And the winner is ...


Emma wrote:
"How fun! I am in the middle of planning a birthday party for my almost 4 year old. He wants a basket ball theme. So I'd order some with a basketball and 'Happy Birthday Timothy' on them."

Thanks to everyone who commented. I've never given something away, and I might never do it again because it's hard to pick just one winner ... but my friends at Random.org made it painless.

Send me your email Emma, and I'll send you the info to personalize your Fruit Roll-ups.

(The rest of you can still order them here, but unfortunately they won't be free.)


Fruit roll-ups

Remember Fruit Roll Ups? Well, they're baaaack! Actually, I don't think they've gone anywhere, except for children's lunch boxes, but I personally stopped buying them a few years ago. So it was sort of a retro experience to have PBN let me pick out and order My Fruit Roll Ups.

Basically, My Fruit Roll Ups are a box of Fruit Roll Ups all imprinted with a design or message of your choosing. All you do is go to the Website and personalize your box o' treats with a design and/or message of your choosing. (One design per box, which is OK because the boxes aren't huge - 30 rolls apiece.)

The website is fun and mostly user-friendly. I found it pretty easy to use and had my box ordered in about 10 minutes, half of which were spent playing around. There are more than 400 image options, ranging from holidays to sports, and infinite message possibilities. You can choose your font, colors, etc. One catch? You can't choose the color/flavor of your Roll Ups, as far as I can figure out. Mine were red/watermelon so I guess that's the default flavor.

I decided to go with an image of a baby and a message that shall remain a secret, but you can probably guess what it says. And, no, I'm not pregnant. And, no, I'm not going to be any time soon. But one day I will be, and how cool would it be to throw some of these in the mail? A fun way to spill the baby beans, in my opinion.

Only bummer is the design and message aren't as bold as I hoped they would be. So instead of sending an overwhelming message about my hormone levels, I'll probably have to include a note - "Pay careful attention before you go chomping willy-nilly on these bad boys."

Overall, I think it's a cute idea. One cannot have enough personalized products in my opinion, and these are way cool than a mini-license plate. And if you made a birthday message for a young child's party, their party would go from fun to fabulous! All for $29.99 + shipping. (Orders ship in about 15 days.)

But it gets even better. Want to make your own? Just head over to the website and then come back to leave a comment about what design and message you would pick. I'll pick a winner at random, who will get a free box of these bad boys. Just leave your comment by midnight, June 10. (No offense to my friends across the pond, but this offer is valid for U.S. residents only. Commis!)


Were you Raised by Wolves?

It's happened to everybody - suddenly someone mentions a practice that is totally unfamiliar to you, only to find out the every single person besides you knows how to do it. Maybe it was poaching a chicken or sewing on a button (and hopefully not washing your hands after using the loo). In any case, you probably called up your mom and shouted, "Seriously? You never got around to teaching me that?"

Well, you can no longer make that phone call because there's a new book - "Were You Raised by Wolves?" by Christie Mellor - that takes a comprehensive look at adult behaviors your mother may not have schooled you about. It's not a Martha Stewart take, but there is an adequate emphasis on etiquette and proper how-tos. From how to use your leftover honey to make a face mask to starting your own family traditions, the book is all over the maturity map. Using humor and comical illustrations, you'll suddenly find yourself an expert in finance, love and fashion.

It's a fun read - minus the chapter on drinks and bar-hopping - but with books like these, I always wonder what to do with it next. I mean, when it comes time to poach that chicken, will I really remember to come back to the appropriate chapter, or will I head to an online cooking site? I just feel like all these new-age encyclopedias are too random to be a constant reference. But what do I know? I didn't even know how to make gravy until I read this book.

* Special thanks to PBN for sending me this book and being patient with my review.


Prestone warms my heart (and windshield)

It's not often that I get excited about negative temperatures. OK, so this is the first time, and I admittedly only got marginally relieved. Why? Because the Parent Bloggers Network sent me some Prestone auto products last month that guaranteed to make my winter windshield scraping easier, only to have the weather turn unseasonably warm - 20s and 30s - so I kept having to postpone this review.

But thankfully (??) the weather took a nasty turn last week, complete with snow, ice and some seriously cold temps, like -25 with windchill. Uggh! But not so uggh! as normal because these Prestone products really work! And I'm not using that exclamation mark haphazardly.

First, I used the Prestone Windshield De-Icer. It's basically a magic potion that comes in a spray can, which you use to warm up hard-to-scrape ice on your windshield. Just squirt a bit all over the icy area, wait a few minutes and - POOF! - your windshield wipers or ice scraper will wipe the ice right off with no elbow grease. So long carpal tunnel!

