Meet Cecile


There's a new heroine in the world of historical fiction, and she's upsetting all the stereotypes. Cecile Rey is an African-American girl living in New Orleans in the 1850's. She's not a slave, she's a free person of color, and her family is among the most influential and affluent around town. She has a brother studying in France. She loves to sing. She's intelligent and confident. She's not afraid to make friends with the most unlikely of girls, a white Yankee name Marie-Grace. Go Cecile!

Here's the synopsis of the first Cecile book, Meet Cecile:

Cécile Rey can't wait for Mardi Gras—the dazzling season of parties and costume balls in New Orleans. For the grandest event of all, the Children's Ball, Cécile is determined to come up with a fantastic costume like no other. Everyone will notice her! And after Mardi Gras, Cécile's beloved brother, Armand, will finally come home after two long years in faraway France. But Mardi Gras season turns out to be even more exciting than Cécile expects when she meets a new girl named Marie-Grace Gardner. Together they form an unlikely friendship...and share a daring adventure! Includes an illustrated "Looking Back" essay about the history of free people of color in New Orleans. Author: Denise Lewis Patrick. Paperback. 120 pages.

This book is second in a series of six books filled with inspiring lessons of compassion, courage, and friendship. Their stories, which are woven together in one six-book series and written by two different authors, include Meet Marie-Grace, Meet Cécile, Marie-Grace and the Orphans, Troubles for Cécile, Marie-Grace Makes a Difference, and Cécile's Gift.


Here are some photos I took of the new Cecile American Girl doll:

CecileThe first thing you notice about Cecile is that she doesn't look anything like the illustrations in the books. Both Ceciles have lovely arched eyebrows, but Cecile in the book has almond-shaped eyes, while Cecile the doll has rounder eyes. Her nose, lips and skin color are about the same, but I like Cecile the doll's hair much better. Cecile is a pretty girl in the book illustrations, but Cecile the doll is gorgeous!


CecileThe illustrations of Cecile in the book show her with tamed, tight curls, while Cecile the doll's curls are lovely and loose, cascading down the side and back of her head. I'm somewhat nervous about what Cecile's hair is going to look like in 3 months' time, because already her hair is frizzing up.


Cecile
Check out Cecile's pantalettes and boots! Her pantalettes have a lovely scalloped trim, different from Marie-Grace's, and she wears black boots with gold buttons. They go perfectly with her outfit.

Cecile's outfit is really nice: not too frilly, but definitely girly. I love the combination of black velvet and teal satin, and I love the white pintucked cotton front. It's the kind of dress I would have liked wearing to a party when I was a little girl!




You can purchase the Cecile doll as well as the Cecile-Marie-Grace book set on AmericanGirl.com. For even more fun, check out Cecile's Accessories set, Cecile's nightgown, Cecile's pet parrot and Cecile's outfits.



Disclosure: American Girl sent me a Cecile and Marie-Grace doll. Product information is provided by the featured company/product and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Pringles Grab N Go




Alfie and I grew up on opposite ends of the world, and our childhoods could not have been more different. But apparently there are some things about childhood that are universal. And no, I'm not talking about friends and balls and teddy bears -- I'm talking about Pringles. When I was growing up, Pringles was THE potato chip, and any kid who had a can of Pringles to share was an instant hero. I didn't realize how popular Pringles were in England until I first stayed at Alfie's parents' home; every time we had a sandwich for lunch (which was most days), they always served it with Pringles. I hardly ever keep chips at home, but whenever we visit England the kids know they're going to be allowed to eat Pringles pretty much every day.

As I mentioned, chips and crisps are not a regular fixture in our cupboard -- but I like to relax the rules a bit whenever we go on a road trip. Pringles are the perfect road trip snack because the can keeps them from getting crushed, the can fits perfectly in car cup holders and you can always reseal the crisps you don't get around to eating. I know, I know, 5 people can easily demolish a can of Pringles in one sitting, but we all have our favorite flavors, so we need multiple cans! Alfie loves Salt and Vinegar, The Pea loves Cheddar Cheese, 3Po loves Barbecue, and Jammy and I love Sour Cream and Onion. Just blogging about Pringles makes me want to open a can! And fortunately I can, because Pringles sent me several flavors in their newest size, the Grab & Go can. The 2.6 oz. size is about a third of the regular can size, so it's still good for sharing in the back seat of the car, but it's easier to carry in your purse or tote bag for on-the-go snacking. I hope they have Grab & Go sizes in England, because if they do, we are all set for our road trip to Wales next year!


About Pringles Grab & Go
Pringles Grab & Go offers the crisps you crave in smaller size cans, perfect to keep in your car, purse, desk anywhere a snack attack might strike on-the-go. Grab & Go comes in five flavors: Original, Sour Cream & Onion, Cheddar Cheese, BBQ and Pizza in 40g and 74g size cans.


Disclosure: I received a product sample to facilitate my review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions. Product information is provided by Pringles and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Bonggamom's Friday Finds -- list your giveaways here


Bonggamoms Friday Finds

Welcome to Bonggamom's Friday Finds!

So feel free to leave links to your giveaways, everyone. And don't forget to get cracking and enter everyone else's, too!


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Southern Living Style



It has been almost seven years since our big remodel (we added a second floor to our home, nearly doubling the square footage), and after seven years of use, certain areas are starting to show wear and tear, notably the kitchen, the living room and the guest room. The walls could use a fresh coat of paint, the living room sofa needs upholstering, our kitchen cabinets need refacing, and so on. It's the perfect opportunity to revamp and refresh these areas, so we've turned to some books and magazines for inspiration. One great book is Southern Living Style. Even though our home is in the Craftsman style, I've found lots of inspiration for how we want to update the look of our home!

About the book:

Introducing the most comprehensive design book from Southern Living magazine, the arbiter of all things Southern. Southern Living Style is the definitive guide for creating unique, but approachable spaces infused with Southern sensibility.

