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    Thursday
    Aug162012

    Marlow and the Monster — A review and a free book

     

    When my oldest grandson, Bubby, first stayed the night at Gramma's house without Mom and Dad, he was just two years old. And it was a dark and stormy night. Soon after putting him to bed in a room of his own, I heard a small, quivering voice on the monitor. "I'm...scared...I'm scared...," Bubby said quietly again and again. I, of course, quickly went to his room to comfort him and rock him to sleep.

    Bubby was afraid of the thunder that night, but many other nights—and for many other kids—the fear is the monster in the room. Well, the imagined monster in the room. Under the bed. In the closet.

    Author and illustrator Sharon Cramer has created a book just for such times. A monster-banishing manual to keep by a child's bedside for reading when worries about the critter in the closet and elsewhere keeps a kiddo from falling asleep.

    Marlow and the Monster tells the tale of Marlow and the wacky monster that won't leave him alone. The wacky monster that Mom and Dad try to convince him isn't real. Marlow eventually resorts to relocating the monster to his sister Sarah's room—but then gets in trouble for scaring Sarah, when it really was that pesky monster who did the scaring.

    Together, Marlow and Sarah come up with a solution for the monster. And let's just say it involves French fries.

    Marlow and the Monster is delightfully illustrated in black and white, quill and pen ink drawings. The monster, though, the highlight of the book, is in full color. Cramer says the reason for that is that, "Only children can see him."

    What I loved about the book: The text is cute, but I must say the illustrations are the best part of Marlow and the Monster. But isn't that what picture books are all about?

    Marlow and the Monster by Sharon Cramer retails for $14.95 hardcover and is available at Talking Bird Books and Amazon.com.

    But you can get it free through August 18! The e-book of Marlow and the Monster is available as a free e-book download on the Talking Bird Books website as well as on Amazon.com.

    Like I said, though, it's free only through August 18, so head over there now.

    For more help on ridding a little one's room (and imagination) of monsters and other scary things, check out Sharon Cramer's tipsheet on How to Deal with Monsters, Bad Dreams, and other Scary and Frightening Things That go Bump in the Night.

    I received a free copy of this book for review. Opinions are my own. There are no affiliate links in this post. No real monsters, either.

    Friday
    Aug102012

    Win an experience from Xperience Days [CLOSED]

    Who needs more stuff? I certainly don't. I'm willing to bet you don't, either. Our closets are jam-packed, our bookcases overflowing, and every flat surface in the house is filled with collectibles, tchotchkes and memorabilia that forever needs dusting.

    Most of us don't want any more stuff. If you're anything like me, though, you do want more experiences. Learning experiences, tasting experiences, physical experiences, exhilarating experiences that take our breath away.

    Which is why Xperience Days is the ultimate spot for shopping for gifts for others—and for making a wishlist of what you'd like others to give to you. Xperience Days offers thousands of unique gifts of experiences, things to do all across the country. Everything from the sedate—think spa treatments, wine tastings, scenic train rides—to ultimate adventures—flying lessons, kayaking adventures, gondola cruises and more.

    Experiences make perfect gifts for men, women, couples. They can be given for birthdays, weddings, graduations, Christmas, and more. Gifts are presented in the form of a gift certificate in an attractive gift pack, to be redeemed by the recipient at their convenience. Not sure what experience a recipient may want? Simply get them a gift certificate, so they can choose on their own.

    So cool. And so much better—so much more appreciated!—than more stuff.

    Thanks to the good folk at Xperience Days, I'd like to give you an experience! Or at least $100 toward an experience of your choosing. The cool thing is, there are plenty of experiences for less than $100 (and many for more than $100, too), so the winner of the $100 prize can choose one that's completely paid for with the prize, or put it toward an experience that's a wee bit more. Winner's choice.

    Like I said, so much better than stuff, don't you think?

    Here's all you have to do to be in the running for the $100 prize: Go to Xperience Days and peruse their offerings. Then come back here and let me know which you would love to do. You're not obligated to choose that particular experience if you're the winner. You don't even have to use it on yourself—you can purchase an Xperience as a gift for a loved one who needs a break and to experience something new.

    Speaking of something new, I'm conducting this giveaway a new way, but one that should work out great for all involved. And this new way gives you several opportunities for entries. This will be a new experience for all of us—with one of you winning the real experience: A $100 credit to Xperience Days!

    Good luck!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Wednesday
    Aug082012

    Catch up on Grimm

    Are you a Grimm fan? Do you want to be a Grimm fan but missed too many episodes of Season One to know what's going on when Season Two starts Monday?

    Well, have no fear. You can catch up here...in just seven minutes:

    Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

    Tuesday
    Aug072012

    Baby Brezza: Baby-food maker and so much more

    If you're a grandma, chances are you figure you can get along just fine without any sort of special equipment for making baby food. I'm a grandma, and I thought the very same thing. Until, that is, I received free for review a Baby Brezza, "the one step baby food maker."

