Have a Very Hexbug Halloween!



Maria Bailey and MomSelect really have their finger on the pulse when it comes to kids' toys. Every blogger toy party I've hosted for them has been a huge success, and the kids who attended have all gone out and spread the word about the toy in question, telling their friends and buying toys of their own. It's the perfect example of how bloggers and companies can work together to spread the word!

Our latest MomSelect party was no different. Hexbug, the company that makes those fabulous vibrating, scurrying robotic bugs, has a new line of glow-in-the-dark bugs and Zombie bugs, just perfect for Halloween -- so we hosted a Halloween costume party for the boys and their friends, and made Hexbug the star attraction.

MomSelect sent us some Limited Edition Hexbug Nano Zombie bugs, Glows in the Dark Hexbug Nano Galileo Collection bugs , spare batteries and Glows in the Dark Hexbug Nano sets (the Habitat and Elevation Habitat) for the bugs to scurry around in. Creepy crawlies and Halloween go hand in hand, so for a special treat, I made worm-in-the-dirt cupcakes (chocolate cupcakes and chocolate icing with chocolate cookie crumbles on top, made to look like dirt, and a gummie worm peeping up from the middle). I also made up goodie bags for the kids with gummie worms and gummie bugs inside them, along with the Hexbugs and tracks for them to take home -- but not before playing with the Hexbugs first, of course!

We've hosted one Hexbug party before, so we know that boys go crazy for these bugs. They love the way these bugs flip over, vibrate, and travel around just like real bugs. The glow-in-the-dark tracks look awesome in the dark, so we closed the shutters in the playroom and turned off all the lights. The Glow-in-the-Dark bugs all have patterns that glow in the dark, and the Zombies have glow-in-the-dark skeleton covers, so our darkened playroom was alive and glowing.

At the end of the afternoon we had eight very tired but very happy little boys -- I mean clone troopers, sherriffs, ninjas, zombies and grim reapers!


Disclosure: I did not receive a sample or monetary compensation for this post. All Hexbugs and Hexbug sets for this party were provided by Hexbug, throuh MomSelect. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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AeroPress Coffee Maker review


Alfie loves a good cup of coffee, but he doesn't have one every day, so it's difficult to justify the expense of an espresso machine or good drip machine. Besides, we don't have the counter space. We recently reviewed a coffeemaker that's making waves on the internet: the AeroPress coffee maker by Aerobie. It's small in size but big in taste, and it's just right for us!

Here's more information on the AeroPress: The AeroPress coffee and espresso maker is a $30 coffee press that has become popular with coffee lovers because it brews an absolutely delicious cup of coffee or espresso. The AeroPress utilizes a rapid, total immersion brewing process that is unlike that of other press-type coffee makers. AeroPress brewed coffee is smooth and rich, without the bitterness and high acidity found in coffee brewed by traditional, press or drip processes.



The AeroPress is kind of like an upside-down French coffee press. You start by placing the main chamber on top of a cup, with a filter paper at the bottom. Then add a couple of scoops of ground coffee into the chamber, add hot water, and stir. Then you plunge the airtight syringe into the chamber, which forces the water through the coffee grounds, and into the cup underneath. Here is a video we made of how it works:




It's the highest rated coffee maker on the internet. It has gathered over 700 five-star ratings on Amazon alone. Even coffee experts have given the AeroPress rave reviews, like this one:

I also have to add my enthusiastic recommendation to that of so many others about the brewer. The quality of the coffee it yields has to be tasted to be believed. I own every brewing device known to man and my plunger pot, Technivorm drip brewer and two vacuum pots have done nothing but gather dust since the AeroPress made its way into our house. -- Kevin Knox, 28 year specialty coffee industry veteran and author, Coffee Basics

Is all the hype justified?

According to Alfie, it is. He absolutely loves the AeroPress, and like Kevin Knox, the coffee expert I quoted above, sees no need to own any other coffee maker ever again. He gave me a taste, and I have to agree. There is no bitterness, just good coffee taste.

It's easy to use and takes up hardly any storage space at all. It's perfect for making just one or two cups, which is all we need. And it costs just $30! Who needs those expensive coffee makers, when the AeroPress makes such a great cup of coffee?

Okay, I'm starting to sound like an infomercial -- but unlike an infomercial, I will point out that AeroPress isn't for everyone:

* If you need or want to make coffee for lots of people at once, you're probably better off with a coffeemaker.

* As easy and foolproof as the steps are, it's still a lot of steps -- not good if you're the type to "set it and forget it".

* It requires a bit of strength to get the plunger down. You don't have to be Hercules, but you have to watch out because you could end up tipping your cup with the force.

* It uses a lot more coffee than a drip machine or a regular French press, which can add up for serious coffee addicts. I wish the parts were dishwasher-safe; it gets tedious to clean out all the little plastic pieces.

But when you're AeroPress fans like we are, it's easy to come up with a counterargument. Too little coffee for a crowd? Each person will get their own coffee brewed exactly to their liking! Too many steps? A good cup of coffee is worth the extra effort. Uses too much coffee? One good cup of coffee will give you more pleasure than three bad cups of coffee (quality over quantity, people). There's a reason that so many people rave about the AeroPress, and that's the taste.

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 Aerobie 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! This is my 101st Friday Finds post, and I'm all set to feature the Bestest Giveaways Around the Blogosphere a hundred times more, and beyond. Don't forget, we're still celebrating the 100th Friday Finds post with a giveaway for a PS3 game, a DS game and a music cd. And if you leave a link to a giveaway on the Mr. Linky list below, you'll get an extra entry to the giveaway! So leave a link to your giveaway below, then head on over to my 100th Friday Finds post to enter the giveaway. The giveaway ends next week, so get cracking!

