Be Good To Your Feet

feet-002Five years ago I was getting ready for my first long-distance walk, an 84-mile excursion in England.

And it was scaring me, because I knew something was wrong with my feet. I had broken in my new boots, but they still didn’t feel right.

This wasn’t new to me. As a kid, many decades ago, I hiked monthly with my Scout troop. My boots back then were stiff and unforgivable, with soles that felt and weighed like concrete. Every nail, eyelet, and grommet would stab into my feet with each tortuous step on the trail. We wore thin cotton socks that soaked up sweat like a sponge. It wasn’t a matter of getting blisters, but how bad they would be.

Back to five years ago, it was clear to me that boot-making materials and technology had changed dramatically since the 70s. My new Merrell boots were light and flexible, and I had the best synthetic moisture-wicking socks you could buy. But something was still wrong.

Thanks to the Google, I figured out that boot companies tend not to put much effort into their insoles. The manufacturers just assume that any serious walker is going to replace them with a pair suited best for their type of feet.

I had no idea there were so many types of insoles out there. Oh, I soon found out, trying out three different brands before finding one that fit me and my Merrells best.

Just before it was time for me to board a plane for England, I settled on a pair of gel insoles from Dr. Scholl’s. They weren’t perfect, but they helped.

And then security at the airport tossed them out. They weren’t allowing gel insoles on planes back then.

So, I ended up in the middle of London in a mild panic, until I came upon a backpacking store near Victoria Station. They took pity and introduced me to the Spenco Polysorb Walker/Runner insoles that saved my life on that trip.

I walked those 84 miles with confidence and comfort. I became a believer in quality insoles, whether you’re hiking, walking, running, or just standing on your feet for hours. Continue reading

The Electric Shave

My first experience with shaving was trimming a few chin hairs with a pair of dull safety scissors. I was 14 or 15, and my cheeks were slow to start growing any kind of facial hair. The scissors sufficed for a few months, but eventually the 5 or 6 stray hairs turned into dozens, and then hundreds. I found my brother’s old electric shaver in a bathroom drawer and started using that to groom myself. 30 years later, I still value the speed and efficiency of an electric shaver.

Now, my son has signaled that he’s ready to join the long line of electricians in his family with a request for a shaver of his own. Luckily, Philips Norelco was willing to set him up with their new Click & Style. It’s an all-in-one shaving and grooming tool and, quite frankly, it’s the best shaver I’ve ever seen.

Norelco Click and Style

The beauty of the Click & Style are the three separate attachments. First, a shaver attachment, with rotary blades. Second, a beard trimmer. And third, a foil style shaver/trimmer. That really covers all the bases for whatever body hair needs to be groomed. All three attachments give you ultimate control and precision for a clean, smooth shave.

My son is finding it much easier to “manscape” with the Click & Style. So easy, in fact, that he can even multi-task while using it. Apparently, this is a thing. People don’t just stand at the mirror and shave anymore. They eat, brush their teeth, read, text, and play video games while grooming themselves. Continue reading

You Little Punk! SOL REPUBLIC Review & Giveaway

It’s that time of the year. Only a few more weeks until Black Friday and the start of the holiday shopping season. Coming up with good gift ideas for friends and family isn’t always easy. Well, I’m here to help!

Sol Republic products have a great reputation in our house, so when they sent me a Punk, one of their new wireless speakers, to review as a holiday gift idea, I knew it would be good. Continue reading

The Great War For Kids

There’s one thing about history that my daughter quickly learned in her early elementary school days. Humans seem to always be fighting each other.

It’s an unpleasant subject on the surface, but if you’re going to instill a love of history in your children, you can’t avoid the fact that they will, inevitably, be reading about war.

And they will find it utterly fascinating. Continue reading

The Best Mad Scientist Book

As a homeschooler, I’m always on the lookout for ways to bring science to life for my kids. They can learn only so much with their nose stuck in a textbook. It often takes the hands-on approach to teach some of the more difficult concepts and to let the kids see for themselves what science can do for them.

I’ve seen plenty of books and videos attempting to make science cool, but the new The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists, by Ken Denmead, is one of the best collections of scientific projects and experiments that I’ve ever read. Denmead is the editor of the amazing GeekDad blog, so he knows what he’s talking about.

