Introducing Family Matters, A New iPhone App and Giveaway!

First things first! The winner of the Punkin Chunkin t-shirt giveaway is…

I’ll get that in the mail asap so you can start showing your Punkin Chunkin pride. Captain also answered both questions correctly! Congrats!

On to today’s giveaway!

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted about having a look at a new app for an iPhone (also works on the iPod Touch) and even though I don’t own either Apple product I’m reviewing the product anyway. The concept is so solid that I was sold just by watching the video. Here are the details about the product:

– Look forward to waiting for your food in a restaurant with your kids.
– Calm and distract a nervous child in the doctor’s office.
– Bond and feel closer to your children.
Anywhere, anytime but always having fun…

Some of the questions and activities are simple – these help children build confidence. Some are deeper and probing. There are hundreds of activities designed to engage all family members of all ages.

Unlike other applications that quiz or provide facts, this tool is venue-driven. This means the activities are geared toward your location. We currently cover common places you may engage in conversation or need to pass the time such as restaurants, waiting rooms or on long road trips. Of course there is a general category for use around the dinner table or practically anywhere you have a few minutes to spend together.

Scott Weiner, the creator of the app made the following video of the product in order to show the valuable ways this tool can be used.

I really like the concept of this app. I know Thor rarely wants to talk with me about his day and this app asks kids fun and intriguing questions that could start some great conversations. Because it is a technology driven product I think kids today would be more likely to want to answer the questions. It’s fun and a good way to connect with kids and keep them busy while sitting through mundane waits at places like doctors offices or restaurants.

The app is getting great reviews from others as well. You can see for yourself by clicking here: Family Matters Reviews. As you can see it’s a valuable tool for keeping up with the kids and keeping them happy. Scott was kind enough to offer me the app for free but since I don’t have an iPhone or iPod Touch (darn it!) I’m going to offer this app for free to one of you! To enter please first make sure you have either the iPhone or Ipod Touch that runs the 3.1 system. If you do then simply leave me a comment telling me why you would like to win this app! See, it’s easy peasy.

You can visit the Family Matters website or leave your questions or comments here, they appreciate hearing your feedback!

The giveaway ends Friday November 20 at 11:59 PM eastern, the winner will be posted on Monday! Good luck! iPhone apps at AppStoreHQ

Let’s go to Berlin!

I wrote this for a travel website some time ago but they seem to have absconded into cyberspace with it. Since I have zero creative energy today I’ll post it here.

Berlin is an amazing city. The historical and the modern day meet on the streets. Whenever I’ve visited Berlin I’ve always gotten a feeling of many cultures coming together to form their own unique culture. I’ve never felt like a visitor but more like a resident because there are so many people from so many places everywhere you go.

Central to Germany history Berlin has a lot to offer. The famous Berlin Wall still stands in one section of the city just as it did when it was built. It is here that you can learn the reason the wall was built, how it was built and the sacrifices that occurred because of its existence. The site itself is under construction, a new museum and information center is being built, but along the outside perimeter are large reader boards giving the timeline and history.

You can also see sections of the wall that were relocated to Potsdamer Platz. The original placement of the wall is outlined with stones in the ground and you’ll find them running all over Berlin marking the former division of the city.

Checkpoint Charlie is a small white hut in the middle of the road which at first glance is underwhelming. But as you look up you’ll see the original sign telling people they were leaving the American Sector. Spend a few minutes here thinking about the magnitude of the signs’ meaning. Near Checkpoint Charlie there is a museum with more information. Due to the nature of the subject matter displayed it is not designed for children so keep that in mind if you plan to visit.

At Potsdamer Platz there is a very modern feel of the New Berlin and you’ll find lots of shops and restaurants at the Sony Center under a glass dome. It’s a great place to sit and enjoy a coffee and some strudel. In winter the decorations are impressive. The entrance to the LegoLand Center can be found here. Around the corner take a break at Vapiano’s for lunch. Choose an outdoor table to enjoy some people watching. This is the best way to feel like a local and truly experience Germany. Eating outside, no matter the weather is one of my favorite pastimes.