Gracious hospitality, warmth and effortless elegance signify great Southern style. Like the consummate host, the well-appointed Southern home embraces guests and draws them in to linger. Tour the most inspired rooms that have graced the pages of Southern Living magazine in this 288-page guide and learn how to adopt a similar air of timeless ease, based on your personal style and budget.

Key features include:
  • Defining Southern Style: From heirlooms to monograms, discover new ways to celebrate traditional icons.
  • Reclaim It! Tips to turn grandma’s attic finds into updated treasures.
  • Solutions: Top Southern designers offer solutions for design dilemmas.
  • Style on a Budget: Identify individual style and build a room around a single inspiration—the color of a scarf, the pattern of a fabric, even a tag-sale relic.
  • Why it Works?: A piece-by-piece deconstruction of rooms to show the key components required to achieve a particular look. From family friendly to classic, discover what to start with, top with and add to make a room personal, stylish and functional.
  • Southern Style File: A black book of editors’ favorite designers, retailers, and more.
  • Defining Southern Style: A glossary of helpful “decorator speak” terms.





I love this book. I could leaf through its pages again and again, and here's why:

* The photos. The photos alone are a great reason to buy this book. They are absolutely gorgeous! Every room featured looks like it came straight out of a magazine -- which, of course, it was, since they have all graced the pages of Southern Living magazine.

* This book is not just for show: it's a great reference for anyone planning for a decorating project, no matter how large or small. It's filled with practical tips and advice for pulling together the Southern look.

* The authors deconstruct each of the rooms featured in the book and point out some key components in the room, so you can do the same with your own rooms.


My favorite sections are the kitchen, bathrooms and kids' rooms because even though our home is by no means Southern (we have a Craftsman home), there are so many ideas we could apply to our own home (like decorating the walls of your bathroom with antique paintings!). Southern Living Style is the perfect idea book as well as the perfect coffee table book, especially if your home is also decorated in the Southern style. But even if you don't you'll want to spend time browsing through the book. That casually elegant, comfy, shabby-chic mix of classic and modern is so inviting, it makes me want to jump into the pages and move right in!


Disclosure: I received a review copy of Southern Living Style to facilitate my review. Book synopsis is provided by the publisher and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Green Works cleaning products review



One of the simplest ways a household can reduce their impact on the planet is to switch to environmentally-friendly cleaning products. Simple, right? Except, not really. Many of the eco-friendly cleaners out there don't actually clean too well, and they were expensive to boot. So when I first tried Clorox Green Works cleaners , I got all excited. Finally, some eco-friendly products that actually work, and don't cost the earth! I've used Green Works ever since. And when the Mom Bloggers Club invited me to review some of Green Works' most popular products, it was a no-brainer since I already know how good they are.

Here are the four Green Works products that were sent to me, and what I think of them:


Cleaning Wipes · Green Works® Naturally Derived Cleaning Wipes pack some serious cleaning power and are made with naturally derived ingredients, such as citric acid and wood fibers. That means they won’t give off harsh chemical fumes or leave behind harsh chemical residue. And they can be thrown in compost bin after using, since they’re 100 percent biodegradable. These wipes are safe for use on most non-wood surfaces, including acrylic, fiberglass and vinyl.

We always have a can of Green Works Cleaning Wipes in the cabinet underneath our bathroom sink. They are perfect for quick bathroom touch-ups -- when it's not yet time to give the bathroom a thorough scrubbing, but the kids have been careless with their spitting and there's dried toothpaste at the edge of the sink. You know those times! I don't feel icky when I use them because I know they don't have harsh chemicals. Also, I love that they're 100% biodegradable, so I can rest easy knowing they're not clogging up landfills.



All-Purpose Cleaner
· From the cooktop to the countertop, Green Works® Naturally Derived All-Purpose Cleaner powers through grease, grime and dirt without leaving behind harsh chemical fumes or residues. Green Works All Purpose Cleaner is safe to use on multiple surfaces throughout the kitchen and bathroom, including counters, appliances, stainless steel, sealed granite, chrome, cooktop hoods, sinks and toilets.

For the most part, I use only ionized water to clean our countertops, and for the most part it works really well, but there are some stubborn stains that just cannot be removed with water alone. So I always keep a bottle of cleaner in the cleaning cupboard -- and it's always Green Works. I've loved the Green Works cleaner ever since I first tried it!



Laundry Detergent · Green Works® Laundry Detergent is tough on dirt and stains — and dermatologist-tested for sensitive skin. The powerful combination of naturally derived cleaning ingredients will leave laundry fresh and clean — without phosphates, optical brighteners or harsh chemical residue. The detergent is formulated for both standard and high-efficiency (HE) washers.

The laundry detergent is really working well in our front-loading washer. Even on a cold cycle (I wash all our laundry on a cold cycle), it gets our clothes clean. I also like that it's concentrated, so I don't need to use as much detergent. I do find the scent (we received Original Scent) rather strong, so I think I would probably prefer the Free and Clear.



Bathroom Cleaner
· Green Works® Naturally Derived Bathroom Cleaner is made with plant- and mineral-based cleaning ingredients that power through soap scum, rust and hard water stains — without harsh chemical fumes and residue. It works powerfully on bathroom counters, sinks, bathtubs, tile and shower doors, removing tough soap scum.

While the Green Works Cleaning Wipes are great for lighter jobs, the Green Works Bathroom cleaner is perfect for doing the dirty work. When it's bathroom cleaning day, this is the product that gets the job done in our household.


To make a long story short, I highly recommend Green Works products. They're available at most groceries and mass-market retailers, so you won't have any problem finding them. You won't have any problem cleaning with them, either!


Disclosure: I received Greenworks product samples via the Mom Bloggers Club to facilitate my review. Product information is provided by the Mom Bloggers Club and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Moon Dough review




I have a love-hate affair with modeling compounds; basically, I love how the stuff inspires creativity, but I hate how it dries up and makes a huge mess. For the sake of creativity and imagination, I let the kids play with it and just suck it up (literally, with a vacuum cleaner) -- but now that Moon Dough has hit the scene, I no longer have to compromise!

