Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Extend the Education and Fun of VTech's InnoTab Learning Tablets with Learning Cartridges {Review & Giveaway}

VTech logo
As much as I would like to claim that my kids reach for a book every time they have a moment free, pretty much every parent knows that some sort of tech device is more likely to be preferred. It's not completely their fault, however, as children are introduced to technology nearly from birth — are smartphones as popular as mobiles and bibs on baby registries yet?

Fortunately, there are great child-friendly, age-appropriate options available so that at least I can rest assured that the device will provide fun and learning (and is built to withstand whatever my kids dish out). Namely, the innovative line of InnoTab Learning App Tablets from VTech!

My kids have adored their InnoTabs ever since their arrival and I love knowing that at least I can provide Big Sister E and Little Sister B some education along with their entertainment. Even better, along with the games and activities that come preloaded on these tablets, VTech makes it easy to mix things up and keep kids coming back for more with their ever-growing collection of InnoTab Software Learning Cartridges!

VTech InnoTab Learning Cartridges

With options available in every genre for ages 12 months all the way up to 9 years old, there is an InnoTab Learning Cartridge that is sure to get every child excited about the games, e-Books and more contained on them. Even better, with such entertaining characters and themes, kids don't even realize that they are progressively learning key subjects such as math, reading and science all while having fun!

Considering how many times both of my daughters have returned to their InnoTabs and the various Learning Cartridges that we own, I wasn't surprised when they were thrilled to add two more to their collection: InnoTab I Spy Adventure and Pixar Play.

VTech InnoTab Cartridges

I truly love the way that VTech makes their cartridges compatible with any version of the InnoTab, so no matter if your child has the original InnoTab or the latest model, they are able to partake in all of the games and activities.

Simply pop in the I Spy Adventure software (designed for ages 4-7) and your child is ready to practice early reading skills as they read and solve I Spy riddles and play games to unlock 50 levels of play – each more challenging than the next.

My girls have had a great time finding and matching a variety of photo-realistic objects across four action-packed thinking games that build logic, vocabulary and visual discrimination skills. Activities include Riddle Rush, Pattern Quest, Oops Hoops and Adventure Box and I love seeing how this cartridge mirrors many of the skills that Little Sister B is currently doing in her kindergarten classroom.

InnoTab I Spy cartridge review

When they aren't doing in-depth searching with I Spy, Big Sister E and Little Sister B have also been excited about diving into the world of Pixar with the InnoTab Pixar Play cartridge (also recommended for ages 4-7).

Focusing on four of our favorite Pixar films — Toy Story, Monsters University, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles — this software manages to teach spelling, letters, vocabulary, reading phonics, problem solving and more, all while keeping kids happily entertained. Who wouldn't get excited about getting to play with these iconic characters?

As with all of VTech's great InnoTab cartridges, Pixar Play includes a wide variety of options for children to choose from each and every time they turn it on. Find missing letters to help Buzz defeat Zurg, guide Nemo through the ocean while learning new words, design your own monster and create a Monsters University scene, read the story of The Incredibles, and more!

InnoTab Pixar Play cartridge review

Pixar Play also includes three creative bonuses that my kids have enjoyed and have returned to time and again. First, the Spaceship Crane Game is a digital claw game that children can play when they have earned coins from playing the learning games. On top of being fun, this game is a great motivator to go back and continue to play the educational activities for more coins!

Second, as each play on the Spaceship Crane Game results in a toy won, those collected are then displayed on the Toy Shelves. Here kids can see all of their prizes as well as unlock a "Mini Game" when all of the toys from one shelf have been collected.

Finally, VTech included a cute Photo Fun option on this cartridge where kids can take photos with fun Pixar characters, stickers and frames!

Pixar Play photos

Both of these cartridges have been entertaining Big Sister E and Little Sister B since their arrival and they have been perfect for quiet play during their resting and downtime that follows school. While the girls return to the previous cartridges that we owned, these two new additions have given even greater value to their InnoTabs and have allowed them to grow and challenge their abilities even further.

