Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Danika's Totally Terrible Toss Winner

Drum roll please!

The winner for Danika's Totally Terrible Toss - Secret Keeper girl book is... Charming Driver! Congratulations! It sounds like the book is going to make lots of happy kids! Maybe they'll even start their own Secret Keeper Club! (If they do you have to come back and tell us about it!)

Email me your address so I can mail out the book to you!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Danika's Totally Terrible Toss - Secret Keeper Girl Series - Review and Giveaway

My babies are most definitely not tween girls. In fact I'm hard pressed to think of them as anything other than babies. But when I was asked to review Danika's Totally Terrible Toss (Secret Keeper Girl), a book for young, pre-teen, girls I jumped at the chance. I figured I'd enjoy a cute story and maybe a little insight to the girls my children were bound to become.

I got the little red book in the mail and cracked it open. The funky purple pages were a vibrant reminder me that I wasn't exactly reading the same kind of literature that I usually explore, but the format, font, and cute little drawings drew me in. I started to read and I got pulled into the fun writing style and engaging story.

The characters in Danika's Totally Terrible Toss (Secret Keeper Girl) are very well developed, and though the description is at times a bit heavy on the adjectives, I realize that younger readers, especially those used to watching TV rather than reading, at times need a bit more help visualizing a scene than more mature readers.

The Secret Keeper Girl series is shelved in the mainstream/secular section of bookstores, but do have a Christian component. One of the reasons I was asked to review this book was to give the point of view of someone who falls way out of that target market. I was a bit worried at first that the symbolism and Bible talk would be overly prevalent, but it actually hardly figures in the story. The first, and possibly only Bible quote makes an appearance on pg 72 and is a valuable lesson that applies to anyone: "He who walks with the wise grows wise." I never once felt that my non Christian status was an issue as I read the book. And I don't think that someone who did not know about the author's background would be taken aback.

Through the telling of a touching and realistic story, Danika's Totally Terrible Toss (Secret Keeper Girl) teaches some valuable lessons on friendship. Most of the tween girls that I know would have no trouble relating to the girls in the story, and would probably enjoy getting to know the protagonist!

Danika's Totally Terrible Toss (Secret Keeper Girl)Pros:
- Well written story with a credible plot.
- Valuable life lessons taught in a discrete fun way.
- Might encourage real life girls to form their own friend club and to develop true friendships that can help them get through the tougher Middle School/High School years.
- Limited overt religious references throughout the text.
- Important words are highlighted by a different cutesy of hip font that helps with reading comprehension.
- The language is not dumbed down, which is so important for language development at this age.
- Secret Keeper Girl website that extends the experience by giving pertinent recipes and tips.

Danika's Totally Terrible Toss (Secret Keeper Girl) cons:
- Danika, the main character, makes a big deal of the fact that her family is extremely wealthy. Some girls might find this a turn off.
- I was sad to see that after a relatively religion free book the discussion questions were pretty heavily religious. Still, I think that a parent trying to focus more on the values and less on the deity would be able to modify the questions.

Overall I think that this was a sweet, smart book that could be a great conversation starter for tween girls and their parents. I think it teaches valuable lessons without being overbearing. I highly recommend the series for the young tween girl in your life.

Danika's Totally Terrible Toss (Secret Keeper Girl) giveaway!
I have one copy of this adorable book to share with you! To enter, leave me a comment below telling us a short story about your favorite tween and her best friend or about your own old childhood best friend.
Tweet, blog, or email three friends about this giveaway and come back and let me know in the comments for an extra chance to win!
I'll pick a winner at random at midnight Monday, November 24.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Vtech - KidiJamz Studio Review

It came in a big box and the boys tore into the packaging as soon as the children went to bed. Oh, yes, you read that right. My husband and the friend who was visiting sent the kids to bed and then played with their toy. And not just for five minutes!

I have to admit, the Vtech - KidiJamz Studio is ridiculously cool. It has a ton of neat sound effects and a great keyboard. Kids can record themselves singing and can save everything they play to a cute little MP3 player that comes off and can be carried around. See? Ridiculously cool!

Vtech - KidiJamz Studio pros:
- This toy obviously appeals to a broad range of ages. My husband, who happens to be a musician is still mesmerized by all the fun options, and both my girls (who were finally allowed to play with their toy!) had a blast making their own music.
- I'm not a huge fan of loud toys, but any toy that inspires creativity gets a big thumbs up in my book.
- The music quality is great and I have a hunch that M is going to be taking advantage of this toy to give C some basic musical instruction. Soon we'll have our very own band!

Vtech - KidiJamz Studio cons:
- It's not the smallest of toys, so if space is an issue you might want to take that into account. That said, it is smaller than a piano...

Retailing at around $59.99 the Vtech - KidiJamz Studio would make a great family gift if you happen to be looking for a group gift for a family or a great gift for that musical child in your life!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shape Up Shoes Winner

Drum roll please!!!
The winner for the Shape Up Shoes is....

Terra Jones of The Jones' Journey and Musings from a Mom! Congratulations Terra. I'll be passing your info along to the wonderful people at Shape Up Shoes and they should be sending your prize along soon.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Shape Up Shoes Shaping you up!

Let me guess, you never have time to exercise. I know. Trust me, I know. I have two little kids and a fledgling freelance business. I know how exercise always takes a backseat to everything else. And then, one day, you go shopping and you wonder what the heck happened. Who is that person in the mirror? Why do those jeans feel so tight? What is going on?

I'm also willing to bet that you spend quite a bit of time standing around in your house. No? A minute here while the water boils, five minutes there while the kids eat, ten minutes way over there while you fold laundry? What if I told you that there was a way to harness all those minutes spent standing around your house and make them work for you? That in just 30 minutes a day you could get a lifted tush, stronger legs, and a tighter core?

