All posts by lismardon

Formerly known as LDon526 at epinions.

Labyrinth – the Board Game



Pros: simple set up, easy to learn,  fun and challenging

Cons: none

My son asked for the board game Labyrinth for his birthday.  We have been playing countless games of it ever since. This board game is recommended for ages 7 and up, and is for 2-4 players.

The game comes with 34 maze cards. The board itself has 16 maze cards that are secured to the board. Each maze card has a pathway. The maze cards are placed randomly throughout the board. There will always be one extra maze card. You will find 12 yellow arrows printed around the oursite of the board. There are 24 object cards. These cards are divided among all players. The objects on the cards are various medieval type images – a sword, a treasure, a dragon and more. These images are found throughout the maze.

There are four wizard playing pieces in different colors. Each player chooses and places it on the corresponding color. To play, each player places a maze pieces onto the board on a row that has an arrow. Placing a maze card onto the board will push another maze card off the board. This creates a constantly changing maze. Each player picks a card from their object card pile, but does not show the opponent. After the maze card is placed on the board, a player can move their piece anywhere along the path, as long as the path is connected in order to get to their object. Game play continues until one person gets all of the objects on their cards.

My 7 year old was able to figure this game out within his first couple turns. He enjoys strategy games, so this was perfect for him. However, the game isn’t always strategy – there is some luck involved too. You never know when an opponent will shift the maze to your benefit. Then again, the maze could be shifted to change your path completely. The changing maze pathway means the game will never be the same twice. And if you play with several people, the board will change even more before it gets to your your turn again.

You will need to allot a little bit of time to play Labyrinth – games usually last around 20 minutes.

Labyrinth was an immediate hit in my house. It’s fun, challenging and strategic. I highly recommend .

The Conair Rotating Styler Is Perfect for My Hair

Conair Infinity Pro Spin Air Rotating Styler


Pros: improves hair quality, no need for hot hair dryer

Cons: large handle, takes practice

One of my favorite hair products is the Conair Infinity Pro Spin Air Rotating Styler. I have been using it since last Christmas and it is now my main method of drying/styling my hair. This is a rotating hot air brush. You can use the round brush to dry your hair and if you choose you can use the benefits of the rotating brush along with the heat.

There are three settings on the spin brush – low, high and cool. The brush will only rotate on the low and high setting. The cool setting is like a hair dryer’s cool setting. The brush can rotate in two different directions. There are two different buttons that will start the rotation of the brush. Depending on where and how you hold the brush will determine which direction the brush should rotate. Knowing which direction to have the brush to rotate as well as which button to push will take a while to adjust to. At this point I no longer have to think about which button I need to use. I can now choose the right button instinctively.

The rotator brush has a large handle base, which may be surprising when you first see the brush. The handle has the motor, and as well there is an area at the bottom to clean out any build up, such as a hair dryer would have. It seemed like it would be too awkward to hold, but I have never had a problem holding the brush.

Conair recommends letting the hair dry 80-90% before beginning to use the Spin Air Rotating Styler. I follow this recommendation. While you can dry your hair with this hot air brush, it does not have the type of power of a hair dryer. If you try to dry your hair with this brush when the hair is too wet it will take a long time to dry. If you needed to, you could dry the roots with a dryer then move on to the styler brush.

There are several benefits to using this hot air brush. Since I have started using it I have pretty much stopped using my hair dryer. I have very thick, coarse hair and now I no longer have to stand with a hot dryer on my head for 20 minutes. The condition of my hair has improved greatly. Even when I am due for a hair cut I no longer see damage such as split ends. My hair is smoother and shinier than when drying my hair with a standard hair dryer. I can create a little volume and a little bit of wave.

The has become my preferred way to dry my hair. I have improved hair condition and I don’t need to have to use a hot dryer, especially now in the summer. The rotating brush does take some practice. You probably won’t pick up this hair styler and be able to manage it correctly on the first use. But practice is the key and in the end that practice can help lead the way to better hair!


