Friday, July 25, 2014

Once You Shop, You Can't Stop: Shopkins {Review & Giveaway}

Shopkins logo
Why is it that things that are smaller are always so much cuter than their larger counterparts?

Hold up a pair of my shoes and they're nothing special. But a miniature pair for a baby? Behold the cuteness! And has anyone ever successfully not awwwww'd at seeing a puppy? Plus, c'mon. An itty bitty little decorated cake would definitely pass as cuter than a large one (although I'd eat either, of course).

In the world of toys, the introduction of a new brand that takes its creative, colorful and fun products on a very small-scale manages to thrill kids in the same way. A race car is a race car until it is adorably tiny. And pretend food is pretend food until it is turned into miniscule characters that are perfect for imagining and playing. Then it is Shopkins!

shopkins toys

Newly released from Moose Toys (creators of Trash Pack, Glitzi Globes, Gelarti and many more), Shopkins are a collection of 148 grocery store-themed characters that are perfect for playing, collecting, sharing and trading.

From fruits & vegetables to health & beauty to frozen foods, there is a category of Shopkins to represent just about every aspect, aisle and item offered at your local supermarket. Combine that uniqueness with their sweet little faces and cute little hands and feet and it really isn't a wonder that these have been a hit ever since they arrived and we were able to share them with our friends.

Shopkins

With all of these charming little guys waiting to play, it was time for a Shopkins Summer Playdate!

Seeing as Shopkins need no introductions or instructions, we were able to easily set up our Shopkins Small Mart and Shopkins Fruit & Veg Stand before our friends arrived...

Shopkins Small Mart
 Shopkins Fruit & Veg

...at which time the girls wasted no time in opening many of the other packs and starting to play. Unsurprisingly, the kids all loved them!

Shopkins sets

Creativity is truly encouraged with Shopkins, as there really is no limit to what the girls did and played with these little characters. Whether displayed, checkout out and sold at one of the playsets, sent sliding down the delivery chute, pushed around in the shopping cart, neatly bagged to be brought home, "juiced" into crazy concoctions ("Have you ever tried donut-yogurt juice? Yum!"), or much, much more, everyone was able to throw out their imaginative ideas and contribute in a fun way!

As well as promoting and facilitating group play, however, I noticed that Shopkins are easily played with individually as well and can also be enhanced with all sorts of other toys. One of our guests brought over Barbie to do some shopping, two sat down later with a bin of Little People and included them in a variety of tales, a group of Shopkins made a trip to our dollhouse... there was endless ingenuity and inspiration!

Shopkins playsets

Along with simply playing with Shopkins, the addition of a Collector's Guide makes it even more fun when it comes to amassing them. As each pack was opened, the little characters were compared to the guide to find out the humorous names (e.g. Bread Head, Lolli Poppins, Polly Polish and Cool Cube) and how common, rare or ultra rare they were.

Shopkins collections

In the weeks that have followed since our playdate, my daughters have still been just as excited each time they have opened a new package of Shopkins to see which ones are inside. In the 12-pack, 10 of the Shopkins are seen through the plastic but two are hidden completely from view to heighten the anticipation!

Shopkins review

Available now in 12-packs, 5-packs, playsets and accessories, Shopkins are sold at Target, Toys 'R' Us or on Amazon at very affordable prices (approximately $9.99 to $19.99). These are definitely original, gender neutral, very collectible and a lot of fun!

Find out much more about this great line of toys on Facebook and by visiting ShopkinsWorld.com, where you'll not only find miniature cuteness, but a whole Party Pack of invitations, cupcake wrappers, gift tags, place cards and more so that you can throw your own awesome Shopkins Summer Playdate!

Shopkins party

Plus, thanks to the generosity of Moose Toys, one person will be on their way to seeing just how much joy and imagination Shopkins can provide, because...

One lucky person will win a Shopkins Small Mart Playset, a Bakery or Fruit & Veg Stand Playset and a 12-Pack of Shopkins (total ARV $45)!

