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2011 Holiday Gift Guide

November 24, 2011

Earlier in the year I was asked if I planned on doing a holiday gift guide. I took a few days, thought about it, and decided it would be kind of fun.

I was given a few items to review and others are just things that the girls and I liked. Be proud of me, I did not go to Pinterest to look for things of interest. All the photos are photos I borrowed from other sites, with the exception of the items I was sent to review, then I used the stock photos they provided. I have more photos coming later today if the lighting and girls cooperate, stupid cloudy weather.

So this is what we found cool or fun and what we thought you guys might like:

For the little ones:

The Giraffe Rocker from Little Alouette. One of my favorite stores and people on the internet.

giraffe rocker

Nativity Which in all honesty I want just to be able to put it out each year. I’ve wanted a Nativity scene for years but this is the only one I’ve ever wanted to pay money for, I’ve passed over many sets that were on sale or even in a thrift store.

nativity

Imagination Kids had this awesome Wooden Rainbow and http://www.etsy.com/listing/62723270/wood-toy-hedgehog-push-toy-waldorf-eco.

wooden rainbow

hedgehog

Cheezombie had some really cute amigurumi patterns and a sale.

Garden Slug

slug

My friends at Sesame Street have come out with some pretty cute items lately.

They partnered with Robeez (which I learned to love when Bug was born) and Stride Rite and came up with Stride Rite S.T.E.P with Sesame Street®.

robeez

Cookie Monster is my favorite but Abby is pretty cute.

If you’re looking for apps for your iPad I have a few recommendations.

Elmo Loves ABC’s was an app that I was supposed to review on my phone (I didn’t realize it was iPad only app, ok) so I passed the app code onto a friend who is a homeschooling mom of 4 1/2. She reviewed it in the apple store, but I can’t find the actual review, but this is what she sent to me on on facebook, “Kids are playing it and loving it so far.” (My computer is kind of weird with iTunes lately.) Some reviewers say it has a problem with the sound sometimes so I’m hoping Anna will contribute her thoughts in the comments.

Of course I have to recommend Secret Agent Josephine’s ABC’s, Colors, and Numbers books. They are available in electronic and paperback formats.

SAJ colors book is out!

We received a copy of Ready, Set, Grover for both the Wii and Nintendo DS.

wii

Suki had a hard time with the Wii version of the game, I think she may have been to close and the Wiimote needed to be recharged, but I liked it. The characters look, sound, and move like you expect them to. You can dance with Elmo or serve up healthy snacks to the other monsters. There were many other mini games but those were the two that Suki really loved the most. I think eventually she’ll expand her horizons and try the other parts but for now she’d rather play the parts she already gets.

My favorite part of the game was the fuzzy Grover cover that slides over the Wiimote hiding the buttons that the kids don;t need to use to play.

Luckily a friend let Suki use her DS to try out the DS version of the game. SHE LOVED IT. She tuned to me and said she needed a DS of her own so she could play it more. She said this version was much easier for her to play. Any game that keeps her interest and she isn’t crying because she can’t read the directions is a win for me. The over-sized Grover stylus helped her maintain control during game play too.

I know many of may be confused, yes Suki is nine, yes this is a preschool game. Suki barely reads at kindergarten level so I usually purchase games that don’t require extensive reading. She is improving, slowly, but games that have lots of reading just frustrate her because she doesn’t understand what to do next and we aren’t always available to read every line to her.

Once Upon a Monster made me wish we had a Xbox 360 with a Kinect, but lucky for you we don’t. Find out why later in this post. The kids learn about friendship, sharing and teamwork while playing by themselves or with their friends.

kinect

Of course playing with someone else’s DS we had to look at them online and see what was what and what they liked.

Amber wants the 3DS in black and Suki wants one in blue. I played with one at the E3expo Summer of 2009 before they added a few changes that I really dig. Being able to turn off or adjust the 3D is great, but even better is the fact that it didn’t cause me vertigo like the old Sonic games did when I was growing up.

