Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's Time To Play The Music, It's Time To Light The Lights

If you're not already singing the theme song to the Muppets in your head, then you must not have grown up in the US in the 70's or 80's. As a child I loved the Muppets. They were funny, they had great music, and they were a gentle yet smart show for a child to watch, with endearing characters and creative puppetry. (Or muppetry, as the case may be.)

We have some of the old show on DVD, and the kids have watched several of the Muppet movies, including Muppet Treasure Island and A Muppet Christmas Carol. So when it was revealed that a new Muppet movie was being released, I was thrilled at the chance to go see it in the theater with our daughters.

We did go see it, and loved it other than missing the last 10 minutes due to an accident in the theater. We never had another chance to go see it, so instead I anxiously awaited the release of the Blu-ray.

Well, that day is here, and I couldn't be happier! The Muppets was released last week, and in true Muppet fashion they went over-the-top to produce an extravaganza of a product. The Wocka Wocka value pack includes not only the Blu-ray and DVD copies of the movie, but also a digital copy for your computer or tablet and a copy of the soundtrack, along with a ton of extras including commentaries, deleted scenes, the "Longest Blooper Reel Ever Made (In Muppet History)" and much more.

The story of this Muppet movie takes place long after the Muppets fame has faded. Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan, goes with his brother Gary to Los Angeles to visit the Muppet Studios, only to find it falling down and about to be bought out and torn down by greedy millionaire Tex Richman. Walter makes it his mission to find Kermit and round up the old Muppet crew to convince them to put on a Muppet telethon to raise the money to save the Muppet Theater. (And I'm sure you can guess that there's a happy ending and the Muppets are reminded just how much people still love them.)

We were so happy to finally see the last 10 minutes of the movie. Like the old Muppet Show, there were several celebrity guest appearances and lots of music, including the Academy Award winning song, Man or Muppet. And the movie proved that the Muppets are timeless - even when competing with CGI graphics and blazing special effects in other movies, our daughters fell in love with the Muppets just like we did when we were kids. The humor is silly, with plenty of moments breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the audience, the songs are sweet and keep everyone humming along, and adults will love the nostalgia while kids develop their own relationship with Jim Henson's greatest creations.

As for the extras on the Blu-ray: you need this set for the blooper reel and the theatrical spoof trailers. Oh, the other extras are great, too, but I guarantee you'll be watching these two features more than once.

There are many movies that I like that I really don't need as a part of my collection. The Muppets, however, is one I absolutely recommend to own. If your house is anything like mine, this movie will get a lot of play time, and the extras make it even more fun. (See how fast you end up having a sing-along in your car to the soundtrack!)

The Muppets is now available at Amazon and most major retailers.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this Blu-ray set to facilitate my review. No further compensation was received and all opinions stated are my own. Also? My favorite Muppet is still Animal.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spreading Positive Feelings With Hallmark's "Tell Them" Campaign

When I was at Blissdom a month ago, one of my favorite suites to visit was the Hallmark suite. In that suite, conference attendees could browse the cards, find ones they wanted to send to friends or family, and write a little message. Envelopes were then addresses and mailed by Hallmark, or if the recipient was there at the conference, a tweet was sent to them to come pick up their card in the mail area of the suite.

It was a great idea, and very popular with the bloggers at Blissdom. Who knew one little room could be filled to the brim with happiness? There were cards on every topic, from "Miss you" for family back home, to "Thanks for being a great friend" and "Sorry things are so sucky" topics.

Having just found out I was being laid off prior to the conference, it made me laugh to get a card from a friend that started out with a gloomy grey rain cloud and the word "Crap" on the front of the card. I needed that laugh, and it made me feel so loved that someone (two people, actually!) took the time to write a message and send me a card.

Let's face it, we often keep in touch with email, texting and Facebook, and those are often quick and easy ways to connect. But can anything really replace getting a handwritten card in the mail? I know my entire day is made better when I open my mailbox and find a card for me mixed in with the usual flood of junk mail and bills.

Hallmark's recent "Tell Them" campaign is trying to encourage everyone to reach out and tell a friend or loved one something they need to hear. Our own inner voice is nearly always negative, so wouldn't it be nice to give someone a positive message for once? Do you have a friend who really needs to know how thankful you are that she's there for you? Have you told your teen lately that you're so proud of him for making the honor roll? Maybe your little sister just needs nudge out of a bad mood by reminding her that she's important and you know good things will be coming along for her soon?

