Monday, May 31, 2010

yoursphere.com: ourworld

this week i learned that if i want to keep zoe so occupied that she can't even hear me talk to her, i should just let her get on yoursphere to play some games.

our assignment this past week was to spend some time in "ourworld" playing games and dressing and designing her avatar.

you wanna know what is really embarrassing?  having your daughter better at playing computer games than you are?  it is also embarrassing to be caught out playing these games when you are supposed to be doing other things.

it took me a little while to figure out how to navigate the world of ourworld.  which meant i needed to spend a bit of time on it before i could show zoe how to do it.  we both seem to have the knack of things now.

what is a little confusing is that you need to earn "flow" as well as coins and gems to gain more "levels" to have more access to clothes, places and contests.  i always get a little nervous about having to earn things and keep track of challenges, etc.  zoe hates to spend money or gems or whatever so it will be difficult to fulfill all the challenges and earn more "flow" because spending money is a requirement for a lot of these things.

a few games we both like are "bejeweled 2," "furballs' and "kyobi."  she really enjoyed the "splatterbox." she discovered that one right before we left for church yesterday so she didn't have as much time as she would like to really see all that can be done there.  she also seems more comfortable navigating the different places of "ourworld."  she even found a way down a waterfall to a toxic beach.  i'm not sure what the point of that was but we both found her green skin color interesting.

i think as zoe gets older, she will like the cooler "groove" this place has, as opposed to webkinz and pbskids.org.  for right now, i feel like some of the clothing choices, etc. are still a little more "mature" than i would like for her at this time.  i almost wish there were two "yourspheres," one for the young teens that are obviously being marketed to and one for the 'tweens and preteens that don't need exposure to the romance and sexiness that i see occasionally.  maybe when you enter your age at registration, that could determine which "yoursphere" you go into.


overall, i am glad for her to have a place like this to explore that is safe from weirdos, etc. zoe is really enjoying having her own place to explore, create, express herself and make friends.  if you would like to check out this place for your own child (or even play a few games yourself!), you can use the code YSMC-007 when you register.  it is free to register and to participate in the website.

i wrote this review while participating in the yoursphere test drive program by mom central on behalf of yoursphere. I received a free lifetime gold membership on yoursphere.com, yoursphere t-shirts, and a $50 american express gift card to facilitate my review.

winners!

we have a lot of winners to announce here (note to self: don't schedule giveaways to end when hubbie is out of town followed by a visit from in-laws).

the winner of the simply...go-gurt prize package is: lindsay!

the winners of the fantastic mr. fox giveaway are: amy, traceylynne and erika.
the winner of the yoplait greek yogurt prize package is:  thea.



finally, the winner of the supervalu box tops gift card is shawn (thanks for making that one easy!).

if all of you winners could email me your addresses within 24 hours, that would be wonderful!  otherwise, i will choose someone else's name.  stay tuned because i have another giveaway coming soon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

yoursphere.com: looking at spheres

zoe and i have spent a little more time on the yoursphere website.  we decided to join a "sphere" and even invent one of our own.  on the yoursphere site, "spheres" provide an opportunity to connect with people with similar interests.

zoe absolutely loves animals so that seemed like the best subject for us to check out.  there are other spheres for music, tv/movies, sports and fashion, etc.  these seemed geared toward kids who are older and more a part of the "teen scene."

we found one site that is very cute and very well done called "giraffes."  it has some really great pictures of giraffes.  we really like the baby giraffe with its mama.  there is a cute video too.  you should definitely check it out

we then decided to get a little brave and we created our own sphere.  i think zoe still secretly hopes she's going to get a dog for her birthday.  we decided to make a sphere about dogs.  she titled it "dogs, dogs, dogs."  we found a cute picture of a dog nose on flickr for the sphere logo.  then we found a cute video on vimeo to add.  finally, she laboriously typed a very short group post about how much she loves dogs (you'll have to check it out yourself to see what she says!).

i was a little unclear about how the spheres worked before i started looking into them.  i think it is a nice, easy and safe opportunity for self-expression.  i hope together we can come up with some more fun sphere ideas and find other (age-appropriate) ones for zoe to join as well.

remember, if you want to give it a try with your child, use the code YSMC-007 to help us out a little bit!

