Archive for the ‘giveaway’ Category

Barbie Fashion Fairytale Movie Event

Sunglasses. CHECK

Fashionable outfit. CHECK

Flashy smile. CHECK

Glamour pose. CHECK

My girls and I were ready to face the paparazzi at the movie premiere. I’m not talking about the Toronto International Film Festival, which by chance is happening in town this weekend too. No I’m talking about the premiere of the new Barbie movie, Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale, due out on DVD September 14, 2010. Yummy Mummy Club and High Road Communications were hosting this exclusive sneak peek for a few yummy mummies and daddies and their kids. I was fortunate enough to be invited, along with my two girls.

While we waited in a sea of glitzy and glamourous girls, we witnesses Barbie’s arrival at the event. My 3-year old was so excited and couldn’t believe Barbie had just walked by her. Before entering the movie, the girls were given these great pink Barbie tiara headbands and they had their chance to strut their stuff on the famous pink carpet. And like all movie premieres they posed admidst a frenzy of flashbulbs. My girls loved it.

Each child attending was also given a kids meal (drink, popcorn and Kinderegg) to enjoy during the movie and parents were given a free Tim Horton’s coffee. They even had the chance for kids to be a Barbie and pose in a Barbie doll box. It was a very cute idea but my girls wanted to get their seats. And it’s a good thing since it looked like a full house. We were lucky to get a seat near the front. We actually sat in the row right behind Barbie. My 3-year old kept sneaking glances over at her in disbelief.

It wouldn’t be an event without prizes right? There were 4 door prizes consisting of a Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale doll and DVD and surprisingly my 8-year old daughter was one of the winners! She was so excited that she dropped her popcorn on the floor. If you know my daughter’s love of popcorn you know she had to be REALLY excited to drop it.

Then it was time for the movie. My girls loved it, even more than Barbie: A Mermaid Tale (which we all loved). The fashion theme and the fairies, or rather flaries (fairies with flare) were big selling features.

WIN a Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale Prize Pack

EverythingMom is running a contest right now to give away five (5) Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale prize packs consisting of both the DVD and Barbie). But hurry, contest ends September 19, 2010.

Playhouse Disney Canada Blog Tour (Giveaway)

You probably already know we’re not much of a TV family. We have a rule of no TV during the week, though that rule has been bent a little over the summer holidays. When my kids do get a chance to watch, since their time is limited, they are very specific about the shows they like to watch, many of which are on Playhouse Disney. And who can blame them. I mean it’s a Disney channel and who doesn’t love Disney. You may think it’s strange but even when we travel we try to book a place that has Playhouse Disney as one of the channels available.

Why? Well there are a number of shows available to kids on television but not all are kid friendly, especially when my kids are eight and under. Even harder sometimes is finding shows that all 3 of my kids can agree upon and watch together. Playhouse Disney has some of their favourite programs:

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – My kids are huge Mickey fans. They love the idea of being included with Mickey and friends in the secret clubhouse, which is what it’s like as the characters talk right to the kids. Along with the fun program, they love working with the characters to determine what tool will help everyone with their current problem. You can play

Special Agent Oso – Who wouldn’t want to be a Special Agent. Kids travel along with Special Agent Oso to help a child solve a problem, problems like how to wrap a present or washing your hands. Each task is broken down into 3 special steps. My 3 year old loves this and though it’s young for my 6 and 8 year olds, they don’t complain about watching it.

Imagination Movers – This is like a North American version of the Wiggles. Even my 8-year-old loves to watch this show. The four guys are full of energy and silly jokes but the best part are the songs. The songs are fun and catchy and usually my kids get hooked and sing the songs even when the show’s not on.

