Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Aquadoodle!!

Have you ever heard of the AquaDoodle Draw 'n Doodle mat? Now this is a fun toy. All it entails is a mat (which can be easily rolled up and stored away) and a "pen" that you fill with water. When you draw on the mat with the water-pen, it appears that you're drawing in blue ink. When you draw on yourself or your furniture or the floor or the toys or the walls - your mom doesn't get mad, because its just water!

I have to say, this is about the best possible toy for my mischievous son. He loves to draw, but no matter what the consequences are he just cannot seem to keep the crayons off the walls and furniture. I've had to hide all pens and crayons (and we'd never think of allowing markers in the house!), but I hate to do so when this means his creative drawing skills aren't allowed to blossom.

The mat itself is much nicer and higher quality than I expected. We spent about an hour when we first got it, drawing pictures and writing out letters and numbers. And clean up? Just let it dry, and roll it up!
The only downside is that it comes with only one pen; I'm looking in to getting a few so we can draw together, or with friends. That shouldn't be too hard.

I love it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bath Bubbles from the Bath Blizzard

We recently received the "Bath Blizzard" by Kid Kleen - a bubble making machine that hangs over your bathtub and spills bubbles into your tub while your little one bathes.

The point, of course, is to make bath time fun. My son would think bath time was fun no matter what was or wasn't in the tub with him, but he was still excited to try it out.

Its easy to use, and it does indeed produce bubbles. It comes with a small container of bubble bath, and you can use it with whatever bubble bath you prefer. The bubbles we got disappeared quickly - I assume that's due to the quality of the bubble bath, rather than the Bubble Blizzard itself. It also requires C batteries, which happened to be the only kind we didn't have in the house.

Its a gimmick, to be sure! But sometimes with toddlers you need bath-time-gimmicks. And this one is pretty fun for everyone.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sesame Street....K'nex!

I was first introduced to K'nex during the year that I worked as an Au Pair in Switzerland.  My 5 year old boy was a K'nex fanatic, and together we built some truly amazing structures.  As soon as I had a boy, I began to look forward to his K'nex stage (well...it wasn't foremost on my mind as soon as I had him but...you know what I mean).  

So, I'm happy to say that K'nex has recently started a new line, just for 2-5 year olds...Sesame Street K'nex!  

Our set is "Ernie and Bert" and it has all the pieces for his little hands (or, Mommy) to put together Ernie and Bert, with enough extra pieces to allow for some creativity.  The plastic pieces are a bit on the cheap side, but they are big, colorful, and chunky to allow him to begin building.  He loves it!  
You can go here to find out more.  Have fun!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

K'nex and win!

Remember K'nex?? Here's your chance to do some playing...and some winning! Three lucky builders will win a $10,000 savings bond - check it out!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Passover By Design

I'm not Jewish, but I have recently been looking into following a Kosher or Halal eating lifestyle. So I've been very interested in Susie Fishbein's Kosher by Design cookbook series. And since my friends and try to do a Passover seder every year or so, I jumped at the chance to take a look at her new cookbook Passover by Design.

This really is a beautiful cookbook stuffed with recipes that could be used for Passover or really any other meal. In March it made the top 100 book list on both Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. Below I'll post some questions/answers with Susie, as well as some pictures of completed recipes and table decor. Happy cooking and eating!


(From her website)

The author of the widely popular Kosher by Design series of cookbooks speaks about her unique project for Passover.

Q – Passover by Design is the fifth in your cookbook series. How is this latest one different from all your other cookbooks?

A –This cookbook is solely focused on Passover. It includes so many helpful suggestions for preparing dishes that are as eye-pleasing as they are delicious. Kosher by Design cooks know that simple elegance is part of what has made this series unique. That aesthetic theme carries over into Passover by Design as well. Also, you’ll notice a blend of both familiar and brand new recipes. I painstakingly went through the previous Kosher by Design cookbooks and completely reformulated over 100 recipes to be thoroughly kosher for Passover.

Q – What’s the benefit of a Passover-centric cookbook?

A - First, everything you need is presented in one complete cookbook. You won’t have to shuffle through several cookbooks, marking pages with sticky notes, to plan your meals. Secondly, you won’t have to go through the cumbersome effort of calculating and substituting kosher for Passover ingredients. It’s not a matter of simply substituting one cup of potato starch for one cup of flour. I spent scores of hours refining the measurements to get them right for each recipe. That’s a huge time saver.

Q – Beside the reformulated recipes, what else is new in Passover by Design?

