Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween from Cool Moms Rule!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
So you don't have a fancy costume party to go to? 
We've got Halloween covered for you! 

  • Carve a pumpkin for the trick-or-treaters...and maybe WIN a copy of Lego Universe!  Use this simple stencil to turn your pumpkin into a Lego guy! Then follow 43KIXFL onTwitter and upload a pic of your pumpkin for a chance to WIN a copy of the game and a free one-month subscription. No time to carve? That's okay. Just text LEGOU as instructed below for another way to enter.



  • Save 30% at Macgamestore on digital downloads.  Just add any digital download to your cart and use this code (hold your breath for startingly cryptic code): HALLOWEEN at checkout!
  • Create some tasty treats: Pillsbury Brownie Bites "Lil Pumpkins"!


video

  • Enter the Nestle Family 2010 Holiday Sweepstakes!  You could win a trip to a Beaches resort! And there's new prizes every week, so be sure to come back weekly and enter again for more chances to win.
  • Turn yourself (or your kids, or your Facebook friends) into a zombie or a werewolf or other creepy creature with IMut8r for your iPhone (.99 at the App Store).  You might just want to make this your default profile pic. Or maybe not...



Above all, have a safe (and scary) Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Think Pink!

I promised you Pink, and here it is!

    In recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, MyJewelryBox.com is offering consumers some great pink inspired pieces for women to wear proudly and support the fight against breast cancer.

    Melange Perfume recently came out with an amazing Solid Perfume Palette Collection. And to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month this month, 20% of October sales from their Pink Floral Palette are being donated to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Inspired by the artists' palette, each Melange Perfume Blending Palette contains four solid perfumes in a magnetized black parchment kit with blending instructions. The Floral Palette contains:
    • Jasmine and Neroli
    • Casablanca Lily and Tuberose
    • Japanese Tea Rose and Sakura
    • Frangipani and Gardenia
    Palettes retails for $28; available at www.melangeperfume.com.

    This October, Wacoal continues their support of Susan G. Komen for the Cure® with a limited-edition Embrace Lace Underwire bra in flamingo, Awareness Seamless Underwire bra in deep jungle and b.tempt’d by Wacoal Coquette demi contour bra in Hot Pink.

    For every purchase of Embrace Lace, Awareness and Coquette bra styles through October, Wacoal will donate $2 to Susan G. Komen.

    In addition, the brand continues their Fit for the Cure events, where with every fitting $2 is donated to Susan G. Komen. And, for every purchase of bra or shapewear styles at a Fit for the Cure event, an additional $2 is donated.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Mammograms: Not So Scary After All

    Image from Wikimedia Commons
    So you may have noticed that I haven't been talking about how this month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month so far on the blog, or linking to any of the retailers with Pink items drawing attention to the issue.

    And here's why. I felt a little guilty doing this because I have never had a mammogram.

    Until today.

    I know, I know. Bad Viv!

    I'm 44, and I *know* that I should have had a baseline mammogram done years ago--by age 40 is the accepted recommendation these days, I think. But I told myself that since there is no history of breast cancer in my family, and since I do have other health issues going on, getting that first mammogram was not a top priority.

    This year, though, I realized I needed to bite the bullet and actually go and DO THIS. Because there's really no good excuse for waiting.

    So I did.

    And you know what? It wasn't bad at all.

    I don't know what I'd expected. I'd asked other women, and they had said that, yes, having your breast compressed in a machine is not exactly fun. I guess I thought it would be like those times when maybe you're hurrying to get something done, and not paying attention, and you run into, say, the corner of a desk, boobage hitting smack-dab into the desk corner while your body is still kinda halfway twisted to the side, and you get that sharp, stabbing pain that makes you see stars.

    I'm not the only one that does that, right? Anyone else klutzy enough to smoosh their boobs? Please say yes.

    But my mammogram was nothing like that.

    First, the woman who performed my mammogram, Liz, was super professional and told me exactly what to expect before we even got to the scary-looking machine.  She told me we would be taking a total of four images, 2 of each breast, one from the side and one straight-on.

    Liz also told me not to worry if I got a notice in the mail to come back for follow-up tests. According to Liz, about 75% of patients having their baseline mammogram, like I was, get called back in, and of course a lot of them are panicking.

    Because when you get that call, what are you thinking? "Cancer."

    But as Liz explained, baseline mammograms are examined really, really closely by the professionals. And what they are looking for are two breasts that are very nearly mirror images of each other. They're looking for symmetry.

    And most women aren't, by nature, symmetrical. We have differences in our breast tissue, not just one breast from another, but one woman from the next. And until we have a few mammograms, it's hard to know what constitutes 'normal' breast tissue for each of us.