The Basics
About Moon Dough
Moon Dough is an out-of-this-world new molding dough that never dries out! Hypo-allergenic and wheat-free, soft and marshmallow-like, Moon Dough does not stick to or stain material. Because Moon Dough never dries out, kids can use it again and again. Moon Dough is the latest and greatest new molding compound for kids ages 2-4 to sculpt into fun creations they will love to play with. The line also offers a variety of enjoyable play sets.


The Bongga



We recently received the Moon Dough Push 'N Pop Ocean Pals playset to review, and I am amazed by its consistency, texture and durability. It truly never dries out! Moon Dough is a lot softer than most of the modeling compounds we've played with. It feels really smooth and silky, sort of like a mix of cornstarch, sugar and water -- but this stuff doesn't rot. I've checked! I left some Moon Dough out of its resealable plastic storage bag for a week, and it still feels as soft and supple as it did when we opened the box.

The Push 'N Pop Ocean Pals playset we received comes with some animal molds, 3 Push N' Pop tools, green and purple moon dough, and a sea-themed play mat. You can use the Moon Dough and the molds to make sea creatures like turtles, fish and starfish. The Push N' Pop molds are super-easy to use: load it up with Moon Dough, set it on the table and push the top -- your molded Moon Dough figure will just pop out! I've heard reports that Moon Dough is too crumbly, but I have to say that we didn't experience that at all. Our Moon Dough sticks together quite nicely.

The Bottom Line
I'm over the moon about Moon Dough's creative, no-mess way to have fun!

Disclosure: I received a sample of Moon Dough via Team Mom to facilitate my review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions. Product information is provided by the featured company/product and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Scotch-Brite Botanical Wipes Giveaway



Each classroom in my kids' elementary school maintains a Wish List of items that the teacher would love to have: pencils, printer ink, printer paper, wipes, that sort of thing. Parents check out the Wish List and buy one or two items so that the teacher and the class can focus on learning.

One item that's always on the Wish List is disinfecting wipes. Kids are kids, and they'll always come in after recess and lunch with grubby, sticky hands that they use to pat, handle and touch everything. You can always tell a child to wash his hands in the sink, but you can't wash a desk in the sink! So having wipes in the classroom is key. Most of the time, disinfecting wipes and kids don't really go together -- think of all the chemical residue! -- but Scotch Brite has come up with a disinfecting wipe that's safe to use around kids, pets, even food. They're called Scotch Brite Botanical disinfecting wipes, and if you're buying disinfecting wipes for your child's classroom, you should check them out.


The Basics

Here's some information about new Scotch-Brite wipes:

3M Scotch-Brite™ is introducing “no-rinse” Botanical Disinfecting Wipes that kill 99.9% of household germs*, kill cold & flu viruses and leave school surfaces – such as desks, tables and chairs – residue-free.

Surprisingly, most disinfecting wipes that are used in homes or schools (on any non-porous surface) require rinsing after wiping. The “no-rinse” feature found in the Scotch-Brite™ Botanical Disinfecting Wipes provide a safe and effective way to make sure your kids are able to clean and breathe easy while at home, daycare or school.


The Bongga
3M sent me a can of Scotch-Brite wipes to try out, and when I received them, I meant to donate the can to one of my kids' classrooms -- but after smelling them and using one of the wipes to clean up the breakfast table, I decided to keep them at home! I guess I'll just have to go back to the store for more :) Here's what I love best about them:

* This product uses CleanWell, a thyme-based formula that's safe for kids and kills germs naturally. I know and love CleanWell hand sanitizers and disinfectants, and I use them all the time on my kids, so I feel good about using these wipes around my kids.

* It doesn't smell harsh or acidic or chemical-ly (is that a word? you know what I mean). The Lemongrass scent is really mild and pleasant, and quite possibly the best-smelling wipes I've ever smelled.

* You don't have to rinse the surface off after wiping.


The Blah
In the interests of being more eco-friendly, I'd love to see a Scotch Brite Botanical disinfecting spray, that can be used with a washable cloth.


The Bottom Line
Scotch-Brite Botanical disinfecting wipes are a must-have in every classroom!


Win a Scotch-Brite Back-to-School Gift Basket
One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will win a Back-to-School Gift Basket from Scotch-Brite filled with an assortment of 3M school supplies and Scotch-Brite Botanical Disinfecting Wipes


Required Entry
Leave a comment on this post and share a tip for keeping your child healthy and germ-free in school. This entry must be completed before any extra entries will count.

Extra Entries
For extra entries, you can do any or all of the following. Please leave a separate comment for each extra entry with a way to verify the entry (i.e. tweet link, blog post link, Facebook id, Twitter id, etc.).

1) Blog about this giveaway, making sure you include a link to the giveaway in your blog post (1 entry).

2) Write this on the Bonggamom Finds Facebook page (1 entry):
I entered the Scotch-Brite Back-to-School giveaway! http://bonggafinds.com

3) Follow Bonggamom Finds on Networked Blogs (1 entry).

4) Add the Bonggamom Finds blog button to your sidebar (1 entry).

5) Follow Bonggamom Finds on Blogger/Google Friend Connect (1 entry).

6) Follow @bonggafinds on Twitter and tweet this, up to once per day (1 entry per day):
RT @bonggafinds Enter to win a Back-to-School gift basket from Scotch-Brite! Enter at http://bonggafinds.com #giveaways




The Rules
This giveaway ends at 11:59PM PST on October 7, 2011; I will draw a winner at random on October 8 and post the winner's name after he/she confirms acceptance. Continental US residents only. For additional giveaway rules, click here. Good luck!

Disclosure: I did not receive a sample or monetary compensation for this post. I received a product sample to facilitate my review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions. Product information is provided by the featured company/product and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Roar! with Pottery Barn Kids and NatGeo Wild




NatGeo Wild and Pottery Barn Kids are teaming up to raise awareness of the plight of big cats in the wild. You can make your own voice heard by filming your child's 10-second roar -- and get a chance to win fame and fortune in the process! Just go to PotteryBarnKids.com/roar and upload your child's roar video to enter the Roar Off! contest. The winner receives $4000 cash, and their winning video will appear on the NatGeo Wild channel.

