Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Fish Princess


You know the drill -- play along at Wordless Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: Hot Locks Dolls

I was lucky enough to be included in another fun toy party with a product that is *just* released to market. This time, I received a box of Hot Locks dolls to check out and share with our local buddies.

Lydia will be 3 next month, and she loves baby dolls and Barbies already, so I thought these might be a fun addition to her collection.  For a girl who hates having her hair brushed, these dolls have been great!  They have very long hair, and come with a comb and other accessories.  Lydia has had a great time combing and playing with their hair, and I've been successful in brushing her hair when I hand her her doll so she can brush the doll's hair at the same time.  For that alone, I was happy with these dolls!

We had the chance to share them with others this weekend, and I was interested to see what other girls would think.  We had a variety of ages -- Lydia was the youngest at 35 months and the oldest was 9yo. All the girls thought the dolls were tons of fun.  In mere moments, they had the dolls out of the packaging (and the packaging was easy to get into -- no hermetically sealed and sewed and taped and tied dolls here!) and were playing with the hair.  The long, silky, colorful hair!

The hair quickly gets messy, but isn't that true of all dolls?  The girls didn't seem to mind!  They stayed busy combing, placing barrettes, and trying out the styling chair that made braiding easy.   One of the dolls even came with a flat iron which placed jewels in the dolls' hair.

The moms were a bit taken aback by one doll - - Harlow -- who looked like she was wearing fishnet stockings.  More than one mom joked "Is her name Harlot?" Nobody felt the fishnet stockings were appropriate for a girl's doll.  

The dolls are smaller than a Barbie. Their hair is brightly colored, and their clothes are brightly colored as well.  The wide set eyes reminded Lydia of the commercials she saw recently for Sprout's new show - Dirt Girl - so she has taken to calling the red-headed Ryann doll her "Dirt Girl."   The regular dolls have 14" of hair to play with, the deluxe dolls have twice that amount.


The dolls have been released only in the Phoenix and Chicago markets, but I'm sure they'll spread across the country soon. Visit Wowee's website for all the details and to see where they are available.

They are a big hit at our house, and if you have young girls, I'm sure you'll find them living in your house soon!

Disclosure: To facilitate this review, I received a party pack of dolls for my daughter, and to give away to guests from Mom Select and Wowee Toys at no cost to me.  All opinions and statements are my own.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Giveaway: Betty Crocker Sweet Spring Treats

** Winner has been chosen!  Thanks to random.org, comment #13 was chosen as the winner!  Jane would make the lemon creme roll -- but replace the lemon creme with a rum creme! Congrats to Jane, and thanks to all who entered and help spread the word! **

Are you wondering what to make for your Easter celebration? I realized that it's THIS Sunday and I still don't know what we're having to eat.

I checked out Safeway and Betty Crocker's "Bake Sweet Memories" site and was inspired by some of the adorable treats featured.  Not only will you find the adorable "Easy Bunny Cake," but you'll also find some great coupons to help you save money this spring.  My sister's nickname is Bunny, so I think this is the cake we need to have this year!

Until April 6th, you can purchase Betty Crocker SuperMoist Cake and Traditional Brownie Mixes at the special price of $0.69 at all the Safeway family of stores. This is an awesome deal -- made even better if you happen to have any coupons! When you visit Bake Sweet Memories, you'll be able to load exclusive Betty Crocker baking coupons onto your Safeway loyalty card.

Thanks to My Blog Spark, Betty Crocker, and Safeway, I have a great baking package to give away to one of my readers. This package includes a 9 1/2 inch silicone pan, a red Betty Crocker spoon, a really nice metal mixing bowl, a red oven mitt and a $25 gift card to Safeway! 

In order to enter, you must visit the Bake Sweet Memories site and let me know one of the recipes you want to try (or just looks really cute!) The winner will be drawn Easter Sunday (April 4, 2010), so enter by midnight on April 3, 2010.

You can earn extra entries by sharing this post with your social media network -- either Twitter, Facebook or your own blog.  Each share is worth one entry.

**Form Removed When Giveaway Ended**


Disclosure: Safeway and Betty Crocker provided me with a VIP coupon for Betty Crocker brownie mix, the information, and prize packs for myself and to give away through MyBlogSpark.

Disney on Ice this Week!!

I was happy to choose a winner for this week's Disney on Ice performance!  Cynthia was the lucky winner, and is excited to take her boys later this week.

