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    Grandma's Briefs, Grilled Grandma and all content unless otherwise noted Copyright © 2009-2015, Lisa Carpenter. All rights reserved.
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    Grandma's Back Room

    Friday
    Feb152013

    Security for seniors living alone: Vtech's Careline Home Safety Telephone System

    My mother-in-law was always a strong, independent woman, even into her late seventies. She lived alone and no one could tell her what to do nor when to do it. She accepted help and assistance reluctantly, if at all. Unfortunately, her determination to manage on her own left her fully dependent on the staff of an assisted living center, unable to care for herself.

    One night a few years ago, after a medical scare that sent her to the hospital, my mother-in-law was determined to return home, determined to change the tank of her required oxygen on her own. Sometime in the wee morning hours — the family isn't sure, as she was alone and can no longer remember herself what happened — my mother-in-law got up to change her oxygen tank, had a stroke with violent seizures in which she hit her head on the wall with tremendous force. No one is sure exactly how long she was unconscious nor on the floor as she was discovered only when my sister-in-law arrived to check on her hours later.

    There's certainly no guarantee that if my mother-in-law were equipped with a device such as the Careline telephone system that she would be back to her old self again, but she surely would have fared better. With such a system, calling for help would have been as easy as pushing a button. Unfortunately, the what ifs are many yet of little consequence as there's no way to turn back time to change the outcome.

    There is a way, though, to avoid a similar circumstance with my own mother, who also lives alone. One of my sisters currently stays with her occasionally, as she's in the midst of a residence change. But on most days and nights, my mom is by herself.

    My mom suffered a stroke several years ago, so the fact she lives on her own is of huge concern not only to her but to her adult children. She worries about what may happen if she falls during the day, has medical issues during the night. My siblings and I worry about the same. That said, she's a young senior — in her early 70s — and wants to live on her own, have her own home. Being relatively healthy and of sound mind, there's no reason for her not to, as long as a few precautions are in place.

    Enter the CarelineTM Home Safety Telephone System. I was offered the opportunity to try out the Careline system from Vtech and knew immediately my mom would be the perfect one to try out the product.

    Together we followed the quick installation guide and had the Careline up and running in no time. The answering system was easy to set up, as was programming speed dial for four folks my mom can call by pressing one button (with a spot for a photo for each of those buttons, for easily remembering which number belongs to whom). We set one button as 911, another is her dear friend and neighbor, who would come running if called.

    The display on the base, handset and pendant are easy to see, easy to figure out their function. "They're big numbers, big letters, big words," Mom said. "I won't have any problem being able to see."

    She also won't have trouble paying a monthly fee for the system as there is no monthly fee. It simply connects to the phone jack, like any other land-line phone.

    The pendant, which she can wear around her neck or clipped onto her waistband or pocket, features two buttons that correspond to those programmed as first and second speed-dial numbers on the base. The pendant can be controlled by voice, but no matter how we tried saying "What is the time?" or such, the recorded woman's response was that she couldn't understand us.

    Also frustrating was that the clasp easily comes undone and needs to be reinforced with SuperGlue or tape. Overall, though, I'm pleased my mom won't be headed out to work in the yard without the pendant, and that if any unfortunate slips, stumbles or worse were to take place, with the touch of one button she'd have a neighbor at her side.

    Between the base and its plentiful and helpful functions, the handset and the pendant, my mom and I are more confident about her safety while alone, day or night.

    "This makes me feel secure and modern," Mom says. "It'll help stop a lot of worries of going to sleep at night alone."

    It'll help stop her kids from worrying about the exact same thing.

    Disclosure: I wrote this blog post while participating in a campaign by BOOMboxNetwork.com on behalf VTech Communications, Inc. and received payment for my participation. All opinions stated within are
    my own.

    Tuesday
    Feb122013

    'Lettuce Love One Another' — A VeggieTales DVD for Valentine's Day

    Beloved Bob and Larry from VeggieTales are off and running with a new DVD just in time for Valentine's Day, VeggieTales Lettuce Love One Another.

    For this love-filled collection, the rotund tomato and perky cucumber characters share three favorite VeggieTales episodes plus five brand-new "Bible Bits."

    VeggieTales episodes in the collection, presented by Bob the Tomato, include:

    • Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry's Big River
    • Abe & The Amazing Promise
    • King George & the Ducky

    And Larry the Cucumber shares the five Bible Bits, each a lesson in and example of forgiving, helping, giving, praying, or sharing.

