Review and Giveaway: Raffi's Love Bug

I was very young when I received my first album: Raffi's Baby Beluga. I still remember image on the record sleeve and I can still sing most of the words to many of the songs on that album. Raffi was the soundtrack of my youngest years. Naturally as I aged I pushed back and went elsewhere for music, and I confess for a time I thought of Raffi as silly and embarrassing. It wasn't him, it was me. Everything was embarrassing. Fortunately I have matured and as a mother can appreciate his positive messages and sweet melodies again. Even better, last week Raffi released his first new album in twelve years: Love Bug.

This album presents Raffi as he has always been: happy, optimistic, and curious. He is as in tune with the very young ones around us as ever. I liked 'Mama Loves It', of course, with the good manners and happy family routines, and even my husband agreed that 'On Hockey Days' was good (the whole family agreed this was the best song on the album, but we are a hockey-loving family.) My children did a double-take with 'This Land Is Your Land', because of course Raffi is Canadian and while I didn't notice anything awry I realized after the kids pointed it out that he was talking about Canadian geography. Good, I told my kids. You need to understand my land, too. It's also your heritage land. Raffi is all about inclusion and reprises the American version during the track as well so my silly boys needn't have woried about it. We've got a teaser for you here:

Reading some of Raffi's notes about this album brought me a deeper appreciation of his music, especially Pete's Banjo. (Pete Seeger helped me work through my angst at moving to the suburbs and he will always be special to me.)

Starting your children in the world with Raffi starts them off with joy and peace. I'm glad I started my musical life with Raffi and I'm glad a whole new generation of littles can do the same.

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One lucky reader will win Raffi Love Bug!

US residents only, please.
~enter after the jump!~
I received this CD free of charge for the purpose of this review.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.
***Be sure to check our sidebar for additional giveaways that may interest you!***


Review: CapriClear Moisturizing Spray

Summertime skin makes me crazy. It's so hot in Texas that I'm sweating up a storm and half my face glistens constantly. We spend a lot of time in the pool, however, and the skin around my mouth and nose gets dry, flaky, and irritated. It's an impossible balance for me to treat both parts of the same face.

I was curious to try CapriClear, a moisturizing spray made 100% from fractionated coconut oil. Which part of my face would it benefit? Would something light enough to spray be strong enough for my chin and mouth area? Would I get drops on my clothes, ruining them? Will the rest of my face feel oily and gross? Would I break out? Am I going to smell like a coconut all day?

I didn't smell like a coconut -- this stuff is completely fragrance free. I didn't break out. The spray quickly absorbed into my skin so my face didn't feel greasy. If anything did get on my clothes I didn't know because the product doesn't stain clothing. Most amazingly of all, when considering all these facts, was that I saw improvements on my chin as well. Noticeably fewer flakes and the itchiness was gone. I started using this spray on everything. Dry elbows? Knees? spritz spritz. Scars? spritz spritz. Cut in my nail? spritz spritz. I don't know that long-term spritzing is going to improve these issues but this fragrance free, paraben free, phthalate free, PABA free, sulfate free, (etc.) formula isn't going to hurt me if I keep using it.

This spray is so convenient I started using it whenever and wherever. Now I've said before that I avoid sprays because of inhalant concerns (as I regularly tell friends at the pool, my lungs don't need sunscreen,) this is really more of a spritz; I can easily control where it will go and never found myself breathing in fine particulates The packaging boasts scar-reducing capabilities, even stubborn scars. I haven't been using it long enough to know about that but I can certainly attest to the short-term benefits. I am so happy that it balanced out my face. This is definitely a summer must-have! Look for CapriClear at a retailer near you, or online.

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I received this product free of charge for the purpose of my review.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.


Review: Three by Three Seattle

Please give a warm welcome to Neely (the newest contributor to Cherry Blossoms {the blog}). This is Neely's very first review for us. To learn more about Neely click here. Neely was sent the Magnetic Stainless Dry-erase Weekly Planner and I was sent the Entry Butler from Three by Three Seattle to review. Please read on to hear our thoughts about the two different items.

The Magnetic Stainless Dry-erase Weekly Planner is exactly what it says it is — a clean, contemporary, paper-saving tool to remind you of important events throughout the week. I'm the kind of girl that has an iPhone but still likes to write my grocery list on a post-it note or a piece of paper. Writing things down helps me commit things to memory. But since my memory is terrible anyway, I usually need to have reminders where I can see them, as opposed to forcing myself to remember to check my phone. That said, I like this item for what it is. If you are at all like I am, and question whether you have early onset Alzheimer's, you will probably like it too.

