Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Eggo's Bake Shop Twists Review

Eggo is introducing a new product line, Bake Shop Twists, which come in two flavors, apple and strawberry. I got a chance to try them for this blog tour, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

The Bake Shop Twists are designed to be a fix-it-fast breakfast or snack item, something convenient that you can fix for the kids in a hurry. They come four in a box and you find them in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. They store in the freezer, and then you (or the kids) just pop one in the microwave for 25 seconds to heat it.

You do have to let the Bake Shop Twist cool down for 2 minutes after you heat it, though, and they aren't kidding about that--the filling gets REALLY hot and will burn you if you try to rush things.

Now, I like Eggo waffles, especially the Nutrigrain ones, so I was excited to try these.

But when I tasted the Bake Shop Twists, although I liked the filling, I have to say I was disappointed in them overall.

Take the apple flavor, for instance. Maybe it's because I like hot apple pies and apple strudel and the like, but these Bake Shop Twists were too soft for me. I wanted a crispier (maybe toasted?) pastry, whereas these were closer to apple donuts. Only, they weren't as good as apple donuts, in my opinion, because they didn't have cinnamon/sugar on top, so I found them too bland.

I looked at the ingredients, and they do have high-fructose corn syrup in the filling, so they aren't that much healthier than a donut would be. So, since, for the price, I could buy a half dozen donuts instead of the 4 Bake Shop Twists that come in this package, if I wanted to give the kids something sweet instead of just an apple, I would probably opt for the donuts over the apple-flavored Bake Shop Twists for our family.

And I liked the strawberry flavor even less, because it tasted like a jelly donut without powdered sugar on top, only hot, and I just have this idea that jelly donuts should be cold and sugar-covered and served with milk.

It's a shame, because, as I say, I do like the other Eggo products.

My Boys returns with new episodes tonight

So, I'll own up and tell you: I was not a regular viewer of TBS's hit show, My Boys, when TBS sent me a preview of tonight's episode to watch.

But I popped it into the DVD player anyway--and now I am.

I can't go into too many details of tonight's episode, which is a pivotal one for the rest of the season and the direction in which the writers hope to take the show, so I'll just touch on why it appealed to me so much.

First of all, the friends on the show seem like real people.

Not just because the guys talk like I imagine a lot of guys do when no one else is around and they're just, you know, BS-ing.

And not just because the actors are really natural and don't sound like they are reading off of a teleprompter somewhere.

But also because the actors look like real guys, albeit attractive ones, rather than plastic mouthpieces. And the lead actresses don't look botoxed and silicone-enhanced to Barbie doll proportions, and I definitely want to support this trend.

That alone would make the series worth watching, but I also enjoyed the plot twists that I absolutely, positively cannot disclose in this review, which is why you need to tune in to My Boys tonight and see for yourself.

Oh, and I also got to see next week's episode, and guess what? It's even better.

My Boys airs on TBS on Tuesday nights at 10:30/9:30 central.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kids and Cell Phones

Kids and cell phones can be a scary mix. Wondering how to keep those bills down? Here's a few tips I came up with after spending some time checking out the Kajeet website:

First, shop around when looking for the perfect cell phone. Often, phones are offered free along with a contract. Is that really the best deal for you?

Consider a phone with GPS or a tracking device so you always know where your kids are. These phones can be just as reasonably priced as other, more trendy models on the market.

Make sure your kids know what their phone contract consists of--especially if you have limited texting or minutes! Overages really rake up the bills.

A pay-as-you-go phone plan is great for kids who only need a cell phone for emergency use, like when soccer practice is suddenly cancelled and Mom isn't scheduled to pick them up for an hour and a half!

Finally, make sure you block those 900 numbers. This is generally a very small upfront fee (we pay, I think, $1 for this on our home phone), but the savings are considerable!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Open Message to Babycenter Admins

Re: your spam "warning" email

Dear Babycenter Admins;

My blog posts go up in my Babycenter journal, as most bloggers' members here do. My journal is just like everyone else's journal--public and available for anyone to see. Even though there is an option to send friends a link to my journal, I want it clearly understood that I DON'T automatically just send my journal entries to anyone, including my friends. I haven't even individually sent my friends a message about ANY journal posts I have made in longer than I can remember.

I have NEVER solicited anyone on Babycenter, ever.

But you know what, even if I had sent my friends a message saying, "hey, come read my journal", it shouldn't matter, because I DON'T sell anything in my posts. I DON'T try to recruit anyone to some business, either. I don't have some shady business I am trying to profit from, and I don't take advantage of my friends.

I am, though, a regular contributor here on Babycenter. In fact, I was a member before it even WAS Babycenter, back when it was Maya's Mom. I write a lot of posts that go up in my journal. These posts include reviews and giveaways. I write about products and services that others offer, and what I think of them.

I DON'T spam. Anyone. Ever. And yet I am getting these emails from Babycenter about spam.

Now, maybe you send them to everyone.

If you do, I have to say it's damned insulting.

But if not, and it's just me, I can't understand why I am being targeted in this way. I have friends here, and I don't know of any enemies I've made, so I don't see why anyone would just spitefully, speciously, report me for spam, when I haven't violated the guidelines.

But let's say someone might have falsely accused me--even then, I am extremely upset and angry to think that Babycenter would give any credence at all to any report without thoroughly checking it out.

And if someone didn't just make this up out of spite, I have to wonder why in the world Babycenter has targeted me, since I haven't. broken. the. guidelines.

I've seen a lot of changes in Babycenter recently, including some very intrusive ads on the main site that members have to block just to chat on the forums, and I'm not so happy with these changes, but I've stuck by Babycenter so far.