Trying to use the Prestone Windshield Fluid Booster was more of a challenge as my wiper fluid continues to freeze up, no matter what we put in there. (Including fluids that claim to be for the arctic tundra.) So we had to wait for a warmer day, defrost the old stuff and add the Windshield Fluid Booster, which supplements your regular fluid of choice. And while I can't really attest to its ice-melting properties, since I haven't had the chance to use it in that capacity, I am thrilled to report that it has not frozen. Woo-hoo!

So if you live somewhere where weather is regularly icy, I recommend that you move. If you can't arrange that, however, as we don't seem able to do, then I would recommend that you buy some Prestone products. (Find a retailer here.) They do work, they will save your digits from hypothermia and, most importantly, they'll get you to Target before the moving rush.

What more could you ask for? You know, besides summer?


Come fly with me!

Independent startups always intrigue me. Maybe because one of my life to-dos is invent something amazing or start an amazing something or, well, do anything that is amazing and actually useful and hopefully not hurting dolphins. But most independent products have the appearance of something, well, made in someone's garage. (Though Mr. Dub just informed me that Google was started in a garage, but it's harder to judge someone's cyberness.)

As a result, I wasn't expecting much when I was asked to review
Andy's Airplanes, a new 3D animated DVD series. But then I spoke to its creator, Jon Pierre Francia - who is also an aviation flight instructor and TV producer - and felt his sheer enthusiasm for the project, which in turn raised my expectations. And I wasn't disappointed.

I literally blown away by the animation on "Andy Meets the Blue Angels." Not only were the graphics cool, but the storyline was interesting and engaging. Miss Dub, who typically doesn't respond to any show that doesn't involve puppets, was mesmerized by Andy and his adventure, which involves performing with the legendary Blue Angels and learning about the naval tradition.

One thing I really liked is that while Andy is a curious kid, he's also kind and respectful. Jon Pierre
- yes, I like any excuse to use his Frenchy name - made sure to let me know that he's not interested in adding a bratty character, as is the norm on most kid's cartoons these days, because he wants the entire episodes to be filled with good examples and respectful fun. Merci, Jon, for that!

Anyway, the episodes are a nice blend of fun and info. Kids will learn a lot about planes, including a live-action segment at the end where two kids talk more about the specific plane featured. I even laughed at a few of the jokes.
(No clue if that's a comment on the high level of humor featured or my lowered standards after months of Teletubbies.)

Finally, there's a fan club that kids can join that includes cool stuff like stickers and a passport and all kind of other goodies you can see here.

The only negative to Andy's Airplanes is that the animation and content really is still too old for Miss Dub to understand. And, to be honest, I think boys will dig these DVDs more than girls because boys and airplanes just seem more natural for some reason. But I could be wrong.

But if you are going to support an independent startup, support this one. You can buy the DVDs here. And then you can act all cool and say things like, "Oh, Jon Pierre, pass me the French fries." Or whatever.


Paco prints a pretty picture

Procrastination reared its ugly head when it came to this review. Which honestly makes no sense because I was actually really excited about the HP Photosmart 626 Printer and two photo books that Parent Bloggers Network sent me eons ago. (For those without Dub decoder rings, eons = months.) But having just finished a mammoth scrapbook for Miss Dub's first birthday - nothing fancy, but involving a good 300 photos - I was hesitant to be near pictures again.

Knowing how technology generally works, I feared my late start would be an issue, so imagine my surprise when I set up and printed a picture in less than 15 minutes, with nay a phone call to an HP representative in Bangalore or Boston. It really was super simple. Point 1 for my printer, whom I've lovingly named Paco.

Paco, by the way, is quite small - about the size of a small loaf of bread - which is good since my desk is pretty much rented out currently. He also features a touch screen, which you can control surprisingly easily with your finger or an included stylus. I likes the finger method as it seems more personal.

To print your pics, you just pop in your memory card. This is the only tricky part, and one where Paco is in danger of losing some points. Because I'm a frequent blogger and organizational freak, I upload my memory card about every 10 pictures and promptly delete the entire thing. So unless I've just come from a vacation - oooh, doesn't Chile sound tempting this time of year? - I'm not going to have much to work with, much less enough to make a memory book. If you want to print photos from your computer, you have to purchase a separate USB cable. Sorry, Paco, but I do find that a little disappointing. Then again, we seem to have USB cables coming out the wazoo at our house, and while an overflowing wazoo can be embarrassing, it can also come in handy.

