February 26, 2014

Customer Retention Experts: Sodastream and Warby Parker

I got two surprises in the mail yesterday.

I noticed there were two small packages among my piles of bills and junk mail. The first was a bit heavy, so I checked the sender and saw Warby Parker. Since I haven't ordered glasses in a few months, I had no idea why I was getting something in the mail.

To my total surprise, inside the package was a Jack Kerouac book and a note thanking me for being their customer. Seriously awesome.

This just serves as a reminder of how awesome Warby Parker is. Free at-home glasses try-on, amazing frame selection, insanely affordable prices ($95!!), and they give back to the community. There's not much else like them in the optical industry and I'll remain a huge fan for years to come.

For some reason, on the same day, I also got a gift from Sodastream. This one, however, did not include a note. However, since we recently reached out for a replacement part, I'm thinking it's a way to thank us for our business. Regardless, I'd never seen such a big cozy before (see below). It's keeping my "Diet Coke" nice and cold. This will be good to bring on camping trips to keep iced water cool without taking up room in the cooler. Sweet!

Sometimes, it's worth investing in your customers with nice surprises. I don't want or need product flyers or general junk mail, but something I will enjoy and use, or is a totally unexpected gift (like the Warby Parker book) reminds me of why I became a customer - for the great product and excellent customer service. So, thank you to Warby and Sodastream for being customer retention experts.

February 25, 2014

The Do It All Mom Planner Does it For Me

I usually keep my schedule in an old-school kind of way. Sure, I use Outlook for work and Google Calendar for volunteer activities, but I don't always want my personal appointments on those calendars and needed a better way to keep track of my whole family's comings and goings. In the past, I've used various datebooks, but this year, I grabbed the 2014 Do It All Mom Planner by Orange Circle Studio and sheepishly approached the checkout counter at a local shop.

I was embarrassed.

This may sound silly, but I don't usually see the "mom" theme as aligned with my personality and I worried it wouldn't work with my professional needs either. Even more, I just couldn't see myself happily pulling this book out at a board meeting. However, at the checkout counter, the cashier said, "This is really popular. We sell a lot of these and people love them!"

My embarrassment disappeared (says a lot of how much a testimonial can help) and I went home to write, write, write.

This planner comes with two pages of itty bitty stickers representing various activities and events. These are great for marking appointments on the month-view calendar pages. At a glance, I can see there's a birthday party this month, or a dentist appointment, etc. If I want more details, I can look at the week view and see what I've written, but it's nice to be reminded, "hey, you have a doctor appointment this month."

The week view is really unique. Normally I write whatever and put in parentheses if it's for my daughter or my husband, but the Do It All Mom Planner has several rows, so I can have a row for my husband, my daughter, and even the dog. Rather than cluttering up my day with reminders of my husband's business trip or my daughter's weekly sports activities, they have their own space on my calendar.

I also find this helpful to indicate who is dropping and picking up at school, or running certain errands that week. It's easier for me to see that I'm in charge of something when my space on the calendar is only for my activities.

There is room in a slot on the cover (the first image in this post) for storing some paperwork or a bill to mail, and some slots inside the back cover that are perfect for appointment reminder cards or business cards.

One of the more useful parts of this planner is a section where you can write up a short shopping list and tear it out if you don't want to bring the whole book to the store. Super convenient.

I'm pretty impressed with this planner and though there are times I still feel a bit silly (everyone else whips out an iPad and here's my mom book), it's been crucial for keeping me organized. I keep it in my purse and never leave home without it.

February 21, 2014

Organize Your Gear: Nite lze Gear Ties

Disclosure: I got this product as part of a promotion.

Nite Ize sent me their Gear Tie Assortment pack to try out. When I agreed to review these ties, I expected to hand them over to my husband to organize his game system cords and the mess of cables in his office (he has 6 monitors!). However, before he even had a chance to try them, I'd quickly found two awesome ways to use the ties for my needs.

The first thing I did was grab a green 6" tie to wrap around a bunch of leftover Valentine's Day roses. The tie neatly went around the stems without breaking or bending them and then wrapped easily around a post on my office bookcase. Because the ties have some stiffness to them, I was able to hang the flowers so that they barely touch the bookcase. Soon, I'll have dried flowers to use in the guest bathroom and it was much easier than trying to do this with string or yarn.

Next, I grabbed a 3" tie and made our mess of phone charging cables into a neat bundle on the kitchen counter. This solved a major pet peeve of mine in less than 30 seconds.

