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#HGG2017: Portable North Pole {review and giveaway}

The annual writing of the letter to Santa Claus is a huge deal for many children. A lot of thought goes in to finding just the right words, and of course you have to carefully choose your gift wish list. Just think how excited those same children would be to receive a message to them from Santa himself!!

Call Santa Phone Number for Real & Send Video Message - PNP

They can do just that, with the Portable North Pole website and app! PNP provides personalised video messages, and telephone calls, from Santa to kids around the world. Santa can send his messages in English, French, Spanish, and Italian. Grown-ups create the videos by uploading particular details, like name, age, location, the gift they most want, and can add a few pictures, especially one of the child, as well. Depending on the video you choose, there may be options to upload pictures of pets, friends, a vacation, or even their letter to Santa. When you upload a optional picture of the gift they are asking for, you choose from a drop-down menu whether it is a toy, puzzle, video game, clothes, movie tickets, book, etc. These details add so much realism. It also helps that Santa’s mouth is covered by his lush beard, so there is no worry of the lip movement not matching the words your child hears ??

I have made a number of these videos for Michael over the years, and have watched the offerings grow. Each year seems to bring a new video option, birthday videos, and more. Michael is a little old for messages from Santa now (he’ll be 12 in a few weeks!!), but he LOVED receiving these when he was younger. I’d announce that a message had come in for him via email, from Santa, and he’d come running to view it, multiple times over. Seeing his picture in the video, and seeing his friends’ names on the books near to his just made it all seem so real and exciting for him. I put together a couple of mock-up videos so you can see what the final product looks like. This first one is the basic, free video message.

 

That was about a minute and a half, but here is one of the premium video messages, which runs over 6 minutes.

 

 

PNP North Pole has several packages from which to choose, depending on your needs. Larger packages are great for anyone with multiple kids, so everyone can get their own personalised message from Santa.

  • FREE: There are 4 unique, customizable videos – Christmas videos for kids (the first one I did, above), grownups, and groups, plus one for Birthdays.
  • Single Premium Video ($5.49): Choose from among 6 Premium videos.
  • Video Pass ($10.99): Unlimited Premium videos, Reaction Recorder (mobile app only), Christmas Eve and Birthday videos.
  • Magic Pass ($14.99): Unlimited Premium videos and calls, Reaction Recorder (mobile apps only), HD video downloads and 5 weekly bedtime videos read by Santa leading up to the big day. Also includes Christmas Eve and Birthday videos.

You can create one of these videos for a special child in your life, either on the website, or through the PNP app, available for both Android and iOS systems. The app has some additional features you won’t find on the website, including a couple of cute Christmas-themed games and a set of filters for taking creative selfies.

 

The app is divided into a pass code protected Parents Corner, where you can create and share videos, and the Kids Corner, where your children can play and watch their videos.

 

 

The reaction recorder allows you to take a picture-in-picture of your child watching their video message from Santa, so you can capture their joy and excitement for posterity. This feature is only available in the app, and the app is free, so I really recommend you download it. (Just search PNP in the app store or Google Play store.) Even it you create your videos on the website, you can access them when you log in to your account on mobile. Of course, both in the app and online, you can download a copy of your video message to watch offline whenever you or your child wishes.

New this year, PNP has released a book, Twenty-four Sleeps Until Santa: A Christmas Countdown. This hard-cover volume contains 24 scenes of the goings-on at the North Pole in the days leading up to Christmas Eve. We meet different elves and animals, learn that the reindeer eat magic lichen, and more. But most importantly, Santa has lost his 24 magical keys, and we need to help him find them. Each beautiful and detailed illustration has a key hidden somewhere. Can you find them all? Some of them jump right out, and others are pretty tricky. And with every book you receive a code to redeem for a single premium video. The book is available at Amazon.ca and Indigo.ca (approximately $15).

 

Giving Back

Another thing I love – Portable North Pole donates 5% of all online sales proceeds to children’s hospitals around the world. Since 2012, PNP has donated over $300,000.

