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    Worth watching: "The Penniless Princess" from VeggieTales

    Fans of A Little Princess, the book or movie version, will find plenty to love about the latest VeggieTales DVD, The Penniless Princess: God's Little Girl. As British-accented and smoking jacket-bedecked Larry (the Cucumber) the First points out in the Masterpiece Theater-style opening to the inspiring story of Sara Crewe, The Penniless Princess is based on the beloved classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

    I recently received a free DVD of The Penniless Princess for review and brought it to the desert to watch with Bubby, Mac, and mommy Megan. Mac, being just over a year old, wasn't all that thrilled with it, but Bubby, Megan, and I enjoyed the show.

    Rather than give you my own rundown of the story, the following trailer provides an official sneak peak at the most recent silly-yet-sweet treat from VeggieTales:

    What we loved about the DVD: The Penniless Princess closely follows the original story of The Little Princess and has a dramatic, sweeping feel I've not yet found in the always cute and worthwhile VeggieTales DVDs. Whether that's because I'm a fan of The Little Princess movie, I'm not sure. I like the fact this is a VeggieTales program that leans more to the feminine side, as most of those I've seen (and I admit, that's not a lot) have been more for boys. Bubby still appreciated the story, though, and was quite empathetic toward little Sara Crewe and others who were not being treated kindly.

    I especially appreciated the moral of the story, considering the rough economic times of late, that we all should know our own true worth and trust in God, no matter what happens in life.

    Megan's favorite part of the DVD was, hands-down, the bonus feature singalong "Silly Song" Best Friends Forever in which two little Veggie gals sing about being BFFs. The song, full of texting lingo that went right over Bubby's head, made Megan and me literally LOL...and replay the feature so we could LOL again and again at the part in which the animated girls do indeed ROTFL. So cute—and an earworm, for sure, once you figure out all the abbreviations.

    Additional bonus features include a special tour of London with the French Peas, a silly history of the Teddy Bear, behind-the-scenes clips and a discussion guide for parents.

    The Penniless Princess—God's Little Girl was released August 14 and can be purchased on the VeggieTales website for $14.99.

    You can make a great gift set for a birthday or other special occasion by purchasing the VeggieTales "365 Daystarter Devos for Girls" for $6.97 to go along with it.

    Disclosure: I received a free DVD and book for review purposes. Opinions are my own, with input from my merry band of fellow reviewers (Megan, Bubby, and Mac).


    Introducing Sonny the Seal: Ring-toss fun for the family

    In my family, we've joked for many years about owning a monkey because, well, haven't you always wanted a monkey? I've purchased stuffed monkeys for each family member; even Mac got one of the leftovers from the bunch purchased long before he was born.

    We're all set on monkeys. And now, thanks to a new game from Goliath, we can have our fill of seals. One seal, in fact. A seal named Sonny.

    Sonny the Seal is an interactive, electronic ring-toss game for ages three and up. As my regular toy reviewers—Bubby and Mac—weren't on hand when Sonny arrived at my door, I enlisted game players at a recent barbecue with friends. No, we didn't take turns tossing rings as we tossed back beers, there were actually youngsters in attendance. Youngsters the perfect age for playing Sonny the Seal.

    My little guest game players, whom I'll call K and R, since they're not my children and I don't want to reveal their real names here, loved Sonny. It didn't take K, at five years old, long to figure out not only the rules—which are pretty simple: toss the ring around Sonny's neck, get a fish for each successful toss, the winner is the one and the end of the game with the most fish.

    It also didn't take her long to become a pro. Form is everything, and K had form in spades.

    It's harder than it sounds, as Sonny bobs and weaves erratically so you don't always know exactly how to succeed in tossing. Believe me, I'm not a successful tosser. K, though, was quite the tosser, regularly getting rings to land where they should and slide down over Sonny's tail again and again. Each time she had a successful toss, Sonny clapped his flippers and barked in joy. Then she got to take a fish. And win the game. (I must admit: I never got Sonny to bark and I never earned a fish. But I'm working on it.)

    K's two-year-old brother, R, was quite enchanted by Sonny. So K took the time to teach him, and let him give ring tossing a try for himself. Being a two-year-old playing a game intended for those three and older meant R got a bit of a handicap. Meaning, he was allowed to sit right at Sonny and plop the ring on his head. Sonny was just as cheerful each time R succeeded from his starting spot as he was when K made it from hers.

    While the claps and barks from Sonny are reward in themselves, K said her favorite thing about the game was the little orange fish she collected for each successful toss.

    My favorite thing? The opportunity to try the game by myself, once K wasn't around to show me up and nab all the fishies. Made no difference, though, as I still couldn't manage a successful ring toss. I'm planning on using R's method next time—starting my tosses right next to Sonny. Grandmas should be allowed a handicap now and then, too, I say. At least when it comes to tossing rings onto a seal's head.

    Sonny the Seal—for 1-6 players, ages 3 and up—has a suggested retail price of $29.99 and can be found at Toys R Us and other toy stores.

    Disclosure: I received this game free for review. Opinions are my own, with input from my fellow reviewers.


    Best Loved Recipes: Taste of Home's latest offering

    I've been a fan of the Taste of Home brand for quite some time. Take a look at this:

    That is my collection of Taste of Home's Quick Cooking magazines, pulled from my cookbook shelves for the photo. The magazine on top? Take a closer look:


    That is the premiere issue of one of my favorite cooking magazines. I obviously have pert near every issue since that first one in 1998. Yes, I'm a Taste of Home fan.

    I recently received free for review Taste of Home's Best Loved Recipes cookbook. Considering the number of Taste of Home recipes I've looked at through the years, I think I'm pretty well qualified to tell you, yes, the 1,485 recipes included in the massive tome are indeed some of the best.

    Upon receiving Best Loved Recipes, I spent quite some time going through the 26 chapters, everything from Appetizers to Soups. In between are chapters on anything and everything cooks—from beginning baker to accomplished chef—need to know, need to offer. A few of my favorite chapters: Cooking for One or Two (equally important for my empty nest as well as my little birdies who are now living solo), Mom Made It Best, Mealtime Express, and Grand-Prize Winners.

    From the many chapters, I chose a handful of delights to try in preparation for this review. Of the few desserts and main dishes I prepared, these were my far (photos and recipes directly from the book):

    CANDY BAR APPLE SALAD — In my husband's words, "Any time a candy bar is included in the meal, it's a good meal."




    My friends and family enjoyed those goodies in just the first week or so of having the hardcovered book in my hands. With more than a thousand left to choose from, I have no doubt we'll find many more favorites, many more that will be our very own best-loved recipes.

    What I loved about the cookbook: As is the case with most Taste of Home offerings, the recipes are the real deal from real people, with no hoity toity kitchen acrobatics meant to impress judges over taste buds. I love that the cream of the crop—the very best of the best loved recipes—are marked with a Top 100 Recipe icon or included in the Grand-Prize Winners chapter. The quote from each contributor preceding their recipes provides a homey touch. the Mom Made It Best and Our Favorite Contributors' Meals chapters were especially delightful to peruse.

    What I didn't love so much: I love that there are so many recipes between the covers, but that makes for a massive cookbook (928 pages!) that doesn't stand up real well on my cookbook holder. There are several full-color and glossy pages of luscious photos of many recipes batched together throughout the book, but I'm a phot fiend and would have loved to see more—though I realize that including more photos would make the book ridiculously large, so I get the reasoning on limiting them.

    Taste of Home's Best Loved Recipes hardcover cookbook has a suggested price of $34.99. The cookbook will be available at all major book sellers September 13, but can be ordered now for $24.99 (with free shipping) through the Taste of Home website.


    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

    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

    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.


    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


    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 just seven minutes:

    Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.