Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sweet on your feet - The Ryka MC2 Walk

I can't remember who it was one time that told me they weren't built for speed, but to go slow and steady. Well, that's me.

I've done a few 10K races - running part and walking part. Honestly, the running is kind of like torture. Unlike some of my friends who love to run, I'd just as soon skip that part. I'm like the Little Engine that Could - I just chug along.

A few months ago, I got an email from Parent Bloggers Network asking if I'd be interested in reviewing some fitness gear. Little did I know what little gem would be showing up on my doorstep - some awesome shoes from Ryka.

Behold, the mighty MC2 Walk. Ain't it purty?

Ryka makes all of their gear specifically for women. And while I've always been kind of a shoe snob - mostly due to design issues and my pesky achilles tendon that seems to rub on 99.9% of the shoes that I try - I was eager to try the MC2 Walk. I already had a few of their shirts that I loved, so why wouldn't I love the shoes too?

Well, I have to admit that at first I put them on...and I didn't like them so much. I believe the predominant thought running through my head was OUCH. So I wore them around the house a few hours and - well - I started to like them. Really like them. Like skipping around the house like them. Like finally having to take them off because athletic shoes don't really go with my pajamas. That's how much I liked them.

It does take a little getting used to if you're used to either running shoes or cross-trainers like I am - the fit is definitely snugger but it gives great support. The MC2 Walk fits your heel so you don't get that pesky slippage - which would probably help women with narrow heels that have such a hard time finding athletic shoes that fit. Ryka calls that "True Motion Control" - and they really deliver. It offers great stability, especially when walking outside where they handle rough sidewalks and uneven pavement like a champ.

As I mentioned earlier, one of my biggest problems with athletic shoes is that my achilles tendon tends to rub on most athetic shoes out there. The MC2 Walk's upper heel isn't cut down as low as my old shoes, but I found that as long as I wore good quality socks that weren't cut too low that I didn't have that problem. The only time I had an issue with the MC2 Walk rubbing my heel was when I stupidly put on a pair of extra-low cut socks - and it wasn't the shoe that left a teeny blister, it was the elastic on the sock. Color me happy! I had one pair of the "swoosh" shoes that I ended up giving away because no matter what I did, the stupid things rubbed my heels raw.

Overall, I was very pleased with my MC2 Walk shoes - inside on the treadmill, outside on the street, and running errands, they held up to the abuse that I regularly dish out to my footwear. I'm hoping that once I run these into the ground, I'll find a different model of Ryka shoes to try since they have a really good selection for walking and running.

Now through the end of October, register with Ryka's Good for Your Sole campaign and you have the chance of winning some awesome gear - Ryka is giving away 50 pairs of shoes and 50 performance tees every single day plus they are donating one pair of shoes for every pair given away to the Women's Sports Foundation for distribution across the country to women in health and wellness programs. How cool is that?

Parent Bloggers Network

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Doin' it in style

I love clothes. I love handbags. Shoes, not so much, but mostly because they don't like me very much. When I lost almost 50 pounds two years ago, I totally revamped my way of dressing. Gone were the schlumpy mom jeans, anything with an elastic waist that wasn't workout gear or pajamas, and the boxy oversized jackets. I felt good about myself and wanted to project myself in a way that reflected it to the world. Even still, I felt gripped with insecurities - does this look right, do I look stylish without appearing ridiculous?

So when Parent Bloggers Network asked me if I'd be interested in reviewing the new book, The Little Black Book of Style by Nina Garcia, I practically fainted at my desk. If you've been living under a rock, Nina is one of the judges on the popular Bravo show Project Runway, in addition to being the fashion director for Elle Magazine. Obviously, she knows what she's talking about. When my package arrived, I eagerly ripped open the envelope and dove straight in, eager to find out all of the deep, dark secrets about being a Person of Style.

What I found wasn't what I expected. What I expected was a diva-like list of Things You Cannot Live Without but Will Have to Sell Some Vital Organs to Afford. You know, like you must be kidding yourself if you think you can live one more minute without a Hermes Birkin bag.

What I got was a common-sense guide to style, with the most important tip being that being stylish is having confidence and presenting yourself to the world in a confident manner. It isn't about spending gobs of money on designer labels or expensive jewelry. It's taking basic pieces like a white shirt or a trench coat and turning them into a personal statement. Mixing things like some inexpensive earrings or a chunky necklace with a basic white shirt turns it into a Shirt as a Statement. A tailored tote bag is just as classic as an expensive designer handbag.

Garcia lists tips of what to wear for certain occasions (like it's not a great idea to wear fishnets and stilettos when meeting your boyfriend's parents) as well as her ten basic rules of style including a list of basic items that everyone should have in their closet. One of the most interesting parts of the book is how Garcia reviews the influence of film, music, and art on fashion. She also sprinkles the book with interesting quotes not just from fashionistas but also people as diverse as Einstein and Da Vinci - and it all ties together beautifully and makes it a really fun read.

If you are a fashionista or just someone who wants to ditch the mom jeans, you should definitely pick up a copy of The Little Black Book of Style. I think anyone could pick up at least a few good tips and inspirations from this book - and it's a good, fun read.

Parent Bloggers Network

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Just in Time - School Zone!

As I've mentioned ad nauseum over the past few weeks, Monkey Man started kindergarten yesterday. Like normal parents, we have obsessed over everything he's been bringing home from pre-K and wondering how he was going to fare in the public school system. Heck, we weren't even sure the kid could read anything - which was causing huge anxiety in our house.

Enter School Zone and their "Start to Read Level 1" kit and their "Kindergarten Magnetic Tin". And all I have to say is that it was just in the nick of time to keep me from having a nervous breakdown as well as giving my son the refresher that he needed before school started, since he was too busy in summer camp doing face painting and making blue goo to worry about silly things like spelling or reading.

School Zone is an award-winning educational company that has developed over 200 educational products for teachers and parents to use with students. What impressed me upon opening our package was the quality of the materials - everything is durable and well-constructed and will hold up to a lot of use. Not to mention that everything was portable - we have been hauling these all over the planet in a backpack and haven't lost a thing nor has anything gotten dinged-up, bent, or damaged in any way. Considering how hard we can be on things, that's pretty darn impressive.

The "Start to Read Level 1" book is geared to beginning readers. What you get is a large, hard-cover book that you open up to a bounty of fun. Two different stories - "Jog, Frog, Jog" and "I Want a Pet" are included - each has a book, a read-along CD with songs included, and then activities with each. The activities are on laminated pages and a wipe-off marker and eraser are included along with the pages. The laminated pages encourage reading comprehension, spelling, and other fun activities. Then, each story comes with a journal book with stickers, a pencil and a stencil. Monkey Man could not tear himself away from the journal - he carried it around with him for days and would add things to it now and then. Overall, it's a very complete package the likes of which I have never seen before - and to me would be a great gift for a kindergarten-age child or even for your own child!

The "Kindergarten Magnetic Tin" is a great concept. Included are small magnets with shapes, different items (like a saw, a baseball, etc.), letters and numbers. These can all be used with laminated activity cards. They also have magnetic animals to use to learn about animals but also colors since both sides are different colors. We used that a lot in restaurants this summer because not only can you use the cards, but you can also use the grid on the back of the tin to just do silly stuff like making patterns or even spelling out words or using numbers. Monkey Man really thought that was cool.

I was really impressed by School Zone's products and wouldn't hesitate to order more or recommend them to a friend. So, friends, stop by their site and check it out!

Parent Bloggers Network