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September 2009 posts

Even bad reviews boost sales. (Guess I won't feel guilty anymore.)

When I try a product and do not like it for whatever reason, most of the time, I do not write about it. 

Unless I have an experience that is SO bad it's funny, I won't post anything about it.  If it was that bad, I do, because it's worth a laugh at least! 

I feel guilty posting negative reviews of products/services sometimes, not that I think I have any actual impact on a business sales, but the following article makes me a little more likely to just PRESS PUBLISH on those type of reviews.

From CNN:

Like many retailers, Jim Hobart knows the value of a good testimonial.

The online store he co-founded, AlpacaDirect.com, always offered a page full of cherry-picked customer comments raving about the site's alpaca sweaters, socks and yarn. But recently Hobart, 47, decided to take the idea a step further: He hired PowerReviews, whose software lets shoppers write their own product reviews directly on the retailer's Web site.

It was a risky move for the four-year-old company, based in Brentwood, Calif. Hobart was effectively paying to host bad press -- such as posts by customers who described AlpacaDirect's golf cardigan as "kinda sweaty" and a "poor fit." Both awarded the cardigan three out of a possible five stars.

But a month after installing the PowerReviews service, Hobart saw sales climb 23% on items that had customer reviews (even that cardigan, which garnered an average of four stars).

"People are really researching their purchases," he says. "We knew our customers liked our products, and we wanted them to tell one another."

Online reviews have been spreading ever since Amazon.com (AMZN, Fortune 500) pioneered them in 1997. Witness the rise of "social shopping" Web sites like Kaboodle and ShopWiki and of consumer review sites, including Yelp and Judy's Book. But today's customer feedback software is growing more sophisticated, more personal and more affordable for small businesses.

Consumers are becoming used to searching for reviews when they shop online. Internet shoppers rank reviews as the most desired feature of a Web site, according to a recent survey by Forrester Research. "People want to talk among themselves," says Jacqueline Anderson, a senior consultant at Forrester.

Adds Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results, which provides customer satisfaction surveys for Web sites: "If they leave your site to look for reviews, they most likely won't come back."

Finding good review software isn't easy, as Hobart discovered. He was turned on to the idea in 2006 after offering 2,200 AlpacaDirect products via Amazon, where he noticed that products with customer reviews typically sold better. He investigated free review software but decided not to use the programs because they required extensive customization by an IT professional.

Hobart was turned away when he first called San Francisco-based PowerReviews in 2007. At the time, PowerReviews focused on the enterprise market, customizing $1,000- to $2,000-a-month review software for larger retailers such as REI and Staples (SPLS, Fortune 500).

But four months later the company called Hobart back, saying it had changed its mind. A stream of small businesses had been asking for inexpensive, easy-to-install software. "We now think this is a very big market," says PowerReviews vice president Darby Williams.

Hobart currently pays $80 a month for PowerReviews Express. The software sends e-mails to customers who have made purchases and invites them to submit reviews. The feedback system includes a text box for comments and the all-important five-star rating system. PowerReviews' staff members read every review and remove posts they deem obscene or libelous. Otherwise, everything is fair game.

It's important that site owners resist the temptation to edit or delete reviews they don't like. "If everything is positive, that raises a red flag among consumers," says Forrester's Anderson. According to market research firm Keller Fay Group, 87% of consumers tend to write reviews when they have positive things to say.

And even negative reviews can be beneficial. When one customer grumbled that a photo of a yarn spool misrepresented its shade of green, Hobart responded by posting a new photo. He also appended a comment to the negative review saying that the problem had been dealt with.

