Posts Tagged ‘product reviews’

April flowers bring May…showers?

May 16th, 2015 6:47pm

If you live in Arizona, this line holds very true this year! Our showers came a bit late but boy did they come! We dropped from the triple digits to the high 50’s in a single day! But if you’ve lived in Arizona for more than a year, you know very well that this cool weather is a late season tease with triple digit temperatures just over the horizon! So what comes with lots of moisture followed by extremely warm temperatures?…yup! Prepare for the onslaught of the mosquito invasion!

Now typically, I’d be reaching for my store bought bug spray. But over the last few years, I have become more and more hesitant to slather myself or my children in chemical that boasts warning labels like HAZARDOUS TO HUMANS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS and CAUSES SUBSTANTIAL BUT TEMPORARY EYE INJURY and my favorite, WASH HANDS THOROUGHLY WITH SOAP AND WATER AFTER HANDLING! …and that was the DEET FREE “PLANT-BASED” bug spray!!!! Seriously?? And they’re somehow still encouraging us to spray this all over ourselves and our children?? So I started looking for a safer alternative that I could use without concern on both me and my children. Enter essential oils!

I personally use doTERRA’s TerraShield blend which is specifically formulated to repel those nasty little buggers that are out to get you! It is all natural, causes no skin irritation, smells wonderful and works amazingly well! A few drops applied directly to the skin or clothing will work well for about 4-6 hours! This is not the only oil that works well as a natural bug repellent. Peppermint is also very powerful and makes a great all natural bug repellent to spray directly on your plants!

Here is a homemade spray incorporating several essential oils known to repel various kinds of bugs as well as the very powerful blend, TerraShield, that has been working wonderfully for my family! It smells amazing, works incredibly effeciently at keeping all kinds of pesky buggies away and is not greasy! I make it ahead of time and keep it on hand throughout the bug season.

Don't want to spray chemical on your kids to keep those bugs away? Then make your own all natural bug spray!

Don’t want to spray chemical on your kids to keep those bugs away? Then make your own all natural bug spray!



4 TB water

2 TB witch hazel

4 drops of Thyme Essential Oil

4 drops of Lemongrass Essential Oil

4 drops of Lavender Essential Oil

4 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil

8 drops of TerraSheild Essential Oil Blend

Combine in a 6 oz spray bottle and keep handy throughout the season. I can even get this recipe into a 4oz spray bottle that I keep in my purse for when we’re out and about!

Want to know more about essential oils? Check out If you would like to purchase these oils, visit or contact


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Ok, you thought all the summer fun was over but we’ve got one more big science event for you and your kids to enjoy a late night together! The Perseids Meteor shower will be making it’s big annual appearance in the western skies August 11-13th this year! You can challenge your kids with a little astronomy by having them find the Perseus constellation…that’s where the show is supposed to start. But according to experts, it will be visible in various parts of the sky so keep a watchful eye!

One of my favorite astronomy apps is called SkySafari. It has been a source of great excitement for my kids on our star gazing nights because it uses your phone/tablet’s compass/gyroscope to be able to view the sky in real time and identify constellations just by pointing your tablets/phones camera towards the sky! It scrolls across the sky as you move it, labeling every celestial body you see! It will not destroy your night vision either, using the special night vision setting. Check it out in App Store. They are currently running a sale on their full version but the “lite” version really works just awesome and is what we have used for quite some time.

Have fun on your meteor watch! Ask your kids teachers about extra credit they might be able to earn by describing the event in class!

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Internet security for your kids

April 2nd, 2013 8:09pm

As our world speedily seeks to replace books with technology, our good old paperback friends have a little advice before they disappear into the background of our lives!

I know it’s on every parents mind. This is the new world of technology we live in. The internet in all it’s glory, amazement and horror are so easily accessible for our children at all times and seemingly in all places. It is becoming increasingly difficult to monitor, police, educate and generally protect our children as best we can from some of the onslaughts that await them in the interactive world we live in. But does that mean we give up?? NO! We have some amazing tools to tell you about!

