Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Best Gift, with Bonus Tantrum

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My mom was a pretty outstanding gift giver, whether it was an antique briefcase she found in the closet with my grandpa's initials, or the adorable stuffed animal/poster combos she picked out for my friends' birthday parties.  I remember for Hanukkah we wrapped up the 8 days of lights with a big gift.  One year I got a bike, my sister got a video player to go with her video camera, and my brother got a big stuffed raccoon.  We seriously thought he got the short end of the stick.  Of course we said nothing, because he absolutely loved it, had been coveting the guy to go with his smaller animals.

I like to think I inherited her gift giving skills, at least for the first 40 or so years of my life.  I'm pretty much burned out now...I gave gift cards to my kids last year for pete's sake.  I know that people just love gift cards, and my kids loved them of course, as they were for the Lego store, but I want to make be little more personal.   I've really scored in the past, though, and was reminded the other day by my mom of the best gift I ever bought for someone.  It was for my mom, and I had great fun reminding her of the story again. 

I was a kid, maybe 8 or so, and the family was shopping for each others Hanukkah gifts.  I took off with my dad, knowing exactly what I wanted to get for my mom with my saved up twenty bucks.  We looked and looked, but I could not find one in the right price range.  My dad is not an impatient guy, so we must have planned a meeting time as he started insisting we had to go, we'd come back later.  The item I was looking for was an electric nail file, and manicure set.  See my mom had, after umpteen years, had finally stopped biting her nails.  They were growing out nicely and I thought it would be the perfect gift.  I finally spotted it, and we were out of time.  My dad wanted to come back another time, the nerve.  I can't honestly remember why he wanted to leave, but I threw a tantrum right there in the store.  We had to buy this for mommy, she deserved it.  Crying and whining, I must have been quite a site.  I got my way, though, and snatched up that snazzy kit for $19.99. 

My mom used that thing for years.  It was a different shape than most, and worked amazingly well.  She seriously was never able to duplicate it when it finally died.  The tantrum was totally worth it in my opinion, and my mom was not just being nice, she used it all the time and still has great nails. 
Learn more about the coolest new app that revolutionizes the whole shopping, gifting, and gift card-organizing experience and Download the SWAGG app to your iPhone or Droid. I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Attack of the Holiday Photo

I've been a Shutterfly fan for quite awhile, and have used them a couple times to order holiday cards.  All those photo sites are pretty cool, but it's nice that this one is local with a huge selection of holiday cards, especially our favorite, the holiday photo cards, like that this simple, but still colorful one on the left.  Very non-demoninational, goes with any photos you could possibly want, only husband would probably not like that yellow, I love it. 

My husband's just a bit fanatical about his Christmas photo cards.  Long before I met him, he would send out oodles of Christmas cards to his friends across the earth, each with a photo of himself in some exotic place.  I was very proud of myself one year when I sent 15 to friends, I felt like such an adult.  Growing up we never sent out cards, and I remember a conversation with my dad a number of years ago when he told me "one day I just decided to stop sending cards, and I've never looked back."   Some years when the stacks of cards waiting to be signed and address looms before us during a busy holiday season, I sure can understand that sentiment.

My first husband had no desire to send cards, it did not fit in with his Jewish traditions.  That may be one of the reasons I was so excited to send my own cards.  Post-divorce, I was living alone for the very first time in my life, in my own apartment, watching my TV shows.   Excuse me, lost myself for a second in that fantasy. 

Anyway, my current (does that sound odd?) husband had to give up his exotic locale photos once we added kids and dogs to the mix.  He never liked my idea of using only the kids in the photo, and he loved the challenge of a) picking a creative idea (we've done soccer jerseys - big surprise, pacifiers, lying on the ground in a circle, funny glasses, etc.) b) getting kids and dogs in place (and not crying, in the case of babies and toddlers) c) setting the timer and leaping over to join us and finally d) waiting to get the film developed while you hoped one came out okay.  You have not lived until you've counted down the seconds waiting for the camera to snap, hoping the dog would not wander off of the baby look away.  The age of digital photos, photoshopping and now multiple photos per card has eliminated much of that excitement.  The cards with multiple photos are also a lovely new addition, since you can pick the best picture of yourself and still please your family with silly photos of them.