A – There are over thirty brand new recipes, with some exceedingly simple to prepare. For this book, I teamed up with Moshe David, a rising star in the kosher catering circuit, to design over twenty unusual recipes not normally seen on a Passover table, such as Teriyaki Chicken Sat├ęs and Thai Sole Rolls. We also present some very healthful cooking techniques that are useful year round.

Q – Does Passover by Design include tablescaping ideas for holiday decorating?

A – For sure. My team and I really shook things up for this holiday looking for ways not only to decorate the table but to enliven the Seder itself. John Uher shot the beautiful photography as he has for the previous books. The visual effects are stunning and people will be able to adapt them for their own moods and settings.

Q – When and where will Passover by Design be available?

A – Passover by Design is scheduled for release on Feb. 28, 2008. Like the other books in the Kosher by Design series, it’ll be available through ArtScroll.com, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com and certainly at any good Jewish bookstore near you.



Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Littlest Pet Shop

We've come a long way from the Strawberry Shortcake dolls and My Little Ponies I played with in elementary school.

When I received my own dolls and toys from the Littlest Pet Shop collection, I was certain of two things: 1. My friends and I would have loved this when we were kids; and 2. Its been a lo-ong time since I was a kid.

These cute stuffed animal pets come with a code that you can use to log in online - hence, their status as Virtual Interactive Pets or VIP's. You play with the toys at home just like in the old days. But when you log in online, you can adopt and play with your toys in a whole new world. (Click here for a video about the fun that waits online).

There's also high-tech accessories that are certainly up a little girl's alley. Like this digital pen. You know we would have loved this back in the 80's!

So there you have it - cute, colorful, stuffed animals and toys just like we had when we were kids - that comes with digital accessories and interactive tools online. Check it out!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Points: Women have them, Men need them

This book isn't quite my style, but it might be yours. Its written for men who are slightly domestically challenged. I'm not a man...and my husband is a specimen of domestic perfection (he cooks, cleans, and shops much better than I do!). But if your husband is not quite so talented in these areas, it might be a good one for you...or him! Its a fun one so check it out!

(From the Publisher)

Points
Women Have Them, Men Need Them
By I. Glebe
Published by Running Press
December 2007;$12.95US/$15.50CAN; 978-0-7624-3052-9

For years couples have been at war:
Who left the seat up? Who dented the car? And all this time, unbeknownst to men, women have been keeping score.

Until now. Intrepid researcher and lazy relationship partner I. Glebe reveals the secret formula that has kept relationships off-balance for years.

Sometimes taking out the trash gets a guy "points" and sometimes it doesn't (Is it actually trash night? Did he leave it on the curb or on top of her car while he shot some hoops?) The accrual of these nebulous points has determined everything from whether a guy gets to watch the game in peace, or attend a bachelor party. In Vegas.

Points is both a handbook and a cheat sheet. Guys are guaranteed* to find some helpful point-gaining ideas. (Don't worry, she'll never suspect you got them from a book!) And women are guaranteed** to learn new methods of profiting from the inevitable blunders.

If bestselling titles like He's Just Not That Into You helped you narrow the field, The Rules brought you together, and Why Do Men Have Nipples explained all the weird quirks and smells, Points will make you and your partner (this one or the next one) winners for life!

*Not Really **Of course.

Author
I. Glebe
is an ordinary guy. It is from this unique vantage point that he was able to uncover the secrets of relationships and how to make them work for you, even though you may not want to. Having experienced the best and the worst of seven marriages (including two of his own), he can safely say that he is as close to an expert in this stuff as anyone walking the planet.

For more information, please visit http://glebespoints.com.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Only Child

Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo, edited by Deborah Siegel and Daphne Uviller is a collection of essays by writers who also happen to be only children. But this is a book that will appeal to anyone interested in stories of real life - sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, sometimes moving, this book is enjoyable no matter your sibling status.

There are 20 stories, which chronicle the adventures of being an Only from childhood into adulthood, depicting life as only those have lived it can do. Each story is unique, each captivating.

On Amazon.com, 25 of 26 readers have given this book a full 5 stars - and the 26th went with 4 stars. That's pretty high praise, if you ask me. The weather is warming up at last - I'd choose this one as a pool-side or vacation book for summer reading. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cute lil' Knut

As the subtitle says, Knut is the story of How one little polar bear captivated the World. And so it is. Amazon gives a good summary of the story:
When Knut was born, the first polar bear cub at the Berlin Zoo in more than thirty years, he was no bigger than a snowball and unable to care for himself. His mother, a rescued East German circus bear, didn't know how to take care of Knut and rejected him. Knut would have died if it weren't for Thomas Dorflein, a zookeeper who nurtured Knut, feeding him, sleeping with him, and giving him the love and attention Knut needed to thrive. But Thomas wasn't the only one who adopted Knut. The adorable little polar bear captured the world's attention, and now Knut is loved around the globe.
My first impression wasn't too positive. The edition I have looks a good 15 years old, though the book was written just this past year. But my son loves the book. He's too young to get into what really is a fascinating story of a young polar bear cub, but he can't get enough of the pictures. He can even say "Knut!"