First, for those of you with kids either using their own cell phones/tablets or using yours, you might wonder how can you get some control over interactive content on these devices. Our first tip is to download the Mobicip app! It is a free browser available through the app store or through their website at Once you have this browser on your device, you want to disable the safari browser or whatever browser came standard on your device. We are iphone users so we also have enabled all the security restrictions in our settings where we can control whether to allow app purchases, what apps are visible, etc. which is all password protected. At that point, the only browser available will be the Mobicip browser. Within the browser settings, you can set restrictions that are age appropriate for each user. Very handy when you have various ages using the same devices!

Now on to the computer issue. We HIGHLY recommend a program called NetNanny which can be purchased and downloaded at This program allows you to customize your settings for family members, customize your filter settings, receive reports regarding user accessed content, immediate text/email should one of your users attempt to access restricted material, and a log of every page visited by each user. This has become an invaluable tool for my family and I hope you will take a moment to review all the amazing features available through this program.

We hope you will continue to be vigilant on your children’s behalf in helping to protect them from the dangers of the internet while teaching them responsible habits in using their technology. Please weigh in on this issue with any suggestions you have found to work well in your own families and together we can help protect our families!

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Posted in Family and Home, free stuff, General, Parenting Tips, product reviews, Safety/Health Awareness, Teacher Tips | No Comments »

“NO! Not flashcards, mom! They’re BORING!”…

You know what? My daughter was RIGHT! Being more along the artistic and music side myself, flashcards did nothing more than frustrate and bore me as a kid too and I have to admit, they’re not any more interesting as an adult! While they do still have their place in education, we have stumbled across some wonderful activities that can not only be fun, but of equal educational benefit. And even better, YOU can make these at home! And in most cases, for less than a dollar!

Pool Noodle Learning Game

The first is a number game. Take a rope of about two feet and knot it at one end. Insert this knotted end into a whiffle ball. Take a couple of pool noodles of varying colors (ours were blue, yellow, white and pink) and cut from the end 2 three inch cylinders from each color plus one extra from the color of your choice. Write a number on each cylinder, 1-9. Now you can create any number of combinations of colors or numbers for your child to try to duplicate. Your child can then string the appropriate color or number in order onto the string that you attached to the whiffle ball. This not only works on dexterity but on color and number recognition as well as pattern association…and it’s lots of fun!

The second activity we have for you is called a Tangram. For those of you unfamiliar with Tangrams, they are a puzzle brought out of China. Using several predetermined shapes (click here to check out a site devoted to Tangram printouts), your child can move the shapes around until they create a recognizable shape. They can either try to duplicate shapes already created, or make up their own. The catch is that all the shapes must be used and none of them can overlap! It’s quite a challenge!

Now we don’t want to leave out those early readers! So here’s one more activity that’s great to help them with their phonograms as they start to learn how to blend sounds and recognize letter combinations. Take a plastic easter egg. On one side of the seam where the egg comes together, write the letter combination “at”. One the other side of the seam write “h”, “r”, “c” and “b”…one above the other along the seam. Now when you twist the egg, the “at” will align with one of the other letters to form a word. You can print small pictures of a “hat”, a “rat”, a “cat” and a “bat” and cut them out to fit inside the egg. As your child twists the egg and discovers the new letter combinations, they can try to guess what’s inside the egg!

Word Family Eggs

We hope you enjoy some of these learning crafts with your children! Happy “back-to-school” month! If you have any fun learning crafts that you have found helpful, please share them in the comments! We’d love to hear what has worked for you and your family!

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Posted in Family and Home, General, Inspirational, Teacher Tips | No Comments »

If you’re looking for something fun to do with the kids this weekend (September 10-11), come and beat the heat at the Wonder Pet Expo at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. The cost for parking ($7 per vehicle) and admission ($6 for adults, children 12 and under are free) will cost you less than a trip to the movies, and everyone – parents included – will enjoy themselves with the variety of exhibitors and events at the Expo.

First, take your children over to the PetsWeekly Booth (Booth 116) to get their free puppy and kitten activity books. While the kids are coloring, you can view some of the best products on the market for pets – from keeping everyone (including Fido) safe on a road trip to tracking pets (or kids) with the newest TAGG GPS collar from Qualcomm. Once you’ve finished saying “hi” to the PetsWeekly crew, take the kids over to have their face painted, or for a jump on the moon bounce.  The Expo will also have clowns and lots of games for the kiddies to play. That’s a ton of good, clean fun!

