Halloween Express Review & $75 Giveaway

batman costumeTime to get ready for Halloween, friends!! Decorations, costumes, tricks and treats (hopefully more treats than tricks…) are all over the place this time of year- and I don’t know about you but getting most of my holiday shopping done in one place helps to keep me sane- and keeps my costs down.  Being able to grab the kids’ costumes online from places like Halloween Express and not in store with so many other temptations- for me and for them- means I’m not wasting my time nor spending extra money.  Plus, I can shop at MY convenience and hunt for discounts and coupons to get the best deal.

Tom Arma Monarch Butterfly

Tom Arma costumes are only available for purchase at Halloween Express.

There’s cute, there’s scary, there’s funny and there’s family themed.  You can dress yourself or a group, and you’ll find costumes in all kinds of sizes and styles- for those of us who barely costume to those who go all out.  There’s even a section just for decor if costuming isn’t your cup of tea!

What are your children – or what are YOU planning to be this Halloween? My kids didn’t really have Halloween last year because of the big storm that knocked power out for a whole week, so they are extra excited for this year- I’ll have a Luke Skywalker, Doc McStuffins and Silvermist from Tinkerbell movies!

You can save 10% on your purchase using code:

One lucky reader will win a $75 gift code to Halloween Express! 

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I received a gift code to thank me for taking the time to share this post.  Opinions are my own.


Lynda.com Online Training (Giveaway 2 winners!)

lynda.com online training library giveawayBack in August, I began a new learning venture thanks to the nice folks at Lynda.com.  At first, I was overwhelmed.  Giddy.  I’ve always loved school.  Learning excites me.  Having all of this information at my fingertips was almost too much for me.  All of these lessons, courses, things to learn, to help me grow with photos and blog things- right at my laptop.  I must have put one hundred classes in my queue.

I haven’t gotten through all of my queue.  Not even close to it.  But I’m loving this.  Lynda.com has such a diverse catalog of tutorials you can learn about.  There are basics, which, of course, are where I’m sticking with for now, but the level of instruction is top notch and there are so many more in depth and beyond basic skills and concepts to learn on so many topics.  It’s good that a membership lasts a year because you’ll need that long to really delve into things.  There’s over 82000 tutorials on this site.  That’s a lot of content.

My best tip for using Lynda.com is to add things to your queue when you see them.  Its so easy to get sidetracked when perusing the topics and forget what it was you wanted to be sure to add…so just do it as you see things.  The site’s easy to navigate but for me, out of sight means out of mind and I won’t always remember to go back and add it later.

Videos aren’t super lengthy on Lynda.com.  Instructors are well-spoken, clearly knowledgeable in their content, and videos are very clear to watch.  They run about 2-5 minutes each, so you can squeeze a few courses in per day….with time to practice and apply things you’ve learned and discovered.  Plus, with video, I can watch again and again until I figure things out. And then again if need be.  Or if I can’t quite catch what’s being said, I can repeat, rewind, or turn on captioning.  Pausing things is great, too.  There’s even a course about USING Lynda.com.  I wish I’d seen it before I jumped into things, but sometimes, I’m a “read the directions later” kind of girl.

Now, my favorite part of Lynda.com!  I get to give away TWO one-year memberships to Lynda.com!  (Membership to Lynda.com is  $357/year)

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I received a membership to Lynda.com to facilitate this post. Opinions are my own.

Britax Stroller Board

britax stroller board

In March, I got to head to NYC to have brunch with Britax and check out some of their new strollers and accessories.  One of those accessories is one that we’re still loving- and using- the Stroller Board.  The stroller board attaches fairly easily to most strollers and can hold up to a 50lb child…which means that you can have the option for a bigger kid to have a few moments rest when wandering around a fair, or an event…wherever you are.

BRITAX stroller board

I LOVE that you can adjust the height- makes things easier since my kids are all about 6 inches apart in height.  The stroller board gives you an additional spot for a child to rest without having the bulk of a double stroller or second seat- for the kids who don’t want or don’t need a ride in the stroller, but maybe just want to rest a bit.  Having this at the zoo with us was a lifesaver!