But I want an answer to why I have been unjustly targeted in this way. As someone who, again, HAS NOT BROKEN THE GUIDELINES, I think I deserve to know why I am getting messages warning me about posting spam. I will be following these problems with Babycenter and the resolution on my blog, and this entire rant of mine is going up on my blog as well, so, ironically, it's going to show up in my Babycenter journal, too.

I await your reply.


Viv Bruss, Cool Moms Rule!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Win a Forever Friend

What's not to like about Friends Forever Girls?

The site's founders are both Moms who wanted to create ethnically diverse (yay!) dolls that daughters could relate to. The dolls are age-appropriate, with realistic bodies (another huge yay!). And each dolls has her own unique personality, as told in her storybook (and yet another huge yay! for encouraging reading).

I can't think of anything I don't like about this company.

In addition to the Friends Forever Girls site, there is, of course, a store where you can purchase the Friends Forever Girls Dolls, which as I said come with their own storybooks, and also a jacket or backpack depending on the doll you choose. These dolls, btw, are not the standard 11" plastic deals, but a full 18" tall thanks to sculptor Phil Hauser.

I have, right now, a Natalee doll myself, and she's really cute. My favorite, though, is Marlee, who lives across the street from Natalee, because she likes, "to write in my journal and do art projects," which I can relate to!

There are four dolls available, with two more on the way (I love that one of them is very shy and the other is a klutz, because haven't we all had one of those problems?).

The dolls are bigger than the average, a full 18" tall, and they come with the Butterfly Promises, a series of affirmations girls can take, whose letters spell out the word "Butterfly":

  • Be the best I can be
  • Use kindness and be fair
  • Tell the truth
  • Treat others the way I want to be treated
  • Encourage my friends
  • Respect myself and others
  • Find the courage to do what’s right
  • Listen to others, and remember…
  • You can do it

Exclusive coupon code for our readers: Right now, through this Mom Blog Marketing blog tour, you can even get a free Girls Friends Forever T-shirt with any doll purchase! Just enter Spring for the coupon code. You can order your doll for Easter today (don't forget to use that Spring code for the free Girls Forever Friends tee with your purchase*!). Wouldn't that make the perfect Easter basket for some little girl?

Or, take a chance at winning your favorite Friends Forever Doll here on Cool Moms Rule!

Enter to Win: Just leave a comment below this post for entry in the giveaway. You must have a shipping address in the Continental US to enter.

Additional Entries: Tweet or blog about this post, subscribe to our feed, or add my button to your site!

That gives you up to 5 chances to win a new Forever Friend!

Contest ends Good Friday, April 10th. I'll announce the winner after Easter.

Good luck!

*Expires April 20th.

BlogHer 09, and stay for free in Chicago!

You may have noticed that I have added a small button on my posts for any of you that might want to help me in my quest to attend BlogHer 09 in Chicago. Finances are getting tight for all of us, and I appreciate any help you can give me. So, you know, if you've ever thought it might be fun to share a cup of coffee together (honestly, wouldn't that be awesome? I'd love to meet you all!), instead of springing for a cuppa java, maybe consider that button for me.

Okay, enough of that! With BlogHer in mind, I am also excited by this giveaway over on Z-recommends, which offers as the big prize a 3-night stay at the Sheraton for Blogher!

I love that the Sheraton offers Mac and PC access, and there's even a big pool--it just looks so comfy and welcoming! This is a snazzy giveaway, too--we're talking concierge level service, people!

I'd love for us ALL to go to BlogHer, so if you are hoping to attend (I know a lot of my readers are fellow bloggers, too), this might be a great idea for you as well. So even though it means more competition for me, again, here's the link to the contest!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lee's Colorwashed Khakis (You Can Win 1 0f 5 Pairs)!

So I come home this morning, after dropping my kids off at school, and what do I see on my doorstep?

A package from Lee!

As you all know, I'm one of the new Lee Fit Ambassadors (I'm preening myself now, feeling all important and stuff), which means Lee occasionally asks my opinion on some of their fantastically fitting line of jeans and khakis and what have you.

And you know what I have?

A really cool pair of Lee's new Colorwashed Khakis!

I wish you could see my pair up close and IRL--my camera really does not do them justice. Plus, you know, that's my butt, not a model's, so...yeah. *sighs*

Anyway! The pair I received are this beautiful shade somewhere between, in my opinion, salmon and coral. In fact, the color name is Spiced Coral, and that sounds about right. They're bright and breezy, just right for Spring, without being too overwhelming. They are nice and long and flattering to the line of your leg, but you can roll up the legs, too--there's even contrast piping on the cuff.

I don't know how Lee picked this color out to send me, but they did a great job, because these khakis will go really well with my wardrobe. I'm looking forward to wearing them to Tennessee over Spring Break, where will be hanging out in log cabin and doing some (easy!) hikes through the Smoky Mountains National Park.

So, I know what you are all thinking: Hey, that's really great, Viv, good for you and all, but we're sitting here, envious, so could you stop talking about the Colorwashed Khakis already?

And the answer is: No.


Lee is going to let me give some pairs away to you, too!

So, here's the deal: Lee is coming up with a brand new website, with a Fit Finder tool which is just going to rock your world...and it's not quite ready just yet.

Right now, you can check out the Colorwashed Khakis online here (they're available in JC Penney stores). That, by the way, is how great they look on an actual model, in case my picture made you wonder.

We're going to give away 5 pairs of Lee Colorwashed Khakis because I can handle that many without going crazy planning for Spring Break, okay? Okay!

