Sponsored: My Pancakes Taste Different Today!

img1902-copyWe are all responsible for protecting  the environment. This is the message young Ethan learns when he tosses a metal can into the river to make a splash.  What he thought would be a fun end to his fishing trip caused harmful changes to the environment, and those changes were reciprocated.  Ethan’s pancakes are different because he’s inadvertently changed things.

Along with learning cause and effect of choices and actions, readers also learn about the harvest to table process of foods. img1894-copy

 My Pancakes Taste Different Today!

 Authors Heather and Bruce Galpert have done a beautiful job presenting this environmental preservation concept in an easy to read and comprehend story.  Educational text is paired with colorful illustration by Barbara Cate.

My three year old talked through the vibrantly colored illustrations and was quite responsive to the text.  Though younger than the target age, she understood that Ethan had made a mistake and the world changed. After we had read it together, she retold the story page by page to our dog.  The text is heavy on some pages, but she didn’t seem to mind the occasionally long viewing of these parts. And I know a book is a great find when she rereads it.

Review: Big Tractors with Casey & Friends

It needs to be said that my son loves all things construction. On rides down the highway, he is enthralled by the big machines manipulating the earth and crafting new things. He watches the metal and wood come together. And he dreams of becoming a driver for one of their vehicles.
Imagine his excitement when the box from Octane Press arrived. He carefully unpacked the model tractor, turning it in his hands and spinning the wheels before setting it down to admire the shiny, hardcover copy of Big Tractors with Casey & Friends.
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Ya couldn’t wait to open the cover. He traced the pictures with his fingers, reading through the descriptions of the many types of tractors and their specific jobs. More than once he gasped – “this one can do…!”

Written by Holly Dufek, the book follows narrators Casey the farmer and Tillus the worm around the farm. Together they explore the big machinery that makes a farm function. Designed for ages 4-8, the beautifully illustrated book helps students learn about the science of farming and today’s advanced technology.

Review: Portable North Pole

Disclosure: I received complementary Portable North Pole products in exchange for this review. Of course, all thoughts and opinions are all mine.

Sing it with me — “Santa Claus is coming to town…. he’s making a list, checking it twice. Gonna find out whose naughty or nice. …”

My sons been preparing his Santa’s gift list for some time. In fact, he dictated the whole thing to me and it was printed in Shining Faces Children’s Magazine. He’s certain of all the fantastic things he wants to get, but somehow he never remembers that receiving Santa’s gift requires good behavior. It’s a tough concept for my five-year-old to grasp. And if ever I inquire about his daily behavior in school, he answers with absolute honesty and assures me “I’m trying, Mom.”

Enter the Portable North Pole, where parents (or family and friends) can purchase gentle reminders to be good in the form of personalized videos and letters from Mr. Claus.

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I was given a $25 credit to PNP to sample their products. That value included a letter, video, and phone call.

personalizing letterFor each product, prompts lead me through personalization. And they’ve thought of nearly everything with their questions. For the Letter from Santa, a picture can be added and I could select from a variety of comments about my child’s daily activities.
I just placed my order, so I’m hoping shipping is fast enough to get the letter here before Christmas.

book infoI chose a Christmas Eve video for Ya that reminds him of his accomplishments this past year and to continue to work toward specific behavior goals we’ve set. The program allows upload of personal photos and confirms pronunciation of the child’s name (we had to use “my friend”). Santa’s record book – of Ya’s wishes, behaviors, and significant events – is pulled from the shelf where it’s filed with his siblings’ books.

Of course, Ya won’t yet appreciate seeing their names because his reading ability is still developing.

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I was pretty impressed with the mini movie I received. Santa is approachable, his voice is encouraging. And the set is reminiscent of stories of the North Pole. I’m sort of excited to share the video with Ya.

And finally, there’s “Santa’s Call Center”. There, I was prompted to generate a personal phone call from Santa. We don’t usually answer unknown numvers, so I’m not sure how this call will go through. It says, though, I can schedule the time. Like the video, I answered several questions to ensure the call message was one we needed Ya to hear.
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I chose a message to play for his next August birthday. It’s a call that comes close enough to the new school year to make an impact when he begins again.

PNP has a pretty nice concept that seems to reinforce my objectives as a parent to raise a productive and polite child. I could certainly see continuing this video and letter tradition for as long as my kids believe there’s magic in Christmas.

And as a bonus? PNP donates 5% of all online sales to a Children’s Hospital close to the buyer’s location. According to PNP, the company collaborates with over 40 regional Children’s Hospitals in the U.S.