    Bonus fun: Three silly songs, two story book tales, instructions on how to draw Abe and King George, and more.

    Take a look:

     

    VeggieTales offers up some fun printables to go along with Lettuce Love One Another. The Service Coupons make perfect last-minute Valentine's Day gifts for kids to give and get, and the Kindness Chart keeps kindness front of mind on a daily basis. And, of course, there's a VeggieTales Valentine's Day card for printing on cardstock, too. Click on the graphics thumbnails below for the full-sized printable pages (if you have trouble printing from the page, right-click the full-size image to save to your computer, then print from that).

    Lettuce Love One Another Service Coupons


    Lettuce Love One Another Kindness Chart

    Lettuce Love One Another Valentine


    VeggieTales Lettuce Love One Another, released Jan. 15, is available at all major retail outlets for SRP $12.99.

    Disclosure: I received a copy of the DVD for review. Opinions are my own.

    Sunday
    Feb102013

    Gifts for Valentine's Day or President's Day: Presidential books of historic proportion

    Valentine's Day will soon be upon us. While Cupid would do right by many by showering upon them flowers, chocolates, music and more, some folks might prefer something a little more suited for the holiday following on the heels of Valentine's Day. I'm talking, of course, about President's Day. If your Valentine—or you—enjoy history and all things presidential, here are two books sure to make an ideal gift for either holiday.

    Ronald Reagan's Wisdom for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Charlotte Livingston with commentary by John E. Wade II and Daniel P. Agatino. Regardless of one's political affiliation, the quotes culled from the "Great Communicator's" speeches offer insightful observations that still hold true in our times. That said, this book is one surely to be savored by folks leaning more to the right than the left. Topics in this paperback collection include America, politics, pop culture, God, the economy and more.

    The book is divided into chapters based on the topics, and each page in the chapters features a quote from the former president, followed by commentary by Wade and/or Agatino (most often, both). Reagan's wisdom and vision underscore the fact that although our society has changed much since his presidency, it and we are still very much the same.

    My favorite history lover—my husband—thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the many famous and some not-so-famous witticisms and inspirational quotes from his favorite president. He didn't, though, enjoy the commentary included with each quote quite as much.

    Ronald Reagan's Wisdom for the Twenty-First Century, published by Pelican, has a suggested retail price of $12.95 and is available at most book stores.

     

    George Washington: An Interactive Biography by Rod Gragg. Much has been written about our country's first president, but never in as engaging a manner as this hardcover, colorful book filled with flaps, forms, pockets, pictures, documents and more. Readers—well, more like explorers—are treated to reproductions of historical documents and maps from the front of the book on through to the back, many pulled from parchment pockets or hidden compartments.

    My history hound of a husband delighted in the unique presentation of facts and information on President Washington, trivia and tales that added to the veneration of Washington and a better understanding of his character and the challenges he faced in shaping and protecting our nation.

    I, even though not a huge fan of history, was delighted by the bits and pieces of history shared throughout. I had previously seen—and purchased—books of a similar style, though related to musicians. I had never considered how such presentation can make the acquiring of historical information far easier to swallow for folks who, like myself, fail miserably at the "history" card in games of trivia. I'm pretty sure I'll be a winner going forward in such games, at least as the questions may relate to Washington, simply because it's impossible to not retain massive amounts of information via the bite-sized and tactile nuggets shared in this fascinating edition.

    George Washington: An Interactive Biography, published by Pelican, has a suggested retail price of $34.95 and is available at most book stores.

    Disclosure: I received copies of these books for review. Opinions and anecdotes are my own.

    Tuesday
    Feb052013

    Picture book love just in time for Valentine's Day

    Share some love on Valentine's Day with these picture books and more from Candlewick Press—especially sweet treats for teeny to teen kiddos. 

    Huggy Kissy by Leslie Patricelli ($6.99 / 1-3 years). Patricelli's board books are a favorite of many a toddler, with titles such as two beloved by my oldest grandson, Yummy YUCKY, No No YES YES. Huggy Kissy is no exception and one my youngest grandson thoroughly enjoyed. From Mommy and Daddy to fish and doggy, everyone gives hugs and kisses in different ways. I loved that when it comes to grandmothers, "Grandma's kisses stay all day." Memorable displays of affection throughout.