Ultimately, says Hobart, reviews retain customers. The vast majority of AlpacaDirect's customers return, so it's crucial to snag first-timers. "Reviews help build that initial trust," he says. "They are key to the long-term success of our company."  To top of page


Pumpkin Mocha Spice CLICK Latte

  

I am slightly grateful that my local Starbucks closed.  (WHAT THE??! BETH!! HOW DARE YOU SAY SUCH A THING!!) It's just that, I was going there nearly every. day. And, adding a pump of mocha here, a pump of pumpkin THERE, and those calories ADD UP FAST. Do not get me wrong, I am still a very good customer (buying pounds of espresso beans at a time) BUT, I'm not finding myself going just to GO anymore.  Only when we're in the area of one, you know?

So, CLICK says, MAKE YER OWN fall-themed drinks -- SO -- I WILL.

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  • 4 oz of non fat milk (Beth will use Light Vanilla Soy)
    8 oz of water (Beth will probably use ice cubes, and blend this instead)
    1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (Sugar-free pumpkin syrups ARE available, but I haven't seen any or have any.)
    1/4 teaspoon vanilla
    2 scoops of CLICK Espresso Protein Powder
    Squirt of sugar free whipped cream

  • Pour 4 oz of non fat milk in shaker cup.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla.  Shake to blend spice with milk.  Add 8 oz of water to shaker cup, top with 2 scoops of CLICK, seal and shake.  MM adds:  I would likely make this in the blender with ICE, pour into a large glass and sip.

*To make CLICK hot
Pour into large microwave cup.  Heat in microwave for one minute.  Remove from microwave and stir with spoon.  Reheat for 30-45 seconds to desired temperature (warning: do not shake after heating).  Top with a squirt of whipped cream, sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice, CLICK on and enjoy!


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Smart Choices Food Labels = WTF?

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From the Wait, WTF?  File.  A new food-labeling program called "Smart Choices," has recently slapped 500+ products from margarine to Cookie Crisp Cereal with a "Smart Choice" label -- indicating what else, SMART CHOICES!

LA Times:

...But it might surprise people that Lucky Charms, Froot Loops, Ritz Bits Peanut Butter Chocolatey Blast crackers and Kid Cuisine Magical Cheese Stuffed Crust Cheese Pizza meals are billed as "Smart Choices" under a controversial new food-rating program.

A logo adopted by food company giants is showing up in major supermarkets: a green Smart Choices check mark meant to replace the blizzard of health labels that clutter food package fronts: "Sensible Solution, "Smart Spot," and so on.

Sponsors say the logo will help an overweight and overwhelmed public make better food choices in a way that reflects how people really shop.

Critics say Smart Choices won't help end confusion because its nutrition standards are far too lenient. They see the program as an attempt by food companies to bill less-than-stellar processed foods as nutritious.

They are especially steamed by the breakfast cereal category because so many sugary cereals got a stamp of approval.

"Froot Loops? Froot Loops! I rest my case," said Marion Nestle, nutrition professor at New York University. "No nutritionist I know would recommend Froot Loops for breakfast."

A congresswoman has asked the Food and Drug Administration to investigate whether products have been "misbranded."

Apparently we cannot think for ourselves, and buy crap like this because it's a Smart Choice!  Okay, so maybe we DID at some point, or do at some times, but... I'm over here digging through the Smart Choice product list and considering dipping myself in Country Crock, because it's a Smart Choice.  


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 8, 2009

CONTACT:
Kim Metcalfe
Weber Shandwick
312-988-2393
kmetcalfe@webershandwick.com

Smart Choices Program™ Helps Shoppers Identify Better Food and Beverage Choices

Uniform Front-of-Package Nutrition Labeling System Now on Hundreds of Trusted Brands

WASHINGTON, DC, August 5, 2009 - This summer, the Smart Choices Program will appear on hundreds of products in supermarkets and other retail outlets across the country. This first-ever uniform front-of-pack nutrition labeling program, developed by a diverse coalition of scientists, nutritionists, consumer organizations and food industry leaders is designed to promote public health by helping shoppers make smarter food and beverage choices within product categories.