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Biggest Online Shopping Mistakes



Two weeks ago I shared my biggest online shopping mistake, and asked you to share yours. I had great time reading through all your stories! Not that I enjoyed your misery, of course, but you know how misery loves company, and it's somewhat comforting to know that you're not alone. Here are some of my "favorite" ones:

  • Ordering beauty products online from a less than reputable site. It turned out my order was an auto renewal program and I got charged bi weekly for new shipments. Who orders the same make up products bi weekly!?!

  • Pressing the "buy" button three times by accident. My card as charged three times, and I had to call the bank to resolve this issue.

  • Putting my social security number online with a purchase. I will never do that again.

  • Buying something on a site that was not secure. My cc info was stolen and a bunch of charges were racked up...I am more careful now!


My favorite one is by andie@multiplemama. None of my Savvy Shopping Tips could have prevented this one, and it's a classic:

  • I was once looking at jumpers on AMAZON and walked away from my computer. With three children aged three and under in the house. One of them ordered it with one click shopping that automatically accesses my credit card info. and it appeared at my door two days later. It took two weeks to figure out how it all happened!


Thanks to all my readers for being brave enough to admit your mistakes! Reading through all your stories really brings home the fact that it's all too easy for even the most intelligent, internet-savvy person to make an online purchase they regret.

Fortunately we have cards like American Express, which helps mitigate the negative effects of those mistakes. They offer protection against fraudulent purchases, and they even let cardmembers return items even though the merchant's return policy has expired (up to $300, up to 90 days). Even better, there are simple things you can do to help ensure that you don't end up making mistakes in the first place! Last week I shared some tips for savvy online shopping -- it's a post well worth reading, so you can avoid the kinds of experiences I mentioned earlier.

Aaaand now, the moment we've all been waiting for....the winner's name! Let's give a big round of applause for commenter #124, JC! She won $250 in gift cards and merchandise from American Express -- and now that she's all savvy with so many safe shopping tips, I know she'll make that $250 go a long wayl Congratulations, JC, on your win, and thank you to American Express for sponsoring such a fun and informative set of posts. Have a safe and happy fall shopping season!



Disclosure: This post is part of a compensated series with American Express. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery (and a giveaway for you!)




It's that time of year again.... time to change your clocks! On November 6 everyone has to "fall back" and move the clocks back one hour. I for one am glad, because it has been so dark in the mornings, so moving back the clock will mean I can wait for daylight to wake me up. Of course, it means that it gets dark earlier, but we only have a few months of that before we "spring forward" again.

The fall time change is also the perfect opportunity to do something that could save your family's life -- change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. It's the perfect reminder -- Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery -- and for the 24th straight year, Energizer and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) are reminding people to get in the habit of changing their old batteries for fresh ones at least once a year. The key thing is to pick a date that you will easily remember, like a birthday or an anniversary -- or the "fall back" date, which is great because so many people are doing it on that day, and so many people are reminding each other to do it. Last year I reminded people to change their batteries, and I'm doing it again this year.

For more information and helpful materials, visit Energizer's Change Your Clock Change Your Battery page, or visit www.facebook.com/energizerbunny and click on the CYCCYB tab to join the Energizer Bunny Brigade. You'll be entered to win smoke detectors, batteries, or even the grand prize -- a home fire safety makeover worth $5,000.


Win a Fire Safety Prize Pack
One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will win a Fire Safety Prize Pack courtesy of Energizer, consisting of 2 smoke alarms, both equipped with Energizer batteries.


Required Entry
Leave a comment on this post telling me that you have already changed the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors this year, or telling me when you plan to change your batteries. This entry must be completed before extra entries qualify.


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) Share the link to this giveaway (http://ow.ly/7caxR) on your Facebook wall, with a reminder to your friends to change their smoke alarm batteries when they change their clocks, then leave a comment here telling me you did (1 entry).

2) Write this on the Bonggamom Finds Facebook page: (1 entry)
I joined the Energizer Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery giveaway! http://ow.ly/7caxR

3) Join the Energizer Bunny Brigade (1 entry)

4) Tweet this (1 entry):

@bonggafinds and the @energizerbunny are reminding everyone to Change Your Clock Change Your Battery on 11/6 http://ow.ly/7caxR

5) Tweet this, up to once per day (1 entry per day, leave a comment with the tweet link for each tweet):

Enter 2 win a set of smoke detectors + batteries on @bonggafinds http://ow.ly/7caxR



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



Disclosure: I did not receive a sample or monetary compensation for this post. Thanks to Energizer for providing the items for giveaway. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Halloween pumpkin template: The Lorax


If you're looking for an original Halloween pumpkin to carve, how about a pumpkin that looks like The Lorax from Dr. Seuss? Everybody's favorite environmental activist is easy to carve into a pumpkin with the template from Universal Pictures' The Lorax Movie (scheduled for March 2012).

Click on the image below to access and download the full-size image:

Happy Carving!

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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Santé Nuts review




I love nuts. They're packed full of protein and good oils, and they fill you up quickly so a little goes a long way. I add them to stir-fries, toss them into salad, top baked goods with them, or eat them just as they are! They are perfect for nibbling along with cheese, olives and fruit. And just like cheese, olives, and fruit, I've come to realize that most nuts taste good -- but not all kinds are created equal. Quality matters, and the difference in taste when you have a high quality nut is definitely worth the extra cost.

I recently received some samples of Santé gourmet nuts, and right from the first bite you can tell that these nuts are a cut above the rest. These nuts are roasted by hand, in small batches, in organic canola oil. They are crunchy and light, with just enough salt or sugar to enhance, not overpower, the flavor of the nut. Santé sent us some candied pecans, candied walnuts, roasted salted pecans and garlic almonds. I have never really liked pecans, but I soon found myself wolfing down the candied pecans and salted along with the rest of the family. They are fantastic! The candied walnuts are even better -- I could probably eat the whole bag in one sitting (fortunately, these fill you up quickly!). But my favorite has got to be the Santé Garlic Almonds. They are salty, with a spicy zing.