3ds

Amber liked this Fashion Designer game

fashion designer

and the NintenDogs and Cats: French Bulldog.

nintendogs

Suki liked the Golden Retriever.

nintendogs 2

This is my last Sesame related item. I love it. If I had my own office/sewing room this would be in it. You can find it at Spencers.

lava lamp

Angelina Ballerina Dance with Me Game

angelina ballerina

If you’re looking for clothes this is what they say is it for this season.

Angelina Ballerina™ Books To Bed Pajama & Book Gift Set. (Was available at Totsy, but I don’t know if it still is.)

angelina ballerina pjs

Amber loves the Annoying Orange. My favorite is the Lady Pasta one.

They have an entire line of products to make your kitchen more annoying, er, I mean fun.

Of course Amber really liked the shirts. These were out two top picks. Well, until we received one in the mail.

Wasaaabi! was Amber’s first choice. (Available at JC Penney, Shopko, and Rue21.)

wasaaaabi

I said she needed the 100% annoying. She didn’t get the joke.

100 annoying

Of course the shirt we received was perfect. I’ll post a photo later today, AFTER she has showered so you can see it. It’s a decent quality, but like most screen tees it requires a cami or something underneath unless you like showing off your underthings.

We perused GAP, Old Navy and Zappos and had to stop ourselves after an hour and a half. We did not look at prices. I told her this was a virtual trip where they could have anything they wanted.

Sweater Dress
gap sweater dress

Shawl Cardigan
gap shawl cardigan

Amber loved everything about this outfit.

old navy 2

The Dolman top in professor plummer.

professor plummer

Skinny Mini Flare Jeans

skinny mini flare

An O-ring belt

o ring belt

Timberland boots.

timberland

Lucchese boots.

lucchese

Justin boots.

justin

Tall faux-suede boots.

old navy 1

We tried looking for gifts for Men. The girls weren’t into it. My Dad likes cooking stuff, Tom is never home to use stuff, Shawn likes to shoot stuff. So, I figured a leather wallet was better than a tie.

I found this one in Gregg McDonald’s Etsy shop.

wallet

If you made it this far tell me where you get your gift ideas for the people on your list who have everything and you could win your own copy (NEW) of Ready, Set, Grover for the Wii or Once Upon a Monster for the Xbox 360 with Kinect.

The contest will remain open until 11:59pm PST on December 3, 2011. I will choose two winners, one for each game, via Random.org.

The contest is open to all my readers, but please keep in mind that I cannot guarantee the games will arrive before Christmas, especially if it’s being shopped out of the US.

You can enter up to three times by answering my question, blogging about my awesome ability to waste time online making a guide no one will be interested in, or tweeting/Facebooking it. Leave a comment with a link to your post or tout after you share it.

Please specify which game you are interested in.

No duplicate comments please.

Baby bottles and rattles

February 28, 2011



I know a lot of parents don’t believe in giving their kids candy or sugary cereals, I’m not one if them.

Now don’t get all worked up, my kids eat their vegetables most of the time, even the ones they don’t really like. They love salad and fresh fruit.

They also love sweets.

I love to bake. Cakes, cookies, brownies, fudge, cupcakes, muffins, even bread.

I try to have something on hand all the time.

Even so, sometimes I still crave a candy bar or something tangy. Something I can’t make myself.

I always have a stash of chocolate in the freezer, currently its Ghiradelli peppermint bark, and an assortment of other things in a container in the pantry.

The one thing I can never keep on hand is Bazooka’s Baby Bottle Popz. Why? My girls always grab those first. Always.

As I’m sure you know I like to throw themed parties. Finding candy that fits the theme can be a challenge.

I’ve now helped with three baby showers and it never once occurred to me to use the Baby Bottles as a gift to the attendees, or at least the kids.

So when I was given the chance to promote Bazookas new Baby line, Rattlerz I said yes.

My girls love the lollipop-powder combination of the Baby Bottle Pop so I’m going to assume that the lollipop-candy combination of the Rattlerz is going to be a favorite soon.



This is where the best part of a promotion comes in. the giveaway!

I’m giving away five sets of the Baby Bottle line products. That means five readers will receive one Baby Bottle Pop and one Rattlerz.

