Category Archives: Product Reviews

A Kindle for your Kindergartener?

I’m a huge fan of anything that gets kids to read. If it inspires them to love learning, I’ll give it a shot.  This applies to video games, TV Shows (Hollaback if you love The Magic School Bus!), board games and other non-traditional educational devices.

Now that e-readers and discount tablets are all the rage,  Nook Color, Kindle Fire, and various discount tablet manufacturers all have a comprehensive (enough) android platform tablet for less than $250.  And the number and range of applications available is impressive.  All the world is jumping on the educational applications bandwagon.  That being said, I do not suggest a tablet for your child.  But I am all in favor of an e-reader.  Why?

Price.  The price for a Kindle is now as low as $79. Of course this includes “special offers” which it is worth paying $30 to turn off.  This is roughly the cost of two video games that have a lot less educational potential.  Not to mention that there are a variety of educational games that can be played on the Kindle.

Capacity. The lowest priced Kindle holds roughly 1,400 books.  I’m going to guess that it will hold even more childrens books because of their shorter length.

Features.  The addition of library lending makes the e-reader a solid hit.  I make no secret of the fact that I am a Kindle owner and LOVE my device, but the ability to get books from the library in Kindle format was a great addition.  The text-to-speech feature lets your child have the kindle become an  audio book which is nice for quiet time at night or longer car trips.  With my youngest, sometimes me being in the room reading to him is a distraction.  A nice audiobook helps him unwind and fall asleep much more quickly.

Free content.  In addition to library lending and the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (if, like me, you have Amazon Prime), there are hundreds of free books available for Kindle.  I take a couple minutes every day to see what’s new and hot, but there are lots of classic books including Little Women, Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, The Ugly Duckling…   Hundreds of titles await you and your curious child!

No clutter!  All the books live on the device and in the cloud so your child can carry an entire library!

I hear you.  You’re saying  “But the wi-fi!  I don’t want my kid having unlimited access to my Amazon account.” Simple fix.  You have a couple of options.  One, do not register your child’s kindle to your Amazon account.  Set up one just for the child’s kindle and put a gift card with the monthly allowance on it. My preferred choice: supervise your child when he or she is looking for new books.  Download books together.  If your home wi-fi is password protected, you will always have some control over your child’s access to the web.  Definitely choose wi-fi over 3G for your child.  3G you have no control over.

I truly believe that before long, all books will be in e-format so the sooner kids get comfortable with this technology the better.  Do I love “real” books?  Sure.  But I love my Kindle too.

If one book puts the world at your child’s fingertips, imagine what 1,400 books in their hands can do?

18 Minutes – a Book Review

It is rare that I read a book cover to cover in one sitting but that is exactly how I spent yesterday morning and afternoon.  For the past few years I have struggled mightily with finding my purpose and staying motivated to do the things I feel like I should be doing.  This book, with a title including the words “Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done” struck a chord.  I downloaded a trial and then put down my coin for the full kindle version.  I am glad I did.  In case you’re curious, since starting this post 20 minutes ago, I have “made my move” in Words with Friends, researched a financial issue and e-mailed my bank about it and read some totally mindless “this is news?” stories.  Focus is a huge, huge problem.  Why?

Well, this book hits the nail on the head for me.  If you follow me on Twitter, then you know that I was tweeting quotes from the book all day yesterday.  Here’s an example:

“To home in on your passion, think about what you love doing—what’s important enough to you that you’re willing to persist over the year, even when it feels like you’re not succeeding at it.”

What does that mean to you?  How would you change your life to do that?  Peter Bregman asks you to define the most important areas of your life – personally and professionally – and use those to filter where you spend the majority of your time.  95% of your day, he says, should be spent in areas where you’ve chosen to focus your energy.  Basically, your work should support your goals.  The other 5% of your day is for non-related tasks.  Today, for example, I spent the morning getting the tires replaced on my urban assault vehicle.  It doesn’t support my short-term or long-term goals in any other than maintaining my vehicle in safe, operable condition, but it is necessary.  The ratios may ebb and flow day-to-day, but at the end of the week, you should be close.

A light went on for me as I read these words.  I have a terrible time focusing because “Why Bother”?  I have not had measurable success in any area of my life since I can’t remember when. (Oh look! It’s my turn in Words With Friends)  All this moving means that whenever I get traction, the Army pulls the plug.  Bye job!  Bye Friends!  And I’m starting to think I’ll have to pay people to talk to me in real life and on my blog.  So. Maddening.

