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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Does the Squirrel Say?

squirrel on my fence

I know we've pondered about what the fox says but has anyone ever asked themselves, "What does the squirrel say?"

What does the squirrel say?

*** Pssst! I have a giveaway going on for my readers in the US and it has really low entries. It's a Barker Creek Back to School prize pack containing some cool educational resources! ***

Now on to this week's Wordless Wednesday linky:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Introducing Our New Pet Aquabot 2.0

My kids are at that age when the thought of adopting a pet is at the top of their minds. This is especially true when they visit their grandmother who owns a super cute dog named Luna. She is always so excited to see the kids and has so much fun curling up next to them. When they go for a walk to the park, she walks alongside them with her tail wagging happily. And when we leave, they are sad to part ways. As much as I would love to own a pet dog, I am not equipped with the patience that is required in taking care of an animal and cleaning up after them. Picking up doggy doo-doo while it is still piping hot is revolting and having to worry about potty training a puppy is not what I need at this particular point in my life. "How about a goldfish, mommy?" Well, that does require a little less work to take care of. But wait! How about a pet Aquabot?

HEXBUG Aquabot with Fishbowl

What could be better than a pet HEXBUG that looks like a fish and acts like a fish? And better still, when it dies, you can just replace the batteries and he's as good as new! Our new pet Angelfish is similar to the HEXBUG Aquabot Shark and Clownfish. It is built with smart fish technology and added sensors, and gives off an inner glow to make it look more alive. There is also a Hammerhead Shark that looks just as cool.

HEXBUG Aquabot with Fishbowl

Our pet Aquabot 2.0 came with his own fish bowl. Just fill with water and drop him in. Using fancy electro-magnetic propulsion and an automatic on and off sensor, the aquatic robo-fish propels around the bowl, swimming, diving and changing directions. After five minutes, the Aquabot will go into sleep mode to save battery life but you need only tap the outside of the bowl to awaken him from his nap.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Medieval Times: Knight Training Program

Upon invitation of the Royal Court, my noble knights and their cousin joined in a spectacle of Medieval proportions. We journeyed through the sands of time and entered a world of unparalleled valor and chivalry, the world of Medieval Times. For my two children, this was their third visit to this ancient realm but for my nephew, a die-hard fan of dungeons, dragons, horses and heraldry, this was his very first time. And surely, not one to be soon forgotten. For, you see, on this special day, children were invited to step into the arena alongside valiant knights to watch an exclusive weapons demonstration by the knights and their weapons master, learn how to handle a wooden sword and be knighted by his Majesty King Carlos. Lo and behold the Medieval Times Knight Training program!

Free with each child admission, the Knight Training program takes place on Sundays from July 13 to August 24. Doors open an hour and a half before the show begins with training beginning promptly 15 minutes later. Space is limited and training is available on a first come first served basis for the first 100 kids and closed toe shoes are required. Following the training, children rejoin their families and return to the gift shop area until the show begins.

As special guests of Medieval Times, we were given the royal treatment with VIP seating in the front row, a commemorative program, and a knights cheering banner. If you end up purchasing full-priced admission online, keep in mind that you can receive a free upgrade to the Royalty Package, a $20 value. It was a real treat to watch the tournament from up close but you still get a really good view from the top row as well. 

After being seated, our Master of Ceremonies made the initial introductions. We were introduced to his Royal Majesty King Carlos.

Next up were the Knights of the Realm.

Then we met the fairest lady in all the realm, Princess Catalina.

Just before the tournament began, we were treated to awe-inspiring performances by the Royal Falconer and a troupe of magnificent Andalusian horses.

