Archive for the 'Product Reviews' Category

Anderson Farms – Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch

Anderson Farms Fall Festival:
Children 3 & Under: FREE
Monday – Thursday: $10
Friday – Sunday: $13
*We received three tickets in exchange for a review.

3 of us at the Corn Maze 2015 TCP

We had a fantastic time at Anderson Farms yesterday! We opted to head out on Sunday, as that day looked like it would give us the best weather that weekend. As an added bonus, a certain Sportsball team was also playing on Sunday, so we knew the crowds would be minimal. (We were right!)

It ended up being the PERFECT day to go!

The weather was finally acting like fall, as we donned our long pants and boots. The chill in the air was just perfect to put us in the mood for exploring a corn maze and hunting for pumpkins! (September was absolutely GLORIOUS this year in Colorado, but it has not been very fall-like at all!)

We’ve been to Anderson Farms in the past, so I knew we’d have a great time. Pre-kid, we’d played there with other 20-somethings. Post-kid, we’d had a great time as a family. It’s a great place for people on all ends of the spectrum to have fun!

Here is a taste of what we experienced:

Ready to go? Maps? Check! ID Bracelets? Check! Ready to go!

Maps? Check! ID Bracelets? Check! Ready to go? Check!

We rocked it old-school. This WAS our GPS.

We rocked it old-school. This WAS our GPS.

We're lost! Just kidding. Momma's from Iowa. It's impossible to get truly lost in a cornfield.

We’re lost! Just kidding. Momma’s from Iowa. It’s impossible to get truly lost in a cornfield.

Maybe we go this way?

Maybe we go this way?

Maybe we go that way?

Maybe we go that way?

Let's go the other way!

Let’s go the other way!

After we had our fill of the corn maze, we hopped on a hayride and rode out to the pumpkin patch!

After we had our fill of the corn maze, we hopped on a hayride and rode out to the pumpkin patch!

We found these three gems in various parts of the field and gathered them together to make our final decision.

We found these three gems in various parts of the field and gathered them together to make our final decision.

Claire wanted the Ghost Pumpkin. Daddy wanted the Frankenstein Pumpkin, and I loved the little nibbly one. (The green one is deceptive HEAVY.)

Claire wanted the Ghost Pumpkin. Daddy wanted the Frankenstein Pumpkin, and I loved the little nibbly one. (The green one is deceptively HEAVY.)

Claire kept them safe for the ride back

Claire kept them safe for the ride back

Child Labor Laws are lax here, too! (This is our kind of place!)

Child Labor Laws are lax here, too! (This is our kind of place!)

Here's how they do the pricing. Not too shabby! (We had two larges and a small.)

Here’s how they do the pricing. Not too shabby! (We had two larges and a small.)

 

So, what are you waiting for, Colorado? I think fall may actually be here for a bit (before it changes its mind again). Go! Anderson Farms is a great way to get a taste of the fun parts of fall. Enjoy!

Anderson Farms Coupon

andersonmaze4x6The corn maze at Anderson Farms is one of our favorite activities to do when the days shorten and we slip closer to fall. This year, we’ve been invited to check it out in exchange for a review, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, here are some discount tickets if you’d like to check it out for yourself!

LEGO Brick Fest – Denver

LEGO Brick Fest

Okay, I need to post a couple disclaimers. First, I was given free tickets in exchange for writing about this event. The tickets were $25 a person. We did pay $5 for parking out of our own pocket. That means, had we just been regular ol’ people off the street, this would have been an $80 event.

Second disclaimer: We love, love, love all things LEGO. (I daresay we’re LEGO snobs.) A few years ago, we went to LEGO KidsFest at the Convention Center in Denver. We loved it. We felt like we got our money’s worth, and then some. (That event was SO much bigger AND cheaper to attend!) Also, my husband and Claire love going to MAKER Faires, and the pricing to get in there was a fraction of the cost of this event, and some of the same groups were there.

So, what about this event? Honestly? I don’t feel it was worth the $80 we would have spent to go. I feel ungrateful writing this, because we were given free tickets, and we did enjoy ourselves, but I’m under no obligation to twist the truth about this. I appreciate it when people are straight with me, so I try to do the same.

