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    Redbox Summer Family Fun

    The Redbox Summer Family Fun campaign continues! Through August 26, families that rent kid-friendly DVDs at Redbox locations and input their email address are automatically entered to win prizes, including one grand prize seven-day vacation for four to the Kennedy Space Center.

    Sounds like the perfect way for a grandma to cap off summer break with a few of her grandkiddos!

    As part of the fun, Phase 4 Films has three new releases coming out in August that are sure to entertain grandkids of various ages. When you and yours need a break from the summer sun—and who doesn't this summer!—consider renting one of the following Phase 4 offerings from Redbox:

    My Friend Bernard

    Based on the popular animated series, this 70-minute film focuses on Sam, a shy boy who's afraid of everything. With a magic pendant and a polar bear named Bernard as his sidekick, Sam embarks on a fantastical adventure that helps him learn how to overcome his fears with his sense of wonder and humor in place. Rated PG.



    This 78-minute film features the voice of Jane Lynch and is nominated for the Robert Award for Best Children/Family Film of 2012. Earthworms may be among the lowest on the food chain, but worms Gloria and Barry prove they definitely know how to boogie. Barry's determined to make the world's greatest disco band, and Gloria joins right in to become a singing sensation. Having no arms and no rhythm, the duo and their friend naturally encounter a few bumps and challenges along the way. Rated PG.

    I Heart Shakey

    When single-father J.T. and his precocious daughter, Chandler, move from a small town to high-rise apartment in Chicago, they're forced to find a new home for their beloved pooch, Shakey. Steve Guttenberg adds hilarity and high jinks as the doggie boarder with a secret. He and other silly characters (Beverly DeAngelo being one) help drive home lessons about loyalty and the importance of keeping family together in this 102-minute movie. Rated PG.

    These three Phase 4 Films—available at Redbox locations, Target, Walmart and—are just a few of the family-friendly DVDs available for rental in August as part of Redbox Summer Family Fun. In addition, Phase 4 is running a contest on their Pinterest page in which entrants can win eight films from the Kaboom! family entertainment label. Visit the Kaboom! Pin It to Win It page for details.

    Disclosure: I received free screeners of the above films for review. Opinions are my own.


    Review: Inflatable Batman Pool from Pottery Barn Kids

    Bubby thinks that of all the products I've received to review for Grandma's Briefs readers, the very coolest of all has been the inflatable Batman pool from Pottery Barn Kids. Bubby is the ultimate Batman fan, so it's not hard to see why he loves the oversized inflatable Batmobile that sprays water from its fenders and allows him to splash, play, and pretend in true Batman style.

    I'm not a Batman fan, yet I'm inclined to agree with Bubby on this one: The Batman pool I received free to review from Pottery Barn Kids is indeed one of the coolest items a grandma could share with her grandsons. Especially a grandson who's a fan of the caped crusader.

    There are many reasons beyond Bubby's love for Batman that I think the pool is a great product. First of all, it's not as expensive as one might believe, retailing for $159 on the Pottery Barn Kids website (and on sale there for $99 the date of this review). Plus, it's pretty darn easy to inflate—as long as you have a pump for inflating (sold separately). Jim had the various chambers of the pool blown up and the car ready for filling—with water, not gas, of course—in no time.

    Once the pool was filled, we tested out the water-spraying fender feature by hooking up the garden hose. Awesome, indeed, but because we had the pool placed on the patio and the spraying water rolled downhill right into the sand area where our grandsons dig for buried treasure, we opted for leaving the hose unhooked for most of the boys' visit.

    I had texted a photo of the inflated and filled pool to Megan the day before she arrived with the boys. When she showed Bubby, his immediate response was, "We have to go there now!" Which left no doubt that he'd be thrilled to hop in the driver's seat as soon as he arrived at Gramma's.

    The pool in real life didn't fail to meet Bubby's expectations.

    Mac was a tad more hesitant. That's to be expected, though, from a kiddo who just turned one—and who has no idea who the heck Batman is or how awesome all things Batman must be.

