallel park but even standard parking spots could spare the car from large purses and shopping carts. 

24/30 MPG – We have always tried to be conscious of our consumption for the planet and our wallet. This compact sport utility vehicle gets great mpg without compromising it’s size and speed.

Conclusion

We have had a small SUV as a second vehicle for a while now and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I enjoyed the 2018 Outlander Sport and could definitely see us considering one when we’re due for a new vehicle. Whenever you’re in the market, give Mitsubishi a test drive!

 

 

 

Special thanks to Mitsubishi of North America for allowing us to test drive the 2018 Outlander Sport. As always, these opinions are my own.

 

 

» REVIEW: Nashville’s Nutcracker 2017

December, as usual, is already flying by. Both Calvin and I have birthdays in December and it’s also a very busy time of year where I work. Thankfully, by the second week of December we were ready to dive deep into time with family and friends. This year we planned to attend the Nutcracker as usual but decided to allow Char to invite a couple of special friends, the boys were more interested in watching a little football and vegging out. This was an added bonus for me because their sweet mommas attended as well! 

We arrived a few minutes early and hustled the girls over to snag a few photos with the beautiful ballerinas. If you arrive even earlier (1:15pm for us), your kiddos can even learn one of the dances from the show! After a quick photo session we quickly located our tickets and went to find our seats. For this show we found ourselves in the orchestra section. In past years we have sat in the balcony and I must say the orchestra seats were so special! Sitting closer to the stage area made the center seem smaller and more intimate.


This year the Nashville Nutcracker is celebrating their 10th year. We were curious about this and knew there would be added surprises. If you’ve gone in previous years, you’ll notice a little more surprise and delight… we won’t spoil it for you.

Below is the remaining 2017 schedule:

Friday, December 15 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 16 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday, December 17 at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, December 21 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Friday, December 22 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 23 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Get your tickets directly from the Nashville Ballet’s website.

(All Photos by Heather Thorne)

The Nutcracker continues to be a special Christmas tradition for us. We love the special Nashville elements that show up in the production and sit spellbound through every moment of this special production year after year. To finish off our girls night, we made a nearby trip to Milk & Honey for dinner and dessert!

 

» Commuting in the 2017 Mazda CX-5

As you know, we recently moved to another part of Nashville. We needed to situate ourselves closer to the kids’ schools… this also meant, unfortunately, the work drive would increase significantly. Nashville traffic has only gotten worse over the years, pushing our daily commute to a little over half an hour each way. If you’re like us and spend 5-6 hours+ in a car every week, a comfortable and fuel efficient car is a must. That’s where the CX-5 fits in. The 2017 CX-5 Grand Touring AWD in Machine Gray Metallic is a great looking car! So great, in fact, that Mazda didn’t change much from the previous year model.

all photos © Goodbye Normal

The ride is so smooth that I could barely feel the change when accelerating from 15 to 50 mph. Driving home from work can get dangerous with stop-and-go traffic and the additional fatigue from a long work day. The Grand Touring package has an Advanced Heads-Up Display that almost magically displays the speed limit, your current speed, blind spot warnings and more right onto your windshield. This definitely brought more awareness and kept me alert throughout the long commute. Not to mention reminding me to slow down! Don’t worry, I’m not driving and taking a picture!

We Love the Look – The entire 2017 Mazda line looks great and the CX-5 is no exception. The minor changes they’ve done from previous years were definitely welcome. Other moms will take notice, for sure.

We Love the Interior – The interior is very roomy. Even with three kids in the back, the touching and bumping (that leads to fighting) was kept to a minimum. And no, we didn’t ditch a kid, sweet Lola takes the bus to her school and missed out on the Mazda fun. The automatic trunk open and close came in handy as they were able to load and unload their backpacks without having to worry about reaching the door. The leather seats provided seat warmers for both the front and back along with a vent that blows onto the steering wheel for those early mornings! The one thing that brought the fights? Arguing over who got to push the “butt warmer” button. (good grief.)