As I said above, we’re LEGO snobs, and even we thought this event paled in comparison to other LEGO events we’ve been to. If you’re NOT a LEGO snob, I have a feeling you’d be even more upset about the price.

Was it fun? Sure. We had a good time, as you can see by the photos below. Did we have $25-a-head worth of a good time? Nope. Did I keep thinking about how MIFFED I’d be had we actually paid full-price to go? Absolutely, and that’s what I want to be clear about in this review.

There was a lot to do, but even after doing everything we wanted to, we were only there for two hours.

LEGO Brick Fest Collage

Click photo to enlarge.

Some LEGO creations glowed in a blacklight!
We built and raced our own race cars. (Red is the fastest color, but Claire’s car won!!)
Dad and Claire created masterpieces on a LEGO wall. (A Pirate, an Alien Dude, and a Fox.)
Mini-golf!
Claire free-built a creation to add to the city.
The signs warning people not to touch other creations were hysterical!

The event was well-run. The location was relatively easy to get to. We did enjoy ourselves.

…but we enjoyed ourselves even more because we had free tickets. 😉

Supper Bell Denver Review

Here’s a Short Sweet To The Point Review of Supper Bell, Denver:

Website: http://www.supperbell.com
Ease of ordering: Great
Quality of Food: Fantastic
Value of Food: Awesome
Would we recommend this service? Absolutely, and we can’t wait for them to offer service to our zip code!

Here’s a more lengthy review, more befitting of The Casual Perfectionist:

I get pitches all the time. In fact, that’s what I do with most of them: pitch ‘em…get it? Something about this pitch caught my eye, and I popped over to the Supper Bell website. Alas, they weren’t servicing my zip code, but I responded to the email and told them I was intrigued and to let me know when they were.

Imagine my delight when they responded back right away and offered to make an exception. They would love for us to try the food, on the house, in our zip code anyway.

A CHEF WILL MAKE MY DINNER AND DELIVER IT TO MY HOUSE?
SIGN ME UP.
(So I did.)

The hardest part about all of this was figuring out what to choose. It all looked so good!

I placed my order and arranged delivery, and on Thursday, our knight in shining armor arrived on his white steed.

Just kidding. It was a cute little van.

...and he was right on time. Bonus!

…and he was right on time. Bonus!

And he came bearing gifts:

SupperBell Order

Each meal comes with “no-brainer” instructions on how to reheat which particular items.

These are the meals we reheated...

These are the meals we reheated…

These would be served as is...

These would be served as is…

So, what did we order?

Family Chicken Meal
Summer Quinoa Bowl
Gigande Bean Salad
Niçoise Salad
Chicken Nuggets & Polenta Cakes
Orange Mini Cake

As I said above in the quick review, everything was great. The parts we didn’t prefer have nothing to do with Supper Bell, and more to do with our personal preferences.

For example, Claire wasn’t a big fan of the Kid’s Chicken Nuggets. She didn’t like the breading, and she’s not a huge fan of Polenta. We tried the Chicken Nuggets, and we weren’t a huge fan of the breading as well. We love Polenta, so we helped her finish that. (However, she’s *not* a fan of BBQ sauce, and actually really liked the kind they made. Go figure!)

Neither my husband nor Claire are big fans of quinoa. I wasn’t going to include this in my order, but Supper Bell suggested I try it, and I *am* a fan of quinoa, so I thought it would be good to try, knowing it would be a hard sell. The verdict? They tried it, and I didn’t have to fight anyone for the rest of it. (Their loss!)

My plate, Round One.

My plate, Round One.

Two huge favorites were the Gigande Bean Salad and Niçoise Salad. In fact, Claire would have eaten the whole Niçoise Salad before we even sat down to dinner, and the Gigande Bean Salad may actually be my husband’s and my new favorite food! Seriously. It’s THAT good.

The Family Chicken Meal turned out to be much bigger than I anticipated, and because the chicken came in two separate containers, I only heated one half. (Even then, we couldn’t eat all of it. We had the rest of that portion as left overs the next day, and we had the other half last night for dinner.) It was juicy and so savory. The potatoes were to die for, and the radishes were good, too. (We’re a fan of radishes. If you’re not, it may not be for you.)