    What we loved most about the Batman pool from Pottery Barn Kids: The pool was large and held plenty of water but not so much I had to worry about it being too deep for Mac. The design provided plenty of opportunities for imaginative play. The quality and thickness of the material removed concerns that the slightest bit of silliness and squirming might pop it. The water shooting from the fenders adds excitement for the kids, yet I was glad the spray could not only be regulated by the water pressure but also didn't have to be on every time the pool was used. Lastly, it's super easy to deflate and fold up for storage. The packed pool fit perfectly in Preston's golf bag so it could be flown back to the desert for the boys to enjoy at home—which they did immediately upon arriving home:

    What we didn't love so much: Bubby would have been thrilled if the horn on the steering wheel actually honked. For me, the pool lost air a tad more quickly than I'd hoped, requiring us to pump it up each morning so the boys could enjoy it at its fullest glory. Not a big deal, really, thanks to having an air pump (again, not included but only about $10 through various retailers).

    Bottom line: I knew Bubby would love the inflatable Batman pool from Pottery Barn Kids the minute it arrived at my door—unannounced, mind you. I was so moved, in fact, by the prospect of sharing something so perfectly, awesomely Bubby with him that I literally sobbed upon opening it. Which I've never done with any other review item. Which is proof enough, I suppose, that Bubby was right: The inflatable Batman pool really is the coolest kids' product I've received for review.

    Visit Pottery Barn Kids to find out more about the inflatable Batman pool as well as other awesome inflatables and cool things grandparents will be delighted to share with their grandkids.

    Disclosure: I received this product free for review. Opinions are my own.


    Adventures in Clean: Frigidaire wants you out of the laundry room

    Frigidaire wants to help get families out of the laundry room and on to the things they love to do. How? First, there's the Frigidaire Affinity® front load washing machine that helps with laundry day chores. A definite time saver. Second, Frigidaire offers tips from laundry expert Tara Aronson—10 tips for getting clothes cleaner plus solutions for the 5 most common summertime solutions. You'll find both below.

    Frigidaire offers the helpful tips in celebration of magical moments like those seen in Disney's upcoming film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, in which Jennifer Garner realizes how messy (yet fun) life can be when a son magically springs to life in her garden. The moment leads Garner on an ultimate adventure in clean.

    Read the cleaning tips below, then head on over to Frigidaire's Facebook page to share your own Adventures in Clean. Simply upload a photo and the online app turns it into your very own movie poster. When you share your personal Adventures in Clean, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save the Children, as part of its $750,000 commitment to the cause. Plus, help spread the word because everyone who participates will be entered for a chance to win a new Frigidaire Affinity® washer and dryer featuring Ready Steam™.

    Such an easy way to clean up—in more ways than one!

    Now, for those cleaning tips:

    10 Steps to Cleaner Clothes for Frigidaire by Tara Aronson

    1. Immediately rinse or blot away spills on your clothes with cool water to prevent stains from setting.
    2. Read fabric care labels before you wash. Your clothes will last longer if you know how to treat them.
    3. Sort laundry by color, wash cycle needed, and water temperature required. The Frigidaire Affinity’s Permanent Press cycle washes with warm water and less agitation, resulting in less wear and tear on your sturdy jeans, khakis, and sweaters; the Delicates cycle uses cold water and light agitation to gently clean swimsuits, workout clothes, and lingerie.
    4. Before washing stained garments, pretreat or prewash the spot using the Affinity’s Rinse & Spin cycle. If at first you don’t succeed, wash, wash again.
    5. To keep snags and lint to a minimum, zip zippers, button buttons, empty pockets, and brush away lint before tossing duds in the hamper.
    6. If your clothing is heavily soiled, your load large, or the water cold, add extra laundry detergent. Use the Affinity’s Heavy Duty cycle for sturdy but really dirty items like jeans and towels; choose the Sanitize setting to use the hottest water available to get rid of germs and grime as thoroughly as possible.
    7. Check wet garments for remaining stains, and re-treat as needed before drying. Heat will set stains.
    8. Dry only full loads. Tumbling a handful of garments prolongs the drying time by reducing the tumbling.
    9. Fold shirts and T-shirts to prevent wrinkling. If the shirt has buttons, button it at top, middle and bottom. Lay facedown. Fold both sides of the shirt so they meet in the back, with the sleeves aligned with the side folds. Fold the tail up to the cuffs, making a straight line at the bottom. Then fold in thirds crosswise. For T-shirts: a child’s T-shirt needs only one crosswise fold in half; an adult’s should be folded into thirds.
    10. Fold shorts and pants by aligning the inseams and outer seams of the legs and fold so that a crease forms at the front center of the legs. Fold in half or in thirds, depending on the size of the garment.