Santé nuts cost between $4.29 and $5.29 for a 4 or 5-ounce bag, which is not bad at all for gourmet nuts. They are a real treat, and almost too good to put in salads and other recipes -- but I'll bet they'd be the secret ingredient to make those recipes taste out of this world!



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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Moonpig Personalized Greeting Cards Review



We send holiday cards to a lot of people every year -- friends, teachers, cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings. Most of the time, especially for people we don't see very often, I like to send a photo holiday card with a short update on how we are doing and what sorts of things we were up to for the year. I certainly like receiving these kinds of cards, and I know that most other people do -- but I also realize that they aren't appropriate for every type of recipient.

For example, we always send a card to Alfie's sister and to each of her three sons. They range in age from eighteen to twenty-six years old, and I doubt if they'd appreciate receiving a holiday card with our boring old photo in it! If they get struck by lightning and forget what we look like, they would immediately head to Facebook anyway, so a photo holiday card is just not what we'd send them. We like to send them more humorous cards, but I have to admit I miss the personal touch of a photo card.

I was recently introduced to an online card service that's perfect for sending cards that still have a personal touch, but also have more of an edge to them. MoonPig.com sells the kind of fun greeting cards that you can find at stationery stores or drugstores or big retailers -- but you can actually personalize the cards with custom text, fonts and more! There's a card for every occasion -- birthdays, Christmas, Hannukah, Halloween, Valentine's, congratulations, anniversaries, you name it. You can buy just 1 greeting card, just like you would at a store. You can personalize it and have it mailed directly to your recipient, or have it mailed to you with a blank envelope so you can send it (or give it) yourself.

What makes MoonPig so unique? Take this holiday card below. It's the type of card you might typically find under "humor" in your local drugstore or Target.

LinkThis is a funny card, but it would be even better if the names "Fred" and "Penelope" could be changed to the names of the people you were sending it to -- and with MoonPig.com, you can! You can edit some or all of the text in front, and add a personalized message inside. It all adds up to a truly unique card!

The humor and the language is distinctly British -- I recognize some typical"we had a row about it", "slushed again", "a drop of wine", "she was gagging for it" -- which is fine by me, since Alfie is from Britain, but again, if you think the person you're sending it to might not "get" the humor, you can change the text, or change the card. I'm really going to enjoy sending holiday cards to Alfie's nephews this year -- these MoonPig.com cards are really going to stand out from the crowd!

Disclosure: I received a $20 credit at Moonpig.com to purchase cards to review, via the Mom Bloggers Club. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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LeapFrog Tag Solar System Adventure Pack Review and Giveaway


The holidays are coming up -- and I'm giving away a LeapFrog Tag and Solar System Adventure Pack! Keep reading to find out how to enter....

My kids are getting older but our house is not getting any bigger, so last year we reluctantly said goodbye to our collection of LeapFrog Tag readers. Thanks in part to all the hours they spent with their Tag readers, my kids are already good readers, so our Tags and Tag books have found a good home with their younger cousins.

Then LeapFrog sent us a Tag Reader and Solar System Adventure pack some weeks ago, and I'm kind of regretting that we didn't keep at least one of those old Tags -- because the Solar System Adventure pack is awesome! This pack, along with Leapfrog's Tag USA Map and Tag World Map, is great for my 7 year olds and even my 10 year old. Keep reading to find out why (and enter to win a set of your own!)....


The Basics

About the Tag:
Learn to read with the #1 selling reading system! The amazing touch technology of Tag brings books to life to teach phonics, vocabulary, comprehension skills and more. And a library of 40+ interactive storybooks, maps and more feature characters to help inspire children to learn to read.
About the Tag Solar System Adventure Pack:
Take off on an out-of-this-world adventure with the interactive, two-sided Tag™ solar system map! Play more than 40 activities and family-friendly games with this 2-in-1 map that unfolds to over 3 feet! Learn solar system terms and planetary facts, and log your journey with bonus interactive stickers! Appropriate for children ages 4 to 8 years. Parents can follow their child's play and learning progress on the LeapFrog® Learning Path


The Bongga
I've praised the Tag so much in the past that I'm in danger of sounding like a TV informercial, so I'll just point you to some of my past Tag posts so you can read all about it. I have to say, though, Leapfrog has made so many improvements to the Tag, I hardly recognize it! The latest Tag is smaller and sleeker, so little hands can hold it better. We received a standard green colored Tag, but it now comes in many other colors: pink, purple, purple-and-green, orange, teal, even a Toy Story branded Tag. Leapfrog expanded the Tag's memory from 16MB to 32MB a couple of years ago, so you can keep 10 books stored in the Tag at any one time. When I first blogged about the Tag in 2008, MSRP was around $50, and three years later, it still the same price.

But I haven't blogged about the Solar System Adventure pack yet, so I can rave about it all I want. It's really a nifty little reference book -- or should I say map, because although it's about the same size as a regular Tag book, it actually unfolds to a long-narrow, 2-sided map of the solar system, full of information and facts about the planets, asteroids and more.

It works just like a regular Tag book -- touch on an image, say, of Saturn, and you'll hear all kinds of fun facts about the planet (it has at least 64 moons!). All the information is up to date, including Pluto's reclassification as a dwarf planet, along with Ceres, Haumea, MakeMake and Eris. I had no idea those other dwarf planets even existed, so I'm learning right along with my kids.

In addition to all the facts, the Solar System Adventure pack has activities, games and quizzes. Kids can test their knowledge of solar system facts, listen to clues to find the mystery spot, or play a board game by themselves or with a friend. It even comes with several sticker pages -- and get this, the stickers work with the Tag reader too!