If you didn't win, I'm sorry . . . but there are still those amazing discount codes available for the shows on April 1 - 4, 2010!  I talked with a friend last week whose husband bought tickets as a surprise (but paid more than he could have with these discount codes!)  If you use the code "MOM" at Ticketmaster.com, you can receive 4 tickets for $44.  Any additional tickets will be only $11.

This discount code is not valid for VIP or Front Row seating.  I"m sure there are a few great seats still available, and it's bound to be an awesome show!

Come back later in the week to hear all about the show!  Lydia doesn't know we're going, so I can't wait to share her reaction!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Future Pilot?



Link up your Wordless Wednesday post!  Wait a day and share your story on Tell Me Thursday!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Travel / Explore with Kids - Tucson

Keeping with our goal this year to explore more of Arizona, we spent a fun day in Tucson this past weekend.  Bo taught a class there on Friday, and we originally planned to drive down with him and make a weekend of it.  Unfortunately, between spring break and spring training, we were  unable to find a non-smoking hotel room that would fit the 5 of us.

We were going to put off a Tucson trip for a few weeks, but Bo noticed that the Air Show at the Davis-Monthan Air Force base was last weekend, We decided to drive back on Sunday to visit the show.

We saw many airplanes on the ground, and Nate loved the chance to look at the planes up close, as well as watch them fly through the sky.  Colin was a bit bored, and Lydia was tired.  She hasn't used a stroller in well over a year, but I think she would have gladly sat in one on Sunday.  (It had been a busy weekend -- planting on Friday, Boyce on Saturday, then a long visit at a friend's house in the afternoon / evening.)  For a long time I kept an umbrella stroller in the back of the van, and I think I should throw it back in the van.

I'm glad we went for Nate. He has expressed an interest in the Air Force for a few years now, and would like to attend the Air Force Academy. He was able to talk to a few pilots who went through the Academy, and they were encouraging and kind.

After a few hours on the tarmac, we headed to Eegee's.  Eegee's is a fast food place unique to Tucson where they have delicious frozen fruit drinks and subs (as well as other things -- like pizza fries, which are fries topped with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese)  When Bo worked for Sears, he would sometimes have calls in Tucson and usually brought back Eegee's.  The flavor of the month was lime, and it was yummy!  The rest of the family enjoyed a mix of strawberry and lemon ice.

We finished up the day by visiting the San Xavier Mission.  It was founded in the late 1600's, and has been there ever since. It's a beautiful, old church that is the oldest European structure in Arizona.  It is a fully operating parish, but is also open daily for tourists to visit.


There are a few things I should have done to make this trip better.  I should have been better prepared to throw together a cooler of drinks and food to take with us.  Instead, we purchased drink & foods along the way.  I should have had a stroller for Lydia, because even though she is almost 3 and still fiercely independent, there are days that she needs a rest.  I also should have put my shawl back in my purse so she could have had a covering when she tried to rest on my lap / the ground during the air show.

I am glad that even though our original plan was scrapped, we still made it away from home to do some exploring this weekend.  I'm not sure where we plan to go next month, but I'll let you know!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Turkey Vultures!

My sister told the boys about the "Welcome Back Buzzards!" event at Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  And then told me that it started at 7AM (which meant we had to leave at 6AM.  And I am NOT a morning person -- not at all!!)  The boys seemed excited and I didn't know much about turkey vultures, so I agreed as long as she gave me a wake up call.

This morning, I stepped out of my room to wake the boys and found Nate fully dressed, eating a bowl of cereal.  He had set his alarm and gotten himself up and ready!  I roused Colin and then Lydia, who both got ready with no complaint.

My sister arrived early and we headed out while watching the sun rise over the Superstition Mountains. 45 minutes later, we arrived at the Arboretum and walked back to the area where the turkey vultures roost overnight.  The park opened an hour early so visitors could have a chance to see the turkeys roosting and as they began to leave in the early morning.  Unfortunately, it was a windy morning and the turkey vultures had already taken off before we arrived.

Paul Wolterbeek provided a very informational and interesting talk about turkey vultures and the Arboretum, which was worth the early morning hour.  We learned that they live for 10 - 15 years, roost in the eucalyptus trees but nest in the cliffs when they're ready to have offspring, projectile vomit when defending themselves, and pee all over their legs to cool off and cleanse themselves.  (Yes, those 2 last facts were especially interesting to my 7 & 9 year old boys!)

