Thursday, June 5, 2008

Review: Personalized Photo Cards - tiny*prints

If you're looking for a really special invitation or announcement that can be tailored with your children's picture, then look no further than tiny*prints. I had the opportunity to review their invitations as part of the Parent Bloggers Network recently and my biggest problem was trying to figure out which invitation to choose for my son's third birthday party. There are soooo many cool looking birthday invites to choose from. I was literally on the site for 30 minutes going, "I like this one! Oh wait, no I like this one better! Or should I do this one? " I really liked them all.

They also have a great selection of birth announcements. Almost made me want to have another baby just to use their announcements. And considering that after having two children in two years, I recently vowed myself to celibacy, that is really saying something.

I also liked tiny*prints because it was very easy to use their site. Uploading pictures and trying out different cards was easy. I was even able to crop photos and adjust them easily to fit the card.

After I ordered them, they came very quickly, which is great if you're a master procrastinator like myself. For a few dollars, they'll send you a printed sample prior to ordering so you can check it out before committing to purchase.

All in all, I highly recommend them if you are looking for a personalized photo card.

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This review was written for The Parent Bloggers Network.

Friday, January 11, 2008

CleanWell Hits a Homerun with Their New Handsoap

I’ve reviewed a handful of fabulous products as part of the Parent Bloggers Network, but I have to say that that I’ve never been more excited at a review opportunity than when I was asked to try out CleanWell’s new antibacterial soap. OK, I know. Your thinking, "Hand soap? Are you serious?" Yes, I know that hand soap isn’t the most glamorous of products, but don’t run in the opposite direction yet! I have a ton of reasons why you’ll want to try it out – especially if you have little ones and you’re looking for a non-toxic, non alcohol-based alternative to the run-of-the-mill antibacterial soap on the market.

OK, so here’s the skinny on this fab product and equally fab company. First - let me tell you about the company. CleanWell was started by parents of a boy with an immune disorder who were looking for natural alternatives to toxic cleaning products. In partnership with scientists, these parents worked for eight years to develop a unique formulation of essential plant oils that kills 99.99% of germs without using any toxic or artificial chemicals.

Let me repeat that last part. CleanWell products kill germs without using any toxic or artificial chemicals. That in itself is my primary reason for loving this brand. Unlike most other anti-bacterial soaps, such as those you get at Bath and Body Works, CleanWell does not contain Triclosan or alcohol. Triclosan has been reported to form a probable human carcinogen when combined with chlorine in tap water. Yikes. That's enough to make me want to steer clear of anything with Triclosan in it. Additionally, CleanWell handsoaps are free of artificial colors, artificial fragrances and parabens. They are also certified cruelty-free and readily biodegradable.

The soaps come in three scents - Orange Vanilla, Lavender, and Ginger. My favorite was the Orange Vanilla, but they all smell nice.

From a practical standpoint, I found that using the soap with my toddler was much easier for him than other pump soaps we have tried. CleanWell's soap is a foaming handsoap, which means that the soap comes out of the pump as foam instead of liquid. This made it really easy for my two-year-old to get the soap on his hand when he pumped it out and to get a really good lather. With the liquid soaps we have, I was always afraid that he wasn't really getting his whole hand washed. Not so with the CleanWell handsoap. I can see the white foamy stuff is much easier for him to use.

Oh and a couple other things you should know. CleanWell products are easy to find because they are now selling them at Target – woo hoo! And the label on the soap is made to be easily removed so it won’t clash with your bathroom d├ęcor. Actually, the label didn’t bother me, but then again, if you saw my bathroom you would know that I’m not a stickler for making sure everything is color-coordinated.

Besides handsoap, CleanWell also sells hand-sanitizer wipes and sprays in a variety of sizes, including a really handy small size perfect for a clutch purse.

All in all, I highly recommend trying this handsoap.

This review was written for the Parent Bloggers Network.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Music You'll Want to Listen To Too!

Usually when I turn on a DVD for my toddler to watch, I want to leave the room as soon as possible. The music is generally annoying enough to get me running the other way. One of the exceptions to this is when we watch That Baby DVD.