i wrote this review while participating in the yoursphere test drive program by mom central on behalf of yoursphere. I received a free lifetime gold membership on yoursphere.com, yoursphere t-shirts, and a $50 american express gift card to facilitate my review.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

grill daddy review

i have absolutely found the best father's day gift for bill and our dads this year. the grill daddy is a great idea for all dads who 1) love to grill 2) hate to clean up and 3) love mascline giganto-tools to get a job done.

bill received a new grill for christmas this year and, i'll admit, i have felt a little hesitant about actually using it.  it is stainless steel and looks "pretty"--i know as soon as we actually use it to cook something, it isn't going to look nice.  plus, with our old grill, i was always concerned about if we were actually being sanitary when we cooked our meat.  with this in mind, i was quite excited to sign up to review the grill daddy grill cleaner.  

this is a monstrously big grill brush.  apart from size, it didn't look much different than our old grill brush.  the difference is that this one holds water.  when you release the water on your hot grill, the water turns to steam and loosens and releases the stuck on food and residue that is left after cooking.  no more worries about grease or bacteria building up on your grill.  i'm sure you've seen the cooking shows that talk about a clean grill for the best tasting meat.  now you can have a grill clean enough for a tv cooking show!

the steam also cleans the stainless steel bristles of the grill daddy brush, so you don't have to worry about the condition of your brush over time.  also, no need to worry about burning yourself because the massive handle keeps your hands well away from the steam and heat. the grill daddy is safe for porcelain, steel and iron grills.

bill loves grilling and, thanks to the grill daddy, now he also loves cleaning up after himself.  one caveat is that the bristles are really quite sharp so it is important to find a safe place to keep the grill daddy out of reach of children.

you can purchase a grill daddy for yourself or for your favorite "daddy" on the website for $19.95.  It comes with a 30-day money back guarantee and a complimentary color-coded meat thermometer.  Or you can find the grill daddy at stores like k-mart, sears and cvs.


this is a mamabuzz review.  i received a grill daddy for free from grill daddy so i could write this review.  nevertheless, the opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

supervalu family stores offer bonus box tops

if you have heard anything about chicago education, you may have heard that a budget crisis at the state level is affecting the amount of money chicago schools will receive for the next year.  this is affecting staff numbers, class sizes, even whether or not my daughter will go to kindergarten for a half day or a full day.  i am trying not to let the rumors through me into a panic but it has been hard lately.

zoe's school does a phenomenal job fund raising.  unfortunately, our current financial situation precludes me from participating in a number of their events and activities.

one thing i can do proudly and consistently is collect box tops.  we regularly eat many of the foods that have box tops on them.  i know it is a very small thing:  each box top is only worth  10 cents for my school, but at least it is one way i can give back while doing something we are already doing.

now, the supervalu family of stores (acme, albertsons, cub, farm fresh and jewel-osco) are making it even easier to participate in the program.  together with box tops for education, they have created a website that not only tracks box tops contributions and the school's redemption.  they have also made available recipes, coupons, store promotions and more.

to top it off, now through may 31, supervalu stores and box tops for education are offering us a chance to win 50,000 bonus box tops for our schools.  just register here and click the link to the 50,000 bonus box tops sweepstakes.*  you will automatically receive 5 bonus box tops just for signing up.

if that isn't incentive enough, you can leave a comment here to win a $25 american express gift card that you can use at your favorite supervalu store.  first, go register at the supervalu website.  then come back here and tell me you did and tell me box top products you would buy with your $25.  i will choose a winner using random.org on may 31.  usa residents only please.

*Please note that the sweepstakes is void in some states.  Visit www.GrowingLocalLearning.com and view the sweepstakes´ official rules for more details.

i received my own american express gift card as a thank you for giving you this information.  the information found here and the giveaway were all provided by supervalu and general mills through myblogspark.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

one eskimO review

recently i had the opportunity to listen to a new release by the band, one eskimO.  if you are like me, it is possible you have never heard of them or anything about them.

here is what i have learned.  one eskimO is an english band with lead singer and songwriter, kristian leontiou.  he is joined by pete rinaldi on guitar, jamie sefton on bass and horns and adam falkner on drums.  they currently have the #1 adult alternative song called "kandi."  billboard magazine labels them as "...catchy, ambient pop," while the los angeles times magazine calls "kandi," "a beautiful aspirational track."