If You are Running, You Need to be Hydrated! FuelBelt 10 Ounce Water Bottle

FuelBelt Sprint 10 Ounce Palm Holder with Pocket


Pros: Comfortable to hold, easy to drink from bottle

Cons: small pocket

I am training to run a 5K, and I bought the FuelBelt Sprint 10 Ounce Palm Holder with Pocket to take along with me on my runs.

The FuelBelt Palm Holder is a small water bottle designed to fit the curve of the inside of the hand. The bottle has a twist off cap. The mouth of the bottle is large enough to easily fill with water from the faucet, but not large enough for water. The cap has a silicon pull spout. There is a padded strap that sits on the top of the hand. On the other side of the bottle is a small pocket. The pocket measures about 2½ inches wide by 3½ inches high. The elastic that goes around the bottle is adjustable to get the right fit around the hand.

The bottle is simple – it’s just a thin plastic bottle but the curvature makes it worthwhile. It fits comfortably inside the palm of my hand. I was able to easily adjust the strap, and the padding makes it easy to hold without having to feel like I have to focus on gripping the bottle.

The pocket is tiny. The only thing I usually put inside the pocket is my car or house key. My car key is the type with the bulky tip that holds the car remote. I have to work it into the pocket at an angle. If I needed to get anything else into the pocket it would probably only be my driver’s license or some money.

The silicon spout works out great. When I need some water I put the bottle in my mouth and I give the spout a tug using my teeth. I can then squeeze the bottle to dispense the water. I can close the spout with my thumb. The have discovered that I need to push the cap down all the way otherwise it may leak.

The is easy to hold and holds enough water for me while I am running. It is comfortable and it has the pocket to hold my keys. The price seems to vary on , but some of the sellers do have it for a reasonable price. It find this runner’s water bottle helpful for a new runner like me!


Want some no-bake donuts? Cool Baker Donut Maker Kit

Cool Baker “Donut Maker” Kit


Pros: nothing else needed except water

Cons: taste, overpriced for what you get

For her last birthday my daughter received the Cool Baker Donut Maker kit. This set is recommended for ages 6 and up. It makes “Delicious No Bake Donuts”. Yup, that’s right – no bake donuts. If your stomach hasn’t already rolled at the thought of a no bake donut, then let’s continue with the review…

The kit comes with everything you need to make 3 mini donuts. It has the donut maker tray, donut press/icing dispenser, bowl, spatula, spoon, icing tips, donut mix, 2 icing mixes and sprinkles. The only thing you need to provide to make the donuts is some water.

The first step is to assemble the dispenser. It is somewhat like a cookie press. To make the donuts simply pour the donut mix into the bowl. Water is added to the mix using the supplied measuring spoon. Stir the mix with the included spatula, the pour the mix into the press. Then, using the press, dispense the mix into the donut tray. There will be just enough mix to fill the three holes for the donuts. Next, put the lid on the tray and place the tray into the refrigerator so that the donuts can rise and set.

While the donuts are in the fridge, wash out all of the tools. You will need to use them again for the icing. To make the icing, simply pour the icing mix in the bowl, add water and mix. You can use the spatula to spread the icing on the donut or put the icing into the press and use an icing tip.

My daughter though this kit was cool when she received it. I was pretty turned off at the thought of a no bake donut. She is 9, and she was able to get everything together pretty much on her own. After we took the donuts out of the refrigerator, we found that they did rise as expected. She used the pink icing to frost all three donuts then put the sprinkles on. I had her wait a little while for the frosting to set because it looked watery. When I gave the go-ahead, she and my son were ready to eat the donuts.

They dove in to eat the donuts, saying “Mmmmm the icing is good”. The donuts were so tiny that they finished them within a couple bites. Then the attitude changed. They started making faces, and my daughter said “That donut was a little slimy”. My son asked for a drink to wash the taste out. The third donut was never eaten.

