Monday, December 20, 2010

e-z socks review

when i have four kids to get dressed, fed and suited up to go out the door for school in the morning, i don't want there to be any hitch in our routine.  unfortunately, with four kids, there is bound to be a hitch somewhere.  usually that hitch is found with tate.  although he is able to do many things on his own, it only takes one little thing to give him trouble for him to give me a lot of trouble!

lately, his socks have been giving him trouble.  i don't remember having too much trouble with the girls putting on their socks, but then, i only had two kids to worry about and probably just did it for them! to alleviate our problem, i thought about giving e-z socks a try.

i have been surprised at the ease and functionality of the e-z socks.  tate feels a great sense of success when he can use the loops sewn to the sides of the socks to dress himself.  i appreciate that we don't have the headaches and tantrums in the morning when tate gets frustrated by his inability to put his own socks on.

to be honest, i kind of thought that they were ugly when i first saw them, but somehow the faces on the socks are growing on me.  of course, the most important critic is tate and he loves the animal patterns (he's only a little disappointed that there are no lightening mcqueen ones to choose from) and he doesn't seem to notice the loops, once he has used them to pull on his socks.

if you have a three-year-old who wants to be independent but is struggling with the skills to be able to do things himself, you might want to give e-z socks a try.  you might be surprised, as i was, at how they can facilitate a happier morning!

i am happy to say that i have one pair to give away to one of you, my faithful readers. if you would like to win a pair, just leave a comment below telling me the hitch you are most likely to have in your morning. for a second entry, you can subscribe to this blog. just leave me a comment telling me you did so. usa residents only please. i will choose a winner from the comments using on january 3, 2011.

i received a free pair of socks for the purpose of this review. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

holiday gift guide: movie ideas for that hard-to-please person on your list...

i don't know about you, but i can never figure out what to get the guys on our christmas list.  clothes seem a little mundane, and our fathers are the type who buy the toys that they want when they want them.  i am thankful that fox and mgm have come out with a bunch of great titles and collections of movies to make my holiday shopping much more simple.

if holiday movies are on someone's wish list, these are the titles that are now available:
the home alone collection (includes home alone & home alone 2 on blu-ray)
the christmas collection (all-new 4-disc blu-ray collection)
the holiday classics collection
(all new 2-disc blu-ray collection)
all dogs christmas carol
all dogs go to heaven

pink panther christmas
march of the wooden soldiers
the bishop's wife
the secret of nimh
the greatest story ever told

if you want to have a good family movie title, try one of these:
chitty chitty bang bang
night at the museum
night at the museum: battle of the smithsonian
ice age
ice age: the meltdown
ice age: dawn of the dinosaurs
horton hears a who
alvin and the chipmunks
strawberry shortcake: the glimmerberry ball movie
strawberry shortcake: berrywood here we come

perhaps you are shopping for someone who enjoys the classics.  in that case, take a look at these:
rocky, rocky II, rocky III, rocky IV, rocky V
robocop trilogy
rocky: the undisputed collection blu-ray
james bond collection: volumes 1, 2, & 3
cher: the film collection
the sergio leone anthology
the man with no name blu-ray box set

if your gift recipient is making the transition from dvd to blu-ray, try these combination packages:
the good, the bad, and the ugly
the graduate
the princess bride

i don't know about you, but i have seen a few of these titles that i hope santa will put in my stocking!

i received the home alone collection , the christmas collection, and the good, the bad and the ugly, as a thank you for passing along this information to you.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Monday, December 13, 2010

my favorite things from the toy and game fair (part one)

i received a free pass to the chicago toy and game (chitag) fair a few weeks ago.  our family really enjoyed surveying the latest and greatest on the toy scene.  the kids had a lot more things they wanted to ask for from santa after we went.

i also attended a special bloggers' luncheon where some companies had special tables out for us to see their products up close and personally.  these were some of my favorite things (that are now my kids' favorite things!).