The BRITAX Stroller Board easily attaches to most strollers providing travel options for additional children. Three wheels with independent suspension provide a comfortable and stable ride for children weighing up to 50 pounds. The quick release design enables easy removal and installation of the stroller board. The stroller board can easily be adjusted to accommodate your child’s height. When not in use, the storage strap will hold the board up and out of the way.

  • Compatible with most strollers, including BRITAX B-READY (without Second Seat or Lower Infant Car Seat Adapter attached), B-AGILE, B-SCENE, B-NIMBLE, BLINK, and CHAPERONE strollers and BOB Revolution SE (single and duallie), Revolution CE, Sport Utility Stroller (single and duallie), Ironman (single and duallie), and Stroller Strides (single and duallie) strollers
  • Three wheels with independent suspension provide balance and child comfort
  • Quick-release feature allows the removal of the stroller board while the mounting bracket remains installed
  • Storage strap to position board out of the way when unoccupied
  • Attaches to horizontal or vertical stroller frames
  • Three way adjustable attachment allows the board to fit on most strollers
  • MSRP (USD) $89.99

Knowing that this stroller board is made from the folks at Britax who always put safety first made me want to try this product.  Having tried this product, and seen how useful it is, with my older kids, I love it.  Definitely a great option for families with more than one child!

Check out this video from the Britax Stroller Street Team!

I received a sample of this product to facilitate my review.  Opinions are my own.


Britax Pavilion 70-G3

  My baby just turned one, so that means that it’s time to upgrade car seats. Of course I knew that I wanted a Britax. I have had other car seat brands, but none have ever compaired in quality, durability and comfort to my Britax. I currently own the Britax Roundabout for my 3 year old, and was so thrilled to try out the new Pavilion 70-G3 on my little guy. We HAD to get the matching Cowmooflage pattern of course. Besides, does it get any cuter than cowmooflage????   The number one element I look for in a carseat is SAFETY, and Britax does not disappoint. Just look at all these great new features!!

“Look for the new BRITAX HUGS™ with SafeCell Technology®, side impact protection, base with SafeCell Technology®, energy absorbing Versa-Tether®, and integrated steel bars. The ADVOCATE® 70- G3, PAVILION® 70-G3 and BOULEVARD® 70-G3 feature new BRITAX HUGS™ Chest Pads with SafeCell Technology®. These chest pads are affixed to the back of the car seat shell to ensure that they are properly positioned on the buckled child. SafeCell padding on the chest pads, identified by a honeycomb design, is engineered to compress to manage energy and create best-in-class resistance to the forward movement of a child.

All of the newly updated BRITAX convertible car seats continue to offer revolutionary safety features that are easy to see. For instance, all seats have a rigid shell with deep side walls that are lined with energy-absorbing foam to provide side impact protection. The ADVOCATE 70-G3, PAVILION 70-G3 and BOULEVARD 70-G3 offer a second layer of protection with energy-absorbing foam in the True Side Impact Protection head restraint that keeps the head, neck and spine aligned. Finally, the ADVOCATE 70-G3 includes Side Impact Cushion Technology®, a third layer of protection, with black energy-absorbing cushions on the child seat’s exterior to reduce side impact energy by diverting 45 percent of the crash forces away from the seated child. Britax Advocate 70 G3 These cushions also provide extra protection for the adjacent passenger. Additional visible features can be found on all updated BRITAX convertible car seats. Check inside the open-style base for honeycomb-shaped SafeCell Technology®, designed to compress in a crash, significantly lowering the center of gravity and counteracting the forward rotation of the child seat. Look on the outside of the seat for integrated steel bars that strengthen the seat’s connection to the vehicle and Also, all the enhanced models have new labeling to identify BRITAX’s Energy Absorbing Versa-Tether. The patented 2-point top tether with staged-release webbing anchors the top of the car seat to the vehicle and slows forward movement, reducing crash forces. These features, along with the side impact technologies, provide 360-degree protection for the child occupant.