Here I am now:  forty-something, my BMI nearly matches my age, I have kids who are driving me nuts and for the last few months, a job I don’t feel like I’m particularly good at.  In fact, I think I am horrible.  I am quite bored, lonely and our social calendar is consistently empty unless we try to throw a party.  Which we normally do marginally well (meaning we can get a few people to show up and all have fun).  But I am still working on what/ who I want to be when I grow up.

So here are the five areas I want to focus on in 2012:

1.  Fix our financial situation.   Saving money, of course, but there are other important things I have to do.  I’ve been avoiding them because they are painful and frustrating.  My husband has entrusted me to be the primary steward of our financial future and supports my efforts 100%.  Now is the time we right the ship so we can sail smoothly into retirement in six years.

2.  Stimulate creativity.  I’ve posted about this before, but I to spend more time being creative and be more fearless with my creative efforts.

3.  De-clutter and get back to the basics.  Build experiences not material wealth.

4. Be healthy.  Eat well.  Exercise.  Connect.   I know that I am a people person.  I need to have more contact with people outside of my home.  Look for opportunities to support and connect with people both in person and online.  Volunteer more time and less money.

5.  Strengthen and improve my online presence.  I have another blog with great potential that is languishing.  That must stop.

Disclaimer:  Clicking on the image above and buying the book might make me a little money because I am an Amazon Associate.  

I appreciate it.

Sony Cybershot Product Review

I recently felt the need to replace my point-and-shoot with a smaller, more user-friendly model.  I love my DSLR, but the bulk of my old point and shoot made it hard to accomplish my goal of always having a camera handy.  While in Hawaii, I got a chance to see some fantastic photos taken by an older version of the Sony Cybershot 16.1 MP Digital camera.  So, I set out to make this little baby my own.

DH and I skipped Christmas  and Anniversary presents for the most part and he wanted me to treat myself to something from my wishlist after the new year.  We had recently replaced cell phones so when the gift cards came for the rebates, I saw my opportunity (here’s a tip:  Take the Visa gift cards and use them to purchase cards so you won’t have to worry about an unused balance) and placed the order.

In a nutshell, I LOVE this camera.  It’s very small.  Smaller than an iPod and less than an inch thick so it definitely fits in pocket or purse with ease.  I will never miss a photo opportunity again!  Hopefully.  At 16.1 MegaPixels, I can print photos in any size I can foresee wanting or needing to print.  This is my first point-and-shoot with a rechargeable battery which makes me very happy.  I am hopeful that the battery life will get me through the 3Day next year but the charger is super compact (no cord!) so it is packable.  The image stabilization feature is a must for me and the 5x Zoom helps me reach out and touch what I’m photographing.   The iAuto function does a fantastic job adjusting the settings to match the subject and lighting.

I have only had this camera about 24 hours so there is a lot more for me to learn but with the crisp photos I’ve taken so far and the fact that I can also shoot video in HD, this little camera is my new handy sidekick.  The feature I’m playing with the most right now is the option to shoot panoramic photos like this one:

I wish I’d have had this in Hawaii!


Disclosure:  I did not receive any payment or product in exchange for this review.  This is simply my opinion on a product I recently purchased.

Thank You

This post is brought to you in honor of National Thank You Month in partnership with Grammarly, the World’s Most Accurate Grammar Checker.

In the past year, I have learned to embrace my craftiness.  Not crafty like sneaky, crafty like creative.  There, I said it.  I am creative and I enjoy it.  I can sew a bit, knit a bit, am learning to crochet and I really like playing with paper, glitter, stamps and glue to make cards.  Creating beautiful things lowers my stress levels by clearing my mind and soothing my spirit.  When I crave color, willpower is not necessary.

For that I am thankful.  I am thankful to my mother, first and foremost.  My mom has taught me too many lessons to list.  Since this is a post about creativity, I will thank her for teaching me to sew, showing me a trick here or there about playing with paper and for reminding me that no one is perfect.  Perfection is not the goal.  Quality is important.  Things should look hand made but hand made is not flawless.  It is human.  That is what makes it special.  My mom is also the influence that made me resourceful.  She can fix anything I can screw up.  I hope someday I possess that skill also.

I am thankful for my grandmothers too.  My mother’s mother was an amazing seamstress.  She made quilts, embroidered, and created the most exquisite Barbie clothes.  Of course as a stupid kid, I didn’t have the sense to save them.  In partnership with the woodworking skills of my Grandfather, my cousins, sisters and I all had the greatest doll beds of all time complete with quilted mattresses and comforters.

