Toy Review: PlaSmart’s Watermelon Ball JR

This summer we played with PlaSmart’s Watermelon Ball JR, a water toy I thought the kids might play with for a couple minutes and then get bored. But we all found it really fun!

As you can see, it floats! Here the predator stalks its prey:

 

 

But it also moves underwater really well. Whether at the beach or (better) in a swimming pool, we had lots of fun passing it to each other and playing keep away by pushing it through the water. Even though it pops up to the surface to float, you can move it around pretty easily underwater.

The ball comes with a mechanism to easily fill it with water from a hose—we filled it to probably about 2/3 full, which ended up working just fine. It hasn’t leaked at all.

Here are a couple of more images from PlaSmart.

The Watermelon Ball is so named because it is:

Designed to look, feel, and behave like a watermelon in water. Real watermelons are nearly neutrally buoyant: first sinking to the bottom then slowly rising to the top, making them ideal for all kinds of water games.

It probably would have been pretty fun to be among the group of people testing out real watermelons to discover that they are “nearly neutrally buoyant” (probably a pool party accident). I didn’t cross-test this toy against a watermelon, so can’t speak to the similarities, but the toy definitely does what it promises.

Here is the product page. You can follow PlaSmart via Twitter and Facebook. And here’s the ball on Amazon.

They are also the makers of the “cool, cool car”! and this play mat that we reviewed a few years ago.

 


 

 

Thanks to the good folks at PlaSmart for the review sample, provided for review but with no expectation as to the content of this post.

 

Feetures Plantar Fasciitis Sock: My New Favorite

One good turn deserves another. I’ve been enjoying my second pair of Feetures socks even more than the first.

You know how a lot of runners have that certain shirt or pair of socks that they are bummed about when it’s in the dirty laundry and not ready for their run? That’s how I’ve gotten to be with the Feetures PF Relief sock.

“PF” is plantar fasciitis, which, like so many other runners, I have unfortunately developed the last couple months.

I’ve tried just about everything. The kind of hideous-looking recovery sandal from OOFOS (but with good arch support), KT tape, rolling my foot out, physical therapy, a podiatrist, etc., etc. Especially since I am trying multiple things at once, it can be hard to say what all is working and what is not, but these socks with their intense compression have been a welcome companion on my runs.

There’s so much compression that they’re a little tricky to get on! In fact, when I first put them on I noticed some thread stretching/thinness where the heel goes in to the rest of the sock. Maybe an inevitability given the compression?

 

 

 

My contact at Feetures told me that seam stretch is normal. She said, “It’s a result of the Y-Heel construction of the sock and is more evident in the PF sock than some of our others!”

I worried about the sock unraveling, but after dozens of runs, everything is secure.

I generally prefer no-show socks, but I like the quarter sock I have here, since it gives me more sock to hold on to when I get it on. Here’s another view:

 

 

There are “L” and “R” socks in each pair, so you’re always putting the same one on each foot. I am a size 13, and the XL sock (12.5+) has been true to size—a perfect fit, in fact. The sock is 88% polyester and 12% spandex.

There are four different PF relief socks now, in black and white. Check them out here.

My only complaint about this sock is the price point: $29.99. Feetures is a great company and, from all I can tell, a worthy place to spend money, and these socks are my new favorites, but $30 for a pair of socks is tough to swallow.

I’m not sure if these socks will come down in price. I hope they do. At the same time, runners looking for PF relief are willing to try just about anything. The “lifetime guarantee” on this sock doesn’t hurt either.

And I just learned about an affiliate program Feetures has, so if you are a new, would-be customer and want $10 off—on that sock or any other—clicking here will give you a discount.

 


 

Thanks to the good folks at Feetures for the review sample, provided without any expectation as to the content of this review.

Feetures Running Socks

Remember as a kid, when you would get socks in your Christmas stocking and think it was a super-boring present?