In addition to the innovative safety features, BRITAX has designed a new convenience feature. The EZ-Buckle System keeps the buckle in a convenient, easy-to- reach forward position, making boarding a child faster and simpler. It can be found on the ADVOCATE 70-G3, PAVILION 70-G3 and BOULEVARD 70-G3 as well as the BRITAX ADVOCATE 70-G3, PAVILION 70-G3, BOULEVARD 70-G3 and MARATHON 70-G3 convertible car seats can be used rear facing up to 40 pounds and forward facing up to 70 pounds.”

My Thoughts: I cannot rave about this carseat enough! It was super easy to install, my baby is very comfortable in the seat, it comes with the most advanced safety features of any carseat and it looks adorable! I do like how deep my child sits in the seat for added side impact protection. The harness system is outstanding. One of my favorite features is the EZ-Buckle system that keeps the buckle in the forward facing position. No more sitting on the buckle and fumbling around to find it while your child is squirming! I have been extremely pleased with this carseat and highly recommend it to anyone looking to upgrade. Because this seat has a weight capacity of 70 pounds I plan on getting a lot of use out of it. Products and Prices: Purchasing a Britax carseat is definitely an investment. However, you really have to consider the safety features, durability and quality of this seat. It really is a superior product and one that you will be glad you purchased. Britax offers several different designs, including the new Pavilion 70-G3. BRITAX ADVOCATE 70-G3 (MSRP: $379.99) PAVILION 70-G3 (MSRP: $339.99) BOULEVARD 70-G3 (MSRP: $319.99), MARATHON 70-G3 (MSRP: $289.99) ROUNDABOUT 55 (MSRP: $199.99).   One VERY lucky reader will win their own Britax Pavilion 70-G3!!!!!! (winner chooses design)

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  “A sample of this product was provided to facilitate my review. All opinions expressed are my own.”

Doc McStuffins: Friendship is the Best Medicine

doc mcstuffins friendship is the best medicine
“I feel better, so much better, thank you Doc for takin’ all the ouchies away………”

This is my 3 year old’s favorite song.  She sings it 100 times a day, usually with a stethoscope and doctor kit in hand.  Why?  She’s playing Doc McStuffins of course, Disney’s adorable new kid-doctor who helps her toy friends get their ouchies away.  It’s cute, it’s fun, and what the kids don’t realize is that Doc’s helping her toy friends with problems that may just happen to kids in real life, and helps them realize that hey! it’s ok to need help, to ask for it, and how rewarding it is to help our friends.

Doc McStuffins is a six-year-old girl who plays with her stuffed animals and toys.  Each episode deals with a common ailment that a child could see a doctor.  Doc’s friends include Stuffy, an overly proud dragon; Lambie, her  cuddly best friend; Hallie, a jolly and caring  hippo nurse; Squeakers, an alarmist squeaky toy fish; and Chilly, a snowman who spends a lot of time getting check-ups at the clinic.  Ailments from low batteries to loose stitching are easy for Doc to repair.  Although she does ask her mom (a real doctor) for help in several episodes, showing that asking for help is a great idea.   Children learn lessons including imagination, teamwork, taking care of yourself and others, responsibility, and friendship from Doc McStuffins.   Each episode features two 11-minute stories and an original song and showcases the hallmarks of great Disney storytelling – fantasy and wish fulfillment.


What surprised ME most about this show is how much my 7 year old enjoys it.  I’d assumed this would be appealing to the younger crowd, but I’m very happy to report she loves it.  7 has proven to be a really tough TV age in my family- and while we don’t watch a ton with the kids, she seems to be in limbo between little kids shows (too babyish, mom!) and big kid shows (NOT appropriate in our eyes).  Doc McStuffins has offered a great transition-to-tween program option that is fun and appropriate without being babyish.  For that reason alone I love it.  I have had discussions with many of my daughter’s friends’ parents and they have said the same thing- finding shows that are age appropriate for a 6-8 year old can be really tough.


We were able to invite a few of the kids’ friends over to have a little viewing party to watch this DVD. The kids loved it. They all wanted clipboards of their own, of course, and doctor coats. I’m guessing that we’ll be seeing a few little Doc McStuffins characters come Halloween! Thankfully at least one of the other kids has a soft spot for Chilly the snowman and agrees with me that there should be more shows centered around the adorable snowman. It must be the hypochondriac in me…

The kids all seem to love this show because the characters are so relatable. Anything that promotes kindness, helping others and friendship without seeming preachy goes over well in my book.