Included in the package is the dry-erase board, a black dry-erase marker with a sponge eraser on the pen cap (and a magnet to stick it to the board), two disk-shaped stainless magnets, and three small screws with accompanying drywall protecting plastic screw holders. If I have a critique about this item, it has to do with the screws, or rather what they represent — the one-dimensional method for hanging this board. Basically, your only available option is to screw the thing into the wall, thus creating
three holes that will later need to be repaired. Not to mention, your options for what surface you can hang it from are severely limited. As a magnetic board, I expected the option of attaching it to my refrigerator or to a white board with magnets ... no luck. I suppose with a quick trip to the grocery store I could pick up some of those 3M sticky things to attach to the back, but it wouldn't it be more convenient if that option were included in the package? The board itself has rigid, styrofoam strips on the back that help it to stay flush against the wall without swinging back and forth, which is nice but also leaves an awkward gap between the board and the wall that is visible when looking at it from the side.

All of that said, it is what it says it is, and it writes and erases nicely. If you have a naked wall in your kitchen that you don't know what to do with, and don't mind drilling a few holes in it, I would recommend this item.

The Dry-erase Entry Butler from Three by Three Seattle is exactly what I needed to take the endless clutter on my kitchen table and remove it for good. You see, our kitchen table is a collecting place for the mail, car keys, coupons and more. I finally put my foot down and went searching for the perfect solution to my problem. I wanted something that was small, held papers and keys, while it could also double as a notepad if needs be. I found the perfect solution in the Entry Butler by Three by Three Seattle. Three by Three Seattle offers the Dry-erase Entry Butler in  three finishes-Stainless Steel, Real Bamboo and White (both the Stainless Steal and White are magnetic).The Entry Butler is compact (12.5 x 4 x 1 inch) and perfect for homes, offices, etc. The Entry Butler comes with a Dry-erase pen with eraser top and wall mounting hardware. We actually have a magnetic front door so have been able to hang our Entry Butler on the back of our front door. It is great when we are heading out since we can read the notes, grab our keys and go. I love the Dry-erase Entry Butler and how it has helped me become more organized.
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We received these product free of charge.
This has in no way affected our opinions.
This review is our opinion and has been written in our own words.
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Review: Whistlefritz French for Kids DVD "On Va Jouer"

When I married my American husband I quietly put to rest my childhood dream that my children would be bilingual in French, as I had been. I loved him more than that dream. While my children will not be bilingual in French as I had hoped, they are not without opportunity for language acquisition, and thanks to Whistlefritz they've got a little bit of French exposure.

Our family received On Va Jouer (Let's Play) on DVD for review.  It's a forty-minute DVD completely in French with French subtitles. This means this program teaches by immersion instead of translation. Immersion is a superior method to learn another language because it's the way our brains are already programmed to learn language -- it's the way we all learned our first language.

I sat in front of the tv with pen and paper, taking notes of my pedagogical observations while watching On Va Jouer with the boys. I noticed a lot of repetition of the important words and phrases. I was pleased because this scaffolds the child's learning to give them familiarity and confidence. Using examples and non-examples with images, pantomime, and song, children can follow along with the text. And they do. Before long I noticed that my kids were able to respond to some of the questions posed in the video or by me. They were beginning to understand! I was so proud.

The actors in the film speak clearly and keep it light with plenty of giggling. They introduced body parts, clothing, animals, colours, and supporting items, while seamlessly incorporating counting to the mix. That's a lot of content in 40 minutes! But don't worry if 40 minutes seems too much intensive learning for your little one. While a smooth go from start to finish I noticed that the concepts are easily broken up by chapters on the DVD, so you could pause and pick up the next concept on a following day.

Having French subtitles to the French spoken word was really effective. It triggers visual as well as auditory learning. Whistlefritz probably does that with their Spanish videos as well but I think it's especially helpful with the French programming because French conjugates endings that are not spoken but used for grammatical purposes. Being able to learn the word while seeing it will help with that.

Whistlefritz has programming for Spanish as well as French, including DVDs, CDs, lesson plans, and games. They are geared for children ages 2-7. My children topped that recommended age and while they were able to learn from On Va Jouer, they both admitted they'd have liked it better if they were younger. We therefore heartily recommend it for ages 2-7!

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I received this DVD free of charge.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.


Post: Kohl's Disney Jumping Beans: Planes: Fire and Rescue!

