Keurig 2.0 – The Ultimate Caffeinator

I love the smell of coffee, because it reminds me of mornings with my grandmother when I was little. My first taste of coffee was when I was a toddler. I liked to sit on my grandmother’s lap early in the morning, taking bites of her buttered toast, and begging for sips of her coffee. And yes, she would give in to my big toddler pout and give me a small sip of her coffee. I probably liked it because it had enough cream and sugar in it to appeal to my juvenile taste-buds.

I was a solid soda drinker through my teens and twenties, though, preferring my caffeine in a cold, bubbly, ultra-sweetened form. I think I preferred soda out of convenience – there was no need to put a filter in a machine, scoop coffee, wait, and then have more coffee than I wanted for a single drink. A can of soda was simple, just open and drink.

Let’s be honest: I was too lazy to bother with coffee unless I was buying it from a coffee shop.

And then the heavens opened and Keurig came down from above, solving the roadblocks for slacker coffee drinkers like me. I wanted coffee that was super simple, and they delivered – no filters, no scooping, and brewing a single cup at a time. Bingo!

I think you’re probably familiar with how a Keurig works: insert a sealed K-Cup into the machine, close the lid, choose your drink size, press the start button, and COFFEE! It’s really a brilliant, simple design.

We’ve had a Keurig for several years (two of them, actually – we wore out the first one after 3+ hard years), and as a mom of two with a full-time job, I rely on this machine in the morning to get my day started. I honestly didn’t think they could improve on the design.

Guess what? They improved on the design.

Meet my new morning best friend, the Keurig 2.0:

Keurig 2.0

I got a sneak peek of the Keurig 2.0 machines when I was at BlogHer in July. We learned about the new features and had a chance to try it out for ourselves at a small hosted breakfast. (Because OF COURSE breakfast, when we need our coffee the most!)

I know, it might look a little bigger than previous Keurig machines, however it still fits in the same counter space as my Keurig Special Edition. But this machine does so much more than my old one. It still will brew a single cup of coffee, tea, cocoa, or fruit drink for you like the old machine did. Now, though, they’ve opened up the world of multi-cup coffee brewing to those of us who don’t want a pot of coffee all that often and are too ADHD to remember where we put the bag of coffee from when my extended family wanted a pot of coffee at Christmas. (I still haven’t found that bag yet.)

Meet the Keurig 2.0 Carafe and K-Carafe pack:

Keurig Carafe

I can now brew a single K-Cup, or a 4-cup carafe of coffee from the same machine. The same machine! This is awesome to me. Most days I’m happy to brew a single cup with my breakfast. But then there are THOSE days, where one kid was up sick in the middle of the night, or I stayed up too late, and I need multiple cups to get me through the morning. Or days when I’m hosting a get-together or family during the holidays. Instead of brewing a single cup, I can brew a carafe, and just bring the carafe with me to my desk or to pour out for visitors.

And the K-Carafe cup is still just as easy to brew and dispose of as the K-Cup. (Lazy coffee drinkers, unite!) It’s a larger cup, but still fits in the machine without having to change or remove anything. The carafe itself also requires minimum setup – just remove the drip plate from the front of the machine and line up the carafe.

The brewer also has a scanner built-in to it now to scan the lid of the K-Cup and provide the perfect brew every time. There are numbered settings for brewing, too. The first number applies to the K-Carafe cups, but the others are still unused and were designed for future innovations to make the machine even more versatile. I’m hoping for lattes, Keurig. Just sayin’.

Other cool features of the Keurig 2.0 brewers:

  • Touch-screen display (in color, and with a programmable clock, for the K450 and K550)
  • The ability to adjust the brew of your coffee with the “Strong” setting
  • A new hot water on demand feature for the K550 model (ramen, anyone?)
  • Decorative decals for the brewer – if you like your small appliances to have a touch of color
  • Same water filter capabilities as the older models

There are a couple of downsides with the new machines, and both revolve around the scanning technology built into the 2.0. First, because the scanner must scan the lid of the K-Cup, the My K-Cup is no longer an option. So the days of using your own loose coffee or tea to brew a cup are gone.

Second, older K-Cups, and those that aren’t directly Keurig branded, will not work in the 2.0 machines. If the machine doesn’t recognize the lid of the K-Cup, it will not brew. Trying to brew a K-Cup without the new lid will result in an error message.