We're really enjoying the Solar System Adventure pack. The age range says 4-8 years, but this is something kids of any age can look at, again and again. My 10 year old likes it, and so do I!


The Blah
Honestly, nothing! They've thought of everything, down to the velcro-sealed box where you can store the game board, stickers, passport and instructions, all in one place.


The Bottom Line
With the Solar System Adventure Pack, Leapfrog has extended the life of the Tag Reader to beyond the 4-7 age range. It's a reading tool, game board, activity pack and reference book, so everyone in the family will love it!



Win a LeapFrog Tag Gift Pack
One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will win a Leapfrog Tag and Solar System Adventure pack -- just in time for the holidays!


Required Entry
Leave a comment on this post and tell me who which member in your family would enjoy the Solar System Adventure pack the most, and why. 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 Leapfrog Tag giveaway! http://ow.ly/78M0R

3) Leave a comment on my Solar System Adventure Pack video on YouTube (1 entry).Link
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):
RT @bonggamom Win a @LeapFrog Tag & Solar System Adventure pack on @bonggafinds! Enter by 11/27 at http://ow.ly/78M0R #giveaways

6) Enter my LeapPad Explorer giveaway (1 entry).

7) Enter my Leapfrog Story Time Pad giveaway (coming soon! -- 1 entry).

8) Enter my Leapfrog Peek-a-Shoe Octopus giveaway (coming soon! -- 1 entry).




The Rules
This giveaway ends at 11:59PM PST on November 27, 2011; I will draw 1 winner at random on November 28 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 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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Extreme Facepainting



I love painting faces. I've always liked to draw, ever since I was a little girl, and my childhood pastime has manifested in the form of face painting. I've painted faces at my kids' birthday parties, my sister's kids' birthday parties, class parties and charity events. I've donated my face painting services to raise money for the PTA. Parents who see my work always say I should offer my services for hire, but I know better. I've seen some truly amazing designs, so I know where I stand. I'm an amateur, and happy to stay that way -- but that doesn't mean I don't want to learn and improve.

Here is the sort of face paint design I like to paint on little girls' faces, on the fly (you can see more of my face painting work on Flickr):

It's sweet and simple, and every little girl I've ever painted this kind of design on has loved it. But I'm ready to take it up a notch, and I've found the perfect book to teach me how to do it.

Nick and Brian Wolfe are superstars in the world of face and body painting. They're the reigning World Bodypainting Champions. They travel the world, teaching workshops on face painting, body painting, special effects make-up and mask making. They're the original founders of the make-up company Wolfe Face Art & FX, the very same company that makes the face paint I've been using for years. So when I was invited to review their book, Extreme Facepainting, I was so excited.

The book begins with a run-down on the most common face painting materials, tools and techniques. The rest of the book is devoted to showing you how to paint fifty common face paint designs, divided into 25 "friendly" and 25 "fiendish" faces. I say "common" in the sense that they're probably some of the most requested face paint designs -- dogs, cats, lions, rainbows, clowns, vampires, flowers, witches and so on. But the designs themselves are anything but common -- they are intricate and beautiful, and truly worthy of the adjective "extreme".

This mummy? Common? Ah doan think so.

The book does a great job of breaking down a complicated full face paint task into seemingly manageable smaller sections. Each design has step-by-step photos and instructions, as well as a photo of the finished face. Conceptually, the instructions are really easy to follow -- in practice, you need to be a fairly decent painter. If you want to replicate the designs exactly, you'll need a steady hand, a good brush and sponge, and an ability to blend colors. It can be intimidating.

But if you're confident and willing to practice, this book is the perfect way to learn how to paint the most amazing designs you've ever seen. Even if your design doesn't turn out looking exactly the way it does in the photos, that's okay. True artists never copy, anyway; they use other artists for inspiration! And as the book says, there is no bad face painting.

Here is one of the designs from the book, a Simple Swirl:


Or, to be more accurate, this is my interpretation of their swirl design. I'm not talented enough to copy their design exactly; my hand is too shaky to make perfect swirls, shadows and highlights. Also, I don't have the proper colors or tools (I really should get the right sponges and brushes, and this design is just begging for some gold glitter). But it's fairly close, and I think I'll get better as I practice. It is so dainty and delicate, and it's really not difficult to do. I think it only took me about 5 minutes to complete.


Here is the Cyborg design on page 79, or once again, my interpretation of the Cyborg design. The most noticeable difference between the book design and how it turned out on 3Po is the dark black area around the eye. Kids are usually very sensitive about having that area painted, so I knew I was never going to get every single part of it covered in deep black paint. My shading is crude compared with the actual design. But I'm still really happy with how it turned out.




I'm looking forward to trying out more of the designs in this book!



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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Introducing the new Children's Creativity Museum (formerly Zeum)




For years, one my kids' favorite places to visit in San Francisco was also one of the most difficult to pronounce. Was it Zee-yum? Was it Zoom? Whatever it was, we won't be having that problem anymore, because the museum formerly known as Zeum has changed it's name to the Children's Creativity Museum. And that's not all that's new: after a five week remodel, the museum also has a new look, new exhibits, new, expanded hours and a new emphasis that includes younger children ages 3 to 5.

Last week the museum invited a group of bloggers to celebrate the reopening, and we were lucky enough to be included. A party at Zeum -- sorry, the Children's' Creativity Museum -- is one of the few things that could persuade 3Po and Jammy to skip their soccer practice, so we made the trip to San Francisco to see all the new features and attractions.

The museum has kept all the things that made it great -- namely, that unique focus on creativity and technology -- and added some new features that kids of all ages are really going to love, like the new Imagination Lab on the ground floor.