To Enter: Leave a comment below this post with what you think about this new offering from Lee. Please don't just put that you want to win a pair, that's a given. I'd love to hear your favorite colors, why you like Lee, etc.
I really want to spread the word around about these, so here's how to get additional entries:

Tweet about this contest on Twitter!
Blog about this contest and put my button in your sidebar
Subscribe to the site's feed

Important: Lee is the best, IMO, but they don't have infinite quantities of these in your size just lying around, so if you are one of my winners, I'm going to need a few color choices from you, okay?

Deadline to Enter is Easter Sunday, April 12th!

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Gimme Veggies!"

I know, you have never, ever in your life heard your kids say those words, have you?

The people who bring you Hidden Valley Salad Dressings want to change that.

Understanding what a challenge it can be to interest your children in healthy greens and veggies, they've put together a free online game that your little ones can play with you. Since a recent study indicated that 60 percent of parents play computer games with their kids, the makers of Hidden Valley Salad Dressings hope Veggie Adventures will be yet another tool Moms can use, "to expand their young children's appreciation for vegetables."

Which I think is just a brilliant plan. Once your little ones play a game all about loving vegetables, they're much more likely to think of them as "fun" instead of "blah" food. And the game is cute, and easy to master--mostly you just need a mouse, and occasionally the spacebar.

There's three levels to Veggie Adventures. The first has your little farmer growing their own vegetable garden, watering the plants (and squirting at the animals that are trying to make off with their yummy vegetables!).

Next, they have to drive the vegetable truck, making sure not to go too fast, because there's potholes and also more critters trying to cross the road. Don't worry about those animals, by the way--I sadistically tried to hit a few critters just to make sure, and your little one can't even accidentally hurt them, thank goodness. Yay, Hidden Valley folks!

Lastly, your child will dole out veggies to other kids just like them. Only, you know, animated and two-dimensional. ; )

I found this level a little more challenging, because you are basically sliding across the screen, hitting the spacebar to drop dollops of fresh veggies to the kids, who come up and hold out their plates. Sometimes I would drop a veggie in the wrong spot because I wanted to be over there <>. Even so, I filled up a lot of tummies with delicious veggies, so I feel good about that.

Those kids on the computer have probably had more veggies than my own kids lately. *sigh*

I think your kids will enjoy Veggie Adventures--keep in mind, this is a game for very young children, pre-school age and maybe early elementary school kids (who will still probably play it better than I did).

One nice feature to make your kids feel proud of their achievements: after each level, they can print up a certificate showing just how great they are with all those vegetables.

I'm a proud member of Mom Central and this Hidden Valley blog tour.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery Powerplay Giveaway!

We just closed up our two latest giveaways, and wouldn't you know it, Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery stepped right up to fill in the gap with a brand new giveaway for Cool Moms Rule! readers to promote their new Powerplay program.

Powerplay is a comprehensive and convenient subscription service that lets your family rent both movies and video games from a large selection of titles right at your local video store.

With no late fees or due dates, Powerplay offers an alternative to mail-only services in that you can sign up right at your local Hollywood Video or Movie Gallery and deal face-to-face with a sales associate. You select your movie or game right there, where you can read the backs of the boxes and get a feel for the rental, or ask an associate for a movie or game recommendation.

Another nice feature of Powerplay is that you can sign up for one of several flexible options, each offering an allotment of points, and then use your points towards rentals. You can decide which plan fits your lifestyle, and--especially helpful in this tough economy--your budget.

Plans range from just $7.99 a month for the Silver plan (offering 8 points a month) up to $39.99 for the Diamond plan (consisting of unlimited rentals). Currently, movies are 2, 3 or 4 points (4 point movies are the Blu-Ray versions), while games go for just 5 points a piece--much more affordable than those $50 or even $60 game prices we're seeing for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Don't want to see a movie that month? No time to play a game? No problem--unlike other plans I've seen, Powerplay gives you the ability to roll points over to the next month! So you can save up those points for the times when you need them most.

Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery want to know what Cool Moms Rule! readers think of Powerplay, so they're offering you a chance to win one of four copies of Quantum of Solace on DVD for your opinion!

If you missed Quantum of Solace in the theaters, Daniel Craig makes a great Bond, and this latest installment really livens up the Bond franchise, with action-packed chase scenes and intense fight sequences that put you right in the center of the action. As someone who enjoyed the Bond books, I really feel like Quantum of Solace was a lot truer to the character of Bond as envisioned by the author, Ian Fleming, as well.

To enter this giveaway, brought to you by Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery, just leave a comment below this post with your opinion on Powerplay!

For additional entries:
Tweet about this contest and leave the link in the comments.
Blog about this contest, and leave the link.
You can also add our button to your blog.
Subscribe to our feed (and be the first to know about all our giveaways).
Follow this blog.

That's a total of SIX chances to win! And remember, there are multiple copies of Quantum of Solace up for grabs.

Just leave a comment for each additional entry method your choose.

Deadline to enter this contest is midnight (EST) Wednesday, April 1st. No foolin'! : )

Good luck!

The Birth of Cornelius

"Music has been the place where I could go to hide and forget about the world. I couldn't make a sense of a majority of the things that happened to me, so I used music as a shield. But over time, music has become a vehicle to channel out everything that I've been keeping from myself for all these years. And the new album is definitely the most honest, real assessment of everything that's happened in my life, because I'm not trying to hide as much."
Corneille Nyungura was born in Germany, where his parents, from Rwanda, were students at the time. At the age of six, Corneille and his family moved back to Rwanda, their country of origin. Corneille at first struggled to find his way. He notes, "When I went to Rwanda for the first time, there was a sense of going to the place where I belonged, but because my parents were very Westernized, I still felt like I didn't fit in."