Get Social

You can connect with Portable North Pole on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A Giveaway

One lucky RMB reader will receive a copy of Twenty-four Sleeps Until Santa, plus an exclusive code to create your own video at PNP. Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until December 13, 11:59pm ET. Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only. Best of luck!

Mommy Mondays – New Beginnings

 

I’ve blogged here before about wanting to give up my day job, about how I’d much rather be home with Little Boo. Well, my day job is becoming increasingly stressful and bringing me a lot of angst and generally making me unhappy. Even aside from the Little Boo issue.

Mommy Mondays – LoLoboog44 | justaBXmom.com

So, I’ve decided to take a small first step to moving away from office work. I’ve taken on two new business projects in an effort to create alternatives to my monthly paycheque. With any luck, if things start to take off, maybe we can see our way clear to my eventual resignation.

Or maybe I can at least hire a cleaning lady and afford online grocery shopping to free up some mental health and family time. Or pay for my Blissdom Canada registration …

Nothing too earth shattering. I’ve decided to sell for two companies whose products I have used and loved for years – Avon and Pampered Chef. I am “my own boss” in both instances, as they like to say. So I can do as little or as much with it as I’d like. I figure I can start out slow-ish and build up. I spent a good few years in retail sales, and I love to talk and to meet people, so I think I can swing this.

My first Avon order went in tonight. Exciting! The products will arrive later this week and I will have my first experience of the sorting and invoicing and collecting. We’ll see how it goes. I am having a lot of fun reading and learning and browsing through the samples I can order. It’s like Christmas!

Pampered Chef officially starts next month. I have two shows booked already, and my “one-up” is encouraging me to try for 2 more in my first 30 days to get my momentum going.

I’m excited to be trying something different. I’ve talked about becoming a PC consultant for years, so I think it is definitely time to give it a shot. It feels good to be making a move and attempting to create positive change for me and for my family. I’m planning to set up a new blog (or two) for these businesses, and will create Twitter profiles as well. I mean, I am addicted to social media after all.

Wish me luck. And if you’re interested in browsing an Avon brochure or hosting or attending a Pampered Chef show, by all means let me know. That would be totally great. And fun!

The #MonthofMom Photo Challenge Is Heading into the Home Stretch

We are now on Day 21 of P&G’s #MonthofMom 30 Day Photo Challenge. I’ve been having fun coming up with images based on the daily prompts. Of course, as a P&G Mom, I’ve also been weaving in some of my favourite P&G products where they fit with the day. I hope you’ve been following along with the fun on Twitter and/or Instagram! Maybe you’ve even discovered a new product to try.

Introducing The Month of Mom | Kiddie Academy

 

I’ve also been wondering if any of you, my dear readers, have been taking part?? If you have joined in, I’d love it if you left a link to your Twitter or Instagram profile in the comments, so I can go see what you’ve shared. Let me know!

 

You can see most of my photos over on my Instagram page. A side effect of this challenge is that I am now addicted to Instagram. I love sharing pics and seeing what’s inspiring others. I expect I’ll be continuing with other Instagram challenges after this one is done.

 

If you haven’t joined this photo challenge but would like to hop in, there are still 10 days left. You can see all of the details in my earlier #MonthofMom post.

Well thanks, sweetie

 

Driving today with Little Boo, we had one of our interesting car conversations. Not sure what it is about the car rides, but they certainly can be eye opening.

National Volunteer Week: Associations Say Thanks During a Strange ...

Today’s revelation was mildly painful, but I’m a big girl. I can handle it.

Little Boo, “Mommy, have I told you I like you better when you had long hair? You were much prettier when you were a young mother and had long hair and put on your make-up.”

WTH?! I was so close to bursting out laughing, but I controlled myself. I just said, “Oh. You like my hair long?” Totally ignored the make-up comment. I mean, what am I supposed to do with that?

Good thing I have a strong ego!

