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  • Review: Favado {Grocery Saving App}

    Favado

    Last week, I had the fabulous pleasure of attending the Savings.com Favado app launch, where I learned about this new grocery savings tool, and got to meet Andrea of Savings Lifestyle and Toni of The Happy Housewife for the first time after “knowing” them online for years. (If you’re fans of theirs too, know that they are as nice in person as they are online!) I enjoyed meeting the other bloggers in attendance too, as well as members of the Savings.com team. :)

    Favado is a new (and free!) mobile savings app that helps you find the best deals at your favorite stores, with and without coupons. For instance, using just the app and two $0.50 off coupons, one of the groups at the launch party scored 30% savings on their purchase. Andrea and I shopped together, and spent just under $100 for over $210 worth of items! (We used more coupons, of course, but not that many since we didn’t have our usual stash of inserts at our disposal.)

    I think Favado is an especially terrific option for someone not looking to use a whole bunch of coupons. It’s so easy to use, and includes listings for more than 65,000 grocery stores nationwide. You can use it to make up a list based on this week’s ads, complete with coupon match ups, and email the list to yourself (with links to any printable coupons). You can search for the current best price on something you need (perfect for when you run out of something!). And you can get notifications of sale prices on specific items (just tell Favado what you want to know about).

    One of the changes I suggested is to include right in the listing an “as low as” figure so that a deal-seeker with a price list would be able to tell without clicking through if there are coupons or other savings that bring the item down to a stock-up price. As it stands right now, I still find my method of scanning blog match ups for stock up prices easier to do than checking each individual item in Favado. But Favado is still useful for creating my shopping list once I know which store(s) I’m going to.

    Favado Screen Shot

    If you haven’t tried Favado yet (it’s FREE!), I encourage you to check it out. The development team at Savings.com is really interested in making the app as useful as possible, so if you have a suggestion for improvement, definitely use the Feedback option in the app to send them your idea. You can sign up below, and start using Favado as soon as you’ve downloaded the app!

    Disclosure: The Favado links in this post are affiliate links (thank you for using them!). All opinions are my own, honest opinions. You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Guest Review: Gluten is my Bitch by April Peveteaux

    I was sent a copy of Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free by April Peveteaux to review. I’ve experimented with going gluten-free, but my trial was pretty short-lived. So I thought the review would be more useful coming from my friend, R.D., who has celiac disease and truly needs to eat gluten-free. Here’s what she had to say …

    As the title suggests, the author is funny, but rather brash. Some newly-diagnosed people might find it too abrasive at first (when I was first diagnosed, I was an overly-sensitive self-contained pity-party that could cry at the drop of a bread basket!). But Peveteaux is completely right that the best way to approach this diagnosis is with humor and honesty, and she has a lot of great tips. Also, she is candid about the fact that her humor comes from a bitterness about having to be gluten-free. She even directly addresses those annoying hipsters who choose to be GF (and vegan or paleo). Anyone who has to be GF will ultimately connect with this book.

    The book starts out as a how-to guide on figuring out whether you need to be GF. Peveteaux’s story is entirely too familiar: no problems with gluten until a sudden onset of horrible stomach/bathroom problems without an obvious source, then invasive medical testing and a diagnosis of Celiac disease. Anyone who has been through this process will find Peveteaux’s descriptions recognizable and humorous. She also addresses those lucky people who discover a gluten intolerance/allergy without having stomach/bathroom problems. Later, she tackles how to deal with a child’s diagnosis, including several helpful tips about hidden sources of gluten in a child’s life (who would have even thought about Playdough?) and suggestions on snacks for GF kids of different ages.

    Because the book is a sort of hybrid between an introduction to going GF and a recipe book, it actually does not include very many recipes. However, the recipes I tried were all good, easy, and excellent resources for someone new to GF living. They are the types of foods you fear you will not be able to eat ever again on a GF diet (chicken fried steak?!), and they do not taste at all GF.

    I will say the recipes sometimes needed a little spicing up for my taste, but each was easily adaptable. For example, the macaroni and cheese was excellent, but next time I will add a little extra flavor – maybe some bacon or a more pungent cheese like gorgonzola. The Cowboy crepes were so good even my gluten-full boyfriend really enjoyed them. The chess pie (which I had never heard of) certainly lived up to its description as causing a “sugar coma” and was delicious!

    Peveteaux also provides good gluten-free cooking tips that will save a lot of time and bad experimentation. I wish someone would have told me not to eat GF dough (the terrible flavor of what looked like delicious chocolate chip cookie dough caused me some serious psychological damage), and that I could have saved a ton of time and frustration (and ended up with a better tasting pie) by just buying a frozen GF pie crust from Whole Foods instead of trying to make a GF crust from scratch.

