Thursday, January 24, 2013

emmy rossum's sentimental journey review: takes me back to the "good ol' days"

i'll admit:  i would like the experience of being in a café in paris, moping in my french café au lait, when the love of my life (bill, of course) walks in, our eyes lock and our lives are changed forever.

that's the kind of daydream evoked by the songs of emmy rossum on her album sentimental journey.

due to be released on january 29, sentimental journey is a collection of covers from the american songbook.  each of the 12 songs represents a month in the year.  i actually don't care very much for the first song on the album, but i absolutely love all the rest of the songs.  my favorite (because of my french café daydream), is the song for october, "autumn leaves."  the songs range from peppy big band style numbers like "the object of my affection," to more quiet sentimental and thoughtful melodies like "many tears ago."
we've listened to the album so many times around here that two-year-old lilianna is starting to sing the songs herself.  it has been a favorite for our whole family.

If you think you would be interested in this album (a great choice for that special someone for Valentine's Day), it is available on itunes, as well as amazon.

if you still need convincing, you can check out emmy's music video, "these foolish things (remind me of you)":
i participated in this campaign for one2one network. i received a free copy of the cd to facilitate my review. by posting, i am eligible for incentives. all opinions stated are my own.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

raising a reader: diary of a wimpy kid review (w/giveaway)

i never want to seem like a pushy parent or a helicopter mom, but i like to do everything i can to encourage my kids to have a love of reading.

we make multiple trips to the library.  i buy books i think they will like from the thrift store (our shelves are overflowing), and we try to make time for reading throughout the week.

another way to encourage a love of reading is to make sure they have access to a wide variety of books that will hold their interest.

the diary of a wimpy kid series seems to be one such series.  for one thing, it is extremely popular.  my kids always want to be reading "what everyone else is reading" (which is healthier than doing some other things "everyone else is doing").  both zoe and tessa's classmates talk a lot about the series, and the girls want to be able to contribute to the conversation.

of course, the drawings and illustrations are hilarious and appealing to kids.  the storyline is not only something my kids can relate to, but i think it is a great way to open the door to important conversations about how to treat our friends, how to deal with bullies and the best way to develop a healthy self-esteem.

to be honest, when i first read this, i wasn't sure i wanted the kids to read it.  i'm not sure that greg is properly remorseful for the way he treats his former best friend.  i wasn't sure i wanted my kids to read a book that endorses using your friends to get something for yourself.  i still think greg wants to see what he can get out of his friend, rowley, but since the books are so popular and the series is continuing, i think that they will be useful and beneficial as conversation starters for our family.

if your kids (or you!) are into this series, i am happy to announce that i am giving away a copy of your choice of any diary of a wimpy kid book in the series.  just leave me a comment describing your worst junior high memory, and i will choose a winner using random.org on january 21.  you must be 18 to enter and a resident of the united states; make sure you leave your email address so i have a way to contact you if you win.

i received a free copy of diary of a wimpy kid (book 1) for the purpose of this review.  regardless, all thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Friday, December 21, 2012

"sticky" situations in our house


i have been trying to give our house a cleaning overhaul in time for the holidays.  there are dust monsters (much bigger than dust bunnies) hiding under all kinds of furniture in our house.  laundry (both dirty and clean) is piled up like twin mountains in our laundry area, and the kids are complaining about being out of socks.  the situation is dire.

unfortunately, trying to clean with kids around is like trying to stop niagara falls from falling.  i feel like every room i clean, they go behind me and mess things up again.  it is a little discouraging.

i have decided the best thing to do is corral the kids in one room, while working on the others.  then, we all work together to clean up the final room (the kids just love that!).  

do you have tips for how to deal with "sticky situations" with kids?  wet ones is running a contest on facebook for us to share our best tips for cleaning up messes.  they are giving away an ipad mini or tickets to six flags.  check it out here.  it only takes a few minutes (i did it myself).  just think how happy you will be that you had to clean up that mess if you win one of these prizes!

i participated in a campaign on behalf of mom central consulting for wet ones. i received a promotional item as thanks for my participation. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

holiday gift guide: stocking stuffers

at the chicago toy and game fair, we had the opportunity to meet a real inventor.  have you ever wished that you had more versatility with your legos?  if you haven't, you had better believe your kids have!  greyson had this problem, and he decided to do something about it.  he invented reusable, removable and restickable cling decals for legos.  each package comes with a sheet of decals related to a different theme.  you can buy home, pets, signs, metro, space, transport, rescue, splats, shops or all of the above! you can stick a dog to a house, create an oil spill or provide various signs for your shop.  i love that these are completely reusable and give my kids flexibility and versatility for all their lego creations (they work for other plastic bricks as well).

if you are a fan of settlers of catan, you probably familiar with mayfair games.  they have a crazy little game called, "le boomb."  this game is appropriate for 2 to 16 or more players.  it last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.  it is small and portable, with only four rules.  players roll a die to see if the bomb stays, gets passed or explodes.

