Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Just a reminder:  most of my posts these days can be found over at http://owlhaven.net

Hope to see you there too!


One of the super-lovely perks of blogging is cool things to review.  This week’s arrival at the Owlhaven was unusually awesome.  An Epson Artisan printer/copier/scanner/fax.  I probably would not have sprung for this baby on my own, being a tightwad and all– it runs nearly $300.  But now that I’ve seen it and played with it….oh, who am I kidding?   I really am too cheap to spend $300 on a printer.  But let me tell you, this printer is.sweet. 

It prints black and color text up to 38 pages per minute.  It can do a 4×6 photo in amazing quality in 10 seconds.  It has a document feed feature as well as several different paper trays for various sizes of paper and envelopes. And it’s wireless!  Which means it can sit in my bedroom, out of sight, and I can print from the living room.

I haven’t played with this tons yet, but I did print off some really gorgeous 4×6’s and 8×10’s from our recent family photo shoot. The paper that came with the printer was really high quality and supposedly will last many years.  And the photo quality was JUST stunning.  My husband came home, saw the 8×10 and asked me where I’d had it printed.  He was shocked to hear that the printer was sitting on my desk.

I also tried out the copy machine feature– a huge bonus for a homeschooling mom like me.  My first attempt at the copy machine feature (without reading any instructions) netted me 4 nice looking handwriting pages in less than 2 minutes.  The machine is very easy to use and it is smokin fast.  I am going to have fun playing with it some more.


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Just a reminder:  most of my posts these days can be found over at http://owlhaven.net

Hope to see you there too!


With Christmas coming in a couple months, I wanted to mention a couple of fun toys that I received to review this month.  The first one is called the Kid Kleen Bath Blizzard.  You hook this little gizmo over your tub spout, pour in bubble bath, and turn it on for a cascade of bubbles during bath time. When the provided bubble bath runs out, you can use your own bubble bath, which is nice.  Less nice is the fact that it takes 4 C batteries.  I’m not sure how many baths that will get us.   But all in all this is a fun toy that is a lot of fun for kiddos in the bath.

The other toy I got to look at is the Spinmaster AquaDoodle Draw and Doodle Mat.  This drawing mat is good sized.  You can spread it out on the floor and let kids draw on it using a special water-filled pen.  The water makes marks on the mat that disappear once the mat is dry, so kids can use this again and again.  It even has how-to-doodle hints around the sides of the mat.   I’m not sure this is better than crayons and paper, but it is a fun item, especially for days when you don’t have the energy to deal with crayons and markers and the mess that they create.

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Cabbage Patch Kids

I’ve been busy doing 30 Days of Nothing over at my new blog, but wanted to write here about a product I was able to review recently.   The original Cabbage Patch kids were introduced in 1983.  I was in high school and past the doll age at that point, but got into the craze a few years later when my own daughters were given them as gifts.  I have to confess that I have never found the looks of the dolls especially appealing, but I did love that each doll comes with her own name and birth certificate. And– more important — my daughters loved them.

That’s why when I was recently offered a sample of the new 25th Anniversary Cabbage Patch Doll, I accepted happily.  There are African-American ones available, which is important to me as a mom of African American kids.  The doll that I was sent is actually fair-skinned.   I think my 3 year old will like that  (it’ll be a Christmas gift– shhh).  90% of her dolls are African American, but it is nice to have a little variety.  I know from experience that these dolls are extremely well made, and I was surprised to read in the press release that they will be selling for only $29.95.  For some reason I’ve always thought  that these are very expensive dolls, but that seems like a reasonable price to me.

One thing that is fun about these dolls is that they are big enough to wear preemie baby clothes, which I sometimes find at yard sales and thrift stores.  No doubt you can also buy more outfits at the toy store, but I am too cheap for that. Anyway, if you’re starting to think about a Christmas gift for a little girl in your life, there’s another option to consider!


Remember, most of my writing is now over at http://owlhaven.net.  Head on over there and subscribe if you haven’t already!

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Oh, I have a fun giveaway for y’all! Lands End sent me this absolutely wonderful backpack. This thing is beautifully made– it’s Lands End, after all, complete with the fabulous LE guarantee— and is a perfect size. Not too big, not too small. And the pockets– the pockets in this backpack rock. It would be easy to be organized with this backpack.

Would you like to win this for one of your kids? Here’s what you’ll need to do.

1.) Mention this contest on your blog

2.)Comment here and tell me one ‘first day of school’ memory from your childhood.

Everyone who meets both those requirements will be entered into the drawing to be held this coming Tuesday.

And — this one’s for everyone!!– if you’re doing other shopping with Land’s End in the next week, here’s a FREE SHIPPING CODE:
Good July 24-30
Pin: 2784

Have fun shopping, and I’m looking forward to reading your ‘back to school’ stories!

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Recently I was asked to review a book called Eco-Friendly Families. It was written by Helen Coronato and will be released on August 5th. This book is an activity guide to help families gently move toward greener living.

This was written in a nice easy-read format, with many suggestions that even young children might be able to do with the help of their parents. I especially liked the chapter checklists at the end of each chapter– they are basically a list of action points that people can implement.

The book contained a lot of things that I’m already doing, along with a smattering of ideas that I didn’t know. Frankly, I haven’t done huge amounts of thinking about my own ‘green’-ness, but as I read, I found my own ‘green’ policy solidifying in my mind.