Our Black and White Knight, the defender of the Ancient Shrine at Santiago de Compostela, put up a good fight.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Back to School: Educational Resources from Barker Creek

As much as I am dreading the end of summer vacation, I have to admit that my heartbeat increases with excitement at the mention of Back to School. Backtrack a couple of decades and it's the same excitement I felt as a child. A new year means a fresh start, new beginnings, an updated wardrobe and the latest classroom supplies. What's not to love? Shiny, new manipulatives, bulletin board sets, and brightly coloured posters - these are all items teachers swoon over at this time of year. One of my favourite educational resources is the High Frequency Magnetic Words set from Barker Creek Publishing. A Teachers' Choice Award winner, this set of 205 magnetic words and punctuation marks contains the most commonly used words in the English language. This includes sight words, rhyming words and nouns that begin with every letter of the alphabet. These words are also colour-coded based on parts of speech which makes it easy for children to make new sentences by replacing words of the same colour.

You can use them on a magnetic black board or white board during a large group activity, or use a magnetic Kidboard to help children practice writing skills on a more individual basis. Kidboards are sized to fit on a child's lap or desk and they are stackable for easy storage. They are also lightweight and portable which make them ideal for use in the classroom, at home or on the go. They are available in brilliant blue and fire engine red for $14.99 each or $69.99 for a 5-pack.

This September, I will be teaching health primarily to grade one classes. It's a really fun subject to teach but I don't have much in the way of visual aids. Until now, that is. Barker Creek sent over this super cute Healthy Habits Building Blocks Bulletin Board Set featuring twelve square charts highlighting ten healthy habits and a poem entitled, "I'm Making Healthy Choices."

On the back of some of the charts, teachers will find reproducible versions of the healthy habits and poem as well as suggested activities to help teach healthy habits. Once I have taught these habits, I plan on posting them on my bulletin board in the hallway as a daily reminder for students. It will pair quite nicely with the polka dot pop-out letters I received last year!

Finally, if you're looking for some hands-on activities to help strengthen reading comprehension and writing skills, check out Barker Creek's book series on Reading FUNdamentals. From adjectives to idioms, their collection is pretty expansive. Skill-based lesson books are listed at about $12.99 and contain roughly 48 pages of reproducible activity sheets.


Win a Barker Creek Prize Pack!

Has all this talk about teacher resources have you drooling to get your hands on them? Luckily for my readers in the US, I am giving away a Barker Creek prize pack that contains the items featured in the photos above:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Birthday Shopping Spree #Walmart20th

While we might not always throw a big birthday party for our kids every year, we still celebrate their special day with family and always have cake or cupcakes on hand. On occasion, we have hosted parties and have invited their friends from daycare and school. Those are the times when I go all out with birthday party decorations and custom designed invitations. Milestone years such as turning ten will be another reason to throw a big party because double-digits are a big deal. Am I right?

This year, I decided not to have a big party for my daughter. She turned nine last month and, the procrastinator that I am, I always leave party plans to the last minute. Thus, trying to organize a party in mid-summer when many of her friends are at camp or up at the cottage makes it a little frustrating. Though, I swear I will get my act together one year and have invitations ready to hand out by the end of the school year. We did manage a get-together with an old friend of mine and her two daughters, and we had a fun time bowling. Later that day, we were surprised with a special delivery from Walmart - a maple-themed gift card for the birthday girl! She couldn't believe it when I told her she could use it to buy anything she wanted. And by 'anything,' I was referring to most items on her wish list with the exception of stuffed animals, of course.

Her first ever shopping spree would have to wait a few days, however, since I was busy the following day  planning a last-minute getaway to Blue Mountain that included a day at Scenic Caves Nature Adventures. The good news is there's a Walmart Supercentre in Collingwood a mere ten minutes from the resort. With my son nodding off to sleep early on our second night and my husband ready to hit the hay, my daughter and I headed out to Walmart to do what girls do best - shop! Plus, the store was open till 10pm so we had lots of time to browse. We loaded up our cart with skipping ropes, a hula hoop, and crafts galore. She also picked out some things for her brother such as stickers, Pok√©mon cards and an activity book featuring his favourite Disney Junior character Jake. I thought it was really sweet that she thought of him but I wasn't expecting her to cover the cost of the Gilette razors and shaving cream I needed to pick up for my husband. I said it wasn't necessary at all but she insisted. That's my girl!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meet Sophia, The Newest Video Baby Monitor by Levana