i have enjoyed listening to it in the kitchen while cooking supper and cleaning up afterward.  the music reminds me of seal.  i find it relaxing and enjoyable as background music for whatever i have going on.  tate was getting ready to go outside when he asked me what was playing.  i asked him what he thought about it, and he said he liked the "fast songs."

i'm not sure i would exactly call the songs "fast."  i think they are the kind of music that bill and i would like to put on when we are relaxing together at the end of a long day.  it would be nice to have in the background while catching up together and even to help things progress in a more romantic direction (!).

i haven't had a lot of time to let the songs sink in individually but the one that keeps catching my attention is "kandi."  it is definitely my favorite so far.  i can see why it is #1 among adult alternative songs.

if you would like to check them out for yourself, you can watch their video, or find them on itunes or even download a free copy of "astronauts" through twitter.  i often feel out of touch when it comes to the latest and greatest bands but i am definitely glad to be in on this great group and their first release.

i received a copy of one eskimO both to download and on cd for the purpose of this review from the one2one network.  i have in no other way been compensated for this review.  i will be entered to win a giftcard because i posted about this album but this has in no way affected my comments here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

yoplait greek yogurt review and giveaway

here is a little confession: i do not like the taste of yogurt. i know it is good for me, i know that there are a variety of flavors to attract my tastebuds, but i simply do not like that yogurty-sour flavor.

understanding my agony, my mom recently introduced me to greek yogurt. somehow, the flavor of greek yogurt doesn't seem to bother me the same way that regular yogurt does. unfortunately, i have had a hard time finding greek yogurt at our local grocery store.

imagine my delight, then, when i discovered that yoplait is now offering greek yogurt! in addition to a great taste, yoplait's greek yogurt has the additional benefit of offering 12 grams of protein, twice that found in the regular leading yogurts.

yoplait's greek yogurt comes in four different flavors: strawberry, blueberry, honey vanilla and plain. if you are kind of iffy on yogurt like i am, you might be surprised to discover that you enjoy the unique thick and creamy texture of the greek yogurt.

if you need more encouragement to give it a try, you can go here for a coupon for 30 cents off one cup of yoplait greek yogurt.* 

i would also like to give you an opportunity to win coupons for two free cups of yogurt.  along with the coupons, you can "nourish your inner goddess" with a gift pack filled with goodies to help you relax.  just leave me a comment telling me which flavor of yoplait greek yogurt you would most like to try.  i will randomly select a winner using random.org on may 25th.  u.s. residents only please.

*unfortunately, the coupons don't work in some states including california, idaho, louisiana, minnesota, nevada, new jersey, north dakota, and tennessee.

i received two coupons for free cups of yoplait greek yogurt, as well as my own "nourish your inner goddess" gift pack for the purpose of this review from yoplait through myblogspark (that is why i have seemed so relaxed lately, i guess!). they gave me the prize pack, coupons and information about the yogurt .  this has not influenced my opinion of this product in any way.  the opinions expressed here are purely my own.

yoursphere.com

zoe has been asking me for quite awhile now if she can start her own blog.  she has shown herself to be someone who processes things by writing about them so i thought it would be a good idea.  i was just a little nervous, however, about letting her put herself completely out there for anyone to find and read.

that was about the time that i got asked to be a testdrive mom for yoursphere.com.  this is a kid-friendly site that claims to offer "social media on training wheels."  kids have an opportunity to be themselves without extra pressure or being exposed to whatever is out there with facebook and myspace. 

yoursphere.com offers kids an opportunity to create their own profile, start a blog, share pictures or meet up with friends.  they can play age-appropriate interactive games or join groups to discuss favorite topics and interests with other people their age. 

mary kay hoal founded yoursphere.com to give her own kids a place online to combine privacy, protection and amusement.  this sounded exactly like what i wanted for zoe, so we've decided to give it a try.

i went through the process to set up an account, both for myself, as a parent, and for zoe.  i signed zoe up without her knowing about it at first because i wanted to know what we were getting ourselves into.  the home page has a youtube video that is a little more romantically minded than i want zoe to be.  the video seemed more appropriate for teenagers than for pre-teens or 'tweens.  i'm hoping not to get into that too much with zoe.

