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Friday, December 4, 2009

Hershey's Kisses and the holidays: recipe review and giveaway

This is a compensated review from BlogHer and Hershey's

When the chocolate makers at Hershey's were looking for some bloggers to turn their kitchens into test zones and then blog about it, I was a little dubious. But the twinados nearly died of excitement when I asked them about it, so we signed up. We were told to choose three Hershey's Kisses recipes from the official web site and then give them a whirl. Needless to say, the girls and I had radically different criteria when it came to choosing recipes. They were drawn toward the most colorful, most candy-per-inch items, while I leaned strongly toward the things that had the least number of ingredients and steps (anyone who has ever cooked with Ro and Ree will attest to my wisdom).

In the end, we settled on three mutually agreeable choices (Kisses Candy Twists, Double Chocolate Kisses Cookies, and Hershey's Hugs and Kisses Crescents), tied on some aprons, and away we went! It was lots of fun and I'm happy to report that the kitchen is still standing.

Ro (pink flower barrette) and Ree (yellow flower barrette) heartily enjoyed unwrapping all the candies (and sneaking as many as they could):
DSC_7813LRs DSC_7806LRs

They also sniffed many, many of the chocolates quite deeply. Not sanitary, not sanitary at all, but I'm sure the germs all died in the oven...

The Kisses Candy Twists were fun and tasty—an easypeasy treat for kids of any age to make. We mixed it up with plain chocolate kisses and minty candy-cane ones.

The Hershey's Hugs and Kisses Crescents were really fun to make, and they looked awesome too. But I have to be completely honest and say that none of the adults liked the taste at all. The biscuit dough and chocolate flavor just did not work together, in my opinion. Maybe if it had been a sweeter puff pastry dough or something? Anyhow, they were awfully cute and the girls were mighty proud of them.

And, finally, the Double Chocolate Kisses Cookies were my favorites. They looked and tasted great. (Although the next time I'll add even more cocoa to make the cookies a little richer tasting. Yeah I tend toward excess like that...)


So there you have it, the results of our fun Hershey's Kisses baking. And, in keeping with one of our family holiday traditions, we'll be using the twist and double chocolate cookies in our annual holiday cookie exchange with friends so that we can sample even more deliciousness:

The Giveaway:
Hershey's is giving away a $100 Visa gift card to one lucky Salsa reader. To enter, leave me a comment below and tell me your favorite holiday recipe (Ro and Ree lovelovelove to cook and bake, so you'll make them smile extra big if you can give me the directions or a link to the recipe). The contest will begin right now (12/4/09) and will end at midnight on 12/31/09. Make sure that the e-mail address you leave is correct (feel free to use weird spaces and spell out "dot" or "at" or that sort of thing).

The Rules:
No duplicate comments. You may receive an additional entry by linking on twitter and leaving a link in the comments. You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments. This giveaway is open to US-residents only. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will notified by e-mail. You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. Please see the official rules here. If you'd like even more entries, check out the BlogHer.com special offers page to see the other reviews (you've got 8 chances to win).

For other recipes, and some craft ideas, take a peek at Hershey's Holiday web site.

~~ The giveaway is now closed, no more entries will be accepted, and I'll draw a winner at random and announce the winner sometime today (Jan 1st). Happy New Year! ~~

Monday, November 23, 2009

Up, up, and away!!! A product review for capes.

Ittybittyladybug asked if we'd like to review some Baby Leo capes, and our little supergirls were totally up for the challenge. So they sent us over two complimentary bright pink, satin samples, I grabbed the camera, and we unleashed our cape-clad duo at a local park. I think Ro and Ree in capes were even more fearless than usual (and that's saying a lot). Here's what we thought of the products:

Super cute and quite comfy!:

Nice form in the air (heh):

Strong, soft neck straps kept the capes in place through anything the twinados could dish out:

And the flying—holy smokes—when the girls put on those capes the flying feats were incredible to watch!:



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That was fun!!! The girls were superinspired by their superhero attire. And my inner photofreak was grinning like mad the whole time (and rolling in the mud—to get these shots I was lying on my back on the ground near a low wall while they jumped over me).