I was a little worried about how to tell if a box of K-Cups on the shelf at a store would work with the 2.0 or not. Keurig was quick to help me out by providing this image showing the new call-out added to all 2.0 compatible K-Cup boxes:

Keurig 2.0 call-outThat little check mark and message lets you know it will work for the 2.0.

I understand not wanting to have non-approved K-Cups used in the machine, but for those of us with a stockpile of K-Cups, many of our older K-Cups without the new label on top of the cup will not be recognized by the 2.0 machine. This means we either need to keep our older Keurig machine around until we go through those K-Cups, or get rid of them. I refuse to let a K-Cup go to waste, so we’re using both machines until we’re finished with our older K-Cups.

Aside from that one complaint, though, I really do love the Keurig 2.0. I’m giddy at having one easy-to-use machine for brewing a single drink or a 4-cup carafe. After trying out all of its features, I pulled our old 4-cup coffee maker out of the cabinet, handed it to Aaron, and told him to add it to our Goodwill donation box. If Keurig can come up with a K-Carafe pack for iced tea, I may ditch my iced tea maker, too. This machine could really help free up my cabinet space!

Hello Keurig 2.0

There are currently eight different varieties of K-Carafe packs, as well as 290 different beverages available as K-Cups. The Keurig 2.0 brewers come in three different models – the K350, K450 and K550, ranging in price from $149.99 to $199.99.

Disclosure: I attended a sponsored breakfast at BlogHer ’14 for Keurig and received a Keurig 2.0 brewer with some sample K-Cups and K-Carafe packs in the mail. (Which quickly disappeared – we buy a lot of K-Cups around here.) I wasn’t required to write a review post, but I’m happy to share why I love my new coffee machine and why you might like it, too.



Review: Guardians of the Galaxy – Bring the Kids?

Guardians of the Galaxy posterIt’s no secret that we’ve loved just about every Marvel movie that has been released in the last several years. We’re a family of geeks, and Marvel and Disney are two of our favorite fandoms. (Along with Doctor Who, the Whedonverse and a few others, of course.)

But when Guardians of the Galaxy was announced, my first reaction was, “What’s that?” Aaron, far geekier in all things comics, had to explain the storyline to me. And I was immediately worried that Marvel was becoming too smug with their chain of film successes. A space drama with a talking raccoon who likes to shoot things and a giant walking tree as two of five main characters? Seriously? It originally sounded completely ridiculous and I wasn’t sure how they would get audiences interested in this story.

I can now look back on this and see how wrong I was.

Aaron and I attended a preview screening last Wednesday, and then we took Cordy and Mira to see it on Saturday afternoon. I was concerned if it would be appropriate for our nine and seven year olds, and even waiting for the movie to start on Saturday, I was still a little concerned how they would handle parts of it.

So, should you bring the kids? Read on for my more in-depth (and mostly spoiler-free) review.

Synopsis (from the studio)

From Marvel, the studio that brought you the global blockbuster franchises of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Avengers, comes a new team–the Guardians of the Galaxy. An action-packed, epic space adventure, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmos, where brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. To evade the ever-persistent Ronan, Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits–Rocket, a gun-toting raccoon; Groot, a tree-like humanoid; the deadly and enigmatic Gamora; and the revenge-driven Drax the Destroyer. But when Quill discovers the true power of the orb and the menace it poses to the cosmos, he must do his best to rally his ragtag rivals for a last, desperate stand–with the galaxy’s fate in the balance.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which first appeared in comic books in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 (Jan. 1969), stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot, Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glenn Close as Nova Prime Rael and Benicio del Toro as The Collector.

The Guardians

What I liked:

This movie felt like a gritty space opera, complete with a throwback soundtrack thanks to the Awesome Mix, Volume 1. It’s fast paced, fun, and full of action. No, really: LOTS of action. The humor maintains its endurance right alongside the action, too.

All five of the heroes are fully realized characters, with flaws to match their talents, and I appreciated that all five of them are not your “typical” heroes. They’re essentially a group of criminals who, when brought together and faced with impending doom, choose to work together to save the galaxy.

While they do discover new aspects to themselves during the climax of the film, this single event of heroism doesn’t transform them into model citizens, either, and that’s okay. It would make the story seem too much like a fairy-tale to think they would entirely change their personalities as a result of stopping Ronan and live happily ever after.