Nite lze Gear Ties are made of a bendable wire interior with a durable, soft and colorful rubber exterior. They're great for organizing cords and cables, but can also be used for other purposes like drying flowers or securing camping gear. I love that they're reusable, flexible, and waterproof.

My husband has tried other ties before and said they are usually okay for their one purpose but he likes that these ties can be used for so many different purposes. So, we're getting one product we can use in several ways.

Have a lot of home appliances? Use Nite Ize 6" gear ties to organize your cords when you're not using your iron, hair dryer, or blender. I'll be using mine to clean up my hair dryer, flat iron, and pressing iron cords.

Unfortunately, camping season is months away for me, but I'm already dreaming of our trips to Minnesota's state parks this summer. I'm almost ready to reserve a few nights in New Ulm and these 64" ties would be perfect for hauling our tent gear.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only post my real feelings on a product and only recommend those which I think are useful to my readers.

February 19, 2014

My New Favorite Lipstick: Max Factor Color Collections in Pink Brandy

My husband surprised me by ordering a Max Factor lipstick I saw on Woot, the Color Collections shade, #835 Pink Brandy. I'd never used Max Factor but always considered it an industry standard, top brand but had no idea where to buy it. I'm sure they are in stores but I've never noticed any Max Factor lipsticks at my local shops.

I wasn't totally sure what to expect but the Max Factor website said the lipstick would glide on easily, last a long time, and be moisturizing, so that's what I based my criteria on.

Thankfully, this lipstick doesn't disappoint. The color is a bit on the orangey or peachy side of pink, and as claimed glides on smoothly (rather amazingly, one coat is sufficient) and does last a while. I reapply after eating or when I'm already making a trip to the restroom, but it does last and as it fades, it's fairly even and without feathering or flaking.

The color reminds me of my grandmother, who I think wore a lot of Lancome and Estee Lauder. There's a certain smell and taste of the lipstick that is old school, like my grandmother, but yet I do love how smooth and creamy it goes on.

The Max Factor Color Collections lipstick comes in five shades chosen by Max Factor's Global Creative Director, Pat McGrath. Shades include:

825 Pink Brandy
833 Rosewood
510 English Rose
830 Dusky Rose
894 Raisin

This Max Factor lipstick has totally replaced my previous favorite Boots lipstick. I like it that much!

February 10, 2014

Free Samples of Pine Bros Softish Throat Drops

If you've been following my blog, you know that Pine Bros asked me to try out their relaunched throat drops recently and that I loved them! Well, I Pine Bros was so awesome in sending me several sample packs that I'd like to share the love.

Read my review of Pine Bros Softish Throat Drops and if you decide you want to try them too, leave a comment telling me me which throat drops you use now when you're sick and I'll pick two people who comment to get a free value size bag of drops! I have one honey pack and one cherry pack available.

My only request is that you please be over 18 and living in the United States.

This won't be a random winner like my other giveaways. I'll pick two winners based on what seems like a real interest in trying the product and a thoughtful comment. Winners will be selected on Friday, the 14th at noon CT.

My friend, Andrea, who sometimes helps with my reviews said she tried the cherry and loves them (I'll post her detailed feedback when I announce the winners on Friday). Even my husband, who doesn't usually like throat drops, said they're not bad (that's good coming from him).

Ok, so share your thoughts on throat drops. Tell me what you use now. Share if you like honey or cherry or both. Tell me if you've tried Pine Bros in the past. Just get to commenting and I'll pick winners on Friday!

February 3, 2014

Pine Bros Softish Throat Drops, a Natural Alternative to Medicated Lozenges

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

I recently had the chance to try Pine Bros Softish Throat Drops, which is a total flashback to my youth. I grew up with more natural throat drop choices rather than the usual mediciney Halls-like lozenges, so when this opportunity came up, I had to take it.

It's been years since I've noticed Pine Bros on the shelf, probably because the company went through many years of turnover and changes before Airborne creator, Victoria Knight-McDowell, acquired the brand for her company, 3 Sisters Home Products™.  Ms. Knight-McDowell focused on finding original recipes, changing up the packaging to better reflect the brand, and relaunching the product nationally in 2011. This is a product that has been around for 140 years. I can't say I've had the chance to try anything with so much history before!

I was super lucky to get a big box of samples in Wild Cherry and Honey flavors. Included were both packets of 32 drops and plastic tins called "pucks," with 26 drops. I keep a honey flavored puck by my bed every night.

