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Grandma's Back Room is where you'll find all kinds of fun stuff, including GIVEAWAYS, REVIEWS, SPONSORED POSTS and more!

So go ahead: Enter the giveaways, read the reviews, peruse the sponsored posts. And be sure to take a moment to visit the websites of the kind folks who have provided the goodies of which I write about, give away or plug.

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    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.


    Guest post: Terri Sonoda launches 'Sara's Sleep'

    My good friend Terri Sonoda, whom many of you may know from her comments on my posts on Grandma's Briefs as well from her own often humorous and always heartfelt posts on, has worked long and hard on making one of her dreams come true—the publication of her first book, titled "Sara's Sleep." I'm endlessly impressed by Terri's dedication to her craft, and I'm happy to give her an opportunity to tell you all about the launch of her new career as a published author.

    Welcome, Terri, and congratulations! —Lisa

    Thank you, Lisa, for allowing me to plug my new book on Grandmas Briefs. Lisa and I have been friends for over 20 years. However, only the last couple of years have we realized that we have writing in common. Lisa featured me on her blog as a Grilled Grandma, and as a result of that, I started blogging and haven’t stopped since. I am very grateful to Lisa for that and thankful for her friendship.

    July 1st marks the launching of my first novella, titled "Sara’s Sleep." It is a novella because it is about half the size of a full-length novel, which puts it in its own category. To celebrate the launching, we’re throwing an online Launch Party on July 1st, 2 to 4 pm PST. To join in the fun, just surf on over to

    Sara’s Sleep Synopsis: Can dreams be premonitions? Up until now, Sara had lived a comfortable, uneventful life with her husband Mark. Empty nesters, she and Mark had grown apart over the years. One night brought a knock on the door, with two officers delivering shocking news. Sara’s world would never be the same again.
    Tragedy thrust Sara into a spiral of depression, self-destruction and horrific nightmares from which she could not return on her own. Jenny, Sara’s daughter, moved back home to help, but brought a whole new set of dilemmas for the family to face. Old relationships resurfaced, and friendships, old and new, became complicated.
    Would Sara and Jenny be able to overcome the endless obstacles together, or would the burdens that plagued each woman keep them from ever finding true balance in their lives?

    If you can’t make it to our launch, not to worry. "Sara’s Sleep" is already available on Amazon. The paperback version sells for $7.45 and the downloadable Kindle version is just 99 cents. Please click on the link below to grab you own copy anytime. If you’ve already read "Sara’s Sleep," please consider going over to Amazon and leaving me a review, as well as clicking on LIKE if you are so inclined.

    Thank you, Lisa, for having me on your lovely blog. I hope everyone will enjoy "Sara’s Sleep"!


    Book review: Cornelia Guest's Simple Pleasures: Healthy Seasonal Cooking & Easy Entertaining

    Just out today, June 12, is Cornelia Guest's Simple Pleasures: Healthy Seasonal Cooking & Easy Entertaining. The book by Ms. Guest, known for her business that caters charity and entertainment events with healthy and cruelty-free food, promises to be a practical guide to incorporating affordable, delicious and cruelty-free eating into your daily life as well as when entertaining.

    Though I'm not a vegan, I found many recipes and ideas throughout the richly and beautifully illustrated hardcover book—which I received free for review—that I will definitely use when entertaining and even more that I hope to incorporate into my day-to-day dining options. There are even some that will appeal to kids, meaning my grandsons, of course, such as Watermelon Popsicles, Pineapple Popsicles, and Raspberry Muffins.

    Dishes I plan to make for Jim and myself (neither of us vegan and Jim not particularly good about eating veggie dishes) are Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad, Black Bean Hummus, and Veggie Carpaccio. Okay, I admit those are things for me, not veggie-avoiding Jim. But I am sure he'll love the Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil and, naturally, the Chocolate Mousse Balls.

    Cooks who lean more toward natural and cruelty-free cooking on regular basis will appreciate the many recipes featuring lentils, a wide variety of vegetables, and many grains and meat substitutes. They all sound lovely and delicious and I'm determined to try several myself.

    What I love about the book: Recipes are far from the only thing included; they actually don't even begin until page 84. Much of the book is dedicated to entertaining suggestions, menus, tried-and-true tips for creative and effortless entertaining. The book is divided into the seasons so Guest provides foods, flowers, celebration ideas and more that work best for that season.

    As Guest writes in her opening note, "Simple Pleasures is a lifestyle—an unpretentious way to live. It gives you the best of everything. For me, it's all about simplicity." She's elegantly relayed that and more in a lovely book that would seem just as at home and appropriate on the living room coffee table as the kitchen cookbook stand.

    Cornelia Guest's Simple Pleasures: Healthy Seasonal Cooking & Easy Entertaining, from Weinstein Books, has a suggested price of $32.50 (hardcover).

    Disclosure: I received a free copy for review. All opinions are my own.


    Giveaway: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island DVD [CLOSED]

    Have you seen Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, a Warner Bros. film out on DVD and Blu-Ray June 5? It sounds like the perfect flick to enjoy with kids of all ages, and this is your chance to win the DVD in a giveaway unlike any other here on Grandma's Briefs.

    The movie adventure begins when Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson from The Hunger Games) finds a hidden signal he believes will lead him to his long lost grandfather (Michael Caine). With the help of his new step-father (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), Sean finds a map that leads him to Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens from High School Musical) and the island of Atlantis. Amidst giant bees, killer lizards, a volcano of gold, and electric eels, Sean and his friends must find their way out of the lost city and back home.