i had a little bit of a hard time setting up my account.  i got everything entered okay, but when i tried to get to zoe's account, i kept getting to the parent dashboard.  since zoe hadn't done anything to her account yet, i couldn't access anything other than the parent dashboard home page.

later, with zoe, i was able to help her log on and she worked on a blog entry.  it took her a long time to write a short amount because she types so slowly.  recently i went back to check on it and it seems to have vanished into the blogosphere.  i can't find it anywhere.  she is going to be very disappointed when she finds out.  i'll have to work with her to make sure we save it next time...

tonight i spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get a picture uploaded for her.  i came up with an avatar but i didn't like it very much.  i did another one i liked better but now i can't get the picture changed on her profile.  this has been a little frustrating. (update: i just logged on again and her picture is the newer one.)

apart from all these minor bugs, i am excited for zoe to have a safe place to blog and to meet some other friends.  i'm hoping some of her friends from school will be interested in joining so she can have some friends to connect with online, and even meet up with in the "spheres."

i will be working on various aspects of yoursphere in the next few months so i will definitely keep you updated about what i learn about the site.  until then, if you would like to check it out for yourself you can use the referral code YSMC-007 if you want to help me out.  i like to know i'm having an impact! 

it is absolutely free to join and safety for your children is of utmost importance so you will have to be involved in your child's registration.  the recommended age for the testdrive was 8-13 but i accidentally registered tessa (age 5) so i guess her account will be ready for her when she's older. 

let us know if your child joins so zoe can have a few more friends to connect with!

"i wrote this review while participating in the yoursphere test drive program by mom central on behalf of yoursphere.  i received a free lifetime Gold membership on yoursphere.com, yoursphere t-shirts, and a $50 american express gift card to facilitate my review."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

fantastic mr. fox review and giveaway

zoe has long been a roald dahl fan.  she's read almost all of his books.  when i was given a chance to review the movie based on the book, fantastic mr. fox, i leaped at the opportunity.

now that we have viewed it, i would have to say it is a great movie for adults and older children.  it definitely has an all-star cast with george clooney, meryl streep, owen wilson and bill murray, to name just a few.  the plot is very typical roald dahl:  very funny with a dark undertone.

i have to say that i much prefer this for older kids, even older than zoe.  some of the themes: stealing, lying to one's spouse, father/son disappointment and reference to cussing seem more appropriate for older kids.  i think when zoe is older, i would be much happier about letting her watch it, as long as we followed up with some healthy discussion about consequences and acting wisely.

bill and i really enjoyed watching this ourselves.  we laughed out loud many times, but this is one we will be saving for when the kids are older before we view it as a family.

if you are interested in watching this movie yourself, i have three copies available to give away.  just leave a comment below telling me your favorite roald dahl book (or another favorite childhood book if you have to!).  united states residents only please.  i will choose a winner using random.org on may 25th.


i received a copy of this movie for the purpose of the review from 20th century fox home entertainment through bender/helper impact.  i have been compensated in no other way for this review. 

simply...go-gurt review and giveaway

i am surprised to discover how much my kids love yogurt.  i don't really like the taste of yogurt myself.  i have to make myself eat it.  my kids, however, love to pick out all different flavors and varieties of yogurt.  for us it is a lunch staple.

unfortunately, i have spent way too much time at the grocery store trying to pretend my kids aren't whining and throwing tantrums while i read the labels on every kind of yogurt trying to find one that doesn't have high fructose corn syrup or aspartame.  i can't find one.  we have even gone so far as to buy plain yogurt and add our own flavoring to it.  the problem is, that isn't exactly a portable option.

yoplait seems to have heard my tale of woe.  they have come to my rescue with simply...go-gurt.  now i have a portable option for my kids' lunches that is made from simple ingredients without high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors or flavors.  now i can make sure my kids get a serving of calcium and vitamin d without worrying about all the extra yucky stuff i would rather they didn't have.