    5 Summer Stain Tips or Frigidaire by Tara Aronson

    Smudges, drips, drops and smears—no matter what their source, the key to keeping them from ruining your favorite shorts or T-shirt is to take quick action—before it gets a chance to dry.

    For most fabrics, this means blotting up the excess or rinsing the discolored area with cold water (hot can set a stain.) Don’t rub: this spreads the spot and grinds it deeper into the fabric.

    Here’s how to remove the five most common summer stains:

    1. Crayon. Scrape off as much of the colorful surface as possible using a plastic picnic knife. Apply laundry detergent directly on the stained area. Gently rub the detergent into the fabric then let sit several minutes. Launder using the hottest water the fabric can handle—or the Sanitize setting of your Frigidaire Affinity washer. Dry as usual.

    2. Iced coffee. Sponge the stained area with cold water. Apply a pretreater to the blight. Wash as usual and air dry.

    3. Grass. Prewash the garment in warm water in your washing machine—the Rinse & Spin cycle on your Affinity washer—and a laundry detergent containing enzymes. Launder as usual (normal setting) with detergent and chlorine bleach if safe for the fabric. If the garment’s care label instructions advise against it, use oxygen (color safe) bleach instead. Dry as usual.

    4. Juice. Soak for a minute or so in cold water. Remove excess water, and then apply a pretreater directly on the stained area. Wash with detergent as usual. Air dry. Do not place in the dryer until the blight is completely gone—otherwise the stain is likely to set.

    5. Chocolate (or chocolate ice cream). Prewash the garment in warm water with a laundry detergent that contains enzymes using the Affinity’s Rinse & spin setting. Launder as usual, using the washing machine’s Normal setting. Dry as usual.

    Disclosure: Posting this information qualified me for a drawing. All opinions are my own.


    Review: Orb Factory craft kits

    When I visit with my grandsons, I try to have a craft activity planned for each day we're together. Mac isn't quite ready for crafts, but Bubby, at four years old, certainly is.

    Not long before their most recent visit, I received free for review a My First Sticky Mosaics kit from the Orb Factory. It's suggested for ages three and up so it was ideal for Bubby. It even seemed easy enough for Mac to take a stab at it, with me nearby, of course.

    The kit we received was the Team Rescue kit, with four different rescue vehicles to decorate with the included pre-cut sticky foam pieces and and jewels. The pieces were big enough to be fairly easy for Bubby to pull away from the backing on his own (most times) and apply where indicated on his chosen first project, the fire truck. The jewels were his favorite pieces, though, and I had to stop him a couple times from covering the entire fire truck with jewels (even in the spots indicated for gray squares or black triangles) so he'd have enough to put on the other projects—the helicopter, ambulance, and police car.

    Bubby was a good brother and shared with Mac, giving him the helicopter to cover with the pieces. Mac just recently turned one year old so I had no illusions about his ability to actually finish the project or do it as he was supposed to. But he enjoyed trying to keep up with his brother.

    What we loved about the project: Like I said, Bubby loved the jewels most of all. I loved the fact all the pieces were cut and sticky, so no scissors or glue were required, making for a very non-messy activity. Also, it was great each precut project (the helicopter, etc) were clearly marked so kids can see what shape and color goes where to complete the project and use the included plastic hanger for displaying.

    What we didn't love so much: With 600 pieces in the kit, even when divided among the four projects, that makes for a lot of pieces per project for a preschooler. Bubby lost interest before his fire truck was done and planned to finish it later. The good thing about all those pieces, though, is that it did provide him projects for later, which I'm sure he'll enjoy doing until all the projects are done and hanging on his wall for Mommy and Daddy to ooh and aah over.

    The Sticky Mosaics Team Rescue craft kit retails for $9.99 and is just one of the many craft kits available from Orb Factory designed to help kids of all ages master hand-eye coordination, pattern recognition and more.

    Disclosure: I received this product free for review. Opinions are my own.


    Review: Power Rangers Power Blast juice drinks

    My daughter Megan works hard at offering the healthiest of foods to my grandsons. When my grandsons visit, I fudge a little on that—or a lot, depending on what candy PawDad has around or what cookies I feel like baking. When I was offered packages of Power Rangers Power Blast juice free to review, though, I didn't hesitate to accept them. The juice is a healthier option than many juice boxes out there, so I figured Megan would be impressed by what's inside the box while Bubby and Mac would enjoy what's on the outside, too.