Shopkins giveaway


A big thank you to Moose Toys for providing Shopkins products for me to review and host a playdate as well as three Shopkins products for one lucky giveaway winner. The opinions shared are my own and honest and if you really need to see more, click here to see how I roll.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Nail Polish Will Never Be the Same: Hot Designs 2-in-1 Nail Art Pens {Review & Giveaway}

Hot Designs logo
When it comes to all things girly, my daughters' likes and dislikes cover the full spectrum... and seem to vary day by day.

Whereas one day Big Sister E only wants to play with trucks and can't be forced into a dress, the following morning she'll come downstairs in a complete fairy princess outfit and act as if nothing has changed. Ah, to be a kid again!

However, one aspect of girldom that she and Little Sister B have always been completely enamored with is fingernail polish. They've spent years noticing as soon as my toenails or fingernails changed color and would brush their fingers over the paint with their eyes wide as they patiently waited for their turn with the polish.

But... let's face it. In their minds, their completed fingernails were going to look something like this.

nail art
Sources: owl, diagonal, flower, leopard

Um, right. I once managed somewhat-decent polka dots using a toothpick, but even those ended up being a bit misshapen and splotchy.

So, other than bringing my girls into the salon with me to get manicures and pedicures from professionals, it seemed that we were destined to have plain, one-color painted nails forever on.

And then we were introduced to Hot Designs and everything we knew about nail polish was changed.

nail pens

Innovative and colorful 2-in-1 pens, Hot Designs have two colors of polish in each one. However, as well as unscrewing the top to find a traditional nail polish brush, users can also pop off the top to discover a fine-tipped pen that is perfect for designs, drawing, detailing and more.

I may be behind the times in that I had never tried any sort of nail pen before, but the fact that Hot Designs includes both the brush and the pen tip struck me as completely genius. No more plain nails when these would make it so easy to add on lines, dots, letters, shapes and much more — the sky's the limit!

Hot Designs are available in two sets, Basic Beauty (Midnight Black/Royal Blue, Kelly Green/Red Flame, Hot Pink/Star White) and Glitz & Glam (Sparkling Silver/Paradise Pink, Purple Pizzazz/Lemon Yellow, Crushed Berry/Hot Orange), and, when the latter arrived, it was definitely time to turn up the skill on our manis and pedis.

Hot Designs Nail Art Pens

These really couldn't be much easier!

Right out of the package it was simple to understand the concept of twisting off the cap for the brush versus popping off the cap for the pen tip...

Hot Designs review

...and then it was time to start painting!

Along with some helpful instructions for how to best use these pens, Hot Designs includes two cleaning pins in the event that the metal tip of the pen gets clogged as well as a whole slew of fun design ideas.

nail art designs

While my girls did have to control their impatience while they waited for one color to dry before another could be applied, the entire process of using Hot Designs has been extremely easy and a lot of fun!

nail art

Whether following one of the provided designs or making up our own (although I'm clearly far from being a professional), I don't know how we'll ever go back to "plain" nails again!

fingernail art

Summer means colorful mani-pedis and Hot Designs Nail Art Pens are an extremely fun and affordable (approximately $15) way to turn traditional nail polish into creative, artistic fun! Or, if painting your nails isn't your thing, these pens could easily get double usage for any number of DIY crafts!

Find out more about Hot Designs by visiting their website and be sure to check them out on Facebook where you'll find even more great nail inspiration and a variety of how-to videos.

But there's more! Right now Hot Designs is giving fans the chance to win the ultimate beach package including a $250 Target gift card in their #WinHotLooks Contest!

WinHotLooks contest

Simply head over to GetHotLooks.com/contest by August 15th and submit a selfie of your summer style using the hashtag #WinHotLooks — you can enter once each day! Be sure to tag @GetHotLooks on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, or @Get_Hot_Looks on Instagram and you'll be entered to win the awesome summer beach bundle grand prize as well as Hot Designs that are being given away daily.

Are you ready to show off your own hot looks? Thanks to the generosity of Hot Designs, one person will be prepared to do just that, because...

One lucky person will win their choice of Basic Beauty or Glitz & Glam Nail Art Pens from Hot Designs!



A big thank you to Hot Designs for providing Nail Art Pens for me to review as well as for one lucky giveaway winner. The opinions shared are my own and honest and if you really need to see more, click here to see how I roll.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy Sweet 16th Birthday to the Groovy Girls!