    And since this was my first mammogram, the pros reading the images really had nothing to compare my breasts to except each other. So, unless I prove to be one of those lucky few with naturally symmetrical breast tissue, I could very likely get called in for more tests, which might include additional side images and even an ultrasound, just to be thorough.

    That was REALLY good to know. I could see myself panicking otherwise, when that notice came in the mail that I needed to follow up.

    Also, Liz was really good at her job. I did not feel any OMG breast-stabbing pain. Yes, there was pressure, but it was easily bearable. And she was very quick, and the images were perfect, so we didn't need to repeat anything.

    I also felt it was really cool that the machine flips itself sideways to take images of my breasts from the side. But then, I think technology is cool.

    The entire process, from taking off my blouse and bra and donning a poncho-like top with snaps at the neck, to answering a few questions about my medical history, and then finally the imaging itself, took less than 20 minutes.

    Easy-peasy. Much, much better than, say, going to the dentist.

    So, the moral to the story is: Don't be a wuss like me. Get your baseline mammogram ASAP!

    And now I can post some of those Pink deals for you all!

    Take your Trick or Treater to IHOP tomorrow morning for FREE pancakes!


    You may already know that, throughout October at participating locations, IHOP's Trick or Treat All-You-Can-Eat Buttermilk Pancakes are available a la carte or as part of a combo, which starts at $4.99 and begins with two, fluffy buttermilk pancakes, eggs any style, and golden hash browns (for a little bit more, you can add pork sausage links, crisp bacon or ham).  Pancakes are then served three at a time until you're satisfied. 

    But did you also know that, In observance of Halloween this year, IHOP’s famous Funny Face Pancakes turned Scary as IHOP introduced “design-your-own” Scary Face Pancakes for kids 12 and under?

    The Scary Face Pancake includes an oversized signature buttermilk pancake with a whipped topping mouth and strawberry nose, served with two mini OREO® cookies and candy corn on the side to allow kids to create their own Halloween hotcake.  The Scary Face Pancake is also being offered throughout October and, like all IHOP Kids menu items, is under 600 calories.  

    FREE Scary Face Pancake October 29th
    Even better, on Friday, October 29, IHOP will celebrate Halloween a little early and offer trick or treaters 12 and under a FREE Scary Face Pancake (one per child) from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. at participating locations!

    For more information or to find an IHOP restaurant near you, please visit www.ihop.com. Prices may vary by location.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    End of Days: YA Book Review


    Max Turner's first in this new series, the Night Runner, grabbed you from the first page and kept you turning, not wanting to put the book down. Protagonist Zach, a teen who has grown up in the Nicholls mental ward and (apparently) suffers from a strange disease, learns he is in fact a vampire, his father a vampire hunter, and that, as a child vampire, he is both the prey of his elders and, some day, doomed to succumb to end state psychosis, an affliction that renders those of his kind mindless fiends.

    So, pretty heavy stuff for a teenager.

    In the latest installment, End of Days, Turner takes Zach and his friends (who have also been turned) on another thrilling, life-threatening (yes, even for a vampire!) adventure. The teens face a mysterious killer, a rampaging behemoth gifted with incredible speed and strength, known to them as the End of Days.

    Zach also comes across a strange prophecy which may hold his fate in its cryptic message, deals with all the angst of a teen romance with his girlfriend, Luna, and tries to control the restless chaotic meanderings of his buddy Charlie.

    Oh, and did I mention that he gets arrested for the murder of a police officer?

    Viv's take:  The End of Days is another winner from high-school science teacher Max Turner. Full of action, it will keep kids and teens entertained while also passing on a few well-earned lessons (like learning to trust others and the importance of empathy). It's obvious that Turner really *gets* the kids he teaches, and his understanding translates well into the written word.


    I especially liked that the book manages not to come across as too "preachy" while still tossing in gems like, "Never underestimate the transformative power of pain and loss and time."  And what keeps that line from being over-the-top is the way it is delivered: by a prophet who tests Zach's mettle by challenging him to a Wii boxing game. You have to like the author's style.  


    Highly recommended. 


    Disclaimer: I received a promotional copy of this book to facilitate my review.

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Disney Store Online Contest-Enter Now!

    Disney and  Family.com want you to win a trip to the grand opening celebration of Disney Store’s Times Square, New York City location on November 9 and a starring role during the star-studded opening ceremony!

    And you have just days to enter.

    The Times Square opening will be celebrated with magical festivities including celebrity appearances, live musical performances, a parade of Disney’s most beloved characters and interactive experiences storewide. 

