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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!

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    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,, for more information.

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


    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 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.


    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.


    Make it a Hallmark Valentine's Day with this huggable giveaway

    Despite all the high-tech ways of staying in touch with others, sometimes the best way of saying "I love you" is by something tangible, physical, that can be held in the hands rather than viewed in pixels. Hallmark knows this and offers up some great ideas for sharing the love on Valentine's Day—and they shared a few things with me to share with you and to giveaway, too (giveaway details follow).

    First up are the adorable Until We Hug Again plush stuffed bunny and bear. These aren't any ol' stuffed animals, though. The Until We Hug Again animals allow Grandma—or anyone who wants to share a bear or bunny hug—to record and share a personal message for the little ones they're missing.

    Unlike some cards and such that allow you to record a greeting but require you to be a speed-talker of some sort to get your message in before recording time is up, the message length in these Hallmark animals is rather lengthy. And recorded messages can be saved with the flip of a switch on the battery box tucked inside the animal body. Or you could do like I have and record a special sweetness for your grandchild, let him or her hear it, then show the child how to do the same. I'm pretty sure my oldest grandson will be sharing lots of heartfelt messages with his little brother, Mommy, Daddy—and probably even Roxy, his dog.

    The Until We Hug Again bear and bunny retail for $29.95 each.


    Cards are, of course, the hallmark of the Valentine's Day holiday, and Hallmark does it best. New twists on the typical valentine this year include the new Special Delivery Card Presenters for Kids. The sturdy cloth critters and characters (my review card was Snoopy) have a valentine inside but can be used long after Valentine's Day for storing other special notes, photos, and more. The Special Delivery Card Presenters retail for $6.99.



    Hallmark has something for the older kids, too: Justin Bieber Valentine's Day Greetings. Regardless of what we older folk think of the singer, youngsters are clearly bonkers for Bieber. Hallmark provides several options featuring the Biebs, sure to make your own superstar swoon. One option is a cardboard cut-out of the teeny bopper that stands on a base, which pre-teen girls would surely love to keep on their dresser year round. Another option is a card that also serves as a photo frame. Justin Bieber Valentine's Day Greetings range in price, from $2.99 to $6.99.

    Hallmark would like to share the Valentine's Day love with you! One Grandma's Briefs winner will receive a Hallmark Until We Hug Again and Greetings gift pack featuring an Until We Hug Again bear or bunny plus a selection of Special Delivery Card Presenters for Kids and Justin Bieber Valentine's Day Greetings. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below through January 31. The winner will be drawn by February 1, just in time for Valentine's Day.

    Disclosure: I received free products for review as well as the offer to conduct a giveaway for the same. Opinions and anecdotes are my own.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway


    Get to know Gombby, enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card

    Gombby’s Green Island, a colorful CGI animation television series appealing to kids ages three to five, daily entertains kids in Portugal and Spain, and is soon set to launch for the Arab-speaking world as well. Now, thanks to a new app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, Gombby and his friends from Green Island can entertain and educate English-speaking children as well.

    The Gombby's Green Island series, created and developed by Big Storm Studios and 100% made in Portugal, aims to help children develop their personal and social skills while stimulating their creativity and resourcefulness. The ever-cheerful baker boy named Gombby and his buddies—including his best friend Celeste, Stawy the Scarecrow, Gadget Man, the wise Professor and many more—introduce basic educational building blocks that support their general knowledge and help them be more aware and appreciative of the world around them.

    Kids will appreciate the fun and parents will appreciate the lessons passed along—after being fully reviewed by an experienced team of child psychologists.

    The new Gombby Channel application, free and available on iTunes, offers three full episodes that you can download to watch anytime, anywhere, even when no connectivity is available. Additional Gombby’s Green Island episodes are available for purchase at $1.99 for 5 or $2.99 for 10.

    Features of the Gombby Channel app:
    • Watch the adventures of Gombby’s Green Island on your iPhone/iPad
    • Engaging and educational adventures children will love
    • Fully available in three different languages – English, Spanish and Portuguese
    • Download and store your favorite episodes to watch on the go
    • Additional episodes available through in-App purchase
    • All the stories are family friendly and are reviewed by a professional team

    It took several minutes for me to download the app and episode (on my iPhone 3GS). Once loaded, I had the pleasure of watching the first of the three free episodes, titled "Why's that?". After viewing the colorful and engaging at 13-minute episode in which Gombby seeks the answer to why apples fall from trees but the moon doesn't fall from the sky, I have no doubt Bubby and Mac will be excited to get to know Gombby, Celeste, their musical birds Re and Mi, and all the interesting (and educational) characters inhabiting Green Island. It's a sweet series with serious value that I'll be delighted to share with my grandsons.

