A Lady in France: A Review

I believe that I have fallen in love with memoirs and my latest read was exceptional. A Lady in France is Jennie Goutet’s memoir that takes you through her life. The good, the bad, the ups, and the downs and it’ll be a book that will have you smiling, nodding your head in agreement, and at times crying.

A Lady in France

I first learned of Jennie through blogging and have been reading her blog for a couple years now. I have become fully enchanted with it because she has done what so many haven’t…. she set out with a dream for her life, to marry a French man and live in France, and she did it. She and her family live outside of Paris in a home that they have spent a great deal of time looking for and renovating.

Jennie first started her memoir on her blog and I was going to read the posts but they seemed so long and I usually found something else to do. But I did buy the book! I’m starting to wonder if everything happens for a reason and this is why. When she started writing posts on faith I read them and commented once that I liked them even though I wasn’t a believer but my life changed and I found my way to God.

I didn’t know much about her memoir but I do believe that it came at the right time and that is why I think things happen for a reason as well. As I read through it I was amazed at the parallels in our lives and how much I wanted to know more about her, her walk in faith, and how she got to where she is today. Aside from that she has traveled to incredible places, Europe, Asia and Africa, helped out so many people in life, spread joy and love, all the while battling her own demons…. depression and anxiety (something that I too deal with). I feel that she is one of those people that you wish you could be, one who has done so much good in their lives and experienced so many things and all in a short amount of time.

Her book is wonderful, heart warming, and beautifully written. I consider Jennie to be a friend and value that deeply as she has touched my life through her words in her book as well as through emails that we have exchanged.  Even if the friendship wasn’t there I would highly recommend this book to anyone that I know it is most definitely worth the time to read.

If you haven’t visited her blog yet take a few moments to read and I’m sure that you too will love it.

K’nex, Lincoln Logs, & Little Pieces Oh My!

As a little kid growing up I loved Lincoln Logs and building all sorts of houses, barns, and anything that my imagination could come up with. Especially if my Barbie’s could fit in it!

What I love about Lincoln Logs and K’nex is that they both require you to really think and figure things out. How the pieces fit together best, how to get the building or car built the way you want, and how to get them all to work together the right way.

Lincoln Logs

I will say that I had to follow the instructions that came with the Lincoln Logs to get the ranch to look exactly like the picture… which is exactly what my son wanted. But in no time we had a ranch and the horse and cowboy were ready for a hard day work rearranging the yard that I just set up for them.

 This set includes 124 real wood logs, plastic windows, a door, roof, and a horse and cowboy. It’s recommended for ages 3 and up but my 3 year old still needed a little help getting things to work the way he wanted.

Now the K’nex are a totally different story!

The first set that my husband set out to put together was the Typhoon Frenzy Roller Coaster Building Set and let me tell you… it came with a multiple page manual on how to put it together. With over 640 pieces to the set this was a challenge to put together and he worked on it for just over 3 hours from start to finish. It’s recommended for ages 9+ and I can understand why and would suggest that it might be better for an even older kid.

Once it was put together and running my 3 year old and his 11 year old sister LOVED playing with it!

K'Nex

I’ll also say that the majority of those 640 pieces are pretty darn small so in order to not lose them I suggest sorting them into a couple bowls or something similar.

The 521 Piece Value Tub was loaded with everything that you need to build cars, motorcycles, giant flowers, stick people, and pretty much whatever you can imagine. This one is recommended for ages 7+ and was a lot easier for my 3 year old to play with because he could quickly connect the pieces on his own and still have fun. Definitely not something that he should be playing with alone though.

I can’t imagine any boy (or girl) who wouldn’t love to find one of these under the tree on Christmas morning. They’re great for imagination building and hands on play.

All of these toys are available at Toys R’ Us. For more fun check out K’Nex on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and You Tube.

Through the Toys “R” Us® Mom Blogger Promotion I was sent, Lincoln Logs® Redfield Ranch Set and K’nex to review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

iDeaPlay Tablet – Fun & Educational Tablet for the Holidays!