Young Corneille's interest in music was nurtured by his father, something he has come to recognize was a gift in a time when music, although a significant part of African culture, was not seen as a viable job option for a young man. "I was singing in my room, and my dad heard me, and said, 'That sounds good, it kind of sounds like Tracy Chapman,' and I remember thinking, "Oh, it's Okay for me to make music."

So the talented young musician moved forward with his musical aspirations. And the future looked promising: when he was just 16, he made his first recording and was selected as a finalist in a music contest sponsored by the state-run television station.

But in 1994, Rwanda's President Habyarimana was assassinated, and Rwanda thrown into turmoil. The results of the political coup were staggering.

In all, over 800,000 victims were massacred that year--the worst incidence of genocide in modern history.

Among those killed were Corneille's family.

His parents and siblings massacred, Corneille alone managed to escape Rwanda and make his way, eventually, back to Germany, where family friends offered him shelter.

Corneille's music helped him through the next several hard years, in which, he says, survivor guilt warred with his own tragic personal loss.

"For a good ten years after the genocide, I lived in a great deal of denial. But I managed not to get too bitter because I had parents who always made me feel special. It's a sort of pain that you can have closure with. I know I'm not going to be able to talk to may family ever again, but they left me with memories filled with such love that I don't have that much anger."

Today, somehow, Corneille seems to have found a way to find peace within himself for the tragedy that took the lives of his family and so many others back in Rwanda when he was a youth.

I never knew anything about Corneille, hailed as one of the "hottest new stars" for 2009 by the New York Daily News, until a new program known as Music Moms introduced me to his music and his story.

As a result, I was able to listen to his newest work, the album known, fittingly, as The Birth of Cornelius.

I found Corneille's CD's acoustic-driven R&B tracks--actually, yes, reminiscent of Tracy Chapman even today, at least in my opinion--soothing and soulful, and now, knowing his story, I understand why they have such a calming and uplifting effect on the listener.

Please follow this link for the website (note: at last check, it was still under construction, but you'll be redirected to the iTunes store, where you can sample tracks) for the new CD, The Birth of Cornelius.

The New Dora the Explorer--What do you think about her?

Recently, Mattel (alongside Nickolodeon) announced the creation of a new tween Dora the Explorer who would appeal to older girls, and showed a picture in which the tween Dora, with long flowing hair, appeared to be wearing a super-short mini-dress.

Moms whose kids are big fans of the show--generally elementary school aged girls--reacted with alarm and consternation. "Did Mattel turn Dora the Explorer into a Tramp?" read one headline from The Huffington Post. Terms like "Dora the streetwalker" were thrown around. Outraged Moms complained about the kind of role model a "sexed-up" Dora would be for their girls.

Mattel/Nick were quick to respond, explaining that the new Dora would NOT be replacing the tomboyish, cartoon favorite with the bobbed hair and red shorts, but was being marketed in the form of an interactive doll designed with the older girls, who felt they had outgrown the show, in mind.

Animated image of new tween Dora
Now a newer picture of this interactive tween Dora doll is circulating. And a lot of the clamor has died down.

Why? Although she has traded in her trademark bob for a longer, freer hairstyle and much of that tomboy image is gone, Dora wears not a super short dress but a more modest tunic and leggings, and her face remains free of cosmetics.

Here's the pic Mattel released. What's your take on the new Dora, Cool Moms?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Time to Check Those First-Aid Supplies

Remember that old party game--we played it as kids, mostly--where one person says, "I'm going on a camping trip, and I'm going to take an aardvark (or something starting with the letter A)," and then the next person goes and adds a letter B thing, and you go around the room adding on for each letter of the alphabet (I'm going to take an aardvark, a bicycle, a chainsaw, a dinosaur...etc.)?

Well, if I had the letter N, I would add, "Neosporin" for mine now.

In fact, I already have it ready. For Spring Break, we actually are going up to the mountains to go hiking, which is close to camping, and I'm going to need it.

Except I don't do the whole tents-and-bugs-and-no-bathrooms thing, so we are renting a nice log cabin for the week, and taking a couple of the boys' friends along. I'm not a "roughing it" type of girl.

But I'm still taking my new Neosporin Pain Relief Ointment and my new spray Neosporin Neo To-Go, and plenty of bandages, too.

Because, you know, I'll have my accident-prone Rhino with me, the one who just two weeks ago was in the Emergency Room again because he was slammed into the wall of the gym playing basketball during P.E.

He's fine now--just a minor concussion and some gluey gel-stuff sealing the gash in his eyebrow while his Dad and I shared a scary Oh my God, that could have been his eye! moment in the ER.

But that Neosporin Neo To Go spray has been a godsend, as the folks at Mom Central and Neosporin sent it to me to review just in time for us to have it around for that scary eyebrow wound.

And it earned big points in my book. That little spray is really conveient, since it's not messy at all to use, and protable, so we can keep it in the car. And of course, it's antibiotic just like the ointment we all know and love, and just as soothing, and I can apply it just by spraying it (I'm super careful with anything near his eyes, of course), so I don't have to probe his cut with my fingers to put it on. Big thumbs-up on the Neo to Go spray!

I keep the Neosporin Pain Relief Ointment in the medicine cabinet at home with the band-aids, so I can apply that when I need to, too. The Rhino also had some cuts and scrapes on his knees from his wall-slamming basketball incident, and we used the regular ointment for those. They have some Neo to Go Ointment packs if you prefer the ointment, which are individual-use packs you can slip into your first-aid kit.

All of that applying ointment reminded me, as the good folks at Neosporin want to remind you, that there IS an expiration date on those topical antibiotic ointments that, according to a recent study, 40% of you have in your medicine cabinets, too.