We fueled up after all that flying with a (cough cough) healthy little snack. Even superheroes eat McDonald's, don't ya know?:

The Bottom Line:
We all loved the capes, and so did the bystanders in the park. The girls liked that they were bright and soft (lined with chamois), cute, and fun. And I was impressed that they're really well-made by hand in San Francisco (woohoo!), are prewashed so they won't shrink or fade, and can be thrown in the washer/dryer with all the rest of your clothes (our superheroes are extra rough and these capes will see a lot of laundry time).

The Special Offer:
These capes come in a fun variety of colors and styles (see all the capes here) and would make great Christmas presents for boys or girls. If you order within the next month, you can get 15% off your entire order (anything in the Ittybittyladybug store) by typing in the code SALSA15. Cool! Since the capes are handmade to order, they take 2 weeks to ship, so any Christmas orders need to be placed by early December. Each cape is available in two sizes, the larger "superhero" size (which Ro and Ree are wearing in the pics) and the smaller "sidekick" size.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Winner Chosen: Wonder Bread giveaway

Thanks for all the fun entries in the Wonder Bread giveaway. We had 270 entries, and I used random.org to choose a winner this morning. Random.org chose #256, which was the following comment:

Anne J said...
My favorite sandwich is cheese with tomatoes, spinach and avocado. I also love to add bacon to the sandwich, but since that isn't very healthy I usually don't.

Congratulations Anne! I'll email you in a minute and will also leave a comment on your blog to let you know you are the winner. Please email me (email address in sidebar) with your full name and the address where you would like the prize sent.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Winner chosen: Justin Roberts cd giveaway

Hi guys, thanks for all the great musical suggestions! I'm so excited to try out some new music with the girls.

Alrighty, for the giveaway, I used random.org this morning to choose the winner for the giveaway, and got #26, which was Heather.

Heather wrote:

Oh, we have music going CONSTANTLY at our house. Let's see... Yes, the Barenaked Ladies' _Snacktime_, and any / all Laurie Berkner CD's. We love the Putamayo Kids albums -- special favorites are the Animals one and the Folk Music one and the Sing Along with Putamayo Kids, although the "African Playground" one is by far the best one in our house (it can wipe away the grumps with two bars of music). We also like _Little Bird_ by Elizabeth Mitchell and _Family Time_ by Ziggy Marley (reggae is really speaking to my daughter right now...).

Just FYI, this was part of NPR's year's best music for kids, and there are several other CD's there that have looked interesting (my husband insists that I can only have as many CD's for the baby as months she has been on the earth, so I'm in a holding pattern until next month...). You can search for it on www.npr.org/music

Heather, I couldn't find an email addy in your profile, so I'm leaving a comment on your blog and announcing your win here. Please contact me by email (my addy is in the sidebar) and let me know where to send your CD. Cheers!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Product review: Justin Roberts music for kids

Ro and Ree are really into music these days. They ask for certain songs or cds by name, they "sing" along loudly (oh so loudly) to their favorite lyrics, and they dance like there's no tomorrow. It's quite a sight...

So when we were asked to review a new children's music cd called Pop Fly by Justin Roberts, I thought it might be fun.


Before agreeing to anything, I pulled up the website and had Ro and Ree check it out. Oh yeah, they were intrigued. Actually, I thought they were going to climb into that computer. They were particularly impressed by Justin's video called Airplane of Food. Oh man, I think we had to watch that one fifty times. I wish I was exaggerating. Heh. Anyhow, so we said yes we'd review the cd, and they sent us a free sample.



What it is: Justin Roberts is a children’s singer and songwriter who writes funny songs about stuff all kids can relate to. The tunes are catchy and upbeat (but not grating like most kid fare), the lyrics are fun, and there's a big variety. I think he has something like eight cds out now.