simply...go-gurt is available in strawberry and mixed berry, two of my kids' favorite flavors.  if you would like to give it a try, you can go here for a coupon for $1 off.  you can also go to this website and be one of the first 30 people to get a coupon for a free sample.  if you are not one of the first 30, you will get a coupon for $1.10 off simply...go-gurt.



you can also try for a coupon for a free sample along with some other fun items that can simplify your life (a pocket etch-a-sketch, a weekly planner and a seat back organizer).  if you want to win this "simplify your life" prize pack, just leave a comment below telling me your kids' favorite healthy snack.  i'm always looking for more healthy options to offer my kids!  i will choose a winner using random.org on may 25th, zoe's birthday.  i'm sorry to say this is only available to readers in the usa.

as a thank you for doing this review, i received my own "simplify your life" prize pack and a coupon for my own free sample of simply...go-gurt from yoplait through myblogspark.  they have also offered me a prize pack to offer to you.

a mother's day gift idea

somehow, since moving to chicago, we have developed a sunday night tradition where we eat pancakes for supper and then all watch a movie together as a family.  recently, we had spent a fun night together watching the black stallion.  both bill and i remember watching this growing up, and it was fun to share it with the kids.

it is rare to find a movie that can connect with all three kids, especially now that zoe is hankering after movies that are a little more grown up and with tate getting bored by anything that isn't handy manny or veggie tales.

the black stallion intrigued each kid on a different level.  tate loved the excitement of the horse race.  zoe loved the connection between the horse and the boy and tessa is just glad that everyone was happy at the end.

bill and i also enjoy watching a movie together once we have put the kids down for bed.  living as far away from family as we do, this is about as good as we can do for a date night.

this mother's day, i wouldn't mind getting a movie to add to our collection of possible date night or family night movies.  just like at easter, 20th century fox and mgm home entertainment are promoting the release of some old and new favorite movies.  personally, i would love to get little miss sunshine, or raising arizona (hint, hint, bill).  some of you might prefer in her shoes, a walk in the clouds, the devil wears prada or even the graduate or some like it hot.

check it out...you might find something you want even more than a bunch of flowers.


i received a copy of the black stallion as a thank you for writing about this promotion. i have in no other way been compensated for this promotion.

Monday, May 3, 2010

covermate food covers review

about three times a year i have to clean out our "tupperware" cupboard (we don't actually own any tupperware but what else can you call them? reusable storage containers?). i don't understand what happens in there. it seems like bowls and lids multiply behind those closed doors. unfortunately, those bowls and lids never seem to match up with each other. some days we can hardly close the door because they threaten to come spilling out, yet we can rarely find a match.

now with all the fear and stress about bpa and phalates, i hardly ever dare use those containers anyway. i have received a few glass bowls to use, but they never seem to be clean when we're ready to pack up our leftovers. since we are without a dishwasher, i think the easiest and most efficient thing to do is just cover up the bowls we served our food in.

enter covermate food covers. covermate food covers are plastic covers that have a special "flexband" that keeps the cover right on the bowl. amazingly enough, they can fit on round bowls or square dishes. they can fit on your "topless" reusable storage containers, over plates or platters.  unlike plastic wrap, they are washable and resusable.  you can get into your containers as many times as you need, then turn them inside out over a plate and throw them in your dishwasher, ready for next time.

CoverMate Food Covers covermate food covers are sold in individual boxes of medium size covers (12 ct), large size covers (10 ct) and a variety pack (10 ct) which contains a selection of medium, large and extra large size covers.

my grandma actually had something similar to these (though not nearly as nice or well made) when i was growing up.  i always thought they were something you could only get in canada for some reason.  now here i have my very own set that i can use again and again.  no more sticking my head deep into a cupboard trying to find an elusive lid.  these take up a lot less storage space than all my bowls and lids and are also less unwieldy.  they are microwave-safe as well, although i myself am a little hesitant to use them in the microwave, because i just don't like to use plastic in the microwave if i can help it.

the good news for you is that you can get a free sample here.  you just pay the $3.95 shipping and handling.  you will also receive a $1 off coupon for your next purchase.  you can find these at target,amazon, and a variety of other grocery stores.

this is a mamabuzz review. i received a sample of covermate covers from covermate, inc. for the purpose of this review. regardless, the opinions expressed here are purely my own.

you can also find me here

some other groups i've joined

 

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