Now the excitement revolves around picking through the hundreds for options.  In the past I was a bit obsessed to find a funny, "holiday" (as opposed to Christmas), not religious card.  I am always tempted by the Hanukkah cards, my way to make up for the years of years of Christmas overload during my Jewish upbringing.  Maybe it's because I have boys, but I love this the modern touch, with toys.  Our photos would of course include colorful jerseys and butts.  I can totally relate to the friends who've completely given up on ever getting cards out before Christmas, so go with New Year’s cards or on one case, Valentine's, which was great.  My husband will have none of that, these cards will wish you a happy holiday, Merry Christmas or Seasons Greetings, whether sent out on Dec. 15th or Jan. 15th.  Just to add to the struggle, yes, we've also started a letter, but it is pretty funny, promise.
We often just choose the simple one photo one, because, frankly, it's cheaper and we just have to find that one family photo.  Plus how cute is that reindeer?  It's also got just enough room to scribble our signature, the minimal in personal touches, important when you have 150 to fill out.  So imagine this little number,

with this photo?


Do you want 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly? Click here to go to Shutterfly for information on how you can get 50 free cards this holiday season, and make sure to select Clever 1000 as the referral source.

This post is part of a series sponsored by Shutterfly. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


As I mentioned there were a ton of sponsors and giveaways at BlogHer, and while I sent a box of stuff home, only a handful really prompted me to give them a shout-out on my review blog.

One of those was one of my favorite games as a child. It's Mastermind, and the original has hardly changed. The colors have changed slightly, the case is blue and I think it used to be black, but this simple, logic game is still the one I loved. The company just had a small table at the conference, and the great thing was they sent me the game rather than having me haul it home. I also got a new version for little kids, which is absolutely adorable. It's animals placed in a certain order, which makes it a bit easier than remembering colors and location.

There seem to be a whole slew of editions now, the aforementioned classic plus advanced and ultimate, which I'd love to play with my husband or dad.  Of course there are Disney and Spongebob versions, but I like the animal the best.

The only drawback to this game is my kids keep making mistakes when they put the little pegs it, makes it hard for me to win.

From the Blogher 10 Sponsor page 

Pressman Toy Corp.
MASTERMIND, the classic game of strategy from Pressman Toy Corporation, has had players making and breaking codes for generations. It’s the codemaker vs. the codebreaker! Solve your opponent's code in fewer turns than it takes your opponent to solve your code. With 2,401 combinations possible, it’s a mind-bending challenge every time the game is played. New versions for kids include Animal MASTERMIND Towers and SpongeBob MASTERMIND Towers. Learn more at

Disclosure:  I was sent a complimentary Mastermind Classic game and Animal MASTERMIND® Towers with no other compensation.  I was under no obligation to post a review and all above opinions are my own.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Brazil or Bust

Sponsored By

Cheerios® is giving you the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, your ultimate family vacation. As part of a paid promotion for their “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, Cheerios® is sponsoring my post today about what my ultimate family vacation would be. Read mine, Enter the Sweepstakes for a chance to actually win your own fantasy family trip or one of a bunch of other great prizes.

There is absolutely no question what my family's ultimate vacation would be, we're even collecting bottles and cans to be turned into cold hard coin to fund the trip.  We're not super confident we'll raise enough in this way, but wouldn't that been a cool story?  If you've read many of my posts, you'll see we are a pretty soccer obsessed family.  I'm even on a team now, although still not as big of a fan of watching professional games, especially when my husband heckles the opposing team's coach.  You may have been swept up in a world-wide sporting event which combines the Superbowl, World Series and a bit of the Olympics thrown in for good measure...the Copa Mundial de FĂștbol is what much of the world calls it.


Our dream would be to fly to Brazil in 2014, world cup soccer tickets in hand.  The soccer games would be awesome, of course, but we are also in love with the country and people.  One son has included becoming a Brazilian citizen and playing for their national team in his life plan.  My husband's been twice for coaching clinics, and I joined him once and found the laid back lifestyle, the warmth in the people and the diversity just wonderful.  We spent one evening at a coaches house, where he was throwing a party for his girls team.  An incredible display of food was laid out, and when I mentioned I had not yet tried the national drink, the host walked across the street for a lime, muddled it up with some sugar and voila.  The kids plan to learn Brazilian Portuguese over the next few years, but given that many people there speak Spanish they will be our tour guides.

We don't want to just see games and indulge in buffet style eating, there are the beautiful beaches, where my kids could join the locals in a rousing game of futbol, the world-famous Brazilian celebrations and the sites such as the incredibly gorgeous Iguazu Falls.  This means of course many plane tickets, as Brazil is a huge country.  This is a dream vacation, though, so let's throw those in as well.  And who wants to wait four years, so nothing wrong with a trip before then.