There will plenty of other things for your children to see and do at the Expo, including taking part in a flash mob with Megan Blake and her dog, Smiley. If you and your kids want to learn the dance before the Expo, click here to see a video demonstration.

If that’s not enough to convince you to hop in the car and come on out to the Fairgrounds this weekend, Deb’s Dragons will be on stage with her amazing reptiles, the Splash Dogs will be showing off their dock diving skills, and the AZ Disc Dogs will be there, wowing kids and adults alike with their awesome disc tricks!

So get out of the heat this weekend at the indoor, fully air-conditioned, Wonder Pet Expo. There your children will be entertained and learn about the pet world all at once – creating memories to last a lifetime.  You won’t get from just another trip to the movie theater!

General Expo Information:

September 10-11, 2011

Sat. 10am-6pm

Sun. 11am-5pm

Held at the Arizona State Fairgrounds (the event will be indoors in the air-conditioned Expo building) at 1826 W. McDowell Rd., Phoenix, Ariz. Click here for directions.


$6 for Adults

FREE for ages 12 and under

$7 a car for parking

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Read your tots into the holiday spirit!

November 20th, 2010 6:30pm

Our Halloween book suggestions were so popular that we wanted to follow up with some great suggestions for your little ones for Christmas time! Here are some of our favorites and a few new finds for this holiday season. Read your tots into the holiday spirit and bring some of the magic of great stories into your home!…

“Night Tree” by Eve Bunting
This book was a new find for us this year. With great illustrations by Ted Rand, this story gives an account of a families tradition of venturing out into the woods to find “their tree” which they then decorate with popcorn strings, apples and other fun edibles. They drink hot cocoa and sing songs around the tree before heading in for the evening. The kids dream of the many animals that have Christmas dinner around their tree.

“Room for a Little One” by Martin Waddell
Brilliantly illustrated by Jason Cockcroft, this short but very touching tale gives the story of the first Christmas from the animals perspective as they each make room for a new “little one” this very special night. As the Kind Ox maintains throughout the story, “there’s always room for a little one here”.

“The Legend of the Christmas Tree” by Rick Osborne
If your little ones have ever wondered why we have Christmas Trees, this small board book adapted by Pat Matuszak and illustrated by Bill Dodge gives an account of how the evergreen tree became a symbol of Christmas as well as a way to tell people about God.

“Merry Creature Christmas” by Dandi Daley Mackall
It’s Christmas Eve, and all the animals in the forest are decorating the trees, hanging icicles, and building a nativity to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But Star, a wild colt, is too joyful to be still and decides to wake up Big Bear! Soon all the animals are dancing together on the night of the Creature Christmas! A very fun book that has an accompanying narrative and great rhyming cadence for your little ones!

“Santa’s First Flight” by Sam Beeson
This is a very fun spin on the traditional night before Christmas which takes place during Santa’s first year, when he traveled by penguin, and not by reindeer! Playfully and richly illustrated by Tom Tolman, this story will have your kiddo’s giggling at Santa’s crazy penguin crew that helped set the tone for the first Christmas sleigh ride and create the true spirit of Christmas!

We have many more suggestions for you but these are a few of our favorites to get you started! Check back for more suggestions and we would love to hear from our readers about some of their favorite books! Send your suggestions to with subject “Christmas Books for Tots” and maybe some of your favorites will work their way into our next post!

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It’s time to visit the pumpkin patch!!

October 10th, 2010 10:41am

Are your kids just chomping at the bit to get their little hands on what is sure to be another Halloween masterpiece of Jack o lantern proportions? There are of course very inexpensive ways to make these pumpkin purchases and while Walmart tops our list of cheap alternatives, we’ve got some suggestions for helping you make this festive purchase a memorable experience for your little one! Taking your little one right out into the pumpkin field to retrieve their special pumpkin can be a very fun activity to help your child mark he season. Check out some of these options…


Schnepf Farms, 24810 Rittenhouse Road, Queen Creek. Phone: 480-987-3100. Website:

Description: Voted as one of the best family friendly experiences by Phoenix Magazine, this pumpkin patch festival offers something for everyone. Featured rides are a hay wagon, a mini roller coaster, carousels and trains. Try finding your way through a 4- or 10-acre cornfield maze. And check out the chili.