“I participated in an Ambassador campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Kohl's. I received promotional items as a thank you for participating.”

I have been having so much fun as a Kohl’s Disney Jumping Beans Ambassador!

Kohl's is one of my favorite stores. There are WAY too many reasons to list why I love shopping at Kohl's...but here are just a few...
  • They ALWAYS have GREAT sales going on 
  • I love their prices-you get quality clothing at unbelievable prices
  • The wide variety of items they offer-from shoes to bed linens to vacuums makes Kohl's the perfect store for just about anyone

My last post was highlighting some of my favorite pieces of the Kohl's Disney Jumping Beans: Planes: Fire and Rescue Collection
So have you been to Kohl's since I told you about the Kohl's Disney Jumping Beans: Planes: Fire and Rescue Collection?  If not-what are you waiting for? The collection is in stores now and is super adorable, colorful and fun. I absolutely love Kohl's and Disney and through their partnership, the spirit of Disney and its characters blend fun and practicality in Disney apparel through the Jumping Beans line. 

I can't wait to take my children to Planes: Fire and Rescue when it is released in movie theaters nationwide on July 18, 2014. My children
are so excited to see Dusty Crophopper and all of his new adventures. My three year old son is going to wear some of his new clothing from the 
Jumping Beans Planes: Fire and Rescue line. Just in time for the release of Planes: Fire and Rescue on July 13th there will be limited edition Disney apparel by Jumping Beans smoke jumper tees. The Smoke Jumper tees are available in Toddler sizes 2T, 3T and 4T for $18.00 and in Boys Sizes: Small-XL for $20. The collection is available exclusively at Kohl's and Kohls.com

Did you know that when you bring your Planes: Fire and Rescue movie stub into Kohl's from July 18, 2014 through July 26, 2014 you will receive $10 off your Kids Apparel purchase of $25 or more  (In-store only). Awesome right?
(See below for details*)


Join Us for the #MagicAtPlay Twitter Party July 17th , 2014
 from 1:00PM – 2:00PM EST

*Full Disclaimer:

Offer valid for one-time use 7/18/14-7/26/14. In store only. One Kids apparel merchandise coupon per customer. $10 offer valid on a minimum $25 pre-tax purchase of Kids apparel merchandise. Dollar-off discounts applied prior to percent-off total purchase discounts. Offer cannot be redeemed for cash. No cash back. Offer not valid for price adjustments on prior or duplicates not accepted. Return value of merchandise purchased with $10 coupon will be subject to adjustment. See store for additional terms and details.  Go to http://oak.ctx.ly/r/1d462 for more details on the promotion and http://oak.ctx.ly/r/1d45x for more information on Planes Fire + Rescue apparel.

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Review & Giveaway: Big Slice

Are you looking for a delicious and healthy snack for on-the-go? Then you must try Big Slice!

About Big Slice
    Big Slice Apples were first cooked in Grandma Hoerner’s farm kitchen, made from apples straight from the orchard in the late 1800s. Her grandson, Duane McCoy, inherited his grandmother’s recipe. Recalling the wonderful flavor from his youth, he worked hard to replicate her recipe, finding the perfect blend of firm apples and sweet fruit-juice sweetened sauce. From that first all natural recipe, more fantastic flavors have been developed, sixteen in all.

All pouches are gluten-free, made with real fruit and non-GMO.

When you buy Big Slice pouches, they donate a portion of the purchase to the Sparkle charity - blessing women in need.

My Review    I was sent eight pouches of Big Slice to review; Natural, Banana Mango and Hemp Seed, Cinnamon French Toast, Pineapple Passion Fruit and Fiber, Boysenberry Chocolate,

Raspberry Hibiscus and Green Coffee Extract, Blueberry Pomegranate and Cherry Vanilla. Big Slice made the perfect snack for my husband who is ALWAYS on the run. My husbands favorite flavor was the Cherry Vanilla and my children both loved the natural. The only thing my husband disliked was the texture of the hemp seed in the Banana Mango but other than that we all really enjoyed the rest of the flavors. Big Slice Apples are delicious on their own or over granola or greek yogurt. So next time you are running out the door make sure to grab a few pouches of Big Slice Apples--they will keep you tummy full and your body healthy. 