The Imagination Lab is a great place for young kids to sculpting station, where children can mold dough into rice bowls, tacos, and other foods. If some of that clay gets into their mouths, it's okay -- the dough is soy based. There's also a dramatic play area with a puppet theater, costumes, and plenty of mirrors. Beside that is a recording booth where kids can film their own plays, interviews or mini-movies. The smallest kids will love the soft play area, which has lots of ramps and tunnels and soft blocks and tubes. It's bright and cheerful and airy, with plenty of space for little ones to roam (and plenty of space for parents to step back and watch). It's just the kind of place that parents will want to take their toddlers on a weekday morning; the older kids will be at school so the young'uns will get the museum to themselves.


Besides its new name, the museum now has a bunch of mascots -- the Creativity Critters. They are colorful monsterlike creatures that represent the diversity, inspiration, and innovation of the Children’s Creativity Museum. You'll find each of them hanging around their favorite museum areas. Zump, the big yellow creature, loves playing with clay, and can be found in the Animation Studio. Rockto the octopus loves rocking out to the latest tunes in the Music Production Lab, and so on. I think kids will love the Creativity Critters, and it's only a matter of time before they begin clamoring for a stuffed Rockto or Kromas or Blooper from the Museum Gift Shop.

I'm glad to see that all the fun things for older kids are still there. My kids absolutely adore the Animator's Studio, where they get to build creatures out of clay and have them star in an animated movie. My kids can spend hours in this area, wrapping grey clay around a twisted metal frame to form a body, then covering that with colored clay to make the creature. Once they're done, a helper leads them to a bunch of dioramas and teaches them how to take a series of pictures with their creature in different positions, then shows them how to play back the sequence of shots in quick succession, so it looks like the creature is moving. You can even take a cd of the animation sequence home with you, or have them email it to you! Check out the video that The Pea made:



Cool, huh? I'm already looking forward to our next visit to the Children's Creativity Museum; it's really a lot of fun, it teaches kids about technology and unleashes their imagination at the same time.




Disclosure: My family and I were guests of the Children's Creativity Museum at their reopening party, and I received a free pass to visit the Museum at a future date. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Five things you thought you knew about Grocery Outlet



When you hear the words "discount grocery" or "bargain grocery", do images of old, expired boxes of pasta or bags of generic-brand cereal or pallets of canned goods come to mind? You'd be surprised at what you can find at a Grocery Outlet store! They're a bargain hunter's dream for low-cost, brand-name goods.

This weekend I attended a Grocery Outlet Blogger Summit and met several Grocery Outlet executives who told us all about what they do. We toured a Grocery Outlet store and played a fun shopping game where each team of bloggers was given a list of items and told to search the aisles for the products with the biggest savings over regular stores. We had a lovely lunch and a fun spa session, and along the way we learned a lot about how Grocery Outlet gets such great deals for their customers.

It's all very simple, really. Grocery Outlet purchases excess inventory at a huge discount from manufacturers. They buy products that conventional groceries and supermarkets don't want, or products that manufacturers don't want to sell to the conventional groceries. The reasons vary; for instance:

* A manufacturer may have come up with a new logo or new packaging, and they still have inventory of product with the old packaging. For example, Grocery Outlet might sell boxes of Wheaties with a photo of Tiger Woods on the box after Wheaties changed their box to feature Hope Solo, or Pop Tarts tied to a Shrek 3 movie promo after the promo has expired.

* A big grocery chain may have suddenly canceled a huge order for holiday gingersnap cookies imported from Belgium. The shipment may already be in the USA, with no one to buy them -- until Grocery Outlet steps in.

* A manufacturer may have done a smaller-than-normal run of a new product for a specific test market, and found it did not sell as well as their existing product, so they decide not to sell it in the nationwide market.

* A manufacturer might have inventory of a product with 6 months remaining on the shelf life, but conventional supermarkets will only take the product if it has 12 months or more left. Grocery Outlet to the rescue!

* A manufacturer may simply have made too much of a product. In one classic story told to us by a Grocery Outlet exec, the production manager started production and simply forgot to stop! I don't remember whether she had just gotten back from maternity leave, or she was covering for a co-worker on maternity leave, but whatever it was, Grocery Outlet bought the excess (and probably saved her job).


None of the reasons I mentioned have anything to do with quality of the product, so when you think of Grocery Outlet, don't make the mistake of thinking that low prices equals low quality. In fact, you might have a lot of misconceptions about outlet stores like Grocery Outlet -- so I'm sharing what I've learned from the Grocery Outlet folks this weekend and telling you how it is:


* The stock at Grocery Outlet is expired or defective
Nothing I have bought at Grocery Outlet has ever been expired. The expiry date may be 3 or 6 months sooner than you would find in regular grocery stores -- for example, the cereal may have only 6 months to go before the expiration date rather than 12 months, so regular groceries won't carry them anymore -- but they don't sell expired products. So how do they keep their prices so low?

* You can only find generic and no-name brands at Grocery Outlet
Grocery Outlet buys products from both generic and brand manufacturers, so you will see Kraft and Kelloggs and Heinz and Dannon and Coca-Cola along with generic brands. You'll even see higher-end brands like Alouette and Ghirardelli and Scharffenberger and Ben & Jerry's. One of the bloggers at the event was Amy Sherman, author of the blog Cooking with Amy. She has authored a cookbook for Williams-Sonoma and has written for Epicurious and Project Foodie, among others, so I'd say she knows about good food. As we walked the aisles of Grocery Outlet together, she kept pointing out gourmet brand foods and marveling at how little they cost!

* You can only find canned, processed and unhealthy food at Grocery Outlet
Sure Grocery Outlet has lots of canned and processed food, just like any other grocery store. They also carry fresh fruit and vegetables, juice, meat and dairy, both organic and non-organic. Grocery Outlet actually carries a lot of organic foods -- cereals, frozen foods, fruit, cheese, milk, and more -- from brands like Kashi, Annie's, Newman's Own, and Amy's.