I wasn’t sure how “mini” the Mini Cake would be, and it is pretty tiny, but just the perfect size to have a little something sweet for dessert. As luck would have it, Claire wasn’t a big fan. She twisted our arms, so we begrudgingly agreed to help finish her portion. *shifty glance*

Supper Bell Mini Cake

Our bill, with tax and delivery was just under $60. This really was restaurant quality food, and we’d gladly use this service again. (I do a Weekly Meal Plan, so it would be great to fit this in on a day when I want something fancy without all the prep-time.) “Wow, this was worth it!” my husband said, which is pretty much a top review from him.

As always, this review was honest as we see it. The food was provided by Supper Bell, but the words are all mine. Mmmm. …and now I’m plotting about how to get some more of that Gigande Bean Salad…
😉

Book Review: Release by Hope Russell Nunki

Release CoverThere were lots of surprises hidden in Release by Hope Russell Nunki.

I love the point when you can find the title of a book within the pages, and I always anticipate the moment of finding it and making that connection with the author. Although this happened relatively early in this book, the meaning behind the title shifted and morphed throughout, and that was an interesting twist.

Speaking of twists, there are some others, too! I love a book that can keep your mind engaged with just enough predictability to feel like home and then surprise you with a twist you weren’t expecting.

Although this is a work of fiction, the author writes in such a way as to describe the different settings in this book perfectly. Having graduated from a small private college in Iowa, I can attest that Hope Russell Nunki is spot-on in her depiction of that experience. At times, it was as though I was looking back at footage of my own college days. As odd as it sounds, in addition to my Midwestern roots, I have also fallen in love with the desert southwest, so it’s never a surprise for me when a main character does as well.

Release wasn’t just a book of happiness and light, though. In fact, for those of us with certain triggers, parts of this book were hard to read. As someone who has suffered a miscarriage I will tell you, the heartache, pain, confusion, and second-guessing of every minute detail and the hysteria it can cause are very real. Some work through things in more efficient ways than others. The sting of such a loss may never truly die, and the rate at which it fades is based on a myriad of factors. Again, the author succeeded in making this fictional story very real.

Was it worth reliving personal pain to experience this story along with Mandelyn? Yes, it was. As uncomfortable as this is, it’s an integral part of Mandelyn and Henry’s story.

I loved the journey this story provides, with all the ups and downs, and twists and turns. I found myself crossing my fingers for various characters in this book. At times my wishes were granted, and at others, not so much. I couldn’t wait to see how it would end.

Water World!

So, what did we think of Water World?
In short: It is fantastic!

Click on photos in this post to show more detail.

Waves at Water World

Waves at Water World

Everyone had a fabulous time…
…except me.
Wait.
What??

Well, to be clear, this wasn't Water World's fault.

Well, to be clear, this wasn’t Water World’s fault.

The other thing that corresponded with the dates for our Water World Adventure was my foot injury. I’m in the midst of needing to wear a boot to immobilize my foot. My husband and our friends had arranged time off work for our adventure, and moving it around to suit the unpredictable needs of my foot just wouldn’t be feasible.

“Can’t you cheat?” people would say, with a hopeful lilt in their voices.

“No, I can’t,” I’d say, trying not to sound completely defeated. The thought of needing more time in this boot is daunting. I don’t want to risk it.

“Can’t you take the boot off and just do some of the easier rides, or just walk in the water?” they’d say, trying to find any way to make me happy.

“Yes, I can take off the boot,” I said, seeing their eyebrows raise in anticipation. “…but, if I have to bend my foot at all, it won’t work. Even the ‘easy’ attractions are full of jostling and bumping, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from a water park,” I added.

Sadness.

So, I took one for the team.

Just ONCE, I’d like “take one for the team” to mean, “Here, take this duffel bag of unmarked bills. Find something to do with all this cash.”

…but I digress.

We were going with some friends and knew we’d be paying for at least one ticket amongst our group.

Note: I was invited to enjoy Water World during Blogger Week. We were given complimentary full-day passes to Water World and lunch vouchers. I was not paid in any other manner for my review, and I want to be clear: these words are mine, and my view of the experience was not influenced by this fantastic turn of events. As luck would have it, Blogger Week coincided nicely with a trip to the park we were already organizing with some friends. I LOVE it when a plan comes together!