It's the easiest video of your kids you'll ever take -- it's only 10 seconds and kids are only to happy to roar anyway. Here are 3Po and Jammy roaring for the camera (complete with a cat-like swipe from Jammy):

video


The contests ends on September 30, so submit a video now, and don't forget to vote for your favorites!

Disclosure: I did not receive a sample or monetary compensation for this post. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Tiny Prints Holiday Cards are here!




Can you believe it, we have 100 days to go before December 25? The holidays will be here before you know it! I am determined not to wait until the last minute to get our holiday cards together. In fact, later today we are heading up to San Francisco for a holiday photo shoot with my friend and photographer Erin. And I'm already browsing the Tiny Prints holiday card line for the perfect holiday card that will make friends and family say Awwwwwww.

Yes, the Tiny Prints holiday cards are back, with all new shapes and designs. Last year Tiny Prints blew me away with their ornament cards and their die-cut "flip" cards.


This year one of the big themes seems to be rounded-edge holiday cards; Tiny prints has over 250 of them, and they're all new! I love the retro/vintage vibe these rounded corners give. Here's one of my favorite designs:


The Merry Intent design is simple but striking. The reverse side of the card is a colorful dot design that is so festive and cute. I'm definitely adding this one to my favorites list, but I'm not committing to it yet, because there are so many other gorgeous designs to consider.

Also, cute as this card is, it happens to be a flat card, and I must say that I much prefer folded holiday cards to flat cards. Why? Because we display our cards the traditional English way: strung up across the walls and doorways of our living room. It's so much easier to hang cards from a string when they're folded; flat cards require a clothespin to keep them up! Fortunately, Tiny Prints has tons of folded cards to choose from, including this cute design: Getting this card to hang on a garland should be no problem! Every year I look forward to seeing our holiday card garland, because every year it changes, and it's always made from the cards our family and friends send us.


Save on Tiny Prints Holiday Cards
Save $20 off Tiny Prints holiday card orders of $99+ , or $50 off $199+, with Code: NEWHOL11. This code is valid until 9/28.


Disclosure: Tiny Prints will be sending me a set of holiday cards as a thank-you for posting about their holiday card line . The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Bonggamom's Friday Finds -- list your giveaways here


Bonggamoms Friday Finds

Welcome to Bonggamom's Friday Finds! I took a six-week hiatus from this weekly post series, but it's back now, and I hope you all continue to leave links to your giveaways. And don't forget to get cracking and enter everyone else's, too!


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DaGeDar



All boys are fascinated with balls. I learned this seven years ago, when 3Po and Jammy were just ten or eleven months old, yet spent most of their time playing with (and fighting over) the few toy balls in our household. To this day, their love affair with spherical objects continues -- they love soccer balls, basketballs, inflatable beach balls, marbles, and anything that rolls. So when I first saw DaGeDar racing balls at the MomSelect Swag Suite at BlogHer 2011, I knew immediately my kids would love them. When we received some DaGeDar balls and tracks to review, my theory was confirmed!

The Basics
DaGeDar are little racing balls, each with its own name and design. Each ball also has its own code that kids can unlock on dagedar.com. There are over 240 DaGeDars to collect, trade -- and most importantly, to race. DaGeDars have steel cores, so they zip down racetracks at lightning speed. You can purchase special DaGeDar race tracks -- such as the High Speed Stunt Jump Track, High Speed Score Zone Raceway and Two Lane Battle Jump Raceway -- to put your DaGeDars through their paces.



The Bongga
The boys love playing with their DaGeDars! They're already talking about buying DaGaDars for all their friends' birthday presents so that they can all play DaGeDar together.

Here's what I love best about DaGeDars:

* It's such a simple idea -- no complicated instructions, no batteries, no learning curve, yet it's got the speed and thrills that boys love.

* The different designs are so cool, and since each one has its own little stand, you can display them on a shelf. Of course, that also means boys will have the extra fun of collecting, comparing and trading with their friends.

* You don't actually need to buy the DaGeDar tracks to enjoy playing with DaGeDar racing balls. They'll work equally well if you race them on standard race car tracks. Okay, maybe not quite as well -- the DaGeDar race tracks have higher grooves separating the lanes, so the DaGeDar balls are less likely to roll off the tracks.

* Even parents love watching DaGeDars roll on their tracks! It all looks so smooth and effortless, and their steel cores make them lightning-fast, but it's tougher than it looks to arrange the tracks so that the balls don't roll off. It's quite a challenge to set it all up, but it's worth it when you set the DaGeDars off and watch them fly.




The Blah
I get nervous every time I hear these balls fall on our hardwood floors with a big, solid Thonk! I'm convinced the heavy steel cores are going to put dents into the floor boards, but so far it hasn't happened. 3Po and Jammy have learned to quell my nervousness by only playing with their DaGeDars on a carpet or rug.

The Bottom Line
DaGeDar has everything boys love -- cool designs, cool stunts, plus the simple (yet thrilling) entertainment of speed and racing.

Disclosure: I received a product sample to facilitate my review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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American Girls' newest dolls: Cecile and Marie-Grace



Let's give a big, warm welcome to American Girls' latest characters, Cécile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner!
American Girl introduces two different historical characters, Cécile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner, in one six-book series set in 1850s New Orleans . The new characters, one African American and one Caucasian, show the power of friendship and community as they reach across the boundaries of race and class to help their families, friends, and city during a time of great need.
I'm really loving American Girls' two latest dolls, Cecile and Marie-Grace, for several reasons:

* First of all, it's high time they added a girl of color to their historical line-up. They now have two African-American dolls (Addie and Cecile), a Native American doll (Kaya) and an Asian doll (Ivy). The Pea thinks Cecile is by far the prettiest of the four, so I was thrilled when American girl sent us Cecile and Marie-Grace, so she could add some diversity to her AG collection. I'm still waiting for more ethnic Girls of the Year -- how about a Filipina girl who recently immigrated to the US? That would be awesome!