I love my Kindle. I love my iPhone. I love my iPad. Sadly the kids all love them too, but my devices are not made to take the beating that kids tend to dole out and not only that they’re set up for me and not kids. It’s amazing the things that a kid can find on YouTube or just the internet alone when left to wander aimlessly around.

iDeaPlay

With all of the tablets out on the market there are only a few that are really focused on kids and their needs. When I was given the opportunity to take a look at this new tablet I jumped at the chance and I have to say that I was not disappointed at all.

iDeaPlay Tablet

Features

  • COPPA compliant – The iDeaPlay is programmed to abide by the U.S. government’s Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act. This ensures the safety and privacy of kids under 13 years old.
  • Educational – As a parent you can easily configure the content to help your kids learn in a fun and engaging way. They’ll never realize that they’re learning!
  • Durable – The table includes a sturdy case to help protect it against rough play and helps kids keep a better grip on it.
  • Famigo – This app creates a safer, fun mobile environment for your kids! It includes content from some of the most popular kids characters like Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, Jim Henson’s Sid the Science Kid, and more.
  • Apps – Kids and parents can safely download apps for free or for a cost from the iDeaPlay marketplace or by going to Amazon.
  • Separate viewing mode for younger users
  • Kids can build a wish list of apps that they want, but can’t make purchases.

Parental Controls

  • Gain full control over which apps and content your children can view.
  • Parents can set a time limit on kid’s play time.
  • Receive email notifications with lists of new, desired apps from your children.
  • Turn off Parental Controls and the iDeaPLAY becomes a simple 7 in. tablet.
  • Weekly email report of your kids activity

What is Included:

  • iDeaPLAY tablet
  • Orange Protective Bumper Cover
  • Rechargeable Battery
  • In-Ear Headphones
  • USB Cable
  • Power Adapter
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Preloaded with Doodle Jump, Shrek Forever, My First Zoo Kids ABC Alphabets, Color & Draw Math Bugaboo.

This tablet has tons of features that will keep your kids as well as you entertained for hours! I was able to easily download Netflix and a couple other apps that are my favorites as well ones that my tween daughter likes.

If you’re wondering…. Yes, I would definitely recommend this tablet if you are looking for one for your kid for Christmas.

Couple of things though. It did take me a few minutes to figure how to turn it on (then I realized it needed to be charged first) and weak battery about 3.5-4hrs of moderate usage. Like any new device though you just need to get used to it, how it works, and the interface.

I found it very easy to play the games that were included, search the store for more games for my kids, and get them installed.

Normally priced at $129 the iDeaPlay kids tablet will be on sale for only $99 on Black Friday at Amazon.com!! By entering the promo code ‘ideaplay’ at checkout, you will save $30 when purchasing the safest and most versatile Android kids tablet on the market!

iDeaPlay bumpers

Also, you can now personalize your iDeaPLAY tablet with new protective bumpers in blue, green, pink, or purple instead of the typical orange that it comes with. These are also on sale now at Amazon.com.

Check out the iDeaPlay website, and of course keep you with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclosure: I was given an iDeaPlay tablet to for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

GoWallet Review – Get those gift cards organized!

So with the holidays coming up we all need a way to keep those gift cards that we are given organized as well a better way to figure out what the balance is, right? I know that trying to figure out the balance is always a challenge and I usually end up keeping the most receipt wrapped around the gift card. Honestly, that is not the most effective manner of keeping track.

I’ve found one of the best ways to keep track now. GoWallet!

Go Wallet

GoWallet is an app for your iPhone or Android where gift cards can be registered, allowing you to:

  • Easily manage multiple cards in one place
  • Access real-time gift card balances for supported gift cards
  • Conveniently access your gift card information on the go
  • Receive promotional offers
  • Purchase gift cards

This app has made it so easy for me lately for the few gift cards that I do have that I can’t wait to add more to it during the holidays! The first thing that you need to do after downloading the app is to create an account and then start adding your gift cards to the app by scanning the card or inputting it manually. Really it takes just a few minutes to do it manually and you can update it easily after that.