Claire had Robotics Camp in the morning, but the park doesn’t open until 10am anyway. We picked her up at Noon and headed over. When we checked in, I asked about paying for a discounted ticket for someone like me who wouldn’t be riding any of the rides (I hobbled and pointed at my boot) or even getting in the water (again, I pointed to my boot). That’s when I discovered they do offer a “Limited Use Pass” for $27. The regular full-day rate is $41 (I rounded up…it’s technically $40.99. You can get a $5 discount by purchasing tickets online), and the mid-day rate is $25.99 and only available starting at 1:45pm at the ticket counter.

They have a Limited Use Pass. Ask me how I know.

They have a Limited Use Pass. Ask me how I know.

I was so glad to hear they offer such a thing. Again, things were falling into place in the pricing department. That said, sitting it out at such a cool place like Water World was nearly the end of me. My heart ached. We found a shady picnic table by Thunder Bay, and watching the waves roll in (in the middle of Colorado no less!) made me long for the beach, which made me long to go play, too!

This is where I was (up there under the lower blue awning). So close, yet so far.

This is where I was (up there under the lower blue awning). So close, yet so far.

…but I couldn’t play, and I was very sad.

Map WW14

We pulled out the map, and they talked about their plan of attack.

After lunch, I helped slather everyone up with sunscreen, and away they went.
They were gone for three days.

…no really, they were actually gone for a couple of hours, and I wasn’t expecting that. The park is huge, so running back and forth to the table wasn’t easy, and no one thought to go check on the gimp. When they finally returned, the fact they had no idea so much time had passed just made me laugh.

Because if I didn’t laugh, I’d cry. Maybe going to Water World in my boot wasn’t such a good idea. Now that I got a taste of what it was like, it made me sad.

Saved by Mary-Frances! I made her take my picture. She's a fellow blogger, so she readily obliged.

Saved by Mary-Frances! I made her take my picture for posterity. She’s a fellow blogger, so she readily obliged.

Then I was able to touch base with a friend (at Denver Parent) who was also visiting during Blogger Week. Immediately my foot stopped aching (being left out makes it hurt, apparently), and my mood perked up. Granted, I tried to keep a happy face for the people on the outside of my head, but this was so hard. Everyone was having such a great time, and I was not.

Boo.
Woe is me.

After my group got back and before going out for another round of water rides, Dad and Claire played in the water with our waterproof camera.

Wave Pool Calm WW14

In the tube WW14

View from the top of the tube WW14

Lazy River

Claire said the Lazy River was her favorite ride.

By the way, seeing all the photos they took makes me smile. It’s so hard to go to a place like this and sit out, so it’s fun to live vicariously through the photos. They had such a good time that I’m glad I went. No, really I am. I kept reminding myself that not all was lost.

What are the benefits to having someone that can sit it out?

  • We had no need to rent a locker.
  • No one would take our table, and our belongings were safe.  People leave their coolers and towels in various locations, but I definitely felt better keeping an eye on our stuff.
  • The 8.5-yr old could only handle so many hours of fun. Because I was sitting it out anyway, she could rest while the other adults went for one (or two or three) more rounds. In a typical situation, we’d just have to take turns.
  • The people-watching is like none other.

Over all, I was impressed with Water World.

  • All of the staff members were polite and courteous.
  • The place was clean.
  • The atmosphere was incredibly inviting, exciting, and fun.
  • We totally lucked out with the weather, but they do have a Rain Check policy in place if your visit is cut short due to weather.
Claire & I took a break for some Dippin' Dots. Our favorite!

Claire & I took a break for some Dippin’ Dots. Our favorite!

I was able to post some pictures on Twitter with the hashtag: #blogwaterworld

Water World’s Social Media Info:
Twitter handle: @waterworldco
Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/waterworldco
Website: www.waterworldcolorado.com

Would I recommend Water World? Absolutely!

For a theme park, it was worth the price of admission. Everyone who went with me absolutely loved it. I will love it even more next time.

Relaxing in Wave Pool WW14

The Inn of the Governors in Santa Fe

We were in Santa Fe for the long weekend! It’s no secret that we love Santa Fe. It’s always held a special place in our hearts. It’s hard to explain. It’s relaxing. It’s invigorating. It’s magical. The energy there is very renewing, yet very old.

When I say “old,” I mean old.  They just celebrated FOUR HUNDRED YEARS, and I’m just mesmerized.  Yes…400 years.  Amazing!