You really do want to check to make sure that antibiotic stuff hasn't expired, so that you'll be ready now that it is (today, officially!) Spring, and the kids will be going outside more to play.

Do you know, when I went to put my new Neosporin ointment and Neosporin Neo to Go spray away, I found some tubes that had expired in 2005?

And that's with having the Rhino in the house and needing up-to-date supplies all the time, people!

Just for fun, why don't some of you check and tell me how old the oldest thing in your medicine cabinet is right now? Just leave a comment, don't be shy!

I proudly wrote this post as part of a Mom Central and Johnson's blog tour!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Announcing Our Contest Winners!

I just love giving stuff away! And today I get to do double duty, as we have two fun, fabulous DVD's from Disney we're awarding to two lucky commenters.

First up, the winner of our Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Edition DVD was....drumroll...Agatha Craxie! Agatha's extra entry, which she earned by subscribing to the blog, won this for her. Checking previous giveaways shows that it can really pay to be a subscriber.

Congrats, Agatha!

Next up, we have the winner of perhaps the cutest DVD giveaway ever, Disney's Bunnytown. I'm going to put up some more cute bunny stuff here, just because:

I just love the Superbunny!

Okay, the winner of our Bunnytown DVD (and by the way, all the contest winners are picked, as usual, by Random Integer Generator), is....is the suspense killing you, too?

Just kidding! The winner is JudyBrittle! Judy, by the way, is a former winner, who follows the blog as well. Again, those extra entries really help, people!

Congrats again, Judy!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fun Activities to Try With Your Kids today:

Little ones love holidays! Share the fun with them by explaining the real meaning behind the holiday, and then introduce to them the magical, mythical fairy creatures known as leprechauns.

Do they exist? Maybe.

Maybe a little prankster has even stopped by your house!

Here's how to tell: Are there mysterious traces of green glitter lying around? Gold coins? (often, just chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil--leprechauns don't want to give away their real treasure)? YOU MAY HAVE HAD A VISIT FROM A LEPRECHAUN!

Now Go Check your bathroom--oh no! The TOILET WATER IS GREEN!

See? That proves it! ; )

Elementary School Kids should dress in green, of course, so they don't get pinched!

Make the day extra-special with a touch of whimsy: serve Lucky Charms for breakfast, or whip up a batch of sugar cookies and sneak some in their lunch bag for a special school treat.

Consider celery and peanut butter for that afternoon snack to keep the green theme going, or serve some (surprisingly easy to make) Irish soda bread.

Teens and Tweens can help with dinner tonight, while you turn the meal into a teachable moment for the holiday.

As the kids help you fix some potatoes--referred to as "the root of all Irish food"--for tonight's meal, serve up a history lesson on the Irish Potato Famine, for a reason to give thanks over tonight's dinner.

For the main course, opt for this easy corned beef recipe over the traditional oven or crockpot version to save some time. Model healthy eating habits yourself by including a nice green salad on the side.

Reward them for all the hard work and "sacrifice" with a little non-alcoholic green beer with tonight's meal. Just offer Sprite or 7-Up with dinner (or for a healthier choice, a nice cool pitcher of lemonade).

Friday, March 13, 2009

Current by Discover debit card for Teens

I've never had a debit card. I was brought up on cash--in my parents' generation, if you couldn't afford to pay cash for something, you didn't buy it. Checks were for bills and the mortgage (I never even owned my own checkbook until I started teaching). Credit cards were for special purchases, like Christmas presents and family vacations, and even then they were always paid off at the end of the month. My parents were frugal with their money, and though we kids never wanted for anything, we knew that budgeting was important.

Nowadays, I rarely use the checks, since a lot of my billing is done online, and I find myself having a hard time getting used to the idea that, according to the Engineer, I should be using a credit card even for the small things (like fast food drive-thru windows), rather than cash. That's because we earn frequent flier miles on our credit card, and it keeps our credit rating high since we don't carry any debt (we still pay off the balance every month, just like our parents did, because it's just common sense).

So I wasn't sure how I would feel about a debit card that's designed for teenagers, like Current, the new debit card from Discover.

My main reason for considering it was because times have changed since my parents' days. We still all need to know how to budget, but now credit and debit cards should be part of that education. And the sooner kids learn how to handle their finances responsibly, the better, especially when you consider that they will be inheriting a less-than-desirable economy from all of us.

Why Current?

There's lots of pros behind the Current debit card for teens that made me consider it seriously.

Account Management Features: As a parent, these are really helpful features! You can set spending limits and track your teen’s spending through online statements, e-mail and text message alerts. I really like that modern approach of making the account so accessible online. You can also limit certain categories for spending--I'm not honestly sure what I would want to limit, but it's there if you need it.

Teens with part-time jobs can also can load their paychecks onto the card through direct deposit, just like their parents do with their own checking accounts.

Advanced Security Features: Current is protected by Discover’s $0 fraud liability. If anyone tries to use your teen's card without authorization, you (or your teen) are never responsible for those unauthorized charges – online, offline, anytime, anywhere. If your teen loses their Current cards or the cards are stolen, the cards will be temporarily suspended or deactivated, and your teen will be eligible for an emergency replacement.

Financial Education Resources: This is a biggie, of course. We all want our kids to be educated consumers, make good choices, save money, etc. They can learn how to spend smarter by logging onto the Account Center at CurrentbyDiscover.com. There they can view helpful articles on topics such as basic financial concepts, protecting themselves from identify theft (which is more and more important these days!), starting a savings program, and making their money go further.

Current by Discover Card, by the way, is also sponsoring a financial literacy program across high schools nationwide, called the Money Smarts Program, designed to help educate high school juniors and seniors on basic money management skills.