If you're looking for a way to extend the learning and fun of your child's InnoTab, look no further than VTech's extensive line of educational learning cartridges. Kids can explore exciting content offering age-appropriate games, activities, e-Books and more that allow children to progressively learn key subjects.

Add in the way that topics such as reading, math and vocabulary are seamlessly tied in with creative activities, colorful graphics and camera fun and the result is a toy that can educate as well as inspire a child's imagination!

VTech InnoTab Learning Cartridge

Retailing for $24.99 each, InnoTab I Spy Adventure and Pixar Play can be purchased in stores, from VTech and on Amazon. You can also stay up-to-date with all of the unique and innovative products that VTech has to offer by connecting with them on Facebook and Twitter.

And, thanks to their generosity, one person will soon be able to bring home fun and learning for their child's InnoTab as well, because...

One lucky person will win an InnoTab I Spy Adventure and a Pixar Play Learning Cartridge from VTech (total ARV $50)!

VTech InnoTab giveaway


The VTech product, gift card, information, and additional gift pack have been provided by VTech.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Travel the World Without Ever Leaving Home with Oregon Scientific's SmartGlobe Discovery {Review}

 Oregon Scientific logo
For as long as I can remember, Big Sister E has been especially amazed with the earth and in awe of the fact that there are people who live on the other side of the world. Given the chance, I have no doubt that she would pack her bags and embark on travels near and far to explore the sights, cultures, people and more.

Unfortunately, real life is currently in the way of that plan and, for now, she has to be satisfied with seeing pictures in books or on the internet. No, Kiddo, we can't just hop over to Paris so that you can see the Eiffel Tower in person today. Sorry.

Instead, we have recently found that the next best thing for her (and other children who want to explore the world) is a new educational globe that lets kids travel millions of miles without packing a bag: SmartGlobe Discovery from Oregon Scientific.

SmartGlobe Discovery

Embracing inventions that help you live smarter, so you can be happier, healthier and more productive, Oregon Scientific was founded in 1989 with a passion for innovation. Offering categories such as weather, time, wellness and sports, there is a technological and aesthetically-pleasing product for every member of the family.

When it comes to the kids, however, Oregon Scientific's line of SmartGlobes and accessories are perfect for discovering new horizons and being entertained while learning. How could my young traveler not have a great time with a globe that includes three activity panels, 19 activities and hours of informative audio content?

SmartGlobe Discovery globe

Right out of the box I appreciated that Oregon Scientific had made it pretty much foolproof for children of all ages to begin using the SmartGlobe Discovery (it even comes with the necessary three AA batteries included and already installed).

SmartGlobe Discovery review

With the power button conveniently located right on the SmartPen, users simply turn on their SmartGlobe Discovery and are able to pick and choose what information, amazing facts and educational entertainment they want to focus on.

The three activity panels offer everything from data to fun to testing your knowledge on more than 250 countries with a simple tap of the SmartPen.

First, the Touch panel allows users to pick from history to geography to population to weather (and many more!) to find out all about the continents and countries.

SmartGlobe Discovery touch panel

Simply tap on one of the activities with the SmartPen and then move to whichever worldly location you select. Another tap there (we found that tapping on the marked capital seemed to get the quickest response) and the SmartGlobe Discovery proceeds to tell you all about the currency, language, highest point and more.

child's smart globe

Or, for information a little closer to home, the "Local Map" on the second panel allows for more in-depth findings on each of the states. Now instead of asking me how many people live in California, Big Sister E just turns to the SmartGlobe Discovery instead!

SmartGlobe local map

Finally, for even more fun and learning, the Find — Compare panel adds six additional activities and games. To use the Compare feature, simply tap the tip of the SmartPen on either Area or Population and then touch two countries on the globe one after the other to hear the comparison.

To play the Find game and test your world knowledge, users tap one of the four categories (Ultimate Challenge, Capitals, Continents or Countries) and then find the places that the SmartGlobe lists as quickly as possible. Each activity has three levels that are progressively more difficult and players need to answer the questions within a specific time limit to continue.