Looking back on the first months of motherhood, I can easily recall how often I would peek into the nursery to check up on my baby. My daughter never napped for long during the day so when an hour would go by and I couldn't hear that she was awake, I was unable to fight the urge to tiptoe into her room to ensure she was alright. The light sleeper that she was, it sometimes resulted in me waking her up with a creak of the floorboard. With the exception of a party my co-workers so graciously threw for me (which I will never forget!), I didn't have a baby shower and so I never had the chance to pick out a baby monitor for a gift registry. Luckily, my sister was kind enough to lend me hers. But sometimes my ears would play tricks on me and that monitor wasn't enough. What I needed was a video baby monitor, just like Sophia, the newest video baby monitor by Levana.

The Sophia Video Baby Monitor is one of two new additions to the video baby monitor line that features state of the art technology at a competitive price. It comes with a 48 hour battery life when used in PEEP (Power-on/off Energy Efficient Picture) mode. This means that the monitor and the camera revert to 'sleep' mode when there is no sound in the nursery and is reactivated at the slightest 'peep.' This saves hours of valuable battery life. The Sophia monitor also includes Talk to Baby™ two-way communication, which is a really neat idea. I live in a 4-level side-split so whenever I was in the basement doing laundry and I heard my baby crying, I would have to rush up three flights of stairs. The two-way intercom sure would have come in handy since you can calm your baby down with the sound of your own voice.

One of the features that surprised me the most was the clarity of the video display. Using ClearVu® digital technology, you can enjoy an incredibly precise digital signal from up to 500ft away. It also offers night vision up to 15ft. You can even adjust the brightness on the monitor based on whether you are outdoors under the glare of the sun or when in a dark room. The bonus is that the interference-free digital signal is private and secure. And you have the option to add up to three additional cameras to view up to four areas of your home on one monitor. Want to know what the temperature is like in baby's room? The monitor can display that for you, too, using its built-in temperature sensor. This is one smart video monitor!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

SXSW Official Selection "Expecting" Now on DVD

What happens when you try to plan ahead and life has something else mind?

Most people will give you the proverbial "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" adage. Whether that lemonade is enough to "quench your thirst" is an entirely different question. TVA Films recently released Expecting on DVD, a film that explores the difficulties that can arise when faced with unexpected challenges. It is a candid comedy about a husband and wife who have struggled for years to conceive a child. Having given up hope of having a baby of her own, Lizzie (Radha Mitchell) explores an unconventional alternative. Her best friend Andie (Michelle Monaghan) finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand and offers to have the baby and give it to Lizzie. Though Lizzie's husband has his doubts, the couple agrees to let Andie move in with them for the duration of the pregnancy. The question is, will the women's friendship and the couple's marriage survive until the birth?

An official selection at the 2013 SXSW Festival, the movie Expecting features a good cast and intriguing story line. After The Bourne Supremacy and Mission: Impossible III, I was excited to see Monaghan take on the role of a free spirit who suffers mildly from Tourette syndrome. Her on-screen role pairs well with Mitchell's genteel character, who is so talented, there is hardly anything she can't do. Her performance of the nursery rhyme "Down in the Valley", accompanied by her ukele, seems to play as a central motif. The very words, wistfully sung to her unborn child, are enough to get you teary-eyed:

Roses love sunshine; violets love dew.
Angels in heaven know I love you.

The movie will make you laugh and cry. In my case, it left me crying. A lot. I blame the song. And the unfortunate situation many find themselves in when they are unable to conceive. And the fact that I miss the feeling of holding my babies when they were so small. It makes me want to take my two big kids in my arms tonight, rock them to sleep and sing them a lullaby.

The video run time is 87 minutes and features both English and French audio.

Win 1 of 3 copies of Expecting on DVD!

If you would like to see Expecting, I am giving away three copies on DVD. Simply complete the Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win. Open to Canadian residents only.