at the absolute top of our list has to be the mega bloks thomas adventure on misty island.  thomas the tank engine is always high on tate's list.  if you factor in the fact that this thomas comes with tracks that you can build yourself in various combinations, and this gift is a trifecta that tate will love to find under the tree.  (in fact, he caught a glimpse of it when i was bringing it home so now he keeps insisting that it is christmas now! and he wants to open it and play with it.)  i really can't imagine a better toy to give tate this year.  i know that he will get hours of enjoyment out of building the track, running thomas around it and making up adventures for thomas and james.  i also like that the pieces you can add on to this set are so affordable.  tate can get another set to add to his collection each year.  i just hope he will share it with the girls sometimes!

of course, the girls will be busy enough with what they find under the tree this year.  the kids have really been excited about tattoos lately (if they get it out of their systems now, does that mean they will be less likely to go for the permanent ones later?).  it has been a little bit hard for me to keep up the supply to match their demand.  i figure the tattoo writer by roseart allows them to be creative while decorating themselves to their heart's content.  my favorite aspect of this is that they tattoos wash off with soap and water!  the kit comes with 3 tattoo markers, 8 rubber stencils and an instruction sheet.
while it is hard to think about being outdoors with temperatures the way they are right now (single digits, anyone?), i love the various backyard safari toys, tools and kits put out by summit.  my biggest fear about living in the city is that my kids will miss out on outdoor time and be less confident when they are outside.  the backyard safari items can make outdoor adventures both exciting and manageable.  the selection is great:  i saw a net that you can use for catching small animals (or your little brother if he's handy!), a bug vacuum that puts standard butterfly nets to shame and a periscope that can see over your neighbor's bushes or be used in the pool to see what is out of the water when you are underwater.  what i like about the backyard safari toys is that each one comes with a patch.  you can make your own sash or buy the backyard safari vest to iron-on your patches.  kids can mark their learning progress in a visible way.

i didn't wait until christmas to give the kids their belly washers and tummy ticklers sippy cups.  they were a fun surprise for our thanksgiving trip to tennessee and have been in constant use ever since.  these sippy cups/sports bottles come with juice but they are washable and reusable as water bottles.  the girls have princess and hello kitty tops while tate loves his lightening mcqueen and thomas the tank engine bottles.  lilianna even has her own princess bottle.  the tummy ticklers have a no-spill top with a less concentrated juice, while the belly washers have stronger juice and a sports bottle type top that pulls out when you are ready to drink.  i like that the kids are more likely to drink throughout the day when they use these extra-fun water bottles.  they are reusable but also affordable in case we lose one or two.  the lids are interchangeable and come in a wide variety to match the interests of any kid, young or old.

lilianna was not left out of the fun.  playtex had a few special goodies for her as well.  we have had some problems getting lilianna to eat and drink anything but my milk.  you can see in the picture how happy she is to have the playtex sippy cup with a straw.  i never thought she would be able to manage the straw when she wasn't even that good at drinking out of a bottle.  this cup allows you to press the sides as they are taking a drink to help them get started sucking from a straw.  i have found this truly ingenious!  lilianna seemed to get the concept pretty quickly when i pressed the sides and now she can drink from it all by herself.  i love this sippy cup.  one of my favorite things about it is that it is bpa- and phlalate-free.  now i don't have to worry about finding a pricey cup to keep lilianna safer from those toxins.  we'll be using these for awhile.  playtex also has a teether that is shaped like a pacifier that i'm hoping to find in lilianna's stocking this year.  she is good at taking her pacifier in and out.  i think this teether will be great for gnawing on since it is stronger and more durable than a pacifier.

i hope that you can get some good holiday gift ideas for your own kids from this.  i am looking forward to watching the kids open their presents this year because i know they are going to love what they find.

i received free items from each of these companies at the chicago toy and game fair.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

holiday survival kit (w/giveaway)

a couple weeks ago, i was surprised to receive a package that i would have to call a holiday survival guide. each of the things in the package will make my holidays a little bit easier.

