Reviews and Giveaways

chocolate barI’m in the midst of dealing with caffeine withdrawal. I have recently realized that I’m addicted to my very strong morning coffee and as I’m unwilling to be addicted to anything, I stopped cold turkey yesterday, which is probably not the best idea.

The terrible headache of yesterday has now turned into brain fog, sluggishness and general weakness. Let’s just hope it’s only a matter of a few more days, since it was just one daily cup (although likely as strong as three average cups!).
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pastry shoesPastry shoes are pastry-colored athletic shoes from Angela and Vanessa Simmons, who are apparently the stars of some reality show, but since I don’t watch reality shows, the name of the show means little to me.

However, upon receiving an email from the company’s representative asking me if I would agree to a review and a giveaway of the shoes, I looked at the company’s website and realized that while I’m way too old for these shoes, my pre-teen girls are going to love them.
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addicted to coffeeEvery morning I wake up thoroughly excited about breakfast. But the truth is, it’s not so much excitement over what I’m going to eat, as it is about the fact that I am going to get my daily dose of caffeine. I know I’m addicted, because when I sleep in on the weekend, I wake up with a bad headache, that can be promptly fixed with said dose of caffeine.

I drink one cup of very strong coffee each morning, and one cup of decaf tea at night after dinner. So I’m not doing too bad actually. According to the Mayo Clinic, for most healthy adults, moderate doses of caffeine — 200 to 300 milligrams or about two to four cups of brewed coffee a day, are fine. In fact, recent research has shown that coffee can actually be good for you, as long as you consume it in moderation and avoid the typical high-calorie concoctions that you can get at Starbucks and such.

Of course, being a foodie means that I don’t just drink any coffee. My coffee needs to be good. I usually use French press to make my coffee, and I make it fairly strong – I use 2 heaping tablespoons of ground coffee for each 8-oz mug. For years I insisted on drinking Illy coffee, but recently I became annoyed with the price, and have discovered a blend of Starbucks that I really like – Africa Kitamu (I buy it on Amazon). To all the coffee snobs out there I say, Starbucks coffee can be very good – the main issue is that when you order cappuccino or latte at the store, you get just one shot of coffee in a 12-ounce drink- that’s way too diluted. But at home I have more control over how strong I make my coffee.

gevalia heritage blend When Gevalia Coffee got in touch with me and offered to send me their 1853 Heritage blend for review, I was of course excited. It’s always great to be able to try a gourmet coffee blend that I’ve never tried before! The 1853 Heritage Blend is a 100% Arabica blend. It’s a medium roast coffee with notes of caramel. It is roasted and blended in Sweden and is available for purchase online.

The Review

I made the coffee using my regular method – French press. I measured, as usual, 2 heaping coffee measuring spoons (marked as 7 grams each) of ground coffee per each 8-ounce cup. I took the coffee with 1 teaspoon sugar and about 1/4 cup hot milk, as I always do.

My verdict: The Heritage Blend provides a clean, ultra smooth coffee drinking experience. I couldn’t detect any dominant flavors (including the caramel that’s supposed to be there) or any acidity. It’s a very light blend, and while I wouldn’t go as far as to call it “bland,” it is definitely better suited for individuals who prefer light coffee blends. If you like bold, full-bodied coffees with a pronounced finish, I would suggest making this blend stronger by adding 1 extra tablespoon per cup.

The Giveaway

Gevalia is generously offering to ship the following package to two US-based, 18+ readers:
1 box 1853 Heritage Blend coffee
1 very pretty coffee tin (says it’s decorative, so you can’t store the coffee in there!)
1 pack Gevalia coffee filters
Each package is valued at about $15

If you’re interested, please email vered at momgrind.com. I’ll use random.org to pick 2 random winners later today.