So, this book is a hit. Cute lil' Knut...though he's probably big enough to scare me away by now. :)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Cake Thief

The Cake Thief, a new children's book by Sally Lee, is a fun and uncomplicated story of a boy named Clarence who has a bad habit of stealing cakes. In the story, his community surprises him by showing grace, and he learns not only to make friends, but to make his own cakes!

As simple as the story is, I found myself saying "that's a lesson I could stand to learn myself." Ok, I've never even been tempted to steal a cake, but it does often seem that we go to great lengths to find a short cut - when just learning to do things the right way may have taken much less effort.

This is the lesson of The Cake Thief. Its not complicated or destined to be a classic, but I liked it. And the illustrations? They're yummy enough to eat. Besides telling a good story, Sally Lee has created some enchanting illustrations. Check it out for yourself!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Snapple always = Yummy

I've always been a big fan of Snapple. One of the highlights of my beverage life was when I babysat for a family who worked as distributors and they literally paid me in Snapple.

So when I heard about the new Snapple Anitoxidant Water, I was up for giving it a try. At first, I was skeptical. I've tried a lot of jazzy, snazzy, fadish drinks and waters lately - they all seem too syrypy...or something.

Snapple didn't dissapoint, however. This is good stuff! My son and I fought over who got to drain the first bottle but, luckily, there was a second.

According to Snapple, this new drink is more than just yummy.

Snapple Antioxidant Water features seven unique flavors inspired by
nature’s “superfruits,” including pomegranates and acai berries. The
antioxidants, vitamins and electrolytes in each flavor provide one of four
distinct benefits for the body:

The Power to PROTECT:, Vitamins A and E, electrolytes and a complete dose of Vitamin C help protect the body against free radicals. Available in Tropical Mango and Orange Starfruit flavors.

The Power to DEFY: Vitamins A and E, Grape Seed Extract, plus electrolytes assist in refreshing the body and mind. Available in Raspberry Acerola and Grape Pomegranate flavors.

The Power to AWAKEN: Vitamins A, E and B, Caffeine, Guarana, Ginseng
and Ribose, plus electrolytes will awaken your senses. Available in Strawberry Acai and Dragonfruit flavors.

The Power to RESTORE: Vitamins A and E, plus a double dose of electrolytes assist in restoring the body after any endurance and strength activity. Available in Agave Melon flavor.

So move over, Gatorade. Next time, I'm going for Snapple, for sure.

Friday, March 28, 2008

More BabyJamz!

Edited to add: This just in! I just took my toddler on a 1,500 mile round trip in the car...and this toy was a lifesaver. So, if you're heading the road, this might be a good thing to pack in with you...


Its time for more Baby Jamz! I mentioned awhile back how much my toddler was enjoying his Hip-Hop nursery rhymes and cutting on a rug on his Baby Jamz dance mat. And now we have the Baby Jamz Jammin' Microphone to add to the collection.

I sing in a worship team at church, so my son knows all about microphones and is all about having one of his own. He holds it, puts it to his mouth, and starts to dance. The microphone plays music which you can slow down or speed up and, of course, sing along to. You should also be able to record the baby's voice as he sings along.

I'm not as big a fan of this toy though. It looks rather cheap to me, and after days of trying I still haven't gotten it to record or play back anything (maybe its broken? maybe its just me?). It strikes me as a classic case of a cheaply made, loud with batteries toy that will fall apart before you know it. But for now, we're jammin'.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Your Pregnancy Week by Week

Let me begin my assuring you - I'm not pregnant. But I have been in the past, and I hope to be sometime in the future. So I'm always interested in a new and potentially fantastic book on pregnancy.

I'm a huge information person. I research and study almost anything that intersects my life, and many things that don't. When I was pregnant it was important to me to soak in as much information as I could - I was fascinated to learn anything and everything about the miracle happening in and to my body and my baby. But most pregnancy books I picked up I put right back down. While admonishing me to enjoy this time and rid my life of stress and anxiety, these books (most of them written by men) outline all the possible things that might go wrong during each week. While this information is helpful in its place they just don't have the tone I'm looking for in a pregnancy guide.