first, i found a big bottle of purell. with all the handshaking at church and christmas parties, and all the scary germs crawling around school, we definitely need an economy size of purell. i like to keep a little bottle in my purse and refill as necessary. this is definitely a must-have for getting safely through the holiday season.

i also received a box of emergen-c. with 1,000 mg of vitamin c, bill swears this heads off any cold that seems imminent. he takes the full dosage of this whenever he feels a sniffle approaching. just dissolve the powder in a glass of water and let the healing vitamins do their work. we have the cranberry pomegranate flavor, which seems extra festive if you ask me!

for gift wrapping, i can't imagine a handier item than a scotch adhesive dot roller. i always get my paper all folded and ready to tape and then realize i have to try to get myself a piece of tape using two fingers and my mouth while trying to keep the paper from slipping outside my grip. now i can just take the dot roller, roll a strip of dots where i need the paper to stick and i'm done. since the kids are having the best christmas of their lives this year, i'm going to need some help with all that wrapping! this is definitely the tool for the job.

finally, i have already had far too many holiday dishes flavored delectably with garlic and onions. unfortunately, my breath is not so delectable after sampling these items! i have already given my girls this spin-n-go toothbrush, so i think i'm going to keep this one for myself. surely i'm not too old to decorate my toothbrush just the way i like it. i feel like i need to do some deep cleaning after sampling the latest variety of sweet and sticky treats!

i have a holiday survival kit to give to one of you to help you get through this season easily and with your health intact! just leave a comment telling me your one must-have item to survive the holidays. i will pick a winner december 14 at midnight. usa residents only.

i received one of each of these items as a holiday surprise. the opinions expressed here are my own and are not influenced by the fact that i received this stuff for free.

veggie tales incredible singing christmas tree on amazon

just wanted to let you know (because i would want to know if i didn't already know), that this album is available for free as a download from amazon.  isn't that great?  my kids love the veggie tales albums.  i'll have to save this one for in the car on our way to tennessee.

Monday, December 6, 2010

holiday gift guide: action figures!

article first published as holiday gift guide: hasbro stocking stuffers for boys on blogcritics.

this year, shopping for tate has been a snap. hasbro has three collections of action figures to choose from that can keep little boys happy for many months to come.

spider-man can take on green goblin and venom, whether by sea, with dive attack spider-man; in the sky with sky-speed spider-man; or at night with might mission spider-man. tate loves to act out adventures with good guys against the bad guys, so i appreciate the low cost of these action figures.

if robots that transform into vehicles and vice versa are more likely to interest your boy, transformers power core combiners have a new assortment of figures that connect with each other in dozens of variations to create even larger combiner robots. each figure can form the body part or weapon of a larger robot. these robots come in two- and five-packs. tate is still a little young for these but i know the day is coming when i'll be tripping over piles of robots.

it is hard for me to know who is more interested in the new star wars action figures, bill or tate. everybody's favorite figures from episodes 1-6, as well as from the clone wars series are available in this series.  although these figures are fully functioning on their own, they can also be used in a game: each figure comes with a card that lists the character's unique battle attributes. roll the die and see who wins as two figures face off in a galactic battle. tate is still too young to make use of this part of his action figure, but  look forward to adding this dimension to his play when he gets older (bill and i might just give this game a try ourselves when tate goes to bed--we used to play pokemon when the boy we babysat for went to bed.)

never has it been so easy to figure out what to buy for one of my kids.  i know for sure that tate (at least) will be happy when he opens his presents this year.  and i know he is going to be entertained for hours and hours in the coming year with toys like these.

i received a spider-man figure and an obi-wan kenobi figure to give to tate for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

the true story of the three little pigs (review)

we love to check out scholastic storybook treasures dvds from our public library. everyone always has a favorite story that they can't wait to see come to life as the characters walk and talk around the pages of the book.

that's why we couldn't resist getting our own copy of this dvd with the true story of the three little pigs, by jon sciezcka, as the main story. with paul giamatti reading it, the kids sat glued to the screen as they waited to see what the wolf would do next. the combination of a great storyline and creative animation made for a great movie treat for all of us. the kids also enjoyed the interview with jon scieszka and lane smith at the end of the dvd. i was surprised that they were willing to sit and listen to how the book came into being as the two men joked around together.