With this book, your kids will learn how to extract their own DNA, build a radio out of office supplies, grow sea monsters, and play with plasma.

And it all couldn’t be easier. The instructions, concepts, illustrations, are all explained in an easy-to-understand creative way. Denmead knows how to capture and keep a kid’s imagination by relating the science to what they think is fun. You know, space aliens, lasers, robots, spies. All the important stuff.

My kids actually got excited when they thumbed through this book for the first time. My son immediately wanted to try the alchemy experiment (no, it’s not lead into gold, unfortunately). And my daughter is ready to set fire to some Cheetos.

If you’d like to get your kids excited about science too, this book is the place to start. There’s something in it for everyone in the family. I wouldn’t hesitate to give it to a 3rd grader or a college student, or anyone who wants to find some answers to how the science all around us works.

With Christmas coming up, this book should be at the top of your list of gift ideas. It’s available at every major book seller, including Amazon.

The good folks at Gotham Books have sent me a copy of The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists to give away to one of my readers.

Just leave a comment on this post, telling me you want it. I’ll pick a winner after the Thanksgiving break.

VeggieTales DVD Giveaway

My kids enjoyed more than a few VeggieTales DVDs back in the day. I remember the shows being packed with goofy humor, silly songs, and a positive message. To this day, I am still haunted by Larry the Cucumber’s lament to his hairbrush.

But that was years ago, and I didn’t even know VeggieTales was still around until the people at Big Idea Entertainment asked me to host a giveaway of their latest DVD release.

It’s called Princess and the Pop Star: A Story of Trading Places. Yes, it’s their version of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, which has been done many, many times in film and TV.

Only, never with vegetables before.

This is a fun, high-energy movie that teaches girls that they should be happy as themselves, and not try to reach their dreams through other people’s lives. Told with all the usual silly songs and one-liners that will have your kids cracking up.

If you’d like to win this family-friendly DVD, leave a comment on this post telling me, “I want!” I’ll pick a winner next week.

Kodak Photo Book Review and Giveaway

I’ve been a long-time user of Shutterfly for all my online photo printing needs. So, I was a little hesitant when Kodak asked me to check out their own online printing site, Kodak Gallery, to see how it compares.

When they offered to let me create a Photo Book, I figured it was a good time to step out of my Shutterfly comfort zone.

Good thing I did, because the process of making the book was as simple and straightforward as those I’ve made on the other site. Maybe even a little more.

And the finished product is impressive.

Let me back up to my first impression of the Kodak Gallery site.

The layout is clean and easy to navigate, with the most popular products front and center. The variety of items offered matches just about every other photo site I’ve seen.

So, you can get your holiday cards, mugs, framed prints, or whatever your heart desires. Kodak Gallery makes it easy.

The sticking point for any of these types of sites, however, has always been the ability to easily upload my photos. Kodak’s uploader was fast, so no worries. Once your photos are transferred over, you can get started on a project immediately.

My Kodak Gallery Photo Book

My book would feature pictures from my recent trip to London, England, and I wanted to find just the right design to fit that theme. Kodak offers up dozens of page layout and cover options.

I went with the Martha Stewart Fern design, which features stylish, but subtle, patterns and borders on the inside pages. For the outside cover, the dark brown leather-like Adventurer seemed to fit the theme of my photo collection.

With layouts featuring up to six photos per page, I agonized for a long while over which images would fit where, and in what size. Some pictures just scream for full-page, while others look better in a group. This is the part of the process where you’ll spend most of your time and creativity.

So, what about that finished product I mentioned before? I only cared about two things: the print quality and the binding. Both, I can assure you, are as good as I’ve seen in a photo book.

Kodak made the images from my little point-and-shoot camera (a Canon S90) look like they came from a high-end DSLR. Even those which were cropped quite close have no noticeable pixelation or fuzziness.

My Kodak Gallery Photo Book

Oh, there’s one other thing I care about. The price. My 20-page book, at 9″ x 10.25″, with printed hardcover, was $34.99. You can add additional pages at 99 cents each.

Now I know you’re itching to get over there to start making your very own photo book. But how’d you like to do it for free?

Kodak has kindly provided a free photo book to one of my readers. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, telling me you want to win. Sorry, US residents only.