It’s also important to note that the heroes aren’t rewarded for their bad behavior. For example, Peter Quill (Star-Lord) acts like an entitled man-child occasionally during the movie, but this never works in his favor and he’s not rewarded for it.

“I’m Star-Lord, man.”

The CGI in this film is amazing. Two of the five main characters are computer generated images next to their more human-like allies, and yet they feel as real as everyone around them. Groot and Rocket were masterfully inserted into the film with more realism than I’ve ever witnessed in a live-action film. You could see the individual strands of Rocket’s fur, and Groot’s branches have solid weight to them in each scene.

Rocket RaccoonHe’s adorable…and deadly.

The performances by the actors in this film shouldn’t go unnoticed, however. They ranged from the over-the-top antics of Star-Lord, played by Chris Pratt, to Karen Gillan’s extremely subtle, yet precision-sharp development of her character, Nebula.

Best of all: Gamora does not become a love interest for Quill – and the mostly naked shot of Zoe Saldana from the rear which is so prominent in the trailers did not make it to the final cut of the movie. I was happy to see that the writers didn’t include the old cliche of having the male lead and the female lead fall for each other.

Gamora and QuillThey’re teammates, that’s it. And for much of the movie she questions even that much involvement.

What I didn’t like:

While I think this is a well-made movie, it wasn’t perfect. My primary complaint is that if you haven’t read the comics, you may feel a little lost or have the urge to take notes to keep up with this new universe and everyone in it. There are new races, feuds and characters to learn quickly at the start of the film. It’s overwhelming.

Unlike Avengers, where we learned the back-story of the major characters previously in their own individual films, this film has to take on the back-story of all five main characters, the state of relations between worlds, and then deliver the current action of the story as well. Having not read the comics, I did have trouble keeping names and details straight. On the second viewing, I felt better at keeping all of the details straight, but there were still some names I couldn’t place.

And while the heroes are well-developed characters, Ronan – the primary villain in this film – was flat. We didn’t get much of his history, and we’re presented with a guy who is determined to wipe out the people of Xandar, with little explanation as to why after we’re told the two races have recently agreed to a peace treaty. And why do the Kree seem unwilling to protect the treaty they just signed and let Ronan go on a killing spree? His motivation is weak and poorly explained, likely cut for time. Hopefully we’ll see more of his development in the extras section of the DVD. (Aaron tells me he’s a deeply complex and interesting character in the comics.)

RonanI want to know more about this guy.

Bring the kids?

If you’re a big Marvel fan, this part is probably not for you, as you probably saw it on opening weekend, and you most likely knew your own kids’ interests in the movie. But a few of you might have kids (like ours) who saw the trailers and said to you, “Awwww! A talking raccoon! I want to see this movie!” without knowing much about the actual plot, and so you may be concerned about if it’s a good fit.

There are a few aspects of Guardians of the Galaxy that might make you pause before bringing the kids. First, there is the violence aspect. There are a handful of space battles where minor characters die, several punches thrown and plenty of knock-back injuries, lots of blaster fire (although most are stun blasters, it seems), and an Infinity Stone that will rip apart any person who tries to hold it – and does. Those moments can be a little scary for some kids.

The humor and language can also border on the crude at times, too. At one point a character is called a “prick” and a few other choice curse words are used, too. While there is no actual sexual content in this film, there is a joke about how a blacklight could prove Quill’s ship to be far more dirty than they assume, but that joke should go right over the heads of most kids. Actually, most of the more questionable jokes and comments were completely missed by our two kids, and they didn’t even ask about them. If you have a kid who is more inquisitive,  just be prepared for a few questions.

One additional concern to be prepared for (slight spoiler here): at the start of the movie, we see Peter Quill as a child at his dying mother’s hospital bedside. Only a few minutes later, his mother is dead, and he’s quickly torn away from his family. This might be tough for a sensitive kid to deal with – I was even teary-eyed in that moment. We (wisely) told our kids about this scene before we went to the movie, making sure it wouldn’t be a surprise to them or a scene that might make them re-think the movie.

Originally, I was more concerned that Cordy and Mira would not enjoy the film, while Aaron was convinced that they’d be fine. For Guardians of the Galaxy, Aaron was right. We chose to tell them a lot of the plot up-front and let them decide if they still wanted to see it. Cordy brought her stuffed Rocket with her to hug through the movie, just in case it got too scary.