Unlike nutrient scoring systems, rankings or store-based programs, the Smart Choices Program uses a single, green check mark on the front of the product package to provide "at-a-glance" assurance that a product has met strict science-based nutrition criteria derived from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, reports from the Institute of Medicine and other sources of authoritative nutrition guidance. Qualifying products also will display a calorie indicator on-pack that identifies calories per serving and servings per container.

Participating companies with their own "better for you" nutrition labeling symbols have begun replacing them with the Smart Choices Program. Because of its scope and the science behind the new nutrition labeling system, this new program will bring clarity and consistency to the U.S. marketplace. Now shoppers will have a consistent program to identify smarter food and beverage choices, regardless of the stores they shop in or brands they buy.

"The coalition worked very hard to develop nutrition criteria that met the highest of standards and a symbol consumers would appreciate and recognize when making choices at the point of purchase," said Eileen T. Kennedy, DSc, RD, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. "By providing a single, simple communication on the front of the package, the Smart Choices Program can help alleviate confusion in the supermarket and help today’s busy shoppers make smarter choices for their families in store and at home."

Approximately 500 products from many of the nation's top brands, including ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Company (US), Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Sun-Maid, Tyson and Unilever (US), have already qualified for the Smart Choices Program designation in the program’s 19 categories.

I see the new labeling as a PUSH to buy the foods -- "Look, It's Healthy For Me/My Kids!"  I would never buy a Kid Cuisine (or other items on the list) BUT -- since it's marketed as a Smart Choice -- I MIGHT GIVE IT A SECOND LOOK and in a lapse of judgment, buy this shit for my family.

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WINNER: Could you use a month's supply of Building Blocks Vitamins?

Contest is over!  THANK YOU!  Scott H (TripletDad) you are the winner!  Please check your email!

Enter now to win!
  • 30 day supply includes Chewable Multiple Vitamin (Mixed Berry)
  • Chewable Calcium Citrate (Orange)
  • Chewable Iron 30 mg (Black Raspberry)

    ViewProductImage

From Building Blocks:

"Building Blocks Vitamins-Essential Bariatric Supplements were developed to address the specific needs of the surgical weight loss patient. The product line was designed by a team of bariatric professionals with health and success of the bariatric surgical patient in mind. Created to address the nutritional malabsorbtion problem and the restrictive effects of bariatric surgery."

How to enter:

  • Leave a comment on this post.

To get EXTRA ENTRIES:

  • Follow me on Twitter and Tweet about this giveaway!  "Melting Mama is giving away a 30 supply of @bbvitamins!  http://tinyurl.com/yaqy5ps"
  • Post about the giveaway on Facebook, or some other social networking/support/message board forum, and then link me to it!
Bloggers:

Want to try Building Blocks Vitamins for yourself? Get some free samples. Please tell them Melting Mama sent you in the additional comments section ;)

A winner will be chosen at random on FRIDAY!


Creamy Bites ARE BACK, y'all.

Yes, before you pee your panties, THESE ARE THE CREAMY BITES you remember.  I've gotten like, six emails today asking me how I like them.  LOL.  The "Creamy Bites" are back with a new name, and are only available via Celebrate Vitamins.  I have not tried them recently, but I will, and will report back with my review in this post.

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Creamy Bites

With a delicious lemon flavor and cake-like texture, Creamy Bites are the premier calcium citrate available.  Each Creamy Bite is packaged in an individual Nitropak package and sealed with PharmaSeal for guaranteed freshness.  Every moist and chewy bite provides 500 mg of calcium citrate and 400 IU of vitamin D.  Each box contains 30 Creamy Bites.  Supplemental calcium is critical for every patient undergoing surgical weight loss to ensure bone health and the most recommended form is calcium citrate. 
  • 500 mg of calcium citrate.
  • 400 IU of vitamin D.
  • Delicious taste!
  • Moist and creamy texture.
  • Lemon Cream flavor.
SUPPLEMENT FACTS
Serving Size:  1 piece (11g)
Servings Per Container:  30

