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Take a Guided Tour Through China’s Forbidden City

Posted on Oct 23, 2014 by No Comments

In the Forbidden City tells the story of one of China’s most famous landmarks.

Guided by a mischievous cat, young readers go on a tour of the classic architectural structure in the center of Beijing that was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty.

Along the way, they encounter emperors, empresses, rebel leaders, and others who provide exciting tales about what it was like to live in the palace that was home to 24 different emperors.

In the Forbidden City is written by Chiu Kwong-chiu, an artist, designer, and professor who is dedicated to finding innovative ways to promote Chinese art and culture. He founded the CnC Design and Cultural Studies Workshop in Hong Kong, where he provides guidance and leadership to those who are studying both traditional and contemporary Chinese culture.

My favorite part of this book is that great care has been taken to encourage children to interact with the story. There is a plastic magnifying glass included to allow careful examination of the detailed black and white illustrations — which are essentially a more sophisticated version of the popular “Where’s Waldo?” pictures.

Several pages also fold out to give kids a better grasp of the size of the Forbidden City. However, I wish that the text itself was a bit larger. My eyesight is notoriously bad and I have to squint to be able to make out some of the type.

In the Forbidden City is recommended for children ages 9 and up. Even though it is sized like a children’s picture book, the text is quite detailed and the intricate illustrations are designed to appeal to older children.

Younger children might enjoy using the book’s plastic magnifying glass to look at the illustrations, but I think the text would be above the comprehension level of most.

You can purchase In the Forbidden City on Amazon for $13.46.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Amazon

Charles Viancin Makes Holiday Entertaining a Breeze

Posted on Oct 22, 2014 by No Comments

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about what recipes you’ll be serving to friends and family.

One kitchen accessory that you’ll love for entertaining is the Winterberry Collection from Charles Viancin. A noted French designer and entreprenuener, Viancin specializes in nature-inspired products for your kitchen that are both fun and functional.

ihwx.16535a72-6e1d-45fa-8051-bcb0fabc6b2e.500.500These BPA-free, food-grade reusable silicone lids, drink covers, and bottle stoppers were created as an attractive and eco-friendly alternative to plastic wrap and aluminum foil.

The lids are microwave, oven, dishwasher, and refrigerator safe. Prices range from $1.99 to $18.99 and all items are designed to coordinate with products from the company’s popular Poppy collection.

The designs make this a great idea for entertaining, especially if you have a buffet table where people might be nibbling on goodies for several hours at a time.

Heat stays locked in and your table looks super attractive in the process. You can also feel good about knowing that you’re not contributed to landfill waste by going through rolls and rolls of plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

The airtight and watertight seal prevents spills and can be used with metal, glass, or plastic bowls, pans, or casserole dishes.

My family uses our lids on fairly regular basis to discourage our frisky gray kitty cat from trying to nibble on our meals. (If seasonal designs aren’t your thing, I think their Hibiscus lids are gorgeous for everyday use.)

Visit the Charles Viancin website to learn more.

Disclaimer: Product samples were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of preparing this review.

Photo credit: Charles Viancin

Amazon Introduces Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet

Posted on Oct 21, 2014 by No Comments

If your child has been begging for a Kindle, but you’ve been worried he or she isn’t responsible enough to handle a tablet without breaking it, Amazon’s latest offering is just what you need.

The Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet retails for $149 with a six inch display or $189 with a seven inch display. It comes with a blue, green, or pink kid-proof case to guard against damage.

It’s a real tablet with all the power you’d expect from a Kindle, plus a two-year worry free guarantee. No matter what your child does to break it in a two-year time span, Amazon will replace it with no questions asked!

The Kindle Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet also comes with a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, which provides kids with unlimited access to over 5,000 kid-friendly books, games, movies, and educational apps. Built-in parental controls let you set screen time limits and ensure that your child is only accessing age-appropriate content.

I have one of the older Kindle Fire models and my son loves it. He’s finally at the age where I can trust him not to drop it, but I was really worried about letting him play with it when he was younger.

I can definitely see the appeal of a tablet with a kid-proof case and a two-year guarantee against breakage. If something were to happen to our current model, I’m fairly certain I’d replace it with one of these.

Visit Amazon for the complete technical details or to place your order.

What do you think of Amazon’s latest offering? Will you be splurging on one for your child?

Photo credit: Amazon

DLYTE Offers a New Way to Streamline Your Holiday Shopping

Posted on Oct 20, 2014 by No Comments

If you’re planning to purchase gift cards this holiday season, DLYTE can help you make the most of your dollar. This new site aims to change the nature of the retail gift card industry by offering multiple reward options.

The site is the brainchild of CEO Barry Shore, a successful entrepreneur whose 30 years in the internet and gift card business has netted several lucrative ventures.

DLYTE gives shoppers the choice of how they want to use their incentives and rewards. You purchase gift cards at full face value and receive cash backed redeemable DLYTE points that can be donated to your favorite charitable cause, redeemed for free gift cards, or saved up for future use.