Anyway, whatever method you so choose to use to get your pics up on the printer screen, you can then use the (highly responsive!) touch screen to perform basic photo edits - crop, remove red-eye, control lighting. And there's a feature called Get Creative that allows you to draw, write captions, add pictures frames and a variety of other cool things that I insisted using all at once with tacky results. You can't save the edited pics, but you can immediately print them in their pimped-out glory. Only bummer is that the screen is kind of small so it's a bit harder to see what you're doing than if you used a computer-based program like Photoshop, but it's much, much easier for a photo-editing amateur.

Though printing is slow, the pictures turn out great, which says a lot since I've always preferred to print mine at Costco. But now I feel so empowered because I can change the photo inside a picture frame without logging in online, though I would still opt for a professional if I were printing, say, 2,349 photos. But it could come in handy when you want to quickly share a photo with a friend or print a picture right after taking it.

Thinking about getting yourself a Paco? Well, first you must know that Paco is a one-woman kind of printer so you'll have to find yourself an HP Photosmart 626 Printer named Santos or Vincente. You can look in your Sundays ads for specials on the printer itself. But you can get 20% off the photo books at the HP Home & Office Store if you use this COUPON CODE: AC8595.

By the way, the photo books are pretty cool and easy to use. Each one comes with photo paper and software. With the smaller books, you just print the pics and snap them in. The larger books don't mean larger pictures - Paco does only 5x7 or smaller - but a nice piece of paper that you can scrapbook on and snap into the binding.
(The snapping is a little weird - I felt like I was going to break the book, though I thankfully didn't.)

Oh, and if you don't have the kind of luck I did - and I don't mean to be rude, but pretty much it would take an idiot to have problems - there's a manual complete with a troubleshooting section that is easy to read and follow. You know, if you're the idiot type, and I usually am.

Now, excuse me while I have a romantic breakfast with Paco. He's printing out french toast. What a man!


Your name goes here!

You know that thrill you had as a kid when you saw your name on a souvenir license plate? Or when you heard it in the words of a song? Or when you discovered a character in a movie or book with your same moniker?

Well, Printakid is sort of like that, though you can't really get so excited because it's not fate or coincidence - you personally customize the book to feature your child as the main character along with the names of friends and family as other characters. You even get to describe your child's physical appearance to make the illustration most resemble your kid.

It was fun to order the book - thanks Parent Bloggers Network! - but I actually wasn't expecting it to be the final product to be very cool because their website is kind of basic. So I envisioned a really rudimentary book with Print Shop graphics. But I was pleasantly surprised. The books are nice - hardcover with fun illustrations and a clever story. We opted for a Christmas one without the accompanying CD, but there are five other story options, including one about robots. And you know how I love me some robots.

Unfortunately, I can't attest to Miss Dub's enthusiasm about the book because she neither reads nor recognizes her names beyond the the first letter at this point. Also, because I haven't let her touch the book yet. She's more fond of tearing pages right now than reading them. So until she moves past board books, it will have to be a novelty for me.

I think it's a fun Christmas idea, but what the heck do I know?

As Lavar Burton used to say, "But you don't have to take my word for it." Find out for yo'self!


Is your baby That Baby?

As you all know, Miss Dub is bit enamored with TV. Blame the media, blame her early morning risings - you can even blame me, though we all know the mother has nothing to do with this sort of thing, riiight? Whatever the cause, it makes for a happier Miss Dub, but a crankier Mrs. Me because I just can't stand to watch the stuff myself. (Especially the Teletubbies, but really anything on a 10th or 11th viewing.)

Enter That Baby DVD and That Baby CD. Made by a mom and dad who had similar thoughts - i.e. kids' TV and music makes us want to scratch our eyes out - it's a fresh take on baby entertainment. Basically, it's parent music sung by a soothing, folksy female artist named Stephanie Schneiderman, who participated in Lilith Fair back in the day.

Just take a look at the play list if you still think this is "Old McDonald" fare:

Song Made Popular By

Happiness Runs Donovan

Circle Game Joni Mitchell

Sunday Sun Neil Diamond

When We Grow Up (from Free to Be...You and Me)

Pony Boy Bruce Springsteen

Brass In Pocket The Pretenders

Get Together The Youngbloods

Garden Song by Inch)
Peter Paul and Mary

Anything is Possible Jonny Lang

Songbird Fleetwood Mac

These Are Days 10,000 Maniacs

CD Bonus Tracks

Three Little Birds Bob Marley

I Will The Beatles

St. Judy's Comet Paul Simon

So That Baby CD is obviously a better option than most of your child's favorite music, unless you have a really cool kid who likes the original versions of this song, in which case, you're doing OK. (It's too early to tell with Miss Dub, though she does seem to be leaning toward hip-hop and Christmas carols.)