Doc McStuffins: Friendship is the Best Medicine is available most anywhere DVDs are sold.

I received some promotional items and the DVD to facilitate my review. Opinions are my own.

Joie Shop Makes the Kitchen Fun Again (Giveaway)

Listen, I’m an adult. I’m 38. I have a house, a husband, and three children.  That doesn’t mean I have to have to be all adult and serious-like all of the time, especially not in the kitchen.  Joie recently reached out and asked if I’d like to check out some of their products – immediately I said yes- we’ve loved their whimsical and fun kitchen utensils for years.  They even have an egg timer almost identical to one my mom had years ago that I always wished for.   These make for GREAT gifts for so many occasions- and are perfect stocking stuffers!! The holidays are coming!

Cute, fun, practical and functional.  There’s the Eggy Timer ($3.99), which tells you what stage of cooking your eggs are in, and reminds me oh-so-much of my mom…she always did get her eggs done perfectly!

joie eggy timer

And the chocolate fondue set ($9.99), which is small enough to keep stowed away and won’t take a ton of cabinet space, but big enough to easily accommodate 4-5 people enjoying some chocolate delight…

joie chocolate fondue set

There are tons of fun novelty items- lines like “Eggy” “Kitch Devil” “Mr Piggy” “Moo-Moo” and many more.  Items like vegetable peelers, veggie brushes, spatulas, tongs, serving dishes, food savers, pizza cutters….and so many more!  We’ve always found joie products to be very well made and to last a long time.  (We have had several of their spatulas over the years).  I’m really loving the Kitch Devil tongs and the Monster Fun Pops the most.

There’s not much we love more in our house than popsicles, and being able to make FUN pops at home?  It’s awesome.  The kids love choosing what kind we’ll make each morning, and they can’t wait to have one after dinner!

joie monster fun pops


Even silly.  Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a homemade popsicle eaten out of a one eyed monster?  It’s hard to resist!  We love making our own popsicles- we actually have a tradition of making orange juice popsicles for the first day of school.  It’s a fun treat for the kids and a great way to change things up a bit.

joie monster fun pops

You don’t match your pajamas to your popsicle holder?

Two readers will each win a set of each variety of the  Monster Fun Pops 4-piece mold set and a Monster Fun Pop Ups 4 piece set!  (ARV $18.98 per winner)!

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I received samples of this product to facilitate my review.  Opinions are my own.

Waverly and the Magic Seashells Review and Giveaway

waverly and the magic seashellsThere’s a tiny new mermaid on the toy scene and she’s poised to make a big splash in the toy world.  Waverly, a 3 inch mermaid from Azarella, the home of real mermaids, loves to spend time hanging out in her first-of-its-kind Magic Seashell with her pets Gumbo and Zuli.  Waverly loves to sing and dance and most of all, play dress up- which is right up my daughters’ alley.  Waverly and the Magic Seashells is a line of tiny mermaid dolls and accessories that are adorable, interactive, and oh so much fun!

Meet the mermaids: Waverly, Mirabella, Star, Amelia, Coralina and Breena!

Discover the world of Waverly and the Magic Seashells with 6 beautiful mini dolls to collect! Waverly and her friends come from the magical world of Azarella where just like these dolls, real mermaids are only 3” tall – the perfect size to go everywhere with you! Each doll comes accompanied by a special pearl that unlocks secrets of the sea when you place it in the Magic Seashell playset (sold separately). The dolls also come with a scepter-shaped hairbrush and a special accessory, such as a treasure chest, trophy cup or pedestal.

waverly and the magic seashells

What I love about this toy line: small, compact, portable.  We have 2 mermaids, the accessories they each came with plus Waverly’s Magic Seashell, and they all store right inside the seashell.  The shell’s about the size of a football so it’s kind of easy to bring somewhere- so for instance, when we’re driving to Florida this winter…this is a perfect toy to bring along with us.

waverly and the magic seashells full

Lots of playtime fun packed into these tiny packages.  I think the whole concept of these toys is super cute, and I’m in love with them.  My favorite part is the mermaids’ hair…and the pearls being able to be changed from the ring to other places.  I’ve always loved toys that include a slide- and since the seashell has one…I have to love it.  Plus, you know, it’s pink.  So there’s that.  The volume of the sounds and music is kind of loud when played with in a quiet room- or on a wood table…but when there’s other noise in the room and/or carpeting, not an issue at all.

