If you are looking for stilletto recommendations, you are in the wrong place. I need to be able to run after my kids without falling on my face. Want to know your smartphone's metapix? Sorry. I only write about whether it can survive 5 minutes in the hands of my kids.
I am hosting Christmas Dinner this year. Actually, this is our third year hosting, but the first one with a toddler under foot. Thus, I need all the help I can get. Read: catered dinner.
Alas, our budget does not allow for such luxury, but dang if I am going to be slaving over a stove. It was a similar issue we had for my son’s christening last spring. With over 20 people coming, I needed major food help.
At that time, I hit up BJs for tons of appetizers, fixings to make mini-sandwiches, chips and dips, fruit, cheese trays, a cake and mini-pastries too. We got everything there for our celebration. So in the week ahead, I am heading to BJs for our holiday party too. Lesson learned from our christening; I am also going to grab some table cloths, party favors, flowers for centerpieces, soft drinks, juices, coffee and tea. The prices can’t be beat.
However, everything comes down to taste. So I wanted to share an event that is going on this Friday and Saturday at all BJs locations (from 11am-6pm). It is a Live Holiday Entertaining Showcase to give Members a chance to try food for their holiday table. Tons of stations with nibbles to taste and sample.
I love innovative products. Especially those developed by a Mom who sees a problem and creates something to fix it. Case in point – gunk over your nice fabric-covered chairs. You know the ones. The ones that were nice before you had kids.
If you are in crisis mode, or are biting your nails waiting for the first spill that does the chair in, here is a product to the rescue. Just in time for the holiday parties and the clumsy cousin, the sloppy sister, the…you get the picture.
The product is the SmartSeat Chair Protector. It is a waterproof, stain resistant, and machine washable cover for dining room and kitchen chairs. They are made from a lovely fabric that, unlike vinyl, doesn’t stick to you or squeak when you sit on it. The fabric reminds me of a nice microfiber. So it does not look cheesy, and it discreetly protects your upholstered chairs from stains and spills – without looking like you are trying to protect them. Total bonus.
The product claims that the covers fit almost all styles and sizes of chairs and are easy to use. The creator and owner, Becky, sent me a sample to check out. I tried it on our new dining room chairs. We just got them this fall and will be “breaking” them in on Christmas Day. They are pretty big and have that triangle shape, plus a slightly curved front, which makes it even harder to find a cover that will fit. I have been having mini-panic attacks wondering how to make sure they did not get destroyed during the holiday hoopla.
See, aren’t they lovely?
And I want to keep them that way!! So I followed the SmartSeat Cover directions from the video that Becky created. (Here is the other How To Video for those that have smaller chairs.)
Viola, my protected dining room chairs! Aren’t they pretty?
Now again, with the curved front of our chairs, there is a bit of fabric hanging in the front, but it looked fine to me in person. Every chair is different so you can fold it under, or tuck it another way. The product is versatile that way. Plus, it took me about 20 seconds to put it on the chair. Super fast and fabulously easy. I sat up and down on them, wiggled my butt, and even put my two dogs on the chair to see if it (or they) would slip and slide.
The cover still looked fantastic. (Though trying to get the dogs off the fabulously covered chair was another matter). I also love how you cannot see the straps as they are hidden under the chair. No bows, or knots to contend with either.
So fast forward a bit and let’s say dinner is all done. The covers can be thrown into the wash and dryer. My only suggestion is that since the straps do have velcro, to secure the straps before throwing the cover in the wash so it does not pull the fabric. Just like you would do with baby bibs. (Though the velcro on these covers are a lot stronger!) After I ran it through the dryer, no wrinkles! Bonus! Plus, it folded up small so no bulky storage either.
If you are looking for a solution to cover your chairs, this is it. Plus, if you order by December 20th, you can get them in time for Christmas! They come in three colors: midnight blue, sandstone tan and metro black. The covers are priced around $20 a piece though you can get them as low as $15 if you order 8 or more. So you could get 8 to outfit your dining room or kitchen chairs for those special occasions, or grab a couple to slip under high chairs or toddler booster seats. We used to put an old towel between the our Space Saver highchair and our kitchen chair to protect the fabric from flying, goopy, baby food. <Sigh> I wish I had learned about the SmartSeat Dining Cover earlier. (RIP, Kitchen Chair. RIP.)
Great product, Mom-run and developed business, and affordable to boot = a fabulously ‘smart’ must have.
FYI – The third person who emails me at Charlene@CharleneChronicles.com can get a free midnight blue smartseat cover!
If you have been to a Magic Beans store recently, you may have seen signs about its one-of-a-kind shopping application. Until recently, I would see the advertisement and promptly forget about it until the next time I saw the sign, and so on.
I promptly kicked myself for not learning about it sooner.
I am a huge fan of self-service shopping and checkouts at retailers like Stop & Shop, BJs and CVS. I always choose that option or that line. It makes the shopping experience super fast and fabulously efficient. Other times, I look like crap or I’m in a crappy mood and just want to get in and get out without having to interact with anyone. Throw in a screaming baby, or a toddler in a tantrum, and self-service shopping/check-out goes from ‘awesome’ to ‘absolutely necessary’.