We Love the Fuel Efficiency – Commuting can get expensive. I found the 24 city / 31 highway mpg to be accurate and a happy medium for the speed, size, and comfort of the vehicle.

Conclusion

With our family size, four kids and two adults, I’m not sure a sedan will ever be in the cards. However, I truly enjoyed the Mazda CX-5, this CUV would be a great option as a second vehicle for us. If you have a family of four or less, this might just be the perfect primary vehicle. It met all of our basic vehicle needs and then excelled way beyond that with tons of extra features. If you’re in the market, definitely head to your nearest Mazda dealership and give it a test drive!

 

 

 

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD. As always, these opinions are my own.

 

» REVIEW: Cavalia’s Odysseo

Several weeks ago our family was headed to the airport to pick up a family member. We noticed huge white tents going up near the interstate and began to wonder what interesting event might be coming soon. Not long after we began to see advertisements and billboards for Cavalia’s Odysseo

After attending the show last week I’ll start with this… interesting is definitely an understatement for Odysseo!

The Experience:

We arrived at Odysseo about an hour before the show began to partake in the V.I.P. experience. This includes dinner, drinks and the V.I.P. tent which is outfitted with couched seating areas, art and tasteful colored lighting. Parking was smooth and close to the tent so we were able to find our way quickly. After enjoying a dinner that included hummus, grilled chicken, various salads and seafood, we grabbed popcorn and sodas and headed in to enjoy the show.

For those considering the V.I.P. level tickets:

The dinner buffet is well done and the drinks and snacks are unlimited. As a nice bonus there is also a beautiful dessert spread in the tent during intermission. This convinced our children that the V.I.P life is the life for them! The stable tour afterward is another huge perk to the V.I.P. experience. It makes the show even more impressive when you realize all the efforts that happen backstage with the 65 horses that make up the show.

  • Backstage stable tour.
  • Ready for the show!
  • Dessert at intermission.

The Show:

The show itself is wonderful for families. Attendees are encouraged to participate and even yell and clap if desired. The noise is just part of the experience! This was refreshing for our large family. The kids enjoyed talking about the show while it was going on and asking questions.

There are 65 horses in the show, representing 12 different varieties. The horses do many amazing feats including (what looks like) dancing, pretending to sleep, jumping/tricks and just acting their part in general. The horses aren’t the only excitement in the show, although they definitely steal the show. Odysseo boasts 50 human artists who ride with skill, sing, direct horses, perform aerial art with silks and dance! The show is only made better by the dynamic scenography and high-tech visual effects. There is not a bad seat in the house so don’t stress over which ticket level to purchase.

One of our favorite scenes from the show involved the horses walking over the hill in the center of theater, the added visual effects give the illusion that they are walking from a far off land. It’s truly amazing to see!

There is definitely a strong bond between the human trainers and their horses and that special bond shines through in the artistry and beauty of this show. Whether you are a horse lover or not… this is a must see.

Head over to Cavalia’s website to learn more and purchase tickets today. They will only be in the Nashville area for a limited time before heading on to new cities!

» REVIEW: Coola Sport SPF 50 Guava Mango Sunscreen Spray

Summer was way too short, as usual. Thankfully we still have weeks of warm weather, swimming and outdoor activities left in the year. Because we are outdoors so much in the summer I like to use a good SPF on our family. We’ve become hyper-aware of the dangerous chemicals in many popular sunscreens and were really excited to partner with Moms Meet and Coola when given the opportunity to test out a 70%+ organic spray on sunscreen full of antioxidant-rich ingredients like strawberries!

The Coola Guava Mango (SPF 50) spray went on evenly and quickly as we hurried to spend a day on the water with friends. I love spray sunscreen because it’s easy to get a good coating on the kids without wrestling them down and keeping them from wiggling away. We have been using a lot of mineral-based natural sunscreens and they are very difficult to rub in and leave white splotches all over my kids. Our family has a variety of skin-tones and the kids hate looking silly with white, greasy blotches all over their little bodies.