That Baby DVD is just the same songs in music video form. Some involve kids running around, others have cool graphics. But most important, they're all palatable for the adults, but engrossing enough for kids that you could probably sneak in some magazine reading while they watch.

The only bummer is that most of the songs aren't the top hits from these artists so there might not be as much joyous nostalgia as you're anticipating. Also, the music video quality is impressive for a small business venture, but it's no Noggin. And, finally, it might be geared more to toddlers than babies as Miss Dub seems to be getting into the groove with these more as she ages. Perhaps they should rename it That Toddler DVD?

But did I mention you never have to hear "Uh-oh!" or "Again, again!" again?

Head over here to purchase the combo yourself. Thanks to the Parent Blogger Network, you can enter PBN as a coupon code and get an additional 20% off! Oh, and there is a "no questions asked" money back guarantee, AND you can get a lifetime replacement on your DVD and/or CD. And we all know that kids never break things, right?

Now, I must go feed my child. Apparently, she likes three meals a day.


My own daring admission

There are two possible endings to this story - Either I'm a bad, bad PBN reviewer, or I'm a good, good person.

I hope it's the latter.

The book in question is "Daring Admissions" by Jane O'Connor, which I agreed to read and review for the Parent Blogger Network.

But about one page into the book - which I was already starting to enjoy, thus making me reevaluate my harsh opinion of "chick-lit" - I came across a somewhat questionable passage, and I decided not to read the book for fear of its contents. (Not that it was thaaaat bad, I just figure there are too many good books out there to sully myself with anything that doesn't make me personally feel good.)

But wanting to be true to PBN, I told myself I would give it another try. I seriously said I would. And as of yesterday, I was still telling myself that I should read it. But as of today, I still hadn't.

So I don't really have a review to give per se, other than to warn any of my prudish friends to avoid at least the first chapter.

It's rather a pity because the main character is a copy editor, and you know that's my true calling in life. (Shortly after professional blog reader and clothes shopper.) And there's even a murder mystery. Just read the book description here:

Miranda "Rannie" Bookman—43, divorced mother of two, with a recent love life consisting of a long string of embarrassingly brief encounters—is beginning to feel like a dangling participle: connected to nothing. Her career as a copyeditor is down the toilet (she makes one little slip—a missing "l" from the last word in the title of the Nancy Drew classic The Secret of the Old Clock—and suddenly she's Publishing Enemy #1!), so she's been forced to take any gig she can get. And that means giving tours at the Chapel School, the ultra-exclusive, ultra-expensive, private academy that her children attend. Certainly not the most interesting of employments . . . at least until someone stumbles across the dead body of the Director of College Admissions.

Investigating a murder was never in her job description, but with her soon-to-be-college-bound boy Nate a prime suspect, Rannie has little choice. Besides, who better to dot all the "i"s and cross all the "t"s than a self-proclaimed "language cop"? Her diligence might even lead her to a brand-new love. Or to a killer. Or to another corpse—hopefully not her own.

Sounds good, doesn't it? Read a real review here to confirm that.

The good part is I can't blow the ending for you. And I can feel a little bit better about myself for making what is a good choice for me. (And totally up to you!)

But, I may be in for a whuppin' from PBN. Do you think they believe in spanking?


Dare to be a girl!

By now, you've probably heard of The Dangerous Book for Boys. In essence, it's an encyclopedia of boyhood and hit the New York Times bestseller list with such a vengeance that now Disney wants to make it into a movie. (Though, I'm admittedly puzzled what it would be about.)

Anyway, lest women began to feel unloved, Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz decided to pen a complementary book called The Daring Book for Girls, all about things every girl should know - like how to put your hair up with a pen or a how to negotiate a salary.

OK, so it's not deep stuff. It's a coffee table book, people. This isn't a book that will change your girls' lives, but it will most certainly give them an added boost of confidence, along with a little girl pride. Or, if all else fails, it will entertain them.

I dig this book. It's a fun flip-read, which means you can open it up to any page and get a quick kick out of its contents. It's the kind of book I'll keep out for years and still never have read in chronological order. And I bet it's going to come in handy when I least expect - like when Miss Dub needs to know how to read a tide chart.

If you have girls, you should get this book. It celebrates being a true girl - not a ditsy sexpot, but a girl who loves to build forts and have slumber parties.

Thanks PBN for the fun read. Now, what about a Daring Book for Mothers? 'Cause I'm still wondering what's the best way to tie a shoelace.