Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Get Tangled In Disney's Latest Fairy Tale On Blu-ray & DVD

I've been waiting for Disney's Tangled to come out on Blu-ray and DVD for what seems like forever. After seeing it twice in the theater, I was hooked on the story and couldn't wait to add it to our library. Well, now that day has arrived, and as of today Tangled is available for purchase everywhere.

What's that? You missed out on seeing Tangled in the theater? Well, let me explain why you must add this new classic to your collection!

The story synopsis from Disney is this: When the kingdom’s most wanted—and most charming—bandit Flynn Rider (voice of Zachary Levi) is taken hostage by Rapunzel (voice of Mandy Moore), a feisty teen with 70 feet of golden hair who’s looking for her ticket out of the tower where she’s been locked away for years, the unlikely duo sets off on a hilarious, hair-raising escapade filled with adventure, heart, humor and hair—lots of hair.

Truthfully, that's a fairly shallow description of everything involved in this movie. It doesn't mention that Rapunzel is a princess who was kidnapped by Mother Gothel and has lived nearly all of her life inside the tower. Or that her parents still hold out hope they'll find her again one day and have a lantern lighting ceremony on her birthday each year. (You'll sob when you see this.) Or that the cast of supporting characters could include vikings who like to collect tiny ceramic unicorns. Or that Rapunzel can wield a mean frying pan.

I do love that Rapunzel is a strong female character. She's kept away from the world at a child, innocent and scared of the outside, and yet she faces her fears to follow her dreams. Along the way she encounters a lot of frightening moments, but she rises to the occasion for each - she's a good modern princess role model for young girls. (Honestly, I still am not sure why this movie wasn't titled Rapunzel like all of the other Disney princess films.)

The ultimate 4-Disc Disney Blu-ray Combo Pack of Tangled comes with the 3D Blu-ray, the standard Blu-ray, the DVD, and a digital copy for your computer/iPad all in one package. There is also a 2-Disc Blu-Ray and DVD combo as well. (Which is what I received for review.) While I don't have a 3D capable TV, I did see the movie in 3D in the theater and it was great. But the non-3D version was just as good, and on our HD TV the Blu-ray copy of this movie is simply gorgeous.

Extras packaged with this release include the making of Tangled, deleted scenes, extended songs, two alternate openings, and several teaser trailers. I really enjoyed the deleted scenes and alternate openings, including the alternate tavern name of The Jaunty Moose.

Here's a clip of one of the alternate openings included with the extras:

This is a movie that will likely endure many, many viewings in our household. Not only do our daughters like it, but my husband and I really enjoy this movie as well. When I reviewed the initial release of the film, I said that while I liked it, I still liked The Princess and the Frog better. Well, having seen it a few more times now, I can confidently say Tangled is starting to pull ahead as a favorite.

If you have the chance, add this film to your collection. Here, I'll even make it easier for you with a $5 off coupon for the 4-disc set, good for this week only.

You and your kids will love Tangled. Trust me: mother knows best.

Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this movie to facilitate my review. No further compensation was received, and no guarantee of a positive review was promised or expected. Of course, they probably knew to expect a good review when I replied back with, "Oooh! Oooh! Please let me review a copy!"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Healthy Eating With Yoplait Kids (Giveaway!)

Mira, my three year old, can be a picky eater. While she has several foods she'll choose from as a snack, most are simple carbs: crackers, cereal, gummy snacks, pretzels, cookies, etc. Getting her to eat anything with protein is a challenge.

One protein-rich snack she likes is yogurt, although she can be picky about her yogurt, too. We've tried several different kinds of yogurt since she was a baby, and her favorite by far is still Yoplait Kids yogurt. Now that she's reached an age where she can identify labels of products, she'll often refuse any other brand of yogurt in favor of Yoplait Kids.

Cordy, my six year old, has been eating Yoplait Kids yogurt since before Mira was born, and still won't eat any other yogurt. (I should add that my children are both very sensitive to change - once they find something they like, they never want to change.)
Mira likes that her yogurt has Dora or the Disney Princesses on the cups, and her favorite flavor is Strawberry, although she also likes the Strawberry Banana and Vanilla flavors. I like that Yoplait Kids has 25% less sugar than the leading kids' yogurt, and is also free of high fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients.

Some of you may know that Cordy can't eat anything with artificial colors or flavors, so I really appreciate a company that understands using real ingredients in foods designed for kids. It's often difficult to find kids' foods that are free of bright artificial colors or cheap artificial flavors - Yoplait Kids gives me a safe snack for my daughters that tastes great while providing them with calcium, Vitamin D and protein.

Try it for yourself!

Want to try Yoplait Kids yogurt for your family? First, you can print a coupon for $0.50 off one four pack of Yoplait kids.

But if free is more your style, I'm also giving away a Yoplait Kids prize pack to one lucky reader!