Update: The two winners have been chosen and notified via email. Thanks everyone for entering!

voskos greek yogurtMy beloved (seriously) client, Voskos Greek Yogurt, sent me lots of free product coupons that are due to expire at the end of the year. Would love to share the wealth with my US-based readers – enter your zip code in the “Find Voskos” box on the Voksos website and if it’s available where you live, please email vered at momgrind.com and I’ll send you coupons! Depending on how many responses I get, I’m going to limit this to 10 random readers, so don’t be mad if you don’t get any.

Voskos Greek yogurt is a thick, creamy, delicious yogurt that provides lots of protein, calcium and live cultures with very few calories (especially the nonfat varieties). I mostly eat it straight out of the jar, or mix the plain nonfat with honey, fruit and nuts. If you like to experiment with different recipes, there are lost of recipes to choose from here.

Thank you Voskos. 🙂

I don’t do giveaways often, but this is a product that I really like. So yes, (disclosure) I was given a slew of free products:

Voskos Greek Yogurt Selection 2

And I was also compensated for writing this review, but I love love LOVE Greek yogurt and Voskos is a great brand, so I’m happy to promote it here.

Greek Yogurt vs. Regular Yogurt

I tried Greek yogurt for the first time about a year ago, and immediately fell in love. Regular yogurt is a bit too runny for my taste, the plain variety tastes bland and the flavored is too sweet. But Greek yogurt is different. It is thick and creamy – even the nonfat Greek yogurt. Eating flavored Greek yogurt is a bit like eating dessert, while eating plain Greek yogurt gives you a similar experience to eating sour cream, but it’s a lot healthier.

Greek Yogurt Health Benefits

Of course, yogurt in general is very healthy. It is a good source of protein and calcium, and contains live active probiotic cultures, but until I discovered Greek-style yogurt, I couldn’t bring myself to eat yogurt regularly.

Voskos Greek Yogurt – the plain nonfat variety – is especially healthy. It contains twice the protein per ounce compared to regular yogurt, live and active probiotic cultures, no gums, starches or added sugars and no added flavors. I do love the full fat Voskos Greek yogurt even more, it tastes just like lowfat sour cream but is healthier, although the full fat yogurt does contain saturated fat and less protein than the nonfat yogurt.

My Take

My main reason for choosing Greek yogurt in general, and Voskos in particular, is the taste and texture. The health benefits are a nice bonus though. As for specific flavors, my absolute favorite is the Voskos Nonfat Greek Yogurt with Greek Honey:

Greek Honey

It’s amazing! Creamy and tasty and satisfying and the list of ingredients is very clean – just milk, honey and cultures. It does contain 17 grams of sugar per serving. Alternatively, you can mix 1 tablespoon honey with 6oz of the nonfat plain yogurt. Delicious.

So, What Do You Do With Greek Yogurt?

Just like any other yogurt, you can just eat it as a snack. Greek yogurt is an excellent snack becuase it is very filling. The sweetened varieties are great just the way they are. The Voskos full fat plain Greek yogurt is great as it is too. It’s incredibly rich and flavorful. As for the low fat and nonfat Voskos yogurt, you can add fruit, granola, a little honey or jam, and you can also use plain Greek yogurt in many recipes. My favorite recipe is Tarator, a Bulgarian yogurt and cucumber soup.

Tarator Recipe

This easy recipe calls for just six ingredients:

Tarator Ingredients

16 oz (one large container) Voskos plain yogurt (I like to use the full-fat variety but the nonfat works great too and is of course healthier)
2 cloves garlic, minced (I use a garlic press)
1 large cucumber, peeled, coarsely grated – I just grate by hand and place in a strainer to get rid of excess water:

Grated Cucumber

1 tablespoon high quality olive oil (if using nonfat yogurt, consider using 2 tablespoons olive oil)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
A little salt (about a quarter teaspoon) and white pepper (optional)

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl, mix well with a fork, cover and place in the fridge for an hour to allow flavors to blend. This recipe makes two servings.