* I also think it was a great idea to introduce the two dolls as equal "partners in crime", in a single book series. Previously, the historical character would have a best friend -- like Julie's friend Ivy, or Samantha's friend Nellie, or Kit's friend Ruthie -- with a book telling her story, but the focus was always on the main character, and the best friend played a supporting role. Having two main characters sends the message that no one girl's story is more important than the other. Moreover, Cecile and Marie-Grace's specific storyline sends the message that friendships can cross the boundaries of race, class and culture. What a great example to set for girls everywhere!

* I love how American Girl has tied the introduction of Cecile and Marie-Grace with community involvement themed with the story. They've partnered with Harry Connick, Jr. and his daughter to help out the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in New Orleans (Cecile and Marie-Grace's story is set in New Orleans). Here's how you and your daughter can get involved:

To celebrate Cécile and Marie-Grace's debut and the rich musical tradition of New Orleans , American Girl has partnered with 13-year-old Kate Connick and her father, world-renowned musician and actor Harry Connick, Jr., to create an original song "A Lot Like Me", with all proceeds benefiting the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in New Orleans .

You can download the song on the American Girl website or go directly to iTunes.

* Finally, Cecile and Marie-Grace are two very pretty dolls, and The Pea is thrilled to have them join the gang! Here are some photos I took of the latest additions to our American Girl family:


Marie-Grace and MiaHere's Marie-Grace with Coconut and Mia, the Girl of the Year 2008. Mia has crossed the boundaries of time and space to be with Marie-Grace, but she doesn't want to stick out like a sore thumb, so she is wearing one of Felicity's dresses.



Natalia (Just Like Me doll), Cecile and Marie-GraceIt's a slumber party! Alfie made this bunk bed for Mia and Natalia (that's The Pea's Just Like Me doll), but now he might have to make another bunk bed for Marie-Grace and Cecile!


Cecile and Marie-GraceThree gorgeous girls. 'Nuff said.


You can now purchase Cecile and Marie-Grace dolls, accessories and books at AmericanGirl.com. Stay tuned for more review posts and detailed photos of Cecile and Marie-Grace!


Disclosure: American Girl sent me a Cecile and Marie-Grace doll. Product information is provided by the featured company/product and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Quest for Zhu Party Tips and Activity Sheets




The release of the new Zhu Zhu Pets movie, Quest for Zhu, is only 5 days away, so you parents of Zhunatics are probably already planning your own Zhu Zhu movie parties! We hosted our own Quest for Zhu preview party last week, courtesy of MomSelect, and it was a great success. Based on my experience hosting the party, here are some tips you can use for your own Quest for Zhu Parties:

1) Make it a Big Deal for the kids by lining the path from your front door to the viewing area with a Hollywood-style Red Carpet. You can use masking tape or painter's tape to secure a long strip of red tissue to the floor!

2) No movie party is complete without snacks! Make lots of popcorn, hand out packs of Twizzlers or other movie candy, and give the kids paper cups filled with milk or juice. Don't forget the bendy straw!

3) Ask your guests to bring their Zhu Zhu pets and prepare a special Zhu Zhu viewing area in front of the TV, so the kids can position their Zhu Zhu pets to have their own movie party!

4) Get your guests excited to watch the movie with some Zhu Zhu craft activities. You can print out Zhu Zhu coloring sheets from the internet, or download the Zhu Zhu Activity sheets below.

5) Afterwards, the movie can serve as inspiration for future Zhu Zhu play sessions! My daughter and her friends have already made their own Zhu Zhu movie theatre out of cardboard, tape and paper.


Have a great party! And don't forget to enter my Quest for Zhu DVD giveaway! If you leave a comment on this post, it counts as an extra entry to the giveaway!



Here are the Zhu Zhu Activity sheets. To download, just click on an image. It will take you to my Flickr page, where you can download the image in small, medium, large or original resolution.





Disclosure: Zhu Zhu activity sheets were provided by MomSelect. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Eden Fantasys -- original, outrageous and open


Link

There were quite a few memorable brands at BlogHer 2011. Some were old favorites and others were new discoveries. Of the new discoveries, I have to say that none of them were quite like EdenFantasys. They got my vote for the most outrageous (in a good way) party at BlogHer '11, as well as the naughtiest swag at BlogHer '11 (again, in a good way). Given that Eden Fantasys is an online adult toy store, you can imagine what sorts of activities we were up to -- NOT!

The Eden Fantasys party at BlogHer 2011 was actually a fun girls' craft night, with no dirty shenanigans (sort of). It was a nice, intimate event with wine, cheese, crackers and cupcakes (see? I told you it was girly!). We did some arts and crafts, and got to take our creations home.

Here I am, posing with my craft. Can you see what it is?


Well, yes, it is a cute and cuddly monster that I crafted using pipe cleaners, feathers, glue and plastic eyes. But you need to look a bit closer to see what it really is. Here's a closer shot (hint: look at the objects behind my monster):


Is that outrageous, or what?! What better way to hide your personal toys in plain view of the in-laws and the kids?! Of course, they might find it so cute that they decide they want to play with it, and the feathers might fall away, so maybe it's best if you leave this one in your lingerie drawer.....

See, that's what I love about Eden Fantasys. They take such an open, sensible approach to sex. It's not something to be ashamed of, it's something to celebrate! Eden Fantasys is a site where women and couples can visit without worrying that the internet police are going to arrest you or worrying that your email address is being sent to some hardcore porn site, or that you'll all of a sudden begin to receive all kinds of spam in your email inbox, or worse, start getting unwanted porn-site popups on your laptop (try explaining that to your 7 year-old!). Yes, even PTA members can visit. Yes, even couples who host neighborhood block parties can purchase!