I looked up this kit and online I found it selling for$15. It’s nice that the set comes with everything you need, but still, 15 bucks is a lot of money for 3 tiny donuts. I could pay $3 for six full sized donuts at DD. I couldn’t stand the thought of a no bake donut, and it turned out that my kids didn’t care for the finished product. I would definitely skip the Cool Baker Donut Maker kit

I Replaced my Cardboard Pom Pom Templates with the Knifty Knitter Pom Pom Maker

Knifty Knitter Pom Pom and Tassel Maker


Pros: various sizes of pom poms, easy to use

Cons: takes a few practice tries

I have been loom knitting for a few years. When I purchased some looms a while back I received the Knifty Knitter Pom Pom and Tassel Maker as a bonus with my order. This single, simple craft tool helps create pom poms and tassels easily and in varying sizes. The orange colored rod is about 14 inches long, only 1 inch wide and less than an inch deep. There is a small ball located at one of the long ends of the tool.

When you pick up the pom pom maker you will hear that there is something inside of it. At the opposing end of the ball you will find a removable cap. Remove the cap and you will find two metal pegs each almost three inches long. These pegs are used to make both pom poms and tassels. The pegs will be inserted into holes on the pom pom maker.

There are 13 holes spaced about half an inch apart. To create a pom pom you must first tie a piece of yarn around the rod. Next, place the metal pegs into two of the holes. The further apart the holes, the larger the pom pom will be. Next, wrap the yarn around the two pegs. At first the pegs may feel a little loose but after the first few wraps they will feel more secure. The more you wrap the pegs, the denser the results of your pom pom.

When you have finished wrapping, you take another piece of yarn and wind it around the cents of the wound yarn. Tie it, remove the entire ball from the pegs, then cut the closed ends. Your pom pom is done! It will take a couple practice tries to figure out how many times to wrap the pegs as well as how far apart to place your pegs. I have not yet had a need to make a tassel, but the process is very similar to making a pom pom.

An instructional pamphlet comes with the pom pom and tassel maker. It has step by step illustrations that follow along with the written instructions. Both are clear and precise. I have found the pom pom maker to be a handy tool to create pieces that nicely top off hats that I create.

Prior to using the pom pom maker, I made my own pom pom template that I had found online. I made it by cutting out two “C” shapes from cardboard. I had been successful with the cardboard method and at the time was content with it. However I have found the Knifty Knitter Pom Pom and Tassel Maker to be of more benefit. It is easier to wind the yarn around the Knifty Knitter tool. I can also easily change the size of my pom poms by moving the pegs. Prior to having the pom pom maker if I wanted to make a larger pom pom I would have to make a new cardboard piece using the template.

If you make hats that you like to top with a pom pom, or if you plan on making a project that needs tassels, the is a good little investment. It may be hard to find now, but it could be a worthwhile search. I’m glad I have it!

Everlast Wii Dumbbells May be Good in Concept, But are not too Effective

Everlast 2Lb Wii Dumbbells


Pros: good idea for improving a Wii workout

Cons: uncomfortable to hold, hard to insert & remove remote

A friend of mine passed along to me a set of Everlast 2lb Wii Dumbbells. She never got into using Wii fitness games, but I regularly use them for my workouts. I was very anxious to try out these dumbbells to see how they could improve my Wii workouts.

The Wii dumbbells are a set of weights that weigh 2 pounds each, and can accommodate a Wii remote and nunchuk or two Wii remotes. Aside from the handles, they look like ordinary dumbbell weights. At first they did not feel like two pounds, but I compared them to a set of 1 pound Heavy Hands and I concluded that they are in fact two pounds each. The remote can slide easily into the handle of the dumbbell, however hooking in the cord for the nunchuk is not completely convenient. One dumbbell has a removable lid on the handle that is used to cover the nunchuk. If you choose to use a second remote for fitness games that accommodate using two Wii remotes, simply keep the lid off.

The Wii dumbbell is an interesting concept for improving the effectiveness of a Wii workout, but the dumbbells overall do not help the workout. I have used the dumbbells with Wii Fit workouts. I found the dumbbell handles a little awkward and uncomfortable to hold. The other issue is that there is no easy way to use the remote. When it comes time to use the remote to do things like push the A button to proceed to the next section, it is necessary to take the remote out of the dumbbell. The sensor just does not pick up the signal well. The constant removal and insertion of the remote into the handles just become tedious as well as holds up the fluidity of a workout. In a Wii Fit workout there are workouts that require the nunchuk to be disconnected from the remote. Disconnecting requires more in and out of the remotes from the handles.