    When contacted by PR folks suggesting it for review, I thought, "Heck, I'll review it for all those grandmas raising their grandkids and all those who provide care for the little ones on a regular basis. Then I'll just give it to my daughter to make goodies for Bubby and Mac and any yet-to-be-born additions to the family."

    But...there's no way am I giving up my Baby Brezza now that I've tried it. This thing is so cool. And it does so much more than make baby food.

    Baby food making is its primary function, of course, and it does that with flying colors, thanks to the Baby Brezza's ability to steam and blend food. Or just steam. Or just blend. Peas are one of a baby's first foods, so I decided to first try out the little appliance making peas, which would require both the steaming and the blending functions.

    Following the included instructions, I added water to the steam tank:

     

    Added my ingredients (two cups of frozen peas):

     

    Then pressed the steam + blend option and chose the correct steam time according to the instructions (20 minutes for two cups of frozen peas). Then I pressed the start button.

    Soon the peas were steaming, just as they were supposed to.

    When the 20 minutes were up, the blend function ran for 30 seconds. That wasn't quite enough, so I pressed and held the blend button to blend a bit more.

    That was a fair consistency for, maybe, the second step in introducing foods to baby. So I hit blend for a wee bit longer to squish it all up as smooth as could be for a first food.

     

    I must admit, I tasted the peas. They were hot. And pretty darn good, actually. (Though my husband wasn't willing to try, of course, but that's just because he doesn't like peas, squished or non-squished.) I think any baby would be pleased with their peas from the Baby Brezza, despite PawDad's aversion.

    It was clear the Baby Brezza would be an awesome little appliance for any mother or grandmother who wanted to provide cost-effective and healthy homemade foods for her little ones. I used to do a similar thing years and years ago with a blender, freezing the foods in an ice cube tray to pop out for my youngest. Let me tell ya, the Baby Brezza is far, far simpler and quicker. One of the big bonuses is that it not only blends but it heats the food at the same time. So simple to make food for baby.

    But what about making food for older kids? Or for adults? With a retail price of $99, I thought it would be great if the Baby Brezza could be used long after baby is done with the pureed goods.

    Turns out the Baby Brezza does indeed work well—fantastic, in fact—for creating foods for older kids as well as adults. I watched two videos on the Baby Brezza website that gave ideas for healthy foods for older kids and quick homemade goodies for all ages. Than I came up with an idea of my own.

    I decided to make a smoothie. Using spinach, mango, and a big ol' dollop of honey—a concoction of ingredients I had on hand and one that would require only the blend function of the Baby Brezza.

    I added one cup of baby spinach leaves to the bowl of the Baby Brezza. along with one whole mango, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces (as recommended for all foods made in the Baby Brezza):

     

    I added the honey:

     

    Put on the lid and pressed blend a few times until my smoothie was as smooth as I desired.

     

    Viola! A delicious and nutritious smoothie similar to those expensive little food pouches kids enjoy with a straw—for far less than the cost of those, to be sure.

     

    I'm already considering the many things I could mix up in my Baby Brezza. Guacamole is definitely next!

    What I love about the Baby Brezza: As a grandma, I have no doubt the baby-food maker will come in handy for making smoothies for Bubby and Mac and homemade first-foods for little ones to come. Plus, when the boys are visiting, the steam function will be a super way to make veggies for meals. Heck, it'll be a great way to make veggies for my husband and me when there aren't any kids around. One of the videos I watched even said it's great for steaming fish fillets, so I'll be trying that, too.

    I love the small profile of the Baby Brezza. It takes up only minimal space on my counter top and is within easy reach of my cook top for blending up items to add to recipes. I'm thinking pesto or spaghetti sauce with fresh tomatoes (which can be steamed before blending) to top pasta, for starters. It's the perfect size for two—my husband and me—or for just one person, making it a great gadget for most any grandparent household. It can be used daily for the grown-up residents, then will be ready to blend, steam or both when the grandkids visit.

    Brezza apparently means breeze in Italian, and there's no doubt this little appliance makes blending and steaming foods for babies and more a true breeze.

    What I didn't like so much: The only complaint I have about the Baby Brezza—and this is a very small complaint, just because I felt obligated to come up with one—was that the instructions that accompany the gadget mention in a few places to add 160ml of water to the water tank (for steaming) and to use the marking on the bowl for easy guidance in filling that tank with 160ml. Well, the marking on the bowl is for 180ml. I filled to that line, though, and it worked just fine, so I'm figuring that 160ml mention is simply a typo in the instructions. No biggie.

    The Baby Brezza would make an ideal gift for moms-to-be. Better yet, it's an ideal gift for grandmoms-to-be. Or both, really, as both moms and grandmas will get plenty of use from the Baby Brezza.

    Visit Baby Brezza online for more information and to order. You can also find the Baby Brezza at BabiesRUs, Target, Amazon.com, Williams-Sonoma and several other retailers (listed on the website).

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

    Monday
    Aug062012

    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.

     

    Rockstars

    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 Amazon.com—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.

    Tuesday
    Jul312012

    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.