You can visit Hallmark's Tell Them Facebook page and make a vow to tell that loved one the sentiment you need them to know. In person, through a handwritten note, in a card...no matter how you do it, spread a little love and make sure nothing important is ever left unsaid. We all want to feel loved and important, and it can start with each of us doing the same for those around us.

Hallmark wants to help you get started in sending out your messages. They're giving a gift pack of Hallmark cards and envelopes to one lucky reader!

To enter, simply leave a comment below telling me who is the one person you'd most like to send a card to? Be sure to leave your email address in your comment so I can contact you if you're the winner. One entry per person, US mailing addresses only.

Entries will be accepted until March 28 at 11:59pm EDT. After that date, one winner will be selected at random to receive the gift pack of Hallmark cards. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notice or another winner will be selected.

Good luck!!

Full disclosure: I received free Hallmark cards as well as sent free cards at the Hallmark suite at Blissdom. No further compensation was received. All opinions are my own, including the opinion that I have some awesome bloggy friends who really helped me feel better on a bad day with the cards they sent me.

Friday, March 16, 2012

My Slim-Fast Slimdown (& Giveaway!)

I've been a Slim-Fast Women of Wow ambassador for about two months now, and I have to say it's going great! I've lost five pounds and I'm halfway to my Vow to Wow goal of reaching 158 pounds. (Which is considered a healthy weight for my height.)

Five pounds may not sound like a lot, but when you consider that I had been at a plateau for months before this, unable to break through the 166 mark no matter what I ate or how much I worked out, it's a pretty fantastic accomplishment. The last five pounds will be the hardest, I'm sure, but with Slim-Fast I'm confident I can do it.

The plan has been so easy to follow. Some friends have asked if I get bored with the shakes and meal bars, but the truth is, I don't! There are so many varieties that it would be hard to get bored, although I do have several favorites that I keep going back to.

My favorite shake by far is the French Vanilla, with the Rich Chocolate Royale coming in a very close second. These taste like dessert shakes to me! For an even healthier shake, you can blend some fresh berries in with the vanilla shake for a real treat!

My favorite meal bar is the Chocolate Cookie Dough bar. This tastes amazing, and keeps me going for hours at a time! I honestly don't know how they put the cookie dough flavor into something that's only 200 calories.

The snack bars taste like candy bars to me. Especially the Chocolate Nougat Gone Nuts snack bar. If you like Snickers, you'll LOVE this snack bar!


Not only has Slim-Fast given me the tools to help me reach my goals, but they want to help you have your moment of wow, too! I've got one $50 American Express gift card to give to one lucky reader - use it towards new workout gear, an outfit to celebrate a milestone, or whatever you'd like!

To enter: use the Rafflecopter form below to collect multiple entries.  (If you don't see it, wait a moment - it can take a minute to load.)

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Admit it - You Love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

As a child of the 80's, My Little Pony was one of my favorite toys. I had far too many of them, from the standard ponies, to the sparkle-eye ponies, to all other wild variants on the franchise. I remember watching My Little Pony movies as well. I recently found some footage from those movies and, well, let's just say it wasn't as good as I remembered it.

The My Little Pony craze disappeared for a long time, seeing some small revivals here and there. But recently the brand has had a huge re-start on The HUB network, complete with redesigns of the ponies, new toys, and a brand new TV series. It was by accident that my family found out about it, and I Tivo'd a few episodes of the new series to share in the nostalgia with my daughters.

I didn't have high expectations at first. However, the new My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series stunned me in just how fantastic it is, from well-developed characters to storylines that even adults can enjoy. This is not some puff-ball girly series - the characters are amazingly well developed for an animated show for kids, the humor is witty, and the plots are complex and full of adventure.

So when it was announced that the first DVD of the new series, My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: The Friendship Express, was being released this month, I couldn't wait to get it.

In My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: The Friendship Express, the benevolent Princess Celestia, ruler of Equestria, selects unicorn Twilight Sparkle for a very important assignment - to learn about the most important magic of all: friendship. With her new friends, Applejack, Rarity, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, Twilight sets out on amazing adventures, and they all learn what it means to be true friends.