A sign at The Royal Palace, aka The Palace of the Governors. No, we didn't stay here. We stayed at their Inn. 😉

Luckily, Claire likes Santa Fe as much as we do, and she wanted to know if it would be possible to move our house down there and attach it to the hotel. Soon-to-be Kindergarteners have an interesting perspective on how things should work.

I mean, if we moved the house there, we wouldn’t need to be next to the hotel, right? She reminded us that we don’t have a pool. Duh. 😉

This year, we tried out a new lodging place. In years past, we’ve stayed at Garrett’s Desert Inn. It’s two blocks from the famed Plaza and not a million dollars. Well, the last time we stayed there, it was really showing the wear and tear, and this time, we opted for something that was a just as close to the Plaza, and in a little better shape. It wasn’t right ON the Plaza, so it wasn’t a million dollars a night.

This year’s choice was The Inn of the Governors. We loved it!   (No, this isn’t a paid review…it’s not even a formal one!)  If you ever stay in Santa Fe, one thing to figure into the price of your room is parking. Parking in Santa Fe near the Plaza is at a premium. The spaces are tiny and expensive. The Inn of the Governors worked the price of parking into their daily rate, threw in a complete hot breakfast buffet AND a $25 daily credit at the restaurant on site.

We thought for sure that meant the food would be 1) expensive or 2) mediocre. It was neither of those two things!! It was fantastic food and VERY reasonably priced! Sweet!

Parking, pool, breakfast, daily credit, AND it’s two blocks from the Plaza? Perfect!

Now, the parking spots at the Inn of the Governors were TINY. We folded the mirrors in on my car, even thought it’s not a huge car! I acted as a spotter when we parked and departed, and it worked. This being said, parking anywhere downtown is going to be a challenge.

The pool was great. It was heated and lovely. The hotel provides cookies, tea, and sherry (for free) at 4pm every day, so it was nice to take advantage of that while relaxing at the pool!

The room we had was furnished with two beds and included a Kiva Fireplace.

No, we didn’t need to fire that up, but the firewood is provided for those nights when you’d want to.

We really wanted a balcony, but opted not to spring for the cost of that. Maybe next time? Maybe not.

We loved being so close to the Plaza, and an evening stroll was just what we needed to unwind from our adventures of the day.

Whirlygig at dusk

Whirlygigs near the Plaza

Stay tuned for more about those adventures!

Going ad-free

Since November of 2007, my website has been monetized. It took a while to be approved by various companies, and I was so thankful when I was!  It made me feel legitimate.

The ads were relatively tasteful and unobtrusive, so I didn’t have a problem putting them in my sidebar. Did I make money from my blog? Yes. Was it a ton? No. I didn’t expect it to be, but it more than covered the cost of hosting, etc…which was nice.

Why did I put ads on my site? I just wanted to see what would happen, and the old sales manager inside me twitched when she thought about “leaving money on the table.” Being “paid” to do what I love doing anyway? Sweet.

Lately, though, I’ve been feeling weird about having ads on my site. Everywhere I look, I see ads, and I’m pretty good at tuning them out elsewhere, but this coupled with the “reviews” I’ve been asked to do (which I declined on my own personal principals), and something just wasn’t sitting right with me.

The first thing to go were the reviews. I’m not doing them anymore. Every single review on my site is truthful, but I’m not doing formal reviews anymore. My time is more valuable than what the PR people would have me peddle.

Oddly enough, because of my experiences in online reviews, and even though I never lied in a review, I don’t trust the reviews I read online. There, I said it. There are certain people I trust, so if they write about it, I can tell what is real and what has been suggested wording by a PR person.

I still search online for reviews, but I put different weight on the impromptu reviews. So, in the course of our relatively adventurous lifestyle, if I see something that I like, I’ll tell you about it. If I see something I don’t like, you’ll hear about that, too. That hasn’t changed. To me, those “reviews” mean more than any “review” I read about online, and they’ll still come up in Google when I type in a search phrase.

So, what does this have to do with ads? I think it’s time to break free. I’ve already made enough this year to cover my hosting (or will by the time all the final checks come in), so the twitching sales director in my head is happy. I will be free to focus on my book project, and I won’t have any blog/advertiser publishing requirements hanging over my head.