And? They loved it. Both kids were engaged through the entire movie, and while some of the finer details of the plot were beyond their understanding, they followed the story and enjoyed the action. Cordy loved all of the humor, while Mira danced in her seat to all of the music throughout the story. They each loved Rocket more than before the movie. And they are both demanding a dancing Groot sprout toy before Christmas.

Dancing Groot sproutJust watching this GIF makes me happy.

Is Guardians of the Galaxy a film to see? Yes, absolutely. If you like superheroes, sci-fi, space dramas, and/or silly humor, you will enjoy this movie. Aaron has a more in-depth review of the film on his site if you want more specifics.

Is Guardians of the Galaxy a film to take the kids to? I’ll answer that with a qualified yes. Kids will like the characters and they won’t be bored with the constant action of the film. I think it’s appropriate for most elementary-age kids and older, but those who are more sensitive to violence or language might want to hold off. You know your kids best to decide where the line needs to be drawn.

I was very happy with this film, and I’m excited to see the start of another section of the Marvel cinematic universe. We know a sequel is already in the works, and the extra scene at the end of the credits provides a quick glimpse of an older Marvel character that we just might see again.

Once again, Marvel has proven they’re on the right track with their films. While DC is still wringing their hands over how they could have a hit movie with Wonder Woman as the solo (female) lead, Marvel has created box office gold with a talking CGI raccoon and a walking tree that can only say “I am Groot.”

Keep up the good work, Marvel.

Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary passes for the screening event only. Affiliate links may be used in this post.



Disney’s Maleficent: Another Side to Sleeping Beauty

Last month at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, we were given a sneak peek at Disney’s newest movie, Maleficent. All phones and recording devices had to be put away in order to watch the exclusive extended clip from the film, which we all happily complied with in order to see a little bit more of this movie. At the time, I remember being in awe of the beautiful scene, from the costumes, to the set and scenery, and the commanding presence of Angelina Jolie as the evil fairy.  I was already looking forward to this film, but after that nine minute scene, I couldn’t wait for the end of May to arrive.

Disney's Maleficent

And then? Maleficent herself made an appearance, dominating the room with her presence and ensuring we all understood her power. It’s rare anymore to see a Disney Villain in person if it isn’t Halloween, so this was lots of fun.

DSMM-Maleficent

After she left the room, we had the chance to meet her out in the lobby. I can’t believe how nervous I felt as I waited to have my one-on-one with her.

DSMM Maleficent & me(She touched me, and I lived to tell about it!)

What did we talk about? Magic, mostly. I asked her if you could learn magic or if it was something you were born with – of course she reminded me that only fairies have magic and therefore a person had to be born with it. That’s what happens when you’re nervous to meet someone – you think up dumb questions to ask them.

Anyway…the wait is finally over and Maleficent opens today! I went to a local preview screening on Wednesday night, still a little unsure of how it would compare to the well-loved story of Sleeping Beauty. How could a villain be the protagonist, and what new backstory would we learn about Maleficent?

Warning: some mild spoilers ahead, mostly about early parts of the film. But I’m not spoiling the ending at all.

Synopsis

(From the website) Maleficent explores the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the classic Sleeping Beauty and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king’s newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy. Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and is forced to take dramatic actions that will change both worlds forever.

The film stars Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville.

The Feature

The film starts with a young Maleficent, a fairy child who doesn’t seem to have parents and is the protector of the moors – a fairy kingdom which has an uneasy relationship with their human neighbors. Enter the similarly parent-less Stefan, who enters the moors as a thief, but who strikes up a friendship – and ultimately, a romance, with the fairy. As time passes and the years move on, we learn that the human king wishes to take control of the moors, but Maleficent leads the charge in defending her land. Meanwhile, Stefan’s ambition takes him away from his first love, and into the service of the king.

maleficent with wingsMaleficent when she still had wings

When the king is injured in battle by Maleficent, his dying wish is to destroy her and reclaim the moors as a part of his kingdom, offering the crown to anyone who will fulfill his wish. Stefan’s ambition ultimately wins out over his loyalty to his lover, and as the old king dies, Stefan takes his place as the new King – while a betrayed Maleficent turns cold and bitter.

Incidentally, anyone who witnesses the moment where Jolie plays out Maleficent’s reaction to the betrayal and doesn’t feel their heart break, has no soul. It’s a masterful scene, and puts you completely on Maleficent’s side for the remainder of the film – if you weren’t there already.