Amount per serving
Calories:  40
  Calories from Fat:  15
                                                        % Daily Value
Total Fat  1.5 g                                        2%
  Saturated Fat  1 g                                     5%
  Trans Fat  0 g                                           0%
Cholesterol  0 mg                                       0%
Sodium  40 mg                                           2%
Total Carbohydrate  7 g                              2%
  Dietary Fiber  1 g                                      4%
  Sugars  3 g                                                 Not Est
Protein  0 g                                                   0%

Vitamin A                                                     0%
Vitamin C                                                      0%
Vitamin D3 (as cholecalciferol) 400 IU       100%
Calcium (as calcium citrate, USP) 500 mg   50%
Iron                                                                0%

  • Product - Calcet Creamy Bites
  • Via - www.celebratevitamins.com
  • Price - $12.99
  • Pros - Great crumbly but moist-ish cake-like texture (from my last trial forever ago) singly wrapped, 500 mg. calcium in each chew
  • Cons - Contains sugar and carbs, which is why they taste so freaking good, but you have to eat like, three a day to hit your goals, which may or may not be a con.  LOL.
  • Rating - We shall see.

Varicose Veins -- I feel so, elderly!

I have had a problem with varicose veins since I was pregnant with my first baby at age 18.  I know, right?  A teenager with varicose veins? 

I have, incompetent valves.  My valves, they are incompetent.

Illustration showing varicose veins

Doctors said it was due to standing for 10+ hours a day while working, and pregnancy, and FAT. 

They did not go away, and as of late, they're getting worse.  I have puffy fat wormy varicose veins in both legs starting around my hip/pelvis and snaking down my legs to my knee and blue and red fire-works explosions of capillaries on my calves.

This morning I noticed that the most significant vein is bulging out more, it looks like many of the superficial veins around it have burst.  Awesome.

I had an ultrasound on my leg in 2006 when I thought that there might be a problem -- but -- now they are so ugly and awful and achy and I resemble an elderly woman. 

I'm going to have to invest of some super-cute compression stockings and call a doctor -- this doesn't look good.

Varicose veins were something I thought would likely shrivel up a little bit and go away if I didn't regain 150 lbs! 

I will have someone take the unpleasant photos of my leg, because they're getting nasty.


Appreciative.

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Ready to go!  My goody bags for my Team at the Walk From Obesity are ready -- my pink shirt is washing -- and let's do this!

Thanks to EVERYONE that donated.  I appreciate every single penny you sent along.  There is still time to donate - and I'm still under goal!  ;)

Team Rank
1.melting mama
2.Mark s Marauders
3.BARB'S BEAUTIES
4.Bette's Sweaties
5.Randall's Rangers

Thanks to all of the companies that helped our team raise funds, I would not have raised half as much without your cash or product donations.



Uh, yeah, Michael. Jackson tapes aired on Dateline.

So, I admit, this is creepy shit, and I will watch.

NYP:

Jackson: Yes ...and I've seen children just shower all over me with love. They want to just touch me and hug me and completely just hold on and cry and not let go...and mothers pick their babies and put them into my arms. "Touch my baby, and hold them, touch my baby, touch my baby."

TOUCH MY BABY!  (You see how creepy that is now?)

Jackson: If it weren't for children, I would choose death. I mean it with all my heart.



Nom nom nom.

Bariatric Advantage® is pleased to announce that the Buy 3 Get 1 Free Offer is Back for the Entire Calcium Chewy Bites Lineup!

Click over to my Melting Mama E-Store and order yours today, the offer ends September 30th!.

 
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Order me some too, I ate them very quickly.  Nom.

My reviews:


Giveaway!

Thanks to FullBar for this giveaway!

I'd like to give away a CASE of FullBars.  I've had them, and frankly love them.  So there.

If you want them, the whole damn box -- here's what you're going to do to enter:

  • Re-post this giveaway offer somewhere else, your blog or elsewhere or TWEET IT, and come back here to tell me.  Go.