Astro Greek Yogourt – Recipes and A Winner

https://vimeo.com/76363916

MMMM. Yogourt. We are really enjoying the Astro Greek Yogourt. The flavour and creamy texture are quickly making it a family fave. I’m currently marinating chicken breasts in the plain variety for tandoori chicken tonight.

Little Boo has been enjoying his smoothies. His new favourite combines a half cup of Astro Greek yogourt in strawberry flavour, 1/4 cup of apple juice, one banana, and a generous handful of blueberries.

Astro® Original Plain Balkan Style 2% M.F. Yogurt | Walmart Canada

You can find many recipes on the Astro.ca website. Here is one that I am looking forward to testing out the next time I host girls’ wine night. I love eggplant and this looks super easy! I think I’ll serve it with some toasted pita chips.
————————————————————————————————————————————

Grilled Eggplant and Yogourt Dip
The Greek yogourt is a perfect choice for this dip thanks to its thick and creamy
consistency.

Ingredients

 

1 eggplant (about 1 lb/450 g)
¾ cup Astro® Original Plain
Greek yogourt
1 clove garlic, minced
1½ tsp lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Preparation
1. Pierce eggplant all over with a fork. Place on a greased grill over medium heat; close
lid and grill, turning once, until charred and wrinkled and flesh is softened, about 20
minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle.
2. Slice eggplant open and scoop flesh into a bowl, discarding skin. Mash and let drain
in fine-mesh sieve for 20 minutes.
3. In a bowl, combine yogourt, eggplant, garlic, lemon juice, oil and salt.
4. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
Garnish with parsley. Makes 1½ cups.

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And now for the winner announcement. Rafflecopter has spoken and the winner of three free product coupons to try Astro Original Greek Yogourt for yourself is ….

HGG2013: The Cuddliest Night-Light Ever – Brobo

When I was a little girl, I couldn’t sleep with my closet door open. And I couldn’t sleep without my favourite doll. Little Boo has always needed his lullabies and a night light. Plus his bestest bear Edward and the closed closet door. We’ve gotten to a stage now, at seven, where he can sleep without a light, though I think he secretly would still prefer one. There is something very comforting about a little light in the darkness when you’re just a little guy alone in your room at night. And since stuffies are also a great comfort to our little people, why not combine these two things into a single, giftable toy?

Mushroom Design LED Night Light, PriyoShop.com - Online Shopping ...

Meet the Brobo line of huggable night lights. These soft plush toys are a great size for cuddling (13 inches) and come equipped with a special light in their bellies. The light is easy to activate by simply swiping the toy’s hand or tail across it – once for a brighter “adventure” mode, and a second time for the softer sleepy-time. The light has an auto-off feature after 5 minutes to conserve battery life. (Each toy requires 3 AA batteries.)

The original toy is the Brobo:

 

He’s been joined by Pep, a girl version in pink with a pretty bow, plus a dog, mummy and dinosaur. We received the dog to test out, and Boo has been sleeping with him every night since!

 

The designs are super cute, and the materials are soft and cuddly. Boo has been using the brighter light as a reading light in bed. If it goes out before he’s ready he just needs to swipe Dog’s tail once more. The only thing I don’t 100% love about this toy is that 5 minutes is a little short for us. The auto-off feature is great, but Boo takes a while to settle down so a longer light would be nice. That being said, it is really simple for your child to swipe the light back on themselves if they need it longer. And if there’s a middle of the night bathroom trip? Brobo is ready and waiting to light the way!

You can purchase your own Brobo online or at a number of independent toy stores across Canada. Check the website for a location near you. Also, until Wednesday December 18th you can save $5 on your purchase at Brobo.com with the promo code PEACEJOY. Just enter at checkout.

Disclosure: I received complimentary product to facilitate this review. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own (or those of my family).

Dreamworks’ Turbo Speeds Onto BluRay and DVD November 12 #TurboFastFun {Giveaway}

The little snail who could. DreamWorks Pictures’ Turbo comes to Blu-Ray and DVD on November 12, just in time for holiday giving! Turbo tells the courageous story of a little snail with big dreams of becoming a race car. Despite the discouragement he receives from his peers, Turbo knows what he is capable of. With amazingly creative celebrity performances by Ryan Reynolds, Snoop Dog, Samuel L. Jackson and Maya Rudolph, this film is great fun for the whole family.

TURBO – Need for Speed | Pragyan Thapa

I like the message here to go after your dreams and listen to your heart. This would be a wonderful movie to enjoy together, cuddled on the couch in the cold and snowy days to come. It could even inspire some conversations about the aspirations of your own little ones. Being a strong proponent of family movie night, I always include a selection of DVDs in our holiday gifts, encouraging us to spend some quality bonding time together with some giggles and popcorn. Turbo would make a great gift for your own kids, or as a family gift to give to friends.

When you give a movie, you are giving the gift of time spent together, as well as the entertainment itself. I’ll be highlighting additional new releases in this gift guide over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, how much do you know about snails? Here are a few fun facts to share with your kids.

Snail Facts and Fun

  1. Salt is a snail’s biggest enemy! In the film, Chet falls down in the stadium and just barely makes it through the center of a pretzel! He was so relieved he didn’t touch it, because salt can kill a snail, so they have to be careful!

 

 

 

  1. It would take a snail 2 hours to move from one side of a football field to the other. That’s 50 yards per hour. If you ran your fastest, it would only take about 20 seconds!
    3. Some snails can be as big as 12 inches. Can you imagine a snail the size of a ruler?

 

  1. Garden snails have thousands of teeth, located on their tongue!
    5. Snails do not have ears, but they sure can smell! That is how they find their fruits and veggies to eat.
    6. Snails can live to be up to 20 years old!
    7. Snails are nocturnal, that means they sleep during the day and get their work done at night and in the morning. No wonder Turbo could stay up all night watching Racecar videos!
    8. A garden snail can have as many as 430 baby snails in a year!

 

  1. Garden snails hibernate in their shells during the winter, and some hibernate during the summer too.
    10. When a snail moves, it leaves behind a trail of liquid slime. This mucus protects them from the hard surfaces underneath them. Snails are able to hang onto walls and move upside down thanks to this slime!

 

A Giveaway

One lucky Raising My Boys reader will receive a copy of Turbo on Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. Entries are via the Rafflecopter widget below and will be accepted until 12:00 midnight EST, November 23. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents, excluding Quebec. Best of luck!!

Feel Better this Cold & Flu Season with Vicks #PGMom {Giveaway}

I grew up in a family where home remedies were often the first line of attack against our colds and flu. My grandmother swore by the power of a few drops of warm olive oil to fight off an earache, and she would make us ginger beer for stomach problems. Hot water, honey and lemon for a cold, and of course – chicken soup.

Feel Better Stock Illustrations – 354 Feel Better Stock ...

But what we also always had was Vicks. I still get a wonderful feeling of comfort from the menthol and eucalyptus scent of Vicks Vaporub. It’s a staple in my medicine cabinet, and you’ll find me applying it liberally to chest and back of anyone with nasal or chest congestion. It works wonders to clear up that congestion and ease muscle aches. And did you know – to help with coughing at night, apply Vicks Vaporub to the soles of the feet, then haul on some cotton socks. Seriously! It works.

I swear by their cough syrups as well, and there again is a family tradition. My grandfather always had a bottle of Vicks Formula 44 by his bed. Always. Do you remember that one? He was a bus driver and so was exposed to so many cold and flu bugs, being with the public all day. Formula 44 was the only cough syrup he trusted. And these days I rely on Vicks Nyquil and Dayquil.
These come in a number of formulations, so be sure to read the labels and choose the one that is designed to treat your specific symptoms. Never take more medicine than you need to, right? I do appreciate that you can find a solution within this line for everything from just a cough, to sinus issues, right through full-on flu with a chest full of mucus symptoms, plus you can choose from liquid or caplet forms to find what works for you. I trust Vicks, and am glad I can find what I need from them, regardless of my specific symptoms.