Meaningful Rewards: If you are a Discover card user yourself, you already know they offer rewards, like their Cashback Bonus. Current Card Teens are eligible for members-only in-store coupons and online discounts when they use their card at select restaurants, movie theaters and teen-friendly merchants. What’s more, parents earn Discover Cashback Bonus or Miles when they load their teen’s Current Card using their Discover Card. Woohoo! Definite plus.

Oh, and they have some cool designs for the cards, too--check out the image, below.

What's the Catch?

All of those features definitely fall on the Pro side when considering the Current Card.In fact, there's really only one negative, and that's this:

It costs money to use this card

Like I said, I don't have a debit card myself, so maybe charging for a debit card is expected, especially considering all the features offered, but the costs really do give me pause.

The costs are low--cardmembers pay a $5 monthly charge for each card (or save $10 by paying an annual fee of $50).

But they also only include four free ATM withdrawals per card per month, and I could see that being a problem. That's roughly once a week, which seems reasonable, but if a concert came up, or they decided to go see a movie, then the teens would be charged for using the ATM. That bothers me, charging them to access their own money.

Overall, there's a lot to consider when it comes to the Current debit card for teens. If you have a teen yourself, and you're considerig it, then in addition to my review, you'll probably want to check out the Current Card by Discover website to get all the details.

I'd love to hear your opinions--is this something you'd choose for your own teens? Leave your comments below (leaving a comment below means you'll also earn entries in my 2 latest giveaways--an extra entry to win the 70th Anniversary Edition of Pinocchio on DVD AND the Hello, Bunnies! Bunnytown DVD).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bunnytown Giveaway!

On 3/17, Disney is releasing the rollicking Playhouse series Bunnytown: Hello Bunnies!

And guess what? We're giving a copy away right now! That's right, you could win Bunnytown in our latest giveaway and have it sent out to you on the 17th, when the rest of the world will be scrambling to find a copy in stock at the store.

For any of you that don't know about Bunnytown--and I don't think there's many, because over in my groups at Babycenter (which is a terrific networking site for Moms), it's a big deal--here's what you can expect on the Hello, Bunnies! Bunnytown DVD:

Get ready to rock on down to BunnyTown a hip musical place where those adorable bunnies are always cuttin loose and cranking up the fun! Search for treasure and say Arrgghh with the wackiest crew of Pirate Bunnies to sail the seas, soar through the galaxy with Space Bunny, and so much more! You and your child will fall in love with the colorful characters, silly skits and groovy, original music combined with lessons about sharing and teamwork. Whether you re singing, dancing or laughing, Hello Bunnies! is a total blast from the first note to the last!

To enter the giveaway, which ends at midnight EST on 3/16 (so that I can get the DVD out to you on release day!), just leave a comment on this post about why you love Bunnytown!

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Win Disney's Pinocchio on DVD (70th Anniversary Edition!)

Once there was a puppeteer, who never had a son. He made a puppet so wondrous, so very-nearly perfect, that it was almost like a real boy.

But his puppet had a dream, too. The puppet wanted, more than anything, to actually be a real boy. So he made a wish, and a fairy came to visit him.

Along his journey to become a real boy, the puppet, whose name was Pinocchio, grew a conscience, learned why it is wrong to tell lies, skip school, and trust strangers, and that there is nothing so wonderful as a father's love for his son.


Such is the magical story of Pinocchio. We all know the story, and love it. And any Mom who has a son, and DOESN'T own a copy of Disney's iconic Pinocchio--well, that's just wrong! In fact, EVERY Mom should have a copy, whether she has boys of her own or not.

So, hey, how about we give you one? Today marks the release of the 70th Anniversary Edition DVD of Disney's Pinocchio, and Cool Moms Rule is giving one away!

Tell me, in a comment below, your favorite scene or song from Disney's Pinocchio, and you can win the 70th Anniversary Edition on DVD for your family!

For extra entries: subscribe to our feed, put my button on your blog, tweet or blog about this contest, and then leave a comment letting me know what you've done for each additional entry method you use.

That's all there is to it! Contest ends Wednesday, March 18th.

Good luck!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Review: Alyson Noel's Evermore

I've just finished reading a new book by Alyson Noel,an author I haven't read before, but who is really popular with the teens, and now I know why.

Evermore is the first book in Noel's new series, the Immortals, and it's really a compelling read. Here's the book trailer, to give you a taste of the concepts explored within her work:

I'll start my review by admitting that at first I wasn't so sure I would like this book, for a couple reasons.

First, let's put this right out there, since I am sure a lot of people have the same concern: I worried that Evermore was going to be really similar to Stephanie Meyers' Twilight series.

I've always loved the mythos of the whole vampire scene, and so I can appreciate some of the truly crazy popularity the Twilight books have generated--except that, having read all but the last one myself, I feel the books leave a lot to be desired. Don't get me wrong, I adore the character of Edward, and like a lot of fans I sloshed my way through the, "And then I ate a sandwich, and then I walked this way, and then I got in the car, and then I walked that way," narrative prose in the books, all those unnecessary and extraneous details that really should have been edited out, because that one character, Edward, is fantastic. But by the end of the series, as I said, I was loathe to read the final book, having gleaned from both the early reviews and my teen advisers that it was a hugely disappointing finish to a series that started out with so much promise. And when I saw the movie trailers, and what they did to Edward--well, I wasn't so keen to get drawn into all that again with a new series.

My second objection to the book was one that I still have a little trouble with: seriously, naming the lead character in a book about Immortals Ever? Could you hit me on the head with that hammer, again?