    Disney fans have just days to register online for the chance to win! 

    Join the fun in-person, win a $250 shopping spree, and your child could be taking the stage to turn the key to imagination and officially unlock the all-new Disney Store in Times Square.  

    The lucky winning family will also meet award winning singer Jordin Sparks during a private VIP reception after she performs Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” theme song, which she rerecorded to celebrate the 2010 release of the Blu-Ray and DVD.

    To participate, visit www.Family.com/sweeps/disney-store before October 26 and register for Family.com’s Disney Store Times Square Grand Opening Sweepstakes. 
    One lucky family of four will be notified on October 27 and then pack their bags for a 3-day/2-night trip to New York City (November 8-10). 

    See www.Family.com for complete details and official rules.
    The lucky winners will join VIPs, celebrities, tourists from around the world and New York guests in exploring the magical new store. Centerpieces include:
    • Two-story Disney Princess Castle complete with its “talking” Magic Mirror
    • Colorful Lucite trees spring up throughout the store, showcasing custom Disney content
    • Disney-Pixar CARS-branded Ridemakerz interactive custom car building experience
    • Disney Store Theatre that allows guests to customize their experience by selecting their favorite Disney film clips, videos, classic animation and more
    To find a Disney Store, visit www.DisneyStore.com/storelocator or call (866) 902-2798. You can also sign up for email alerts at www.DisneyStore.com/Updates, become a fan on www.facebook.com/DisneyStore or follow www.twitter.com/DisneyStore on Twitter! 

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    It Gets Better: Google Employees



    If you have something purple, please wear it today to show that you are against Anti-Gay Bullying.

    Thank you for supporting Spirit Day!

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Pillsbury Mini Brownies Save the Day!

    Yesterday, the Rhino decided to try to play soccer.

    I say "try" because he's had an injured tendon that means he's had to go to physical therapy, and he couldn't try out for the jr. varsity soccer team at school.


    But his summer league with his friends was having their second-to-last game, he was feeling okay and the PT guy said that as long as he iced it right afterward, his leg should be okay. This is a 6 v 6 league, so they have 8 players on the team.

    So! We talked to Coach, who was thrilled, as the Rhino is (and I know I sound biased as his Mom, but it's TRUE) the best player on the team, and Coach reminded us that there was a barbecue at his house after the game for the players.

    So of course we said, "What can we bring?"

    Which led to the frantic, last-minute, "we need a dessert that will feed 8 kids and their parents that can be ready to GO in less than an hour!"


    Enter Pillsbury's Brownie Minis.

    You HAVE to try these!

    These treats are SO easy to make, and they are FAST, which really fit the bill. Each mix comes complete with two baking trays, 2 pouches of mix for the brownie part and two packs of filling for the center.

    The trays will hold 6 Brownie Minis each, and that's how much each pouch and corresponding pack of filling makes.  So you can choose to make 6 or 12 at a time from each Brownie Minis package.

    We had the raspberry-filled and the caramel-filled mixes, so I decided to make both kinds for the soccer party. Since my kids like caramel more, I made 12 caramel-filled and 6 raspberry-filled.

    All you add to these packages, believe it or not, is water. That's it! So you also don't have to worry about having a lot of stuff on hand at the last minute.

    You do want to spray the trays with a cooking spray, though. I used Pillsbury's Baking Spray, which is flour and nonstick cooking spray all-in-one, and it worked beautifully.

    So, step 1, decide how many Brownie Minis you want to make and set your oven, then spray the baking pans provided.

    Next, mix up the water and brownie mix, and fill up the baking cups in the tray about a third full. This is important--do not overfill! You have just enough mix and no more, really.

    Then you add the filling. Again, you do have to be a little sparing on the filling. You have just enough and not any extra! Also, the caramel is a bit gloppy because, well, it's caramel after all, but that gives you an excuse to get some on your fingers and lick it off while you are cooking.

    Then top off the Brownie Minis with the remaining mix, place all the baking trays on a cookie sheet, and set them on the middle rack of your oven.

    One of the nicest things about these Brownie Minis now really comes into play--they only take about 15 minutes in the oven!

    You let them cool in the trays for just 10 more minutes, then pop them out of the trays. With the Pillsbury Baking Spray, they popped out with no problem. Nothing stuck or had to be "worked" at all to get them out of the baking cups.

    Here's how the Brownie Minis looked when they coame out of the oven:
    Raspberry-filled Brownie Minis

    Caramel-filled Brownie Minis

    Next, I decided to frost the caramel-filled Brownie Minis.