That Baby DVD and That Baby CD were created by Rob and Lisi Wolf, parents who wanted to create music that the whole family could enjoy. They carefully selected 14 songs from their favorite artists -- Bruce Springsteen, Bob Marley, Fleetwood Mac, and Joni Mitchell to name a few. Then they worked with some Portland-based musicians to record acoustic re-mixes of the songs and created a "music video" for each one.

I've watched That Baby DVD several times with my son and I can tell you that I have not gotten tired of it yet! Aside from the great music, I love how it contains positive images for children to watch as they listen. You'll see a mix of cartoons and actual images of children engaged in fun activities, such as playing in the garden or reading a bedtime story with their parents.

I was especially impressed by the songs that were chosen. I paid particular attention to the lyrics and found them to hold wonderful messages. Messages of self-acceptance ("I don't care if you're pretty at all. And I don't care if I never get tall. I like what I look like....We don't have to change at all." -- Track 4). Messages of perseverance. ("You can do anything if you try. Don't let them tell you that you don't deserve it." --Track 10). And then there was Track 11, which featured beautiful images of families spending time together. It was so touching, it practically had me in tears.

Overall, I would highly recommend That Baby DVD and That Baby CD to anyone who is looking for some new music that they will love as much as their child does! The CD contains all of the music on the DVD, plus 3 additional tracks. To see the full playlist and hear a sampling of the music, go here.

To order a copy of That Baby DVD or That Baby CD, click here. Enter coupon code "PBN" and receive 20% off!

This review was written for The Parent Bloggers Network.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Printakid's Personalized Books for Children

When I think about the keepsakes that I really treasure from my childhood, the two personalized children's books that my parents bought me come close to the top of my list. To this day, I still like to take a peek at them from time to time and read the fantasy stories that were written just for me.

So I was really excited to get a chance to review Printakid's personalized books for children. Unlike other personalized children's books I had purchased, this one was unique in that they actually design the main character to look just like your child.

In the words of the founder:
A few years ago I was looking for an educational gift to give my goddaughter. I wanted to find a book with a hero that looked like her, with her darker skin, beautiful long brown hair and big brown eyes (her mom is Haitian and her dad is French). I couldn't find any story that really represented her and her family. I realized that there are very few books that represent minorities or children with different names or with different family structures.

After personalizing my own book, I can tell that the founders worked hard to provide enough choices of physical characteristics that you really do get a caricature that resembles your child. And what child doesn't want to read about book with a character that not only bears his name, but also looks just like him!

The way it works is that you go online to their site and answer a set of questions that help you easily personalize the book. You enter information such as your child's name, birthdate, reading level, gender, skin tone, hair color and hair type (e.g., curly, straight, long, short), eye color and eye shape. You can even tell them whether your child wears glasses! What results is a cartoon caricature that looks amazingly similar to your child. You also get to include names of family members and friends, who become characters in the story.

I've read this book to my son over and over and he loves it. He calls it the "Tito book." (Tito is his nickname.)

There are several stories to choose from. We chose "A Fantastic Birthday," which is great as a birthday present. Now with the holidays coming up, I have my eye on the story called "A Wacky Christmas Journey." After all, you can't have too many personalized children's books in my opinion!


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To find out more more about Printakid's personalized books for children, click here. This review was written for the Parent Bloggers Network.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wateroos

I recently received a package of Wateroos to sample and review. When I heard about this product, I immediately loved the concept. Wateroos are basically a kids' drink made from purified water and natural flavors. Getting my son to drink water (instead of juice) has been a major chore lately, so I was really excited about this product.

Wateroos are packaged in what looks like a juice box but there's actually absolutely no juice in them. Nor are there any artificial ingredients, sugar or sweeteners. Wow!

One question I had for the company was what exactly do the "natural flavors" consist of. Here was their answer:

The natural flavors used in Wateroos are derived primarily from fruits. To create a natural fruit flavor, first you take the fruit and boil out everything but the crucial ingredients. What's left is a concentrated extract or what can be referred to as "natural flavoring." We then take a blend of different fruit flavorings to create our great-tasting flavored waters. If we told you the exact formula, well then we’d have to… you know the drill.