Tarator 1

Tarator is amazingly refreshing and perfect for alfresco dining in the summer:

Eating Tarator Al Fresco

The Giveaway

Voskos would like to offer five of my U.S.-based readers coupons for free yogurt. If you’re interested, please post a comment below that tells me which Voskos flavor you would most like to try. I’ll pick five winners to collect 10 coupons each next Tuesday.

To get extra entries, you may also:

1. Follow Voskos on Twitter (1 extra entry – leave a comment to let me know that you have).

2. Tweet: “A sweet #giveaway! Win FREE product coupons for delicious Voskos Greek Yogurt from @GoVoskos and @vered http://bit.ly/bHU5HT” (1 extra entry – leave a comment with the tweet link.)

3. If you’re a fan of Voskos on Facebook, let me know in a separate comment for an extra entry.

No purchase necessary. Open to US residents only, 18 years of age or older. Comments to this post will be closed and winners will be picked on Tuesday, July 20th 2010, at noon PDT, via random.org so please leave a separate comment for each extra entry. This will increase your chances of winning. Each winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email and give me their address before I use random.org to pick a new winner. MomGrind is not liable for any loss or damage of giveaway prizes sent through the mail, or for any warranty, costs, damage, injury, or any other claims incurred as a result of usage of a prize once possession has been taken of the product by a winner. To learn more about MomGrind giveaway rules, click here.

Good luck!

Lucille Oneal 1She’s mostly known as “Shaq’s mom,” but Lucille O’Neal is a fascinating woman with an amazing life story.

I was honored to receive a (disclosure: free) copy of her book, “Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go” and to be given the opportunity to ask her a few questions.

Ms. O’Neal is also generously offering a free copy of her book to five U.S.-based readers. If you’re interested, please email me (vered at momgrind dot com). I will pick the winners on Friday.

Would you give up fame?

MomGrind: I often hear celebrities talking about the mixed emotions they have about their fame – on the one hand there’s the terrible lack of privacy and the “faux friends movement” as you call it in your book, but on the other hand – opportunity. While you were obviously hurt by “so many people with hidden agendas” coming your way, you also say in the book’s preface that you wanted to publish the book now, while Shaquille is still in the spotlight, and “while I have your attention.” My question is, if you were offered a deal where you would get the same financial security that Shaquille’s fame had brought to your family but without the fame – would you take that deal?

Ms. O’Neal: That’s a very tough question because I would never change Shaquille’s dreams coming true. Going to into the NBA and becoming a success was my son’s dream for most of his life and all dreams have their ups and downs and good and bad. Financial security is wonderful, but being able to reach people as Shaquille has through his organizations and I have through my focus on cancer research and higher education truly benefits from having faces people are familiar with. For better or worse, people respond to the famous people and if you’re really focused, you can do a lot of amazing things with that. Yes, there have been times when I would have liked more privacy for myself and my family, but those moments don’t outweigh the wonderful times we’ve all had over the last 18 years. You truly have to accept the good and bad in life no matter the circumstances.

Life Doesn’t End After 40

MomGrind: You say in your book, “At nearly fifty six years old, I can honestly say that I’m the happiest and most satisfied I’ve ever been… As women, we are often led to believe – through magazines, movies and TV shoes – that life ends after forty… I’m a living and breathing testament that life begins and flourishes at whatever age you become comfortable in your own skin.” What advice would you give to younger women to make them comfortable in their own skin, to help them to love themselves despite the media repeatedly telling them that they are not good enough? (Too fat, too skinny, lashes not long enough, abs not flat enough – you know the drill).