we also enjoyed zach braff's narration of wallace's lists, by barbara bottner and gerald kruglik. we hadn't read this story before but we enjoyed watching as wallace learned to live a little more adventurously.

henry builds a cabin, by d.b. johnson was a great story about simplicity. afterward, we learned about henry david thoreau and the cabin he built by walden pond.

we love the rollicky-rhythm of this is the house that jack built by simms tabeck. there is a surprise character at the end of this one that no one was expecting (not even zoe!).

the only one we found a little strange was the pigs' wedding by helme heine. nobody complained about it, but when it was over, we all remarked on the strangeness of the story.

all in all, i am glad to have this dvd as a part of our collection. i look forward to more selections from scholastic storybook treasures.

i received a free copy of this dvd for the purpose of this review from scholastic. regardless, the thoughts and opininons expressed here are purely my own.

holiday gift guide: yo-yos that actually come back!

(article first published as product review: yomega yo-yos on blogcritics)

if you had told me that you thought i should get my kids yo-yos for christmas a few weeks ago, i would have said you are crazy.  the yo-yos always unwind, the kids can't get them to work, and i'm left trying to wind them back up while the kids cry over the lame toy i bought them.
you won't hear any tears or cries of frustration from me with these yo-yos, however.  yomega has made yo-yos that return automatically!  Their secret is a centrifugal clutch system that can open for spins and sleeping and then close again to force a return.

my kids and i tried out the gamma brain wing.  this one has the auto-return in one mode but allows the user to switch to allow greater speeds and tricks.  i was prepared for tears and great frustration, but i was pleasantly surprised to discover that all three of my kids (ages three, five, and eight) were able to master it.

we also tried out the maverick which looks and feels different because it is an all aluminum yo-yo with a weighted perimeter and a new "super smooth rubber return system."  it can be seen as a step-up skill-wise from the gamma brain.  to be honest, i don't understand the physics of how these yo-yos work.  i'm just glad that my kids and i can figure them out for ourselves!

we may not be ready for more complicated tricks yet, but when we are, both yo-yos come with a demonstration video and explanation of what else can be done with a yo-you besides throwing it down and catching it again.
tate was also excited to try out the yomega quick-6.  this is a small football with a full football grip.  since he loves to play football, we are glad for him to have a football for practice-throws that is a good size for him.  it will continue to be a great football as he grows up as it is great for those "long spiral throws."

i don't think any of my kids would have automatically put a "yo-yo" on their christmas list based on our past bad experiences, but this year, they are all excited to see what can be done with a yomega yo-yo.

read more:

i received a free gamma brain, maverick and yomega quick-6 for the purpose of this review from yomega. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Monday, November 29, 2010

you lucky dog movie review

we are always on the lookout for good family movies that can appeal to our family's broad audience (mom, dad, kids age 8 to 8 months).  i thought the hallmark channel might have some good options for us.  since everyone around here is dog-crazy, i chose you lucky dog ($12.49 on amazon).

natasha henstridge plays a working woman, lisa,  who returns to her small hometown after her mother's death only to learn that her family's ranch is struggling to survive financially.

she decides to stick around to try to make things better at home and enlists the help of a shelter dog named "lucky."  as lisa and her brother work to bring life back to the ranch and the town, they discover that lucky's determination can inspire the whole town and bring both their family and their community closer together.

the kids really enjoyed this movie.  bill and i found a few plot flaws that gave us the giggles but overall, we enjoyed the movie as well.  i wish the language had been cleaner for the sake of the kids.  a few "words" flew here and there; thankfully they seemed to go over the heads of the kids, but i wish they had been omitted altogether.  i thought the plot seemed a little more focused on adults than kids, but my kids didn't seem to notice.  i'm pretty sure they'll be asking to watch this again in the near future.