The event happens every spring, as the turkey vultures return from wintering in Mexico to spend their summers in this part of Arizona.  They travel up to 50 miles a day searching for road kill and other carrion. 

I was extremely impressed with my boys.  They answered questions when they knew the answers, asked thoughtful questions, and weren't afraid to imitate a quail's call. They listened attentively and took in as much knowledge as was shared!  Even Lydia was patient, occasionally raising her hand to be part of the conversation.  During a restroom break, she walked along the path and began pointing out the different types of cactus she recognized and asking me the names of the ones she didn't. 

I want my children to have a lifelong quest for learning, and today's event gave me a glimpse that they definitely love to learn.  Since the turkey vultures weren't to be seen, I thought we'd go to explore on our own, but Nate said he was really interested in learning what Paul had to say.  Colin had brought his binoculars to get a better look at the turkey vultures, but eagerly used them to look for other types of birds.

We visited tables set up by Arizona Game & Fish Department volunteers that displayed some of their rescue animals -- including hummingbirds, ground squirrels, bats, hawks, kestrels and even a turkey vulture!  We explored the demonstration garden a bit before finally heading home.

It was a wonderful way to spend the morning, and well worth the 5:30 wake up call!

Fool of Myself?

I've been second guessing myself ever since the reporter left a couple days ago. While I hope I sounded intelligent and shared my ideas in a thoughtful, careful manner . . . I know that I have no control over how things will be edited and what pieces will be used.  The interview was thrown at me a few hours before they showed up at my door, and I was given a couple lines about the focus of the piece.  

While I know I can't go back in time and change things, I just hope it's obvious that I'm trying my best. And with that, I'm going to try and stop thinking about it until the piece airs!

Gardening

It's been a few years since I've attempted any type of garden, but the boys both expressed an interest this year, so I thought we'd give it another try.  We visited the Desert Botanical Garden's Spring Plant Sale on Friday, because I knew they would have some heirloom tomato plants.

We purchased 4 different varieties -- Cherokee, Arkansas Traveler, Taxi and Big Boys.  I purchased 2 of each plant, except the Taxi because they only had one plant. I don't know if it's a good idea to plant different varieties or not, as I did wonder about cross pollination, but I purchased them anyway.

We also bought rosemary, lavender, oregano, chocolate mint, spearmint and ice plants. We picked up seed packets for marigolds (Colin's choice), heirloom pumpkins (Lydia's choice) and watermelon (Nate's choice).   The kids each also chose a cactus.

I was very proud of the boys that afternoon because they worked hard helping get the plants into the ground.  We hadn't prepared the areas before buying the plants, so we had to do that when we came home from the Plant Sale. Nate turned over a good portion of the dirt in a previous planting area, and Colin put forth effort weeding.  By dinnertime, all the plants were in the ground!  We still need to plant the seeds and cactus, but the other plants are in the ground and ready to grow!

That evening, I read of a friend's plan to create a plan for garden, and I recognized how slap-dash and erratic my own choices and planting were. I love the idea of growing plants, and I chose plants that I like to eat (tomatoes), smell (rosemary, lavendar, mints), cook with (oregano) and look at (ice plants). It isn't a particularly cohesive plan, and it's definitely not pretty . . . but if everything grows I'll be well pleased.

We were too busy working to take pictures, but I'll be sure to share as the months go by.  I have highest hopes for my tomatoes!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Outside Again

It's another beautifully sunny day in our area, and we're headed outside to the Annual Spring Plant Sale at the Desert Botanical Garden.  A few years ago, I bought tomato plants that thrived (until I killed them off by neglect.)  I'm hoping for better luck this year in the plants I choose!  The boys are eager to help with a garden this year, and I think that will go far in keeping the plants alive.

Tomorrow, we're headed to Boyce Thompson VERY early to try and see the Turkey Vultures that roost there this time of year.  They're opening the Arboretum at 7AM to allow visitors the chance to see them roosting before they fly away -- which means we have to leave our house at 6AM.  Have I ever mentioned how much of a morning person I am not?  The boys are excited, though, so my sister will give me an early morning wake up call and we'll head out.  I will definitely share the pictures this weekend.

Checking the Boyce Thompson link I see that they have a plant sale going on as well! I'll have to check that out tomorrow, and choose carefully today!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tell Me Thursday - My Phone

My Wordless Wednesday shot was of Lydia, taking a picture with her princess phone. 