     

    Love Waves by Rosemary Wells ($8.99 / 18 mos-3 yrs) It's hard when Mommy or Daddy must leave a little one behind as they go to work. Ever-popular Rosemary Wells shows in two chapters—one in which Mommy works, the other it's Daddy—that sending "love waves" is the perfect and brave solution when missing one another. My four-year-old grandson appreciated the lesson and told me as he woke from his nap that he had sent love waves to Mommy and Daddy who were away on their trip.

     

    A Kiss Like This by Mary Murphy ($12.99 / 2-4 yrs). There are even more kisses to enjoy in this hardcover picture book featuring split pages kids turn for charmingly illustrated surprises, each described as "like this!" My favorite is, "A mouse kiss is quick and small ... (turn the flap) like this!" Each "like this" is a sweet kiss between Mama and Baby characters, emphasized with a smoochy heart above their lips. The "everybody's kissing" page is a hoot—and not just because it includes a Mama Owl and Baby Owl.

     

    Bear in Love by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand ($15.99 / 2-6 yrs). Bear seems to be the object of a secret admirers attention, evidenced by the crunchy orange treats left outside his cave entrance. He, in turn, leaves goodies for the secret admirer. The mystery continues as the treats continue to be shared and songs sung, with the new besties eventually discovering one another and sharing a sunset. A sweet tale of unexpected kindness and finding someone special.

     

    Olive and the Big Secret by Tor Freeman ($15.99 / 4-7 yrs) Keeping a secret—even when shared by a best friend you adore—is oh so hard to do. Olive desperately wants to share...and does. And she suffers the consequences of her misdeed as it travels back round to the friend who originally confided in her. A witty, delightful conversation starter about the importance of not always sharing everything.


    Otter and Odder: A Love Story by James Howe and illustrated by Chris Raschka ($14.00 / 6-10 yrs). As the jacket flap says, "In a perfect world, an otter could fall in love with a fish and a fish with an otter, and that would be that." But such nonconformity is hard for many to swallow in a non-perfect world like ours, as well as in the complicated but beautifully watercolored world of Otter and Myrtle the fish. The tale of following one's heart was a tad over the heads of my grandsons (who are not in the suggested age range) but they sure enjoyed the interesting illustrations while I chuckled at the story.

     

    And for older readers:

    Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald ($7.99 / 14 yrs and up) Not one I shared with my grandsons, but an oversized paperback tale of unrequited affection teens will surely relate to. From the press materials: Seventeen-year-old Sadie is in love: epic, heartfelt, and utterly one-sided. The object of her obsession — ahem, affection — is her best friend, Garrett Delaney, who has been oblivious to Sadie’s feelings ever since he sauntered into her life and wowed her with his passion for Proust (not to mention his deep blue eyes). When Garrett leaves for a summer literary retreat, Sadie is sure that the absence will make his heart grow fonder — until he calls to say he's fallen in love. With some other girl! A heartbroken Sadie realizes that she’s finally had enough. It’s time for a total Garrett detox! Aided by a barista job, an eclectic crew of new friends (including the hunky chef, Josh), and a customized self-help guide, Sadie embarks on a summer of personal reinvention full of laughter, mortifying meltdowns, and a double shot of love. 

    All the above selections are available wherever books are sold. Visit the publisher's website, www.candlewick.com, for more information.

    Disclosure: I received review copies of each book. Opinions are my own. Link to publisher site is not an affiliate link.

    Saturday
    Feb022013

    Emmy Rossum takes listeners on a Sentimental Journey

    My husband and I have been married for more than 30 years. So when it comes to descriptors for our relationship, they typically lean toward words meaning pragmatic more so than romantic. That's not to say romance isn't alive in our marriage, though, for without it, there's no way we'd have hit the 30-year mark ... nor the 20 or even the 10.

    The new album by Emmy Rossum serves as perfect background music for those times calling for a romantic vibe, such as what most any couple—long-time married or newly dating—might want for a Valentine's Day dinner. Of course, it works well as soothing background music for the very non-romantic moments, too, such as doing chores on a Saturday morning. (See? Pragmatic.)

    Rossum's Sentimental Journey, released January 29, is exactly that: a journey through classic covers from the American songbook. The delightful songs harken back to the way romantic passions and pursuits were long before Harry met Sally. If classic movies from the '40s make you swoon and smile, this "passion project" of the multi-talented Rossum likely will as well.

    Sentimental Journey's 12 tracks—plus a bonus—represent each of the 12 months of the year.