As an adult, that feeling changes. (I have been happy for every pair of wool socks I’ve gotten.) As a runner, I’ve come to appreciate good socks even more, to the point that I eagerly check the mailbox multiple times a day until an awaited pair of running socks arrives.

I reviewed Thorlos running socks here. I thought those two pairs would be enough. But I was curious what else was out there, so I reached out to Feetures, and they were kind to send me a sample pair of socks: the Elite Light Cushion No Show Tab Sock.

 

 

It was a good mail day, the day they arrived:

 

 

The first thing I noticed and appreciated was this small touch: the socks are marked “L” and “R”:

 

 

This sock is 95% nylon, 5% spandex, so it feels a bit what I would imagine putting on pantyhose feels like. They are a comfortable fit, and the “light cushion” is just a bit of added protection from the pounding of feet on the pavement. (Feetures has other cushioning options.)

The compression the socks provide is noticeable but not at all uncomfortable; these feel great to put on and wear. They are excellent at wicking away moisture, whether for a short, intense run, or long, slow distances.

One of my favorite things about the socks is it boasts the “The Perfect Toe®” technology (yes, that is all rights reserved!), which means just “no irritating toe seam,” which seems to be a rarity, even among athletic socks. I really didn’t think at all about these socks when I was wearing them—which is a good thing.

My personal preference might be for more cushion, but that’s in part due to some extra support I’m looking for these days to stabilize things after an ankle sprain last fall and developing plantar fasciitis (woo hoo). But there is definitely a place for these light cushion socks, especially if you don’t have lots of room in your running shoes. And Feetures even has a PF-specific sock!

Check out the socks above here. The Feetures site has plenty more options, too.

 


 

Thanks to the good folks at Feetures for the review sample, provided without any expectation as to the content of this review.

Short Review of the Brooks Ravenna 9 Running Shoe

Ravenna 9I just posted this short review to Brooks’s site, and thought I’d share here, too.

The Brooks Ravenna 9 is the best Brooks shoe I’ve tried. It’s springier and faster and lighter than the Ghost 9 and Ghost 10. It holds up well, too, for 5-10-mile runs. It’s got good support, especially in the heel.

It’s not a stability shoe, per se, but it feels plenty stable, without compromising weight. Coming from the Ghost, I found this shoe really fun and easy to run in. It’s a good blend between being fast and supportive enough for longer runs.

My only complaint is that the amazingly bright yellow and blue color isn’t available in the wider version (black only for that). I had these bright shoes for a few days and got lots of comments. My runs were good, too, but the right shoe was too narrow, so I returned them (super easy process with Brooks) for the 2E wide black ones, which feel much better. That said, both the normal and wide width could stand to be just a bit roomier in the toe box, as the Ghost is.

All in all, a great shoe. Find it here on Amazon (affiliate link) or here at Brooks Running.

Thorlos Running Socks

Two or three black toenails ago, I got some good advice from a friend and running buddy: invest in some quality running socks.

I think I knew there was such a thing as “running socks,” but it never really occurred to me to try them. I reached out to Thorlo, Inc., maker of Thorlos socks, and they were kind to send me two pairs for review, which I share here.

 

Experia Energy

 

The first sock I tried was a “supportive performance compression” sock. I didn’t realize how much I’d appreciate the compression, coming off an ankle injury. I got the extra large, which fits shoes size 12-14.

Some pictures:

 

 

 

 

 

I have no idea how it works, but the “Copper Ion technology” is meant to keep away odor (and does), so I can use these socks for at least three runs before I even need to think about washing them. I guess one person’s “ew… gross” is another person’s “longevity!”

The cushion is thin, as advertised, but the compression and moisture wicking features make this a great sock for both short and long runs. There’s enough cushion that I no longer need to double-sock one foot, which I had been doing as one foot is ever-so-slightly smaller than the other, resulting in a different fit for each running shoe. The sock helps a lot with that, even with just a bit of reinforcement at the ankle and toe box. Other than reinforced areas the sock is pretty sheer, so it’s a super lightweight sock, and really breathable. I’ll be using this for a long time, and look forward to some 10-milers in it.