She can't leave home without her purse and her phone, and will make me wait until she finds her phone some days.  She likes to flip it open and call her Aunt Bunny, or her grandparents, or sometimes Uncle Matt.  Every once in a while, even Mrs. C or Mrs. J receive a phone call when she wants to check up on their children.

She will shush us if we try to talk while she's having a conversation, and she sometimes will even turn away so she can have her conversation in private.  It's very cute to watch . . . even if it is like looking in a mirror!

Did you play Wordless Wednesday yesterday?  Don't forget to tell your story and link it up at Tell Me Thursday!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.


Every year, for the past who knows how many, I have made corned beef and boiled potatoes and soda bread for St. Patrick's Day.  Some years, I've made cabbage, but I really don't like the smell of cabbage, so the last few years I skipped cabbage.  Every year, everyone mentions how corned beef is a "once a year" thing and it's not really anyone's favorite.  In fact, it's just tolerated.

SO?  This year, I made a beef stew with a Guiness beer base.  Everyone loves my soda bread (which is a very basic recipe -- no weird additions -- just flour, baking soda, baking powder, egg & buttermilk.  No raisins or currants or caraway or any other weird thing in the bread that makes it look like bugs died in the flour and you used it anyway.) 

Dinner was delicious and everyone enjoyed it!  I used my slow cooker, which meant that even though I scrambled to get ready for my TV interview, dinner was cooked and ready when we were.  Soda bread mixes up quickly so it wasn't a big deal to make it right before we ate.

Another tradition left behind . . . and some days?  That's a good thing!

Last Minute Emails


This morning, as I was throwing together beef stew for tonight's dinner, I received an email asking if I would be available to have a TV crew come to my home and interview me about safe baby/child products.  I took a deep breath  . . . looked around my house . . . and replied "Sure!"

Before they showed up, I shot this video to help me think about the products I was showing, and let go of some of my nervousness.  I realized I mis-spoke a couple times in my home video and hope I did better when the reporter was here.  The Lotus Bebe blankets are made from soybeans and BAMBOO.  I don't know why I said flannel, except that they are softer than flannel!

A few hours later, a very nice reporter and his cameraman showed up and we talked about being a mom, choosing products with little to no chemicals, writing a blog, my Frigidaire refrigerator (he was a bit incredulous that I received it in exchange for blogging . . . and I am, too, sometimes!  But I also know that I helped spread the word about the brand and showed my readers how it really worked in our home!) and then I talked about some of the products we had in our home. 

I'm curious to see how the show is edited and how excited Lydia will be to see herself on TV.  She still complains that she wasn't able to be on the last show (when I was live on Sonoran Living) so I'm glad she got her shot this time!  I'm also hoping I didn't say anything dumb.  The kids were all well-behaved . . . well, as well-behaved as 3 children their ages can be, I guess!

Here's Keith Yaskin, the reporter for Fox 10 News, with his camerman getting some final shots in my kitchen before they left.  I'll let you know when the episode airs -- I'm especially curious what others have to say about avoiding chemicals!

Handy Manny Big Race - Special!

My boys used to enjoy watching Handy Manny, and Lydia (2yo) does as well!  It's a fun show about teamwork, building and fixing things!  What's not to like?  Lydia likes it because she loves to help fix things, and with 2 older brothers and a handy Daddy, there's always plenty to fix around here!

This Saturday, March 20, 2010, Handy Manny Big Race is airing for the first time.   It's a Disney Family Night Special Event, and will air 7PM/6PM CST on the Disney Channel.  Handy Manny is going to fix cars and race in a big race for this show!  I'm sure all his tools will be there as well to help him out.

You can visit the Handy Manny Pit Stop Shop to play fun games, and even find recipes that would be fun to go along with the show.  When I was writing this post, Lydia heard Handy Manny's voice and came running over to check out her "favorite game!"  We stopped and played the game where she could decorate her own car, and she had a great time adding flames and lots of colors to a race car.

Zoom Zoom Zoom!!

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Playhouse Disney. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Wordless Wednesday - My Phone!


You can play along by linking up at Wordless Wednesday.  Wait until tomorrow to tell your story by linking up to Tell Me Thursday!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How To Train a Dragon

We were given passes to an early preview of How To Train Your Dragon, so Bo & the kids took in the movie this evening.  A few weeks ago I won tickets to The Lightning Thief, but when Bo & the boys arrived 2 hours early, all the tickets were gone. The PR firm sent us tickets to How To Train Your Dragon -- which was another one that the kids really wanted to see.