These are just a few of the great kids shows available on Playhouse Disney. You can see their full list here. What I love most about Playhouse Disney as a parent is that it’s commercial free programing, 24 hours a day. This means I don’t need to worry about my kids being bombarded by commercials for the latest cereal or doll and that no matter what time of day there will be something appropriate for my kids to watch: kids up at 2 a.m. with a cold, Katie and Orbie‘s on; dinner’s still not ready by 7 p.m., you’ll find My Friends Tigger and Pooh on.

And if you subscribe to Playhouse Disney, you have access to Playhouse Disney Online giving you access to full episodes on your computer even when you’re away from your home cable channel. Pretty cool feature.

Checkout Playhouse Disney‘s online site for a full list of programs, watch some episodes, even play games.

PLAYHOUSE DISNEY GIVEAWAY FOR YOU

The folks at Playhouse Disney are so excited about the programming they have to offer for families, they’re giving away a Playhouse Disney Prize Pack consisting of a Playhouse Disney DVD containing 5 full Disney show episodes, pencils, a magnetic pen and colouring magnet. To enter simply tell me which Playhouse Disney show is your child’s favourite. Contest is only open to Canadians but be sure to comment before August 18 because after that I will be choosing a name randomly. You are also able to enter this contest on other blogger’s sites but you can only win once.

I am participating in the Playhouse Disney program by Mom Central. I received a Playhouse Disney prize pack and a thank you gift card to facilitate this post. The opinions on this blog are my own.

My Living Stories Interactive E-Books for Kids

I’m no slouch when it comes to exposing my kids to technology. I think it can be a great tool in entertaining and educating kids. I’m also a big fan of children’s books which is one reason why I review great printed books each Wednesday as part of Write a Review Wednesday.

So I was excited when Mom Central Canada gave me the chance to try My Living Stories, an interactive e-book for kids that works on your iPhone and iPod Touch (and iPad as we discovered when we experimented with the app).

My Living Stories are interactive stories based on childhood classic tales like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, Tortoise and the Hare, King Midas and Princess and the Pea.

Now e-books on the iPhone aren’t new, we have a few and my kids, especially my 3-year-old, love them. They are great when we’re on a road trip, waiting in the Doctor’s office or out doing grocery shopping. My Living Stories are easy to navigate and offer subtle animation and sound throughout the story to entertain kids. They are a simple page forward, page back format so there’s no worries about kids, especially young kids, getting confused or needing mom’s assistance to use the app. But the best feature about My Living Stories, what makes it stand out from other e-books, is that you can record your own narration, right on your iPhone!

Each story, which you can buy at the iTunes store for $1.99 Cdn, comes already narrated with a young child’s voice. Readers can choose to listen to the narration, listen with just the music so they can read the story themselves or read recorded narration, recorded by you or grandma or the babysitter or anyone your child would enjoy hearing the story being read from.

My 3-year-old loves hearing stories from her older 8-year-old sister so I had my oldest daughter record a story (she loved doing it). The steps are easy and can be done right on your iPhone (no need to download separate software and copy things from your computer). Just choose record and you’re set. You record each page separately and you can hear your recording after you’re done in case you want to record it again. My 8-year-old loved this. She was able to do this on her own and even added in her own sound-effects as she went along. You can record up to 4 different narrations of the same story so your child can choose from a story being read to them by mom or dad or grandma or big sister. And even though it’s the same story, each narration offers a unique feel adding extra life to the story itself.

My 3-year-old enjoyed hearing her sister reading the book and loved the little animations. We have an iPad so the story fills the screen, almost like a book in her lap, but using My Living Stories on the iPhone would be just as enjoyable and easy to use too. My 3-year-old picked up the navigation quickly and loved listening to the different audio voices. She now wants to record her own voice.

There are a lot of iPhone apps out there for kids but ones I really enjoy are the ones that make use of the iPhones technology. Having the ability to record and edit a stories narration is an amazing idea. The only issue I found with My Living Stories was the placement of the text to read when recording the story. The text appears plain, along the bottom of the page, like a script, which is fine since it’s just there for you to read. But the some words were covered by the page forward, page back arrows. At times we were guessing what the words were since we couldn’t read them. This could be a little frustrating for the person making the recording.