    Overall, I think this book is a really good resource for anyone new to the GF diet.

    Thanks for your perspective, R.D.! (And I don’t remember any pity parties when you were newly diagnosed.)

    If you’re interested in purchasing the book, the Kindle edition is $9.99 and the hardcover version is $13.90 at Amazon.

    Review: Sea World San Diego

    We went to Sea World in San Diego for the first time a couple of weeks ago. The boys had a great time, and the animal performances are truly amazing. Everyone’s favorite part was the Sea Lions Live show, in which two sea lions and an otter do scenes from popular TV shows. I left wanting a small otter to take home as a pet. The host of that show was the most entertaining part of the day, and before the show began, it was fun trying to identify the TV theme song before he acted it out.

    We saw three other shows, Shamu Live, Blue Horizons, and Pets Rule. Predictably, Shamu Live has killer whales – and it just blows my mind that these enormous creatures can lift their bodies out of the water the way they do. Unfortunately, the “story” element of the show – involving some unclear theme of “believe” – detracts, rather than adds, to the enjoyment. And since the story involved a carved wooden whale tail, as we left the stadium, there was someone hawking whale tail necklaces to hit us over the head with the commercialism.

    Blue Horizons primarily features dolphins but also has pilot whales and beautiful birds. However, here too, there’s a ridiculous story that just gets in the way of the entertainment. In fact, they needed an emcee to describe the premise before the show started: a “young girl” dreams of interacting with dolphins and birds, and her dreams come true when she meets the dolphin god Delphis and the bird goddess Aurora. The “young” girl looked to be at least 30, so that was disconcerting. Delphis turned out to be a trainer whose gray wetsuit had the outline of a dolphin tail. Aurora and her bird trainers were not-quite-spectacular Cirque de Soleis style performers. There were also high divers looked like they’d reached their pinnacle in college – they were good, but not great, and one of them hit the water face first, causing me to cringe.

    You are allowed to enter the stadiums 30 minutes before showtimes, but for the most part, you’re then stuck sitting there with the kids with nothing to do. It’s not that big a deal for adults or older kids, but I recommend being prepared with a distraction with younger kids. We had snacks while waiting, which worked out because of the time between shows.

    Speaking of food, we ate lunch at the Calypso Bay Smokehouse, which was about what you’d expect from an amusement park restaurant: marginally edible and overpriced. Exercise caution if you order a large soda, because they don’t provide lids unless you spring for a souvenir cup – I ended up with soda on my plate, though it fortunately landed in an unoccupied compartment.

    Although the signs outside the park say no outside food or water, we clearly had bottled water and snacks in our backpacks when they were inspected at the gate and were allowed to bring them in. That helped keep costs down, since of course, everything is outrageously expensive inside the park. I was particularly shocked by the cold soda in reusable plastic bottles that were being sold before the shows for $8.75.

    There are a few rides at Sea World, but my boys didn’t meet the height requirement for most of them. For younger kids, the Sesame Street-themed rides in the Sesame Street Bay of Play area are great. Active kids of all ages will enjoy the climbing structure that’s in the same area.

    Right now, Sea World has a deal where you get a child’s ticket for just $5 when you buy an adult’s ticket. Regular admission is $69 for ages 10 and up and $59 for ages 3 through 9 (ages 2 and under get in free), so the $5 deal is awesome.

    Parking note: We arrived shortly after the park opened and declined the upgrade to VIP parking for an additional $5. After we parked, we were surprised by how close we were to the park (a world of difference from Disneyland), so I think you would want to pay for preferred parking only in very exceptional circumstances.

    Afternoon Coffee: Booster seats & More

    Baby Cheapskate recommends some booster seats under $50. Angie suggests skipping a high chair and going straight to a booster, because high chairs take up a lot of space and aren’t used for a long time. However, I’m glad we had a high chair because it tilted back. In the beginning, when the boys were just starting solids at 6 months, that was important.

    We’ve had the first booster Angie recommends, the Fisher-Price Healthy Care Deluxe Booster Seat,for four years now and still use it at home. It is super easy to use, and the chair wipes clean easily. However, after all of this use, I can’t get the straps and buckles sparkling clean anymore. We even got two of the cheaper versionto use at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. One word of caution here: the only chairs they have that can accommodate the booster are too wide in the back for the strap that’s supposed to go around. It’s not a big deal since the boys don’t spend a lot of time there, but it’s something to keep in mind. Disclosure: Product links are to Amazon. I’m an Amazon affiliate, so any purchase you make after entering Amazon through a link on Chief Family Officer supports this site at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

    Another booster Angie recommends is the KABOOST Portable Chair Booster.The Kaboost (pictured, left) slips under a chair’s feet to lift the whole chair up. I received one to review almost two years ago, and we’re still using it. (Read my original review.) I like that Alex can get in and out of the chair by himself but once in a great while, the leg will slip out of the Kaboost and that can be dangerous. Also, the kids can’t seem to help standing on it. I definitely recommend the Kaboost for older children, and not as a substitute for a high chair.