I guess with the early previews, PR firms give out more than twice as many tickets as there are seats to make sure the theater is full.  Tonight, Bo took the kids about 3 hours early and was able to get in!

When they came home, everyone shared that they enjoyed the movie. The boys thought it was funny, and a little suspenseful in parts. Bo said that it was amusing, and had a few jokes that went over the kids' heads, but were there for adults. All felt that the animation and effects were well-done.

Colin said he can't wait for the games to come out, as he's sure there will be games for the movie.  Both boys said they'd like to see it again, so I'm sure I'll be able to watch it once it comes out on DVD! The movie is set for general release on March 26, 2010.

Review: Lost City of Z

My sister and I were at one of the national bookstores recently, and as she was checking out, she noticed a book near the register.  The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon (Vintage Departures) caught her eye, especially because she has an interest in visiting the Amazon. The clerk told her it was a great book, so she added it to her purchases.

A few days later, she told me the book was awesome and that I had to read it, because she wanted to talk about it with somebody.  But, she didn't want to give up her copy, so she'd buy me my own.  She tried to buy it for my Kindle, but you can't gift Kindle books, so she decided to loan me her copy.  She dropped it off, but I've become spoiled by my Kindle, so I bought it myself and downloaded it.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon (Vintage Departures) is one of the best books I've read in quite a while!  It is fascinating and kept me turning pages as often as I could sneak a few minutes away to read.  It is a non-fiction account of explorers of the Amazon, most specifically Percy Fawcett who disappeared many years ago, and all those who attempted to find him.  The story moves back and forth between the early/mid 1900's and modern day.

Usually, I don't like that, but David Grann made it work very well in this book.  The stories of the explorers were vivid and detailed!  While it didn't make me want to explore the Amazon, it did make me yearn for adventure.  I actually loved how he moved between his own story of exploring the Amazon and reports of Fawcett and other explorers from the past.

Grann is a great storyteller and I found myself thinking this would be a fun read aloud for the boys!   If you're looking for an interesting story, full of factual events you may never have heard about, I highly recommend The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon (Vintage Departures).  I'm sorry that I finished it, because I didn't want it to end!

Disclosure: I bought this book myself, and nobody asked me to write about it! 

Lydia's Dolls

Yesterday, we were at Target, where I cajoled Lydia into the cart. She much prefers walking on her own, or riding the sides of the carts (so she can easily jump off . . . or stick out her leg and shout "Full Speed Ahead!!")

Since she was so good about sitting in the cart, and the boys wanted to look at the toy section, I walked her up and down the aisles that interested her and let her linger and look at various toys. She has always been great about putting things back on the shelf after checking them over, so when she reached out to a small baby doll, I let her look it over and then asked her to put it back.

She looked at me with big eyes and said "No!" I said, "Come on, Lydia, it's time to move on. Put the doll back."  She replied "I can't leave her here!  She neeeeeeds me!!"

Needless to say, the baby doll came home with us.  She introduced the baby doll to her other baby dolls once we got home, and christened her "Rosie."  She set them all up to listen to books last night before bed. She slept with her last night, and carefully covered her up today when she ran out to play with the boys.


I guess she was right -- Rosie did need her ;)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Review: Putumayo Kids Jazz Playground

I recently received a copy of Putumayo Kids Presents: Jazz Playground and was excited to listen to it! Ever since I figured out I could stream my iTunes from my laptop to my XBox 360, we've been listening to more music. My kids all love music, and we've been fans of the Putumayo Kids series for a long time!

This jazz album does not disappoint!  I started playing it when the kids were outside, and when they came in, Nate immediately said "Hey! Jazz!"  Jazz is probably his favorite genre of music right now, and one of his favorite jazz musicians is Poncho Sanchez. This Putumayo CD is geared towards kids, and the sound and vocals are very kid-friendly -- but still jazz!

My 3 were bouncing and dancing around the living room to the entire CD, which we played multiple times.  Nate asked for it to be copied onto his MP3 player, so he could listen to it more often.

One of our favorite songs is "Stomp Stomp," which you can listen to here, as well as 2 more songs from Putumayo Kids Presents: Jazz Playground.   Other favorites were "Shortnin' Bread" and "Agree & Disagree".  My mom always sang "Shortnin' Bread" when I was younger, and I often sing it to my kids. This version has a much better rhythm than mine!  LOL!