This leads us to the throne room scene from Sleeping Beauty that we all know and love, where baby Aurora is showered with gifts and one nagging curse. Although Maleficent plays with a few details from the animated version, this is easily one of the best scenes in the entire film. Even though we already know what will happen, the tension and anticipation is palpable as the scene plays out.

Maleficent enacts the curseenacting the curse

From there, the story follows the one we know, only this time Maleficent is not hunting for the missing princess for nearly sixteen years, but in fact watches her grow from infant to child to young woman. Aurora becomes aware of her “fairy godmother,” never knowing the truth about her until near the end. The relationship between Aurora and Maleficent, almost one of child and mother, is fascinating to watch.

The film’s climax follows the similar broad path of Sleeping Beauty, but the details are different enough to make you feel either relieved or betrayed from how it varies, with saviors found in unexpected places, and villains found in others.

the spinning wheelthe big moment with the spinning wheel

My thoughts

I knew a little bit about this film going into it. I was already aware of the history between Maleficent and Stefan and how it was his betrayal that led to the evil fairy in black we all know and love. For Maleficent to be sympathetic in any way, we had to have a backstory that humanized her, and even made her vengeance seem righteous, if misguided in who she targeted.

The romance between Maleficent and Stefan was rushed in the story. I’m sure cuts had to be made to keep the movie short enough for kids, but we didn’t get the chance to know Stefan enough before he turned against her. This left his character feeling flat: a one-dimensional ambitious, vengeful, and mad villain, willing to remove nearly anyone or anything in his way to winning against Maleficent. I had to wonder what she ever saw in him when they were younger.

But I wasn’t prepared for the amount of contact between Maleficent and Aurora as she grew up. Instead of Aurora relying on the nurture of the three fairies, Flittle, Thistletwit and Knotgrass are silly, useless creatures who manage to do nothing effective throughout the course of the film. They are Aurora’s appointed caregivers, but they’re unable to do even the most basic tasks, like know what to feed a baby, or keep the little girl out of danger.

Maleficent and AuroraWHO IS WATCHING THIS CHILD?

Instead, it’s Maleficent hiding in the shadows, protecting the young girl so that Aurora has a chance at reaching sixteen in order to see the curse enacted. The reasons behind her protection change as the girl grows and Maleficent develops an affection for her.

The real highlight of this movie is Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. This role was intended for her, and she so completely becomes the character that it’s easy for the audience to join her in this magical world. She is a magnificent, striking presence on screen, beautiful and grand, and every word she speaks has just the right amount of weight and significance. Even through the makeup and effects, her emotions are both delicate and powerful.

Perhaps my favorite interactions are those between Maleficent and Diaval, the crow (and sometimes human). He is her loyal servant, and yet as the film progresses you can see a deeper relationship develop between them – not in a romantic way, but a deep trust in each other. In her lonely world, he is her constant, and unlike other magical creatures, he’s the one who is often unafraid to say what he thinks is right. In a way, his difference of opinion has him often serving as her conscience, and there is definitely a shared tenderness between them by the end.

Maleficent and DiavalDiaval and Maleficent

Aurora (played by Elle Fanning) is delightfully innocent, and with that innocence is utterly fearless. Young girls will admire her ability to see beyond the facade and find the good inside. The animated Sleeping Beauty is somewhat of a dull character (partially due to the source material, since she’s asleep through much of the action), but with this Aurora we’re given more time to see her growing up, and learn more about the person under the pretty blonde hair.

I also appreciated that Aurora was played by an actress who is still a teen herself. Elle didn’t turn sixteen until after the film was done – we sang Happy Birthday to her at Disney Social Media Moms because it was just a couple of days after her sixteenth birthday!

DSMM Elle Fanningand we all had cupcakes!

The ending is handled a little differently from the animated film. I expect there will be debates on if this is a better ending or not, but because many haven’t seen the film yet, I won’t discuss the details here. I’ll say that I liked the ending and thought it was an interesting way to resolve the story. (Aaron did not like the ending as much, and we’ve debated it at length already.)

The biggest question is probably: is this movie for kids? Yes, I think it is. Cordy and Mira haven’t seen it yet, but I now have no worries about them seeing it. The preview trailers make the movie seem a lot darker than it actually is, both in tone and in actual darkness. I remember seeing the images of Maleficent meeting a young Aurora in a preview, and it looked almost like nighttime when they met. In the film, it’s a much brighter and cheery location.