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Continue reading "Giveaway! " »


Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Protein - Gold Standard

I got my blender working today, finally.  I have been ignoring it, and walking past, and not bothering, and, "Look, cold chicken fingers!"

I have not been anywhere near the scale either.  It helps that my upstairs bathroom is not used, because, while it's there, the shower doesn't get hot and I STILL need a plumber.  We just don't bother with it, it stays perfectly clean, and THAT is where the scale goes.  Stepping on it causes serious distress, I do not need.  I know HOW to lose weight, I just have to DO it.

D9d6c0a398a028ff72e2f110.L

Back to the blender.  I cracked the seal on a brand new tub of protein:

Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Chocolate Mint - 2 Pound Powder

I don't even recall buying this product, so I had to check the dates, it's been here forever. 

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With only 120 calories and 24 grams of protein with just 3 carbohydrate, 1 gram of sugar, it makes a super post gastric bypass protein supplement, IF it tastes good.

Peeling back the inside seal, I smelled it, my favorite taste/smell combination:  Chocolate and mint.  I did not smell any protein, no sour milk, nothing to indicate what I was in for.  I mixed one scoop of the protein with ice cubes and four ounces of light soy milk, and blended it. 

It's gooooooood. No protein-y overwhelming taste, nice chocolate taste with a hint of mint. Next time I would prefer to use less liquid or more powder for a more intense flavor.  It was thin, no real creamy texture, but I did use a LOT of ice. I will attempt to make a shake naked, with just liquid and powder, in the blender bottle for a real texture test.

Although it obvious where this particular flavor is headed for me -- hello, it's chocolate and mint, it will be made into protein Frappuccinos.  ;)

The Optimum Nutrition is not a meal replacement, it's a supplement, meant for building and retaining lean body mass.  But, with only 120 calories, it's a really great option for adding to your day.

The powder comes in a million flavors -- I am just partial to chocolates, coffees, vanilla and mint when I am buying A TUB of the stuff, so I can't say that the "Root Beer Float" is any good in the taste department.

  • Product -  Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Chocolate Mint - 2 Pound Powder
  • Price -Varied widely online, I just saw $17+-$39.99
  • Via - I think I bought this online, it was so long ago.
  • Pros - A million flavors. quite inexpensive, 120 calories for 24 grams protein, very low carbs, one gram of sugar, very good for a WLS post op protein supplement.
  • Cons - SLIIIGHT dry mouth after-feel, not thick and creamy
  • Rating - Pouchworthy, MM.

Then again, you could just listen to him. :X


Women gives birth to 19.2-pound baby. Thanks to Diabetes!

This is unlikely to happen in the US with the constant poking and sticking to check for gestational diabetes, but, WHOA.   My babies, as an obese woman who probably should have developed diabetes:  7 lbs 12 ounces, 8 lbs, 8 lbs and 6 lbs 9 ounces.  (Guess which one was born after weight loss surgery?)

Look at this year-old sized baby!  I want to squeeze him!

Source:  http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j_LMgk865bMQx7mjMeaKVLostW4w

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The baby, who is still unnamed and is 62 centimetres (24.4 inches) long, was born by caesarean section Monday at a public hospital in North Sumatra province, a gynaecologist who took part in the operation told AFP.

"This heavy baby made the surgery really tough, especially the process of taking him out of his mum's womb. His legs were so big," Binsar Sitanggang said.

The boy is in a healthy condition despite having to initially be given oxygen to overcome breathing problems, the gynaecologist said.

"He's got strong appetite, every minute, it's almost non-stop feeding," he said.

"This baby boy is extraordinary, the way he's crying is not like a usual baby. It's really loud."

The boy's massive size was likely the result of his mother, Ani, 41, having diabetes, Sitanggang said.

She had to be rushed to hospital due to complications with the pregnancy, which had reached nine months. The baby, her fourth, was the only child not delivered by a traditional midwife.