Times: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Prices: $15, $10 military. $12 discount tickets available at Fry’s. Be aware that a lot of the farm activities are priced a la carte so discount tickets are definitely recommended. This is not a cheap experience but it is sure a lot of fun for the kids!


Mother Nature’s Farm, 1663 E. Baseline Road, Gilbert. Phone: 480-892-5874. Website:

Description:  Families can purchase pumpkins and decorate them, plus take part in activities including an inflatable bounce house, hayrides, a straw bounce, animal feeding and Alexander’s Adventure Maze created with bales of hay.
Times: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily through Nov. 5.

Prices: $7, $3 adults. 

Wherever you decide to purchase your pumpkins this year though, keep your little ones age in mind when it comes time to decorating. Remember, pumpkins don’t necessarily need to be “carved”. Fingerpaints can be an especially popular way for the youngest of your crew to still enjoy the experience. Topping your childs painted creations with a little glow in the dark paint or fingernail polish, glitter glue or the like, available at most grocery stores, and you’re good to go!

Does your enjoy Mr. Potato Head? How about working on the work bench with their play hammer and pols? Well, Paper Magic Group from Creative Seasonal Solutions has some great pumpkin decorating kits available at your local Fry’s Marketplace. The Fright Lights kit allow your child to pound in some transparent colored pegs with a small wooden mallet which then light up when a light is placed inside the pumpkin! Great for ages four and up. You could also try the Pumpkin Push Ins for ages 3 and up that allow your child to decorate their pumpkin with eyes, ears, horns, teeth, mouth and nose in true Mr. Potato Head fashion!

Whatever you decide, have a wonderful time making this years Halloween masterpiece!

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Posted in Crafts, Events, Family and Home, General, holiday activities, newsworthy | 1 Comment »

Fun Halloween reading with your child…

October 7th, 2010 4:00pm

Looking for some fun books to help your little ones get in the spirit of the Halloween season? We’ve got some great pics for you! Check out some of our recommended reading for this upcoming holiday and share the adventure of a new book with your child!…

Scaredy Mouse By Alan MacDonald and Tim Warnes

This book follows the story of a “small mouse, a scared mouse, a stay-at-home mouse” as he gains courage from his big sister to venture out into the scary territory of “the big ginger cat with green eyes”  in search of a special chocolate treat. Your kids will love this cute adventure as he “runs this way and that, harum-scarum, round and back” on his way to becoming a “bold-as-a-lion mouse”! The clever illustrations and misunderstandings as Squeek tries to understand the world around him are truly priceless and will have your kids giggling as he overcomes his fear of the unknown with the help of his sister.

Disney’s Scary Storybook Collection

This book is a treasure trove of 5 minute Halloween spins on traditional Disney stories. If you’re kids are even remotely fans of Disney’s arsenal of creative characters, they will love seeing their heroes and villains figure out their Halloween fears with humor and wit! Each story is only about 5 minutes long, making this a favorite bedtime choice for my kids since each one can pick out their own story and we can fly through them before bedtime with no trouble at all! The illustrations are of course first rate (after all, it’s DISNEY!) and are in several different styles appropriate to the stories and characters they are depicting.

John Pig’s Halloween by Jan L. Waldron and illustrated by David McPhail

This is by far our favorite pick of the season! We have read it so many times, it has now become a memorized favorite! The rhyming cadence of the story lends itself well to a singsong story telling adventure! David McPhail’s incredible water color illustrations truly capture the imagination and the excitement of the story. Follow John Pig as he decides he’s too scared to go out trick or treating with his friends and instead commits to “sit in the shadows, with no costume on”. But he gets a spooky fun surprise when a witch arrives at his door and decides to teach him what Halloween is all about! She invites her ghoulish friends and shows John some “tricks” for his “treats” as they whip up a monster bash not to be forgotten! You be the judge whether John missed out on trick or treating or whether his friends missed out on staying at home!

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Move over, magic eraser!…

August 27th, 2010 7:45pm

This is a small spot area in my car before I attacked it with Dash Away. You can see where my floor mat had been.

Ok, you busy parents of little mess makers, hold onto to your carseats because we’ve got a product that will absolutely make your “must haves” list!