i received a copy of this movie from bender/helper impact for the purpose of this review.  regardless, all thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.  if you use the link above to purchase this movie, i might receive a small benefit in return.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

holiday gift guide: you can't go wrong with photo gifts

if there is one present we know will bring tears to the eyes of grandparents at gift-giving time, it is when we present any gift with photos of the family in it, on it or around it.

shutterfly has some choices that really have me drooling for the holidays.  how about this photo that is printed right onto a canvas?  no worries about picking out the right frame or mat (or the added expense).  now your loved one can have the photo ready to hang as the perfect decoration:

if you want something a little less permanent, there is always the classic photo calendar. i have never done this for the grandparents, but i love the idea of picking out photos from each season of the year to include. each month brings a new surprise and a new fond memory of the year before:

for myself, i really want one of these photo books. i don't scrapbook and we only have so many places to put up photos in our home, so most of my kids' pictures live on our computer. i would love one of these to keep on our coffee table. i can picture many hours of flipping through one of these, either alone or with the kids, reliving our favorite memories and laughing at the silly things the kids did. shutterfly has a "simple path where you choose the pictures and they put together the book for you, or a "custom path" where you do more of the design work yourself.

of course, since i have christmas cards on the brain, i couldn't resist a look at the selections of photo cards that shutterfly has to offer. i love this one because the photo dominates the card:

so many decisions to make, so little time! i can tell that i will be spending some more time on shutterfly's site trying to narrow down my choices to make a good decision for gifts and cards!

in return for writing this post, shutterfly has offered me 50 free holiday photo cards. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

tiny prints review

there is no question:  when all those holiday cards start arriving in the mail, i definitely get "christmas card envy."

no matter how carefully i've chosen our cards, i feel like every other person has more creative or more beautiful cards than we do.  this year i'm hoping to avoid christmas-card-envy by picking out some cards from tiny prints.

i have just spent the last half an hour poring over the tiny prints website (that's a half hour i should have been packing for our trip!).  on every page, i found so many choices of cards that i have been finding it difficult to narrow my list.

here is one of my favorites:

just looking at it makes me feel so happy. plus i like the idea of not having to get a picture with all four of my kids being normal and smiling. tate especially has a habit of doing the exact opposite of what you want him to do in a group photo situation. this way i can choose great candids of each of the kids and still get everyone in one card. besides, look at the back:

how cool is that? i love the idea of putting our christmas "letter" together with the card. this one is high up on my list.

of course, then there is this cool idea:

this one is ready to go on someone's tree as a great decoration and a great visible reminder that your family needs some christmas love (i'm just kidding about that last part). i never know what to do with the cards we get in the mail. i don't have a great display system developed yet. so if everyone could just send me their card like this, i could put them all over our tree. could you all help me out that way?

i might just have to go with this classic, however, because this truly reflects how we feel as we approach this holiday season:

we definitely want everyone to know how blessed we feel and how much we hope everyone else may be blessed as well.

today is the last day to get 20% off all the tiny prints christmas cards. now is a great time to get your cards ordered to be ready for the mass mailing (note to self). choose from so many beautiful cards and save yourself some christmas card envy!

Monday, November 22, 2010


i have been dreadfully neglectful about following through on my giveaways.  i apologize.  things have been busy (still, no excuse) and i'm starting to realize that this is the way things will always be with four kids so i'm just learning to find other times to do these kinds of things.  all that to say, i hope to do better for you, my faithful readers.

the winner of the strawberry shortcake: glimmerberry ball movie is...

...amy from occupation: mommy. i'm pretty sure out of her three girls she will be able to find someone who likes this movie!

the winner of the strawberry shortcake: berrywood here we come video is...