The contest is open to all of my readers near and far. The winners will be chosen by the random number generator on Monday, March 7, 2011.

To enter all you have to do is answer this one simple question: What was the best/worst baby shower game you’ve ever played?

The restrictions are easy, no duplicate comments and you must answer my question.

You may Twitter and/or blog this giveaway by linking back to this post and entering the URL for the post in the comments for up to two additional entries.


Strawberry Shortcake

October 27, 2010

SSC

Who in their right mind would drive 2 1/2 hours, in LA traffic to celebrate a cartoon characters birthday?

Us, of course.

We love Strawberry Shortcake (SSC) and were super excited to be invited to celebrate her 30th birthday/anniversary with American Greetings, Hot Moms Club, Momfluential, Berry Flash and Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

SSC and all of her friends have had a few make-overs since she was re-released in 2003 and I haven’t been all that crazy about some of them, but this last one, well, she has just enough to remind me of the SSC that I grew up with. What can I say, I love the tights.

The event was hosted in a retail shop called Berry Flash. If Shutterfly or Snapfish had a storefront this is what it would be. They make some pretty great personalized gifts. Amber was really impressed with the jewelry box, Suki liked the personalized backpacks, and I adored the Maryoku Yummy coffee mugs they had.

SSC collage

They had lots of items around the store printed just for the party so we got to see the quality of the items they offered. I was impressed and after looking at their site I think I may be ordering from them in the near future. With 9 cent prints and standard shipping at $5.99 it’s a pretty great deal.

Cupcakes

Of course their was yummy food for the adults and lots of goodies for the kids. There was even a massive birthday cake and lots of yummy cupcakes from Suzie’s Cakes.

spinach salad

There was lots and lots of pink everywhere so Suki was in her element.

145

My favorite part was the face painter, Alexandra Almand.

ta-daa!

She did an amazing job.

Amber patiently waited until all the kids had their faces painted before asking if she could have hers done. Since she was the oldest (non-adult) at the event, it took a while but it was worth it.

193

All in all it was a great event.

Secretariat

October 9, 2010

Pin

Amber and I got to attend a preview for Secreriatat the night before it opened to the general public thanks to the people at Disney and BlogHer. It was a big deal for both of us.

One, Amber and I don’t get to do much together with just the two of us. Two, financially we just can’t afford to do things like go to the movies. So this was a great treat.

I have a few tips for any of you who are invited to any type of event. Always print out your email with your confirmation info and bring it with you, make sure you know who invited you, arrive at least 30 minutes earlier than told and don’t be afraid to ask to talk to someone else.

Considering I was invited by BlogHer and Disney I expected it to be organized a little better than it was. I know people who were invited, had their confirmation letter and were turned away because someone didn’t know what was going on. I was prepared for major drama when I got there.

When we arrived at the theater there was a table set up outside the doors, with someone with a list and papers that said Disney. My first thought, cool, they have their act together this time.

Nope.

This was the table for the local radio station who had a hand written list of the winners who were to receive tickets. They very politely directed me to the table next to the theater where the Disney representative was located.

I thanked them and we walked inside about ten feet before being stopped and asked where our tickets were. I explained that the Disney representative had our tickets and that I had an email stating this and they wouldn’t let me in. They insisted that I was supposed to have some special paper to be able to view the movie. When I insisted to speak to the Disney rep they escorted me to guest services, where I spoke to someone who sold tickets, not someone who knew what was going on. She told me I would not be admitted without that stupid piece of paper that I didn’t have. I explained, again, that all I was told to bring was my ID and that I had my email conforming my tickets I just needed to speak to the Disney rep. She begrudgingly walked me over to the Disney rep, well, one of them.

Cattle

The Disney rep didn’t have a list but the one that did would be there shortly. When I mentioned BlogHer I was told to go stand in line and the rep with the list would be around shortly. Amber and I stood at the end of a line of about 140-150 people, at the end of a hallway. We ended up being in the center of the line when all things were said and done.