we have a lot of puppets, but we have yet to try the "puppet on a stick" by educational insights.  these are very sturdy and well made.  the puppets' mouths move with a small lever near the bottom.  i think these are a lot of fun for puppet shows.  i'm looking forward to seeing what kind of stories my kids can come up with using these.  they come in a package of three.  (educational insights also has great ideas for teaching units, whether you are a teacher in a classroom or if you homeschool.  i received a few trial items, and i have been intrigued to see how i can incorporate them into our own home learning).  

for awhile now, pillow pets have been must-have items for my kids.  everyone now has their own pillow pet.  unfortunately, they can get a little bit...yucky...if the kids sleep on them every night.  this is where petjamas saves the day.  they are "pajamas" designed for pillow pets that come in a variety of colors and textures.  tessa's pegasus has seen better days, so i'm excited to get her a pair of pajamas for her friend so she can enjoy sleeping with her again.  they are easy to put on and remove so you can throw them in the washing machine any time they need to get less...yucky.

if your kids have collected as many silly bandz as you ever want them to have, you should definitely turn to floppets.  like jibbitz for crocs, these are (adorable) rubbery icons that are attached to velcro bands, instead of a rubber button.  this means they can be attached to a wide variety of things.  they can go in your hair, on your backpack, on flip-flops or sneakers, on a bracelet, be worn as a ring,  on a pencil and/or notebook, or even in a buttonhole.  these will make great stocking stuffers for anyone on your list.

i received a sample of each of these products through my involvement at the chicago toy and game fair (to which i received free passes).  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

holiday gift guide: games (w/giveaway)

we had the opportunity a few weeks ago to attend the toy and game fair.  this has become a favorite yearly event for us now.  we love getting to see (and play with) that newest and most fabulous toys and games on the market (at least, that's what we tell ourselves!).

here are some of our favorites:


from wiggity bang, we tried out magic feather.  it is described as "a nutty rumpus of a game for kids and families."  what i like about it is that it is a board game that encourages activity and actions so my littler ones don't have to sit for a long time.  "magic feather develops creativity and imagination; helps build problem-solving, story-telling, counting, reading and map skills; encourages physical activity; and exercises the sense of humor!"  players move around a magical neighborhood, trying to stay ahead of "pesky crows."  players have challenges like pretending to be a cat that swims, or having a conversation where you and another player talk like crows.  i'm looking forward to getting the kids to play this all together this holiday season.
wiggity bang has another game that i am personally interested in:  quao.  "what is quao you ask? quao (pronounced ‘cow') is the absolute, supreme ruler of an unruly wasteland at the edge of civilization where attempts at democracy are futile. quao is the ultimate dictator — an evil bovine with secret rules.
"what does it mean to be quao?  being quao means you know the rules and everyone else has to figure them out. as you play this fast and fun card game, you'll be challenged to discard all your cards first to win each round, as you try to become the quao."  i love dictator games!  i think this one would be tons of fun for all the cousins this holiday season.

 
you've probably heard of bananagrams by now, but did you know how many different new games there are now?  you can get jumbo bananagrams, double bananagrams and foreign bananagrams (what a great way for students to practice their foreign language learning!).  they have also added a few more fruits to the mix.
appletters lets early readers practice spelling words as everyone works to build a word worm.  whoever gets rid of all their letters first, wins.  as kids develop more confidence, they can play some of the other variations of the game.
this is also true for the game pairs in pears.  each bag comes with four sets of the alphabet, each with a different pattern.  this game has a lot of variations.  tate and i played by letting me make a word with my set of letters, and having him look for the matching letters with his own set of letters.  this was a great way for him to practice reading as well as to reinforce letter recognition.
tessa really likes the game zip-it, which also comes in a jumbo version now.  in this game, two players each get seven cubes with letters on them.  they race to see who can use all their cubes to make connected words first.  when you have used up all your cubes, you can keep score with the zippers on the bag.  the first one to score ten wins.

my favorite of the bananagrams games is fruitominoes.  even lilianna managed to join me and tate in this game!  the dominoes have different numbers of fruit on them (two bananas, three apples, four oranges, etc.).  you play just like regular dominoes, but the fruit pictures make it easy even for kids who can't count yet to play.  lilianna could see if she had bananas or oranges and make a match.
of course you won't want to miss game recently nominated as toy of the year by the toy industry association, don't rock the boat.  players take turn balancing pirate penguins on the boat.  be careful not to let any penguins fall off the boat!  zoe has actually asked for this game from santa this year.  i think that we'll all have fun playing this together.
for the younger set, goliath games has a number of great choices.  lilianna and i had the opportunity to play sonny the seal at the toy and game fair.  each person takes a turn trying to throw rings over sonny's head.
tate seems ready for something a little more challenging, so this year he will be getting pop! the pig.  players take turn feeding the pig, trying to be careful not to make his shirt pop open.  the kids like games that have more than just a board.  pop! the pig definitely fits the bill!
tate is just getting his first loose tooth.  we'll be getting a visit from the tooth fairy soon, i'm sure.  players in this game travel around the board trying to collect lost beth.  when they put the tooth under the pillow, the tooth is magically transformed into gold.  whoever collects four gold coins first, wins.  i'm looking forward to seeing the kids faces when the tooth changes into gold!