    The Power Blast juices are the result of a partnership between Genesis Today, a nutritionally based, natural products company, and the Saban's Power Rangers Samurai kids action show. Fun stuff on the outside (the box) and good stuff on the inside (the juice).

    And the good stuff is indeed good: The juice has 50 percent fewer calories and half the sugar content of some of the leading juice boxes out there. It has no high-fructose corn syrup, chemicals or dyes. And it's loaded with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Plus, it tastes good. Yes, I tried it myself before sharing with my grandsons.

    When I told Megan I'd have the Power Blast juice boxes on hand for Bubby and Mac during their visit, she immediately told me, "Oh, Bubby doesn't like those." What? What is there not to like, I asked her. From her response, it sounded to me like Bubby just didn't like Power Rangers, so he was biased against the Power Rangers juice from the get-go when he tried it at home.

    So I decided to trick him. The first time I offered a Power Blast juice box to Bubby, I didn't tell him what it was; I just asked him if he'd like some juice. He said yes, and I, where he couldn't see, poured a juice box into a cup. And he loved it.

    Megan, being the contrary little turd she can be sometimes, showed Bubby the empty box. "These are the ones you don't like." He shrugged his shoulders, not sure what to say, so I countered by telling him they're a little different in Colorado, compared to the ones they get in the desert. My explanation was good enough for him. For the rest of his visit, Bubby alternated between the blueberry and the berry flavors, and he liked them equally well.

    As long as they were emptied into a cup, that is. Turns out Bubby really doesn't like the Power Rangers.

    Red Ranger Berry Power Blast and Blue Ranger Blueberry Power Blast, naturally sweetened with a blend of Stevia and all-natural pure cane sugar, are available in the refrigerated juice section at Walmart for $2.99. You can find more information about the products on the Genesis Today website.

    Disclosure: While I received the product free for review, opinions are honest and my own.


    Review & Contest: Arlo Needs Glasses

    Megan and Preston, parents of my two grandsons, both wear glasses. Which means chances are my grandsons will need glasses themselves sooner rather than later. Because their parents (and grandparents and at least one aunt) wear spectacles, it's not likely Bubby and Mac would resist wearing glasses or consider them uncool. Just in case, though, Barney Saltzberg's new book, Arlo Needs Glasses, comes to the rescue.

    For ages three and up, Arlo Needs Glasses lets kids of all ages, glasses wearers or not, know that glasses rock and there's no reason to resist wearing them. The book, which I received free for review, tells the story of a dog who loves to play catch—until one day, he can’t see the ball anymore. He needs glasses! The delightful book filled with pop-up features and try-on glasses playfully goes through an eye doctor visit with Arlo, allaying the anxiety kids in need of glasses may feel, as well as stressing that glasses will help them become better readers.

    Put on your own spectacles and take a look:


    What Bubby, Mac and I loved about the book: Pop-up books are a favorite in my house, and Arlo Needs Glasses didn't disappoint. The boys had a good time "playing ball" with Arlo and trying on the four pairs of fun glasses.

    Arlo Needs Glasses is available from Workman Publishing, with a suggested retail price of $15.95.


    What has four eyes and four legs? Your dog in glasses! Share a funny photo of your dog wearing glasses for a chance to win a signed copy of Arlo Needs Glasses by Barney Saltzberg. Be silly, but promise to not put your pup through too much embarrassment.

    Enter through July 31 by posting your photo on your Pinterest board with the hashtag #ArloNeedsGlasses. Then follow Workman Publishing's board: Workman will post the photos to the official "My Dog Needs Glasses!" board (If you're not yet a Pinterest member but want to participate, email Lisa to request an invite to Pinterest.)

    Five photos with the most likes and re-pins by July 31st will win an autographed copy of Arlo Needs Glasses. Entrants must be U.S. residents. Winners will be notified on their Pinterest posts by August 3, 2012. If potential winner cannot be reached or does not acknowledge notification within five days of first notification attempt, the prize will be forfeited and the next photo with the most likes and re-pins will be selected as a potential prize Winner. Find full contest rules here.