There are a couple of scary scenes peppered through the film. These are mostly large battle scenes, with primarily nameless extras in danger. The dragon is present in the final battle, and looks just as fierce as the animated one, but knowing who the dragon is may make it seem less scary for kids. The overwhelming majority of the film isn’t frightening, though, and it provides so much beautiful visual stimulation that any of the short scary moments should soon be forgotten by the next scene.

You know your own child better than I do, so I can’t say yes, it’ll totally be fine. But other than one scene in the last 15 minutes that might upset more sensitive kids, I think it’s totally a kid-friendly film. (And I’ll update this if Cordy gets scared when she sees it.)

Maleficent is so pretty

Speaking of the backdrop…Maleficent is SO pretty. There was so much enchanting scenery filling every edge of the screen, with the characters blending into this world seamlessly. It’s not a musical, so you won’t find characters breaking into song in the movie, but the haunting version of “Once Upon A Dream” at the start of the credits is worth sticking around for. (There’s nothing at the end of the credits, FYI.)

Overall, I’m glad I had the chance to see Maleficent and look forward to the second viewing with my kids.  Your feelings on the ending will determine your ultimate love of the film, but even if you dislike the way the ending unfolds, you will still have plenty to praise in the acting, the stunning cinematography and CGI, and the touching emotional moments of the film. Personally, I loved this take on Maleficent, including the exploration of what drives someone to ultimate evil, and also what could possibly make someone reconsider their past actions and seek redemption.

No matter what, I think there’s going to be a new demand for the movie version of Maleficent to appear more often in the Disney Parks, in all of her evil glory. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

Disclosure: I received a pair of tickets to attend the preview screening of this film. Also, I was invited to attend the #DisneySMMoms Celebration. I paid my own conference and travel fees and received gifts during the conference from conference sponsors. All opinions, experiences and thoughts are my own.



Family Fitness Tracking with ibitz and Best Buy

Thanks to Best Buy for providing the devices for this review!

I’ve shared in a few posts that I like using activity trackers to keep an eye on how many steps I take each day. I’ve tried several different trackers, and still go back and forth on which ones I use in a given week. This has left my collection open to a very curious Mira, of course, who has more than once asked me if she could wear one of them.

But my trackers aren’t really designed for a six year old. The bracelet style falls right off of her wrist. And the apps aren’t exactly all that exciting for her to look at.

ibitz_0Enter the ibitz by GeoPalz kid and adult wireless pedometers. These small clip-on devices track activity for adults and kids, and come with apps that help the device wirelessly sync to your iOS Bluetooth 4.0 phone or tablet. Different apps for adults and children gives each age group their own unique experience with a personalized approach.

The ibitz Unity for adults tracks steps, distance, weight (added manually), height, overall physical activity, and allows you to incorporate your family and friends. It also lets you form groups and post your progress on social media.

The ibitz for kids wireless pedometer syncs to a rewards platform app.  Parents can set goals and rewards such as play time, screen time, or an adventure with a parent.  You can earn coins and content on Disney’s Club Penguin, and they’ll soon be introducing Minecraft rewards. The app is a little space alien trying to power her rocket, with your child’s steps counting as fuel for the rocket. The more steps, the further the rocket goes.

Mira couldn’t wait to give hers a try. After I helped her create an account on the app, she picked out her spaceship and was ready to go. I’m pretty sure that first day she was more active than normal just to earn as many steps as possible to fuel her rocketship.

Powering up the ibitzsyncing the device, powering the spaceship

There’s a password protected parent area in the app that lets you set goals for your child’s activity. Each goal is shown as a planet that the rocket is trying to get to. So you could set a goal of 3500 steps, for example, and then add on a reward for reaching that goal. When the child meets the goal, the alien jumps around in celebration. (Mira loves to watch that part.)

Goal setting with ibitzgoal-setting and reward screens

Over the weekend, we set a goal with a reward of going to see a movie. She easily cleared that goal and was thrilled to go see a movie on Saturday night. I think we’ll need to set smaller rewards or higher goals for this determined kid.

So far she loves her ibitz and has had it clipped on before I even noticed each morning. It’s motivating her to be more active, as she checks the app frequently to see how far her spaceship has traveled. I consider this product an absolute success for her.