So ironically (or not?), I got a cold when these arrived and with that cold came a nasty sore throat and mild cough. Perfect timing, for better or worse. On top of that, it's been below zero for weeks, so the air is dry and unpleasant. The honey drops have been just what I need to keep my throat feeling comfortable without the medicine taste of other drops. 

I like the subtle flavor that's not overly sweet. It takes some getting used to the chewy, yet hard texture, which just begs to be bit upon (don't do that), but I do really like the Pine Bros throat drops.

Pine Bros throat drops are available nationwide, but if for some reason you can't find them, first insist that the store manager order them, then visit the Pine Bros online sales site to order them for yourself. They're pretty awesome and worth a try. I rarely enjoy throat drops. Really, rarely. These are good enough that I've had a few honey drops since my cold went away. They're good no matter what.

Pine Bros is quite active on Facebook and Twitter, so definitely visit their pages and look for giveaways, contents, product information, and more!

Again, I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. This is no joke. I take my review job seriously because honesty matters.

February 2, 2014

Cook'n Recipe Organizer 11 Review & Giveaway

Congratulations to Terry from Montana, our Cook'n Recipe Organizer winner!

I cook and bake a lot. My husband and I alternate dinner cooking weeks, but even if it's not my week, you can be sure I'm in the kitchen making bread, cookies, brownies, and danish. We have a section in the kitchen with all our cookbooks, a stack of cooking magazines, printouts from online sources, and bookmarked websites, but nothing really consolidates this into one neat package.

Cook'n Recipe Organizer, considered the "#1 best selling recipe organizer," offers a way to organize all my recipes so I can stay on top of what my dinner and baking options are. Since I often have multiple versions of a recipe (the quick vs the full meal, the low sugar version, the vegetarian version, etc), having a one-stop shop for everything I make would be a problem solver in our house.

Some of the features in Cook'n Recipe Organizer 11 include:

  • Easy sharing of recipes
  • Make menus and meal plans
  • Add photos and stories
  • Get nutritional facts
  • Shopping list generator
  • Import and organize Pinterest recipes
  • Scan or photograph printed recipes

By using the menu planner, you can save money by planning ahead so you are ready at the store, choosing foods that make sense rather than impulse buys. We used to live in Minneapolis and had our groceries delivered weekly. By planning and ordering online, I nearly always kept to my $100 weekly budget. Now that I have to go in the store, it's way more difficult, so careful planning helps keep me a bit closer to my goal. Admittedly, we often hit $130-140 now that our daughter is older, but we're doing good by being great meal planners.

There aren't many cookbooks and recipe websites that let you analyze the nutrition of a meal. I love that Cook'n can do that, even for the meals you enter yourself. Rather than living on Weight Watchers diet books (sorry WW fans!), you can know what's in the meals you create.

You can use the Snip-It tool to capture recipes from blogs and other websites now too. So basically, it's one tool for everything recipe-related!

Sounds awesome, eh?

Now for the downside - I do not like the software's visual and interaction design pattern. What does that mean, you ask? It means that my day job means I'm super picky and have high expectations for software and websites. I expect great products to offer a great experience, not just have great features. If it's hard to use, unpleasant to look at, dated, or possible not accessible, then I get crabby. Cook'n needs a major visual overhaul to keep up with the times. A modern, fresh approach to the design would blow every other recipe program out of the water.

Taking it a step further would mean going with a full web app rather than software, but that's a bigger project for these app creators. I'm thinking the visual and the platform could happen together but I completely know that's not small feat. It could take a while.

Curious to know more about what this program does? Check out my first time experience on YouTube. You'll see what I mean about the visual design, but at the same time, get a nice inside look at an interesting, unique software product.

Normally, you'd pay $79.95 for this software, but I'm giving away one license (it's mac-friendly!) through Tomoson and DVO Enterprises. You want a way to organize all your recipes? This is your chance to try it out! Be sure to enter the giveaway by February 15, 2014 for your chance to win!

While you're waiting to hear if you've won, visit the Cook'n Recipe Organizer Facebook page and Pinterest account to learn more about this very unique software product.

I have one downloadable copy of Cook'n Recipe Organizer 11 to give away to one lucky blog reader!

This giveaway will run until February 15, 2014. Please feel free to spread the word about this giveaway. The software runs on both mac and PC systems.

The giveaway is open to US residents over 18. A winner will be randomly chosen by Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the announcement email or a new winner will be announced. The giveaway prize is sponsored by DVO Enterprises.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

FTC compliance: While I did receive product samples at no charge for review purposes, I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. This event is in no way associated with Facebook or Twitter. I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.