Every 400 points you earn equal $1 towards your purchase or donation. There is no limit to the amount of points you can earn, but each brand has a different point structure. You can also earn points for activities such as video posting and social sharing.

Additionally, everyone is eligible to win additional gifts and prizes from DLYTE just by nature of being registered on the site.

Some of the gift cards available on the site include:

  • Amazon
  • Best Buy
  • CVS
  • Home Depot
  • Bloomingdales
  • Chili’s
  • Clarion Suites
  • Choice Hotels
  • Kmart
  • Kohls
  • Lowes
  • Neiman Marcus

Gift cards can be purchased in several different denominations, so it’s easy to find something that fits your budget. For more information, visit www.DLYTE.com.

I don’t buy a lot of gift cards for the holidays because I find them a bit impersonal. However, I do like the idea of being able to earn extra rewards through DLYTE. I may buy some gift cards to keep on hand as a budgeting tool, especially since all my favorite stores seem to be well represented on the site.

What do you think of DLYTE?

Photo credit: DLYTE

Rubbermaid LunchBlox System Makes It Easy to Pack Great Tasting School Lunches

Posted on Oct 17, 2014 by No Comments

Packing lunches for school can be a great way to save money while ensuring your child eats well, but many lunch boxes are not big enough for everything hungry tweens and teens want to eat.

If you’re looking for a generously sized lunch bag for your child, the Rubbermaid LunchBlox system is an excellent choice.

The system includes modular containers that snap together in multiple configurations to most efficiently use the space in your lunch bag.

There is space for a water bottle on the side of the bag and a mesh pocket to use for holding silverware and napkins. There is a salad kit and an entree kit, both of which are microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe.

The entree kit includes two snack containers with a .5 cup capacity, two side container with a 1.2 cup capacity, and a sandwich container with a 2.6 cup capacity. The salad container has a 5.2 cup capacity with a toppings tray and 1.8 ounce dressing container.

Both sets also include a flat blue ice pack to ensure that food stays cold until it’s time to eat. The kits and bags are sold separately.

Since my son hates to have his food touching, I love the concept behind this system. However, it seems like a fairly large investment to purchase all of the containers as well as the specially designed lunch bag.

Rubbermaid says that the containers will work with other lunch bags, but there are several reviews on the Rubbermaid website saying that it is very difficult to find a bag that will work with the system.

Visit the Rubbermaid website to learn more or to purchase components to the LunchBlox system.

Photo credit: Rubbermaid

Thank Your Child’s Teacher with a Kit from Green ABCs

Posted on Oct 16, 2014 by No Comments

Forbes recently reported that teachers spent an average of $513 of their own earnings on classroom materials and supplies during the 2013-2014 school year.

National Education Week is November 16-22. If you’re looking for a way to show your child’s teacher how much you appreciate all that he or she does during the year, a teacher’s kit from Green ABCs is an excellent choice.

Green ABCs specializes in kits filled with affordable and eco-friendly school supplies. All of the items in their teacher’s kits are made from recycled materials, renewable resources, and innovations in biodegradability.

The elementary teacher’s kit includes a variety of classroom supplies, as well as extra items to share with students who may not have access to the materials they need to learn.

It includes:

  • 5 Marble Composition Books, 100ct, wide-ruled, from recycled paper
  • 10 Folders, 2-pockets, oxo-biodegradable plastic, (assorted: red, blue, green, yellow, black)
  • 2 Boxes of #2 Pencils, 10 per box, from recycled material
  • 1 Ream of Copy Paper, 8.5″ x 11″, 500 sheets, from recycled paper
  • 12 Ballpoint Pens, Assorted Red, Blue, Black Ink, from recycled plastic
  • 2 Pairs of Scissors, 5″ round tip, corn plastic handles
  • 1 Pair of Scissors, 6.75″ pointed tip, corn plastic handles
  • 1 Roll of Tape, with dispenser, from plant-based materials
  • 2 Boxes of Crayons, Soy-based, 24-pack
  • 1 Pad of Construction Paper, 9″ x 12″, 48 sheets, from recycled paper
  • 2 3-ring Binders, 1″, with elastic closure, oxo-biodegradable plastic
  • 2 Bottles of White Glue, from natural ingredients
  • 5 Sticks of Glue, from natural ingredients
  • 1 Ruler 12″/30cm, from bamboo
  • 1 Calculator, 8 digit solar powered, from recycled plastic
  • 4 Highlighters, fine-tip, from recycled plastic
  • 2 Black Permanent Markers, from recycled plastic with non-toxic ink

Many of the items in the kit are made by Onyx + Green, a company dedicated to providing quality eco-friendly school, home, and office supplies.

I was greatly impressed by how durable these items seem. The Onyx + Green bamboo ruler is a huge step up from the cheap plastic rulers I normally buy for my son. The biodegradable plastic used for the binders and folders won’t bend or tear no matter how rough kids are with it. The scissors cut nicely and feel substantial in your hands.