Personally, I am a fan of the NyQuil original flavour liquid, as it hits my typical cold symptoms with a pain reliever, antihistamine and cough suppressant. Plus I love the taste, likely because it reminds me of Formula 44. I find it soothing, and it helps me sleep when I most need the rest to heal. I stock up with this each fall in anticipation of colds to come.

Tips from Vicks
Vicks has these helpful tips and suggestions for you, to help you get through this winter cold and flu season in the best shape possible. Remember – prevention is the best!

Know the signs: Not many people realize they’re most contagious in the first 24 hours of symptoms. If you’re experiencing two or more of these symptoms, do your best to stay at home and enjoy some Netflix!

Cough or Sore Throat
Runny Nose
Headache or Body Aches
Chills / Fatigue

Avoid work germs: Be wary of sinks, office kitchen tools, and especially doorknobs. Keep some antibacterial gel at your desk and make sure you wash your hands frequently.

Take more “You Time”: Saying no to stress can keep your immune system strong, make sure you get plenty of rest and sleep, not just when you’re sick.

Double up on pillows: Place a pillow on your mattress to raise the upper body from the waist up. This allows for blood flow away from your head and will reduce the inflammation of your air passage. It’s also a great method of reducing body aches.

Sweat it out: Steam and humidity will help drain sinuses and relieve your stuffiness. You don’t necessarily have to sit in a sauna or steam room, a hot shower has the exact same effect. (Helpful tip: put your towel or bathrobe in the dryer so you don’t feel chilled when you get out)

“Tea, please”: Drinking herbal teas like chamomile, mint or passionflower can help you relax while also helping fluids into your system.

Treat all your symptoms simultaneously: Look for a medication that can treat the toughest symptoms while also helping you rest. DayQuil COMPLETE and NyQuil COMPLETE provide all-in-one relief for your toughest cold and flu symptoms so you can start seizing the rest of your day, and get the rest you so desperately need at night.

Get Social
Connect with Vicks on Twitter: @NyQuilDayQuil and Facebook: www.Facebook.com/VicksCanada

****** COUPON ALERT: Vicks coupons available at P&Geveryday.ca ******

A Giveaway
We want to help keep you and your family healthy this winter, so we are offering this giveaway to one lucky RMB reader. We can’t have medicine as a prize, so instead the winner will receive a $50 Shopper’s Drug Mart gift card to purchase what you need and a lovely Anthropologie mug for your favourite hot beverage. Total prize value approximately $75. Entries are via the widget below and will be accepted until 11:59pm EST, March 13. Giveaway is open to Canadian residents only. Best of luck!

Entry-Form

Disclosure: I am a P&Gmom. As part of my affiliation with this group I receive products and special access to P&G events and opportunities. The opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.By entering this contest you are accepting that, if you win, your contact information will be shared with a P&G PR and shipping agency for the purpose of mailing your prize. Please allow 4-6 weeks from the contest closure date to receive your prize. This giveaway may appear on other blogs as part of the #PGmom/#mamanPG program. However, to be fair, you can only win once per giveaway. If your name is chosen more than once, another winner will be selected. All winners must be resident in Canada.

Fire Prevention Week October 6-12+A62

 

When I was wee I had regular nightmares. It was really bad actually, and my sleep was very disrupted (as was my mom’s) for years. I had nightmares about monsters and drowning, and sometimes about wild animals. But a lot of them were about fires. I don’t remember ever experiencing a real fire (beyond those contained safely in our fireplace or campfire pit), but I often dreamt of our house burning down or of a fire in the woods surrounding our property. Maybe it was the fact the we essentially lived in a forest, coupled with all those Smokey the Bear ads that did it. But I’ve always been very conscious of the dangers of fire. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as it doesn’t become debilitating. For the record, I still burn candles, but I tend towards ones in glass jars.