Interested much?

Yeah, I thought so.

Shape Up Shoes has come up with a great way to get in shape while doing all the usual stuff you do at home. They work hardest when you're standing still, but even racing around the house after a busy toddler will help you get trimmer faster.

Shape Up Shoes Pros
I'm usually barefoot around the house so it's easy for me to slip into the Shape Up Shoe flip flops. I wear them as I'm feeding the kids and making dinner for M and me. Within a few minutes I can feel my leg muscles start to complain about the unexpected workout. It makes me feel great to be multitasking so efficiently!
After just a few weeks of trying out the shoes I swear my stomach is already a little flatter and tighter. Very exciting!

Shape Up Shoes Cons
I live in California so I can get away with being barefoot most of the year. But some nights it is COLD and I do not want to be barefoot. So, instead of wearing my super cool Shape Up Shoes I walk around in my socks, and my butt and thighs just don't get the same workout. If it's cold where you live you might want to consider investing in a pair of Shape Up clogs instead, even though they're rumored to not work quite as well.

Still don't believe me that this shoes are great? Fine, try them for yourself. I have one pair of shape up shoes to giveaway to a lucky reader. Take a spin around the Shape Up Shoes site and come tell me your size and favorite color*. Extra entries awarded to anyone who Tweets, blogs, or emails three friends about the giveaway. (Be sure to come back and leave a comment boasting about how you spread the word so I can be sure to give you credit! Please note, if you do not leave an email address in the appropriate field I will not be able to contact you if you are a winner and another person will be chosen. I do not share your contact information with anyone and no one other than me sees the information you list.) Contest ends on Sunday, November 9 at midnight Pacific time.

*Due to limited stock on certain colors, you might not get the color of your choice. If the color of your choice is not available Shape Up Shoes will send you a black pair. Very stylish.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Kid Kleen Bath Blizzard Review

My kids love bubbles. I mean, duh, right, what kid doesn't? So a while back when we discovered a bubble blower specifically designed for the tub we got very excited. It was terrible. Stopped working after two days.

So when we got the Kid Kleen Bath Blizzard we were a bit skeptical. What were the odds that this bath bubble blower would be any better? I pulled it out of the box and I put in batteries and dumped a ton of bubble solution into it, which gave us so so results. Then I read the instructions and I took out all the bubble solution, rinsed out the machine, followed the instructions, and presto! an avalanche of bubbles, just like the box promised!

Bath Blizzard
- It was actually pretty cool. The bubbles poured out and filled the tub with a rich lather.
- The girls thought the avalanche was pretty.
- The bubble solution, when diluted properly, lasts a really long time.
- It's pretty quiet.
- And miracles of all miracles, after multiple uses the bubble blower is still going strong.

Bath Blizzard
- This is my fault because I didn't read the box closely enough, but I was hoping for more bubbles flying through the air rather than cascading down into the tub.
- It is not the most exciting toy in the world and I can see how my kids would quickly lose their awe.

All in all a pretty neat toy that I would especially recommend for the younger set while they're still easily mesmerized by bubbles of any kind.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Aquadoodle Draw n' Doodle Review

In a houseful of little artists you can bet that I've had my eye on this toy for a long while. I kept not buying it and expecting someone to get it for C for a birthday or some other gifty type of event. And yet, the Aquadoodle never made it into the stash of gifts. So imagine my excitement when one arrived the other day for us to review. It was kinda hard to tell who was more excited to open the water drawing toy, C or me.

She grabbed the pen while I was busy opening the bag and we both hunkered down to doodle. Well, OK, I hunkered and doodled and C waited patiently as long as she could. Her "Mommy, it's my turn now!" shamed me just enough to hand over the funky water filled pen so she could get some coloring time.

The Aquadoodle Draw n' Doodle did not disapoint. I love the simplicity of the toy. No mess, no fuss, just add water and you're good to go!

Aquadoodle Pros
- Nothing could be simpler. Talk about plug and play. Open the box, roll out the mat, fill the pen with water, and presto! tons of fun for everyone.
- The mat is really big so C had a nice large space to color and doodle.
- The little drawings all around the border are really cute and easy to follow if you want to learn to draw a dog, house, sun, or even people.

Aquadoodle Cons
- I wish it dried a hair faster. C colors and colors and then the canvas is covered and she loses interest while it dries. If it dried a hair faster she'd play with it much longer.
- I wish it folded up a bit smaller. It's designed to roll up into one long tube, but if I could fold it and then roll it we'd take it with us when we visit friends or family.
- I wish it came with more than one pen so my girls would stop arguing over who gets to color next! Though I bet I can find one if I search a bit.

In conclusion this is a great toy especially for those budding artists who don't really get that markers and couches are not meant to be friends. (Not that my girls would ever do that...)

A winner and a bit of change

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to pick a winner for the Smashies giveaway. The big winner for the fun, tasty, and brilliantly packaged apple sauce is wksocmom of Not Just a Working Mom! WHOOT! Send me your contact info so I can get you your apple sauce!

As for the changes, it's all good, I promise! I have a host of great products to tell you about and I don't want you to miss anything. If you take a look on the sidebar over there I'm putting together a calendar of upcoming reviews. Keep an eye on that and make sure you come back to see what I have to say! Because, clearly, my words should never be missed. Heh.

My long term goal is to have as many giveaways as possible because, duh, is anything more fun than winning stuff? I'm already rounding up a few kick ass giveaways and I know I have more coming! In the next few weeks keep an eye out for shoes that let you tone up without actually moving (for realz!), and toys that you were already considering buying for your children (whoot!).

And now, without further adieu... back to reviews!