You can purchase or find out more about the Experia Energy/Compression socks here.

 

Classic Running Sock

 

I also tried the Thorlos classic running sock (ankle length, XL for shoe size 13-15). This is the most cushioned Thorlos sock you can get, so you need to make sure you have the room in your shoe for it. (If you can wear medium thickness wool socks with your running shoes, you should be fine.)

This one is “for feet that hurt during or after activity,” which I was especially keen to try so I could have more padding to avoid blisters and dark toenails. It works great on that front. It’s a heavier sock than the Experia Energy, but I’ve enjoyed running with all the padding, and it protects toes and toenails really nicely.

 

 

 

 

 

Moisture has not been an issue, as the sock mostly wicks it away. But feet will get warmer faster in this thick sock, so that’s something to be aware of. (As I write this, it’s barely in the double digits Fahrenheit outside, so I may opt for them if I can get myself out on a run today!) So far I wash these just as infrequently as the lightweight sock.

I have a slight preference for the Experia Energy, but your mileage will vary (running joke, get it?), depending on what your needs are and what kind of runs you’ll be doing. I especially like the classic sock for shorter runs where I want to just go fast and have the added stability. It’s much more comfortable than I expected any running sock to be. You can find the classic sock here.

Thorlo makes lots of other socks. Check out their site here. They make their socks in the U.S. (North Carolina) and are a third-generation family business.

Thanks to the good folks at Thorlo for the review samples—I don’t expect these two pairs of socks to wear out any time soon, but their site will be the first place I go for my next running socks.

The Freedom Simply to Begin (First Draft Co.)

When creating something—whether writing, sketching, jotting lyrics, or laying out a plan for a new project—getting started is often half the battle. To feel the freedom simply to begin—to make a first draft—makes the work possible.

Any writing teacher or art instructor will tell you that good creative work begins not with a finished product, but with a draft. That may seem obvious, but lots of folks involved in creative pursuits forget that the first goal of putting something down to paper should be, well, to put something down to paper. It need not be a finished product; in fact, in all but the rarest bursts of inspiration, it’s the working over the initial insight or burst of effort that leads to a refined or compelling outcome. As Ernest Hemingway put it, in a dictum variously attributed to others, “Easy writing makes hard reading.” It’s the constant, if not obsessive commitment to drafting and revising and redrafting that leads to strong work.

That’s one reason I like the name of the company that produces this journal, which suggests that what happens in the pages of its product will be a starting place, a beginning. “We started First Draft Co. with a passion to build tools and experiences that inspire creativity,” the web site announces.

 

front-cover

 

The blank book provided for this review looks impressive from first glance. But it also has a solid feel. The hardcover boards, covered with library buckram, give heft, and make the book feel like more than a sketchpad or casual notebook. The satiny place ribbon also conveys something classy and useful, making it easy to resume work once the journal has been put away.

 

open-inside

 

The pages are blank—no lines or dots—leaving the creator ultimate freedom. The elastic cloth band holds the pages and cover together. Slipping it off takes a couple of seconds but that need to perform a ritual act allows for a moment or two or reflection, allowing a pause for gathering one’s thoughts, perhaps one’s scattered presence for the promising task at hand.

 

with-pen

 

Some specs:

  • 104 gsm bright white paper (fountain pen-friendly, smooth, makes for a top-notch writing experience)
  • Smyth Sewn binding (yes! lays flat easily)
  • sustainably sourced paper
  • 224 pages (you won’t need a new one any time soon)
  •  5.5” by 8.25”
  • Made in the U.S.A.

You can find the First Draft Co. notebook (together with the Blackwing pencils and gorgeous desk gear they offer) here.

 

–Reviewed by author and guest blogger Timothy Jones

 


 

Thanks to the kind folks at First Draft Co. for the notebook for review, provided without any expectation as to the content of this write-up.