...holly from embracing the chaos.  with four girls at home, she will probably appreciate the opportunity for another video "babysitter"!

i also had a giveaway from lena toews.  i didn't have as many entries as i had hoped (i'm sorry, lena) but i hope you will check out her site.  she has some new winter premades up and she is having a really, really big giveaway right now.  she also has new christmas photo cards available so check her out!  the winner of either a pre-made blogger layout or photo card selection is...
...erika!  now you'll have to make a choice between your two favorite christmas cards!

if you didn't win (and you like to win), i have 2 giveaways coming up (one of which is a holiday survival guide) so check back and try again!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

funundrum drums up the fun! (review)

to be honest, in general, i don't like the circus.  there is something that just doesn't sit right with me.

but for the second year in a row, ringling brothers and barnum and bailey is making me change my mind. 

we attended the funundrum circus show last night as a family.  over and over again, i caught bill's eye as we both oohed and aahed over the act we had just witnessed.  "high quality" are the right words to describe the performance.  just when you think something can't be topped, the next act appears to wow you all over again.

i'm not sure i'll ever be able to forget the contortionist ladies as they bent their bodies into truly unimaginable positions.  surely they've had their backbones removed!  i'm so glad our seats were across from the main stage so we could have a great view of their performance.

surprisingly, our favorite performance may have been the motorcycles inside the steel ball.  again, we saw a well choreographed, high quality performance.

as for the kids?  i'm sure we will be talking about their favorite acts and sights for a long, long time.  tate really enjoyed the dog riding in the basket hanging from the elephant's mouth.  zoe enjoyed any act that included animals.  as usual, tessa just can't decide which was her favorite.

if you are in chicago, you still have a short time to witness these sights for yourself.  enter the code "mom" at checkout for a discount on your tickets!

i received free tickets for my family to see the show.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

What's Up Down There? and other embarrassing questions answered (review)

article first published as for all those who've ever wondered, what's up down there? on blogcritics

it is no secret that i hate going to the doctor.

even more, i hate asking the doctor embarrassing questions about bodily problems i may or may not have.

this is why i generally rely on my girlfriends to answer my deepest, darkest, secret questions.

imagine if one of your girlfriends was also a gynecologist. what kinds of questions would you suddenly feel free to ask?

lissa rankin is a gynecologist who also gets together with her girlfriends and has those types of discussions. in her new book, what’s up down there?, Lissa collects all the questions girlfriends like to ask each other and answers them from the perspective of a gynecologist who is also one of your best friends.

Since, unfortunately, i cannot always rely on my girlfriends to give me accurate information, i have a deep appreciation for this book. it is written in an engaging manner that satisfies a desire for information, along with a desire for a good read.

i highly recommend what's up down there? to any woman who has questions about her body, but has always been too embarrassed to ask. lissa will be happy to take you under her wing. not only will you learn something, you will also end up feeling more positive about your body than you ever have before.

this book would also make a great christmas gift for any woman who is pregnant, might become pregnant, is worried about menopause, going through menopause, is getting married or is already married...well, you get the idea.

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

Read more:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

holiday gift guide: disney mickey mote

have you ever tried to talk to your kids while they are watching a dvd or tv? even on the shows that ask questions and invite interaction, my kids are so zoned out they don't move or barely blink. i have tried to ask them questions about the show while they are watching it, and they don't even hear me.

all this makes me wonder how much they are actually learning from these "learning" shows. if their brains shut down to such a degree that they can't even hear me speak to them, how much are they really taking in about the alphabet or science or math?

i think the disney mickey mote can only help with this problem...

what is a mickey mote, you ask?  the mickey mote is a a mickey mouse-shaped remote control that can be programmed to work with your dvd player.  your kids can interact with the disney movies they are watching, answering questions related to what they watched in the movie.

starting november 16, the mickey mote is included with the purchase of mickey mouse clubhouuse: numbers roundup dvd or the handy manny: big construction job dvd. the mickey mote is also backwards compatible with a variety of other handy manny and mickey mouse clubhouse titles.

we have watched two episodes so far using the mickey mote, and i believe that not only is it fun for them to use, but using the mickey mote will help train them to pay attention to what they are watching and hearing. i think this will help train them to observe and question what the show is saying and to be more critical watchers.

i asked zoe what she thought of the mickey mote and she said she likes how it lets you interact with the movie in a way that you can't with other movies (maybe i shouldn't have asked an 8-year-old about it. i think she may have been reading some of the marketing materials!)