Groovy Girls logo
With two girls in the house, we're no strangers to the world of dolls.

However, it's no small stretch to say that there are some collections that... don't always portray the most positive messages. Whether it is in the design or the clothing or the name, there are simply some lines of dolls that even I (with my very relaxed parenting style) don't want around.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are amazing, inspiring, innocent dolls that are filled with imagination, personality and pizzazz. These are the dolls that are motivating, vibrant and encouraging to their young owners, passing along the message that all girls are unique and special and perfect just the way that they are.

Which is why we couldn't have been more excited to help celebrate the 16th birthday of the beloved Groovy Girls, a soft 16-inch doll line from The Manhattan Toy Company that embodies everything positive and wonderful about dolls.

Groovy Girls

An award-winning family of colorful, soft dolls, Groovy Girls have their own individual fashions (of clothing, hair, accessories and more) to show their focus on personal style, diversity and the power of friendship. Since the brand's introduction in 1998, Groovy Girls has become one of the most popular toys for girls worldwide.

But more than simply a line of dolls showcasing a variety of hairstyles, hip outfits and skin tones, Groovy Girls has a compelling message behind each and every funky, fun look. The way that the brand encourages a girl's sense of self-identity and individualism and validates that all girls are important in the world is, without a doubt, a major factor in why parents and kids have embraced these dolls for the past 16 years!

Groovy Girls doll
Whether the little girl in your life prefers bright, hip and trendy or opts for characters that are frilly, princess girly, there is sure to be one (or more) Groovy Girls to light up her life. What better gift than one that will appeal to the fun and love of dolls while also encouraging individualism, confidence and imagination?

With that in mind, it was time to hold a Groovy Girls Sweet 16 Birthday Party to celebrate just how much fun and laughter these dolls have brought to generation after generation!

Groovy Girls party setup

The combination of an adorable selection of Groovy Girls dolls, the Royally Ritzy Bed, the Totally Tentastic tent, Groovy Girls Sparkletastic Jewelry kits for everyone, and some colorful, tasty snacks had my 5-year-old hostess extremely excited for the party to begin (not to mention the two week countdown that we had done leading up to the day).

When are my friends getting here? Soon!

Did you see this doll? I LOVE this one! This one, too! Yes, I saw them. Do you know which one is my favorite? ALL OF THEM.

I can't wait to play!! Can I start playing with them? Can I eat a cupcake? Did you see the shoes on this one? They're really cool!

doll birthday party

I believe awesome is the word you're looking for?

While I had some initial worry that as our young guests arrived that there would be controversy over who was able to play with a particular favorite doll, but it turned out that all of the girls loved all of the Groovy Girls, so there wasn't even a hint of tension or disappointment.

Instead, the girls immediately dove into playing with their new dolls and proceeded to incorporate them into all kinds of indoor and outdoor play!

The Groovy Girls, Royally Ritzy Bed and Totally Tentastic tent were part of numerous inventive, imaginative stories...

Groovy Girls play

...the dolls came along when the girls paused to munch on snacks...

party snacks

...the dolls had high-flying adventures jumping on our trampoline, as their soft bodies can be hugged close, tossed up high and more without worry of injury or breakage...

trampoline party

...and the dolls even took part in the fun of the Design Your Own creativity kits (although they tried to avoid as much of the glitter as they could).

Although none of our party guests could create quite as detailed jewelry as shown on the Groovy Girls Sparkletastic Jewelry box covers, they still had such a great time being creative with these kits! The shiny gems, the tubes of sparkly glitter and the there's-no-wrong-way-to-do-this instructions that I gave made the whole thing a blast (with more to take home and continue creating later)!

Groovy Girls Create Your Own

In all, we really couldn't have asked for more in putting together an unforgettably fun afternoon!