Not only is Coola Guava Mango spray easy to apply it also has ingredients that are good for our skin! Each bright turquoise bottle is full of aloe vera, algae extract and cucumber extract. These natural ingredients work together to soothe skin, renew and heal skin cells and protect against environmental threats. It’s a pretty hard-working sunscreen. Additionally the sport version is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. We also tried out the Mineral Sport SPF 50 tinted sunscreen stick. I absolutely loved being able to use a tinted sunscreen on my face and skip make up for the day. It went on smoothly and did not pull at my skin like many sunscreen sticks I’ve tried.

Coola operates under the “Farm to Face” code, meaning they believe in sourcing their ingredients and vendors locally to promote communities and jobs as well as cutting down on the costs of long distance shipping (both financial and environmental). In addition they use their platform to encourage and sustain local and organic farming. Just as we are careful about what we put IN our body we need to be aware of what we put ON our body as well.

To learn more about or order Coola products visit their website or your local Sephora, Ulta or Nordstrom.

Checking out the website? You’re in luck, my readers can use code Ho20 to receive 20% off their order!

 

*I received Coola products as a Moms Meet blog ambassador, all opinions are my own.

 

» REVIEW: Burrow Couch

When we first moved into our house, it was nearly a disaster trying to get our King size mattress upstairs. The house, built in the 80s, has a narrow staircase along with a lower ceiling on the first floor that made things difficult. We practically had to fold the mattress like a taco to make it up the stairs. If only we had foam mattresses back then that come nicely rolled up for easy transportation in tricky scenarios. For this same reason, we’ve never been able to have a couch upstairs.

Enter Burrow.

A lot like the foam mattress companies (Tuft & Needle, Casper, Purple, etc.), Burrow couches are delivered to your doorstep in boxes that easily fit through doorways and in our case, up a challenging set of stairs and angles. When Burrow asked us to put their sofa to the test, we knew we were going upstairs with it. Soon after, our UPS man delivered four boxes that make up a three-seat sofa.

With two people, these boxes can be brought up a flight of stairs super fast. It’s still possible for one person but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it. The kids wanted to help so we decided to open the boxes up downstairs and let them take the individual pieces, the kids had no issues whatsoever.

 

You’ve probably guessed by these pictures that there is some assembly required. It’s true! However, once unpacked, it only takes about ten minutes to assemble without the use of any tools. The cushions that come vacuum packed are made with a high-density foam core so they will hold their shape. Around the foam is a pillow top and bottom, and that is the secret to the Burrow’s comfort.

The finished product is mid-century inspired furniture (a chair up to a four-seat couch) fit for your needs. We’ve now used the couch long enough to say that Burrow has passed the test of four children and two dogs, much credit goes to the stain resistant fabric.

Lastly, I can’t forget to mention the power cube that allows USB and standard plugs to be readily available right under the couch. Your guests will be surprised and delighted about this fun addition.

Conclusion

For anyone that lives in an apartment or needs to get a no-hassle couch upstairs like us, Burrow is a no brainer. Maybe those things aren’t hurdles for you and you just want nice looking mid-century modern furniture (designed by an award winning furniture designer), Burrow is for you, too. We have received so many compliments about the look and sleek style of the couch and everyone is even more in awe when we tell them the full story of Burrow. Moving it is so easy, in fact, we’ve already moved it three times in our home. We love this couch and plan to enjoy it for many years to come, no matter where home is.

Burrow website

buy Burrow on Amazon

» REVIEW: Hyatt Zilara Rose Hill – Montego Bay Jamaica

Calvin and I celebrated ELEVEN years of marriage this year. We have always desired to grab some special time away on a fabulous beach but the logistics just have not panned out until this year. After months of planning and researching we chose to spend our 11th anniversary at the Hyatt Zilaria Rose Hill, an all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I was very nervous once we made the full commitment. What if it didn’t live up to my long-awaited expectations for a tropical getaway!? Fortunately it absolutely did and we enjoyed a perfect weeklong stay on our own slice of paradise. Here are the highlights in case you are looking for your own little getaway!