Thankfully, Noel's Evermore is a fresh and original work, which in no way borrows from the Twilight franchises but instead branches out to explore new ground.

The plot is deceptively simple: After Ever's family is killed in a tragic accident which leaves her the only survivor, Ever is "gifted" with strange powers that make her life a living hell: the ability to hear other's thoughts, deafening her until she drowns them out with her iPod playlists, as well as viewing their life auras.

Oh, and she has conversations with her dead sister.

Formerly popular Ever, in trying to distance herself from her former life, befriends perhaps the two other biggest "misfits" in school: openly gay Miles and the tragically gothic Haven, whose parents seem intent on ignoring her existence.

And then, Damen enters the picture--the new kid, the startlingly handsome, seemingly perfect guy who not only quiets the voices in Ever's head but who has no aura--and that's when the book really takes off.

Much of the book follows Ever through the grieving process as she tries to deal with both the loss of her family and her guilt over the accident which killed them, and her burgeoning relationship with Damen, who naturally is just full of secrets (but NOT what you think. Really. You need to read Evermore to find out who Damen really is).

Strong points in Evermore's favor:

I really found Ever's "gift" intriguing reading--the way she is overwhelmed by all the thoughts of those around her, as well as knowing the words to every book simply by touching it, and how she can see the actions of her teachers even when they are hiding in the bathroom with a flask, drowning out their own troubles.

I also approve of the way both Damen AND Ever are flawed, even damaged, people. Damen, for instance, makes a point of admitting he isn't so great when it comes to love and relationships. Ever matures as the book goes on, and I expect to see her grow stronger with each sequel--remember, this is just the first book in the series.

And I found the purposely dark and dramatic, sadly-ignored-by-her-parents Haven strangely compelling. Haven is someone I would like to get to know better. She is probably, next to Ever and Damen, the most interesting person in the book.

My biggest complaints about the book: Like I said, naming the lead character in a series about immortals Ever.

Also, wrapping up the Haven and Miles storylines with a tidy knot in the space of a few pages annoyed me, as I felt they deserved better than that. Haven, in particular, should not be pigeonholed so easily.

I would have enjoyed knowing much more about Damen's past--strangely, especially after lengthy tomes like Twilight, I felt that this book was too short in that respect.

And finally, I question the wisdom of giving Damen and Ever too many abilities, which, for me, detracts from the suspense the future of the Immortal series holds. I can't go into detail without giving too much of the storyline away, but I would have liked to have seen more vulnerability in these characters.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars, definitely recommended for the refreshing and innovative storyline (NOT just a Twilight clone) and the strong characterizations in the book.

Evermore left me wanting, well, more. I'm already looking forward to the sequel, Blue Moon.

Announcing Our Yoplait Winners!

We have three winners of our Yoplait giveaway, featuring a Yoplait bag, water bottle, note pad and coupons for Yoplait's new Yo Plus Acai Blueberry yogurt. For this contest, we asked each of you to leave a comment with one of your easiest fitness tips.

There were a total of 26 comments (that's a little light, all you subscribers need to get on the ball and make sure you don't miss a giveaway!), which means you all had better than a 10% chance to win--in other words, one in every nine comments was a winner!

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:

16 14 7

Timestamp: 2009-03-09 14:10:29 UTC

Comments 7, 14, and 16 were:

Kristinia - Loving Heart Mommy said...

I eat 6 small meals a day, instead of ending up over eating at breakfast, lunch ,and dinner. It tends to help and balances everything out!

Ellen C. said...

I am a subscriber.

sweetascandy579 at yahoo dot com

[Ed. note: Ellen earned an additional entry by subscibing to our feed, and as you can see, it paid off for her! Ellen's original comment, with her fitness tip: "I try to drink as much water during the day as possible and I walk. Thanks for the chance."]
And, finally,
techyone said...

I've been drinking more water. I have a bad habit of drinking alot of sodas so I'm cutting back.

Congratulations, Kristinia, Ellen C. and techyone!
I'm sending out the winning email notifications now--please reply with your shipping info to have your prizes sent directly to you!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bella Sara's New Treasures and Miniatures

Welcome to the world of Bella Sara, a magical place full of beauty and joy.

The Bella Sara horses come from a land known as North of North. Magical and intelligent, they want nothing more than to form a special bond of friendship with your daughters.

Oh, and to introduce you to their two new collections, too! ; )

Thanks to Team Mom, I've got a sneak peek at these collections, Miniatures and Treasures.

The Miniatures collection offers fans, for the first time, the opportunity to collect not just trading cards, but actual miniature figurines of the beautiful Bella Sara horses.

In addition to the new miniatures, there's also an eight series in the popular trading card line, Treasures. What's especially exciting about Treasures is, to celebrate the new trading cards, Bella Sara is running a contest just for kids.

Your little ones have the chance to win a Treasure Hunt Party, like a scavenger hunt with the Bella Sara horses as the stars, for themselves and their friends!

Check out the Bella Sara website for more info on these two new series, or head to your local Target store!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Exciting News! (And maybe even a special giveaway)

I'm so excited! I've gone to Google and taken the plunge.

I now officially (deep breath) own the Cool Moms Rule! domain name!

What does that mean to you?

Well, you may notice that when you go to our blog, you'll see in your address bar up at the top of your screen that Cool Moms Rule! doesn't have that .blogspot at the end. That's because, although I am still using the Blogger blogging platform through Google, I actually own the site name now--something I've been meaning to do for months.

Now, don't worry if you have us bookmarked, in your favorites, or if you are following us and have subscribed to our feed (and I hope you do all of that!), because anyone who goes to the http://coolmomsrule.blogspot address will still get to the blog, same as always, as Google is forwarding you all over to the new address now, to make this a seamless, painless process.