SmartGlobe Discovery challenge

Whether you have a budding young traveler in your family or are just looking for a unique, educational gift, the Smart Globe Discovery provides a wide variety of activities, games and informative audio content to keep kids interested. Big Sister E has returned time and again to this globe and loves sharing facts that she has learned about the Earth!

child's globe

Find out more about how the SmartGlobe Discovery (MSRP $59.99) can provide the child in your life the ability to travel millions of miles without ever leaving home by visiting the Oregon Scientific website and connecting with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Other than the SmartGlobe Discovery that I was provided by Oregon Scientific in order to facilitate my review, I was not compensated or enticed to do this post in any way. This post is solely my honest opinion about this product.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Healthy Snacking with Musselman’s Apple Sauce {Review & Giveaway}

Musselman's logo
Even though it still seems as though summer just arrived, here we are embarking on October and another fall season, with the end of 2014 just around the corner.

If you're anything like the majority of people, myself included, any New Year's resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle have long been abandoned. Why is it so difficult to stay on track?

However, with our daily routine firmly in place and my kids both loving anything and everything school, this month has been a great time to get back in the swing of things by practicing healthy snacking as often as possible thanks to Musselman's Apple Sauce.

Musselman's applesauce

Musselman's fully believes that making healthy, delicious apple sauce is more than just a job, it's a way of life for this 100-year-old grower-owned cooperative. Along with their traditional apple sauce, they offer apple sauce blended with other fruit flavors, lite apple sauce for those who are counting calories, apple juice, apple butter, and more.

But as well as their variety of great products and the way that they can be delicious and healthy all on their own, Musselman's Apple Sauce makes a perfect ingredient for baking tasty treats instead of cooking oil or butter. Why not reach for unsweetened apple sauce and cut out some extra unwanted fat? It's so easy!

substitute applesauce chart
Head over to the Musselman's website to see and print this Apple Sauce Swap chart for yourself!

I'm all for ways to be able to snack healthier, so I was ready to make the swap and substitute apple sauce into some homemade treats!

applesauce in recipes

I can make Apple Pie Sundaes and Rocky Road Brownies with less fat and less guilt? Sign me up!

However, I'm a sucker for any sort of breakfast item that includes oatmeal, so I was ready to give Musselman's Oatmeal Breakfast Bars a try first.

oatmeal applesauce bars

Ingredients

⅔ cup sugar
1 cup Musselman's Chunky Apple Sauce
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp honey
1½ cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup dried cranberries

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray an 8 x 8-inch cake pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, apple sauce, milk and honey until well blended.

In a small bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add the dry oat mix to the apple sauce and blend well. Stir in the cranberries.

Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

oatmeal apple bars

Being the big cinnamon fans that we are, I used Musselman's Cinnamon Apple Sauce instead of Chunky and boy, oh boy, these are delicious! These bars are perfect to accompany my coffee in the morning and are just right for a quick, nutritious snack for the kids after school.

Considering how much of a hit they have been for all of us, I have no doubt that I'll be making them again soon (and next time I'll bake them just a bit longer)!

In the meantime, Our Musselman's Big Cup have been a great addition to both of my daughters' lunch boxes to keep them going throughout the day. Even better, I found out that by placing them in the freezer the night before, a Big Cup then acts as an ice pack to keep the rest of the food cold and ends up as a slushie-type treat for the girls to eat at lunchtime. They love it!

frozen apple sauce

Are you ready to join the Musselman's Apple Sauce Swap and start eating a little healthier? It's a win-win when the results are delicious but with less calories and fat!

Be sure to visit Musselman's website and connect with them on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about their whole line of products, find coupons and check out their recipes.

And, thanks to their generosity, one person will be able to bring home the wholesome, healthy goodness of the best apple sauce around as well, because...

One lucky person will win a pack of Musselman's Big Cup Apple Sauce and recipe cards!

Musselman's Big Cup


A big thank you to Musselman's for providing a prize pack for me as well as a pack of Big Cup Apple Sauce and recipe cards 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.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Make a Difference this Holiday Season with the 2014 World Vision Gift Catalog {Hand-Carved Serving Spoons Review & Giveaway}

World Vision logo
If I told you that there are only 13 weeks until Christmas, would you nod knowingly or would your heart skip a few beats? I've been so focused on the start of fall that I didn't even think about how soon the holidays will be here!