I was contacted by Surf City Garage out of Huntington Beach, CA with a cleaning product they said couldn’t be beat. Having five children of my own and the various messes that accompany them, i have tried innumerable products and none seem to completely live up to their claims of “miraculous” cleaning power. So I was naturally quite skeptical of Surf City Garages claims for their Dash Away all purpose cleaning product. It arrived on my doorstep with the guarantee from its founder, Tim Miller, that “when used as directed, if this product isn’t the best you’ve ever tried, give me a call and I’ll buy it back.” As you will see from the pictures, I have no intention of calling Mr. Miller!

"after" Dash Away

This is the picture I took of the same area about 2 minutes after I applied Dash Away. You can barely see the earlier line of grime defining where the floor mat had been!

I decided to test it out on some of the toughest, most resilient stains I have at my disposal… my car. I have had the carpet professionally cleaned several times and was told to resign myself to the fact that certain stains are just impossible to remove. I very skeptically followed the directions for Dash Away…shaking the bottle, spraying a light mist over the stain, and then wiping it clean with a rag. Way too simple, I thought, until I began to actually “see” the stain begin to disappear! And as if thats not enough, it actually smells good too!

I turned my good friend Jodie onto the product to help her with a 3 year old, sun baked koolaid stain. She has had the stain professionally treated several times with no visible results. After showing her the product, she promptly went out and bought not only the Dash Away product but also the window and leather cleaners! Here’s her take on the Surf City Garage products…

“It lightened the koolaid…it worked on all the dark spots on carpet and got the smudge off the sides of the car and doors. I liked the cleaner because its not sticky or oily. I usually like aerosol window stuff but this stuff didn’t streak or leave smears.”

Needless to say, I am now a devoted fan! The product is non toxic and safe to use on a number of materials like vinyl, leather, carpet, fabrics like car seats, strollers and the like. Although it was designed for car cleaning, the applications seem limitless. I have no problem endorsing this product and highly recommend it to anyone looking for quick, easy and thorough cleaning results (and it’s only $9.99!). I was able to clean the entire interior of my Denali in less than 15 minutes with results that were better than the $60 professional interior detail I not only paid for but also waited over two hours to have completed several months ago!

Check out more info on Dash Away and other Surf City Garage cleaning products at Happy cleaning!

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Does your child struggle with behavior concepts? Perhaps numbers or letters are particularly difficult for them? Or maybe you just want your little one to feel extra loved and appreciated? All these are reasons to give Personal Child Stories a call!

Personal Child Stories

Little Sammy was one of the inspirations behind Personal Child Stories

Personal Child Stories was begun specifically to address all of theses questions. The company owner, writer and designer, Shara Lawrence-Weiss is a journalist, early childhood specialist, experienced nanny and freelance writer who is also experienced in special needs children from a firsthand perspective. She has taken this diverse background and combined her many skills along with a passion for reading into a wonderful positive learning tool for children of all ages. Her books are custom designed for each individual child with pictures, story line and theme centered around each childs particular needs.

I had to see this for myself! I recently received some samples of her product and was most impressed! Her books come in two sizes, 5×5 for smaller children and 8.5×9 for older children. Trust me when I say that these books are meant to last! Each page is laminated and the book is spiral bound for easy page turning. The result is a sturdy book that will hold up to drooling, chewing, throwing, stepping on, and just about any other rough treatment your toddler can imagine! The pages will not tear, can be written or colored on and then can be wiped clean again with a damp cloth to look brand new again!

Personal Child Stories

From babies to toddlers to even older children, Personal Child Stories inspire and teach all ages!

Storylines are completely customized and used in conjunction with actual submitted photos of the child to fit each childs individual need, situation or desired learning concept. She works closely with parents to accomplish this. Her alphabet book and counting book samples were a huge hit with my little toddler! She loved flipping through the book again and again, counting the pictures and pointing out the letters of the alphabet!…of course that was after I had exhausted my patience answering numerous requests to “read it again, mommy!”. The counting book was especially neat because it not only had a cute rhyming lilt to it but it also showed the numbers in Spanish, English, and sign language!

As a graphic designer of over 12 years experience, I can attest to the life-changing impact that strong images and well written copy can have on people of all ages. Shara has combined both in her product and I would highly recommend these books to anyone looking to teach their children through the power of positive reinforcement.

If you would like to learn more about obtaining your own personalized book for your child, visit Shara at

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Posted in Family and Home, General, newsworthy, Parenting Tips, product reviews | 2 Comments »