First, you need to have an iPhone or Andriod phone (though more options are in the works). The application was designed and developed by a local Boston-based company called AisleBuyer, and mark my words, they are posed to hit the shopping world by storm. This Magic Beans app is the first in the nation, but I am sure that we will be seeing more in the months ahead.
The second thing is to download the app. Once it is downloaded, it will ask you two things: whether or not you want to receive push notifications, and if the app can use your location.
The push notifications aren’t necessary, so you can say no, but if you say yes, you can get notices when there is a special promotion going on in Magic Beans stores, or targeted discounts on things you might be interested in. Say you’ve purchased 4 of the 5 parts of the Star Wars Lego set…the next time you’re in the store, you may get a 25% of coupon for the 5th set. Cool.
The use of your location is necessary though. Otherwise, the application doesn’t know you are in a Magic Beans store and won’t work otherwise.
After that, you create a username and password, and then enter your payment information, like a credit card number and your billing address. This information is saved in a “cloud”. What that means is that even if someone takes your phone, there’s no way they can pull the information from it. A lot of people get freaked out by shopping on a phone, but the payment system utilizes a 128-bit encryption, so it’s every bit as safe as online banking.
So, the first time you use the app (assuming you haven’t downloaded and set it up before coming to Magic Beans) it does take a little extra time (maybe 1-2 minutes) to set up your information. But it is a one time deal, so when you come back to Magic Beans again and use the mobile check-out, it will be a lot faster.
Now that you have done the above steps, you’re ready to shop.
All you do is walk around Magic Beans and scan barcodes using the camera on your phone. The app is directly linked to the Magic Beans computer system, so you have access to all of the product information that they have, such as reviews, specifications, special deals, as well as the price. It is like you are shopping online, but in person. (Plus, it alerts a Magic Beans’ employee that someone is electronically shopping. So if there is any willy-nilly going on, they can get the 411.)
Finally, when you’re ready to check-out, you can do it from anywhere in the store. So if your toddler is about to have a meltdown, you are not having to stand in line too. On your phone, you just go to your cart, review your purchases, and click checkout. You then get a receipt on your phone, which is stored there – no paper involved – and you get a copy emailed to you as well. You also get a 6 digit confirmation code, which is shown to a a Magic Beans employee who verifies the purchase on their computer system (much like warehouse stores do when they check your receipt at the door).
From the time you’re ready to checkout, until the time you’re walking out the door, the checkout process usually takes 15-20 seconds, 30 seconds tops. Even if there is zero line, it’s STILL faster, because everything has already been scanned, all the discounts are applied, and all of your payment information is stored.
One example I got from a representative from AisleBuyer, was of a woman who had a downloaded the app and who had come to Magic Beans again because she had forgot to purchase an item on a previous trip. With a checkout line 6 people deep, she used the app. From the time she walked into the store until she walked out of the door, item in hand and paid for, it took 54 seconds and she saved $3 dollars.
Generally, I like that there is no more watching for coupons or searching for discount codes. I also love you don’t have to deal with paper receipts either, and if for some reason you have to return an item, Magic Beans has the information electronically too. So no more searching for the receipt you shoved in a car console, a random pocket or at the bottom of a diaper bag. I also love that Magic Beans ‘gets it’. Parents are busier than ever and it is great that Magic Beans offers a unique way to help us get what need, quickly, but without sacrificing quality. (Now if I could only get the nearby Starbucks to have a drive-thru…) However, if you like shopping the old way, or not too keen on the technology, no worries. You can still check-out at the cash register, and chit chat with the awesome Magic Beans employees.
But…if you are now slightly intrigued by this app, the next time you shop at one of Magic Beans stores, check it out. If you are there between now and Christmas and you use the app to buy your items, you get the chance to “Spin the Magic Wheel” on your phone, and save $1, $3, or $5 off your purchase, or win everything in your cart for $0.99. Nice!
Anyway, I love the app. I think it is really neat, and the technology behind the application will soon change the way many of us will be shopping for a long time to come.
Over the past twelve days I have featured a variety of holiday gift ideas for moms, dads, grandparents, brothers and sisters, babysitters, friends, co-workers and of course, kids. Everything from a martian moonhouse to mothers’ jewelry. Yet, I saved, what I think is the best gift, for last.
The gift of time.
While there is often no monetary value to giving the gift of time, it can be worth a great deal to the person to whom you are giving it. It could be a husband watching the kids on a Saturday afternoon while his wife can get a manicure and a cup of coffee, or just a Sunday afternoon nap. Perhaps it is a wife giving her husband an afternoon of golf with his brother or an Friday night beer with a best friend. Maybe it is giving an elderly relative an afternoon of time to reminisce or an offer to run errands on a cold morning.
It could be something as simple as a promise to spend more time as a family in 2011, dedicated time each week to have a family game night, or a an effort for a couple to connect together at the end of each day.
You could print out the promise on a pretty piece of paper and wrap it in a bow. Maybe even create a coupon book of promises to empty the dishwasher or fold the laundry, mow the lawn or vacuum the garage.
Whatever it is, on the 12th Day of Charlene Chronicles, a fabulous gift idea for this holiday season is just the gift of time.