I’ll pick a winner at the end of the week, so you have enough time to build your photo book before Christmas (because these things make great gifts).

Funnier Little Fellas Review and Giveaway

If Matt Clark wasn’t a musician, he could easily find an outlet for his creativity as a daddy blogger.

His songs are like blog posts set to music.

Listening to his latest CD, Funnier Little Fellas, I’m reminded of some of the better dad bloggers out there who turn to the Internet to share all the funny little moments they experience after becoming new fathers.

But Clark isn’t singing just for the moms and dads. He writes his songs for the kids. Specifically, he writes for, and about, his two young sons.

He’s tracking the milestones and obsessions of those earliest years through humor, instruction, and an easy-going vocal style. Clark sings about the simple stuff: Band-aids, tantrums, tickling, and playing at the playground.

Simple to you and me, maybe, but that’s some serious stuff to the preschool crowd!

I really like the children’s artists who are focused on a specific age group. And Matt Clark knows his audience very well.

Toddlers and preschoolers are going to love this CD. If I’d had this disc when my own kids were younger, it would’ve been on heavy rotation in our van.

So, go get Funnier Little Fellas, available for sale at Clark’s website, or at iTunes. You can hear samples at both places.

I just happen to have two copies of the CD to give away to my readers, thanks to the artist himself. If you’d like to win one, leave a comment on this post simply telling me you want it. I’ll pick a winner next week.

Wii Game Review: Kidz Bop Dance Party

Let me say something right up front. If your kids are over the age of 7, stop reading this review.

Kidz Bop Dance Party, a new game for the Wii, promises hours of fun for the very young, but the older elementary school crowd will find it far less challenging.

Dance Party is a basic dancing game that features 24 popular songs sung by children in a family-friendly style. Kids simply hold the Wii remote in their hand and follow along with the on-screen actions as best as they can.

Or they can just jump around and be silly, as young children tend to be. It won’t matter. As long as there is some kind of movement resembling dancing, the gameplay will continue.

The game lets kids follow a challenge mode, which keeps track of their progress and abilities. Along the way, they’ll earn points to unlock new outfits and clothing for their Mii.

Kids can play with their friends and have dance-offs in different on-screen venues. Even though they don’t have to exactly match the dance motions, the game will still recognize how well the dance was performed, so there is some incentive for kids to improve.

Parents will recognize most of the songs, which were originally by such artists as Lady GaGa, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Pink, and Michael Jackson, but are now sung by the talented Kidz Bop kids.

There are quite a few dancing games for the Wii, but Kidz Bop Dance Party stands out as one of the best for very young children. They will have all kinds of silly fun, while avoiding the frustration and disappointment of the more difficult games designed for an older crowd.

You’ll have no problem encouraging your kids to get up off the couch and start dancing.

The good folks at Kidz Bop have provided a copy of Dance Party for me to give away! If you’d like to win it, please leave a comment on this post letting me know what song makes your kids (and you) dance.

I’ll pick a winner next week!

Brainy Day

Three years ago we were pleasantly surprised by a very happy kids’ album from Roger Day. Read my positive review of that CD, Dream Big, here.

Roger’s back with a new album, but it’s not so happy this time.

Now he’s gone all brainy on us.

Why Does Gray Matter? is a fun collection of “brainy songs for kids” from one of the smartest kids’ singers around.

Yes, every single song on this CD is about being smart and making the most of your brain. Tracks like “Use Your Noodle,” “It’s a No Brainer,” and “Inside My Cranium,” are funny, silly, and educational all at the same time. What more do you want in a children’s album?

I’m always telling my kids to use their brain to its full potential. Along comes Roger Day to back me up with lyrics like: “There’s not a single answer anywhere you can’t find, When you flex the muscles in your mind,” and “Get your brain in gear, There’s no time for wasting here.”

Day also sings about good “brain foods” to eat, such as blueberries, whole wheat bread, spinach, salmon, and green tea.

Like I said, it’s a very smart album. As Day himself said, “I’m pretty sure it’s the first recording session in Nashville to research WebMD for fact checks.”

And it’s all wrapped up in an exquisite pop/rock sheen that calls to mind the best Schoolhouse Rock tunes.

Why Does Gray Matter? gets the highest recommendation from my family! You can listen to it at Roger Day’s website. It’s also available for download on iTunes.