* Only low-income people shop at Grocery Outlet
The first time I visited a Grocery Outlet store I saw a new BMW and Mercedes Benz in the parking lot, along with mass-market cars and beat-up trucks destined for the junkyard. Since that time, I've shopped at Grocery Outlet several times, and I've seen all types: retirees, suburban moms, hip college students and construction workers.

* You can't use coupons at Grocery Outlet
Okay, this is actually partially true. Grocery Outlet cannot accept manufacturer's coupons. Since manufacturers are already selling their items to Grocery Outlet at clearance prices, they will not honor the coupons. However, they do publish store coupons from time to time, so look for flyers in the mail! Also, if you follow your local Grocery Outlet's Facebook page, you'll get advance notice of hot deals and limited stock items. To find out if your local Grocery Outlet has a Facebook page, go to Grocery Outlet's Facebook page, click on their "Info" page and check out the "Likes and Interests" section.


The best way to convince you that Grocery Outlet is a great store is to invite you to check out your nearest one. As we were touring the Grocery Outlet store, each and every blogger was itching to run off and do a bit of grocery shopping on the side! The stock at Grocery Outlet changes so frequently, you never know what you'll find -- so it's like a treasure hunt every time you go.


Disclosure: I was Grocery Outlet's guest at their recent Blogger Summit, which included lunch and a spa appointment. I also received a gift card to shop at a Grocery Outlet store and blog about my experience in the near future. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Bonggamom's 100th Friday Find (and a giveaway for you!)


Bonggamoms Friday Finds

Welcome to the 100th edition of Bonggamom's Friday Finds! I can't believe I've hosted a hundred weeks of links to the Bestest Giveaways around the Blogosphere. Thank you to everyone who has left their links over the years. And I hope you all continue to find this giveaway linky as useful as I do.

And what better way to celebrate the 100th Bonggamom's Friday Finds post than with a giveaway?! Here are the prizes up for grabs:

Pure FutbolOne Pure Futbol game for the PS3


One Golden Compass game for Nintendo DS


One Endangerbles music cd


Anyone who leaves a link to a giveaway on the Mr. Linky giveaway linky below is eligible to enter. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post telling me which prize you'd like to win AND your linky number (i.e. if you left the first link, write "#1"). Note, this is the required entry and must be completed before any extra entries will count.

As usual, I've got ways to get extra entries:

1) If you left a link to a giveaway on last week's Friday Finds post, you get 1 extra entry -- please leave a comment on this post telling me your linky number from last week.

2) If you leave a link to a giveaway on next week's Friday Finds post, you get 1 extra entry -- please leave a comment on this post telling me your linky number.

3) If you blog about this giveaway, you get 1 extra entry -- please leave a comment on this post with the link to your blog post.

4) If you tweet about this giveaway, you get 1 extra entry -- please use the tweet below and leave a comment on this post with a link to your tweet.
It's @bonggafinds 100th Friday Finds post! To celebrate, she's giving away a PS3 game, a DS game and a music cd http://ow.ly/78Mkl


I will pick 3 winners on November 4, 2011. Continental US residents only, please. Good luck!



One again, thanks for leaving your links. And here's to the next 100 Friday Finds!
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Pink Fridays at Kara's Cupcakes



Hey, Bay Area peeps -- satisfy your sweet tooth with a Kara's Pink Friday cupcake! These sweet vanilla cupcakes from Kara's Cupcakes are decorated with a pink sugar ribbon; proceeds will be donated to support breast cancer awareness. The Pink Friday cupcake is available every Friday in October. Yum yum yum..... they give a whole new meaning to TGIF.


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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LeapPad Explorer Review and Giveaway


The holidays are coming up -- and I'm giving away a LeapPad! Keep reading to find out how to enter....


It's funny how just as I think my kids are going to outgrow LeapFrog products, they come up with another cool gadget that has my kids fighting to be the first one to play with it. We've been LeapFrog fans ever since The Pea received her first LeapPad Learning System for Christmas in 2002. Each of my 3 kids had one of those LeapPads; since then we've owned at least half a dozen LeapFrog products!

LeapFrog stopped making the original LeapPads a couple of years back, but now they've come up with a totally new LeapPad: the LeapPad Explorer. As a LeapFrog blogger mom, we were one of the first to get our hands on the product, and we've been playing around with it since mid-August. The buzz over the LeapPad Explorer has been strong since early 2011, and let me tell you, all the hype is NOT misplaced. Keep reading to find out why (and enter to win one of your own!)....


The Basics
LeapPad, a personalized learning tablet designed for kids ages four and up, mirrors popular adult tablets, and includes an on-board camera and video recorder. With a library of cartridge games that is cross-compatible with Leapster Explorer and innovative apps, this new tablet is revolutionizing the way children learn by offering the next generation in learning fun, digital reading and personal creativity. By the end of the year, LeapPad will have a library of more than 100 cartridge games and apps that include best-in-class educational curriculum.



The Bongga
This is definitely Leapfrog's best so far. They've gotten rid of the chunky console look and gone all sleek and stylish -- but it's still very sturdy and kid-friendly, with a magnetic clip-on stylus (plus an extra one in the box in case your little one does manage to lose or break it a bigger screen, audio instructions and graphical clues so kids who don't know how to read can still find their way around.

Here are some other things I love about the LeapPad:

* The ability to have up to 3 accounts plus a guest account. I have 3 kids so each can have an account and play at their level, and even their friends can play without messing up anyone's scores.

* The tons of apps and games! There are sooo many more to choose from -- over 100+ games and apps by year's end. So far, my kids' favorites are the built-in Camera, where they can take photos and add fun effects like stretching and swirling (included with LeapPad), Art Studio, where you can create drawings and embellish photos (included with the LeapPad), Roly Poly, a cute motion-based app (separate purchase). They also love Pixar Pals, where kids can play games and explore the world with Nemo, Woody and Buzz lightyear, as well as Pet Pals 2, where kids can adopt and care for cute dogs while learning about reading graphs, counting, spending and saving money.