ITUNE GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY

The folks at Mom Central Canada and My Living Stories are so excited about their new interactive e-books for kids that they’re offering up a gift card giveaway to my blog readers. That’s you! Simply tell me which 1 of the 5 My Living Stories e-books you think your child would enjoy and who would they like to hear narrate it for them. By telling me that you’ll be entered for a chance to win one (1) $25 iTunes Gift Card (which can now be used to buy apps). Leave your comment before August 6 because after that I will be choosing one name randomly. Participants are more then welcome to enter this giveaway on other blogs (there will be a few running this same contest), however, you can only win 1 iTunes gift card. And sorry, this contest is only open to Canadian residents.

I am participating in the My Living Stories program by Mom Central on behalf of Decode Entertainment. I received 3 free apps an da gift card as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Book Blog Tour: Alison Dare

Alison Dare is a 12-year-old adventurer. But that comes as no surprise when you look at her family tree: an archaeologist/adventurer for a mother, the masked hero known as the Blue Scarab for a father, even her uncle is an international super-spy. Despite the strict rules at the prestigious St. Joan’s Academy for Girls, Alison still thirsts for challenges.

Alison and her best pals – Wendy and Dot – somehow manage to find themselves involved in adventures that rival those of Alison’s globetrotting, planet-saving relatives. Whether it’s magic genies, super-powered bank robbers, or a dastardly baron bent on world domination, Alison Dare delivers the best thrills since Indiana Jones and more action than Lara Croft!

We had the chance to read up on Alison’s latest adventures in Tundra BooksAlison Dare, The Heart of the Maiden (age 8+) and Alison Dare, Little Miss Adventure (age 8+), graphic novels written by J. Torres and illustrated by J. Bones.

Both stories follow the exploits of the ever curious Alison, her eager to follow friend Dot, and her studious and sometimes reluctant participate Wendy. Alison Dare, The Heart of the Maiden consists of a few mini stories up front which give you an overall taste of the different characters you’ll encounter. The main story, The Heart of the Maiden, transports the girls into a world of secret tunnels and super ninja spies.

Alison Dare, Little Miss Adventure consists of three short miss-adventures: like what happens when Alison gets her hands on a magic lamp possessed by a mischievous genie or how her dad stumbles upon his magic powers as the Blue Scarab or how Alison tries to get her parents back together again and ends up foiling the evil plans of the Baron von Baron.

Both books are just shy of 100 pages, making them an easy and fun read. Even my 8-year-old daughter devoured these books fairly quickly. Once she started one adventure she couldn’t stop. The mini stories within each book as well as the books themselves can stand on their own so you don’t need to read them in a certain order. I’m a big fan of Indian Jones and the whole adventure genre. I loved that these stories followed along the same route but what I especially loved was that the main character was a strong and feisty girl. My daughter loved that part best too:

So many books for girls have girly characters in them. They’re concerned about clothes and boys and stuff. I love that Alison wears pants and gets dirty and hunts after mysteries. She’s cool. I think I’d love to be more like Alison, the part where she can solve mysteries. I think she’s a great book for girls because she shows girls they can do dangerous and adventurous stuff too. She’s a great role model for girls. I hope there are more Alison Dare books because she’s great.

I also loved J. Torres‘ tongue and cheek poke at the various other adventure stories, like Indiana Jones. You could see that in some of the book scenes (like Dr. Dare trying to escape a gang and yelling at her assistant to ‘start the plane’). These things may have been overlooked by my daughter (though she’s seen all the Indiana Jones films 5 or more times now), I couldn’t help but chuckle.