Go Wallet  Go Wallet
Once you have it all set up you you can start shopping! For most of the stores you don’t even need the actual card… but don’t get rid of them since there are some that do require it. As you use the card you can update the value of the card too by simple pressing the arrows in a circle icon.

Go Wallet

The GoWallet app will tell you how many cards you have, the balance of the cards, and a total of all of them combined.

Go Wallet

GoWallet has the added feature of allowing you to buy gift cards from major retailers, restaurants, and other service providers right through the app. When you purchase one you can either add it to your GoWallet account, email it to a friend, or send it to someone via Facebook. Sending gift cards to friends and family across the country or world just got a whole lot easier!

Tell me…. how do you keep track of all the gift cards that you and your family gets at the holiday?

Disclosure: I was provided a gift card in return for my review of the app. All thoughts & opinions are my own.

Better than window shopping!

I love shopping and finding great deals but I have found something that is better than window shopping! Have you heard of Modnique? It’s a deal website that offers some incredible brands like Chanel, Tory Burch, Hermes, and so many more up scale brands. You know… the brands that we window shop for because the price tags are usually high.

modnique

With Modnique the prices are up to 85% off and new merchandise arrives daily and is featured in 36-72 hour events. Right now they’re having a great promotion going on… 20 Days of Deals! These items go super fast too! I was stalking an iPad mini going for $99 and wasn’t able to grab one. :( The new deals are revealed at 6am PST every day and you can keep track of the new deals by checking out their blog or Facebook page daily.

I have spent a great deal of time on the site looking for some Christmas gifts but then I was sidetracked and found myself with half a dozen tabs open of things that I wanted for myself!

Like this coat…

modnique coat

Or these two things…

Modnique perfume Modnique necklace
 The prices on all of these are really affordable too! The Burberry perfume is only $29 after a 60% discount!.Well, maybe the necklace is still pretty expensive (only $1889 after a 54% discount) but it is gorgeous, isn’t it?

I will say that finding the right item can be like a little treasure hunt. Sometimes the item you want is already in someones basket or they don’t have it in your size, but with the variety that they have I’m sure that it won’t take you long to find something that you absolutely love. This is how it works; you pick something that you want, click to add it to your cart, and then you have a limited time to purchase it or it goes back on the virtual sales floor, giving some one else the chance to buy it.  You get a little countdown clock to help you keep track which makes it easy for you.

So if you can’t find me today it’s because I’m doing a little window shopping for things that I don’t really need but really, really want! Like the blue boots that I found by Marc Jacobs…. or the Hermes shoulder bag.

This review is part of a Splash Creative Media campaign on behalf of Modnique.com and I have received a gift certificate for the purposes of this review. All thoughts & opinions are my own.

 

CTC Online Math Tutoring – Review

Math was never my strong suit when I was in school and the only way to get some extra help was to sign up for tutoring. Traditional tutoring was usually after school once or twice a week and last an hour or so… nothing spectacular really. If you were lucky you got a great tutor that was able to finally break through to you and you’d figure it out or not so lucky and you still couldn’t figure it out after hours.

Now, there are more options than ever with the internet! I recently had the opportunity to try out CTC Math and see how it worked with my kids.

CTC Math

So what is CTC math? 

CTC Math is an online-based math tutoring program that is available for the just one student or the entire family. They have unlimited access to all lessons across all grade levels. With the program you can learn at your own pace with the ability to stop and rewind the lesson so there is a better understanding of the material. There are over 1400 tutorials each lasting 4 – 9 minutes with combined audio and visual to help instill the lesson being taught. After each tutorial there are interactive questions or an optional printable worksheet which tests the understanding of key concepts. Once all the questions have been answered the system stores the results for a report.