    This is really optional--they taste fine without any frosting--but I wanted to differentiate them from the raspberry-filled so everyone would know what they were getting, and also because I had...drumroll...Pillsbury Easy Frost No-Fuss  Frosting, in orange, which is their Halloween color.

    This was perfect to use on the Brownie Minis, because as you can see from that top picture, the Rhino's soccer uniforms are neon orange and super bright. You could find them in a blizzard in those jerseys. So orange frosting was definitely called for.

    Again, a key element here for my purposes was that it was FAST to use. I was on budgeted time before the soccer party, and The No-Fuss Frosting is just spritzed on top of whatever you've baked to give it that finished look, like cupcakes in a bakery have.  You don't have to be particularly skillful to quickly top off your dessert. I thought the Brownie Minis turned out really nice with the frosting on top.

    Here's a pic of the finished product. In the background, there, you can see the No-Fuss Frosting I used.

    Ta-Da! Brownie Minis for the soccer party,
    in record time!

    Viv's Take:  The Pillsbury Minis are Highly recommended! I loved how quick and easy this dessert was to put together, and the kids and parents at the soccer party gave my Brownie Minis the thumbs-up as well.  


    I would absolutely keep some of these mixes in my pantry for when I have unexpected company or another soccer party coming up.  They are small, and really just bite-sized, as you would expect from the name, so you would not *just* have these at a gathering, but they do make a fast, easy accompaniment to any gathering. 


    Again, I can't stress enough how EASY these were to make. I always worry that my brownies will be overcooked or too goopy in the middle, but these have filling inside and they just seemed to come out perfectly baked.


    I'd also recommend the Baking Spray without hesitation, as I have used it before and my baked goods, including cakes, never stick to the pan. 


    I loved how easy the No Fuss Frosting made frosting the cupcakes. I am not particularly fond of the taste (it's vanilla icing, rather than buttercream or chocolate, which I normally prefer), but a dollop on top of your dessert will give it that pretty, finished, bakery look.

    Disclaimer: I received complimentary packages of the Brownie Mini mixes in caramel and raspberry, the Pillsbury Baking Spray, and the Pillsbury No Fuss Frosting to facilitate this review. 

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Win a Macbook Pro with Tropicana Juicy Rewards!

    The folks over at Tropicana Juicy Rewards are running an amazing limited-time promotion –For one day only on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2010 (today!), Juicy Rewards members can enter for the chance to win a 13” MacBook® Pro!*

    For just four Juicy Rewards points, members and newly-registered members can visit www.tropicana.com to enter online for the chance to win. The offer ends at 11:59 pm CT on Oct. 7, 2010. 

    Just a reminder that there is no purchase necessary, but please remember to see the Official Rules for more details, including how to enter by mail.

    *Apple is not a participant in or sponsor of this promotion.  MacBook is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.  All rights reserved.

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Bibliovermis: Book Reviews with a Twist!


    A fellow Mefite, audacity, has created an unique book review site, and I like it a lot.

    What she's done is combine her original illustrations depicting the best and worst each book has to offer with brief reviews for a visual feast.

    Called Bibliovermis, and geared toward YA offerings so far (so let your tweens and teens know about it), the site is like brain candy and eye candy all put together.

    Go check it out!

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Paige O'Hara, the voice of Belle, on the making of Beauty and the Beast


    As I've said before on the blog, Belle is my favorite Disney princess!   I had a chance to meet the lovely Paige O'Hara (the voice of Belle) and have my picture taken with her in person on my recent trip to LA promoting the release of the Diamond Edition of Beauty and the Beast on Blu-ray and DVD (which, remember, comes out tomorrow! Get your coupon for $10 off from today's earlier post).

    If, like me, you'd look to learn more about Paige's experience voicing Belle, you'll enjoy this Question and Answer session with the star*:


    An Interview with Paige O’Hara, the voice of Belle,
    on being part of “Beauty and the Beast”


    Did they incorporate any of your features when they drew Belle?
    Oh yeah. The eyes and cheekbones and the way she raised her eyebrow and pushed her hair out of her face—that was me. Little things and expressions. When I looked at the wall, there were pictures of Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn up, and my little funny picture was there too. The fact that she wasn’t so perfectly beautiful made the film that much more successful. She is a little odd. Of course that’s the character and I identified with her. I was odd as a kid. I was into Gershwin. I definitely identified with Belle. More girls than not feel that way I think.

    How excited were you to be part of such a legendary Disney title?
    You know, Mary Poppins is my favorite film and I loved Bambi and all the other Disney animated films. I was always an artist as well so I appreciated the animation too. Playing Belle was a dream come true.