From Potsdamer Platz walk down Elberstr and you will pass the Holocaust Memorial and the grey slabs of concrete rising out of the ground like a cemetery. At different heights and varying sizes just walking among them shrouded from light and other people it is an experience that is humbling. Underneath is the information center. At the end of this street you’ll find Brandenburger Tor or the Brandenburg Gate. It was one of the main gates of the city and the square behind the gate is filled with embassies. The buildings are beautiful to look at.

The Reichstag, home to the German parliament is along the Spree River. The building itself is beautiful and there is a glass dome inside. The lines are almost always very long to get inside so I suggest walking around to the other side of the building. Across the river sits a very modern white building, the Bundeskanzleramt which houses the chancellor’s office and residence. The dichotomy of the old and new can truly be seen by viewing these two buildings at the same time.

There are plenty of museums in Berlin not only museums of history but also plenty containing works of art and other objects. From the Old National Library where you can see an original piece of Beethoven’s sheet music to the National Gallery housing works of art from the 19th century. The Pergamon Museum hosts art from Greek, Middle Eastern and Roman eras among others and is worth a visit.

Berlin is a city where I could easily spend a week and still not see all of it. The rich culture and history of Germany lives in the city and in the people who call this place home. Every time I’ve gone to Berlin I’ve discovered a new reason to fall in love with the city. Visit Berlin today and find your reason to fall in love.

A Book Review and a Giveaway!

Recently I was asked by a representative of Simon & Schuster children’s books to do a review. Always up for a good book I agreed. Alienated is a fun entertaining book aimed at children 8-12 years old and is written by David O’Russell and Andrew Auseon.

When I first saw the cover it grabbed my attention immediately with the brightly colored tentacles clutching a red cell phone. Alienated is the story of two teenage boys, Vince and Gene who write a newsletter called The Globe. Not your ordinary newsletter they interview aliens or ails as they call them and publish exclusive articles on the otherworld that has taken up residence on earth. Laughed at by the other kids at school and commonly referred to as dorks, they nevertheless continue to publish the stories they feel the public need to hear.

Vince and Gene soon discover that guidance counselor Walter Sparrow at the rival junior high is actually the dreaded nephew of the evil alien Vargon. Between fighting over publishing a tell all about Walter, Gene kissing their best friend Lucy and sprouting tentacles out of his back things go about as horribly wrong as they can. From alien fights to space ships to broken friendships the book is nothing short of entertaining.

While intended for pre-teens I still enjoyed reading the far reaching imaginative story. The storyline is creative and the characters mishaps relatable and amusing. It’s a fun read and one that appeals to kids of all ages.

If you’d like to read an excerpt you can do so here: Alienated At Simon & Schuster you can also see the author’s video interview to give you an idea where the story came from and some insight into the aliens in this Author Revealed Video.

The best part is that I now get to give away ten of the advanced reader copies of Alienated. All you have to do is leave me a comment between now and midnight Wednesday October 21 telling me who you think would like this book. It could be for your own children, a niece or nephew or even for yourself. I will randomly select ten winners and announce them next Thursday.

Be sure to spread the word to win this great book!

Review: The Houdini Band

I recently contacted Sherri at BabyHuggables when she posted a problem on a message board. A customer of hers was having trouble with the straps on her Bugaboo not being tight enough to restrain her child. Immediately I thought ‘Hey! Us too!’ After I contacted Sherri to tell her I too had the same problem she sent me this wonderful invention of hers called The Houdini Band.

And if you remember this post, you’ll remember I also have a little Houdini. This product couldn’t be more perfect for us.

Here is the product description from the inventor herself:

Houdini Band wraps around the shoulder harness straps of such products as, strollers, jogging strollers, high chairs, bicycle carts, bicycle baby carriers and more. No more slipping out, leaning out, falling out, standing up, or escaping out of the shoulder harness straps. Voted top product by The Toy Man. Mom Invented, Child Proof, Baby Tested, Mom Approved. Select your fabric for your own custom Houdini Band.