if my kids are going to watch tv from time to time (and they are), i am glad to have a tool to force more critical thinking and interaction in a way that regular tv and movies cannot.

for a more unscripted review, here is what tessa and tate had to say about it...

if you are looking for a great holiday gift for 2-5 year olds (and their parents!), consider buying one of the dvds with the mickey mote. i think it will be a great hit!

i received a free copy of mickey mouse clubhouse: numbers roundup and handy manny: big construction job as well as a mickey mote for the purpose of this review. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

come play at the chicago toy and game fair (w/giveaway)

my kids have been pretty thankful for my little blogging "hobby." tickets to the circus, some toys here and there, a movie or two and they are happy to encourage me to keep blogging! in two weeks, however, i am going to be elevated to a whole new level in their eyes. i have received passes for our family to attend the chicago toy and game fair and navy pier.

on november 20-21, they will have an opportunity to sample the hottest new toys and games while enjoying live entertainment. bill and i will be able to attend seminars for parents and educators and even get some holiday shopping done. what could be better that toys 'r' us, fao schwartz or kb toys? the chicago toy and game fair, of course. the kids can hardly wait. i'm sure santa will have lots to add to his list after we see all the new toys that are available this year.

if you will be in the chicago area and would like a free pass to the fair, just leave a comment here. i will pick a winner using tomorrow! (i'll have two more passes to giveaway in the next two weeks so come back and try again if you don't win!)

i received free passes for my family to attend the toy and game fair. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

holiday gift guide: norah jones...featuring

every year i worry about what to get bill for christmas. since we get so much from our parents, we always say we aren't going to get each other anything. but that doesn't feel right... how do i find that gift that says, "i love you," but that won't sit in his closet collecting dust for the next 100 years?

this year, i am happy to say i have the absolutely perfect gift. if there is one singer we both love, it is norah jones. her music is great for relaxation, great for when you have to do some work you don't like, and (bill's favorite) great for "getting in the mood."

target="_blank"norah jones has a new project out with songs recorded from 2001 to 2010. These songs are the cameos, duets and collaborations that she made with groups like outkast and foo fighters and singers like willie nelson and ray charles. i'm not sure there is any better way to showcase the broad spectrum of musical styles that norah jones has truly mastered than with an album like this.

whether you have a die-hard norah-fan on your christmas list or someone who's been living under a rock and never heard her, this is a great gift that is sure to please this year.  you can preorder it now on amazon or wait until it is released on november 16.

i received a free copy of this album for the purpose of this review (but don't tell bill--he's getting it for christmas) from the one2one network. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

if i ran away to the circus...

ever since we went to the circus last year, we've been reading and re-reading the program so we can relive all our favorite acts and performances. this has led to some discussion about what we would do if we had the opportunity to join the circus.

it should be no surprise to anyone that zoe would be involved with the dogs and their tricks. she loves anything to do with dogs and loves to imagine the different tricks she would do with them in the circus.

tessa, of course, can't really decide what part of the show she would like. i am pretty sure that it would have something to do with dressing up in a really fancy costume and walking around like a beauty queen.

there is no question that tate would tame tigers. he loves to talk about the "tiger man" and all the different tricks he got the tigers to do. (since he was hiding his face for much of the show, i'm surprised he even knew what happened!)

what about me? i would love to be one of the beautiful elephant ladies waving my arm gracefully while clasping the elephant's headpiece. unfortunately, i'm so clumsy and ungraceful, i think it would be better for me to be a clown. maybe if i learn how to fall intentionally, i won't fall as often unintentionally!

what would you like to do in the circus? if you need some ideas, you might want to check out the circus in town right now! buy tickets here for 4 tickets for $44 for weekday shows and $4 off weekend shows. the show is at the allstate arena november 4-14 and at the united center, november 17-28.

i received free tickets to the show for me and my family from the feld family entertainment group. regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

holiday gift guide: strawberry shortcake (w/giveaway)

around here, we have already had a great deal of discussion about what everyone wants for christmas this year.  besides various toys, everyone likes to get a new movie to watch for our weekly sunday night movie event.