Alison Dare ventured over to our blog for a visit. It’s a good thing she’s always up for a challenge because her journey here was anything but smooth, from rock climbing to wrestling with the Greenopolis Spider to digging her way out of quicksand, Alison Dare eventually made it here to answer a few questions posed by my own adventurous 8-year old:

  1. What’s the scariest creature you’ve met when solving a mystery?
    Mother Snake-perior! She (at least I think it was a she) posed as Mother Superior to infiltrate our school. Mother Superior is actually pretty scary on her own, so imagine a snake-eyed, hissing, scaly version…
  2. Would you invite your mom or dad or uncle to speak on Career day at your school? Why?
    My mom went to St. Joan’s when she was a girl, so she’s actually participated in different events at school already. Dad was scheduled for Career Day last year but had to cancel last minute because… of… an overdue book emergency at the library where he works (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!). Uncle Johnny is an international super spy and the first rule of being an international super spy is you do not talk about being an international super spy!
  3. If you could have one super power what would it be?
    I would love the power to become invisible. It would make sneaking out a lot easier. Plus, I can eavesdrop on people. I mean, evildoers!
  4. How do you get your homework done with all your mystery solving?
    Have you met my roommate Wendy? Can you say braniac? She helps me. A lot.
  5. Do you use any secret spy gadgets? Do you have a favourite?
    I’m not allowed. I, uh, borrowed a grappling hook from my Uncle Johnny once, you know, to scale walls and stuff. I broke Sister Mary-Catherine’s bedroom window. Oops.
  6. What advice could you give an aspiring (8-year-old) mystery solver
    Read a lot. Do push-ups. Nap whenever you can. But most of all… be daring!

Alison Dare is a great read for girls. My daughter has read and reread her two adventures while she holds out for more. And a book character that encourages girls to think for themselves, do what they want to do and take chances is a pretty good role model in my mind.

Alison Dare visited as part of Tundra BooksDouble Dare Blog Tour. You can also catch her adventures today with Khy at the Frenetic Reader, Kristin at Bookworming in the 21st Century, and Jennifer at Jenn’s Bookshelves. The tour runs until June 18 so check the tour schedule to find out where else Alison will appear. You can also see my Top Ten Tuesday post: Top Ten Reasons Girls Should Read the Alison Dare Books.

No Alison Dare book tour would be complete without a dare and Tundra Books has a doozy. If you have the chops to enter you could walk away with 1 of 3 Alison Dare prize packs. Go on, enter. I dare you. No, I double-dog dare you.

Majesta Gives You the Chance to Go Green: Contest

I never really thought much about the environment before having kids. I mean I recycled, at little. Things are much different in our house now. We’re not a completely green family but we try to make an effort: litterless lunches at school, stainless steel water bottles for drinks on-the-go, separating garbage and recycling and organic. We try to make green decisions when shopping too by using reusable shopping bags and forgoing the plastic fruit bags. We will often times leave excess packaging at the store for them to deal with. A store can apply a lot of pressure on a company if enough people leave the packaging beyond.

One area I haven’t really transferred over into green territory has been paper products. I know, you think paper products would be the first place I’d go green. We’re talking about bathroom tissue and facial tissue and paper towel. These items are important in a family, especially with my ‘love to get dirty, toilet training, spread the cold around’ kids. I want to make sure the products I’m using will do the job.

Then I was invited to join the Majesta Mom’s Group through Mom Central Canada. We’ve been meeting weekly (online of course since we’re all over Canada) talking about environmentally friendly products, like those made by Majesta (a Canadian company I should point out). My concern with environmentally friendly paper products is that they’re thin and rough. Who wants to use that when they’re going to the bathroom? So the folks at Majesta and Mom Central Canada sent over a few samples to try.

I must admit I was a little surprised.

Bathroom Tissue – actually felt pretty soft, not scratchy with bits of bark in it (like I envisioned green toilet paper to be). Now it was a little thinner than the paper we’re use to using which means more of it gets used, but it breaks down amazingly which is great for the plumbing in our old house.