Visit the Green ABCs website to learn more about their teacher’s kits, as well as their classroom kits and general student kits.

If your budget is minimal, please consider pooling together class donations to purchase a kit as a teacher gift. The average elementary class has about 20 students, so even a $5 donation from each parent would be enough to purchase a kit plus a Starbucks or Barnes & Noble gift card.

Disclaimer: Product samples were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of preparing this review.  

Photo credit: Green ABCs

BarkTHINS Are a Tasty Halloween Treat for Mom

Posted on Oct 15, 2014 by No Comments

Is your favorite part of Halloween sampling your child’s treats after he goes to bed? If so, you need to splurge on a bag or two of barkTHINS for yourself. I guarantee that barkTHINS are much better than anything you’ll find in your child’s plastic jack-o’-lantern!

Their new Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed flavor is absolutely amazing. I’m normally not a fan of pumpkin as the “go-to” fall flavor for everything, but the pumpkin seeds in this snacking chocolate add just the right amount of salty crunch to a rich and decadent treat.

The thin slivers of chocolate snap apart easily, so you can treat yourself to just the perfect portion or share a bite with your significant other if you’re feeling generous.

I like to keep some by my desk to satisfy those mid-day chocolate cravings, but it’s also really tasty with popcorn if you’re planning a Netflix date night.

Like all other barkTHINS flavors, the Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed flavor is made with Fair Trade Certified ingredients and has earned the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. So, you can feel good about treating yourself to a tasty snack — as long as you don’t blow your diet by eating the entire bag in one sitting!

Visit the barkTHINS website to learn more about the company’s products or to find out where to purchase barkTHINS in your area.

Are you a barkTHINS fan? If so, what is your favorite flavor of snacking chocolate?

Disclaimer: Product samples were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of preparing this review.

Photo credit: barkTHINS

Wild Birds Unlimited Bird Seed Cylinders Are a Great Gift for any Nature Lover

Posted on Oct 14, 2014 by No Comments

If you’re looking for a unique yet affordable gift idea for the nature lover in your life, Wild Birds Unlimited offers a selection of charming bird seed cylinders that are sure to provide hours of bird watching enjoyment.

catsAvailable designs include:

  • Hoot the Owl
  • Preston the Penguin
  • Buttons the Snowman
  • Rascal the Raccoon
  • Pip the Black Cat
  • Sugar the Calico Cat

Each bird seed cylinder is made with several different of seeds and fruits to attract a wide range of birds to your backyard. For example, Rascal the Raccoon is made from peanuts and sunflower chips on his body with a face and ears made from canola. His eyes are made from apples and blueberries, while his nose is a cherry and his feet are prunes.

These bird seed characters are amazingly detailed. When I placed Pip the Black Cat in my front lawn, my neighbor thought it was a Halloween decoration! She was intrigued to discover that it was actually made entirely of food for the birds!

My mom, who is an avid birdwatcher as well, said she thought the design was a clever way to package a wide range of food for the birds.

The decorative bird seed cylinders are made in the USA and available exclusively at Wild Birds Unlimited.

They would be wonderful holiday gifts for grandparents, teachers, daycare providers, and other special people who want to enjoy bird watching all winter long and aren’t wild about the idea of getting yet another knick-knack to dust.

If desired, you could even include a suitable bird feeder and/or a book about bird watching.

Disclaimer: Product samples were provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of preparing this review.  

Photo credit: Wild Birds Unlimited

Rome Cosmetics Organizer Keeps Your Makeup Neat and Tidy

Posted on Oct 13, 2014 by No Comments

Do you have trouble finding all your makeup in the morning? If so, it might be time to organize your collection with the Rome cosmetics organizer.

Most cosmetics organizers that I’ve seen are made from plastic and not very attractive. However, this organizer looks like something you’d be proud to display in your own home.

The medium finish oak box features a top compartment with a clear acrylic divider that keeps makeup brushes, concealer, lipsticks, and other items neatly organized, but can be removed for easy cleaning.

There is also a felt lined bottom drawer for accessories or jewelry that you wear on a regular basis. The organizer measures 10″ W x 6-1/2″ D x 6-1/2″ H.

The only potential downside I see to this product is that it’s fairly small. If you keep lots of products on hand to experiment with or have a fairly complicated everyday makeup routine, it might not be big enough to handle everything you need.

However, if you normally stick to a few basic products, it should be more than sufficient. (You should also keep in mind that makeup does eventually expire. Holding on to out-of-date old lipstick and eyeshadow is an easy way to transfer nasty bacteria to your skin! Visit About Makeup for a listing of when to toss your products.)

You can purchase the Rome cosmetic organizer on the Improvements Catalog website for $39.99. If you don’t need one for yourself, this would make a great gift for your mother, sister, or any female friends!

What do you think of this makeup organizer? Would it keep your bathroom clutter under control?

Photo credit: Improvements Catalog