It’s a simple one: basically I am for eco-friendly living up to the point where it might cost me extra money. Ask me to shell out extra bucks and I probably won’t buy it. Fortunately a huge portion of green living is actually frugal living as well.

Hang drying clothes? Check.
Using vinegar and baking soda as cleansers? Check.
Walking places instead of driving whenever you can? Check.
Storing leftovers in margarine containers instead of expenive ziplocks? Check.

Certainly there are some places where a larger investment up front will save your resources in the long run. A good example of that is flourescent light bulbs, which we have in a good portion of our home.

Where eco-living kind of loses me is in the organic foods department. Granted, we grow a ton of our own produce and I cook the vast majority of our food from scratch, so we have an advantage there. But in the grocery store when I’m looking at a rack of apples, I’m afraid my criteria is simple: what’s cheapest and isn’t a Red Delicious?

I probably won’t get around to implementing everything in this book, but it was a good reminder to me of all the small things we can do to live a little more lightly. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool tightwad like me, you might want to check this book out at your library. But if your family is just beginning to wonder what you could do to lessen your impact on the earth, this book might be a good way to jump in.

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Since a lot of adoptive families read this blog, I wanted to mention a discovery we made recently for our Ethiopian daughters’ hair. It is TRESemme’ Curl Moisturizing conditioner, and it is an excellent leave-in conditioner for all my girls’ hair, from the soft gently curly hair of my 10 year old to the very thick very curly hair of my 12 year old.

I am perhaps most thrilled with it for my 3 year old daughter. She has soft curls but LOTS of hair and not tons of tolerance for getting it brushed out. I washed her hair the other evening and was dreading the comb-out. Her hair had been in a single, quickly brushed braid for about 4 days and I knew it would be snarled. But I washed it and conditioned it, leaving a generous amount of the conditioner in afterwards, and was thrilled to be able to get her hair quickly and very thoroughly combed without one complaint from her.

I have tried literally dozens of hair products for my African American girls, and this is Good Stuff. Added bonus: it’s only $3.84 for 32 oz at Walmart.

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Recently I was asked to review a set of 4 Begin Smart books. One-Two was a counting book for 18-24 months. It is a cute book with heavy foam pages, but it seemed a little simplistic to me. I’ve never seen a book that counted only to two! personally I would not buy this one.

What Does Baby Say is for 12-18 month olds, and What Does Baby Do is for 6-12 months. Both books are nice lift-the-flap board books, with simple pictures and an engaging what-comes-next? rhythm. Read either of these books to a toddler a time or two and he’ll be telling you what is under each flap before he even lifts it. My 3 year old enjoyed these books. They were simple for her, but she enjoyed them enough that she asked me to read them to her again. She liked being able to anticipate the answers to the questions.

The final book in this set is actually a cross between a soft book and a chew toy. It is a little cloth book called Faces and is designed for the youngest of babies. It has a rattle to keep babies interested and is filled with faces featuring different expressions. Cute book. I am looking forward to giving this one away as a baby shower gift because it is really cute. however, I have to say that of this series, I like the lift-the-flap books best, since I have found that type of book to be a perennial favorite with my kids.

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Need a blog card?

Karen from Simply Amusing Designs did such a great job on my card that I just had to show it to you!

Here's my card

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Not long ago I got a learning materials sample from Let’s Start Smart.   This one contained a DVD and a CD to help kids learn their multiplication.   In our homeschool, I consider it essential that kids get their multiplication down pat.   This program drills kids in a lively entertaining way with music.  I liked that you can listen to the CD in the car, since that would really maximize your drive time. The materials suggest that you might also try playing this at home any time kids are in the room, even if they’re doing something else.  They’ll learn it just by hearing it, without even consciously paying attention.  If your kids are struggling to learn their times tables you might just give this a shot.

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 Recently I was sent the Lucky Foot Stable a series of horse books for young readers.   The books I got were Lady’s Big SurpriseStar of Wonder, and A Star Discovered.  Since my oldest girls aren’t into horse books any more, and my newest-arrived girls are still learning English, I loaned these books to my 10-year-old niece Bethany for her opinion.  Here’s what she said:

 I loved all of the books!  They had tons of adventure and excitement.  I just wanted to read on and on because I didn’t know what would happen next.  Pretty soon, I was done with one book, then the second, then with all of them.  The excitement just stayed in my mind and I wanted to be there with the girls Mary and Jody and with their horses, Gypsy and Lady, doing the same things they were doing and seeing what they were seeing.  I think all horse lovers would love the books as much as I did!

Bethany’s mom, my sister Rachel, also read one of the books.   Here’s what she had to say:

 I also read one of the books (“Star of Wonder”) and really enjoyed it. It was definitely geared toward a young reader, but had a good, exciting plot with plenty of twists and adventure.  I liked that there was fair amount of real-life horse information.  For example, the mare had a baby foal in the opening chapters of the book, and the story went through the nursing and weaning time of the pair.  It was quite matter-of-fact in describing how the physical process worked, approaching it through the eyes of one of the girls explaining it to the other.  There was also a ranch hand in the story who helped explain things to the girls as needed.  I would have no reservations about recommending this series to a horse-loving young reader.

Thanks, Bethany and Rachel, for sharing your thoughts about these books!

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