* The backward compatibility with Leapster Explorer game cartridges. At $25 per cartridge (they do sometimes go on sale for $15-$20), it adds up, and it's nice to know that all the money you spent on Leapster games won't go to waste!

* The educational focus. I'm a big proponent of educational videogames and I love how Leapfrog incorporates spelling, reading and math exercises into their games.

* The cool design. Kids will be happy to leave your phone or tablet alone if they can play games on the LeapPad!

* The built-in camera, mike and video recorder is way better than having a separate camera/video accessory, because there are less parts to break and lose.


The Blah
Here's what's on my wishlist for the LeapPad:

* Make more aps available for the upper and lower age ranges. For parents sick of lending their phones or tablets to their kids, it would be nice to have simpler games that toddlers can play, similar to Doodle Jump or Fruit Ninja.

* Make more eBooks for older kids (7-9 years?). I love the way Leapfrog helps younger kids learn to read, maybe they can also help older kids with more advanced reading skills by offering reading comprehension exercises, reference books, etc..

* Screen response time and app loading time seems slow, hopefully future versions of the LeapPad will be able to improve on this.

* Add the ability to hook up to a printer, so kids can print the artwork they create.

* Add an internal battery (I realize this will increase the price, so maybe they could have a basic and upgrade version?).


The Bottom Line
LeapFrog has outdone itself with the LeapPad -- and I'm not alone in thinking so. LeapPad recently won the 2011 Platinum "Best Toy Award" from the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, making LeapFrog the company with the most Oppenheim Toy Portfolio awards ever! It's a gadget that will actually make your child leave your iPad/Kindle/Nook alone -- which means it's sure to be the hottest kids' electronic toy this holiday season.





Win a LeapPad Explorer Gift Pack
One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will win a LeapPad Explorer from LeapFrog, plus two LeapPad Cartridge Games -- just in time for the holidays!


Required Entry
Leave a comment on this post and tell me which LeapPad cartridge game your child would most like to receive for the holidays (along with the LeapPad, of course!). 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 LeapPad giveaway! http://ow.ly/747E9

3) Post a photo of your child enjoying any LeapFrog product on the Bonggamom Finds Facebook page, or on your own Facebook wall, and tag me (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):
RT @bonggamom Win a @LeapFrog LeapPad and 2 games on @bonggafinds! Enter by 11/20 at http://ow.ly/747E9 #giveaways

6) Enter my Leapfrog Tag giveaway (1 entry).

7) Enter my Leapfrog Story Time Pad giveaway (coming soon! -- 1 entry).

8) Enter my Leapfrog Peek-a-Shoe Octopus giveaway (coming soon! -- 1 entry).




The Rules
This giveaway ends at 11:59PM PST on November 20, 2011; I will draw 1 winner at random on November 21 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 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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Lonesome George & Co. Apparel





Tee shirts are a dime a dozen these days, but even though there are so many shirt companies around, it can be difficult to find a shirt design that's cool and unique -- especially when it comes to tee shirts for a cause. All too often the shirt is low quality, or the design is cheesy, or the shirt contains such a blatant cause-focused message that you look like you're headed for the picket line. I like supporting causes by buying shirts, but all too often I end up wearing the shirt at night or to the gym.

That's definitely not the case with Lonesome George & Co. shirts. They have cute designs, high-quality shirts -- and a worthy cause. The company is named after the rarest animal in the world. The real Lonesome George lives on the Galapagos Islands. He is the last surviving Pinta Island tortoise in the world; when he dies, his kind will be extinct. Lonesome George & Co. invests 10% of each purchase into education programs like Outward Bound and Ashoka, to help create a new generation of leaders who understand the interdependence of the environment, community, business and government -- and are willing to act so that situations like Lonesome George's don't happen again.


Lonesome George sent me a Passport tee so I could check out the design and quality. I love this shirt. The shirt is a size Large, and when I first put it on I was inclined to think that the fit runs a bit smal. But I've changed my mind; it's not meant to be a loose-fitting shirt, it's long and narrow. The fit is actually really flattering; it makes my shoulders look bony and my neck seem long and elegant. The combination of grey shirt and wine-colored stamp design is perfect for the fall, and it looks great with a pair of jeans.

I like it so much that I'm thinking of buying shirts for my kids and Alfie! Don't worry, we won't end up looking like a dweeby family, all in the same shirt. There are tons of other great designs, like the Tortuga Island boys' shirt and the Around the World girl shirt. The kids feel good knowing that part of the price of the shirt is going to a good cause -- although 3Po thinks it's being donated to help save Lonesome George. I explained to him that sadly, it's too late for Lonesome George, but we can learn from the tragedy and make educated choices to prevent such mistakes from being made again. I explained that the donation will be going towards education programs to teach people in the Galapagos islands about sustainability, eco-awareness and the importance of preserving the Galapagos as a global heritage site. Now that he could understand -- and just like that, 3Po was happy, knowing that his shirt would help do so much good.



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 the featured company/product and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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CLIF Kid Full Moon Brownie ZBar



Halloween is almost here, and you know that that means. Yeah, yeah, yeah, costumes and candy and blah blah blah, I'm talking about the long-awaited arrival of CLIF Kid's limited-edition seasonal flavor Zbar: Full Moon Brownie.

Yesterday I chaperoned my son's class on a field trip to Whole Foods Market. As a special treat, the store manager gave each child a Full Moon Brownie Bar from CLIF Kid. It was like the field trip had turned into a party! At the signal from their teacher, each child tore the wrapper and began chewing happily away. I also received one (after herding a class of 7-year-olds through the store, being a chaperone has got to have some perks), and it was so yummy, I was sorry to finish it.

