Saturday, January 29, 2011

Melissa and Doug's Hangman

Last month I posted a review of the site (linked to my review). That was part one of a toy review process. Part two is writing a review of the toy that I received. Melissa and Doug's Hangman game was immediately enjoyed by both Amanda (12) and Kyle (6).

Most parents are familiar with the quality of Melissa and Doug products. They are educational and fun and sturdy. Most are made of wood, not plastic. In my experience, these are the types of toys that ebeanstalk offers.

This Hangman toy is a great way to introduce your kids to the game. Everything is right there, ready to go. The letters and the body parts are attached with little covered rubber bands (like a hair band). They are sturdy and seem like they will hold up well. The bottom of the game board is a dry-erase board (which Kyle enjoys using to write whatever he wants, not just blanks for the game word). The pen attaches with an elastic loop and has a handy eraser on the cap.

This is a great game to keep in the car, but is also nice to use at home since the format makes game play easy and fun.

Disclosure: This review fulfills my product testing for, for which I received the product above. I was asked to share my honest thoughts as part of my review. I was not told what to say, but the following links were requested to be included in my review:

Ebeanstalk has Baby toys, toys for one year olds, toys for two year olds.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


The first thing I noticed when we drove into the driveway of our new home was the roses blooming in the front yard. Roses! I've never had rosebushes before.

We didn't leave Connecticut kicking and screaming, but we knew that there were things that we would miss. When I was growing up here in Houston, anyone who had ever lived elsewhere would say "Houston is ugly." Ugly? I didn't exactly know what they meant. No, it's not the Caribbean or the mountains, but it's just a regular city, right?

After living in Portland, Oregon and then returning to Houston, I knew exactly what they meant. It's a concrete jungle, and there are cities that manage to be both functional and beautiful.

Our town in Connecticut was so unique (to us). To live in a small-town setting, yet be near enough to commute to work and to have good schools and amenities close by was something unheard of in this Suburban girl's mind.

We loved the beauty of the houses set back from the road and the lots lined only by trees, not 8 foot tall wooden privacy fences.

The four seasons were new to me, and each was lovelier than the next, with the blazing colors of fall giving way to the pure white winter snow, which ushered in the brightest green that only new life born from dormancy can bring. Save for a few muggy weeks in July, summer was a deep rich green of abundant growth.

But I've been surprised here. Surprised by the beauty that we've stumbled upon, with our backyard overlooking the a lake on the golf course, with an open fence that gives us at least the illusion of space.

The beauty of the house itself has amazed me as well. I guess I never really cared about that sort of thing, but it is something that feels like a blessing worth celebrating and worthy of a little appreciation.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What's on my Nightstand -- January

I think it's been two months since I participated in What's on Your Nightstand over at 5 Minutes for Books. In November, I was traveling for Thanksgiving and right in the throes of getting my house ready to sell. December's Nightstand was right after Christmas and I was actually driving to my new Texas home.

My reading for November and December was pretty much all Cybils, all the time. I was busy trying to secure library copies and receiving review copies, and completely immersed in Middle Grade fiction. Once we selected our finalists right before Christmas, I was ready to read some other genres, and I did.

This month, as always, I'll be reading some books that I will eventually feature on 5 Minutes for Books:

So it looks like I'll be busy, and it also appears as if I've gone from reading all Middle Grade stuff to a bunch of tween and teen fare. What about you? Let me know in the comments what looks interesting to you, and as always, feel free to join in What's on Your Nightstand over at 5 Minutes for Books each month.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Are you watching American Idol?

I know -- it's been super-quiet around here, and I could tell you that I've had some internet woes, I've been busy unpacking and settling in, my days are flying by in a flash. . . . But I'm not going to tell you any of that.  I'm going to talk about television.

This season of American Idol has been all over the news with all of the judges but Randy leaving, and the addition of Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.  Will it bomb or bust out as a big success?

I just jumped on the bandwagon last year (season 9!), so yes, Amanda and I are in.  In fact, since we are now among the other 99.9% of the world and we have a DVR, we're even more in.

She had youth group at church tonight, but we recorded it and just watched the first half.  Rocker Steven Tyler may be a little risque and keep us parents and  family-friendly ABC/Disney on their toes, but I have to say that I like what I see.  More than that, I like that Amanda and I are doing it together.

So, are you watching or did you decide that you were out before the season begun?  If you did watch it, what did you think?


What else are we watching on the DVR?  Lots of Food Network shows:  Cupcake Wars, Good Eats (which we always liked, but couldn't always watch), Bobby Flay's Throwdown, The Food Network Challenge, Worst Cooks in America.

Kyle enjoys the opportunity to watch Minute to Win It.

Are there any other shows that you enjoy watching as a family?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Checking In

Well, hello there.  I've been celebrating Christmas, moving across the country, and trying to get settled.  You?

You want more details, do you?  How's this:
  • We had a nice Christmas with Terry's family in Virginia.  There were lots of babies there.  Terry's sister has a newborn and a two-year-old and his brother has an 18-month-old.  Definitely changes the dynamic.  Kyle enjoyed playing with his girl cousin who is one year younger than he is.  Last year they played okay, but they really enjoyed each other this year.
  • Our cross-country drive (our third in 18 months!) was good.  We drove almost 1400 miles in two days, stopping in Birmingham for the night.
  • We arrived in Houston in a driving rainstorm, which we seem to be following all the way from Louisiana.  It was a good baptism (pun totally intended) into the severe Gulf Coast weather.  It was the kind of rain where it was difficult to see as we were driving.  We've been here less than 2 weeks, and the weather has been as warm as 75 on some days and other days not even hitting 50.  We've had sun, clouds, rain, and wind.
  • The kids loved their house.  I'm loving it too.  A lot.  My husband is incredibly industrious (Opposites attract, right?).  Due to his hard work, we are probably 80% unpacked.  It also helped when we were surprised with the knowledge that we had unpacking as an option, paid for by the company, which we used for the kitchen and dining room and some other random boxes.
  • The kids started school last Wednesday.  Four days in, Kyle is completely at home in his new first grade class, and says his teacher is as nice as his old teacher.  Speaking of old, when Terry asked him to describe his teacher, he used me as an example, saying that she did not have "these things" on her face, pointing to my furrowed brow.  "Her face is smooth."  
  • I can't say enough how proud I am of Amanda.  I think she is missing her deep friendships, but she has bravely visited new churches and tried to get involved in her classes at school.  I'm trying to be extra-nice to her.
  • We've connected with old friends, family, and the neighbors are making us feel welcome.
It's not an easy thing to move a family, but I think that we are all doing okay.