    As for other topics:

    I just finished reading The Futurist,a biography about James Cameron, the director of Titanic and Avatar. It’s very well written and absolutely fascinating. There’s a compelling anecdote on each page, from how Cameron broke into the film industry at the “Roger Corman School of Film” to how studio execs wanted Matthew McConaughey or Chris O’Donnell to play the role in Titanic that went to Leonardo DiCaprio. The story of how he came to make True Lies was just amazing. And although the book is clearly written with Cameron’s blessing, it doesn’t come across as overly skewed. If you have the time, I highly recommend it.

    Get a printable coupon for $4/1 Method laundry detergent. (Via Deal Seeking Mom.)

    Koupon Karen reports that some Shaw’s stores will have free 2-liter bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper tomorrow (2/21).

    Get a printable coupon for $1 off Yoplait Yo-Plus yogurt.

    The Children's PlaceClick on the banner for a printable coupon for 15% off at The Children’s Place. Through Monday (2/22), they have windbreakers on sale for just $10. Banner via MySavings.com

    Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate and/or referral links, and may refer to items that were sent to me for review. However, all opinions are my own. You can read Chief Family Officer’s full disclaimer and disclosure policy here.

    Quick Restaurant Reviews: Mozza2Go, Bottega Louie, Bouchon

    No Morning Coffee Post today, but here’s a roundup of some upscale restaurants in the LA area.

    Mozza 2 Go – The LA Times restaurant critic called it the best take out in town, and it certainly was delicious. Not quite as good as in the restaurant, but still excellent. My only gripe is that the hostess was a bit snotty, even after forgetting to give me one of our appetizers. She wasn’t very apologetic as she agreed to credit my card because I didn’t want to return for the item they left out. Funny how you start to get immune to bad service, though – we’ve had issues in the past with restaurants refusing to credit a card for an omitted item, so I was simply relieved at the time that I didn’t have to fight for what’s right. And although we haven’t been impressed by the desserts in the Pizzeria, the Butterscotch Budino gave us a whole new perspective on butterscotch. (I just realized that they never issued the credit . . . grrr!)

    Bottega Louie – I’ve been wanting to go to Bottega Louie for months and we finally made it earlier last month for lunch. The food was fantastic, as I expected it would be. The service was spotty at times, but considering the upscale feel and relatively downscale prices, I was more than satisfied. The entrees were on the small side, so it was surprising that the chocolate soufflé cake was so big. But I think it’s supposed to serve 2, which it certainly did – though it could have used a little more vanilla bean sauce.

    Bouchon Beverly Hills
    – One nice thing about Beverly Hills: Unlike the rest of Los Angeles, you can easily find free public parking. And famed chef Thomas Keller’s newest restaurant, Bouchon in Beverly Hills, sits right on top of a free public parking structure. (You can also valet your car. But wouldn’t you rather spend the money on dessert?)

    I was quite excited about our lunch date at Bouchon, and had made the reservations a month in advance. I’ve begun to read Ad Hoc at Home,which was one of my holiday gifts, and Carol Blymire’s first blog, French Laundry at Home, has made me familiar with Keller’s food. So I had high expectations. And they were met. The food combinations are unexpected, but work well together – like the crab crepe, which contained a filling of crab, marscapone, tiny chopped carrots, and was garnished with pink pickled onions. As a general rule, I hate onions. But I ate every piece of onion that was served to me at Bouchon. The cutting board of charcuterie came adorned with a line of pickled vegetables – adorable florets of cauliflower, tiny carrots and whole sweet pickles, radish, and more. I’m actually considering learning how to pickle.

    The only disappointment – and it wasn’t really a disappointment, my expectations were just so high – was the bread and the dessert. The bread, because it wasn’t anything special – the artisan bread I’ve been baking is just as good. And the dessert, because I ordered the restaurant’s signature bouchons – little chocolate cakes that were just that – little chocolate cakes that were like brownies with a crunchy topping, nothing very special.

    Overall, though, the food was good enough to make me put Bouchon on a very short list of fine dining restaurants I’d happily go back to again. (Pizzeria Mozza and Lawry’s being the only other ones.)

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