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    Review: Orb Factory craft kits

    When I visit with my grandsons, I try to have a craft activity planned for each day we're together. Mac isn't quite ready for crafts, but Bubby, at four years old, certainly is.

    Not long before their most recent visit, I received free for review a My First Sticky Mosaics kit from the Orb Factory. It's suggested for ages three and up so it was ideal for Bubby. It even seemed easy enough for Mac to take a stab at it, with me nearby, of course.

    The kit we received was the Team Rescue kit, with four different rescue vehicles to decorate with the included pre-cut sticky foam pieces and and jewels. The pieces were big enough to be fairly easy for Bubby to pull away from the backing on his own (most times) and apply where indicated on his chosen first project, the fire truck. The jewels were his favorite pieces, though, and I had to stop him a couple times from covering the entire fire truck with jewels (even in the spots indicated for gray squares or black triangles) so he'd have enough to put on the other projects—the helicopter, ambulance, and police car.

    Bubby was a good brother and shared with Mac, giving him the helicopter to cover with the pieces. Mac just recently turned one year old so I had no illusions about his ability to actually finish the project or do it as he was supposed to. But he enjoyed trying to keep up with his brother.

    What we loved about the project: Like I said, Bubby loved the jewels most of all. I loved the fact all the pieces were cut and sticky, so no scissors or glue were required, making for a very non-messy activity. Also, it was great each precut project (the helicopter, etc) were clearly marked so kids can see what shape and color goes where to complete the project and use the included plastic hanger for displaying.

    What we didn't love so much: With 600 pieces in the kit, even when divided among the four projects, that makes for a lot of pieces per project for a preschooler. Bubby lost interest before his fire truck was done and planned to finish it later. The good thing about all those pieces, though, is that it did provide him projects for later, which I'm sure he'll enjoy doing until all the projects are done and hanging on his wall for Mommy and Daddy to ooh and aah over.

    The Sticky Mosaics Team Rescue craft kit retails for $9.99 and is just one of the many craft kits available from Orb Factory designed to help kids of all ages master hand-eye coordination, pattern recognition and more.

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


    Review: Power Rangers Power Blast juice drinks

    My daughter Megan works hard at offering the healthiest of foods to my grandsons. When my grandsons visit, I fudge a little on that—or a lot, depending on what candy PawDad has around or what cookies I feel like baking. When I was offered packages of Power Rangers Power Blast juice free to review, though, I didn't hesitate to accept them. The juice is a healthier option than many juice boxes out there, so I figured Megan would be impressed by what's inside the box while Bubby and Mac would enjoy what's on the outside, too.

    The Power Blast juices are the result of a partnership between Genesis Today, a nutritionally based, natural products company, and the Saban's Power Rangers Samurai kids action show. Fun stuff on the outside (the box) and good stuff on the inside (the juice).

    And the good stuff is indeed good: The juice has 50 percent fewer calories and half the sugar content of some of the leading juice boxes out there. It has no high-fructose corn syrup, chemicals or dyes. And it's loaded with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Plus, it tastes good. Yes, I tried it myself before sharing with my grandsons.

    When I told Megan I'd have the Power Blast juice boxes on hand for Bubby and Mac during their visit, she immediately told me, "Oh, Bubby doesn't like those." What? What is there not to like, I asked her. From her response, it sounded to me like Bubby just didn't like Power Rangers, so he was biased against the Power Rangers juice from the get-go when he tried it at home.

    So I decided to trick him. The first time I offered a Power Blast juice box to Bubby, I didn't tell him what it was; I just asked him if he'd like some juice. He said yes, and I, where he couldn't see, poured a juice box into a cup. And he loved it.

    Megan, being the contrary little turd she can be sometimes, showed Bubby the empty box. "These are the ones you don't like." He shrugged his shoulders, not sure what to say, so I countered by telling him they're a little different in Colorado, compared to the ones they get in the desert. My explanation was good enough for him. For the rest of his visit, Bubby alternated between the blueberry and the berry flavors, and he liked them equally well.

    As long as they were emptied into a cup, that is. Turns out Bubby really doesn't like the Power Rangers.

    Red Ranger Berry Power Blast and Blue Ranger Blueberry Power Blast, naturally sweetened with a blend of Stevia and all-natural pure cane sugar, are available in the refrigerated juice section at Walmart for $2.99. You can find more information about the products on the Genesis Today website.

    Disclosure: While I received the product free for review, opinions are honest and my own.


    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!