The Giveaway
Open to US Residents ONLY

8 pouches of delicious apples from Big Slice

Enter after the jump

Review and Giveaway: Simply Fantastic - An Introduction to Classical Music

My first musical love is classical. I've branched out and can appreciate most genres, but my love for classical music still runs deepest. Because of the benefits I have felt from classical music I think it's very important for children to have exposure to classical music. Just as we study the classics in art and literature and even mathematical theory, I believe we should develop a literacy in classical music as well. It was therefore with great pleasure that I reviewed the latest book/CD combo from The Secret Mountain, Simply Fantastic - An Introduction to Classical Music.

I was so proud that my children identified a couple of the selections on our very first listen because it means I've been doing my job. I was also happy that they didn't know all of the selections already, so I had new fun songs to share with them!

This book and CD combo does a fabulous job of making classical works accessible to the children. Instead of overwhelming our young ones with the full work of each piece, Simply Fantastic takes on the most important part. This usually means one movement instead of three, and a truncated one at that. I find myself a bit of a purist with these old works but was pleasantly surprised that each piece didn't drag on beyond the attention spans of my children.

From faeries and elves to gnomes, witches, trolls, and magicians, this collection of works celebrates the mystical inspirations of the human imagination. Drawn from folklore these pieces evoke the whimsy of a magical world; it is one both fantastical and frightening. As classical music is an outgrowth of European culture, so too are the fables that served as the premise for these works. Many of them were familiar to me, and many more were not.

The musical selections are great. They are enhanced by the picture book in which we learn some of the background and inspiration behind the works. My favourite piece with which I was already familiar was the Danse Macabre, a perennial of my Hallowe'en playlist. My favourite new piece was Dance of Terror, as I vow to pay more attention to the works of Manuel de Falla.

As cute as it is to hear my kids sing "kill the wabbit" when they hear the Ride of the Valkyre, I'd rather they think first of Wagner than Bugs Bunny. This takes us away from parody and back into a solid foundation in musical education. (Don't get me wrong, parody has it's place and I'm endlessly grateful to Bugs.)

In addition to the background text and imaginative illustrations the book also boasts a listening guide for each short piece to help guide and train the young listener. (Classical music is best appreciated with a little bit of knowledge, listening is an active experience, not a passive one.) There are also short bios of each composer. This book/CD is such a precious gem I'm not even lending it out -- my friends are just going to have to purchase their own copies. You should, too.

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One lucky reader will win Simply Fantastic!

US and Canadian residents only, please.

~enter after the jump!~
I received this item free of charge for the purpose of my review.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.

***Be sure to check our sidebar for additional giveaways that may interest you!***


Review: GinnyBakes

About GinnyBakes
Founded in 2010 by Ginny Simon, Ginnybakes is the realization of a dream. Combining ginny’s passion for nutrition, active living and baking, GinnyBakes products are a natural expression of her dedication to leading healthy, balanced lives.

GinnyBakes mission is to create outrageously delicious and nutritious organic, gluten-free, non-gmo treats the whole family can enjoy. For GinnyBakes, wellness is more than a term, it’s a way of life, a belief system, and a standard to which they hold themselves accountable.

That is why ginnybakes ingredients are sourced with the utmost care and concern for what goes in to your body. After all, it is a beautiful machine, and GinnyBakes will do their part to make sure it only gets the good stuff.

GinnyBakes products are;
Organic-certified by Quality Assurance International, in that all ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms or ionizing radiation.

Gluten-free- products and ingredients exclude the protein, gluten. gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and tritcale.

Non-GMO- being non-gmo (genetically modified organisms) means GinnyBakes does not use ingredients that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals.

Kosher-certified kosher, which means that GinnyBakes adheres to strict policies of kosher food laws, including cleanliness, purity and quality. 

Vegan-100% vegan certified. GinnyBakes does not use animal products in their vegan treats.

My Review
   I was sent five packages of GinnyBakes to review. I was sent Chocolate Chip Macadamia Love, Dreamy Vegan Delight, Chocolate Chip Love, Double Chocolate Happiness and Coconut Oatmeal Bliss from GinnyBakes to review. Whenever I review gluten-free treats I get a bit anxious because sometimes gluten-free items can taste a bit like cardboard. I was thrilled that the cookies from GinnyBakes tasted like ACTUAL cookies. The cookies were crispy, sweet and both of my picky kids enjoyed them. My husbands favorite were the Double Chocolate Happiness while mine were the Chocolate Chip Love. These cookies would be a treat for anyone who has dietary restrictions or even someone who just wants to eat delicious cookies that are free of GMO and other unnatural additives. 

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I received these samples free of charge.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.