If you don't believe me, visit the site and see for yourself. Click around, and you'll see that the site is not just for couples looking to spice up their bedroom activities. A lot of their lingerie is erotic, but they have a great selection of robes, pretty underwear, even sleep masks, that you can buy just for yourself, to feel pretty and confident -- no boyfriend necessary! If you're the maid of honor for an upcoming wedding, Eden Fantasys sells bachelorette party guides and girls' night out guides as well as fun grown-up party favors. As George Michael once said, sex is natural, sex is fun -- and thanks to Eden Fantasys, anyone can enjoy it :)


Disclosure: I will be receiving a gift card to Eden Fantasys as a thank-you for writing this post. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Mechatars Robot Review and Giveaway





My sons have become the model of good behavior. Every morning they get up, dress up, have breakfast, brush their teeth and make their beds. After school, they put away their things, do their homework, read for 15 minutes, practice piano, and water their plants. I can't really claim all the credit -- they do it because they want to earn the right to some computer time. And computer time has become a hotter commodity than usual, thanks to their new Mechatar Wrexx remote-control robot. CleverGirls selected us to review a Mechatars robot, and it seems like it's all they want to do! Keep reading to see what this new phenomenon is all about (and enter to win one of your own).....

About Mechatars
Mechatars is an interactive toy robot and a free virtual online game. With a Mechatar robot, kids are able to drive their toy around with the included remote control, complete offline missions and also challenge their friends to online and offline Mechatar battles. Kids who have a Mechatar robot can connect it to the online game. Those without a Mechatar robot can still play the virtual online game for free. The objective of the game is for kids and Mechatars to work together and defeat the evil Swarm.


The Bongga

My boys are loving this robot! The love how it rolls around at the touch of a button, and they love the cool dino sound effects. Here's a video of them figuring out how it works:



But the remote control aspect is only half of the fun. You can also connect your Mechatar to your computer with the included USB cable, and download missions from Mechatar.com (you have to create an account). You can play games online at Mechatar.com, and playing games earns you credits that you can use to download missions to your Mechatar. We only have one Mechatar (at the moment!) but I imagine that if you have 2 Mechatars in the room, they'll want to do battle with each other!

Here are some of the things I love best about our Mechatar:

* You don't need a second Mechatar to have fun. Mechatars can go on solo missions involving "spy hunts", like the Swarm Hunter Mission. In the Swam Hunter mission, your Mechatar picks out an object that you have to find by driving your Mechatar around, and you are given feedback on how close you are to the object via a series of beeps, as well as audio tips (i.e. "Not Close Enough").

* You don't need to spend actual cash to download missions to your Mechatar; kids earn credits by playing the online Mechatar game.

* I really love the "hint" button -- when you press it, you'll hear audio instructions to help you figure out what to do next (for example, "Press Go and Turn buttons to drive").

* The remote control unit does not have one of those retractable metal antennas, so there are less parts to break!


The Blah
Here are some thing that I think could be improved:

* The Mechatar desktop application runs on my laptop, even when the Mechatar is not plugged in. It runs in the background, but it does take up some memory, and I find it extremely annoying. Why not run the app only when the Mechatar gets plugged in?

* It's extremely difficult to connect the USB cable to the USB port on the back of the Mechatar. You really have to push firmly and make sure it goes in deep, otherwise the computer will not recognize the device and you won't be able to sync your Mechatar.

* There is no auto-power-off feature, so our Mechatar often gets left with the power on for hours at a time, draining the battery.

* Right now, all you can do out of the box is make the Mechatar go and stop. I wish the Mechatar came pre-loaded with a few missions, so that parents who really don't want their kids to play games online can still buy Mechatars for their kids to enjoy.


The Bottom Line
None of the limitations I mentioned really bother my kids, only me. As far as they are concerned, their Mechatar is the coolest remote-control toy ever -- and I'm betting a lot of boys, little and not-so-little, would agree.


Save 10% on your purchase of a Mechatar Robot
Use the coupon code MECHMOM to receive 10% off your purchase at iloverobots.com. This code is good until November 30, 2011.



Win a Mechatar
One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will win a Mechatar robot!


Required Entry
Visit www.Mechatars.com and check out the Mechatar robot line up (click on "Play Now", then "Register" to see the full product line -- don't worry, you won't have to submit any information). Then leave a comment on this post and tell me which Mechatar you'd most like to win. This entry must be completed before any extra entries will count.


Extra Entries
For extra entries, you can do any or all of the following. Please leave a separate comment for each extra entry with a way to verify the entry (i.e. tweet link, blog post link, Facebook id, Twitter id, etc.).


1) Blog about this giveaway, making sure you include a link to the giveaway in your blog post (1 entry).

2) Write this on the Bonggamom Finds Facebook page (1 entry):
I entered the Mechatar giveaway! http://ow.ly/6zOXF

3) Add the Bonggamom Finds blog button to your sidebar (1 entry).

4) Follow Bonggamom Finds on Blogger/Google Friend Connect (1 entry).

5) Follow @bonggafinds on Twitter and tweet this, up to once per day (1 entry per day):
Enter to win a Mechatars remote-control robot on @bonggafinds http://ow.ly/6zOXF #CleverRobot #spon

6) Join any of the open giveaways on Bonggamom Finds (1 entry for each giveaway you've joined)

7) Leave a comment on the Mechatar Wrexx video on the Bonggamom Finds YouTube page (1 entry).



The Rules
This giveaway ends at 11:59PM PST on October 3, 2011; I will draw a winner at random on October 4 and post the winner's name after he/she confirms acceptance. Continental US residents only. For additional giveaway rules, click here. Good luck!



Disclosure: I was selected to participate in this sponsored post series by Clever Girls Collective. Mechatars (via Clever Girls) has provided me with a product sample to facilitate my review as well as a similar product to give away and compensation for my time. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Lite Sprites giveaway


Last month I blogged about one of this year's most fascinating toys, Lite Sprites. These color-changing fairies that take on any color of the rainbow is sure to be one of the holiday season's must-have toys for little girls. Even my sons love using the Lite Wand to pick up colors from everyday items, then changing the Lite Sprites to that exact same color! Check out my review to see how it all works.