What Ro and Ree thought: The girls giggle and wiggle like mad when I put on Justin's Pop Fly cd. They jump and shake and dance wildly and request different songs. You think I'm kidding? Here's a quick sample of the frenetic activity, which, incidentally, makes me feel very, very old and tired:

Yeah, they give Justin four thumbs up. We'll be attending a fundraising concert he's giving and the girls are super excited. If anyone's in town, Ro and Ree would love to dance with your kiddos at the concert (and I apologize in advance to anyone sitting nearby). Here are the details:
- When: Sunday, November 15th at 11am and 2pm (we'll be at the 11am one)
- Where: The Foothill College Smithwick Theater (12345 El Monte Rd, Los Altos Hills, CA 94022)
- Tickets: $13 in advance or $15 at the door, tickets can be purchased at www.mvpns.org/events.html

Areas for Improvement: Ok, I just had one thing, and I hate to admit this one. Um, my eyesight has gone steadily downhill since I hit 40. And the print on the cd jacket is so dang small and twisty that I don't have a prayer of deciphering it without my reading glasses. Justin, please take pity on the parents of your target audience and design the next cd jacket with them in mind, K?


The Giveaway: One lucky salsa reader will win the new Justin Roberts cd Pop Fly. To enter, just leave a comment here telling me the name of a favorite children's cd or artist (I'm always looking for new stuff that the girls like and I don't hate, and would SO appreciate the help). One entry/comment per household, residents of the U.S. only, entries accepted until 8am on Friday 10/23/09. The winner will be drawn at random, announced on this blog, and also notified by email (if I have a way to contact you) that same day. The winner has 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

*** Fri 8am: Hi guys, thanks for entering! The giveaway is now closed and I'll draw the winner and announce him/her today.
Cheers! M3

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Product review & giveaway: Wonder Bread

This is a compensated review from BlogHer and Wonder®.

The folks at Wonder asked us to do a taste test between three good sources of calcium: Wonder® bread, spinach, and red beans. You know how much we like taste tests around here, so we agreed in a heart beat.


On the day of the test, I arranged some cute pottery plates and bowls and offered the girls cooked spinach (with a little butter and seasoning), red beans, and a slice of Wonder bread and asked them to taste everything.

The Official Results:
The girls preferred the Wonder bread hands down. I figured they might turn up their noses at the spinach, but was kind of surprised that my little legume-lovers weren't even tempted by the red beans. Interesting... It was also interesting to find out that Wonder bread has some seriously pumped up calcium levels—two slices have as much calcium as a glass of milk. I always figured that bread had a bunch of nutrients and carbs and all that, but never checked to see that some brands had calcium too (seriously, when I'm in the grocery store with the twinados, my only goal is to get in and out as fast as humanly possible and without injury to ourselves or innocent bystanders, there is no time for label reading). Just for kicks, I compared the Wonder bread against our family's standby bread, and a slice of Wonder has 15% of your daily calcium, while our old fave has 4%. Oh.

The Bottom Line:
The kids loved it, and I like that I can give it instead of milk on days when their sensitive little stomachs are just not tolerating dairy products (yes we have gastro issues galore in this house). The adults preferred the Wonder bread over the spinach and red beans, but didn't prefer it over our family's standby bread.

Areas for Improvement:
I think the Wonder bread is great for kids, but how about a hearty, seedy version that adults would go for? I'm a sucker for those local bakery loafs that are so heavy and have so many seeds that they pop off while you're trying to butter them. Mmmmmm, that's what I'm always trying to get close to with my grocery-store bread.

Giveaway for $100 plus a year of Wonder bread:
The folks at Wonder are giving away a $100 Visa gift card plus a year’s supply of Wonder bread (that’s 52 coupons for one free loaf of Wonder® Classic White or Wonder® Classic White Sandwich bread) to one lucky Salsa reader. To enter, leave me a comment below and tell me your favorite kind of sandwich to make with Wonder bread (either now or when you were a kid).

The Rules:
Giveaway open from 10/5/09 - 11/4/09. No duplicate comments. You may receive an additional entry by linking on Twitter and leaving a link in the comments. You may receive an additional entry by blogging about this contest and leaving a link in the comments. This giveaway is open to US-residents, aged 18 and over. Winners will be selected via random draw on 11/5/09, and will notified on this blog and by e-mail (if you have given a valid email). You have 48 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.

If you need further clarification, see the Official Rules. Also, check out other Wonder® taste-test results - you've got 6 chances to win.