The Disney rep never came around to check that I was really supposed to be there. When they announced that they would be opening the doors in about five minutes and that we were at a count of 299 people, I was floored. Then they said to make sure we had our special papers to be admitted, which I still didn’t have. I battled the crowd, walked to the front and asked for the rep again. She asked for my paper, that I didn’t have. I showed her my email, she looked at a paper that did not have my name on it, said ok, and let us in.

I couldn’t believe it. We actually made it in.

I wanted to take photos once we were inside the actual theater because that’s what I do. I wanted photos of the lights, the carpet, the signs on the back of the seat for the special guests, everything, but I had to turn off my camera and my phone before even entering the theater because of pirating. I get it, but it still frustrated me.

So I don’t have the photos of Amber and I in the reserved seating area, which was weird and cool at the same time. I don’t have photos of the KGGI DJ who kept us all entertained while everyone was seated. BUT, I do have this:

My Beautiful Daughter

A shot of my beautiful daughter.

I suppose I should talk a little about the movie now, huh.

WE LOVED IT!

If I could have paid to take Shawn, Suki, and Sue to see it on Friday I would have. I will definitely be purchasing this when it’s released.

I had seen the trailer once on TV so of course I went online and did a little research before we went. The general vibes were that it was a good movie but that it was more about Penny Chenery than it was about Secretariat. They were right. It was.

It was a great story though.

Honestly, if it was documentary style and too horse orientated, I would have been really bored. As it was we learned enough about the horse to be awed and fascinated and for it all to make sense.

The movie drew the audience into the film. They captured our attention early on and with the new micoscopic cameras gave us some awesome footage that kept our attention. When the horses raced it was hard not to cheer Secretariat on as if we were really there.

At just under two hours it may be a little long for kids under 6 to sit through* but otherwise I have nothing negative to say about the actual movie.

SWAG

*Amber and I both had a hard time making it through the movie for our own reasons. She’s been going to be at 7-7:30 every night and I have a bug of some sort. So I had lovely bouts of chills in the very cool theater. I didn’t touch anyone or anything that wasn’t necessary and I used lots of hand sanitizer, I promise.

Winner Thomas the Train DVD

April 26, 2010

And the winner is:

Angela
Submitted on 2010/04/20 at 10:07pm

My son is totally getting into Thomas! Looks like they’ll be in my area in July! Wahoo!

The winner was chosen by by the Random Number Generator thingy.

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

4

Timestamp: 2010-04-27 00:53:35 UTC

Send me your info and I’ll get the ball rolling on getting you your DVD.

Thomas the Train

April 19, 2010

The giveaway will be closing at 11:59pm PST on Sunday, April 25, 2010.

Oh, and the sponsor says I can give away one DVD to a lucky reader. The winner will be chosen by the random number generator thingy, all you have to do is leave a comment.

image001

DAY OUT WITH THOMAS™: THE CELEBRATION TOUR 2010
COMES TO FILLMORE & WESTERN RAILWAY FOR HIS 65TH BIRTHDAY BASH!

Thomas the Tank Engine™ To Visit April 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 & 25

Fillmore, CA – All aboard for the best birthday party ever! Thomas the Tank Engine™ is coming to town to celebrate with all of his fans. Thomas, the beloved and courageous storybook engine, is set to roll into Fillmore & Western Railway Co. for the Day Out With Thomas™: The Celebration Tour 2010, presented by HIT Entertainment, a worldwide leader in children’s entertainment, and sponsored by MEGA Brands, a leading toy company. This fun-filled event offers preschoolers and their families the opportunity to take a ride with a 15-ton replica of Thomas the Tank Engine, star of the popular Thomas & Friends™ series. Children will ride along with their favorite hero on his latest adventure. The tour, now in its 15th year, will make stops in more than 45 US cities and is expected to welcome more than one million passengers in 2010. This year also marks Thomas the Tank Engine’s 65th publishing anniversary and fans are invited to partake in some choo choo-riffic celebratory activities!