When a diabetic mother's glucose level is high during pregnancy, the baby can receive too much glucose and grow too large, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.


Cake Wrecks and my Cake FAIL.

Yesterday was my daughter's actual birthday, the day that we typically have dinner of her choice (it was Chinese take-out) and cake.

I didn't buy a cake.  I tried to make a cake. 

I pulled the can of unsweetened Ghiradelli cocoa powder out, and followed the recipe on the back for chocolate cake and buttercream frosting.  It's the simplest damn recipe, but, guess who doesn't have a mixer?  Yes, I made the batter AND frosting by hand-beating the mixtures. 

My house was filled with the amazing aroma of carbolicious chocolate, I took out the cakes to cool, loosened them to plate and frost, and disaster.  Both cakes were stuck to the bottom of the greased pans, and promptly fell apart.  While attempting to glue it together with frosting, it completely disintegrated into a pile of squishy cake and frosting that resembled potting soil.  I saved it for a while, threw it in the freezer, look Cake Balls!  It's a frozen cake treat!  Yeah, no.  Gross.  I shoveled the mess into the trash.

Cake, fail. 

I have mentioned before, I am not a baker.   My idea of cake is going to a bakery.  But since I couldn't do that, and grocery store cakes suck, I figured, a simple homemade chocolate cake is perfect, but not when I make it!  I could aspire to be a better baker, but why?  Who needs it?  I'll leave it to Mr, whose carb-love knows no bounds, and will RE MAKE a recipe if the first comes out badly. 

Ah well.  Sorry, kid.  I will get a scrumptious bakery-made cake for her party, I promise.  Last night, the kids had fortune cookies for her birthday. 

On that note, I Pioneer Woman blogged about this book yesterday, a compilation of CAKE WRECKS from those who are PROFESSIONALS at the task.  Not I.  Though, I should have photographed the moment, and me covered in flour.


The Naughty Kitchen

From Oxygen:

Blythe Beck, the fiery young chef and star of Oxygen's upcoming series The Naughty Kitchen With Chef Blythe Beck, shows off her distinctive sexy American cuisine, her cutting edge Dallas restaurant, Central 214, and her loud and flamboyant staff. “The Naughty Kitchen With Chef Blythe Beck” is certain to cook up the drama both in and out of the kitchen.

In The Naughty Kitchen With Chef Blythe Beck, Oxygen follows executive chef Blythe Beck, a 29-year old Texas native, who is plus-sized in stature and personality, and her colorful crew at Central 214, inside and outside the kitchen as they interact with the Dallas elite and the local university students.

I love that they have to state the obvious, and market the show that way, "plus-sized in stature and personality."  

MainHeader

Who cares -- if the personality is enough -- it should sell the show!  In fact:  Episode 1 was titled: Better Wear Your Stretchy Pants!  (This gives me a little post traumatic stress about my former size 3X elastic-waist only pants!) 

Some of the comments on the Oxygen website are nasty, suggesting she cook "low-fat dishes" and lose weight.  Some say her personality is overwhelming and obnoxious.  (Although, if she were a skinny girl, would her personality be funny and infectious?  Just sayin'.)

Blythe_2

The Dallas News says this: 

She thinks the show "will really appeal to people, because we all have bad days and people hate you. We all get 'reviewed' every day. Mine's just very public." It's that sassy side that helped her land the show, which Oxygen calls a "docu-series."

Although she warns that the behind-the-scenes turmoil "gets worse before it gets better," she seems to enjoy it all.

"In my world, I'd be on TV for the rest of my life. That's my goal, that's my plan."

Okay, so I giggled a little, and am quite intrigued, too.  I think I will like this chick, and want her to come over. 

But, still, does it have to be all "Look at the fat girl cooking!  OMG!"  But, seriously, Mmm bacon! Read naughty recipes.

Macandcheese

That might look like my mac and cheese, if you know, that's pork in there.