Prize pack includes: a coupon for 1 free Yoplait Kids yogurt four pack, a foldable travel cooler (to take your yogurt on-the-go), a cool four-piece spoon set, a power magnet picture frame, trendy alphabet-shaped “Kiddie Bands”, a great big bounce ball and a “My First Scavenger Hunt” card game for some after-snack fun.

Note: This coupon offer for a free four pack of Yoplait Kids yogurt is not valid in some states, including California, Idaho, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota and Tennessee. Readers from these states can still enter to win the prize pack, but the coupon may not be valid.

To enter, leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite flavor of yogurt. Be sure to leave an e-mail address in your comment if it isn't in your profile so I can contact you if you're the winner. (mandatory entry)

For additional entries:
     - Follow YoplaitYogurt on Twitter and leave a separate comment here with your twitter ID (1 additional entry)
     - Like Yoplait on Facebook and leave a separate comment here with your Facebook name (1 additional entry)

Entries will be accepted until Wednesday, March 30 at 11:59pm EDT. One winner will be selected by random drawing, and will have three days to respond to my e-mail or a new winner will be selected. US residents only.

Good luck!

Full disclosure: I was provided with an identical Yoplait Kids prize pack, including a coupon for a free four pack, by Yoplait through MyBlogSpark. No other compensation was received, and no guarantee of a positive review was promised. Although if they knew my kids have already been eating this yogurt for years, they probably felt it was a sure bet.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

On National Breakfast Day, Use Yours To Help Kids Get Theirs!

You may not be aware, but today is National Breakfast Day. (As well as my wedding anniversary, but that's not the topic at the moment.)

You also may not be aware that 1 in 4 kids live in homes where food isn’t always available. Although a full tummy can help kids get the most out of their school day, children living in food-insecure homes don’t always have access to breakfast. Even worse, communities across the country are increasingly forced to consider cutting state-funded school breakfast programs due to budget pressures. Fortunately, there is a way to help with this growing epidemic.

In partnership with Action for Healthy Kids, the Kellogg’s Share Your Breakfast program is designed to reach the goal of helping share one million breakfasts with kids who need them most. One way Action for Healthy Kids supports their cause is by providing funding directly to school districts to expand or initiate school breakfast programs.

Here's where Kellogg’s is asking for your help. By simply sharing a photo or description of your breakfast, Kellogg's will share the monetary equivalent of one breakfast with kids in school who might otherwise miss out. It's that easy - upload a photo or type in a description (even "cereal and milk" counts!) at the Share Your Breakfast website, submit it, and know that you've helped provide a breakfast for one child who might have missed out otherwise.

Want to make it even easier? Use your smart phone to take a pic and text the image with the word "Share" to 21534. Or go to Kellogg's Facebook page and upload your photo directly on the "Help a Child" tab.

You can also help spread the word by tweeting with the hashtag #shareURbreakfast. The program is running now through July 31, 2011, so you've got the opportunity to share many breakfasts with kids between now and then!

But why wait? Start today on National Breakfast Day and share your breakfast in order to help a child have a breakfast to start the day. It's free, it's easy, and it makes a difference in a child's life.

Me? I'm having peanut butter toast and a glass of water.

Now how about you?

Full disclosure: I attended an informational session on the Kellogg's Share Your Breakfast program while at Blissdom and received a small gift bag for my time, for which my daughter is extremely grateful for the chocolate mini-wheats. But c'mon, gift bag or not, how could I not tell others about this program? It's helping kids!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Walt Disney's Bambi Is Back With A Stunning HD Makeover

(Please welcome my husband Aaron for this guest review. He normally posts reviews at Comic Hero News, but realized that Bambi just doesn't fit in there.)
Like just about everyone over the age of 30, I grew up with Walt Disney's Bambi. The tale of the “young prince,” in the form of the newborn buck Bambi, is a heart-warming tale about growing up in the forest, with the first third of the film being filled with the innocent exploration of Young Bambi and his friends. Oh, sure, there's the throw-away line about the meadow not being safe by Bambi's mother, but most of the film is full of adorable animals, doing adorable things.

Only the most jaded soul can watch Bambi's early interactions with Thumper, Flower, and Faline without being charmed by the film. Which, of course, makes the later parts of the film, where the hunter takes Bambi's mother, and then the fire takes his home from him all the more terrifying and horrific.

It's funny, but in some ways, the fact that the characters of Thumper and Flower (especially) have become such icons, and the devastation of the forest and the death of Bambi's mother are regarded with such horror, have made most of us remember Bambi without actually remembering the film. And with good reason... Bambi has been in Disney's vault since 2007, and despite being universally remembered as a classic, most people I know are reluctant to see the film. (We owned the Platinum Edition DVD, and it has remained in the shrink-wrap on our shelf until I replaced it with the new Diamond Edition Blu-Ray).