CTC Math Summary Report CTC Math Detailed Report
 Aside from being able to log into the site and check the progress of my child they also email you each week to let you know exactly how your child is doing. The report helps you figure out where the child is struggling or excelling and if they need extra help somewhere.

Our thoughts

My youngest daughter used it the most and immediately loved it. The way that the lessons were presented allowed her to fully understand and grasp the concepts pretty quickly. After working with it for 30 minutes she was excited that she had finally figured something out that had been stumping her for a while and with immediate feedback on what her score is she knows whether she really “got it” or not and she can try again if she wants.

My older two also gave it a try too. My oldest, Caitlin, is beyond the highest level that they offer (trig) but still went through some of the tutorials and she also thought that it was well laid out and if she needed the help that it would be perfect.

Natalie gave it a shot too and felt the same as her other sisters but didn’t play around with it as much as I would have liked. I think that if she had tried a few of the tutorials that were above her level she would have been able to pick up those concepts pretty easily.

Aside from the tutorial benefit of CTC math I think that it would be perfect for keeping up over the long summer vacation, getting a little ahead, or even used for homeschooling.

Getting that little boost in math can really do a lot for a child aside from raising their math grade. It can help boost their confidence, understanding of math, and the incentive to keep trying when it comes to math and their education.

Try it!

If you’re interested in the program you can try their free trial. You can also sign up for a single student or family plan at monthly, 6 month, or 12 month rates.

Disclosure: CTC Math was provided to me to try out and review. All thoughts & opinions are my own.

Circling Around with Life360

Now that I have two kids in high school, one in middle school, and one of them that drives trying to keep track of where they are and what they’re doing can be a challenge. Especially with all their activities and without a calendar I can’t even keep up with it all. I’ll be honest…. I don’t always remember to update the calendar and forget what the girls are doing and end up calling them when they’re not home when I expect them.

So how do I keep track of where they are all the time?

Circles.

Yes, I said circles. It’s the latest and greatest feature from Life360.

 Life360

Let’s back up a bit and I’ll tell you what Life360 is….

Basically, it’s a free app that you install on your smartphone that helps you stay connected with your family and closer friends. With the circles you can create little groups for your family, friends, workout group, babysitters, or whatever groups you want to create. You can even add places that you and your family frequent like work, home, and school and are alerted when someone in your circle enters or leaves one of those places. This makes keeping track of where my kids are a lot easier than remembering to update the calendar all the time.

With circles I can send a quick message to everyone in my family, do a family call, and send a panic alert where it calls and messages everyone in your circle. Pretty cool, huh? Of course there are a ton of other great features that Life360 has to offer in addition to circles like locating sex offenders on the map, crime alerts, and the ability to help you find your phone when you lose it (this is important because I lose mine in the house all the time).

quick messages messages checking in map
Being able to know where my kids are and that they’re safe is important to me especially this day in age. There is so much going on in the world around us that stopping every second of the day to check in on what they’re doing and where they are is difficult but Life360 has made it incredibly simple for me. This way I know where they are and if they’re safe and when I’m not sure I have the ability to easily contact them.

I will say that it was difficult to get the girls to actually use it at first because they didn’t understand the point of it and why they should be using it. They likened it to Foursquare… yes, it’s similar but not the same. Not even close. Life360 is secure and only those in the circle know anything unlike Foursquare where the world knows where you are. I’d prefer that they world not know every move my kids are making.

How do you keep your kids safe?

How do you know where they are all the time without constantly calling them?

I am being compensated by Splash Creative Media on behalf of Life360 to write this post. The opinions contained within are mine and mine alone.

Court Yard Hounds – A Review

When people mention the Dixie Chicks the first thing that probably comes to mind was the political statement (“we don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States [George W. Bush] is from Texas”) made by the lead singer, Natalie Maines, during a 2003 show in London. While this angered many people I was one of the few who really didn’t care.