For more information, please see the official Wonder® web site.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Winner: GoGo squeeZ applesauce giveaway

We had 129 entries in the GoGo squeeZ applesauce giveaway and I just chose the random number winner of #63.

Comment #63 was the following:
Analeise said...
We LOVE these. There is also another brand at trader joes that has an applecarrot sauce. My little one loves it so much, and its a whole serving of veggie and fruit. Glad your girls like them.

Analeise, I don't have an email address for you, so this announcement will serve as your notification. Please email me back (email address in sidebar) and let me know where to send your applesauce.

Thanks everyone for playing!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Product review: Girly Girl Bowtique hair accessories

Ok, everyone already knows that we're nutso for hair accessories in this house (I'm thinking the post about our crazy hair accessory organizer confirmed it). So when we were contacted by Girly Girl Bowtique about reviewing various and sundry hairbows, well the girls and I took one look at the website and rubbed our hands together with glee.

What We Thought: The designs are crazy creative, and the variety is kind of astounding. Especially since the store is run by one person, Kelly, a mom who started out making bows for her daughters. Kelly dreams up each design and makes each item by hand. She sent us a huge variety to evaluate. Actually she sent a few more than are pictured here, but Ro and Ree have been running around with them since the day we ripped open that box and I can't find them all to save my life. How cute are these?!

I assumed the girls would rifle through the box and pick a favorite or two, but they loved them all so much that it became a knock-down-drag-out fight to see who could get the most into her hair. Lest you think this was a one-time occurrence, let me assure you that they have sported this lovely bowsplosion look almost every day since. I've never seen anything quite like it:

Ree said "I yike dem! My favewit is da pink pwincess one. I yike it because it has pink and polka dots and all of da pwincesses. Mama, can you put it in my hair wight now?" Ro said quite emphatically "I yike all of dem." My personal faves are the carnations (they're huge and look AWESOME in the girls' hair) and the ones that look like Christmas-present bows (you know those are going to show up in our Christmas card photo, right?)

Areas for Improvement: Hm, don't fall over in shock or anything, but I don't have any suggestions for improvement. Yikes. I actually scoured the web site for something/anything and even asked the kiddos, but we came up dry. If you have any suggestions for Girly Girl Bowtique, or wish there was a certain design or color, please share—your wish just might show up as a new design!

The Bottom Line: Ro and Ree like the bright colors and the fact that they can find one of these bows to match anything that they're wearing (and they come up with some crazy ensembles). And I like the creativity and the workmanship that goes into these bows. Girly Girl Bowtique has everything from simple ribbon clippies to wild marabou-and-glitter bottlecap bows. They make me grin.





Special Offer: The Girly Girl Bowtique prices are really reasonable in my opinion ($3 clippies, $5 carnations, $6 fancy bottlecap bows), but from now until 10/31/09, Salsa readers will get an extra 20% savings by entering the coupon code SALSA at checkout.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Product review and giveaway: GoGo squeeZ applesauce on the go

'Does anyone remember the "applesauce rockets" I make for the girls? I wrote about them last summer and mentioned how much the girls dig them. I just take a baggie, pour in applesauce, clip it off, then snip the end and there you have it, an applesauce rocket. It's great, except for one thing: you really can't leave the kitchen with them. I've been wishing and wishing I had a way to travel with the dang things. Well then I saw an ad for GoGo squeeZ applesauce on the go and just had to find out more. I emailed the company and asked if I could review the product and they sent me two sets of samples—one for us to try and one to giveaway. Cool!



What We Thought:
The resealable applesauce pouches have a twist-off lid, come in five flavors (appleapple, applepeach, applebanana, applecinnamon, and applestrawberry), and don't need to be refrigerated. Each pouch has 3.2 ounces of applesauce. We brought the stuff on roadtrips, on quick jaunts to the store, and on hikes to the park. It was awesome. I'd ask the girls what flavor they wanted, and then literally toss it to them in the backseat or in mid-walk. They got a big kick out of choosing flavors, and also catching the pouches in midair and twisting off the caps themselves. They thought the flavors were divine—seriously, they liked the stuff so much that when my mom was in charge of lunch one day and tried to give them the old brand of applesauce (which they used to LOVE), they waved frantic little hands in the air and said "No, no, Wela, we don't yike dat kind anymore." Heh heh. Oh, and did I mention that they have never once made a mess with this stuff? Never spilled a single drop—that, given the fact that we are talking about the twinados, is huge. It's made by Materne, an applesauce manufacturer from France, and is sold in some BabiesRUs, ToysRUs, Whole Foods, and Giant Eagle stores (see more choices at the Where to Buy section of the GoGo squeeZ web site), or online at Amazon.com.