Don't forget to enter the “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, for a chance to win your own ultimate family vacation. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as do I.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I'm going to be posting some reviews of products I got from Blogher10 over the next few days.  I figure any item I still use now must be pretty good, and the first is ASSETS by Sara Blakely, founder of Spanks.  This new shapewear from Spanx is cheaper than the original, but it really works.  I got a free pair of these at BlogHer and they were one of the first things I pulled out of my swag to try out.  They felt much lighter than a pair of Spanx that I already owned, so I was not expecting the same kind of "firming" if you know what I mean.  They worked really well though.  You can see below (from the write-up I got from the Blogher10 sponsor page) that they are sold at lower cost stores, but I can attest that at least the bicycle short style does a pretty good job.

ASSETS by Sara Blakely

In 2006 Spanx founder Sara Blakely brought her shapewear know-how to more women with the national launch of ASSETS, a collection of expertly designed shapewear and legwear available at an unbelievable value. Delivering best in class shapewear, legwear, and foundations at approachable prices, ASSETS is sold in the following stylish retailers women love to shop: Target, LOFT, David’s Bridal, and Motherhood Maternity.


Disclosure: I got a pair of mid-thigh shapers at Blogher but was under no obligation to post a review.  All opinions are my own.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hexbug City

"Daddy, what's your favorite toy?  Mine are the hex bugs"
                                                                    Keegan, Age 7

"I like those other toys, but these are clearly much more fun for everyone"
                                                                   Nieve, Age 8

"They look like cockroaches, mommy does not want one."
                                                              Most of the moms

Want a toy you might have to chase around the house, looks like a cross between a bug and an electronic circuit and your kids will absolutely love?  Let me introduce, the HEXBUG Nano.  Actually, they come in all shapes (the Nano is the newest) and my first introduction to them was as a giveaway from my company.  We're even selling them on our company website so you know they're going to appeal to the nerd in all of us. 

Watch them in action and tell me you're not impressed - my apologies for the sideways video

Last week I threw a hexbug party for a bunch of families from our school.  I stayed up late the night before putting the maze of interconnected pieces together, the buggy habitat, to prevent a repeat of the ZhuZhu pet habitrail nightmare.  I put a couple sets together on the coffee table, and the next day my sons managed to cover the floor with an elaborate maze in like 5 minutes.  It snaps together easily and is easy to take apart. 

These bugs are amazing, they'll flip over, zoom around and push each other off the bridge in the Hexbug Nano Bridge batte, which is really cool. There were girls and boys at this party, kids from 4-8 and lots of parents.  Everyone thought they were pretty cool, even if a few moms found them creepy.  My son really did claim it was his favorite toy, although he may have been swept up in the moment.

Disclosure: I was given 30 Hexbug Nanos and an extensive habitat and other kits to throw a party for kids.  I received no other compensation for this post.  All opinions are my own.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wha Oooga!

Well, I have put on my most comfortable pair of shoes ever.  I had to explain to my son why I could not wear these to work, besides the fact that it's still practically summer.  I figured out they are just not "professional" what with the slew of teens wearing them everywhere during my last camping trip.  I just wish I had them then.  Yes, I have my first pair of  "UGG" boots, but these are Whooga, an Australian company who offered me a pair of boots in the hopes I'd write about them.   We never jumped on the croc or Ugg bandwagon, but I have occasionally coveted a pair so jumped at the chance. Rest assured these are in no way knock-offs, but a quality alternative maker of the ugg boots so popular among the models of San Diego, or so my husband observed (he still can't figure out why leggy blonds would don these "ugly" boots with their short shorts and halter tops). 

One of the other reasons I agreed to try their boots is this company is a bit obsessed with disclosure.  They wanted to make sure I mentioned these boots are made from authentic 100% merino wool, designed in Australia, but manufactured in China.  It was a bit odd getting a beautifully wrapped package of soft fur Australian boots from China, and I at first worried a hotel had returned the leftover notebooks I purposely left on my last business trip there.  Having worked for a global company for a while, and often being in charge of giveaways, I am well aware of how many items are made in China, and pretty much all of these types of boots are, including the popular UGG Austraila boots.

I chose these short purple ones, as they recommend if your concerned about your calf widths (yes, I inherited by dad's calves) to opt for the shorter ones, but they have three versions, and you can roll them down for a cute look.  I have wide feet and was a little worried about the fit, since they don't come in different widths, but I promise they fit absolutely perfect.  They have sizing instructions on their website and it worked.  The website is really chock full of information, including how to choose your color. Black is the "safest" but since I have three pairs of black booths, and was not planning to dress up my business attire I wanted something more fun.  I really love the color.

I would not say these are cheap, but they are less expensive than others out there and feel simply amazing. 

Disclosure: I was given a pair of boots to review but offered no other compensation.  I was asked to write a review but the boots came with no obligation.