The DVD includes the first two episodes of the series (a 2-part episode, really), as well as three other episodes from first and second season that all involve the Ponyville Express train at some point in the episode. (Hence the title, The Friendship Express.)

The 2-part series opener is where Twilight Sparkle is sent to Ponyville and becomes friends with the other ponies. While there, Nightmare Moon (Princess Celestia's younger sister) comes back from banishment and tries to conquer Equestria again. Twilight and her friends soon find they each have unique characteristics that make up the Elements of Harmony, which they use together to defeat Nightmare Moon.

In Over a Barrel, the ponies travel to a frontier town where the have to help settle a dispute between the settler ponies and the native buffalo herd. (Very wild-west feel to it.) During Hearth's Warming Eve, which is essentially the Christmas episode, the ponies retell the story of how earth ponies, unicorns and pegasai ended their centuries-long hatred of each other and worked together to build a new society in friendship. And in The Last Roundup, Applejack doesn't return from a rodeo out of town and her friends set out to find her and bring her back home.

Also included on the DVD is a sing-along - there are LOTS of songs in this show - coloring sheets, and a profile for each of the ponies.

I'm honestly surprised how much I like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The moral of each episode is evident without beating you over the head, the ponies are funny and well-developed, and it's a show I'm not afraid to let my daughters watch over and over. Even some of our adult friends have become fans of the show after seeing it at our house.

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: The Friendship Express is now available on DVD. Check this out for your family and I'll bet you'll be hooked, too.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this DVD to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed here are my own, although I have no doubt you'll agree with me if you watch a few episodes yourself. 

Friday, March 02, 2012

Organize It ALL With AboutOne

It was August, a week before school started. I had waited until the last minute to fill out my daughter's required preschool admission paperwork. As I sat there writing my mother's name and phone number as the emergency contact six dozen times, I then came across a paper asking for my daughter's vaccination records.

Where did I put her shot record?

I knew it had to be somewhere in the house. I first tore through the stack of Very Important Papers that had piled up on my end table. Then through the disorganized filing cabinet, tossing aside cell phone agreements from plans we no longer have as I tried to find that piece of paper with those important dates on it. Then I moved to a box of papers in the guest room that had originally started on the end table.

Why did I do this to myself? How could I be so disorganized?

I'm guessing I'm not the only mom who has experienced moments like this. Yours may not be as extreme as mine, but it's very difficult to keep all of our important papers, dates, receipts and items we'd like to remember together in a neat, organized spot. I often feel like my home is slowly being devoured by paper and I have way too many things that I need to hold onto - just in case - but then when that just in case moment comes I can't find them.

It doesn't have to be this way. You'd think with all of the power of the Internet and the "cloud" that someone could invent a better solution. Which is why I'm thrilled to find out that someone has created that solution.

I was recently told of AboutOne, and I think it might be the miracle I was looking for. The AboutOne website and mobile app provide you with the technology to digitally store all of your information - receipts, important papers, dates, photos, kid artwork, health records, or any other important data - in one secure online account where you can easily retrieve it from any location. (We're talking bank-level security here, so you know it's safe.)
For example, have access to your auto insurance policy number and contact information from anywhere. Useful, no?

Your private timeline is as easy to manage as any of your social media accounts, and the technology makes it even easier by entering much of your information automatically and helping you to sort it into practical categories for quick access. Your entire family can have access to your account, too, meaning when you're at work and your husband needs your business travel receipts when preparing your taxes, he can pull up the information without calling you to ask.

Or you can provide your babysitter a detailed printable sheet with all necessary information on your kids and contact information:

Oh, how I've needed a babysitter report for special needs & food allergies!

Along with all that data at your fingertips, AboutOne also can sync your Google, iCal, or Outlook calendar/contact tools to make them more useful.

Birthday reminders! I'm no longer at the mercy of Facebook for birthdays!

If I somehow didn't fully explain it to you, click through this slideshow below for even more information on how AboutOne works:

You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Personally? This is like a dream come true for me. A very organized dream come true. Sign up now and be ready when version 2.0 is released soon!

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post in partnership with AboutOne. All opinions expressed are my own - my husband's opinion would be that I'm even MORE disorganized than I'm letting on here.

And no, I never found the shot records until two weeks after they were due. Our pediatrician's front office staff hates me. Trust me, sign up for AboutOne and spare yourself the evil eye at the doctor's office.