We reviewed the lead Sprite, Prisma, but there are also 3 other Sprite Sisters: Astra, Brooke, and Meadow. Lite Sprites also sent us Brooke, so she could keep Prisma company. Have 2 Lite Sprites is twice the fun, because like Prisma, you can use the Lite Wand to change their colors -- you can make them all the same color, or give each one a different color. There's also Bleak, a naughty Sprite who rejects color and uses her powers to eliminate or disrupt color in Lite-Topia. Personally, I think I'd love to try out Bleak and see what happens when you zap her with the Lite Wand!

The good news today is that Lite Sprite is providing an extra Lite Sprite to give away! One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will win a Lite Sprite fairy!


Required Entry
Leave a comment on this post and tell me which Lite Sprite is your favorite. This entry must be completed before any extra entries will count.

Extra Entries
For extra entries, you can do any or all of the following. Please leave a separate comment for each extra entry with a way to verify the entry (i.e. tweet link, blog post link, Facebook id, Twitter id, etc.).

1) Leave a comment on my Lite Sprites review post (1 entry).

2) Blog about this giveaway, making sure you include a link to the giveaway in your blog post (1 entry).

3) Write this on the Bonggamom Finds Facebook page (1 entry):
I entered the Lite Sprites giveaway! http://ow.ly/6zM9j

4) Write this on the Lite Sprites Facebook page, filling in the blank with the Lite Sprite of your choice (1 entry):
I would love to win the _________________ Lite Sprite on Bonggamom Finds! http://ow.ly/6zM9j

5) Add the Bonggamom Finds blog button to your sidebar (1 entry).

6) Follow Bonggamom Finds on Blogger/Google Friend Connect (1 entry).

7) Follow @bonggafinds on Twitter and tweet this, up to once per day (1 entry per day):
Enter to win a @LiteSprites fairy at @bonggafinds! Enter at http://ow.ly/6zM9j #giveaways

8) Join any of the open giveaways on Bonggamom Finds (1 entry for each giveaway you've joined)




The Rules
This giveaway ends at 11:59PM PST on September 30, 2011; I will draw a winner at random on October 1 and post the winner's name after he/she confirms acceptance. Prize does not include a Lite Wand, and the Lite Sprite will be chosen at random. Continental US residents only. For additional giveaway rules, click here. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received a Brooke Lite Sprite for review. Lite Sprites is also providing the giveaway prize. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Quest for Zhu DVD Giveaway



Just one more week until the release of the new Quest For Zhu movie! I'm sure Zhunatics all over the world are excited to see the Zhu Zhu pets hit the big screen. We had the opportunity to host a special pre-release Quest For Zhu movie premiere party at our home last week, and everyone who attended enjoyed the movie. I would highly recommend it for any child because it's cute, entertaining, and not too scary.

Kids are not the only ones who enjoyed Quest For Zhu. A number of Zhu Zhu pets were also invited to our party and got to watch the movie ahead of the general public. So what did they think of the movie? A couple of Zhu Zhu pet reporters, Patches and Bitsy, took it upon themselves to interview the stars of the movie -- Mr. Squiggles, Chunk, Num Nums and Pipsqueak -- along with some adoring fans. Fortunately, my daughter and her best friend caught it all on tape! Check out the video:




Quest for Zhu has gathered rave reviews from kids, hamsters, squirrels and other creatures in the Zhuniverse, so don't miss it!



Win a copy of Quest for Zhu
I have an extra copy of the new Quest for Zhu DVD for one lucky Bonggamom Finds reader!



Required Entry
Leave a comment on this post and tell me your favorite character in the Quest for Zhu movie. This entry must be completed before any extra entries will count.

Extra Entries
For extra entries, you can do any or all of the following. Please leave a separate comment for each extra entry with a way to verify the entry (i.e. tweet link, blog post link, Facebook id, Twitter id, etc.).

1) Leave a comment on The Pea's Quest for Zhu video, on bonggamom's YouTube channel (1 entry).

2) Share The Pea's Quest for Zhu video (http://ow.ly/6zI8Q) on Facebook (1 entry).

3) Share The Pea's Quest for Zhu video on Twitter with this tweet (1 entry):
RT @bonggafinds Check out The Pea's red-carpet interviews w/ the stars of #questforzhu + some adoring @zhuniverse fans! http://ow.ly/6zI8Q

4) Leave a comment on my Quest for Zhu at-home premiere party recap (1 entry).

5) Leave a comment on my Quest for Zhu party activity post (1 entry).

6) Blog about this giveaway, making sure you include a link to the giveaway in your blog post (1 entry).

7) Write this on the Bonggamom Finds Facebook page (1 entry):
I entered the Quest for Zhu giveaway! http://ow.ly/6zJyZ

8) Write this on the Quest for Zhu Movie Facebook page: (1 entry).
I entered to win a Quest for Zhu DVD on Bonggamom Finds! http://ow.ly/6zJyZ

9) Follow @bonggafinds on Twitter and tweet this (1 entry):
RT @bonggafinds Calling all zhuniverse fans: you could win a Quest for Zhu DVD! Enter by 10/11 at http://ow.ly/6zJyZ #giveaways #questforzhu




The Rules
Maximum of 10 entries per person (1 required entry + 9 extra entries). This giveaway ends at 11:59PM PST on October 10, 2011; I will draw a winner at random on October 11 and post the winner's name after he/she confirms acceptance. Continental US residents only. For additional giveaway rules, click here. Good luck!



Disclosure: Disclosure: I received a Quest for Zhu Premiere Party package courtesy of MomSelect. I received an additional Quest for Zhu DVD from CepiaLLC, which I am giving away here. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Betty Crocker Molasses Cookie mix review and giveaway




Fall is a great time of the year, with so many distinct sights, smells, tastes and textures. I love the tastes of fall, with all the fragrant spices and hearty textures. Butternut squash soup, pumpkin bread, apple pie, beans with molasses and gingerbread make my mouth water!