Pretty cool huh? But I thought, Does it actually work? I put it to the test straight away and my results were obvious. Here is Chick in the Bugaboo without the Houdini Band:


She can get out without even trying. Now here she is with the Band:


The Houdini Band significantly reduces the chances of her escape. But after discussing it with Sherri the fault of the straps still not being tight lies with Bugaboo. There is a design flaw issue and apparently I am not the only one with the problem. Here is a side view:


I plan to contact Bugaboo regarding the issue. (Please leave me a comment if your Bugaboo straps are also far bigger than they should be even on the tightest setting.)

I tried the Houdini Band with a stroller whose straps I know work and with a stroller that we frequently use, the Peg Perego P3. Since Chick did a face plant into the driveway, Winnie the Pooh will be standing in for her on this test.

Here are the straps without the band:

houdini band 001

And now with the band. See how much tighter and safer Pooh is?

houdini band 002

From the side you can see Pooh is not going anywhere with the Houdini Band:
houdini band 004

This is a great product, one I plan to get a lot of use out of. I feel comfortable using it (and it could not be simpler to use!) and knowing that Chick will be staying put*. To order your Houdini Band or to learn more please visit BabyHuggables and The Houdini Band

*Please never leave child unattended in a stroller. The Houdini Band is not meant to replace proper adult supervision

**I was provided with this product for free by BabyHuggables

Ameswalker Hosiery Review

Not long ago I was contacted by the Vice-President at GS Schwartz & Co, Inc. asking if I wanted to review women’s medical hosiery. Always game to try out new products I agreed. The product itself arrived and I was eager to see what made them different than regular hose.
The first thing I noticed is the strength of the product itself. Normally hosiery is very delicate and is catches and rips easily. The Ameswalker knee high I was given was very strong and durable but it had a very silky feel making wearing them comfortable. The heel is reinforced and the toes are open which at first I wasn’t sure about. After awhile it felt more comfortable that way with no seam to stick to your toes.

The top of the knee high is also different with a much tighter thicker band to keep them up. It did feel tight at first but once I adjusted to the tighter feeling it became unnoticeable. I wore these around the house for awhile and was impressed that when I took them off they didn’t leave a mark at the top like normal knee highs.

My right foot also benefitted from the tighter fit. Nearly four years ago I had surgery on my heel and even now I occasionally have pain. The compression knee high held my foot tight making it feel more comfortable than in a regular sock.
The compression hosiery product I tested was comfortable and beneficial. If you have a need for these products please visit Ameswalker at and browse through their online product catalog.

Review of Canon Powershot SD1100 (Ixus 80 IS)

I love this camera.  It is fantastic.  Small (unbelievably so), light, easy to use and takes fantastic pictures.  With 8 megapixels that’s even more than my Nikon D40.  It has a fast trigger too, I mean really good.  I’d say fair close to my Nikon.  The compactness of the camera was the selling point for me.  I wanted something I could pocket for Disney and that I could just keep in my bag for those times we all wish we had a camera (I can’t use that excuse anymore).  I’m very pleased with my purchase and it was only 150€ so a good bargain I’d say.
Some examples of pictures I took Wednesday:
Action shot (she was moving so slight blur)
Looking up while we were walking

Another Chick picture (Boo won’t let me take his picture)
Unedited, picture taking while driving
Our sleepy village, again while driving (Don’t worry I was safe!)
And another one

Harry Potter Review

We went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last night (original language version) and it was pretty good. Definitely not the book obviously because they had to change or take out a lot because of time constraints. Overall it was still a good movie though I do feel it went a bit more “Hollywood” than the other ones have gone. I have no idea if that makes any sense at all but if you’ve seen it you might know what I mean.
Of all the movies (thus far 🙂 this one probably ranks 2nd or 3rd for me. The Socerers Stone still being my favorite. I can’t wait for OOTP to come out on video so I can see and hear all the little things I missed (mostly because of some annoying noisy kids next to us, that frankly didn’t really want to be there).
The main characters have changed a lot in appearance since the first movie, mostly Daniel Radcliffe (sp?). Harry’s face has changed quite a bit. Hermoine and Ron look pretty much the same though. They did a great job of keeping them looking 15 as they are supposed to be when this movie happens. I won’t give anything away for those who haven’t seen it but as long as you don’t expect it to be too much like the book (main points are covered it’s just done a bit different) then you should like the movie.