When I started this writing adventure, I updated the blog every day. Now that I’m working on my book, it’s harder to maintain that level of attention.

So, welcome to the ad-free version of The Casual Perfectionist. Your visit here today hasn’t benefited me monetarily, but I love you anyway. 😉

“Tangled” is my favorite Disney Princess Movie. There, I said it.

NOTE:  I talk about this movie in detail, but I’ve done a trick with the font color.  If you don’t want to be spoiled, be sure you’re reading this at The Casual Perfectionist (and not through a reader).  If you want to see the spoilery bits, just highlight the portion between the <spoiler> and </spoiler> for the text to be revealed!

Daddy went skiing this weekend, so Claire and Momma had a fun girls’ day together. This time, we decided to go see Tangled!

This is the newest Disney Princess movie, and it’s based on the story of Rapunzel. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how they were going to adapt this story, because the original story is a bit creepy, but aren’t all Disney movies, in a way?  😉

I LOVE what they’ve done with the story. In fact, I dare say this is my favorite princess movie…EVER.

Claire loved it too!

There were parts that made her nervous, but I’d whisper to her that I was just SURE things would work out.

She was pretty distressed by one thing that happened, but it’s not what you might think!  Since some of you may want to remain spoiler free, I’ll type it in white font. If you want to see it, highlight the following space (between the spoiler tags) with your mouse:

<spoiler>
She was SO DISTRESSED when Rapunzel’s hair was cut SHORT and turned BROWN! Never mind the fact that Flynn had just perished and Mother Gothel looked like she’d seen the spirits come out of the Ark of the Covenant.

“Is it going to grow back, Momma!? Is it going to turn blonde again!? Oh, this is just TERRIBLE!”

Ha!

No, she didn’t like when he died, but more because that triggered the short brown hair incident. Plus, he gets to live and she is stuck with short brown hair!?
</spoiler>

Oh, Claire!  I explained that it could never happen to her.  😉

Was this movie too scary for Claire? No. BUT, all kids are different, so before you decide to take your own little prince or princess to this movie, consider the following:

We haven’t seen Dumbo, Bambi nor The Lion King with her yet.   The wolves in Beauty and the Beast are somewhat scary to her, but she’s more concerned about Belle’s father and why he’s sick.  She has no idea that there is a beginning scene to Finding Nemo, because I skip it.  (Truth be told, it’s too scary for ME.)  She asks to watch that movie and loves it on one level but cries through the ENTIRE thing because the dad and Nemo can’t find each other. (“Will they EVER find each other??” “Um, yes…you’ve seen this before and know they do…plus, it’s called FINDING Nemo.”) That just REALLY bothers her.

Dragons? Witches? No bother.
Not being with the one you love and searching? DREADFUL.

I loved Tangled.  I LOVED it. One of the things I loved most about it was the fact that

<spoiler> neither of her parents were killed by the end of the movie!! </spoiler> In fact, I’d have to research this, but I think the only Disney PRINCESS movie prior to Tangled that has <spoiler> a LIVE mother is Princess and the Frog, but they kill Tiana’s father off </spoiler> by the end of the story…

In the meantime, I’ve spent the last couple of days (sleeping hours excluded, when she’s just regenerating more questions to ask) answering questions about the movie:

<spoiler>

How did Mother Gothel feed the baby Rapunzel? (This is my personal favorite, and I don’t know the answer!)

How did Mother Gothel get out of the castle without hurting herself or the baby?

Was the tower already there or did she build it?

How did Mother Gothel get up and down before Rapunzel’s hair grew long enough?

How did Rapunzel take a bath?

How did she go to the potty with all that hair?

Will Rapunzel’s hair EVER grow back?  Will it EVER turn blonde again?

</spoiler>

…and so on.

My favorite question, which isn’t too spoilery at all, was when she asked how Mother Gothel kept her there without locking her in the tower. We got to talk about brainwashing, and how it’s possible to be kept captive by guilt and lies.

All great questions…from such a great movie!

NO, I did NOT get to see this movie for free.  I paid good hard-earned money for it, and I’d do it again in a heart-beat. 😉

Wanna know what I REALLY thought of Disney On Ice this year?

Claire LOVED Disney on Ice!  But, what did *I* think?

I’ve written about it, IN FULL, here.

Click on the photo to check out my review!