Thomas steams down the track_HIGH

WHO: Thomas the Tank Engine

WHAT: • A 25-minute (approximate) ride with Thomas the Tank Engine
• An opportunity to meet Sir Topham Hatt, Controller of The Railway
• Activities for the whole family, including arts & crafts, storytelling, video viewing, live music and many more kid-friendly hands-on activities.
• A special display at every DOWT location celebrating 65 years of Thomas the Tank Engine
• 2010 commemorative merchandise and giveaways, including a mini-view finder giveaway that tells the story of Thomas’ upcoming adventure, Misty Island Rescue

WHEN: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 16, 17, 18 23, 24 & 25

TIME: 9:30 AM-3:30 PM

WHERE: 364 Main Street, Fillmore, CA

Tickets for Day Out With Thomas: The Celebration Tour 2010 are on sale now and available by calling Ticketweb toll-free 866-468-7630, or by visiting http://events.hitentertainment.com or www.fwry.com. Ticket prices are $18 plus tax for ages 2 and up (service charges and fee may apply).

For more information and directions contact 805-524-2546 or www.fwry.com. For information on Thomas & Friends, visit www.thomasandfriends.com

Kung Fu Panda World

KFPW

Last month I was invited to the DreamWorks Animation Studios Campus in Glendale, CA for High Tea and a preview of their new website Kung Fu Panda World .

DreamWorks Animation are the creators of Madagascar, Shrek, Over the Hedge, Monsters vs. Aliens, and of course the all new How to Train Your Dragon 3D. All their movies are great if you ask me, but that’s not why we’re here. Were here to discus the website so I will get to it.

kfpw collage 3

I had no idea what to expect of the afternoon or of the site. I had to say I was pretty amazed.

Their studio is located in an industrial area, which is expected. What you don’t expect is to see a building covered in vines with an old world feel to it. Their "campus" has winding paths, water features, an outdoor amphitheater, and it’s own Starbucks.

kfpw collage 2

We were treated to yummy food, a tour of the grounds, and a sneak peek at the new game.

kfpw collage 1

I know most of you are thinking oh great, another game where I have to monitor this, download that, approve this other thing, and then a week later do it all over again. Well, you’d be wrong. That is the wonderful thing about this game.

It is completely hosted on their server with nothing to download. This means no Flash player, no Quicktime, no crap to clutter up your hard drive that you don’t know what it is.

Rapunzel has been playing the game every chance she gets over the last few weeks. She LOVES it. The graphics are awesome, just like the movie. Everything flows, no walking in a grid like You-take-up-way-to-much-of-my-time-and-energy-ville, which consequently I do play.

KFPW

It’s easy to navigate once in the game. Over Spring Break Rapunzel wanted to play on the Club Penguin site with her friend Maggie (not her real name). Well they both started their computers, got to the site, logged in, picked the same server (one that was pretty empty), and then promptly were kicked out of the game. They were so frustrated. KFPW doesn’t have that problem because it is self-contained. There are no servers to choose from. This means your kid logs in, types in his/her friends name, and if they are online, they can meet up. It’s that easy.

Right now there are four characters to choose from, there will be eight more added over time, for a total of twelve. These characters are also how you choose your "style" of Kung Fu. The eight additional styles/characters are to be chosen by user votes.

KFPW

Here’s where the really cool stuff us parents like start. They monitor for cyber-bullying and inappropriate language. There are different levels of open chat. So lets say you allow full-chat, and your 13yo tries to type in Sh1t, it will be blocked and they will be told that word isn’t allowed. So instead they get smart and type in poop. It means the same thing, but it’s not blocked, so they think. While it may show up on their screen it won’t show up on anyone else’s. That right there is the beauty of their "soft block"

KFPW

Now, about cyber-bullying, we all know it happens. They have a way to protect the kids that are being picked on. They used this as an example:

Four kids get together and decide to send one kid a whole bunch of sad faces in canned chat.
Those four kids are suddenly transported to another portion of the game. No warning, they’re just moved. A notice is sent to the parents alerting them to the behavior, so you can choose how to deal with it.

Another great thing is that the free version of the game is the exact same as the paid version. All kids start out as white belts. They choose how they want to level up to their next belt by completing quests or playing the games. Either way will get you to the next level, there is nothing that has to be completed in order for you to level up. The whole point is to do Kung Fu your way, because one way is not better than another.

