Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Little Passports: Brazil!

My kids got their second package from Little Passports in the mail today. In case you haven't been following along, Little Passports is a company that takes your kid on a virtual journey around the world by sending them packages each month from pretend kids named Sam and Sophie. Earlier this month I wrote about our first package.

Last month we guessed that Sam and Sophie would be visiting Brazil next. And we were right! We grabbed our suitcase and headed to our playroom, where we'd hung the world map that came in the first package. Sam used his mad geography skills to locate Brazil on the map.


We sat down together to read the letter detailing Sam and Sophia's adventure in Brazil.


All of my kids enjoy looking through the packages, but it is Sam, my seven-year-old, who enjoys it most. Based on my experience, I think the Little Passports service works best for this age group. The people behind Little Passports have suggested to me that this would be a great gift from grandparents, and I agree. What a wonderful way to encourage learning that continues every month.

This month's package had a great letter and some cool trinkets, including an amethyst, which tied into Sam and Sophia's Brazil storyline.


There were also stickers to put in their passport, on their suitcase, and on their map. The piece that Sam liked most, however, was the wooden toucan puzzle.


Each month also comes with a "boarding pass" allowing your child to access a new part of the Little Passport website. There is also a page of word games with clues to next month's trip.

We're thinking Japan.

Stay tuned...

Honesty Clause: Little Passports has given my kids a free three-month subscription to try it out. The service costs $10.95 a month.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Nature's Baby Organics at Target

Who doesn't love a delicious smelling bubble bath? My kids certainly do. They adore playing in bubbles while they clean themselves in the bath. This was definitely true with Nature's Baby Organics Tangy Tangerine Bubble Bath.

I love to support mom-run businesses, but to be honest, it is rare that I am going to do something like buy bubble bath online when it is readily available in bulk at a store like Target. Well, this product gives me the opportunity to support a mom and her business by buying her product at Target.

Adena Surabian is the president of Nature's Baby Organic, and also the mom to two kids. She developed her products when her oldest daughter had allergies to chemicals, perfumes, and dyes and her younger daughter had eczema. And now Target is giving four of her products a trial run in their stores.

The four products are Shampoo & Body Washes, one in Vanilla Tangerine and one in Lavender Chamomile; Fragrance Free Face and Body Moisturizer; and the Tangy Tangerine Bubble Bath I tried. (They have 22 other products available on the Nature's Baby website and several on the Target website.)

So what about the bubble bath? Well, my kids were delighted. Adena told me that that bubbles are sensitive so the bathtub has to be clean and free of residue for maximum bubbles. But I didn't bother to clean it (because I really don't like to clean bathtubs), and I still got a satisfactory amount of bubbles.


My oldest walked in when the bath was already running and was thrilled. "Hey! Where'd you get the bubbles?" he asked. When I asked if he liked it, he enthusiastically said, "It smells good!" (And it does.)

Plus, it makes great beards.


Another nice thing about this product is that it is made with more than 70% certified organic ingredients. It is 100% vegan and paraben- and gluten-free. It's a good product. (Although it is more expensive than bigger brands. The price is similar to some of the fancier bubble baths.)

So. If you buy bubble bath, you think your kids might like a light citrusy bath, you're willing to spend a few extra bucks to help a mompreneur out, and you shop at one of the Target stores on this list of stores that is stocking Nature's Baby products, why not pick up Nature's Baby instead of one of the giant established brands? These products are on the shelf as a test, and I personally hope she sells enough to stay there.

Honesty Clause: Adena sent me a bottle of the bubble bath to try for free. Target sells the bubble bath for $12.99.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

WNBA: The Washington Mystics Rock!

I have three sons. They love to play sports, especially Sam, my oldest. So when I got the opportunity to attend a WNBA game, I jumped at the chance. I was so excited to show my kids that women can play pro sports too.

We went to a Washington Mystics (vs. New York Liberty) game last Saturday, and my kids couldn't have been more excited.

"I don't want to miss a minute of the game!" Sam said over and over before the game started. He was so thrilled to be going to a real basketball game that he had to get some practice hoops in before we left for the game.


I sat next to Sam for the whole game and he was riveted. He asked all kinds of questions and was really excited about the score. He kept doing math to figure out how far ahead the Mystics were. (I'll cut the suspense right now; the Mystics won, 68-67! And thank goodness, otherwise I think Sam would have been devastated.)


It was so fun to explain the game to Sam. I told him about the shot clock and fouls and what happened when the ball went out of bounds. Every once in a while I would tell him something and he would get all offended and say, "I KNOW that!"

I'd forgotten how exciting it is to watch a basketball game in person.

The great thing about taking kids to a WNBA game, as opposed to an NBA game, is that the quarters are each ten minutes long. Which is great in case some members of your family have shorter attention spans.


A third quarter walk around the stadium perked Quinn back up and he was happy to watch the rest of the game. Some stadium hot dogs and lemonade helped too.

And some of our family really enjoyed the potato chips we got.