So I was excited to receive a copy of Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Glade B. Curtis, MD, MPH and Judith Schuler, MS. The first thing I noticed was that one of the two authors was female - that's a step in the right direction, at least.

For the most part, I'd say that this is a perfectly good pregnancy guide. Prenatal exams are brief, and this book gives plenty of week by week information, beginning pre-conception and going through the baby's first birthday, for mom's to have at home at their fingertips. It seems very comprehensive, and I was impressed that it included lifestyle topics such as a woman's rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when she is pregnant or after delivery.

I can't say that this was a departure for the previous books I've read in tone, though. It is very definitely a medical book, and its emphasis includes the myriad of things that might lead to infertility or miscarriage if they are present or absent or in the wrong amounts. The authors are also coming from a particular philosophy which they stick to, coming down against home births and other things in a "natural" perspective. Some might also be disappointed to see that the pictures in the books are sketches of the unborn baby in the womb, rather than actual photography.

For some pregnant moms, this is definitely the book for you. If you're looking for a comprehensive medical opinion on each week and stage of your experience, you'll pour over this book and be better for it. If you're like me and would like to know the risks and dangers while dwelling on the miracle and wonder of it, this will be a helpful tool in the box but will need to be supplemented with other perspectives.

If you've used this book, let me know what you think. What do you like in a pregnancy book?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gloves in a bottle

When I was offered the chance to try a new hand lotion called "Gloves in a Bottle" I jumped at it. Wintertime is dry to begin with, but then add in a baby/toddler and all the germs they create. Gloves in a bottle sounded exactly like what I needed.

The lotion itself is pretty good. Not too oily, not too watery. I'm picky about my lotion. I don't want it to feel like I've just rubbed water over my hands, but I don't like greasy either. This rubs in well and my skin does feel soft afterwards. I wouldn't say its absolutely My Favorite Ever, but its good.

The makers of Gloves in a Bottle claim that it does something most lotions do not. Instead of just replacing your natural moisture with artificial moisture (which then washes or rubs rights off), the ingredients need to get below the second layer of skin where it can actually add to your natural moisture level. They claim that their lotion will not wash off, but will come off naturally with exfoliated skin cells.

This sounds good in theory, but with all the news of contaminants and poisons getting into our bodies, I wasn't sure that I wanted something going deeper in than it already is. I contacted the company to see what they had to say.

They explained that the lotion is not actually entering your skin, but is bonding with it, helping it to do its job as a barrier, then coming off naturally in a few hours. This does seem like the best of both worlds - a lotion that doesn't wash off, but still comes off on its own, while not actually penetrating below skin level. They even sent me a link to a page listing and explaining their ingredients, as well as a material safety sheet. I really appreciated their willingness to publish this information and make it public and available.

So there you have it. Gloves in a Bottle.

Breastfeeding is Green contest

This contest looks like a lot of fun! Click over and check it out...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Who's ready to party?

Ultimate Blog Party 2008

Welcome to the party! 5 Minutes for Mom is hosting their annual Ultimate Blog Party - a great time and a fun way to meet other bloggers. To thank you for stopping by, to give you a chance to see what I do here at OpinionRated, and in the spirit of party favors I'm offering links to my two favorite books of all time, my two favorite books from 2007, and a book I've read recently.

Favorites of all time
These two are easy - definietly C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces and David James Duncan's The Brother's K (no, not the Russian classic, this is a different one). Have you read them? If so, let's talk!! If you haven't...get reading!

Favorites of 2007
This one's really hard to narrow down since I read so many great books. But I'll go with Yann Martel's Life of Pi and...of course... JKR's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Same question - Have you read them? If so, let's talk!! If you haven't...get reading!

Favorite recent read

This one's the hardest of all, since I'm in the middle of so many great ones. But one absolutly fantastic book I'm reading right now is The Soul of Christianity by Huston Smith. Read it? Read it!

OpinionRated is primarily a review blog; I also do giveaways and post links to other giveaways I know about. Subscribed to OpinionRated if you'd like to keep tabs on the giveaways, and if you have a giveaway you'd like me to post a link to, just email me at lyricpoetry at gmail dot com. You can also party hop over to my personal blog, everyday life as lyric poetry.

I love to hear from you in the comments section. Thanks for coming by, and nice to meet you!

And the winner is....

The winner of The Post Birthday World is....Hollibobolli! I have to say, the competition wasn't very stiff, but I guess that's what I get for giving mixed reviews to a book I was offering. It really is a fascinating book, so I can't wait to find out what you think of it, Hollibobolli!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

One book I loved. Two books I didn't...or did I? Plus, a Giveaway!