I had been really intrigued by dumbbells for the Wii, but unfortunately the Everlast 2lb Wii Dumbbells proved not to be too effective. They are a little uncomfortable to hold while working out, and having to take out and insert the remote was frustrating. If you want to get a little more out of your Wii workout, I would suggest using a set of instead of Wii dumbbells.


Be Prepared for a Nerf Battle with the Nerf N-Strike Elite Tactical Vest

Nerf N-Strike Elite Tactical Vest


Pros: adjustable size, well made, lots of loops, etc

Cons: none

My son has the Nerf N-Strike Elite Tactical Vest. He had received it as a gift for his last birthday.

The N-Strike Elite Tactical Vest is a play vest made entirely of polyester. It is black with some blue and orange embellishments that match the N-Strike theme colors. The back of the vest is entirely made of mesh. The front has numerous loops and pockets to hold a variety of Nerf gear. My son is a very tall 6½ year old, however he is a little on the skinny side. The vest looks a bit big on him, but it does have many Velcro closures and tabs to adjust the size of the vest to fit more properly. The length isn’t too bad, it is just the width that makes it float on him. The Velcro pull tabs really make it fit better. It may be a little big now, but with the ability to adjust the width I anticipate that he will be able to use the vest for quite a few years before he outgrows it.

Across the top part on each side of the front of the vest is a row of blue elastic that can hold 6 Nerf darts on either side of the vest. There are several other blue rows of elastic that can hold dart clips that are used with the N-Strike blasters. There is small loop and carabiner type clip. My son uses the clip to hold his small blaster. There is a large mesh pocket on the right side of the vest.

The N-Strike Elite Tactical Vest is very well made. It is assembled nicely and even after over 6 months of use it still looks like we just took it out of the package. The material just needs to be wiped down if it gets dirty.

My son loves wearing the Nerf vest while in a Nerf battle with my husband or daughter. He really manages to load it up with everything he wants to use. He looks so funny while wearing it – he looks like he is preparing for battle as he gets himself geared up!

The Nerf N-Strike Elite Tactical Vest is a fun accessory for kids who love their Nerf blasters, and I think it is a very well made accessory.

Build your First Robot – 4M Smart Robot

4M Smart Robot


Pros: an intro to putting together a small motor, kids enjoy it

Cons: plastic a little flimsy, kids may have trouble with small pieces like screws

My daughter expressed interest in getting a science kit that would help her learn about making robots. While in Barnes & Noble I came across the Smart Robot kit, so I had to get it for her birthday.  This “fun mechanics kit” is recommended for ages 8 and up. It comes with everything except a small Philips head screwdriver and one AA battery.

The directions are adequate to follow. Not terrific, but not terrible either. Although the contents list has the motor pieces separately, they come fully assembled in the box. My husband commented on the wiring of the motor. He felt it was just a bit too delicate for a child to use without the possibility of damage. My daughter tends to skip over directions, but once we reiterated that she needed to follow them closely, she was able to follow the directions to complete the inner workings of the robot, however the tiny screws were too hard for her to manage. Together they assembled the outer part of the robot. The outer part of the robot is grey and black plastic. The outer plastic seems a bit flimsy. The ball underneath that holds the motor is a bit heavier than I had expected.

The completed robot reminds me of a domed security camera.  It is only a few inches tall and about 6 inches around.  It moves around the room like a Roomba. It senses objects around it and will move appropriately. The robot needs to be on a smooth surface such as a kitchen floor or wood floor. I won’t work on a rug. The box says that the robot will “speed around the house”.  The term “speed” made us think that the robot will move quickly, but it moves a bit slower than expected.

My daughter is 9, and within the suggested age group but she did need some help with the small pieces. I paid around $15 at Barnes & Noble for the Smart Robot. It looks like it is even cheaper at For the price, I didn’t expect anything too intricate. In fact, I think it was just right for what my daughter needed. She and my husband examined the connections and the gears inside the motor and that is just what she wanted to start learning about. Now the kids are enjoying watching the robot scoot around the kitchen floor.