Jack and his chips entertained the ladies behind us so much that they had to giggle about him to us in the last few seconds of the game. He was absolutely covered in grease and crumbs. It was hilarious.

The crowd was great. They were excited and loud and cheered and it was absolutely infectious. And because the game really came down to the last few seconds, it was extra exciting and fun.

After the game, we got to go meet a couple of the players and get their autographs. "Why?" asked Sam. (He didn't really get the concept of the autograph.) Jack was really excited to see the players in person though. But he only wanted to see the team that wore the white uniforms. Luckily, that's exactly who we were going to see.


We also briefly ran into Lolli, who was at the game, although we were busy trying to herd our rapidly tiring children into some state of obedience. (The game started at 7 and ended at about 9ish.) Lolli said her kids loved the game too.

Quinn was really thrilled with his swag, in the form of a foam basketball and a signed ticket.


If you're lucky enough to live in a city that has a WNBA team, I think a game is a wonderful place to have some family fun (although Quinn and Jack got a little fidgety) and to show your kids that women are amazing athletes.

If you're local and have a special needs child, check out the discount tickets the Mystics are offering for their July 23rd game against the Chicago Sky.

Honesty Clause: The WNBA gave my family five tickets to the game, along with vouchers for food while we were there. But we'd gladly pay to go again!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Weight Watchers Sandwich Ideas, plus Ice Cream!

We all know that I'm a big fan of Weight Watchers and their foods. They recently asked me to review their bread and cheese products and to tell you about what kinds of sandwiches I would make with them.

They have a complete line of breads, including multi-grain, whole wheat, English muffins, and pita pockets to make sandwiches with. Their cheese selection is fun too, and includes string cheese, swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, and pepper jack cheese.

I've tried the string cheese before so I decided to try some of the slices. I wanted to try out the pepper jack cheese, but have been unable to find it in my grocery store. So I ended up buying the cheddar cheese slices and some wheat bread. I also got some lean roast beef slices for my sandwich.


If you're familiar with the Weight Watchers point system, you'll be pleased to hear that two (2!) slices of bread is only one point. For comparison purposes, the bread in my kitchen is two points for one slice. So for bread that tastes just as good (but is smaller), I can start my sandwich with only one point instead of four.

Each slice of cheese is one point so I used two. I added six slices of my roast beef for one point, some tomato, some light mayo and the tablespoon of butter I put on the outside of the bread so I could grill it to buttery crispness.

My whole sandwich was six points. And it was delicious.


You can find some more bread recipes on the Weight Watchers website.

That said, by far my favorite Weight Watchers food is their ice cream. They have an article up on their website with tips for not overindulging on ice cream. Number one tip? Never eat ice cream straight from the tub.

Well, that wrecks all my fun, but it's a good tip.

They also have a giveaway for a free ice cream prize pack up on their Facebook page. The giveaway runs through July 31, so head over there and sign up!

Honesty Clause: Weight Watchers sent me a coupon for a free bread product and a free cheese product to try them out at no charge.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This Lovely Life by Vicki Forman

Stimey has just finished reading This Lovely Life by Vicki Forman. Not a lot of books make me cry. This one did. It is beautiful and well worth reading. I hope to have a full review up soon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Gimmees.com

I don't know if any of you have shopped around for promotional giveaway products, but I have, and it's a confusing maze of companies that create and sell them.

I know that when I first made such a purchase last year, I was really nervous. I knew I wanted luggage tags with my name and URL on them, but there were so many options out there and I had no idea which one had decent products because it is impossible to tell from the websites.

I ended up going with www.gimmees.com because they had good prices, an easy-to-use ordering/customizing interface, and let me create exactly what I wanted. So I ordered my luggage tags and I waited, nervous that they would arrive and I would have 250 crappy luggage tags with blurry printing.

But they were awesome! They were thick and sturdy and beautifully created. If you got one last year at BlogHer, you may not have ended up reading Stimeyland, but you might have ended up using the luggage tag because it's so useful.

So this year, I knew that I was going with Gimmees.com. Instead of using their free clip art I uploaded my own art. And color me nervous again, because it seemed like that created a whole slew of things that could go wrong.

Fortunately, Gimmees.com is a great company. They emailed me back (on, like, a Friday night) and told me that my art wasn't vector artwork and that it needed to be and so I could resubmit it as vector artwork (whatever the hell that is) or they could create it for me for $10. Clearly, I had them do it.

As you can tell from the pens at the top, it came out great. I'm assuming that vector artwork means that it's clear, sharp, and doesn't have shades of gray. And not only do the pens look great, they write really well, which I was concerned about. (Who wants eight pounds of pens that stutter across a page?)

If you are ever looking to create some swag, I heartily recommend Gimmees.com. They have a broad selection of products, allow you to create things from their clip art or your own art, and are very fast and responsive to their customers (at least to me).

Honesty Clause: Gimmees.com has no idea who I am. I've paid for everything I've gotten from them. I'm just completely thrilled by them.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Funky Monkey Snacks

We all know that I am on a mission to find nutritious food that my kids will eat. It is not a secret that at least one of my children will not eat anything that has grown out of the ground.