Paper Towel – similar to the toilet paper, this was much softer than expected. It seemed to do a good job when cleaning up spills, but unlike the brand I use now, it would tear quicker. This is probably because it’s meant to breakdown easier. I think that’s a trade-off I can live with.

Facial Tissue – this was the real surprise. Soft and very little ’tissue dust’ (you know that stuff that seems to fly out of the box when you pull a sheet out). It worked great on little runny noses and I didn’t get one complaint on it being scratchy or rough. I actually prefer the Majesta over what I’m already using (a 3-ply soft tissue).

Sadly Majesta brands aren’t available where I do my main grocery shopping.

The other great secret about Majesta (well, secret to me anyway) is their tree planting program. The promise to plant 3 trees for every 1 tree used to make Majesta products. So not only are their products good for the environment, the company is taking steps to ensure there’s an environment to take care of.

The folks at Majesta want to help you take care of the environment also. They’re offering 1 person $15,000 to use toward a green makeover. It could be new windows to cut down on drafts. Insulating the attic to keep the heat in and cold out. Landscaping your lawn into a natural garden that lives pesticide free. I think if I had $15,000 to spend on making green changes to my house I would seriously look into solar energy for heating water. What would you use the money for?

Visit Majesta to find out how you can enter.

I am participating in the Majesta Mom’s Group as part of a program with Mom Central Canada and I am being compensated for this post with giftcard.

Write a Review Wednesday: Listen-Along Storybooks

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Groundwood Books’ I Know Here (age 4-7) written by Laurel Croza and illustrated by Matt James. This week things are a little different. We’re actually looking at a new program launched by Sterling Publishing called Listen-Along Storybooks. We reviewed this new feature with the book Ceasar Takes a Break (age 4-7 ), written by Susan Collins Thoms and illustrated by Roge. I have to thank Wendy at Sterling Publishing for my review copy.

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Sterling Children’s Books is known for publishing amazing books, some we’ve had the chance to review and some we plan to review in the future. But this month, Sterling Children’s Books has launched a new program: Listen-Along Storybooks.

By visiting the website www.listenalongstorybook.com, visitors will be able to listen to a FREE audiobook of some of Sterling Children’s Books most popular titles. Currently there are eight titles included: Cesar Takes a Break, Cowboy Camp, I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track, Perfectly Arugula, Jack and the Beanstalk, Tex and Sugar, We Go Together, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

Visitors can select the book they want to listen to or they can download the file to an MP3 player and take it wherever they go. The story can be listened to on it’s own or with the corresponding book. We were sent a copy of Cesar Takes a Break to try out the Listen-Along Storybook program. It was so easy to download the audio on my iPhone. No passwords or multiple steps; find the story you want to here and ‘click’ it’s playing or saved, whatever you prefer.

The kids enjoyed listening to the audio book of Cesar Takes a Break while we flipped the pages. They enjoyed hearing the different voices, a task that even I’m not very good at. Robert Agis who read Cesar, the main character, was great and really added emotion to the words he was reading (he’s also your host in the ‘How Cesar Takes a Break Audiobook was Made’ video below). My seven-year old also enjoyed just listening to the story on it’s own, without the book. One thing I noticed, unlike other audio books, there isn’t a tone to turn the page if your child is following along. This wasn’t an issue for us since I was reading the book with my kids.

I love that the audio stories add another element to an already enjoyable book. You can read the story, look at the book with the audio, or just listen to the audio; you have that much flexibility. Yes, you can download the audio without having the books but I think you’ll find having the pictures in front of you adds so much more to the experience.