Arrival

Upon arrival we were ushered to a Hyatt waiting area in the airport. We received cold water and pineapple juice while they checked us into the resort. After approximately 15 minutes the staff gathered our luggage and we took a short bus ride to the Hyatt. The front desk was waiting for us and knew exactly who we were when we stepped off the bus. June is a slower season and we were immediately upgraded to a higher level suite upon arrival. Our room was not quite ready but the staff pointed out a great lunch spot and we enjoyed a meal while we waited the 30 minutes for our room to be ready.  From the second we stepped off the bus we were extremely impressed with the beauty of the resort and the friendliness of the staff. We knew we had made the right decision.

Room

We stayed in a Junior suite on the adult-only side of the Hyatt resort. The room was very spacious and decorated well with a modern, island feel. Lots of white, stone and metal tones. The bathroom was open and included a very large walk-in shower and a huge soaking tub. The king sized bed was cozy… not to firm or too soft. Perfect for several uninterrupted nights of sleep. The balcony, however, was the icing on the cake. It was large with a lovely lounging area and it faced the pool and the ocean. We spent many hours reading, writing and napping on that beautiful balcony with the sound of the ocean in the background. The resort was all-inclusive so our fridge was stocked with snacks and drinks daily. I drink a larger than normal amount of water and they quickly brought more when I ran out one day.

Dining

There were so many dining options that we were not able to eat through the entire list! It was so much fun trying different things everyday and not worrying about anything due to the all-inclusive nature of the resort. The food was always fresh and delicious at each place. Our favorite meals included the French fine dining experience at Petit PareZ, Di Roza Italian, and the Jamaican Jerk chicken shack by the pool. We also enjoyed long, lazy breakfasts with ocean views each morning at the buffet. We chose the buffet most morning because I enjoyed the unlimited papaya and other fun island fruits. Additionally I was able to have a fresh, green smoothie made each morning as well. Here’s the bottom line about the food, it wasn’t cruise ship food. That was our biggest fear when it came to all-inclusive. The food was fresh, creative and plentiful. We looked forward to our meals and enjoyed each one of them.

Activities

The all-inclusive nature of this resort carries over to activities as well! Ocean kayaking, sailboats, boogie boards and snorkeling are all available at no extra cost. We typically enjoyed an activity in the early afternoon before lounging around in the beautiful pools and clear, greenish/blue ocean. There is full drink service, also included, at the pools and oceanside. There was also plenty of entertainment available during the day and in the evenings. We stayed on the adults only side, but also ventured over to the family side at times to enjoy their restaurants and coffee shops. During these ventures we dreamed big about enjoying this resort with our family one day. The beach area and pools were perfectly set up for long, relaxing family days in the sun. The staff also seems to go over the top to care for and serve these families well. Truly cannot say enough about the kindness of the staff at this resort.

The Resort

The resort in general was beautiful and very, very clean. There were always plenty of lounge areas and chairs around the pool and beach. The towels were plentiful, the views were gorgeous, the staff was amazing and the resort was large. There was never a need to leave the resort to do other activities as we felt that there was plenty to occupy us right where we were.


Our Tips

Pack a float in your luggage! The pools and ocean area are wonderful and you will want to take advantage of that. A float from home will make your experience that much more relaxing. We also recommend bringing an umbrella and being prepared for a rainy afternoon or two. The rain comes and goes quickly, but expect to see it on occasion. Be sure to pack a mixture of nice clothing and things to relax in, a few of the restaurants are formal and require at least a collared shirt and don’t allow flip flops. Lastly, bring small bills. Although tip is included at the all inclusive, the staff is truly wonderful and you may want to tip them extra for their hard work and cheerful attitude.

» Review: Himalaya Botanique Toothpaste

Our family made the switch to “natural” toothpaste years ago. Many of the toothpastes on store shelves contain harsh chemicals and toxins that can do more damage to our systems than good. Additionally, many so called natural products still contain carrageenan, a known carcinogen, and fluoride, a neuro-toxin. It has always been a challenge to find a toothpaste that steers clear of those ingredients while still delivering a great taste, a smooth brushing experience and a really good clean.