This was a wonderful CD, and one I know will get plenty of play in our home.




 



*Disclosure: I received a copy of this CD for review. No additional compensation was provided. The links in this post are affiliate links.*

Tell Me Thursday - Modern Sculpture

Last week, we visited the Desert Botanical Garden.  It's been a while since we visited, and they have done tons of renovation! It's still a very beautiful garden, but it has become more and more manicured since we first visited 12+ years ago.

There are modern art sculptures throughout the garden, and all the kids had fun figuring out what each looked like.  It was amusing, because each had their own ideas, and they were rarely even similar!

This shot is of Nate trying to figure out this one.  It made me laugh as he twisted and turned to find the best angle!

Did you play Wordless Wednesday yesterday?  Then tell your story today at Tell Me Thursday!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Modern Sculpture


Share a picture (without sharing the story!) on Wordless Wednesday. (Come back tomorrow for Tell Me Thursday and I'll share the story.)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Heifer International Fundraising Update

The boys have been diligently reading and keeping careful track of the books they've read towards their goal of raising money for Heifer International. 

They've been reading for just over 2 weeks.  Colin has completed 15 books totaling 2,151 pages!  He has read a a variety of Hardy Boys, Geronimo Stilton, Bailey School Kids and Pokemon books. He loves series and is excited to continue reading more in the Hardy Boys series.

Nate has been reading regularly, and has read 6 books so far, totaling 687 pages! He has read Hank the Cowdog, Calvin & Hobbes Lazy Sundays, Pokemon, Jigsaw Jones and Jokes to Tell(which is not only great reading practice -- but also great speech practice as he tells us all the new jokes he is learning!)

There's still time if you'd like to sponsor them to help them reach their goal of $160.00! Contact me directly if you'd like to help them out.

Mish Mash

Life is busy as usual, and I have little scribbles of post ideas all over!  I decided to throw many of them into one post and cross it all off my to-do list!
  • I had almost 24 hours to myself this weekend.  Wow, do I crave the silence that I found during that time! It's something that I know, but it's hard to find silence in a house full of children. The boys had planned on a camping trip, and I expected Lydia to stay with me.  Instead, she insisted on going!  It was close enough that I could retrieve her if necessary, but she's my little adventurer and played all afternoon and then slept in the tent with Daddy and her "bruvers." I took a long nap, went to dinner with my sister, and then went to bed early.  It was wonderful, and I'm trying to figure out how to slide more silent times into my life.
  • Soccer season is over!  Many games were canceled due to rain, which was disappointing for Nate. Basketball doesn't start until June, so I have a couple months free from sports commitments.
  • We've spent more time outdoors in the last couple weeks.  On a return trip to Boyce Thompson last week, Nate threw his arms around me at one point and said "Thank you so much for bringing me back here!" That boy loves to be outdoors.
  • We transferred our wedding video to digital this week.  We looked so young! It was fun to watch it, and I wish we would have done it sooner because the videotape definitely degraded in the last 12 years.  The bottom 1/4 of the screen is nothing but static, but it was definitely a trip down memory lane to see ourselves and our family and friends on that day in the past. 
  • It's funny in how much I share here on the blog, yet so much of life is un-bloggable.  I hope that readers realize that life is SO much more than the picture painted on this screen.  Even those bloggers that appear to be train wrecks, I know that there are certain things that are off-limits for them as well. 
  • I have many  more reviews to get through this month, so I hope everyone bears with me.  I have a wonderful pile next to my desk of things I want to share -- but at the same time it seems a bit overwhelming.  I've stopped accepting review items until I get caught up, so expect tons of product reviews in the short term.

Phoenix Disney on Ice GIVEAWAY!

**The giveaway is over & the winner has been notified!  Thanks for reading!**

Last year, we had a blast at Disney on Ice!  We're going again, and Feld Entertainment has generously provided me with a family pack of 4 tickets to give away to a metro Phoenix family!!

The show this year is "100 Years of Magic" and will include characters from 18 different beloved Disney stories.  I know my little ones will have an awesome time at the show (and I'm sure that Colin will remember his eyeglasses this year!)


You can purchase tickets for the show on April 1 - 4, 2010 at a discount with the code "MOM"  Using that code at Ticketmaster.com will allow you to purchase 4 tickets for $44!  (Additional tickets can be purchased for $11 each. Discount not valid on VIP or Front Row seating.)  You can also receive that discount at the box office this  year!  Email me for the special discount flyer, print it out, and redeem it for the same deal at the box office! 