And the thing is that this is really a shame. Because as I re-watched the film, I found myself remembering the entire middle of the film, where the Prince of the Forest attempts to raise Bambi. I watched the growth of Bambi and Faline, and their love story, and I took it in with a new set of eyes. From start to finish, Bambi is really a charming film, and the tale is one that I appreciated more seeing again.

The music in Bambi is richly complex, although none of the songs are remembered the way we remember classic songs from Disney's other tales. All told, I really found myself falling in love with this movie all over again, and for that, I'm grateful.

The Diamond Edition Blu-Ray/DVD set is also guaranteed to please fans. Not only is the film beautifully restored into HD (compare it to the DVD – it's almost like seeing a brand new film), but all of the bonus features from the Platinum Edition DVD remain on this set. Within this set, we have two Deleted Scenes, an enhanced view with “Inside Walt's Story Meetings,” the DisneyPedia of Bambi's forest friends, and the Disney Big Book of Knowledge Game.

But what is possibly the coolest feature – and one that is new to the Disney library of films with Bambi, is the Disney Second Screen feature. Rather than having art slides, trivia questions, or games pop up on the screen as the film plays, you can set an iPad or computer up with the Second Screen, and as the film plays, you get to see a huge wealth of bonuses from the film. Sometimes this is as simple as the storyboards and concept art for the moments on screen, but often there are games, illuminating quotes, alternate camera views and the like.

The Second Screen feature is probably a bit much for younger kids to absorb while watching the film (I actually gave up using it the first time I watched Bambi for this review, and then watched the film a second time so I could play with the Second Screen). But it is perfect for older kids who think “I'm too cool for Bambi,” or for parents to keep themselves occupied as their kids experience the wonder of the film for the first or second time.

Also, it should be noted that the Second Screen feature uses audio cues to auto-sync with the film, and in my experience you had to have the TV very loud for that to work. However, the manual sync option is very easy to use if you choose that route.

Of course, as is the case with all of Disney films, the Bambi Diamond Edition Blu-Ray/DVD Combo will only be available for a limited time, and then back into the vault it will go. No doubt, there will eventually be another release, with even more bonuses, but for now, it's hard to imagine a better way to experience Bambi than this set.

Bonus: Disney Movie Rewards currently has a $10 off coupon for the Bambi Diamond Edition Combo Pack!

Full disclosure: I received a copy of the Bambi Diamond Edition Combo Pack to facilitate this review. No further compensation was received, and no expectations were set for a positive or negative review.

Save Money Through Better Money Management

Thank you to TurboTax for sponsoring my writing about household finances.Learn more about how TurboTax can help you find every tax deduction you deserve. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

In my family, I'm the CFO - Chief Financial Officer. My husband and I decided early on in our relationship that I was better at managing the finances, and ever since I've been the one paying the bills, watching the accounts with a sharp eye, and preparing our taxes each year.

My job certainly isn't an easy one. We've gone through many periods of single-income living, several months of complete unemployment, and we each have small businesses with our freelance work that provide some income, but nothing we can reliably count on. Keeping our checking account above zero, our credit cards under their max, and our tax bill as small as possible is a juggling act that requires skill and organization.

While I'm not perfect at managing our money, I have picked up a few lessons along the way. Here are some of my suggestions on making money management a little easier for your family.

Decide who is the primary bill payer. This alone will save you money in late fees. It's difficult if you and your partner are both paying the bills to keep track of who paid which bill each month. Either designate one person as the primary bill payer for all bills, or designate which person is assigned which bills to pay. For us, it's easier for me to pay all of the bills and then update my husband regularly on the state of our money. If you aren't the one to track the money, have routine conversations with your partner about the bills so you're not completely in the dark about your finances.

Set a solo-spending limit. In our house, any frivolous purchase is limited to $25 without double checking it with our partner. So if I want a new $30 book, I'm going to run it past my husband first to make sure it's OK to buy it. He does the same for his purchases. Setting a limit on impulse buys makes us think a little more before acting on those more expensive impulses, and ensures there won't be a large surprise the next time we look at our bank account.

Save your receipts! If you have a small business (and that includes any money received as a result of your blog), receipts are vital to keeping your tax bill low. You may think you're just having fun at a blogging conference, or splurging on a new blog template design, but if you make money from your blog then those are legitimate business deductions as well, and will reduce the amount of tax you'll pay on that blogging income.

Just remember: when tax time comes, if you can't prove it with receipts, then it didn't happen and you can't claim it. So keep a folder someplace safe and stash any receipt remotely related to your business in that folder throughout the year. When it comes time to do your taxes in the winter, you'll be glad you kept yourself organized as you enter your deductions and watch your tax bill shrink!

What about you? Do you have any good money management tips to share?