As for the kids?  They love them.  They were fighting over the dolls before the packaging was all the way opened, so guess what will be coming in their stockings? Yes, that’s right.  More dolls and probably another playset.  They love “portable” toys and these mermaids are NO exception.  They also love that there are animals and brushes for the dolls’ hair.

waverly and the magic seashells lit up

You can find Waverly and the Magic Seashells toys at most major toy retailers in store and online in the US, including Target, Toys ‘R Us and Kmart.  Be sure to check out the free games, activities and printables on the Waverly and the Magic Seashells site!

I think Waverly and her friends will be finding their way into many little girls’ hearts this holiday season- and I’m excited to tell you that one of my readers will win a Waverly’s Magic Seashell playset ($24.99 ARV) toy along with a mermaid friends ($7.99 ARV each) and a shell accessory ($4.99)!


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Samples of this product were received in exchange for this post.  Opinions are my own.

Polly Pocket’s Playtime Pet Shop & Friends Finish First DVD

polly pocket playtime pet shop 2

My kids love animals.  The love to play with them, either our family pets or toys.  They dress them up, play house, school, and whatever else comes into their minds.  They’ve been playing a lot with Polly Pocket’s Playtime Pet Shop for the past few weeks- a cute new playset from the Polly Pocket folks that’s sure to be a hit with any animal loving kid!  This set has a pet carrier, treats, food bowls, toys, leashes, plus activities to do with the animal friends.  You can even give them a bath! (I have to confess I’ve not undone the stitch holding the towel around the bar- the kids haven’t asked me to and I feel like it works quite nicely as is…and we can’t lose it this way!)

One thing that’s always “worked” for Polly Pocket is the size- the dolls, the accessories, the playsets, all are fairly small in size and are easy to store and are portable.  This is important for those of us who have smaller homes, don’t want clutter, or even for folks who travel a lot.  Having toys from home that are familiar can go a long way when traveling, and toys that encourage dramatic play seem to lend themselves to longer periods of play, so these are perfect for on-the-go. Kids love being able to bring toys places- with the Polly Pockets, they can tuck a few toys into their pocket and have something to play with and entertain them during dinner at a restaurant, or at a doctors office.

polly pocket playtime pet shop

I love Polly Pockets, always have. They are just cute and fun.  I feel like Mattel has done a great job keeping the Polly and her friends doing age-appropriate activities and age-appropriate apparel.  I get very frustrated when brands and products directed at the 3-4 and up crowd have more adult-themed or teenage themed activities and clothing.  Sets like the Playtime Pet Shop are great- the dolls are stylish and fun, the animals adorable, and there are multiple ways to interact with the playset through the slide, the checkout, the spinning bins, the swing…although I think the girls’ favorite and my own are the treat dispenser and the little treats.  Its hard for me to get the treats back into their containers because of my big chubby mama hands but the kids have no problem.  Plus, the teeny tiny fish and teeny tiny bones are just adorable.

polly pocket playtime pet shop treat dispenser

I do have to say I almost wish sets like this came with some kind of storage pouch on the back- hidden during play, but a place to store all of the tiny pieces that come with these sets.  It’s hard to keep track of them.  Not a drawback, but it would be a very nice feature.

Having recently checked out the Stick ‘n Play  Polly Pocket set, I have to say I prefer this one…and the kids seem to also. I think the suction cups are nice because it means the dolls will stay in place and stand upright, but it also impedes moving them around which gets frustrating for them.  I think they are a great idea but may need a little tweaking.  The kids don’t seem to mind and have mixed one set with the other and just play Polly Pockets.  They just like the dolls and the animals.