As this year's shopping season gets underway, it's easy to think of the most traditional categories: the hottest toys, the most sought-out electronics, the ultimate in stylish home decor.

Of those, there are some holiday gifts that are practical and there are some that purely for entertainment, either of which is completely fine. After all, everything from a new Barbie doll to an upgraded phone has a place or serves a purpose in our lives (even if that's just providing joy from seeing the snazzy operating system).

But what if there was something more? What if there was a way to provide a gift that could be enjoyed, while, at the same time, it helped to instill a sense of compassion? One that gives knowledge and a feeling of global responsibility? Inspiration and encouragement to take action in our lives to make a difference in the world?

That's exactly what is found with World Vision.

World Vision gifts

Whether it's for the tax deduction or the warm fuzzy feeling giving to others generates, most Americans plan to make a charitable donation over the holiday season and a gift from the World Vision Gift Catalog provides the best of all worlds. Where else can you give knowing it is going where it is needed most while also receiving an amazing handcrafted gift in return?

Since it began in 1996, the World Vision Gift Catalog has grown in popularity as a gift-giving alternative; in the last fiscal year alone more than 186,000 donors purchased more than 475,000 items that raised over $33.7 million. I love seeing numbers like those!

If you've never browsed this wonderful catalog, then just know that you'll find more than 250 items, ranging in price from $10 to $39,000, that are available to help improve quality of life for women, children and families in the U.S. and around the world. If money is tight, there are more than 30 gifts in the catalog that sell for $35 or less, including items like chickens, job training or school supplies.

2014 World Vision Gift Catalog

What an amazing opportunity to make an important charitable donation while still giving a meaningful, amazing gift!

And, let me tell you, when one of these gifts arrives and it is absolutely beautiful while demonstrating the generosity of your gift-giver, it's hard to not feel immensely proud and special.

world vision serving spoons

As I pulled the Hand-Carved Serving Spoons out of their beautiful packaging, I was immediately smitten with the smooth design, the natural colors of the wood and the simplistic beauty of them as a whole.

I love that these would make a perfect gift for holiday entertaining, as each set of olivewood serving spoons comes complete with a hand-sewn fabric bag and is ready right out of the box. At the same time, wouldn't your recipient love knowing that these serving spoons are not only practical and useful but are also benefiting the orphans of the Kamba tribe in Kenya?

World Vision Gift Catalog

I'm thrilled knowing that I can pull these out at every entertaining opportunity and not only bask in the compliments from my guests, but the knowledge that I can then tell them more about World Vision and the large selection of gift options that they have available!

The 2014 holiday season marks the 19th annual edition of the World Vision Gift Catalog and I couldn't be more proud to help support it. Around 400 million children in the world under the age of 13 live in extreme poverty (more than the entire population of the U.S.) and this catalog provides a way to bring about tremendous social change without spending a fortune.

Last year, more than 350,000 animals were purchased by donors, and while a goat ($75) may be World Vision's number one seller, other popular gifts include sheep, chickens, soccer balls, ducks and education for a child.

This holiday season, don't just give a gift. Consider a gift from the World Vision Gift Catalog, knowing that it can significantly improve the life of a child or family in need by providing tools and opportunities to overcome extreme poverty. At the same time, your friends and loved ones will be honored as they read their special card describing the gift and the impact it is making.

Now that's the true spirit of Christmas.

World Vision catalog

To find out more about the World Vision Gift Catalog and to place an order, visit WorldVisionGifts.com or call 855-WV-GIFTS. You can also connect with this incredible company on Facebook and Twitter.

Plus, thanks to their never-ending generosity, one person will be able to proudly share in the inspirational, life-changing ways of this organization as well, because...

One lucky person will win a set of Hand-Carved Serving Spoons (ARV $65) from World Vision!

serving spoons


A big thank you to World Vision for providing a set of Hard-Carved Serving Spoons for me 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.