If you’re interested, you can check out a sample on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/PNPSanta

Coming to a mail box for YOU

It’s that time of year again – – time to peruse the shelves for Christmas and New Years cards with sweet sentiments some poetic person penned for a major card company.  As with most years, I’ll shuffle through many lovely cards in search of one with a little pizazz – you know, glitter or lace for mom, or something with a little funny for Dad and my brothers.  Grandparents and other close relatives will also get a card, but it’s usually from a boxed set with a generic statement of love and blessings.  And yet, no matter how nice the card looks or how right on; the sentiment, I know these wont be the cards cherished and kept past the season.

Dilemma: do I invest in these temporary tokens, tuck in a loose photo before mailing, and accept that the cards will be tossed with the used wrapping paper? Or should I get ambitious and make my own cards?

I’ve created our holiday cards before – pondered over which family photo (or combination of individual photos) to include, and then picked from a small selection of cards available.  A few adjustments of the text, a color or font swap, and viola! Total possible customizations complete.

This year, I’ve found a new card company; or rather, it found me.  Enter  Minted.com – a fantabulous site with CHOICE.
Mint’s statement says it offers “the best in indie design from a global community of independent designers.” And that’s the truth. I spent a lot of time selecting a card, calling for second (and third) opinion, and then seeing something even more appealing to add to the considerations.

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minted2Luckily, Minted keeps a record of recently viewed cards, so I could go back and review my options.minted1

I’m sort of smitten with a card called “Complete Love,” which won a design award on the site. Honestly, I was in love with the basic card. But there were options to customize it! Shapes for the card. Card stock (hello, pearlescent!). I can even add a custom backer or interior to include more photos and a longer message.

Then there are the mini book cards. Reminiscent of my wedding magazine, these little square multipage cards are the perfect little mailing that doubles as a once a year gift that I think my family will read and display year round. BONUS?

minted4 I’ve not put the finishing touches on my card project just yet, but when I do, I’ll get a digital proof that’s already been reviewed by Minted staff. Breathe and relax, no stupid mistake is going to ruin my perfect Christmas card (like when I forgot to make an adjustment to the YEAR on a previously ordered card from another company).
I think I just might be sold on the Minted customer service model.minted5

Unlike previous years, I’m not spoiling the surprise on this card, but I assure you it’s one you’ll want to keep.

Oh, and if you decide to make your own? You might want to check out Minted.com yourself. There’s a 15 percent off coupon and free shipping on the site right now.

Or better yet, tell my husband I want him to send foiled card customized for me and our important ladies for Mother’s Day. If you hint about it now, he might just do it.

REVIEW: Buying Disney

My nearly teen daughter is a big fan of music. And for awhile, she was quite the expert at Disney XD shows. She’s in a bit of a fickle age, where one moment she’s jamming with Disney Radio tunes as they’re broadcast between A.N.T. Farm, Shake It Up, and Wizards of Waverly Place episodes, and the next she’s fixated exclusively on music television.

DISNEY MUSIC GROUP GIFT CARD
When we were given a $15 gift card to try Disney Music Online, I gave control to Chi and let her pick the tunes. The site features a fairly easy navigation system , with divisions between musical genres including soundtracks, Disney Junior, and Favorites for families, on the channel, and radio. It also has well known movie classics and holiday music selections. She listened to song previews for some time – a plus in ensuring her choices are music she’d actually enjoy hearing again.

After choosing our first song, a featured hit from Demi Lovato, we were asked to create an account and enter payment information. Credit cards, gift cards, and promo codes are accepted. The site confirms our purchase twice before charging the account and then allowed us instant access via download. Our purchase history is saved in the account with each song selected available for downloading again (and we’ve had enough technology changes to know having this feature is a big plus).

The Disney Music Online gift cards are available at most major retailers and seem like the perfect gift for the child with ever-changing musical taste.

Beyond the Fence

Summer is an incredible opportunity to discover the great outdoors with your favorite animals. Dog Fence DIY encourages exploration beyond the fence!

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We live in a dog “un-friendly” neighborhood. While it seems like every one of the townhouses that surround us has a furry family member, neighbors really aren’t that into canine communes. Nevertheless, in the quiet of early evening, the many prized pooches can be heard bellowing to one another a la ‘101 Dalmatians’ from house to house.

Nero is lucky. He’s one of the few dogs with a fenced in yard. In good weather, he can explore the small area free of the confines of his leash and harness. He can jump, run, sun bathe without a care. But it’s a luxury that most others aren’t afforded.

Venture outside in that golden hour just before sunset, and the sidewalks and grassy common areas are replete with dogs of every breed, size, color, and age. We dog people – as vilified as we are in every Home Owner’s Association memo and newsletter – are tenacious about our pets. We tote bags in our pockets – some to pick up after “the business,” some to pack away little doggy treats from our people-only visits to local restaurants. We plan whole family escapes to “pets welcome” establishments and locations with open spaces and slow moving vehicles (or reduced traffic volume). Often it takes a little more planning (and sometimes additional deposits or fees) to include our furry son, but for long trips it sure beats kenneling.

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