The adult Unity ibitz works like many of the other activity trackers out there. It’s app isn’t nearly as exciting as the kid version, which after seeing the kid version myself, is a little disappointing.

ibitz Unityview of the app

I almost wish it had fun graphics and goal setting like the kid version – I wouldn’t mind using my steps to power an animated character in a game! It does have the ability for you to create groups to support each other, but if your friends have different activity trackers, that isn’t as helpful.

I do like the ability to connect wirelessly. And the devices are powered with a 3V lithium battery, meaning no disappointment from forgetting to charge the device like other types of trackers.

Some features of the ibitz pedometer:

·         available in 7 kid-friendly colors

·         free iOS app* syncs device wirelessly

·         syncs via Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE)

·         tracks activity

·         set goals and rewards

·         water-resistant

·         durable clip for hip and shoe

·         stores 30 days of activity

·         earn parent directed rewards

·         earn coins and content on Disney’s Club Penguin

I’m not sure if the ibitz Unity will be the activity tracker I continue to use, but the ibitz for kids is definitely a hit in our house. Cordy is now asking when she can get one of her own, and starting to plan goals she wants to set for herself. If the ibitz can make exercise a little more fun for the kids, the hope is that they’ll form good habits to remain active, even after the novelty of powering alien spaceships has worn off.

You can find the ibitz adult and kid pedometers at Best Buy.

Disclosure: The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free. In this case, I received only the pedometers to review. All opinions expressed here are my own, including my idea of an activity-tracker-based game for adults. No really, it would be a big hit.



Magic at Play Outfits From Kohl’s and Disney (Giveaway!)

Last weekend, I left Ohio behind for another trip – this time to Disneyland for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. Yes, that’s two conferences in two Disney locations within two weeks! I’d like to say I’m on the Disney tour, but no one has invited me to a conference on a Disney cruise…yet. You’ll be hearing more about both trips and what I learned in the weeks ahead!

This recent trip, though, was without the kids and Aaron. I was gone for five days, and by the time I got home, both Cordy and Mira looked taller. Mira, in particular, was definitely taller. Since when did she have a gap between the bottom of the pants and the top of her shoes? Did I accidentally dry them on high?

The truth is, both girls have been growing steadily over the past few months, but it took me this long to really notice. Which means that new clothes are inevitable. Mira often inherits some of Cordy’s clothing, but this kid has her own sense of style and often begs me to buy her a few new pieces of her own. It has to be a bummer to wear mostly hand-me-downs, so I often give in and buy her some new pieces that fit her personal style.

Mira’s favorite shopping spot is Kohl’s. OK, it’s one of my favorites, too. I’ll often give her a spending limit, and with my coupons and the store sales she usually has quite the haul when she’s done. And when the Jumping Beans line is on sale, she’ll go wild picking out new tops and skorts! She used to love anything pink, but her tastes have changed and she now likes bold colors.

At the start of this month, Kohl’s and Disney launched the “Magic at Play” clothing line, featuring Mickey and Minnie on a series of mix and match outfits and dresses.

Magic at Play at Kohl's

Mira loves Minnie, and immediately wanted the entire line when she saw the red, white and blue outfits.

Magic at Play clothing

Aren’t these adorable? They’re made by Jumping Beans, so we knew it was quality clothing we could trust for reliable sizing and durability. I’m especially thrilled at the ability to mix-and-match so many of the pieces.

Mira's Minnie outfits

Mira can wear the same shirt with a skirt or with pants, depending on the weather or her mood. And the dress we purchased is perfect for Memorial Day and Fourth of July celebrations!

Mira's Minnie dress

The only downside? These adorable outfits only go up to size 7, which means Cordy can’t join in on all of the Minnie Mouse fun. But perhaps if this new line is successful, they’ll expand it to larger sizes as well? I’ll be honest…I’d like my own Minnie shirt, too.

Mira LOVES her new outfits and hopes the warmer weather sticks around this weekend so she can wear them. The fabric and stitching are sturdy, so I feel confident that these clothing pieces will stand up to the playground.

Giveaway!

Want to check out the Disney “Magic at Play” clothing line for yourself? Kohl’s is providing a $50 Kohl’s gift card to one (1) lucky reader! To enter, just follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, and a big thanks to Kohl’s, Disney Living, and the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration for this giveaway and opportunity!

Disclosure: I was provided with a Kohl’s gift card for the purposes of this post (but used my own Kohl’s coupons to save even more). All opinions expressed here are my own…and Mira’s.

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