Sounds good to me. However, I have to be honest and say that, though it is a healthy product, my husband and I didn't like the taste of them - we sampled the grape flavor - and I would never drink them myself for that reason.

But my son actually really liked them and drank the whole pack in a matter of a couple days. So, overall, I'd say that while you won't see me drinking this anytime soon, I would definitely consider buying them for my kids. And I wholeheartedly back the concept of this product.

Wateroos come in several flavors, including grape, apple, and berry. You can find out where to buy them here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Company Store: You Have Made Me Fall in Love with Bamboo

I try to be as environmentally conscious as I can. I recycle my cereal boxes. I carpool to work. I try to bring buy locally grown organic produce.

So when I was asked to try out some new eco-friendly products from The Company Store, I was definitely interested. The Company Store is a retailer of fine products for the home. They specialize in down, bedding, kids bedding, loungewear, and home decor products. And recently, they started a line of bamboo towels, sheets and blankets that are environmentally healthy.

Though I had heard of bamboo being used for flooring, I had actually never heard of bamboo being used as a fabric. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about how a blanket made of bamboo would feel. For some reason, I thought it might be a little rough.

Well, I was wrong! I received a bamboo towel and a bamboo blanket to test out and I was immediately taken aback by how incredibly soft they were. The towel felt softer than any towel I have ever touched - no exaggeration. This towel is so soft that it feels cozy enough to be used as a baby blanket. In fact, if The Company Store were to make a bamboo baby blanket, I think they'd sell like hotcakes (hint, hint!).

But back to the towel...

I love this towel. LOVE.

I washed it before using it and it maintained its silky softness. But would it be absorbant too? The answer is YES. It was more absorbant than I had expected. I was completely satisfied with it. In fact, I love these towels so much, I am buying a few for our master bathroom.

The towels are made 70% from bamboo and 30% from cotton, and according to the website, the colored towels are created with certified low eco-impact dyes and are chlorine- and softener-free. They retail for $18.00 each and can be monogrammed. (If you are a bigger person - like my husband at 6'3" - you might opt for the larger "bath sheet" which is $36). Check them out here.

The blanket gets high marks as well. Although it was a little challenging to fully try out the blanket in 100 degree weather (heh), I can tell you that it's very soft, finely woven and lightweight. I am guessing that it would keep you comfortably warm in Fall - or even Winter under a comforter. You can see the colors and sizes here.

After testing out these products, I am excited about bamboo as a fabric! The Company Store has a few other products in their bamboo line that are looking good to me too. I am probably going to indulge and buy myself the bamboo robe! I mean, I'm not only thinking of myself here (and how wonderfully luxurious it will be to lounge around in that cashmere softness all day), I'm really mainly thinking of the environment. Really, I swear. :)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: The Friendship Edition

If you're like me, some of the newer cartoons for kids can get on my nerves. (No offense Barney.) But the classic cartoons never get old. That's why I was happy to find out that Walt Disney has released a new "Friendship Edition" of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

This special edition DVD contains not only the first Winnie the Pooh cartoon feature (74 min.), which has been digitially restored and remastered, but also a bunch of great extras, including a sing-a-long music video of the Winnie-the-Pooh theme song, two games/activities, bonus episodes, and more. My favorite part of the DVD was the backstage interviews, which feature the history and the making of the Winnie the Pooh cartoon.

For me, this is a great DVD to have in my children's cartoon collection. I loved revisiting one of my own favorite childhood cartoons with my son. (And not having to worry about getting annoying music stuck in my head after watching it was just an added bonus!)

The DVD retails for $29.99, but can be purchased for cheaper here on Amazon.com

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Win it! Leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, July 18th, 12am PST, and I'll enter you to win a free copy of this DVD. I'll pick a winner at random from those who post a comment. Congrats to Sheri for winning the DVD!