Fortunately, a surprise was waiting for me at home -- CLIF Kid sent me a few more samples of their Full Moon Brownie bar in the mail! Just a few, but enough to last us until I can get back to Whole Foods to clear out their stock of Full Moon Brownie :)


The Basics
Whether tucked into a lunch bag or dropped into a pumpkin bucket, every Zbar features a wholesome blend of carbohydrates, protein and fiber to stabilize energy levels and make kids feel nourished longer. Zbar provides 8-11 grams of whole grains and 12 vitamins and minerals. Each bar is also USDA-certified organic and contains no high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, trans fats, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

Full Moon Brownie is replacing the popular Spooky S’mores seasonal flavor, which has been added to the permanent Zbar line. Other kid-friendly flavors include Chocolate Chip, Honey Graham, Chocolate Brownie and Peanut Butter.


Full Moon Brownie is available now, while supplies last, at select grocery and natural retailers across the country. (SRP: $0.89)



The Bongga
Oh my gosh -- can you say TREAT?? These bars are Da Bomb. I like them even better than last year's Spooky S'mores flavor! They don't taste like energy bars at all; they look and taste like real brownies. If you cut them up into little squares, I doubt if people would suspect they came in a foil wrapper. They've got swirls of white chocolate on top, and the middle looks crumbly and moist, just like a brownie. When you bite into it, it's chewy, not gluey or gooey or sticky, and you really taste the chocolate flavor.

But it's what's inside the bars that really makes me happy -- 8 grams of whole grain, 12 vitamins and minerals -- as well as what's not inside the bars -- no high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, or trans fats. It's a great to trick kids into eating something healthy on Halloween night. At an MSRP of 89 cents each, they're too expensive for me to hand out to trick-or-treaters, but I will definitely be serving these at the two Halloween parties I have planned next week.


The Blah
When I reviewed the Spooky S'mores ZBar flavor last Halloween, I said the only bad thing about it was that it was available only for a limited time. The same is true for Full Moon Brownie (probably even more so, because I like this flavor more) -- but the good news is, CLIF Kid listened to me! Okay, they probably listened to me and hundreds of other parents and kids, all clamoring for more Spooky S'mores, because Spooy S'mores is now a regular ZBar flavor. That means the same thing might happen to Full Moon Brownie. Hey, I can dream, can't I?


The Bottom Line
Stock up on CLIF Kid's Full Moon Brownie bars before they disappear into the Halloween mist -- but you'll have to stand in line, because I'll be there first!



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 the featured company/product and is indicated in italics. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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Set a Spooky Mood with Pottery Barn Kids Candles



There's nothing like candlelight to give your home a spooky glow this Halloween season. I always light candles during our Halloween parties and on late October nights, but I have to admit that it can be a real pain. I constantly have to remind our excited young party guests to slow down when they run past the candles, and I constantly have to check to make sure everything is okay. I love candlelight, but the last thing I want is for the house to burn down!

To round out our Halloween decor, Pottery Barn Kids sent us a set of Halloween Pillar Candles, and they are absolutely beautiful. The designs on the candles match the ones on the Pottery Barn Kids Halloween tablecloth, so the candles look really nice on top of the tablecloth. We've placed ours over the fireplace mantel, framing one of our spooky Halloween frames. Truthfully, they look better on the mantel than at the center of a table because the designs only cover one side of the candle. They are pretty much blank white (aside from a couple of stars and some grass at the bottom) on the other side, so it's obvious which is the "front" and which is the "back".


Don't they look amazing? Pottery Barn Kids clearly did not cheap out on these candles. There's nothing plastic-looking about them whatsoever; they look and feel exactly like real wax candles. They're sturdy and heavy, and the outside is actually coated in wax, so they feel soft to the touch, just like real pillar candles.

They look beautiful just sitting there -- but the real witching magic happens when you "light" them. They have a tiny battery-operated light set deep inside the candle that flickers gently when you switch them on. The silhouettes really pop out, and they give a beautiful glow, without the smoke or the risk of fire.


For more Halloween home decorating ideas, check out my review of the Pottery Barn Kids Halloween Tablecloth and Halloween Countdown Calendar. Or go to their online Halloween section -- most of the items are on sale, so you can snag some scary bargains! Now that I think of it, I think I'll drop by our local Pottery Barn Kids store tomorrow....


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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Twisted Bazooka Halloween giveaway



Halloween is approaching fast, and it's time to think about what kinds of treats you'll be handing out to the little goblins, ghosts and devils that come knocking at your door.

I remember how popular Ring Pops were when I used to go trick-or-treating. Getting a Ring Pop was like striking gold! Now Bazooka Candy has put a new twist on the original Ring Pops with their Twisted Ring Pops. They come in 3 flavors: Twisted Blue Raspberry Watermelon, Twisted Berry Blast, and Citrus Craze. As always, they're fun to wear and fun to eat! You never have to worry about losing or dropping them, just slip them onto your finger and suck away. Twisted Ring Pops are sure to be a big hit with the kids -- that is, if their parents don't steal them first.


Win a Halloween Candy Basket from Bazooka Candy

THREE lucky Bonggamom Finds readers will each receive a Halloween Candy Basket, filled with assorted sweet treats from Bazooka Candy!




Required Entry
Leave a comment on this post and tell me which flavor of Twisted Ring Pop you would most like to try.

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) Add the Bonggamom Finds blog button to your sidebar (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 Bazooka Halloween giveaway! http://ow.ly/71Akf

4) Follow @bonggafinds on Twitter and tweet this, up to once per day (1 entry per day):
@bonggafinds is giving a Bazooka Halloween candy basket to 3 winners! Enter at http://ow.ly/71Akf #giveaways

5) 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 October 24, 2011; I will draw two winners at random on October 25 and post their names after they confirm 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. Thanks to Bazooka for providing the giveaway prizes! The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
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