The Bottom Line:
The stuff rocks. The girls love the variety of flavors, and I love that it has no added sugar/artificial flavors/preservatives and is totally portable.

Areas for Improvement:
The pouches are a touch on the small side for our hearty eaters. I'd love to see "big-kid" versions that were double in size, because I could see elementary kids really digging on these and even wanting them in packed lunches. Also, it would be nice if the packaging were a little more eco-friendly. I don't think it's recyclable, and that's a lot of material to just be tossed in the trash each time.

The Giveaway:
One Salsa reader will win a case of GoGo squeeZ applesauce pouches (20 pouches, four of each flavor). To enter, just leave a comment here. One entry/comment per household, residents of the U.S. only, entries accepted until 8am on Monday 9/21/09. The winner will be drawn at random, announced on this blog, and also notified by email (if I have a way to contact you) that same day. The winner has 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

~~~ 9/21/09 8:00am: THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. New entries will no longer be accepted. The winner will be drawn and announced by 5pm today.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Product review: Star Kids Snack and Play Travel Tray

We roadtripped to San Luis Obispo today and I bought these slick little lapdesks that got eight thumbs up from our family. Wow. They're called Star Kids Snack and Play Travel Trays, are under twenty bucks, and are worth EVERY penny. TubaDad and I tend to get a little tortured by our active, loud, tv-snubbing girls during roadtrips, so this time I had done tons o' research beforehand and come up with this solution. Worked like a charm!


Ro and Ree could not wait to get strapped into their seats and get their hands on these lapdesks. Our peaceful roadtrip was punctuated only by sounds of pages shuffling, pencil case zippers being opened and closed, questions about who got what car in the travel bingo game, and other gleeful little busy sounds as the girls worked their way through all the goodies I had hidden in the pockets. Ahhhhhhhhhhh...



What We Liked:
  • The lapdesks are slightly squishy, which means they're super comfy for the kiddos, plus they won't cause any harm if you get in an accident.
  • They have 2 large and 2 small net pockets on the sides. I filled the pockets with stickers, bendables, notepads, travel bingo games, zippered pencil cases that had tape/scissors/crayons/pens, workbooks, and snack bags, and I put a large clipboard on top of the desk.
  • The sides of the tray have big soft rims, so nothing rolls off (as the chief-picker-upper on all journeys, I cannot even tell you how exciting this was!!).
  • The desks are lightweight—the girls didn't complain once about having the trays on their laps, and at naptime they just nodded right off without even noticing them.
  • Let's see, what else? Oh, the straps were really easy to clip and unclip. We wedged each strap behind the carseat and the back of the seat, so the weight held it in place and then we just leave the strap there all the time, even when the desk is unclipped and stored away.


Things That Could Be Improved:
I'd love to see these trays come in a variety of colors. It would be fun for the girls, of course, but it would also allow me to tell whose desk is whose (right now I have to fumble around a little and figure it out by which pencil case is in the pocket).

The Bottom Line:
Yes, yes, yes. This is a great lapdesk for travel. It passed the twinado test with flying colors, and we'd definitely recommend it to a friend.

Editors Note:

Sharp-eyed readers will probably notice that we will not ever, in this lifetime, be accused of traveling light. Heh. Yes, yes, the van was filled almost to the roof in the back. And no, we're not doing a month-long trip. Oh well... Oh, and that center console is three plastic drawers from Target that we screwed together and bungeed in place. Then we added velcro tabs to keep the drawers from opening while we're driving, and added adjustable cupholders (also from Target, in the auto section) to the top. Top drawer mainly holds sunglasses, middle drawer holds hats and sunscreen, bottom drawer holds blankets and kleenex.