    The giveaway adventure—not quite as hairy as the movie adventure, but just as fun—begins with this awesome Journey 2: Mysterious Island blog application. The app provides myriad activities you'll want to explore, but for the giveaway, all you need to do is click the "Spin to Download" activity wheel and comment below naming the adventure activity the wheel landed on. (Of course, you'll likely want to download that activity for later enjoyment, but it's not a requirement of the giveaway). 

    So have at it—spin and share to be entered to win:


    Again, to enter to win a DVD of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, answer the following question in the comments below:

    What adventure activity did you land on when spinning the wheel?

    Entries accepted through 11:59 MDT Monday, June 18. One winner will be chosen by and notified by email Tuesday, June 19, so be sure you've included your email address for me to contact you. Prize will be shipped directly from a Journey 2 representative via FedEx or UPS, so U.S. addresses only and no P.O. boxes, please.

    Good luck!


    Book review: Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook

    Pinterest is awesome for finding new recipes. For me, though, the pins and pretty pictures will never take the place of cookbooks. I'm a cookbook fanatic. Especially cookbooks with lots of pictures, because, honestly, how many of us rate the success of a recipe we tried on how close it looks to the photo?

    For that reason—along with many others—I love the Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook (Taste of Home/Reader's Digest) I recently received for free to review. The book has more than 400 recipes in it, and every single one of them is accompanied by a photo. Nice photos. Colorful photos. Nice and colorful photos—629, in fact—that will make it easy for me and any other cook to compare their concoctions to.

    Photos aren't the only thing to love about the cookbook, though. There are nutrition facts for all recipes, too, plus step-by-step demonstrations, tips, entertaining ideas and more from cooking experts, sprinkled throughout the pages. Things like how to make a crepe, how to make meatballs of even size, choosing (and safely preparing) fish and poultry, the secret to stiff meringue peaks and so much more.

    Sounds like the basics, right? And with many of us having cooked for years, probably even decades, why would we need such basics? Well, speaking for myself, there are things I didn't dare try when my kids were in the house but now that the nest is empty, I'd like to branch out and try new things, so some of those basics aren't so basic to me...yet. I appreciate the demonstrations and tips for those things that may be new to me.

    What I love about this cookbook: Each chapter of the Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook increases in difficulty. For example, the Seafood chapter begins with Comforting Tuna Casserole and ends with Orange Tilapia in Parchment; the Beef & Pork chapter starts with Stovetop Hamburger Casserole and moves up to Individual Beef Wellingtons; and the first recipe in the Baking chapter is Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies with the last being a Swedish Tea Ring (with awesome demo photos of how to perfectly roll the thing). What else do I love? Each chapter is assigned a color that spans the length of each page edge, making it simple to find each specific chapter/category of food. Also, with the nest empty and my husband and I finding ourselves ordering takeout more than we should, I like that there's a Better Than Takeout chapter of fast, cheap and easy recipes. And one more I'll mention (though there are many more I like): I appreciate and will often use the Guide to Cooking with Popular Herbs section of the references. One of my cooking goals is to improve my ability to use herbs confidently, so this will help.

    Visit the Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook (available in paperback with French flaps, $17.99, and ebook, $9.99) for more information.

    Disclosure: I received a free copy for review. All opinions are my own.


    DVD review: The Diamond Queen and The Queen's Palaces

    The Queen's Jubilee honoring Queen Elizabeth II's incredible 60 years serving as Head of State of the United Kingdom and Head of the Commonwealth and the first time in modern history a queen has reached such a milestone is in full celebratory swing. Royalty watchers and history buffs—as well as fans of awe-inspiring places and spaces—can learn much about the history of the Queen and the historic palaces she calls home thanks to two new releases from BBC Worldwide Americas: The Diamond Queen and The Queen's Palaces.

    The Diamond Queen offers a fascinating look at the history behind Queen Elizabeth II being thrust into power at the age of 25, what she's accomplished since, and a year-long glimpse into what that royal life entails. Sharing everything from her father's story (which many might know from the recent film, The King's Speech), to her move into the palace then the position, her duties of meeting with Prime Ministers (starting with Churchill) and all it takes to fulfill her personal motto of "I have to be seen to be believed," the three hour-long episodes hosted by Andrew Marr enlighten and entertain. Interviews with members of the Royal Family and world leaders who have come to know her best add to the in-depth look at the woman and her impressive accomplishments. The episodes include archival footage dating far back in the family history as well as events as current as the Queen's visit to Ground Zero and the recent royal wedding of Prince William and Kate. A commemorative montage special feature provides additional material marking the Queen's rise and record-breaking reign.

    The Queen's Palaces provides an extensive look at the Queen's three royal homes: Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and The Palace of Holyroodhouse. In three hour-long episodes, Fiona Price shares the amazing artwork and architectural details as well as the history behind the impressive structures. Many of the prized possessions housed within each are highlighted along with the history behind the pieces that made them significant to the Queen and to the country. The bonus feature on the DVD is a seemingly heartfelt introduction by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales on these incredible places that were and continue to be significant to the Monarchy and Britain.

    What I loved about the DVDs: I am neither a history buff nor a royalty watcher, but I thoroughly enjoyed both DVDs. The Diamond Queen brought Queen Elizabeth II, an historic figure I've never known much about, to life for me and showed me a personal and touching side to her I never considered. The Queen's Palaces is just incredibly lush and extravagant to look at and to imagine that real people actually lived and continue to live among such treasures. Both DVDs, I must admit, were eye-openers for me—in a good way.

    The Diamond Queen and The Queen's Palaces from BBC Worldwide Americas retail for $19.98 each.

    Disclosure: I was provided free DVDs for review, with no obligation attached. Opinions are my own.