Monday, March 28, 2011

To sum up: Nutella is yummy

We live in Hazelnut-ville (some ridiculously high percentage of the U.S. hazelnut production comes from my area), so hazelnuts are in all sorts of local dishes. Yet somehow I had never tasted Nutella, the famous hazelnut-cocoa spread that originated in Italy.

There were several years in my childhood I had Nutella confused with the equally "exotic"--but very different--Vegemite. Which may have been part of why I never tried it. How I mixed up yeast spread with nutty chocolate spread, I do not know. But it definitely had me confused when people would name Nutella as a guilty pleasure!

I finally got my chance to try it for myself when Nutella, via MommyParties, sponsored a recent morning playgroup for a big group of moms and kids at my house. They sent along nifty coffee mugs and loads of Nutella for us to try.

I took inspiration from one of the recipe ideas they included and made a batch of homemade English muffins, then put out bananas and strawberries alongside the Nutella. A fresh toasted muffin with a layer of nutty chocolate and slices of fresh fruit on top? YUM. They were gobbled up, especially by the kids.

Nutritionally, the calories and fat content are about the same as the peanut butter I usually put on my toast. The sugar content is much higher, of course. Hence the tastiness that led one guest to dub it "nutty frosting". I  found that a little went a long way in adding a nice touch of sweetness and a hint of cocoa when paired with whole grain bread. A bit like having hot chocolate with your breakfast, only on your toast instead of in a mug.

My son is totally hooked and likes it on whole wheat mini bagels. I'm looking forward to experimenting with it in some cookie and muffin recipes. In fact, I just discovered while writing up this post, that a bit of Nutella is excellent on a Nilla wafer. I foresee many such discoveries in my future!

Disclosure: I received samples of Nutella and coffee mugs for my family and our guests, but no other compensation, in exchange for this post.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Holiday Cards from Shutterfly

My first experience with Shutterfly's photo cards was with my daughter's birth announcements. Shutterfly had just come out with a line of designer announcements printed on nice thick paper, giving the look of boutique cards at a much friendlier price point. Perfect. They turned out so well we keep one framed on our family photo wall--not something I'd do with a typical photo card.

Since then, I've gone back to Shutterfly more than once for Christmas cards. Shutterfly asked me to take a look at their 2010 holiday photo cards collection and share my three favorites. And if you blog, be sure to read through to the end for an opportunity to get fifty holiday cards for free!

My pick of the flat stationery cards: All Wrapped Up

Simple. Different. Love it.

My favorite of the (budget-friendly) basic photo cards: Starlight Star Bright

I like the casual, laid-back vibe (and the orange!) that will stand out in the piles of red and green snowy-wonderland cards.

And the best of the bunch: Joy to 2010 folded greeting card

Here is why the folded cards are brilliant: Shutterfly lets you put color photos and text inside the card in a number of different layouts, so it becomes your card and holiday letter/update in one. Nice!

So, fellow bloggers, do you want 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly? Click here to go to Shutterfly for information on how you can get 50 free cards this holiday season, and make sure to select Clever 1000 as the referral source.

This post is part of a series sponsored by Shutterfly. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Preparing for Flu Season + Thermometer Giveaway

One of my girlfriends carries a thermometer in her diaper bag, taking her kids' temperature at the slightest hint of illness. That's not really my style. I typically gauge potential fevers by touch, confirming with a digital thermometer under their arm if they seem really sick. (I've gotten quite accurate with the touch method, I'll have you know.)

With all the H1N1 flu drama, our preschool and daycare are now much more specific about when children will be allowed through the door and how high a mild fever can be before it keeps them home. Determining that a forehead is "barely warm" won't really cut it. Faced with the prospect of a lot more temperature-taking this winter, I accepted a MomSelect invitation to review the new ReliOn Temple Touch Thermometer.

The good:

  • It works fast. Hold the end of the digital thermometer up to a squirmy kid's temple for six seconds and you're done. Much more convenient than the minute-plus I have to hold the thermometer under their arms for an auxiliary temp.
  • There are little beeps to tell you when to put it up to the temple and when to take it off. And instructions right on the thermometer in case even that's too much to remember.
  • I tried it on my toddler and myself at a few different points throughout the day. It gave consistent readings for both of us.
  • It's only $10, which is about what I spent on our last thermometer.
The not as good:
  • The beeps are pretty loud, especially when the thermometer is right next to your ear. One of its selling points is supposed to be that you can use it on sleeping kids, but I wouldn't want to risk waking a sleeping sick child. I wish there were a way to mute the beeping.
  • You'll still need a thermometer on hand for taking rectal temperatures. At least at our pediatrician's office, that's the reading they request if things are dicey.
  • It's only available through WalMart or its cousin, Sam's Club (I didn't realize that fact until today).
In addition to the free thermometer to review, I received one to give away. To enter, leave a comment on this post sharing something about autumn you're looking forward to (since the flu isn't the only thing coming). U.S. mailing addresses only. One entry per person, winner to be chosen at random no later than 9/12, void where prohibited. Entries without some means of contact (e.g. email, blog link) are invalid. Contest closes 9/9 midnight PST.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Book Review: "Daniel X: Watch the Skies"

When the call came around for the Mother Talk blog tour for Daniel X: Watch the Skies, I thought it would be a good opportunity to re-acquaint myself with the world of young adult lit and see what's new there.