We also received the “Friends Finish First” DVD with Polly and her friends and all three of my kids loved this.  My girls loved seeing their dolls come to life and hearing their voices.  Polly and her friends are in a skating contest and Polly learns how it’s more important to have fun WITH her friends than to win and beat her friends. A cute episode and just 22 minutes long- teaches a nice lesson and isn’t very preachy.  Plus my kids love ice skating, so this was a win-win for me!

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Mattel Polly Pocket. I received a product samples and a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.

Kidorable Hooded Towels (Discount & Giveaway)

kidorable hooded firefighter towel

My kids have kind of outgrown all of our fun towels.  It’s kind of sad, for me.  I know they will grow older, but can’t they have fun and be super cute while growing older?  I was happy to see Kidorable’s current Hooded Towel promotion.  Adorable and FUN towels that are big enough even for my 7 year old (the larger size, size M, is for ages 3-6 but most styles are very generously sized to get you several years of fun (dry) use!) 

kidorable fairy towel

All of the Kidorable towels we have had to date except for the Fairy towel have a snap to keep the towel secured in front- which means kids are able to wear it as a towel, or a coverup at the pool/lake…but also means they can use their towels for dressup and pretend play.  You can see by the photos that the fairy towel has a bit of a different shape and this one does not have the snap- it has a lot of cool embellishments on it that make it so much fun instead!  That’s one thing I really like about these towels- they are soft and plush, yes, but also made so that kids can use them- and want to use them.  The Mermaid towel has shell pockets- which, if you know any 2-4 year olds, are huge.  Add a pocket to something, and you have given them a magical gift.

kidorable mermaid hooded towelkidorable fairy and mermaid hooded towelskidorable fairy hooded towel










From September 15-30, you can save 20% off your entire order when when you purchase one of their super soft cotton hooded towels.  Use code DRYOFF33 at checkout!

Our customers tell us that our towel designs are the best anywhere.  Now our towel quality leads the industry as well.  The old material was a soft and absorbent terrycloth.  The new material retains all that is good about that, and adds a layer of super soft velour.  The result is an equally absorbent, and now lighter, brighter, softer towel.  These quality towels come in two sizes—newborn to two years, and ages three to six.  Check out all our towel styles for girls and boys!

These towels make wonderful gifts- I can’t tell you how many times I hear from parents that their kids don’t need any.more.toys.  Why not a fun towel that will get tons of use?  They are priced at $38 each but with the 20% discount, you’ll pay just $30.40 and have a gift that will be used over and over.

Kidorable would like to send one reader a hooded towel of their choice!  


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Samples of this product were received to facilitate my review. Opinions are my own. 


Western Chief’s Butterfly Raingear Review & Giveaway

western chief butterfly boots raincoat umbrella

Every girl needs an adorable rain ensemble to wear when she’s out and about and it’s raining, right?  I mean, puddle jumping is fun regardless of your attire, but puddle jumping in Butterfly boots?  It just adds a little something, you know?  Thanks to Western Chief, my littlest one has a Butterfly raingear ensemble- an umbrella, a raincoat and rainboots to keep her dry- and looking super cute, whenever it’s raining.  Or whenever it isn’t, since she’s obsessed with her rainboots and has been wearing them almost nonstop since they arrived.

western chief butterfly raincoat umbrella boots

Western Chief’s raingear is PVC free. The raincoats ($36.00 ARV) are made from  a waterproof polyurethane with a moisture-absorbent lining.  The rainboots ($25.00ARV) are a 100% aterproof natural rubber boot with a full net linin, pull handles for easy on & off (which is great since the sizing starts at a toddler 5, just about when kids hit the “I do it mySELF phase…” and have a steel shank and non slip sole for safety. The umbrellas ($16.00 ARV)  are one size made from bright, colorful nylon.

western chief butterfly  boots umbrella raincoat

HelloKittyScenic-Red umbrella

Western Chief would like to send one reader their choice of a Dinosaur Umbrella, a Monster Umbrella, a Butterfly Umbrella or the Scenic Hello Kitty Umbrella (pictured above)! 


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