Take a behind the scenes peek at what goes into making the audio for one of the Listen-Along Storybooks (specifically Cesar Takes a Break):

A GIVEAWAY JUST FOR YOU

To help kick off the launch of the Listen-Along Storybook program, Sterling Children’s Books are offering to give three (3) of my readers a copy of all eight (8) storybooks currently included in the Listen-Along Storybook program. How fun would that be, listening to the FREE audiobooks while reading along with eight of Sterling Children’s Books most popular reads. The eight books included would be: Cesar Takes a Break, Cowboy Camp, I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track, Perfectly Arugula, Jack and the Beanstalk, Tex and Sugar, We Go Together1, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

To enter, leave a comment below telling me which of the eight books you think your kids would want to listen to first. This contest is open to both Canadian and US residents but get your entry in before March 24. After that date I’ll be randomly picking three winners.

Update: Thanks to everyone for entering. Winners have been notified by email.

Flip Friday: Christmas Concerts and Wish Lists

I received my Flip Mino HD yesterday, just in time for my kids Christmas concert at school; what a perfect place to try it out. I had to charge my Flip before heading out and since my computer wasn’t turned on at the moment I thought I’d use my mophie USB dual charger or car charger, but neither seemed to work. So on went the computer. My mac’s USB was behind the screen so it was a little awkward to plug-in (I could use my USB buddy without a problem which helped).

At the concert I realized I didn’t look at the instructions on how to use my Flip Mino HD but it was pretty intuitive. All the buttons are on the back of the camera (except for the power button and the switch to pop out the USB). The placement works well as you’re holding the camera up in front of you and moving your thumb over the buttons. The record button is indented making it easy to find without really looking at the camera. You can zoom in a out easily, but the zoom is somewhat limited if you are shooting from a distance. Having the buttons back-lit really helped at the Christmas concert too (no squinting to try to make out where the buttons were) and I was able to record this:

You’ll have to excuse the shakiness. One thing I did discover that since the video screen is small it’s hard to detect hand movement when you’re holding the Flip Mino HD (and we were holding our hand up in front of us for a quite a bit). These small shaky movements seem to be exaggerated when viewing them in the editing software.

FlipShare (editing software)

A great feature of the Flip Mino HD is that it comes loaded with all the software you’ll need to edit and share your videos. The FlipShare software enabled me to trim my video clips by using a slider. Once all your clips are edited and saved to your computer, you can create a movie with either the one or multiple files. Just drop and drag them in the order you want your clips to appear, create a title and add credits, you can even include music and save. The FlipShare window has a status bar to let you know at what stage of saving your movie is at. If your movie has multiple clips, FlipShare automatically adds a dissolve treatment between each clip so the movie doesn’t seem jarring (though the smoothness of the dissolve is sometimes a little muddled on playback).

After filming distant activities, I tried a closer, one-on-one shot by recording my two daughter’s Santa wish lists (my son was at a Beaver’s Christmas party or else I’d have a clip of him also):

When I film I tend to talk and record a lot of material but I usually don’t keep most of it so editing is important. The FlipShare isn’t as easy to use as my iMovie software, but then again, my iMovie software didn’t seem that easy to use the first few times either. The FlipShare enabled me to take one clip and cut and save multiple mini clips and then put them all together into one movie.

Sharing on Youtube

One your movies are done, FlipShare gives you the option to upload right to your Youtube account (or other account) and like with making your movie, FlipShare will give you the status of how your upload is going. The only thing that’s missing with the upload is the option to add your video details (title, description, tags, categories). FlipShare adds information from Flip so if you want something different to appear you need to log into your account and update it. A minor inconvenience I guess.

Win a Flip Mino HD

As I mentioned in my original Flip post, pictures of kids are important but somethings are best on video. Capturing your child performing in their school concert (or goofing off as my son did) and the excitement when your child talks about what they want for Christmas, these things are best captured in video. Flip and Mom Central Canada want to give one of my readers their very own Flip Mino HD to record their own memories. To enter, visit my first post and comment as per that post’s instructions. After you’ve done, you can earn an bonus entry by commenting here, in this post, one thing you would record with your Flip Mino HD. And don’t forget, there’s one more Flip Friday (December 25) and therefore one more bonus entry to come.

Good luck. Let the flipping begin.