From my father’s mother, I seem to have inherited a love of yarn (along with an old-fashioned Norwegian stubborn streak ten miles wide).  From the earliest memory, I could crochet a chain.  My sisters and I would make them seemingly hundreds of  yards long.  Her weight maintenance plan was crochet.  “I figure if I’m sitting in front of the TV crocheting, I’m not sitting there eating.”  She knit as well.  My grandmother created the most wonderful afghans, lace doilies and this angel.  She has been atop my Christmas Tree for more years than I can recall.  Please pardon the abuse she takes because we move so much.  I’m afraid to try to re-shape her.

So, to all three of you; my mom, her mom, and my Dad’s mom, Thank You.  Thank you for sharing your time, your talents and your love of beautiful things with me.  I can only hope the projects I create will make you proud.

Now, blog readers, it’s your turn.  Grammarly is working with me to sponsor a Virtual Flash Mob of Gratitude!  What are you thankful for?  Who are you thankful for?  In honor of National Thank You Month, Grammarly is offering  a minimum of $100 gift card to one lucky blogger. Each blogger that enters increases the size of the prize by $10.    The contest begins today, January 2, 2012,  and ends on January 31.  A winner will be chosen on February 1!  For more information about how to enter, leave me a comment or e-mail lisa (at) LisaSharp(dot)com!


P.S.  W00t!  My Grammarly Score for this piece was 89 out of 100!  What’s yours?

Once you’ve entered, share your link here:

What do Ro*Tel and Popcorn Have In Common?

Other than being really healthy for you, the thing they have in common is that, thanks to the folks at The Dish!  I got a chance to try Ro*tel’s new tomato sauce product and Orville Redenbacher’s Flavors microwave popcorn.  Here are my thoughts on each product:

Ro*Tel Original Tomato and Green Chili Sauce

Ro*tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chili is a pantry staple here.  Great in chili or quesadillas, it is also amazing with a can of black beans, a can of corn and a bit of cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice for a fast salsa.   I was excited to see that Con Agra had branched out with a tomato sauce version.

We used our sample to make chili.  Our chili recipe tends to be rather tame since our younger kids don’t like spicy food.  But I try to make it without sacrificing flavors and the Ro*Tel Original Tomato and Green Chili Sauce fit the bill.  It added a nice little kick for the grown ups but not so much heat that the kids wouldn’t eat it.  The cooks and foodies in our family loved the added flavor of this tomato sauce.  The boys didn’t notice.  It would be great in a variety of other applications including barbecue sauce from scratch.  As soon as it is available near me, it will be another pantry staple.

Ro*tel Original Tomato and Green Chili Sauce has a suggested retail price of $0.69 for an 8 oz. can and is in some stores now.  Look for it at your local grocery store!


Orville Redenbacher’s Flavors Microwave Popcorn


Our family spends a lot of Friday nights watching movies.  Popcorn with movies is a must.  It’s a healthier alternative to potato chips and our family loves it.  Since I have an addiction to sea salt and vinegar potato chips, I jumped at the chance to try new Orville Redenbacher’s Flavors Sea Salt & Vinegar popcorn.

It really was delicious!   The flavor packet is added after the popcorn is popped to allow you to control the intensity of the flavors.  I did not consider the possibility of anything but adding the whole thing.  At first, the flavors were subtle, but very good.  Toward the end, since all salt settles to the bottom of the bag or bowl, the Sea Salt & Vinegar flavor was really intense.    I understand the economics of having the flavor packet separate from the popcorn so I won’t suggest putting the flavor in the popcorn bag at manufacturing but more even flavor distribution would help this product be even better.

Like the Ro*Tel tomato sauce, Orville Redenbacher’s Flavors popcorn varieties:  Mild Cheddar, Extra Cheese and Sea Salt and Vinegar are still in the early distribution phase.  Look for them soon in mass retail and grocery stores in the salty snacks aisle with your other favorite Orville Redenbacher varieties.  If I understand the information correctly, these will be sold as individual packs so you can choose flavors to match your mood or to keep multiple taste buds handy.    They have a suggested retail of $1.19-$1.29 each.

I wonder if you could put them in a vending machine next to the Red Box kiosks?


Disclaimer: I did receive samples of both of these products to review courtesy of The Dish: Getting to Know the Foods you Love from Con Agra Foods.  As always, my review is my own, unbiased opinion.