Fire Wallpapers: Free HD Download [500+ HQ] | Unsplash

 

October 6-12th marks Fire Prevention Week across Canada, and, being a partner of the Canadian Fire Services, Duracell wants to help keep families safe. Here are some tips they’ve asked me to share with you:

  • Plan: Map out the best way to escape in the event of a fire emergency. Be sure to go over the plan with your family and even create a special day each year where you all practice your fire drill. This way, you and your family can be prepared if a fire should occur.
  • Unplug: Don’t overload electrical outlets with too many plugs from your electronics. If your devices aren’t in use, check that they’re turned off and unplugged from their outlet. Also, when buying your devices, look for approval by a recognized listed agency like the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
  • Clean: Make sure your chimney and fireplace are cleaned annually to prevent a chimney fire from occurring. If you own a space heater, keep in a clear area so that there are no flammable items around.
  • Focus: Cooking is the number one cause of house fires, so it’s essential that you never leave food that’s cooking on a stovetop unattended. Always monitor whatever you’re cooking, and make sure that your cooking space is clear of any objects.
  • Replace: Fire detectors are crucial for notifying you if a fire emergency should occur, which is why it’s important to replace batteries. Test your alarm each month, and be sure to replace your Duracell batteries with the NEW Quantum battery every fall when you turn back your clocks.

To celebrate the launch of the NEW Quantum battery, Duracell has announced the donation of one million batteries to first responders across North America. Duracell Canada is working with the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services (CVFSA) to ensure that the batteries are being distributed to those fire stations most in need. These batteries will be used in life-saving breathing apparatus, location tracking devices, flashlights and will also be distributed during community outreach programs. The Quantum batteries have Duralock Power Preserve technology, guaranteed for 10 years in storage. They are also the only battery with PowerCheck, allowing you to instantly check the power level at any time. No more guessing!

Our clocks will fall back in just a few weeks, on November 3. Be sure to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and home alarm sensors as well. The time change is a great reminder for this essential safety task. And maybe that will be a good weekend to have a discussion with your family about your own fire safety plan for your home. Stay safe!

Disclosure: I am a P&Gmom. As part of my affiliation with this group I receive products and special access to P&G events and opportunities. The opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.

New DVDs from DreamWorks for Family Fall Viewing {Giveaway}

We have had some awesome weather here in southern Ontario so far this fall. But the evenings are definitely getting colder, and the days are definitely getting shorter. I’m already finding myself looking longingly at our fireplace and daydreaming about cuddling on the couch with a blanket and warm cocoa.

Top 10 Dreamworks Films Ranked

It’s getting to the time of year when we begin to spend more time indoors with our families. And our focus turns to finding new ways to keep everyone entertained and fight the cabin fever that can come from our long Canadian winters. (Can you tell I’m not a winter gal??)

Just in time for the change in the weather, DreamWorks Animation is releasing two new DVDs with episodes of some of our favourite character’s TV series.

“Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness – The Scorpion Sting” and “Monsters vs. Aliens: Cloning Around” both hit stores on October 15.

These series, based of course on the hit movies that first introduced us to these characters, provide some great family entertainment for long fall evenings on the couch. I’m a particular fan of the goofy and sweet B.O.B. from Monsters vs. Aliens, while Little Boo is big on Kung Fu Panda, given his love of martial arts.

Downloads

Since Hallowe’en is just around the corner, here are a couple of fun printables for you. Just right-click the image and choose “save as” from the drop-down menu in order to save to your own computer.

 

Kung Fu Panda wishes you a happy Hallowe’en:

And, how about a creepy mad scientist stencil for your jack o’lantern?

 

A Giveaway

Dreamworks Animation is providing one lucky Raising My Boys reader with a prize pack including both of these new DVD releases. Entries are via the Rafflecopter widget below and will be accepted until 12:00 midnight EDT, October 26. Giveaway is open to Canadian and US residents, excluding Quebec. Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this post. I did receive a DVD for my family’s viewing pleasure. All opinions on this blog, as always, remain my own.