Ms. O’Neal: I love to talk to women of all ages but most certainly to women of a certain age. Life is wonderful everyday you can take another breath, no matter what age you are. I love the age I am now and love that I’m not overly concerned about the things I worried about so much at 20. Things that I realize now really didn’t matter as much as I thought they did. After 40, I had the chance to rediscover myself by going back to school and challenging myself to do the things I promised a younger me I’d do at some point. By going back to school and getting my degree, I accomplished something that made me realize without a doubt that I was a smart and beautiful woman, capable of doing whatever I wanted. Nothing makes you more
comfortable in your own skin than identifying a goal and mastering it. I encourage all women to pinpoint a passion or a goal and work towards it. Focus on things that help others and yourself. The feeling that provides is something I can’t really describe. You have to like YOU and that cannot be based on magazine articles or television shows. That’s simply not reality, and by 40 years old—you should know that.

Racial Blindness

MomGrind: During your family’s stay in Germany, you say that “Race was a complete non-issue,” but that as soon as you moved back to the States, it became an issue again. I loved the way you described racism as a disease and said, “America just has to want to get better.” Do you feel that the election of an African American President is an attempt by the majority of Americans to finally get better? Are you feeling more hopeful now about the possibility of true equality and of racial blindness?

Ms. O’Neal: The election of Barack Obama was wonderful and truly a blessing. How it will impact racial relations is yet to be seen. I think this country is growing and continues to mature in its racial attitudes, which is a great thing to witness. Obviously, things are still happening around the country and the world that I wish could be better–but I have hope that my children and grandchildren will live in a world that is much more open minded and diverse than the one I grew up in. As far as racial blindness is concerned, I think it’s great we all come in different sizes, shapes and colors. The key is not to judge someone by that and to appreciate that difference for its beauty and uniqueness. How boring would it be if we were all the same?

Bullying And Parental Supervision

MomGrind: You repeatedly say in your book that the most important thing parents should do is know where their kids are, what they are doing, and who they’re hanging out with. You also describe in the book how you were a victim of bullying because of your unusual height. In recent years, there have been several cases of teenagers who killed themselves after being ruthlessly bullied at school. Do you think that cases like the recent death of Phoebe Prince could have been prevented if the parents of the bullying students had been more involved in their kids’ lives? Do you think bullying is harsher today than it was when you were a kid?

Ms. O’Neal: Yes, this is a very different day and a different time. When I was a child, kids laughed and teased you if you were different– but it ended there. There were no Facebook or Twitter sites to spread ugly rumors and falsehoods about the person to be seen all over. I feel for children today and what they must face. I had it hard for sure, but today is another level of pain and embarrassment. Still, I maintain as parents we must monitor our children, their friends and activities at all times because their lives or someone else’s depends on it. I know we are often busy, but I love what the First Lady said about not allowing her girls on computers during the week unless it’s for school work and not allowing them to watch TV until the weekend. Children respond to structure and guidance and actually thirst for it. It’s our jobs as parents to be there for them and teach them how to treat one another. That is the only way they learn.

Higher Education Meltdown?

MomGrind: As the cost of higher education keeps rising faster than wages and inflation, there’s more and more talk in the media against the very concept of the traditional four-year college. Seth Godin even went as far as anticipating a complete higher education meltdown, and argued that “there are tons of ways to get a cheap, liberal education, one that exposes you to the world, permits you to have significant interactions with people who matter and to learn to make a difference” – and that those do not include going to college. But in your book, you repeatedly say how important college education is and how important it was for you that Shaquille and your other children finish college. You also went to college and have obtained an undergraduate and a graduate degree. Do you anticipate a high education meltdown? Do you think that in the future only the very rich would be able to get higher education?

Ms. O’Neal: I am very concerned about the future of higher education as we know it. I have no way of knowing what the future holds, but I pray that it does not become a situation where only the rich can afford to get degrees. Talk about lack of diversity. There have always been alternatives to college such as technical schools, junior colleges and other training programs. All of these are needed and people should have options of how they want to prepare for their futures. My hope is that President Obama and his administration will
find a way to put more money towards higher education and continue to make it possible for anyone to get an education if they want one. I do believe our President sees and understands how imperative this it for our country to truly be a global force. To compete and survive in this world, our children need education and there is no way around that truth.