Gingerbread and other spice cookies are super-yummy, but I never make them, because honestly, I find it so tedious to measure out all those spices -- plus I have to buy so many spices and store them in my cupboard, where they'll probably sit unused until I have to throw them out. Enter Bettey Crocker Molasses Cookie mix, which is a wonderful way to enjoy the home baked aroma and taste of Molasses cookies without all the hassle.

About Betty Crocker® Molasses Cookie mix Love molasses cookies, but could do without the preparation and mess? Betty Crocker to the rescue! This fall, Betty Crocker is introducing a molasses cookie mix, making this year-round favorite easy to bake in less than 20 minutes. With a delectably soft and chewy texture, and great spice cookie taste, new Betty Crocker® Molasses Cookie mix combines real molasses flavor with hints of cinnamon and spice for a homemade taste that you’ll love. Look for Betty Crocker Molasses Cookie mix in the baking aisle of grocery stores this fall.



What do I think?
These cookies are sooooo good. They are so soft and chewy, with just the right blend of spiciness and sweetness. They're perfect on their own, with a glass of milk -- or best of all, in an ice-cream sandwich! That's how we've been enjoying the batch we made, using the Betty Crocker Molasses cookie mix that MyBlogSpark sent us to try. It was so easy to make, and the whole thing took about 20 minutes.




To make things even easier, I have a couple of tried-and-tested tips for you:

* The recipe calls for a stick of softened butter. If you're like me and you forgot to take the butter out of the fridge, you can soften the butter in the microwave, on high, for 10 or 15 seconds.

* Use an ice-cream scoop to portion out the cookie dough. It's quick and easy, and all your cookies turn out round and even in size! A mini ice-cream scoop is just right for making 2-inch molasses cookies.

* Line your pans with parchment paper. The cookies will brown evenly at the bottom, they won't stick to your baking sheet, and clean-up is a breeze.


Finally, the cookies will come out of the oven super-soft, so leave them on the pan for a couple of minutes before transferring them to cooling racks. Resist the temptation to eat them right away, because the center will be slightly raw.



Save $0.75 off a pouch of Betty Crocker® Molasses Cookie mix
In addition, you and your readers can visit http://bit.ly/cookiescoupon to download a printable coupon for $0.75 off the purchase of one (1) Betty Crocker® Molasses Cookie mix pouch today!



Win a Betty Crocker® Molasses Cookie prize pack

One lucky Bonggamom Finds winner will receive a prize pack, courtesy of Betty Crocker®, which consists of:

Molasses Cookie mix prize pack which includes a Betty Crocker apron, non-stick baking pan, and mixing spoon.


Required Entry
Leave a comment on this post and share how you plan to use the time you've saved by using Betty Crocker Molasses Cookie mix. This entry must be completed before any extra entries will count.

Extra Entries
For extra entries, you can do any or all of the following. Please leave a separate comment for each extra entry with a way to verify the entry (i.e. tweet link, blog post link, Facebook id, Twitter id, etc.).

1) Blog about this giveaway, making sure you include a link to the giveaway in your blog post (1 entry).

2) Write this on the Bonggamom Finds Facebook page (1 entry):
I entered the Betty Crocker giveaway! http://ow.ly/6zGld

3) Write on the Betty Crocker Facebook page and share your favorite occasion for baking Betty Crocker Molasses cookies (1 entry).

4) Add the Bonggamom Finds blog button to your sidebar (1 entry).

5) Follow Bonggamom Finds on Blogger/Google Friend Connect (1 entry).

6) Follow @bonggafinds AND @BettyCrocker on Twitter and tweet this, up to once per day (1 entry per day):
RT @bonggafinds Enter to win a @BettyCrocker Molasses Cookie prize pack! Enter by 10/7 at http://ow.ly/6zGld #giveaways




The Rules
This giveaway ends at 11:59PM PST on October 7, 2011; I will draw a winner at random on October 8 and post the winner's name after he/she confirms acceptance. Continental US residents only. For additional giveaway rules, click here. Good luck!


Disclosure: Product, information (in italics) and prize pack have been provided by Betty Crocker through MyBlogSpark. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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American Girl introduces Cecile and Marie-Grace




I always get really sad when American Girl discontinues a character in their Historical Characters line. When we said good-bye to Samantha, I was devastated, because Nellie (Samantha's friend) was my favorite character, and I was secretly nursing a hope of buying Nellie for The Pea one day. Then Kit and Elizabeth left, and so did Kirsten. Other than turning the dolls into collector's items with a super-high premium, I wasn't really sure why American Girl would discontinue such popular dolls (and such a steady revenue stream!).

The answer, of course, is to make way for new characters and new stories. In hindsight, it seems obvious, but I was too wrapped up in refusing to let go of the old characters to remember the biggest reason I like American Girl -- the Historical Characters are a great way to make history come alive for little girls, and there are so many more periods in American history left unexplored! Samantha, Nellie, Kit, Elizabeth and Kirsten will remain alive in their storybooks.


Take, for instance, American Girls' newest characters, Cecile and Marie-Grace. Their story takes place around 1853, in New Orleans. Until reading the Cecile and Marie-Grace books, I never would have realized that growing up in New Orleans at that time was so different from growing up in other parts of the U.S. I had no idea there was such a big and influential community of free people of color, and I am so glad that American Girl chose to highlight their story through Cecile Rey. I love how American Girl makes history fun to read, and how girls can re-enact what they've learned from the books with their American Girl Historical Characters.

I've just finished reading Meet Cecile and Meet Marie-Grace, and I can't wait to read the rest of the books!



You can now purchase Cecile and Marie-Grace dolls, accessories and books at AmericanGirl.com. Stay tuned for posts and photos of The Pea with her two newest American Girl dolls, Cecile and Marie-Grace!

Disclosure: American Girl sent me a Cecile and Marie-Grace doll. Product information is provided by the featured company/product and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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