Leslie Sansone’s Walk and Jog Boosts My Workouts Plus Helps Me with 5K Training

Leslie Sansone’s Walk and Jog DVD


Pros: It’s a great, more intense workout

Cons: Sansone too chatty, I don’t like the kicks etc during jog interval

Over the last few weeks I have incorporated Leslie Sansone’s Walk and Jog into my workout routine. Leslie Sansone is known for her walking fitness DVDs. Her DVDs incorporate walking and other exercises within the home to walk 3, 4 and even 5 miles. Walk and Jog is a little different from her others, as this one has walk/jog intervals.

This fitness DVD is just over half an hour totaling 33 minutes long. It includes about 4-5 minutes of warm up and cool down and you will have completed 2½ miles at the end.  The setting is unusual. Instead of a gym atmosphere it looks somewhat like a Mediterranean courtyard with wood arched doorways and greenery. Sansone has 4 women that accompany her, one of which does a modified version of the workout.

The workout starts out like many of Sansone’s workout, which included walking in place, knee lifts, kicks and side steps. If you have done one of her workouts before, you will be familiar with the movements. Some arm movements are also worked into the routine to get some upper body into the workout. After the warm up begins the walk/jog intervals. Throughout the workout is 3 minutes of walking then 2 minutes of jogging. I love the intervals since it is similar to the Couch 2 5K training program, which utilized walk/run intervals to train for a 5K. My only complaint with the jog intervals is that it is not just jogging. She includes small kicks and leg swings. Since I am training for a 5K, I prefer to just jog during the jogging intervals.

Sansone is very chatty during her workouts. A great deal of what she says is informational as she tries to educate the viewer about fitness. While most of what she says is useful, she does get too chatty a couple times in the video where she seems to lose track of what she is doing and her other walkers get thrown off.

I love the walk/jog interval concept of Leslie Sansone’s Walk and Jog. It gives my regular workout a step up as well as it helps me with my 5K training right in my home when I can’t go outside. I get to do 2½ miles in my home in only half an hour! I do my own changes, though, by strictly jogging during the jog interval.  If you are ready for a more intense workout that Sansone’s walking workouts, give her Walk and Jog DVD a try.


Hits the Target, but Doesn’t Always Leave Much Impact

Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow

Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow Phoenix


Pros: my daughter loves it!

Cons: won’t always launch darts as it should

As soon as my daughter saw the advertisement for the Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow, she immediately wanted it. Nerf came out with the Rebelle line, which is aimed at girls. The bow seems to be in direct connection with The Hunger Games. Although my daughter has not read the book or seen the movie, the bow and the Rebelle line made a connection with her. The bow is recommended for ages 8 and up.

The Heartbreaker Bow is designed like any bow would look, and is embellished with pinks, purples and blacks. It comes with Nerf elite darts. These darts have more of a solid tip than the suction cup tipped darts that come with some Nerf gun. The darts are also the same pinks, purples and even blacks.

The pull string in the back is made of elastic. The elastic has a handle and a roller with indentations for the fingers. There is a pink string attached to the roller, and that string is attached to the body of the bow. To use the bow, an elite dart is placed in the front chamber. The string is then pulled back until you see a green indicator at the point that the pink string enters the body of the bow. At that point you can release the roller, letting it roll off the fingers. The dart will then be launched.

The bow is kind of large – it is 2 feet in the back where the pull string is located, and it when in a normal position (not pulled for launching) the body is a foot long. The handle is contoured nicely to fit the. I can easily hold the bow and so can my daughter.

Getting the dart to launch properly can be tricky. Seeing the dart fly is hit or miss. Sometimes it just falls to the ground. Other times it flies far. I think the way to get the dart to fire well is to have the pink string very taut before letting go of the pull string.

There is a rail along the body that can hold a piece to store additional darts.

My daughter was thrilled to get the Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow for Christmas. At the time she also got the (which I definitely recommend). My son has quite a few Nerf guns and he often uses them to play with my husband. My daughter loved having the bow and a gun of her own to play with them. Using the bow against them is tough, so she tends to use the Pink Crush Blaster more often, partially for the speed in which she can launch the darts.

The Heartbreaker Bow is pretty cool and it is just my daughters’ style – made for a girl yet not too girly. It may not always launch the darts the way it should, but she still loves it.