Recently we were given the opportunity to try a natural toothpaste line from Himalaya. We thoroughly tested the waters with this sodium lauryl sulfate free, carrageenan free, fluoride free and gluten free toothpaste. Instead of filling their paste with the above harmful ingredients they add neem, pomegranate, triphala, xylitol from birch trees, papain and bromelain enzymes from papaya and pineapple. These lovelies clean teeth, act as astringents, detox the teeth and gums and remove surface stains. I jokingly call this Plant Power!

Thankfully Himalaya makes these great switches without compromising taste or quality. The paste thoroughly cleans the mouth without leaving a gritty or filmy taste behind. The cinnamon is especially amazing, leaving a fresh feeling for hours. The kids found the cinnamon to be too spicy but really liked the pomegranate and neem flavor. I even asked my parents to try out Himalaya with us when they recently visited. They liked it so much they snuck a tube out of our house and home with them! I’ll call that a win. With regular brushing this great tasting herbal formula will help remove plaque, maintain white teeth and support healthy gums.

Himalaya Botanique toothpastes get 12 thumbs up and six shiny smiles from the Goodbye household. We are thankful to have found a great choice to keep our teeth looking and feeling their best without the addition of toxic chemicals.

Use coupon code MF6FLSMP to receive 25% off one single tube of Himalaya on Amazon! Links and flavors listed below!

Whitening Peppermint

Neem and Pomegranate 

Cinnamon 

Whitening Simply Mint

Complete Care Spearmint

Complete Care Simply Mint

 

 

**I received Himalaya products as a Mom’s Meet blog ambassador, all opinions are my own.**

» Review: Jarrow Probiotics

Jarrow Formulas was founded in 1977 in Los Angeles by Jarrow L. Rogovin. Jarrow’s early formulations earned the company a reputation for producing innovative and ef cacious supplements at a time when the health benefits of dietary supplements were just beginning to be recognized. Jarrow Formulas’ complete line of nutritional products includes vitamins, minerals, probiotics, standardized herbal concentrates, amino acids, enzymes, and enteral nutrition products. Both retailers and consumers are assured of purity, value, and potency when choosing these products. Jarrow Formulas’ mission is re ected in its motto “Superior Nutrition and Formulation”.

We recently had the opportunity to try a variety of Jarrow probiotics in our home through Mom’s Meet. We already knew the benefits of probiotics and did incorporate them into our lifestyle but we had never tried such a high-quality probiotic supplement with so much research to back it up.

The kids and I have both used the products for close to 3 weeks at this point. I had recently taken a break from probiotics and experienced a mildly uncomfortable 3 days while my body adjusted and produced a few side effects from the die off effect of all the bad bacteria in my system. Don’t read that as I was running to the bathroom, it was more like bloating and general stomach discomfort. I’m thrilled that I hung in there because things improved greatly after day three. I have suffered with inflammation in my joints and shoulders and that was just one of the things that eased as I continued to use the probiotic. I have no doubt that the benefits of this particular probiotic were even greater as it was carefully formulated specifically for women. After just 3 weeks I feel better in countless ways and no longer have the need to take Tums or other digestive aids.

Additionally, the cool ship was flawless. The items arrived in a cooler on ice and the temperature was not compromised whatsoever.

The kids have given me very little feedback on how they are feeling but I can say that the tummy ache complaints have been few and far between. I’ll take that as a win. In addition, the kids probiotic was tasty and easy to chew and swallow. There were no complaints about flavor, texture or taste. Another win.

The benefits of probiotics go well beyond a settled stomach and smooth digestion. You can read more about how “strains matter” on the Jarrow website and hopefully get started on your own gut health! Use code WOMEN to receive 30% off any women’s supplements and probiotics.

You can also find Jarrow products on Amazon. 

 

 

**I received Jarrow products as a Mom’s Meet blog ambassador, all opinions are my own.**

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal