Houston Museum of Natural Science & The Magna Carta Exhibit

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The Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of my family’s favorite spots in Houston. One major reason is the Morian Hall of Paleontology. Trip calls the HMNS the “Dinosaur Museum” because of this excellent paleontology exhibit. The museum also has interesting temporary exhibits. One of the current temporary exhibits is “Magna Carta.” According to the HMNS website’s description of the exhibit:

An original edition of the “Magna Carta,” and the only known example of the King’s Writ — a letter from King John to the Sheriff of Gloucester announcing the signing of the Magna Carta — is visiting Houston from its home in Hereford Cathedral. The Magna Carta is considered to be Great Britain’s most valuable export to the world and is a model upon which the United States Constitution was based. The Magna Carta continues to serve as the definitive document modeling basic civil liberties, and is the source of many of the most fundamental concepts of law. In more than 100 decisions, the United States Supreme Court has traced dependence on the Magna Carta for an understanding of due process, trial by jury, the importance of a speedy and unbiased trial, and protection against excessive bail or fines or cruel and unusual punishment. This historic document can be viewed for a limited time Feb. 14, 2014 to Aug. 17, 2014.

This exhibit is worth a visit for individuals interested in history, law, and politics. Personally, I don’t think it would be too engaging for young children. But, school-age children will appreciate the hands-on activities, including a “career selector” (which leads to options like peasant, nun, and midwife) and a heraldry design activity. And there is armor, which I believe is always a crowd pleaser. I would have been a nun Seeing the 1217 copy of the Magna Carta was interesting, and the context of the document was presented. There was information about kings and popes, life in 13th century England, and legal/cultural/religious background. It’s hard to believe the actual document is here in Houston. But only for a couple more weeks!

good2grow™ Juice Review

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I had the opportunity to try good2grow™ drinks through the Moms Meet Blogger network. I received complimentary good2grow-product-shotcoupons for good2grow products, and then the fun began!

Good2grow™ juice is a brand that features single serve bottles with familiar character on the cap. The caps are reusable, and you can buy six packs of the bottles for refills. We were able to findgood2grow™ juice at Kroger, and I’ve seen the juice at other supermarkets in the Houston area.

Picking a favorite character was fun. There were plenty of super heroes and cartoon favorites from which to choose. Trip selected Captain America and Phineas (or Ferb?!). (Never mind that essentially your kid will be sipping from the head of a beloved icon in a sipping-from-a-skull sort of way. Maybe I’ve been watching too much GoT. Kids don’t think that way.)

The juice itself is 100% juice or a fruit/veggie blend. Trip tried both, and both got a thumbs up. The fruit/veggie blend came in a smaller bottle, but cap was still interchangeable. The company does not add sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or preservatives to its juices. Thumbs up to the company for offering a better juice choice. It’s still juice though, so I try to limit Trip’s daily juice intake.

The suggested retail price for the single serve with character cap is $2.49-$2.99, which I think is a bit high in comparison to the refill pack ($2.99-$3.49 for four bottles). You’re paying for the character top with the single serve. The plastic bottles are BPA-free, non-GMO, dishwasher safe, and reusable. The caps are also reusable and dishwasher safe.

Overall, good2grow™ offers convenient, fun, good-tasting drinks. Kids will like the characters and the juice. Parents will like the higher quality ingredients and the reusable bottles. Win-win!

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Learn more online

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Lady Gaga artRAVE in Houston

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I had a ticket to one of the hottest pop shows of the summer, Lady Gaga’s artRAVE tour. My friend won tickets to see the show in Houston. Yes, won. She has the best luck! I was excited when she invited me to join her. A concert?! For free?! Sure!!!

I am not one of Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters. That was clear to me as I listened to her proselytize about all things Gaga and about “authenticity” we all share. I’m not against the message of believing in yourself or artistic expression. I got a little tired that by extension that meant believing in Lady Gaga as some sort of leader or spiritual guide.

With that said, I did enjoy the show with its music, six costume changes (including one on stage), stage sets, dancers, and lights (so many lights). This was a big production by an artist in the height of her career, but Lady Gaga still seems to appreciate her fans. She pulled quite a few on stage, including a Michael Jackson lookalike (didn’t get the memo on costumes?), a five-year-old girl (sweet but….it felt a little like a Sweet Home Alabama “You brought a baby. To a bar.” moment), and costumed look-a-likes. She read a note thrown on stage, and she put on clothes tossed her way (while hiking up her leotard to make it a thong).

Overall, it was a fun show. It was entertainment…not enlightenment.

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Book Suggestion: Enrique’s Journey

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I received a copy of Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother* by Sonia Nazario when I worked for the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M. It was part of a “Common Ground Reading” series in 2010. Each incoming student to the college is given a copy of a book, and there are events/discussions related to the book during the year.

This book is a compassionate and informative look at the journey of one boy to make it to the United States to find his mother, who had left him in Honduras years before. Enrique’s journey is like hundreds of others who have made the journey. It is heartbreaking to consider the desperation that leads parents to leave their children to go in search of more opportunities. It is gut-wrenching to consider what the children (and others) go through to try to make it into the United States and the reasons they would even attempt such a journey.

I picked up this book off my shelves to reread it this summer. It’s extremely relevant right now, given the increased number of illegal children immigrants crossing the border and being detained right now.

R.I.P.P.E.D. Review

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I received a complimentary copy of R.I.P.P.E.D. for review purposes. I received no additional compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own. Additionally, my links to Amazon Associates are marked with a (*). 

“Not Extreme, Not Insane, Just R.I.P.P.E.D.” That ‘s the promise on the cover of R.I.P.P.E.D.*, a workout DVD that also claims to be “The One Stop Body Shock.”

R.I.P.P.E.D. is a clever acronym for a workout system designed by Terry and Tina Shorter. They are also the instructors of the DVD. The workout is broken down into a warm-up, five sections, and a cool down. Each section represents the fitness components of the acronym R.I.P.P.E.D. Each section is 5-10 minutes long.

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All right. So what does R.I.P.P.E.D. stand for?

R – Resistance

I – Intervals

P – Power

P – Polymetrics

E – Endurance

D – Diet

The total workout is 48 minutes. There is an option to do the workout with or without tutorials. In the tutorials, one of the instructors explains each move and proper form before each section. The workout is an hour and five minutes with the tutorial. Once you know the moves, you’ll probably want to skip the tutorial.

The workout itself is a nice mix of cardio and toning. There is no complicated choreography. There are familiar moves like lunges and squats. (Terry informs the viewer that there are, in fact, 128 total squats in the workout! I’ll take his word. I didn’t count.) There are jumps and kickboxing moves. The workout is at an intermediate level, but there are modifiers doing both beginner and more advanced moves. I also liked that upper body moves were done on their own during the resistance portion of the workout. I like compound moves, but I sometimes feel that I can’t go as heavy with weights when I’m moving around while working the upper body. It was nice to focus on the arms by themselves. This was a challenging workout, but it was doable.

There is also a bonus five-minute abs section.

The DVD doesn’t have an instructional on the “D,” Diet & Nutrition. There is a screen from the menu that suggests that you find a sensible nutrition program. It also directs you to visit the R.I.P.P.E.D. website for more information. The website has a fairly extensive “Diet and Nutrition” tab that offers nutritional info and a sample day menu.

What I didn’t love about the workout–the instructors (sometimes) and the soundtrack.

Both Terry and Tina are pretty cheesy and almost overly positive as instructors. It’s almost like they’re trying too hard. But, they are tolerable. And sometimes even encouraging like when they tell you not to quit because “you’ve come so far!”

But, oh…the music. There are lyrics such as: “R-I-P-P-E-D! I love it ’cause it’s so intense.” T.E.R.R.I.B.L.E. Terry sometimes starts to sing along. I learned from Terry’s biography that he has an education and experience in music. And guess what…Terry produced, wrote, and performed the original tracks on the DVD. Really wished he hadn’t.

But, if you can get past those two things, this is a solid intermediate workout. No, it’s not insane (or hmmm…Insanity). There is potential for progression (by adding heavier weights or more intensity).

Ellen Barrett Live: Sleek Sculpt Express Review

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I received a complimentary copy of Sleek Sculpt Express for review purposes. I received no additional compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own. Additionally, my links to Amazon Associates are marked with a (*).2014-07-02_22-19-41

I heart workouts with Ellen Barrett. Her workouts are challenging yet not exhausting.

Ellen Barrett Live Sleek Sculpt Express* (2013) is a 30-minute workout. Ellen’s workouts are usually around 45 minutes, so it’s nice to have some “express” options from her. (Another one is Super Fast Body Blast!*) Ellen is joined by two background talent, Antonia and Michelle. The “live” in the series title refers to the fact that they did the complete workout.

The workout is done entirely standing up on a yoga mat, and it requires light hand weights in the three-pound range. It might be tempting to reach for heavier weights, but this might become too challenging as the workout continues. Michelle demonstrates the entire workout without weights. Shoes are optional. Ellen points out that this can help work the foot muscles.There is no dedicated warm-up. There is a brief cool down done while holding the weights.

The workout is primarily a toning workout. The choreography flows from one move to the next. You complete the routine on one side of the body and the second set switches sides. The moves are inspired by Pilates, dance, and yoga. Upper and lower body moves are integrated together, and the core is engaged. Working large muscle groups also gives the workout a cardio element. As Ellen says:

It’s the arms. It’s the chest. It’s the legs. It’s the core. Everything is always connected to everything.

Ellen likes to talk about your body’s energy, finding inspiration, and the like. During this workout, you’ll hear her say things like:

Take a moment. Just feel your spirit. Feel your energy. That’s what it’s all about.

I’m okay with her talk. It’s her way of being inspiring, and she doesn’t come off as preachy. I also like her message that beauty and fitness is more than the way you look. Ellen says that true fitness is being highly functional and having a big comfort zone. This enables you to do things that you need to do like race to your airport gate or after a child.

This could be a challenging workout for all levels. The challenge shows in Antonia’s face. She often looks like she is having a tough time, but she is able to do the workout. While the credits roll, they show the three stars chatting. You can’t hear them, but you can see Antonia joking about struggling at times with the weights while Michelle is less challenged without weights.

This DVD runs around $15, so it’s not as cheap as some other fitness DVDs available. But, I think this one has the potential of becoming a favorite in an at-home workout collection.

I hope to see more from Ellen soon!

Weight Watchers Ultimate Belly Review

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I received a complimentary copy of Ultimate Belly for review purposes. I received no additional compensation. Thoughts and opinions are my own. Additionally, my links to Amazon Associates are marked with a (*).

Weight Watchers Ultimate Belly Series* (2013) includes three core workouts led by fitness instructor Jennifer Cohen.  Within WeIGHTeach segment, there are three different levels you can follow–beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Cohen demonstrates the intermediate level of the moves. She is joined by two women who do the beginner and advanced options.  Cohen encourages you to challenge yourself at the intermediate or advanced levels, but she also says you can always modify and still get a good workout. A mat is suggested for this workout, and a pair of hand weights are optional for those doing the intermediate or advanced workouts.

The first segment is “10-Minute Ab Toner.” This is done on the floor. There are crunches and variations on c-curves. The most difficult move of this segment is the side planks with dips. A brief warm-up and cool down begin and end the segment.

The “20-Minute Ab Express” is another workout done on the floor. This workout includes Pilates-inspired moves, including the 100 and single leg stretch. There are also crunches and c-curves. This segment also begins with a brief warm-up and ends with a short cool down.

The final segment is “30-Minute Standing Ab Toner.” This workout starts off as a standing ab workout with moves like side bends. But, then it moves to the floor for familiar moves like c-curves and crunches. Why did they call this a standing ab routine?!

So, this workout fell a little flat for me. The pace of the workouts was sooooo slow. This DVD is also in the awkward position of advertising for all fitness levels but not being able to truly deliver on that. Even with the modifications, this DVD could be difficult for true beginners but not challenging enough for intermediate or advanced fitness levels. You may enjoy this workout if you enjoy a slower pace workout that you can easily modify, and you are at an advanced beginner fitness level.