    Get to know Gombby yourself by visiting the following sites:



    Better yet, check out the sites while entering the Gombby giveaway, which results in one lucky Grandma's Briefs reader winning a $50 gift card. And in the spirit of Gombby, this giveaway is open to all entrants worldwide. Entries accepted through Jan. 30, with the winner being drawn by Jan. 31.

    Good luck, and enjoy Gombby!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I was compensated for publishing this review and giveaway. Opinions are my own.


    The Money Code: A book review plus book and Visa gift card giveaway

    My finances have been pretty much in the toilet the last few years. I blame it on being laid off from my well-paying job in December of 2008. Seems though, at least according to a book I recently received for review, the layoff and other economic woes of the past few years aren't entirely to blame for my dismal financial picture. No, my "personal history and perspective" plays a large hand in my lack of financial freedom and peace of mind, just as much as—maybe even more than—my unfortunate employment circumstances.

    In The Money Code: Improve Your Entire Financial Life Right Now by Joe John Duran, the author states the following in the introduction:

    In order to experience financial success, we must distinguish our emotional motivation from our logical, or "brain," motivation.

    My "emotional motivation" is that I'm pretty darn scared of not being able to pay the bills. I think it's hard to argue with that. I'm not alone, though, Duran notes further along in the intro:

    When it comes to your finances, accepting your reality and feelings—warts and all—is the first step toward creating real change. And be assured that if you've ever found yourself confused, fearful, frozen in indecision, in conflict with those you love, or feeling any combination of the preceding, you're in good company."

    My reality and my feelings have a lot of warts, I do admit, especially when it comes to money, finances, financial freedom. So it seems The Money Code might be a big help for me.

    The Money Code posits that there are "5 Money Secrets" that, when accepted and understood, enable folks to have control over their money:

    1. Your life will be filled with tough choices.

    2. Your entire life is determined by how you make decisions.

    3. Your biases will affect every decision you make.

    4. You will be distracted by things that really don't matter.

    5. You must have a good process to make good decisions.

    Duran uses a fictional character named Jack to show how those five secrets work and how the "Money Code" plays a key role in improving (or not) one's financial life.

    As I'm taking my time to read the book and try to incorporate the financial road map it provides, I've not yet finished the book. Which means I can't tell you whether it's led to financial success for me. But I'm hoping I'll learn all the things Duran sets out to teach in The Money Code, including how to:

    • Prevent bad decisions about money
    • Identify your Money Mind—Fear, Happiness, or Commitment—and how it affects every financial decision you make
    • Use a custom checklist to improve your entire financial life
    • Clearly discuss decisions about money with the ones you love
    • Finally take complete control of your financial life

    Complete control sounds pretty awesome to me. Of course, I'll have to share a wee bit of that with my husband, I suppose (which is why the "clearly discuss..." bullet point will be so important to learn).

    What I like about the book: Every single chapter is filled to the brim with info boxes, bullet points, guides, review questions, and more, all based on financial concepts and tools to assist in grabbing the reins and learning to control one's finances. I like that bullet points and concepts that especially resonates with me and my circumstances are easy to find, not hidden away in blocks of text.

    What I don't like so much: I don't care much for the fictional character aspect, the John character to whom all those concepts and guides I appreciate so much are directed. I know some readers prefer fiction books over non-fiction, so perhaps that's the angle here, to assist even those who typically wouldn't read non-fiction. For me personally, though, if I'm going to read a book that has the sole intention of spurring change in one's life, I'd rather not have to follow a fake person on his fake path then relate his imagined journey to my real life.

    About the author: Joe John Duran is CEO and founding partner of United Capital, which consistently ranks as one of the nation’s fastest growing wealth counseling firms. He’s fueled by his passion to change the industry and improve lives by empowering people to make better, more informed financial decisions. From CNBC to CNN, Joe frequently provides commentary on TV. He has been profiled in numerous publications, including the New York Times and Smart Money.

    The Money Code is Joe’s third book. His two previous titles are Start It, Sell It, and Make A Mint (Wiley and Sons, 2004) and The First Time Investor’s Workbook (McGraw Hill, 2001). Joe holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation and earned MBA degrees from Columbia University and UC Berkeley. He lives in Laguna Beach, California, with his wife, Jennifer, and their three precious daughters.

    The Money Code: Improve Your Entire Financial Life Right Now by Joe John Duran, CFA, is $14.95 and can be found at major booksellers including online stores such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Google Books. For more information, visit the official Money Code website, like The Money Code on Facebook and follow on Twitter.


    Start 2013 right – find your money mind with The Money Code!

    One Grandma's Briefs reader will win a $25 VISA gift card and a copy of The Money Code. 

    Giveaway entries accepted through January 25. Winner will be drawn via and notified by email January 26. US and Canada residents only, please.

     a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book for review and the opportunity for a giveaway as noted. All opinions are my own.