If you're local, and would like to enter the giveaway for 4 tickets, please leave a comment.  You must be available on the evening of April 1, 2010 to attend the show at US Airways Center in Phoenix, AZ.  I will use random.org to choose a winner on March 26, 2010!

Google Docs is not working for me this morning, so we'll go back to the comment box for entries!  Leave a comment and let me know your favorite Disney character.  (If the comments aren't working for you, email me and I will add you to the giveaway manually!)  Feel free to share this giveaway with others in the Phoenix area who might want to attend.

Remember!  You MUST be local, because the tickets are only good for the Phoenix show on April 1, 2010.  Be sure to leave a valid email address so I can contact you!  I will close and hide comments after the contest is over. Good Luck!

*Disclosure: I received tickets for my family for the April 1, 2010 show from Feld Entertainment, who also provided the tickets for the giveaway.  No additional compensation was provided.*

Giveaway Winners!

I used the wonderful random.org to choose winners from all the comments left on the 3 giveaways I posted last week.

Malaika is the winner for the Wanchai Ferry Great Night In giveaway!  Yea!!  Malaika used to think she couldn't enter my giveaways because she didn't live in Arizona!  I let her know that my readers are all over the place, and the only restriction is usually that they have to live in the U.S.   I think this is the first giveaway she entered, and she won!

Tammy, who loves chocolate cupcakes, is the winner of the $20 Cinnabon gift card!

And, finally, Rainbow Brite CD's are being sent to Melanie F, Valerie and Jennifer!

Congratulations to all my winners, and thanks to everyone who entered!  I'm sorry I didn't have enough to give you all a prize, but keep reading as I have more giveaways coming up!

Tropicana Juice Rewards

Do you like Tropicana Juice? We do, and I was excited to join their Tropicana Juicy Ambassador Program! This program allows you to earn reward points towards a variety of things, just from purchasing Tropicana juices and entering codes into the Juicy Rewards site. You can learn more and sometimes earn extra points by following Tropicana on Facebook and Twitter.

You can visit Tropicana's Juicy Rewards site to find out what rewards are available in your area.  It's quick and easy to register, and Mom Central and Tropicana would like to get you started with your first point!

To receive your point:

1. Go to www.tropicana.com
2. Set-up your Tropicana Juicy Rewards account (just takes a minute!)
3. Visit the "Enter Codes" page within the site and get started with MOMCE-NTRAL

*This one-time use code is valid for new accounts ONLY. Must be entered within 6 hours of creating your account.

Over the next few months, I'll redeem my points and share with you our adventures. There are a variety of buy one / get one free offers available in my area, and I expect I'll use most of my points to visit local museums and other outings.

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in the Tropicana Juicy Insiders Ambassador program by Mom Central on behalf of Tropicana. I received 12 free Juicy Rewards points and a $50 Visa gift card to use in redemption of the points and to facilitate my review.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Tell Me Thursday - What's in There?

This shot is of Nate, exploring one of the caves at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. He had carefully swiped a stick around in there before sticking his head in -- a move which I thought showed some great insight!

He didn't find anything interesting, but I wonder if I have a spelunker on my hands!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Monday, March 01, 2010

Review: Cinnabon Cupcakes (and a giveaway!)

I've loved cinnamon buns from Cinnabon for years.  I hadn't had one in a while, though, and when I was recently contacted by Cinnabon I was surprised to hear that they now offer cupcakes!  I picked some up during a recent trip to the mall and enjoyed them for dessert tonight.

They come in four flavors -- Vanilla Bliss, Cinnacake Classic, Chocolate Passion and 24 Carrot Cake. My favorite was the cinnamon-flavored one (have I ever mentioned how much I like cinnamon?)

They were a hit in our house, and as soon as I brought them in the door, Lydia ran and got the book If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff for me to read.  And, then she wanted me to add sprinkles to her cupcake (if you've read the book, you understand!)  Even though we're currently out of sprinkles, she still enjoyed the cupcake very much.

I'd love to share some with you!  Let me know what your favorite cupcake flavor is and you'll be entered into a drawing for a $20 gift card to Cinnabon!  I'll draw the winner next Tuesday (March 8, 2010) using random.org.  Good Luck!

** This giveaway is now closed! I used random.org to choose the winning comment and have contacted her via email. Thanks for reading! **

Disclosure: I received a gift certificate from Cinnabon in order to sample the product. They also provided the gift certificate for the giveaway.