Review and Coupon: KidStir

The kitchen is definitely the center of our home. I have so many memories cooking and eating with my family and I love to create new memories! Gifting new kitchen utensils is a tradition we hold dearly and learning new recipes and trying new foods is practically mandatory. When it comes to including my children in the actual process I confess I'm sometimes a little reluctant. After all, I know what I'm doing and it'll be faster, smoother, cleaner, and better if I just do it.

Of course I know they won't learn anything if they don't learn and that learning includes mistakes. I'm getting over myself and my intense need to control everything. This summer the kids have a lot more control!

One important way to include children in the kitchen is with kid-safe utensils and kid-approved foods. KidStir has brilliantly created a monthly subscription service to encourage new skills in the kitchen. I received the Welcome Kit and was very impressed.

The KidStir Welcome Kit includes the recipe book to which you'll all your new recipes, some straws for the drink recipe, and a silicone pastry brush for the tiny toasts, along with the accompanying recipe cards.

We made the Tiny Toasts, crostini if you want to be specific, and the whole family got involved with coming up with new toppings. We had so much fun we made a meal out of the appetizer. And we ate so fast I didn't take any photos. It was such a great in-the-moment night.

A couple of days later we followed the Sip Sip Hooray! recipe to make our own orange pop. (With modification for the boy who eschews all carbonation.) It was delicious and such a revelation to the boys that we could do this at home, quickly and [mostly] healthily.

Sip Sip Hooray!

Both recipes were so easy to do, not too messy, and didn't take too long. KidStir makes it easy to gather your courage one recipe at a time to cook with your kids. I dream some day of turning the supper creation over to them while I read a book. In the meantime we will create cooking memories together. As they build their skills my confidence grows.

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New users can get 25% off with code: WELCOME25

I was sent this kit free of charge for the purpose of this review.
This has in no way affected my opinion. 
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.


Review and Giveaway: Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
   And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
   And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
   There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a landoh, it beckons and beckons,
   And I want to go backand I will.
Robert Service, from The Spell of the Yukon

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is the first in a series of books chronicling the adventures of an intrepid young woman pilot. In this first book Kitty sets off from her Vancouver Island home to Juneau, Alaska, to observe humpback whales. As the summer continues she finds her insatiable curiosity and incredible skill take her to places she couldn't have imagined and some pretty scary situations! Her modern-day gold rush gives her and the audience historical perspective of the Klondike gold rush, a history lesson wrapped up in summer reading.

It was easy for me to recognize the names and places mentioned in the book as a Yukon girl myself. (I will spare you what I had a hard time containing: expressing with glee every time the book mentioned a place or activity familiar to me. Except this one: I hiked the Chilkoot!) If at times it felt the name dropping was a little thick it only proves that the author, Iain Reading, had done his homework before he wrote this novel; for someone unfamiliar with the area it's an immersive experience in a good way. The addition of maps or other images as well as the descriptive passages help give context to a reader unfamiliar with the Klondike and Southeast Alaska. As bibliography, while unnecessary in a work of fiction, the author has included follow-up information for those who are interested, covering everything from apparel to equipment to geography to history to literature, giving the interested reader a stepping point for further study. As a story for broadening a reader's horizon this is a good one. 

I appreciated the conclusion Kitty reaches toward the end of the story as she comes to see how much loss surrounds greed, and I also liked the humanism that even after this discovery she too fell victim, momentarily, to Gold Fever. I think it's a great message to hear in our materialistic world. I thought it was a good, clean, teen fiction where the future is bright and the possibilities endless to those with drive and ambition. Again, I think that's a great message for our kids. I'd categorize this as teen fiction because while it's an easy read there's a lot of geography and history to swallow and the main character has recently graduated from high school and talks with all the bravado and slang one might expect. The language is not strong or particularly offensive, but it's more pervasive than you'll find in the pre-teen section of the library.

I included the selection from Robert Frost's "The Spell of the Yukon", a perennially favourite poem of mine, as introduction to this book for a couple of reasons. The first is that I really love it and always have. I also included it because while this particular work is not referenced in the story, many other works by him and other literary legends of the area are. As I read the conclusion of the story this selection echoed through my mind as the summary of Kitty's experience up north. The juxtaposition of seeing the wild, untamed, harsh North for what it was and loving it despite (in spite of?) the flaws seemed to me how she reconciled the experiences of her summer. It's a good lesson for loving each other as well.

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One lucky reader will win a Kindle copy of this book!

~enter after the jump~
I received this book free of charge for the purpose of this review.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.

***Be sure to check our sidebar for additional giveaways that may interest you!***

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