For those of you who read all the way to the bottom, there's a giveaway on this post!

"In the hundreds of books you've read since we've been married, I've never seen you respond to finishing a book like this." So said my husband, five minutes after I finished reading Amanda Eyre Ward's Forgive Me.

I've said many times what I like in a book: a story that uses a narrative to teach me something I don't know, to take me someplace I haven't been. A story that shows both the beauty of life and the pain of life, together as one. In Forgive Me I was drawn into a story that taught me of South Africa, of Apartheid, of pain, of forgiveness. Of history, of those historical events that have taken place in my own lifetime. And most of all, of this incredible, life changing journey of motherhood I'm on.

I have friends who are South African, a sister-in-law currently living in South Africa. And it is through the eyes of Nadine, an American journalist both running away and running home, that we see this beautiful, hurting country during its most pivotal current day moments.

I can't say enough about this book. I also can't say it is light or easy to read; it is neither. But it is excellent. I won't say much more, lest I give anything away. The Denver Post said of Forgive Me: "Compulsively readable...a fascinating journey to salvation." That about sums it up for me.

Suffice it to say, five minutes after I finished the last page, I'd had a good cry, kissed my husband, checked on my sleeping toddler, and considered starting the book a second time.

-------------------------------------------------
I tried to avoid reading Anne Patchett's Bel Canto for months. The back cover told of a story of political terrorists and hostages...not my kind of tale. In fact, when I actually read it and described the plot to my husband he was incredulous. That's not the kind of book you read! he insisted. And yet, every review I read was raving, and every Audible/Amazon injunction declared "People who love the books you love also love Bel Canto." I finally gave in, but just a little. I got the audio book.

To be honest, I thought the book was totally over-written, unrealistic, and ostentatious. Not to mention it was about political terrorists and wealthy hostages. I listened to hours of NPR to put off continuing my audio book. I watched in dismay the growing piles of books that had to wait until I managed to finish it.

Then, I finished it. And the end was amazing. Obvious, predictable and yet...somehow so stunning I'm still a bit in denial. The underlying themes were so piercing and vividly portrayed. (See, now I'm becoming over-written, unrealistic, and ostentatious. *sigh*)

I think I recommend this book. Give it a try. Tell me what you think. People who love the books you love also loved Bel Canto.

---------------------------------------------

Another book I surprised myself by reading was Lionel Shriver's The Post-Birthday World. Again, the back cover described a book that was entirely not my type, but the reviews were calling it the best book of 2007. I gave in.

In The Post-Birthday World Irina is caught in a moment, the moment where she chooses between remaining with her husband or kissing another man. After coming to this crossroads in the first chapter, the rest of the book follows both paths in alternating chapters.

This is a fascinating concept, and the author pulled it off spectacularly. The characters became so real to me, I entered so easily into their world. But I just got so tired of reading about marriage people hurting each other; the strength of character development worked against me. My worldview slanted a bit towards suspicion. I couldn't make it through.

But when I skipped to the last 50 pages to gain some resolution before giving up, the endings caught me back up into the story and I found myself reading further and further back. But finally, I put it down. Its just not my kind of tale.

And yet - the storytelling was so artfully good, so creative; the characters so real and suddenly important to me. I'm almost tempted to read it again, start to finish. Or, to never read another page.

So...here's your chance to give it a read and tell me what you think: I have a copy of The Post Birthday World to give away! Just leave a comment before Midnight on March 7th to enter. If you have a blog, please link back to the contest, and be sure to stop by again to see who wins. Make sure I have a way to contact you if you're the winner!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dawn Direct Foam


When I was sent a sample of Dawn Direct Foam dish soap to try, I was happy and skeptical. Happy because I love trying new products. Skeptical because I figured it would be...well...dish soap.

Thinking it was fun to pretend to be like the people in the commercials, we decided to really give it a run for its money. We had just deep fried fish for dinner, and had a very oily pan that needed washing. We squirted "just one pump" as they say, and got to work.

I have to say, both my husband and I were very impressed. That one pump of foam actually cut through all the oil and grease and cleaned our pan much better than we had hoped. And it gets better. Not only did we realize that "one pump" promises to clean an entire dishload, we realized we had only used about half the quantity that typically comes out in a pump!

So, dish soap, fish mope, I know. But this stuff is pretty cool. And I'm not even on a commercial. :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More babywearing giveaways!

This is a giveaway you shouldn't miss!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Fun Stuff

Check out this website for new puzzles & printables for the entire family: www.WuzzlesandPuzzles.com

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Let's vote!

Online book club!

If you want to join an online book club, visit "Everyday I write the book Blog" for details.