    Tracks included:

        “Sentimental Journey” (Les Brown, Ben Homer, Arthur Green)
        “The Object Of My Affection” (Pinky Tomlin)
        “I’m Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover “(Mort Dixon, Harry M. Woods)
        “These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You)” (Eric Maschwitz, Jack Strachey)
        “(I’ll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time” (Albert Von Tilzer, Neville Fleeson)
        “Summer Wind” (Heinz Meier, Johnny Mercer)
        “Many Tears Ago” (Winfield Scott)
        “All I Do Is Dream Of You” (Nacio Herb Brown, Arthur Freed)
        “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” (Jimmy Cox)
        “Autumn Leaves” (Joseph Kosma, Jacques Prévert)
        “Things” (Bobby Darin)
        “Pretty Paper” (Willie Nelson)

    Rossum covers the classics well. Her capable voice complements each of the selections, though I did continually wait for her to dig just a wee bit deeper and fuller throughout the album. My favorites were "Summer Wind" (perhaps because I'm a June baby?) as well as the bonus track—"Keep Young and Beautiful", a fun, tongue-in-cheek addition as Rossum is certainly both.

    Here, a sampling of Sentimental Journey:

     

    Sentimental Journey by Emmy Rossum can be purchased on Amazon.com and iTunes. You can follow Emmy Rossum on Twitter, and don't miss her Feb. 6 appearance on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

    Disclosure: I participated in this campaign for One2One Network. I received a free copy of the CD to facilitate my review. By posting, I am eligible for incentives. All opinions stated are my own.

    Friday
    Feb012013

    Blue Mountain offers sweet and silly Valentine's Day eCards

    If you're looking for a newfangled way of sending sweet sentiments this Valentine's Day, Blue Mountain makes it pretty darn easy. It's an especially great way for grandmas to let grandkids who are on Facebook or have an email address know that Grandma's thinking of them—on Valentine's Day or any day.

    The Blue Mountain folks offered me a free review membership to try out all things Valentine's Day. So in advance of the day o' love, I sent a Blue Mountain Valentine's Day eCard to a few friends and family.

    Especially fun are the Blue Mountain Talking eCards. With nine cards to choose from and 600 characters for saying all you want to say—in one of 12 voices, including a few with a UK accent!—there are endless ways to share some sweet or silly fun.

    The characters on each card follow the computer's cursor around the screen, which kept me playing for quite a while, especially with the cute pink pig. Then I had to try each message in a variety of voices to ensure I created the desired sentiment for each specific person. (I must admit my fave voice was Nigel's, a smooth Brit that made me smile.)

    Once I managed to get the cards ready to share, it was as easy as choosing between emailing the card or posting on the recipient's Facebook page. My grandsons, at 4 and 1, are clearly too young to be on Facebook, but I sent the boys' card—"SEALed with a kiss" with a talking seal—to my daughter's page to share with them. A posted another talking card on my BFF's page and she thought it was pretty funny, although she did mention the computerized sound of the voice was rather grating. (I'm pretty sure I didn't send hers in Nigel's voice. Maybe?)

    Talking eCards aren't all Blue Mountain offers for Valentine's Day. There's a pretty extensive collection of animated valentines for a variety of relationships—28 "For Everyone"; 20 "Romantic"; and 15 for "Family", including an especially cute caterpillar one to send From Grandma (at right). All the eCards can, like the talking cards, be sent via email or by posting on the recipient's Facebook page.

    The card options in all categories run the gamut from sweet to silly, and I'd venture to say all will pretty much ensure a smile, from both the sender and the recipient. The one thing that didn't make me smile so much was the manner in which the cards are shared on Facebook. Rather than the entire card being available on the page, the recipient has to click on over to the Blue Mountain site to see their card. I prefer the ones that can be seen in full right there on a Facebook page.

    Those traditionalists who still prefer to give paper Valentine's Day cards have options on Blue Mountain, too, thanks to the print-at-home feature. Choose a card (options below), print it on card-stock paper, and share. You've not only sent a sweet sentiment, you've saved a few bucks, as paper cards can be expensive these days!

    Blue Mountain offers a free 7-day trial membership so you can try out the Valentine's Day offerings. After the trial membership is up, it's still a pretty inexpensive (and fun!) way to stay in touch with friends and family, online and off.

    Visit Blue Mountain for more information and to sign up for a free trial membership.

    Happy Valentine's Day!

    Disclosure: I received a free review membership. Opinions and anecdotes are my own.