You'll still be getting those reviews and giveaways, I promise!

Why did I make this change? Well, I've been blogging here for long enough now that, like it or not, ya'll, I'm here to stay! And I want the name to be my name, since there are lots of blogs coming up now (and some of them even use the phrase "cool Mom" in them, too!). So I do want those rights to, you know, my own stuff I've published on the web.

Plus, honestly? I want to be able to have business cards and items I can give out that don't have a kajillion letters on them. Let's face it, "http://coolmomsrule.blogspot.com" is LONG, people!

Which means sometimes I couldn't have the blog name printed on items, because there are limits to how many characters you can print. It reminded me of being a kid, because before I was married, and still had my maiden name, it was so-o-o long that I hated having to write it on all my papers.

Luckily, when the Engineer came along? I was able to cut that last name in half, from ten letters to just five.

So now I can get those Cool Moms Rule! thumb drives, shirts, pens and the like that I've always wanted (and maybe we should have some giveaways of those, what do you think?).

Hey, you know what? That's a good idea. You are all my loyal readers, and you should benefit from this new step.

So please pop me a comment down here if you would be interested in some official Cool Moms Rule! merchandise. If there's enough interest, I'll get going on a really special giveaway for all of you!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Yoplait Review and Giveaway!

I apologize to all of you that were waiting for this giveaway--I had planned to have it up on the blog on Friday, but I got a little behind (actually, my behind is anything but little, but that's a story for another time).

So, you already know, if you read the blog regularly (which OF COURSE you all do, right? right? Anyone else hearing an echo around here?), I really love Yoplait yogurt. That's worth mentioning, because not all yogurts hit me just right--some of them, honestly, have the consistency of (well, I was going to say "snot", but that's indelicate, and this is a classy blog, so I'll go with) "skim milk" and are equally as tasteless, with only the calcium content to recommend them.

But Yoplait yogurt is creamy and it tastes good, and they have some healthy choices that have a lot more than calcium in them. For example, Yoplait's latest is their Yoplait Yo-Plus yogurt – Blueberry Acai. Blueberry Acai Yo-Plus is a delicious fruit-flavored yogurt with live and active probiotic cultures that help regulate your digestive health year-round. Yo-Plus also is a good source of fiber, vitamins A & D, and of course that calcium. You can find out more about Yo-Plus here, including how it works for your body's digestive health.

And, to get you started with your Yo-Plus, you can get coupons here for 1.50 off!

Yoplait Yo-Plus and BlogSpark are interested in your best tips for a healthy diet and lifestyle. That's why they've offered 3(!) giftbags for our readers.

Each Yo-Plus giftbag includes a Yoplait cooler tote bag, a coupon for a free 4-pack of Yo-Plus yogurt, a water bottle (this bottle is a BIG one, by the way) and a nutrition journal – great for keeping track of your health goals and eating habits!

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below sharing your personal tips on how to stay healthy and maintain a nutritional diet this year. You can enter once with each tip you provide.

Additional entries: Tweet or blog about this contest, subscribe to this blog, follow me on Blogger, or add my button to your site for an additional entry in this giveaway! Just leave a comment for each extra entry method you use, letting me know.

Contest ends midnight EST March 8, 2009.

Good luck!

Put 'Em on Ice--Moms Save with Disney!

Have you ever been to an ice show? If not, let me tell you that I was fortunate enough recently to attend one, and discovered they're a lot of fun, and one of the few entertainments the family can all enjoy together.

And when it comes to family entertainment, you know you never have to look any further than Disney!

Disney on Ice shows (and there are several different ones) feature your children's favorite Disney characters and songs, so that they can join right in and sing along, becoming a part of the action on the ice. You'll find all the colorful costumes, excitement, and action you'd expect from Disney in full force at their ice shows-- and even a little humor thrown in for the adults to enjoy as well.

Mom Central
asked me to invite you all to enjoy a special promotion for Disney on Ice shows across the country, available exclusively to Moms!

By entering the code MOM at select ticketing channels, you can save money and enjoy affordable entertainment at a Disney on Ice show near you!

Here's the specifics on the offers available to Moms:

Offer #1:
Get 4 tickets for just $44 by entering the code "MOM" at select ticketing channels*. Offer good on all performances, minimum purchase of 4 tickets required; additional tickets above 4 can be purchased at $11 each. Offer not valid on Gold Circle Seating, Front Row and VIP seating or combinable with other offers. Other restrictions may apply.

Offer #2:
A select amount of Front Row and VIP seats have been reserved for you to buy before they go on sale to the public! - just enter the code "MOM" when purchasing those seats.

Here are the select dates and cities where your family
can use the national MOM code:

Disney On Ice presents Mickey and Minnie's Magical Journey
April 15-April 19

Dallas/Ft Worth

Disney On Ice presents Mickey & Minnie's Magical Journey
March 18-March 29

Disney On Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy
March 26-April 5

Disney On Ice presents Worlds of Fantasy
March 18-March 22

Kansas City
Disney On Ice presents Mickey & Minnie's Magical Journey
April 1-April 5

Disney On Ice presents a Disneyland® Adventure
March 12-March 15

Disney On Ice presents a Disneyland® Adventure
April 9-April 12

Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years of Magic
Sept 8-Sept 13

P.S. Guess what?! Because they are owned by the same parent company, these MOM code offers can also be used to save on Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey® shows in select cities. Click here to find a show near you!
Cool Moms Rule! is in full compliance of the new FTC rules concerning Bloggers. I disclose on all posts where a product was received for free and/or if there was any kind of financial compensation involved.