The game is PC and MAC friendly. This was asked by a 11 yo boy at the event, which I thought was awesome.

KFPW

The free version allows you to level up to a Green Belt. They said it was the equivalent of about three months of game play. If it was me, I’d play for free then see if your kid really likes the game before paying for it. the free version shows them one child appropriate commercial. We saw a Cartoon Network ad. It runs for about 30 seconds and then they enter the World ad free. There are no ads inside the game. The game is $5.95 month, unlimited playing time. Well unlimited unless you limit them. Which brings me to my next point.

The Parent Panel. The Parent Panel allows you to control how many hours of game play your child can have, per day (paid accounts only). This is also where you can set email preferences, chat preferences, and so forth. The really cool thing that I liked is tha they gives the Parents games to play without playing with our kids actual game. This means I can play without moving Rapunzel’s character. She even gets credit for whatever points I earn. Cool, right?

One last point then I promise I’ll quit talking about the stuff the parents want to know. In order for your child’s friend to "see" if they are online or not you have to friend them first. There are no emails or any information shared between players. They click on the friend’s character they want to add. They ask to be friends, the friend accepts or denies. That’s it.

Now on to the stuff the kids want to know about.

KFPW

Which one of the Furious Five are you most like? Your character is chosen based on questions they ask you, but if you don’t like who they tell you you are most like you can choose another.

KFPW

There are 52 screens, all the places you saw in the movie, and then some. But, you are not playing the movie. This means you are not Po trying to master Kung Fu or battling Tai Lung. You are you, mastering Kung Fu your way. Does that make sense? I hope so.

Anyways, the graphics play out just like the movie. Rick Rekedal is the head of Animation at DreamWorks. He worked with Executive Producer Melissa Cobb to make sure that the game looked, sounded, and acted like the movie. There’s nothing worse than playing a game where it’s nothing like the movie at all. If you sit on a bench to talk to someone the game zooms in, just like it would in a movie. Cool, right? I think so.

All these people have been working on KFP and KFPW from the beginning. They know these characters as well as they know their own chiuldren. We also heard that there will be a "sequel" in June 2011, or somewhere near that date, and a television series coming out sometime around the Holiday season, aka Christmas Time.

So, go forth, play the game, and let me know what you think!

Over the Hedge
The inspiration behind Over The Hedge.

Cool Fountain

Coloring Contest - Invisible Airplane
They kept the kids busy with a coloring "contest", balloon animals, tag, and who knows what else.

11 year olds are to old for balloon animals
Of course almost 12 year olds are too old for those kind of things.

Borderline Bonkers

August 6, 2008

Ok, this is basically a test post, but I do have a review.

I ordered an item from a friend’s Etsy shop, it arrived today. I know there’s nothing spectacular about that, but give me a second.

I have been eying this particular piece for months now. So when it arrived today I opened it with much eagerness and anticipation. I was very pleasantly surprised to see not one item, but four, I was giddy. (Now if I would have read the customs label I would have known what was in the package, but I didn’t.)

Not only did she send me the item I ordered, she sent me two additional pendants, and a set of custom earrings.

3 Birdie Pendants, and some Rockin' Earrings

Earrings which I asked her about a few months ago, but never got down to discussing details about. All she knew was an approximate size, small enough to be worn in a second hole and not look huge, and blue. Real helpful huh? I had honestly forgot about the idea until about two days ago when my ears got infected, yet again, from being pulled on due to earrings that were just a little to big.

So today, I am the happiest girl in the world. The earrings are just the right size, color, and weight. I have been wearing them for hours and do not even feel them.

New Earrings!!!

The pendants are adorable, and I can’t wait to wear one of them.The only problems I’m having is figuring out which one to wear first and how to keep my girls from permanently claiming the other two.

Now, Anna, she doesn’t just make jewelry. Nope not this girl, she is an awesome artist and mom. So if you are looking for some unique jewelry or a new piece of art, look here first. She even does custom work.

Thank you Anna, I really love them.