    The film won two Academy Awards. Tell me what it was like being there.
    Oh it was incredible. It is the only animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture so it holds that stature as well. I was really excited. We had heard rumors about the songs being nominated and there was a lot of discussion about celebrities performing our songs, but Mr. Eisner and Mr. Katzenberg insisted that the original artists get to sing their songs. That was really, really wonderful. It was the only time I sang with Angela Lansbury and Jerry Orbach. Angela introduced me at the Academy Awards. I remember we were backstage and of course I was going to be singing live which was scary so I was shaking. She was shaking too. She patted me on the butt and said if, “I had your voice, I wouldn’t be shaking. Don’t be nervous.”

    Paige poses with "The Beast"
    What else do you remember about the experience?
    It was fun being a part of the parties. Honestly, the worst part about the Oscars was that I didn’t like my dress—the one I performed in. They told the designer to put me in blue and it was this blue and white dress that looked more like Bo Peep or Dorothy. It was way too frilly and not very “Belle-y.” It was a checkerboard pattern. I had to perform in that dress, but afterwards I got to change into a beautiful Bob Mackie teal green gown. I even made one magazine’s Top 3 Best Dressed list!

    You won a Grammy for a song from “Beauty and the Beast’s Children Singalong” too. What was that like?
    It was incredible. Of course it won Best Children’s Album, which is the Grammy I have on my wall. The whole ride has been phenomenal. I am still recording as Belle all the time…CD ROMs and toys. I was just in the studio recording Belle the other day. 99% of the time I record in a studio here in Vegas. They patch me in over the phone.

    You are now painting original pieces of art for Disney based on some of your favorite moments from the film. Can you tell me about that?
    I’ve always painted, since I was a little girl. I was drawn to Turner and Sargant and da Vinci. When they asked me about it, I thought why not? It would be kind of fun to show my version of Belle and stay as true as possible to the animators. I wanted to create moments to take them to a different level. Over the last year and a half, I’ll paint something and send it in and get comments and then make the changes and fix it and send it back. Three of the 8 were approved outright without changing anything.

    What form of painting do you do?
    Water mixed with oils. It is an oil texture but water-based and there’s only one company that puts the paints out. It takes a lot longer to dry than acrylics but it feels like oil paint without the smell. Most of the other Disney artists do watercolor or acrylics.

    Have you painted your favorite scene, the one in the snow?
    Ironically I have painted that scene 15 times and I haven’t submitted it because it’s just not good enough. That’s one I am still going to work on. I’d love to do the Beast with the little bird.

    You’ve played Fantine in “Les Miserables”, Nellie Forbush in “South Pacific” and Ellie May Chipley in “Showboat” on Broadway—all of whom are beloved characters. How does voicing Belle compare?
    Well it’s totally different, performing on stage, versus doing Belle on film. You use totally different chops as they say. I love the live audience, but I don’t know, I have a softness for Belle because she is the closest to me as I was as a young girl.

    BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: Diamond Edition Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack is Available October 5th!

    *This is not my interview with Paige! It's put out by Disney.

    I was flown out at Disney's expense to attend their Blogger Day in LA last month, and met Paige O'Hara during the farewell dinner for this event.

    Save $10 on Beauty and the Beast, the Diamond Edition!

    Click the pic to print your coupon!

    Are You Pillsbury People? You could win a $10,000 kitchen makeover!

    I always love getting a package in the mail, and last week I opened up a box that really had me smiling. 

    It was full of Pillsbury products! 

    I have such a sweet tooth; it really is a weakness of mine, and one of the reasons I was especially pleased to see that included in the box were some new, sugar-free selections from Pillsbury.  Reviews for these, as well as some other tasty treats (mini-brownies filled with raspberry or caramel! Yum!) are coming up soon.

    Because I think everyone really does have a bit of a sweet tooth and a favorite sweet treat, I wanted to share  the Pillsbury® People Essay Contest with you.  
    Not only is it a fun contest that lets you share your favorite recipes, but you have a chance to win a $10,000 kitchen makeover by simply indulging in your favorite home-baked desserts and sharing your story with Pillsbury!

    From now through December 20, 2010, fans of Pillsbury Baking Mixes, Frostings and Flours are asked to submit a short story on www.PillsburyBaking.com about why they love baking and why they consider themselves Pillsbury People. 

    One lucky person will win $10,000 towards a kitchen makeover. 

    Additionally, three runners-up will receive a digital camera and a Pillsbury Gift Basket with Pillsbury Baking products and branded items.

    And of course, everyone who visits the site will find fabulous recipes, just in time for holiday baking!
    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.