Review: June Bee Baby Hand Knit Clothes

 Sometimes, you come across a piece of clothing so adorable and well-made that it makes you want to have more babies just to pass down the cuteness!

This sweater from June Bee Baby is an example. When I received this sweater, I was immediately blown away by how soft it was.  Once I pulled it fully out of the packaging, I couldn't help but exclaim how adorable it was!

I had read that the clothing from June Baby are handmade, and I began looking over the sweater. It is absolutely flawless!  June (the owner) shared with me that every stitch is done by hand!  It's like receiving a piece of clothing made by an extremely talented grandmother!

Whenever Lydia wears this Baby Blossoms sweater, I am always stopped and asked where I found such a sweet sweater.  The sweater can be found at June Bee Baby, along with many other beautiful pieces for girls and boys.

Something that fascinated me about this store is that each piece is handmade. As someone who struggles crocheting more than a few lines, I am definitely impressed by the level of quality of this handiwork. I found out that June (who has a dual citizenship with the US and Turkey) works with a variety of women in Turkey who knit each of the unique patterns in their homes!  You won't find any other children at the playground with the same pieces of clothing (unless they've also shopped at June Bee Baby!)

High quality, natural fibers are used on all pieces.  Each piece is either hand-knit or crocheted from cotton, cashmere or wool. The weight of this sweater is perfect for our mild winters.

You can see how much Lydia enjoys wearing this sweater, too!  She loves the ruffles around the wrists and refers to them as her bracelets.

I know my maternal grandmother would have loved crocheting for my daughter, and these pieces have the look and feel of that type of love. It is obvious that each piece is carefully created and expertly finished. I am thrilled that we were exposed to this site and I'm currently saving up to purchase one of the dresses for Easter!

Would you like to order one of these gorgeous pieces? June has generously offered me a discount code for my readers that I'd like to share with you!

For the month of March (until 3/31/2010), you can use the code SPRING25 to receive 25% off any piece in the collection.   I know you will be thrilled with whichever piece you choose! (And I'd love to see a picture of whatever you may choose!)
 

Travel with Kids - Boyce Thompson Arboretum

One of our goals in 2010 is to explore more of Arizona.  Last month was a fantastic trip to northern Arizona, but this month we stayed closer to home.

My sister and I both follow Boyce Thompson Arboretum on Facebook (even though I hadn't made time to visit since 1999!) When she sent me an invite to their World Desert Fair this weekend, I decided we'd go to meet our once/month exploration goal!  (with just a day to spare to fit it in February!)

We headed out mid-morning for the 45 minute drive.  I packed trail mix and drinks for all.  I wasn't sure how long we'd be there, but I realize now I should have packed full lunches.  We looked at the cost of admittance ($7.50 / adult and $5.00 / children) and decided an annual membership ($60 / family) would be a good investment.

I was reassured that it was a great idea to purchase a membership when Nate read a sign near the beginning of the trail that listed ways to learn more -- and encouraged touching!  Nate is my kinesthetic learner, so being given free rein to touch pleased him to no end!

Ever since the boys have been little, we've taught them "how" to touch vs. forbidding them to touch.  Of course, there are things that are off-limits to touching (art at museums, for example), but instead of admonishing them not to touch a cactus, I've shown them how to carefully touch a cactus to avoid being pricked.  I saw those lessons being applied all day as he freely touched the rocks, plants, and objects that were found.  Both boys touched things gently, carefully, and with great interest. They loved noting the ways different rocks felt, or the different thickness of leaves.

For the World Desert Fair, booths were set up around the trail where you could learn about foods from different desert regions.  That was definitely Lydia's favorite part, and I'm sure she will be sorely disappointed next time when there aren't any more food booths!  The overall favorite of hers was the waffles made with mesquite flour and the Blue Agave syrup that are native to our Sonoran Desert.  Nate tried something from every table -- and I think the olives from the Mediterranean were the biggest hit for him.  Colin was a bit more hesitant to try new things, but he thoroughly enjoyed the hot Rooibos tea from Africa.  NONE of us liked the Australian fave -- Vegemite -- but almost all of us gave it a try.

We were there much longer than I anticipated, but everyone had a wonderful time. I know we will go back soon, as the boys were disappointed we didn't make it to the hummingbird and butterfly gardens.  It was a great way to spend a Saturday, and I think we may even head there again on Friday already!
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