At the end of the party the girls each took home a Groovy Girls Sweet 16 swag bag of accessories, their Sparkletastic Jewelry as well as their own new Groovy Girls doll to continue the friendship at home. I love knowing that we not only got to treat our friends to a wonderful party, but that they now get to extend the originality, positivity and spirit of this line into their own house!

birthday goodie bags

Whether you have a Groovy Girls fan in your life or this is the first that you've heard of this chic line, their Design Your Own kits, bright dolls and cute accessories would be perfect for any girl — whether for a full-on party, a much-appreciated gift or just to bring home a best friend that will last for years. Head over to The Manhattan Toy Company website today to see the full collection!

You can also connect with The Manhattan Toy Company on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram to stay up-to-date with everything that this innovative toy company has to offer.

Happy Birthday, Groovy Girls!

I was provided with Groovy Girls products and party supplies from The Manhattan Toy Company in order to facilitate our party, however, all thoughts and opinions are completely honest and my own.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Scholastic's Summer Reading Challenge Has Us Reading Under The Stars! {#SummerReading}

Last month I introduced my kids to the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge and, without a doubt, they have been thrilled to participate!

Scholastic summer reading logo

Considering how much they already adore reading, the addition of fun, games, puzzles, rewards and more has resulted in a not-too-surprising increase in that love! Not familiar with the program? Read on!

Now in its 8th year, the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is a free, online/mobile reading program that helps prepare kids for back-to-school by encouraging them to read every day all summer long. As a way to stop the "Summer Slide," kids are encouraged to read during the summer months by taking part in all sorts of fun weekly challenges and the chance to earn digital rewards.

Scholastic Summer Reading for kids

This year's Summer Reading Challenge theme is "Reading Under the Stars" and is powered by EVEREADY® to encourage families to discover new and fun ways to explore reading outside. Throughout the summer, kids have the chance to open their worlds and read around the galaxy and unlock star constellations as they log reading minutes.

EVEREADY logoMy girls absolutely love (and never let me forget) to log onto Scholastic's site every day, add in their minutes and watch their totals climb!

As well as their own personal tallies, my kids have been loving seeing the total number of minutes read from kids around the world. The original goal had been just to beat the 2013 works record and that has already been shattered! As of right now, kids have read for 193,235,707 minutes, which equates to a whole lot of books!

Scholastic minutes read

Even though my kids didn't really need any encouragement to read this summer, we received a box containing everything we needed to have a Summer Reading Under the Stars party and it managed to bring the excitement to an entirely new level!

Reading Under The Stars
Not pictured: a ton more great EVEREADY® flashlights and batteries, posters, bookmarks and more!

How adorably fun is this?

In order to stay off of the grass and away from a few more of the mosquitoes that are plaguing our yard, we set up our blanket, pillows, EVEREADY® flashlights, books from Scholastic and more on our trampoline... plus, as the sun doesn't go down until after my kids are already in bed in the summer, we got a little creative with the "under the stars" theme and added a few of our own.

Besides, I wanted to head out early enough so that we could spend as much time relaxing and reading together as we could!

outdoor reading

Although I knew that having a mini Summer Reading Under the Stars party was going to be a good time, it turned out to be a really great bonding-over-books experience for all three of us. I grabbed my current novel and laid down in between the girls and all three of us turned page after page — I love reading and am so glad that my kids do, too!

Scholastic reading

Of course we did take some breaks for snacks, trips to the bathroom, jumping on the trampoline to get the wiggles out, looking for constellations in the stars and more, but overall, the few hours ended up being a big success and the girls had a blast!

Reading Under The Stars party

There is plenty of summer left to hold a Reading Under the Stars party at your house, too — the main thing that you need is a pile of good books! You can even get your extended family and friends involved by inviting them over for an outdoor party so that they can enjoy just how much fun reading outdoors can be.

Reading Under the Stars invitation

Whether your kids are constantly reaching for a book or it is hard to keep them educationally-focused during the summer, Scholastic has made it easy and fun for all ages to stay interested and involved. Be sure to head over to sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge and amp up the excitement about reading!

Stay connected with everything Scholastic as well by liking Scholastic Parents on Facebook, following Scholastic on Twitter and Instagram, following the Summer Reading Challenge Pinterest Board and liking the Summer Reading Challenge YouTube Playlist. Happy reading!

This post is part of a collaboration with Scholastic. All thoughts and opinions expressed are honest and my own.