zoe spent quite a bit of time checking out the games she was most interested in herself.  she tried out a lot of different games, but when she left, there were two that she asked for in particular.  she really enjoyed the game, oversight.  the goal of the game is get four of your game tokens in a row.  for each turn, players can either place one of their token on the board, or slide an entire row or column of pieces to line up colors or mess up a player's game plan.  zoe is getting more and more intrigued by these strategy games, and this is a great one for her to practice careful and calculated strategy.

the other game zoe specifically requested was albert's insomnia.  this is a great game to help kids practice and develop their math skills.  tessa is just learning her multiplication tables so i hope zoe will let tessa play too so she can practice.  kids can play this alone or the whole classroom can get involved. players start with two cards with different numbers on them.  they try to come up with a math operation that will let them achieve the answer on the card in front of them.  they then progress to three cards, then four and so on.  i played a game similar to this in junior high that i really enjoyed.  i'm looking forward to testing my skills with zoe.
finally, i am always looking for games that can travel with us, since we spend so much time in the car.  tangrams by edustic is a great option.  each game comes with a variety of colored shapes, and laminated cards for each player.  in guess what! players create pictures with their shapes and try to get the other players to guess what they have created.  in pattern smart, players compete to copy the pattern from a flip chart booklet.  finally, in tangram smart, players compete to create the patterns in the flip chart booklet.

the nice thing about the tangrams pieces is that they can stick to a wide variety of surfaces.  the kids can play with them on the car window, the bathroom mirror or any glossy surface.  they don't leave any residue.  i really hope this helps to keep multiple kids occupied on our ten hour trip to tennessee from michigan.

i'm so happy to say that i have a tangrams game to offer to one of you!  just leave me a comment below telling me which game you are most interested in purchasing for a family member this holiday season.  i will choose a winner on sunday night at 8.00 p.m.

i received free copies of most of these games, as well as free passes to the chicago toy and game fair.  regardless, the views and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

princess stories: real bible stories of God's princesses review


we gave this book to tessa last year for christmas, and i have to admit i was a little skeptical.  i am nervous about all the princess stuff that surrounds our girls all the time.  while i was intrigued with the idea of letting my princess-loving daughter think about biblical princesses as opposed to princesses from that other popular industry, i wondered if the book would provide an accurate interpretation of the true biblical stories.

we ended up reading through this book as part of our family devotions and we loved it!  it brings to life even the most obscure of women in the Bible.  princesses, slaves, heroes and not-so-much heroes all have a story to tell and a lesson for all of us.

like the my princess bible, the last story is about the reader as God's princess.  this is a wonderful way to highlight how loved each of us is by God and what it means to live like God's princess.

my only qualm about this book is that all the drawings of princesses are of thin, beautiful women.  sarah is pictured with white hair, but she looks like a very fit 40-year-old.

i still highly recommend this book.  it was great for our family, and it is great for tessa to read on her own.

i received a free copy of this book from the tyndale blog network for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

start off your holidays with a bit of sweetness: cali candy cane doll (review and giveaway)

edited to add:  congratulations, lili!  you won the christmas groovy girls doll!

in december, i will be posting a variety of holiday gift guides describing some of the toys and games that we have been learning about and asking for lately.  i thought it would be fun to start off the holiday gift guide writing with a fun, little giveaway.

isn't she sweet?

this doll is our family's first official groovy girl.  my older girls always liked the groovy girls, but never somehow, they never found one under the tree.  i'm thinking that lilianna needs a toy to call her own, something the girls haven't already played with and collected (and dirtied).  i think groovy girls is a good choice for her.

these dolls are great because they satisfy a girl's fashion consciousness (i'm sorry if that sounds "gendered" but i can already see this consciousness with two-year-old lilianna) without the sexiness of a barbie doll.  her skin is a nice, soft plush so she's nice and cuddly for sleeping with at night.  her hair is pretty and curly without getting too tangly or frizzy.  her dress comes off (with velcro) but not her hat (unless you want to snip the threads holding it in place).  she is listed for ages three and up.

cali candy cane is pretty holiday-focused, with her green and red outfit, so i'm trying to decide if we will keep her out year-round or if she will just make special appearances at christmastime.  i'm also considering using her as our "elf on a shelf."  i'm sure that offends the purists out there, but since we don't have an elf on a shelf, and i don't really want to pay for one, i thought she would make a fun alternative.

i have a cali candy cane to give away to one of you faithful readers.  hopefully you can find a sweet, little girl to share her with, or make her a part of your own holiday decorating.  just visit the manhattan toy website and tell me one other toy you would love to share with a special someone (i know someone who would also love a baby stella).  i will choose a winner using random.org on thursday, december 6. usa residents only; must be 18 years old or older to enter.

if you just can't wait to win the giveaway, you can purchase your own cali candy cane doll (or choose from a wide variety of other groovy girl dolls) at the manhattan toy website or from your local specialty store.

i received a cali candy cane doll from manhattan toy (plus one to give away) for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

you can also find me here

some other groups i've joined

 

reviews from the crib | Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial License | Dandy Dandilion Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates