Veggie Tales' Little Ones Can Do Big Things Too: A review and giveaway

I have two grandsons, ages four and one. They're brothers. Which means the youngest is forever wanting to get involved in what the oldest is doing. It can be frustrating for both boys at times, and the idea that little ones can do big things, too, is the underlying theme of many conversations in their household.

That's also the theme of the most recent VeggieTales release, titled appropriately, Little Ones Can Do Big Things Too. The DVD is a collection of stories—so far easier for little ones to follow than one full-length movie—about the big things performed by little ones. Most of the stories are biblical retellings, VeggieTale style, but the collection also includes a lesson in listening to your parents that's based on Pinocchio, only instead of Pinocchio and Gepetto, Pistachio and Gelatto are the stars. (See? VeggieTale style!)

Here's a peek at the fun—and important messages—featured in VeggieTales' Little Ones Can Do Big Things Too:


What I loved most about Little Ones Can Do Big Things Too: VeggieTales stories never fail to make me chuckle, thanks to the sprinkle of irreverency and subtle humor meant for adults in the midst of the fun and messages directed at children. I was happy to see the pea characters having a larger role than usual in each story (they are indeed such sweet peas), often reminding me of the chorus in Greek tragedies and tales.

My favorite part of every VeggieTales DVD is the interviews with the Veggie Kids, as I love their nasally, rambling musings on important matters. This DVD took that feature one step further, courtesy a Behind the Scenes extra that shows the real kids as they answer the questions that were then made part of the animated feature. So cute. I always wondered if they were real kids, and that they are.

VeggieTales' Little Ones Can Do Big Things Too is available for $12.99 from the VeggieTales website as well as other retailers, online and off.

But can win your very own DVD of VeggieTales' Little Ones Can Do Big Things Too. Here are the details:

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Disclosure: I received a free copy of this DVD for review, as well as an offer of one as a giveaway prize. All opinions are my own.

Exergen TemporalScanner takes the fear out of fevers - Review and giveaway [CLOSED]

When my girls were babies, one of the scariest things I faced was having to take their temperature when they seemed to have a fever of any degree. I was scared to death my wriggly and unhappy little babe would surely bust of a thermometer I'd placed in her bum rendering her far worse off than she'd have been if I'd been a bad mom and ignored her feverish cries.

Shew. I'm so glad those days are over. If only I'd had an Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer back then. I recently received free for review an Exergen TemporalScanner, and the high-tech temperature taker is surely a must-have for any mother. Including grandmothers, as they will undoubtedly come in handy any time a visiting—or resident—child seems to have a fever of even the slightest degree.

The Exergen TemporalScanner allows a parent or grandparent (or any adult, for that matter) to simply stroke a child's forehead with the gadget to accurately gauge a body temperature within literally seconds. Two seconds. Without having to stick anything of any sort in any orifice. Not in a bum, not in a mouth, not even in an ear.

The Exergen TemporalScanner is the home version of those used in hospitals and doctors' offices. It gauges body temperature by capturing the heat emitted from skin over the temporal artery, which runs across the forehead and is directly connected to the heart via the carotid artery.

Not only is the Exergen safe, quick, easy, and non-invasive, it's accurate. Plus, the Exergen TemporalScanner will identify a rapidly changing temperature far sooner than a rectal thermometer, which can be vital, especially considering the lag time for a rectal reading could be 60-90 minutes on infants and children up to age 12, and up to several hours on an adult.

Not that I want my grandsons to be ill any time they visit my house, but next time they seem feverish or out of sorts while here, I'll be happy to take their temperature with the Exergen TemporalScanner. And they will surely be happy to never have to undergo a thermometer up the bum, at grandma's or at home.

The Exergen TemporalScanner—named one of the smartest products of the decade by Inc. Magazine—is a great gadget for grandparents and every household to have on hand, as it works not only on children, but adults, too. It's also a super gift idea. The scanner retails for $99 and is available at Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Costco, Babies R Us, Toys R Us and Sam's Clubs nationwide. For more information, visit

Thanks to a generous offer from the Exergen folks, I'm giving away to one lucky reader an Exergen TemporalScanner ($99 value) to keep for themselves or to give to a loved one as a gift. Simply follow the Rafflecopter instructions below to be entered. Entries accepted through 12:01 a.m. EST, Sept. 19. One winner will be drawn Sept. 19 and immediately notified by email for shipping information as prize will be mailed directly from an Exergen representative.

Disclosure: I received the featured product free for review, as well as the offer of one free product for giveaway. Opinions are my own.

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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.

Book review & Giveaway: Bailey

It's back-to-school time, and in best-selling illustrator Harry Bliss' latest delight, Bailey the dog has joined all the (human) students in heading back to class. Bailey meets the principal, has his own special cubby, and shares some of his favorite things with the class ("slow-moving squirrels" making the list, of course).

Bailey also learns math, gives reports, enjoys art class, and more. Just like every other student come school time.

Well, here, take a look for yourself at Bailey by Harry Bliss (Scholastic, $16.99):

What I loved about this book: The illustrations are truly delightful and fully capture Bailey's personality. The speech (and thought) bubbles above the heads of the human students—and Bailey—throughout the book increase the chuckle factor. Each page is a nice spread with lots to discover with younger readers, perfect for the intended age of 4 to 8 years.

Clicking on the book cover will provide more information on the book. It is NOT an affiliate link; I earn nothing by you clicking on it.


Scholastic has generously offered THREE copies of Bailey by Harry Bliss for me to give away to readers of Grandma's Briefs. Which means it doesn't take advance math skills to figure out that your odds of winning this charming back-to-school tale are pretty darn good.

To enter, simply comment to this post with the answer to the question:

What was your favorite subject in school?

Entries accepted until midnight MDT Friday, Sept. 9. Winner chosen by and notified by email Saturday, Sept. 10. Be sure to include your email address as winners will be contacted by email for shipping information.

Thank you for entering! Good luck!

Review & giveaway: Shoe-la-la by Karen Beaumont

It's definitely boot season, considering the cold and snow covering most of the country. That is, of course, unless you're Emily, Ashley, Kaitlyn, and Claire, the protagonists of Karen Beaumont's picture book, Shoe-la-la, enchantingly illustrated by LeUyen Pham.

In Shoe-la-la, the fancy foursome searches for the perfect shoes to match their party dresses. They exhaust every single option -- as well as the befuddled "Shoe-la-la" salesman -- before settling on unique and creative selections befitting the unique and creative style of each of the primping partygoers.

Shoe-la-la is a fun and fancy-filled tale shoe-loving gals of all ages will appreciate. Take a look:

GIVEAWAY: Scholastic Press, publisher, provided not only the free copy of Shoe-la-la for me to review, but two free copies for me to give away to readers of Grandma's Briefs. All you have to do to enter the drawing is answer the following question:

When it comes to shoe shopping, do you select shoe because of how comfortable they are or do you select them because of how fashionable they are?

Entries accepted until midnight MST January 13 and the two winners will be announced Friday, January 14.

Giveaway: "Granny Diaries" and "Good Granny/Bad Granny" [CLOSED]

Today's grandmas are far more hip and realistic than they used to be. We know grandkids can be a pain in the cuss sometimes, and we know we can be the same for the grandkids -- and their parents.

Two recent books from Chronicle Books speak to both those ideas, highlighting how in love with their grandkids even the most realistic -- or bad! -- grandmas are, and how much they treasure their status as grandma.

"The Granny Diaries" by Adair Lara, tells it like it is. The book jacket says, "This delightful guide shows grandmothers the secrets to navigating this treacherous terrain." Umm, I wouldn't call grandparenting treacherous, but Lara makes some pretty good points. She goes over the wacky names grandmas get (I guess I'll be Granna forever going forward ... that or Granny, which makes me cringe a tad). She warns about getting on the nerves of the parents. She commiserates with grandmas who feel like they're asked to do too much. And she provides advice on how to "tolerate the other grandparents' presence around 'your' grandchild" (one of my major sticking points in this whole venture). Lara loves fiercely and speaks frankly. It's a great read for grandmas of any stage and age.

"Good Granny, Bad Granny" by Mary McHugh is an illustrated, wacky, lighthearted book that compares the good grandmas -- those who do all the right things -- with the bad grandmas -- who do all the fun things. Most of us are a little of each; some of us are a lot of one or the other. It's fun to go through the pages of good versus bad and see where you fit on the grandma spectrum. I gotta admit, I lean more toward the "good granny" side but the "bad granny" side seems so much more interesting for grandma and the grandchildren that I'm taking lessons from McHugh's book on being exactly that. Those of you who have read Grandma's Briefs quite some time might remember the video I posted months ago of McHugh. It's still just as silly.

I have a package of BOTH books to give away to one lucky reader, courtesy of the publisher. Enter to win them for yourself, or enter to win them to give as a gift to your favorite grandma or grandma-to-be. I'll randomly choose the winner from those who comment to this post with an answer to the following question:

What is one characteristic of a good grandma?

Comments will be accepted until midnight MST Friday, July 9 and the winner announced here Saturday, July 10.