Watch the Skies is the follow-up to James Patterson's The Dangerous Days of Daniel X, which I saw described elsewhere as an attempt to cross "Men In Black" with Harry Potter. I had learned last year about Patterson's really useful website Read Kiddo Read, part of his larger effort to spark a lifelong love of reading in kids by matching them with engaging, wonderful books. So I was interested to see what he would come up with for young readers, specifically boys.

I don't completely buy in to the idea of "boy books" and "girl books," especially when it's based on little more than the protagonist's gender. (I'm willing to concede that Betsy-Tacy and Tib books wouldn't be the first thing I'd hand to a boy, but--girl or boy--if you like Island of the Blue Dolphins, you're going to like My Side of the Mountain, you know what I mean?) But I'm also the parent of a little boy who LOVES books right now. And if knowing more about books marketed toward boys helps me keep that love burning through his adolescence, then I'm game.

Daniel is an alien hunter--and a human-like alien himself. His parents were killed by evil aliens when he was a toddler, and now as a teen he helps rid the universe of other evil aliens. He's a teen with lots of superpowers, including the ability to make matter materialize just by using his imagination (even his dead parents, which sort of takes the edge off the whole orphan thing). In this episode, he faces down the fifth most dangerous alien on Earth.

Here is what stood out to me:

  • The chapters are super short. Many of them total about one page of text.
  • There is a lot of movement--characters changing location, jumping from one activity to another, etc. There is not a ton of detail.
  • Because of points one and two, it's definitely a quick read.
  • There are lots and lots of brand names gratuitously dropped. Which may have been an attempt to make the book current, but (a) will eventually make it seem dated and (b) raised my anti-marketing hackles.
  • The limits of Daniel's powers aren't really explained. If he can create whatever he can imagine, including people who later conveniently disappear, why can't he imagine a huge army of fighters to take out all the aliens?
  • As far as I could tell, none of the characters were people of color. When coloring was noted it was often to point out blond hair or blue eyes.
At first I thought it reminded me of a Choose Your Own Adventure book--short chapters, shallow characters that don't develop, plots that hop from cliffhanger to cliffhanger--without the choices. But then I realized it reminded me of The Da Vinci Code--and I really, really didn't like The Da Vinci Code. But, admittedly, lots of people did.

So if you have a kid who would enjoy a book that's high on movement and short on character, and who would like the satisfaction that comes from whipping through short chapters, I offer you Daniel X.

As a participant in a Mother Talk blog tour, I received a free copy of the book and a $20 Amazon gift certificate for writing this review. is an affiliate.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review: "Billy Had to Move"

The latest contribution to children's adoption/foster care literature comes from Theresa Fraser, a long-time Canadian foster parent and children's therapist. Billy Had To Move: A Foster Care Story tells the story of a boy who is being raised in a kinship placement with his grandmother. When she unexpectedly dies and his mother can't be located, he moves in with a foster family and meets a new social worker and therapist. Told from Billy's point-of-view, it does a good job of using children's language and concepts as Billy grieves and adjusts. It is a compassionate book that honors the many complex, conflicting, and confusing emotions Billy experiences, while also ending with a spirit of hope.

It's a children's book, so things are of course a little simplified and idealized. Billy's foster mother is an always-nurturing domestic goddess and the social worker and therapist seem to have lots of extra time to be with Billy outside of scheduled appointments. (Just like the real world, right?) But it is a relatable introduction to the foster system for kids who don't really know what foster care is about or how their peers end up in care. (It's made clear, for example, that Billy is not there because he did something wrong.) And for children in care, it may serve as a helpful touchpoint as they see some of their losses and emotions mirrored in Billy. It also introduces the idea of play therapy and describes what a typical session might be like.

My biggest critique is that it's hard to tell what age this is geared to. The language is fairly simple, but there are lots and lots and lots of words. Some facing pages are top to bottom text with no pictures. I'd say if a kid can sit through something like The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, then they are old enough for this book.

Written by Theresa Ann Fraser, illustrated by Alex Walton; Loving Healing Press, 2009; $16 at Amazon. My copy was provided free of charge by Parent Reviewers. is an affiliate.

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