I was always a fan of the Dixie Chicks and when I think of them I remember the music, especially Goodbye Earl. I was even lucky enough to see them at Lilith Fair (my favorite concert of all time) and what was so special about that was calling by daughter while they played so she could hear them. She wanted to see them so badly and she was just too young to go to a concert at the time. She still loved it.

Out of the Dixie Chicks splitting came the Court Yard Hounds.

After a few years away from the limelight and the Dixie Chicks, the two sisters, Emily Robison & Martie Maguire, were ready to get back into the studio with the creation of Court Yard Hounds. Amelita, out now, marks the Court Yard Hounds’ second album. Containing 11 new tracks, Robison and Maguire took a different approach with Amelita than their debut album in 2010. This album contains a new perspective, which is due in part to time passed since Robison’s divorce. “I’ve been freed of all of those time-heals-everything kind of things,” says Robison. “Now, I’ve opened up to other ideas and ways of looking at life and the world. I think it’s not only a more hopeful album, but it’s more… well fun.

CYH_Cover

I’ve listened to the album several times now and while it is completely different there is still a bit of the Dixie Chicks left that I can still hear. It’s just a little more… tame. It doesn’t have that same upbeat twang that was typical of the Dixie Chicks. Honestly, at first I didn’t like it because I thought that it would sound more like the Dixie Chicks and was disappointed that it didn’t. But the more that I listened to it the more I realized that they’re not same band and that the only thing that they have in common is two of the same band members.

Court Yard Hounds

The Court Yard Hounds’ new album is a clear statement of who the girls are as artists, defining their sound as a band, with soaring songs that are personal, yet familiar and widely relatable. The album can be purchased on Amazon or  iTunes right now.

I participated in this campaign for One2One Network. I received a free copy of the CD to facilitate my review. By posting, I am eligible for incentives. All opinions stated are my own.

Super Clean with #MyPlatinum

“I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Cascade. I received a product sample to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.”

I hate doing dishes. A lot.

Even with a dishwasher I still don’t like doing them for some reason. I suppose that it’s all the rinsing and making sure that nothing is dried to or really stuck on the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Thankfully, I have kids who are old enough to help out with the daily task of rinsing, filling, and putting away of the dishes. Oh, they like it as much as I do, but between the 3 girls and myself it’s only every few days that one of us has to do them if we rotate!

When it comes to dishwasher detergent I switch from brand A to B to C… usually whatever is on sale and I have a coupon for, but one of my favorites is Cascade Complete. Well, it was my favorite until recently.

I gave the new Cascade Platinum packs a try and I really made them work hard to get my dishes sparkling clean and free of all the food that I didn’t rinse off. Yes, you read that right! I filled the dishwasher without rinsing all the food off of the dishes… I did get the big chucks off though.

cascade

Pots, pans, silverware, plates, and cups all went into the dishwasher just as you see them in that picture. Covered in pasta sauce!

You know what? It worked! Every single thing came out of the dishwasher super clean, sparkling, and free from all the food. Pretty amazing, right? Now, I wouldn’t always fill the dishwasher that way because I’m sure that after a while all that food on the dishes will break the dishwasher or something. But I know that if the dishes aren’t rinsed all that well they’ll still come out clean.

Now, more than ever, people eat with their eyes, and this is so true with all the pictures that we post Facebook and Instagram. With that in mind, Top Chef judge and editor of Food+Wine magazine, Gail Simmons, has partnered with Cascade to discuss why presentation is just as important as preparation.

You can learn more about Cascade’s partnership with Gail Simmons by viewing videos available on the Cascade Facebook page and Cascade YouTube page.

Here’s the fun part! You can also enter the Cascade “My Platinum” four-week Instagram contest which encourages everyone to upload photos related to the weekly contest themes. Show off how sparkly Cascade makes all your pots, pan and plates!