Giveaway: "Just Let Me Lie Down" [CLOSED]

Real Simple magazine is one of my favorite magazines. It offers useful info in simple snippets. Editor Kristin van Ogtrop has followed the same concept for her book "Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms For The Half-Insane Working Mom." She breaks down her thoughts, ideas, advice into easy-to-swallow, easy-to-read snippets.

Whether you're currently a working mom, were one in the past or know of one who could use a few chuckles, you'll find plenty to relate to in "Just Let Me Lie Down". Just one tiny paragraph sparked a whole blog post for me. I'm sure it'll do that and more for you.

I have two copies to give away, courtesy of the publisher, Hachette Book Group (Little, Brown & Company in particular). If you'd like to enter the drawing, simply comment to this question:

Are you, have you ever been or do you currently know a working mom in need of a chuckle?

Entries accepted until 11:59 p.m. MST Tuesday, May 4; the winners will be drawn and announced Wednesday, May 5.

Review and Giveaway: "Writing Home" by Cindy La Ferle [CLOSED]

When I was a young mother, I devoured Joyce Maynard's Domestic Affairs column that ran in my daily newspaper. She was a young, hip mom and I wanted to be just like her.

The same went for Elizabeth Berg's essays in Parent magazine. Where Maynard was unconventional and cool, Berg was sweet and traditional. The heartfelt and often poignant words from both made me feel not so alone in the sometimes solitary madness of motherhood and inspired me to create -- and cherish -- the ordinary moments that make one's home "home."

A recent reading of "Writing Home" by Cindy La Ferle did much the same for me.

"Writing Home" is a collection of 93 columns and essays originally published in regional newspapers and national publications as esteemed as Reader's Digest and Better Homes & Gardens' Country Garden. Cindy recently sent me a copy of "Writing Home" to review on Grandma's Briefs.

(Note to FTC-rule watchers: The copy was free. Note to my readers: The "free" status in no way influenced my review of Cindy's book.)

I call Cindy by her first name because I feel like I came to know her well through her essays. Like a friend, I learned what makes her tick, and -- like the best of my friends -- it's the very same things that make me tick: family and home.

Of course, home means cooking, and in the essay titled "Baghdad and Banana Bread," one paragraph in particular resonated with me:

Fortunately, my attitude toward food preparaton changed after my son was born and I started working from home. This change of heart had less to do with my son's preference for homemade cookies and more to do with the fact that working in the kitchen was a creative release from parenting and writing deadlines. Recipes were easier to manage than a cranky three-year-old or an unruly paragraph. Sifting flour and breaking eggs seemed soothing, almost Zen-like.

... tick ...

In "Willie," Cindy relates her enjoyment of a squirrel who resides on her property and nibbles nuts right outside the window where she writes every day. I, too, love the squirrels -- including the two white ones! -- who run from tree to tree outside my windows, much to the chagrin of squirrel-hating Jim. Cindy writes:

I've asked myself why I find this so entertaining; why I'd bother befriending a nervy little rodent when I have bigger chores on my list.

... tick ...

So many of Cindy's words resonated with me that I found it difficult to choose a favorite. So I e-mailed her to ask which of the essays were her favorites. Like me, she couldn't pick just one; she chose three. Here are her choices and why she chose them:

"October Memories" -- "One of my favorite pieces honoring my beloved dad's memory. I was in my late 30s when he died, and his loss was difficult time for me. I wrote my way through my grief."

"Grandpa's Ferns" -- "Both a garden essay and a tribute to my Scottish immigrant grandfather."

"Home Sweet Office" -- "A favorite because it recalls the events that led me to become a work-at-home mom. I didn't begin writing personal essays -- which are now my forte -- until this phase of my life. In retrospect, being a mother made me a better writer -- not college, not journalism school. That's why this particular piece is special to me."

... tick, tick, tick ...

If family and home are what make you tick, you'll enjoy "Writing Home." It may even do for you what Maynard and Berg -- and now LaFerle -- did for me: made me feel not so alone in the sometimes solitary madness of motherhood and inspired me to create -- and cherish -- the ordinary moments that make one's home "home."

"Writing Home" is currently available on and is distributed to bookstores by Wayne State University Press. Proceeds from new book sales are donated to organizations serving the homeless in Oakland County, Mich.



Cindy sent me one signed copy of "Writing Home" to give away to one lucky reader of Grandma's Briefs. If you'd like to be in the running for this collection of poignant essays and columns, comment to this post with your answer to following question:

What is one thing that defines home for you? Is it a certain scent, a special family member, a piece of furniture passed down through the family, or something else special that simply means "home"?

Comments will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, April 1 (no fooling!) and the winner (randomly chosen by my trusty ol' BINGO ball roller) will be announced Friday, April 2.