Because of this, I am willing to try out almost anything that has fruit in it and offers a different delivery system that my children might like. I recently tried out Funky Monkey Snacks, which are freeze-dried fruit snacks.

Each one-ounce bag of snacks contains three servings of fruit, not to mention that they are made of 100% real fruit. The snacks are certified organic, are vegan, kosher, and contain no added sugar, preservatives, colors, or flavors. They are also gluten-free.

Funky Monkey Snacks come in four flavors: Bananamon, Carnaval Mix, Jivealime, and Purple Funk. Their tagline is "Fruit that crunches!" and I have to say, they are right. They definitely bring a new texture to fruit. From my completely unscientific survey of children, I have to say that the Bananamon (banana and cinnamon) were by far the most popular. My personal favorite parts were the apple bits in the Carnaval Mix. I've always been a fan of dried apples. Yum.

I have to be honest here. My kids were suspicious of the snacks and all of them refused to try them. But I took the snacks to a large playdate and offered them up to the gang of kids there. They were a big hit with kids who like freeze-dried style food. In fact, we found a family that uses these as treats for Christmas stockings, Easter baskets, and the like.

I think if your child is reluctant to try new food, these may not entice them into a taste, but if you have an adventurous child (or a child who likes freeze-dried snacks), these are a great option for healthy snacking or for packing in lunches.

You can order Funky Monkey Snacks online or find them in select stores.

Honesty Clause: The Funky Monkey people (oh how I wanted to say, "The Funky Monkeys...") sent me a review package of each flavor of their snacks. One-ounce bags of Funky Monkey snacks sell for about $2.50 a bag.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Little Passports

Getting a letter in the mail is a big deal at my house. Getting a package in the mail is an even bigger deal. Whenever one of those brown boxes gets put on our porch, my kids crowd around asking, "What is it? What is it?"

So imagine my kids' delight when they saw that our most recent package was addressed to them. And better yet, it was full of lots of small treasures for them from Little Passports.


The Little Passports concept is a simple one. The fictional Sam (Hey! My son's name is Sam too!) and Sophia find a magic scooter that lets them travel around the world. Each month, they send their friend (your child) a package featuring notes, photos, and little treasures representing the country they have most recently visited.

Along with the contents of the package, each mailing comes with a "boarding pass" that allows your child to access a new section of the Little Passports website each month. That means that every month, there will be new games and puzzles about a specific country for your child to play.


Not only that, but you can follow along on Sam and Sophia's adventures on the world map that comes in the first package. I love maps and love that we now have this beautiful, colorful map on their playroom wall. We'll definitely be using it to learn.


Something good about the company as a whole: Little Passports partners with SOS Children's Villages and the Ubuntu Education Fund to improve the lives of children around the world. A portion of the sale of each subscription is donated to these organizations.

But back to our awesome suitcase of...awesomeness. Inside was a worksheet with word problems. Once solved, they tell you where Sam and Sophia will visit next.


Now, I'm not 100% sure or anything, but I think we'll be reporting on our package next month that will be centered around Brazil.

We can't wait!

Honesty Clause: Little Passports gave me a trial subscription for my kids at no charge. The cost for a monthly Little Passports package is $10.95 a month. Order online.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Too Many Monkeys by Gamewright

Gamewright describes Too Many Monkeys as "A Totally Bananas Card Game," and I'd have to agree. This is a completely silly game in which the object is to go from six face-down cards to one face-up card featuring a sleeping monkey.

That probably sounds confusing. I was confused when I read the instructions the first time. (Although to be fair to the instructions, they say that they were written "by a monkey with a bad sense of humor.")

Once we started playing though, the game became very clear very quickly. I won't go into all the rules here, but it's a very silly game that takes place over several rounds. I really like that because even if every kid doesn't win the whole thing, every kid probably will win a round or two, which makes the game way more fun. No one—not even a monkey with a bad sense of humor—likes a kid who is surly because he didn't win a game.

Once you get into it, the game is really simple and, like every other Gamewright game I've seen, features adorable playing pieces—in this case, cards.



This game, which teaches number sequencing and probability, is intended for kids ages 6 and up. I've played with my kids, one of whom just turned six and one who is almost eight. I put my four-year-old on my team and let him help me. All of them had a great time. Adults will have fun too. This game even turned my physician sister into a silly raccoon-imitating lunatic. Because I'm really kind, I'm not posting that photo here, but it's a good one.

Instead, I'll show you this adorable one of my kids playing the game.


Even though the game takes place over several rounds, it's still pretty fast-moving. I like that this is a card game that doesn't involve kids trying to hold a whole handful of cards. There is a little strategy to the game, but much of it is just luck, and the strategy is intuitive enough that kids pick up on it pretty fast.

And any game that makes my kid this happy is okay by me!


Read my other reviews of Gamewright games: Ring-O Flamingo & Feed the Kitty.

Honesty Clause: Gamewright gave me a review copy of Too Many Monkeys at no charge. Too Many Monkeys sells for $10.99.