  • Visit the contest landing page for information on how to enter and submit images:
  • The landing page will prompt you to signup for Instagram if you don’t use the app (but who doesn’t?).
  • Each week, two contestants will be selected to receive a brand new Whirlpool dishwasher. Additionally, one lucky grand prize winner will receive a Platinum kitchen

To win, users have to both register and upload a photo with the #MyPlatinum hashtag and tag @MyCascade. Participants that have not registered will be disqualified from winning.

Each week will have a 6-day entry period where Instagram users can enter the contest with their #MyPlatinum Photo. Cascade will choose two weekly winners and one final grand prize winner after the entry period has ended. Please be sure to include both the #MyPlatinum hashtag and tag @MyCascade in your entries to the contest!

Week 1: My Platinum Plate (Entry Period: 6/3-6/9) Show us your best dish styled from the sparkling plate up!

Week 2: My Platinum Bite (Entry Period: 6/10-6/16) Show us your best bite and most creative use of sparkling silverware!

Week 3: My Platinum Clink (Entry: 6/17-6/23) Show us how you serve up creative concoctions in sparkling glasses. Cheers!

Week 4: My Platinum Table (Entry Period: 6/24-6/30) Show us your sparkling tablescape for your most special celebrations!

Grand Prize Winner (Entry: 6/3-6/30)

How do you keep your dishes clean & sparkling?

“I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Cascade. I received a product sample to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.”

Healthy Snackin’ with NatureBox

sponsored

With summer upon us and the kids at home all day one of the things that I often hear is “what can I eat?” or “there’s nothing to eat… will you stop at the store and pick up ___ (insert any snack)?”.  Finding a snack that they all like and isn’t full of sugar can really be a challenge sometimes and to prove it I have a nectarine or two on the counter that are rather over ripe and attracting fruit flies.

I’ve bought fruit, veggies, granola bars, and so on and so forth. But nothing has really sparked their interest until recently when a NatureBox showed up on our doorstep. It was packed full of snacks that the kids absolutely loved… lemon meringue waffle chips, lemon pucker pistachios, whole wheat raspberry figgy bars, and guacamole bites.

nature box

Are you wondering what NatureBox is? NatureBox is a subscription service that offers the ability to discover and enjoy healthy snacks on a monthly basis and are available in 3 sizes, at 3 different price points: Deluxe Snacker (5 bags for $19.95), Family Snacker (10 bags for $29.95) and Professional Snacker (20 bags for $59.95). The monthly box always ships free (with the exception of Hawaii and Alaska – shipping is $1.97 to ensure a more expedited delivery).

All of the products are made from wholesome ingredients and are Nutritionist-approved. They abide by strict quality standards: No High Fructose Corn Syrup, No Partially Hydrogenated Oils, No Trans Fats, No Artificial Sweeteners, No Artificial Flavors, No Artificial Colors. These really are snacks that you don’t have to worry about and feel good about giving them to your kids.

My son always wants a ‘cookie bar’ for a snack and what he’s really asking for is a fruit & grain type granola bar. The whole wheat raspberry figgy bars were perfect for him and he would eat one and then ask for another right away. As a matter of fact all 4 of my kids loved them and ate them all before I could try one.

NatureBox is customizable too! You’ll receive a Discovery Box of surprise snacks for you 1st NatureBox and then you have the option to choose the snacks that you receive after that.

my naturebox

This is what’s left of my NatureBox…. most of the bags aren’t even half full anymore.

So many of the snacks are perfect for little hands and pack really well for when you’re on the go. Whether it’s to the park, pool, or on a road trip you’ll have a healthy snack that everyone will love.

You can try NatureBox too! Just visit the NatureBox site for $10 off any sized box (Deluxe, Family, Professional Snacker) by entering the promo code SUMMERSNACK10.

The promotional code expires August 31st, 2013 and is valid for new customers only and may only be used towards monthly subscriptions. Cannot be used towards a purchase of a gift subscription. Monthly subscriptions may be cancelled at anytime.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by NatureBox but all thoughts and opinions are my own.