I enjoyed “Walk Like You Have Somewhere to Go” very much, especially the strong stance Ms. O’Neal takes when it comes to parenting and to parents’ involvement in their kids’ lives. Of course, getting a peek into Shaquille O’Neal’s childhood is a nice bonus :). Recommended!

Happily Ever After

by MomGrind

bride“And they lived happily ever after.”

Oh, PLEASE.

We all know better than that.

50% of American marriages end in divorce. But even the marriages that do survive are not always happy. Marriages, just like life, have stages. They change and develop and present us with many different challenges, year after year.

Marriages CAN be very happy and fulfilling, of course, and they often add a lot of joy and contentment to our lives. But it’s important to realize that when you get married, you don’t enter a constant state of bliss. A lot of work is needed to maintain a good marriage, and there are going to be bumps along the way, even in the happiest of marriages.

I’ve been married for 16 years now. I’ve been a mother for the past nine years. I’ve been blessed with a good, stable marriage. I love my husband. Ours is the kind of love that keeps growing and deepening over the years. But by now I know better than to think that a good marriage “just happens,” or that being a wife and a mother is “easy.”

Nava Atlas knows it too. Happily married and the mother of two kids, she too has been blessed with a good relationship, yet she’s smart enough to realize she can’t take any of it for granted. Nava is also bold enough to admit out loud that marriage is sometimes challenging, and motherhood is often exhausting.

modern-wife3In her book, Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife, Nava takes a funny, realistic look at marriage and its different stages. Her “recipes” are not real recipes – they are a clever, witty way to describe marriage and motherhood. I can’t think of any woman who will not identify with this book. It perfectly describes what each and every one of us is going through.

I was 22 when I got married. Reading through the book’s first few recipes, which call for ingredients such as “sugarcoated wedding fantasies,” “6 cups of novelty” and a “small dollop of reality,” I smiled. This is exactly how marriage starts for most of us.

One of my favorite “recipes” is the “What a Turkey Noodle Soup” recipe, that captures what happens to many women, who are perfectly fine with eating yogurt for dinner, yet find themselves in charge of cooking elaborate dinners once they are married. Can you say “resentment?”

Another favorite: “Gender Role Casserole,” that illustrates the transition of most of us – regardless of how career-oriented or ambitious we are – into the role of motherhood. Our careers almost always get pushed to the back burner while we focus on motherhood, at least for a few years.

Other young-mother-recipes address the common issues of motherly guilt, and of putting everyone’s needs before ours.

Fast forward a few years. Many of us find ourselves exhausted, completely overwhelmed, and often full of resentment. Recipes such as “Completely Fried Wife with Toast of Total Exhaustion” and “Bland, Boring Bean Pots” illustrate these issues beautifully.

I pretty much skipped the third part of the book, “Recipes for Disaster,” which address betrayal, divorce and rebuilding your life. Yes, I refuse to acknowledge this could ever happen to me. But of course, it could.

The book’s final recipe, “Happily Ever After Ambrosia,” sounds a lot like my mom, who has been happily married for forty years now. The recipe calls for “The stuff that makes marriage most delectable” and suggests ingredients such as “Affection and mutual respect,” “Security and support,” “Children who turn out well,” and “Lasting love and happiness.”

Clearly, Nava Atlas is a cautious optimist rather than a bitter pessimist. She believes that marriage CAN lead to happiness. She just refuses to sugarcoat the reality of the many challenges we must face along the way.

I loved reading Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife. I highly recommend it. It is not just fun reading for every married woman – it is also a great gift to give to a friend, to your mom, or to a colleague. It is absolutely the perfect bridal shower gift.

Do you believe in marriage?


This article, “Happily Ever After,” is a paid review of the book “Secret Recipes for the Modern wife” by Nava Atlas. In the photo: Happy on my wedding day, 16 years ago.