this year, strawberry shortcake has been a busy little lady.  she has released not one but two new movies.  strawberry shortcake is always a hit around here so everyone will be watching berrywood here we come and the full-length cgi feature, the glimmerberry ball movie.

the glimmerberry ball movie is great for christmas.  in this movie, the girls prepare to celebrate the coming of winter with a secret gift exchange and a festive winter ball.  unfortunately, someone destroys their decorations and the girls all carve the same design in the Glimmerberry Ball lantern event, so they have some mysteries to solve before they can fully enjoy the celebration.

in berrywood here we come, first, the girls go visit a movie star friend of strawberry shortcake named limelight. unfortunately, they need to work together to convince limelight realize that everyone can shine – because everyone is a star!  in part two, hooray for berrywood! strawberry and friends bring their berrywood experience home and help re-open a local theater.

i know my girls are going to be excited to find both these movies under the tree (and tate won't admit it, but he'll enjoy watching these with the girls as well!

i have a copy of each to giveaway to two wonderful readers.  just leave a comment here telling me who you would love to share one of these movies with this holiday season!  i will draw two winners using on november 18, in honor of my sister's birthday.

i received information and copies of both these movies for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

holiday gift guide: harriet the spy: blog wars review

if there is one book i read over and over again when i was growing up, it was harriet the spy.  there was something about that melancholy goodness that satisfied some need in me.  i would have loved a movie version.

harriet the spy: blog wars is a little different than i would have imagined harriet the spy when i was growing up.  however, we all really enjoyed this modernized movie version. 

i was a little worried about the age appropriateness.  tate and tessa weren't as into it as zoe was.  i would probably recommend this more for 9-10 year olds.  but bill and i enjoyed it as much as zoe did.  i think this is a great family film.  it has a good lesson and a fun plotline.

this would make a great gift this holiday season for the preteen girl on your list!

i received a free copy of this movie for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

holiday gift guide: goosebumps and garfield

if you want to know the honest truth, i let my kids watch a couple episodes of garfield, and he isn't my favorite.  i know, we watched looney tunes and tom and jerry with no terrible side effects that i can identify.  so why don't i like my kids to watch shows with characters that aren't nice to each other?  i recognize that we don't live in a barney type of world, yet i want my kids to be exposed to that kind of falsehood rather than the garfield falsehood.

anyway, if you don't have the same neurotic hangups that i do, you may want to think about getting the garfield odie oh! show for someone for christmas.  i will admit, there is a bit of nostalgia for me, hearing that trademark garfield voice...maybe you feel the same way.

for those preteen boys on your list, may i suggest goosebumps, the blob that ate everyone and go eat worms for a disgusting and creepy gift they're sure to love.  even though these aren't the kind of movies my kids usually watch, the cgi animation looks pretty cool.
i will be having more suggestions for your holiday gift guide.  after all, i aim to be helpful this holiday season!

i received free copies of these movies for the purpose of this review.  regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

halloween special: star wars: clone wars online game

if you like star wars, and if you have been hoping that you can get online to enjoy participating in star wars games, and, if the icing on the cake would be that this game included some spooky halloween elements, all your wishes have now come true!

this halloween, the sony online games are adding halloween elements to their games, including star wars: clone wars.

give it a try!  (just don't tell bill about it...he doesn't need any more time-wasters!)

Friday, October 29, 2010

toy story 3 election event

if you live in the vicinity of naperville, and are free on tuesday, november 2, from 2-6 pm, take your kids over to blockbuster (3204 s. route 59) for an election day event.  celebrate the release of toy story 3, buy a copy for yourself, and let your kids vote for their favorite character.  

your kids can enjoy cake, cookies and beverages, get their faces painted and participate in a costume contest.  (and if you need a gift idea for me, this would be it!).  rsvp at this facebook page

i received this information from pr chicago to pass on to you with no compensation for myself.

you can also find me here

some other groups i've joined


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