Sunday, October 31, 2010

Christmas DVD Review: "Phineas and Ferb: A Very Perry Christmas"

Ok this show cracks me up. I used to watch it on a Saturday morning before I even had Sophie.

Have you seen it? It's about these 2 kids who are on school holidays and cram as much as they can into each day - crazy, wacky projects on a HUGE scale that always turn out well for them and badly for their sister (who spends each day trying - and failing - to catch them in the act and dob them in to their mum).

So I received a review copy of the Christmas special from Porter Novelli through Aussie Mummy Bloggers (yep, these guys are really generous and very lovely) and set about the tough job of relaxing on the lounge and watching the show last Saturday afternoon.

You know what I loved from the start? They took the usual opening song and scenes and turned them into Christmas versions. Very cute. very funny - they had me from there :)

This is one of those kids DVDs that parents can handle (and even enjoy) watching. Perry the platypus is great and I love the bad guy in it (but I can't remember his name!), and lots of funny one liners as well.

And for the kiddies? The story is great - dramas when the whole town is put on Santas 'Naughty' list at the last minute, then Phineas and Ferb go into rescue mode and get everyone together to help save the day.

I also love that after the Christmas episode the dvd has other (non-Christmas) episodes to follow - that's getting your money's worth.

Have a look for this one in the shops this Christmas, it'll make a cute little stocking stuffer and will give you some time to relax on the big day while the kiddies are watching it :)

Now that you're in the Christmas DVD mood, I'll throw in some good news - I have a Christmas DVD to give away. Not Phineas and Ferb (sorry) but one that kids love anyway - this one's a "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - Mickey Saves Santa". Comment below and tell me your favourite Kids' Christmas movie or show of all time - I'd love to know!

I'll pick a winner and let them know in 2 weeks - so make sure you leave me some way to contact you!

xo Marissa

Christmas DVD review: "Handy Manny - A Very Handy Holiday"

Ok Handy Manny lovers (I know you're out there), this one's for you!

I received a copy of "Handy Manny - A Very Handy Holiday" to review from Porter Novelli via Aussie Mummy Bloggers and as soon as I put it on, Sophie was spellbound!

Soph's been a Handy Manny fan for quite a while now, and I have to admit, I love the show too.

The Holiday DVD has all the fun parts of the show - Manny (of course), the Tools, the citizens of SheetRock Hills (boy I hope I got that right!), the songs, the fix-it projects and I need to give a special mention to poor Mister Lopart, who is one of my favourites :)

I have already seen the Christmas episode on TV but the New Year's one was new to me. What I love about this DVD is they've kept all the good things about the Handy Manny show and added a holiday feel to it, not just Christmas but other Holidays celebrated as well, and it even has a Tigger and Pooh episode as a bonus feature.

I really like the extra songs in this episode too, adds a bit of Christmas cheer :)

In fact, I think I'll be playing this DVD repeatedly over the festive season. It's bright and happy, pretty to look at and lovely to listen to.

I haven't got a copy to give away, but in the spirit of Christmas giving I have a copy of "Disney's Christmas Favourites" up for grabs if you would like to own it - just comment below and let me know - what's your favourite kids Christmas movie / dvd at the moment?

I'll pick a winner and contact them in 2 weeks - good luck!

xo Marissa

Christmas Movie Review: The Search for Santa Paws

So I have been a very lucky blogger over the past few weeks and have received a number of products to review here on marissa writes a blog.

Very exciting!

I'm going to get right to the point when I do reviews and cover everything I would want to know as simply as possible and be honest about it - after all, that's what I expect when I read reviews on other blogs.

So here goes...

I received a copy of the Christmas movie "The Search for Santa Paws" (thanks to Porter Novelli and Aussie Mummy Bloggers for the review opportunity) and sat down to watch it this weekend, seeing it's almost November, and you all know I like to start my Christmas preparation and celebration early :)

My daughter is only just over a year old, so this movie is definately a bit old for her - I doubt she followed the story line ;) but she loves Christmas decorations and LOVES puppies so she was more than happy to give it a go!

I am definately old enough to follow the story and I really liked it. What's not to like? It has Christmas Spirit, a little bit of drama, the kids and dogs are cute (and the Jamaican dog cracks me up) and it even throws in a song or two.

It basically follows the story of Santa's friendship with puppy Paws, the dramas of their visit to New York and the stories of the people (and dogs) they meet and how they affect them.

I'm not telling you the ending, you'll have to see it yourself, but as far as kids' movies go, I thought it was sweet and will be happy to watch it again.

If you would like to watch The Search for Santa Paws, it will be available to own on November 10, and if you're feeling lucky, visit here again in a couple of weeks to see if you can win my giveaway copy :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Get your kids eating their Vegies..

It's no secret I love to cook - although i have been a bit of a slacker over the past couple of months and my husband has taken over for the time being.

I have started cooking a bit more lately though, thanks to Wendy Blume and her book "Vegie Smugglers - recipes that sneak the good stuff in".

I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of Wendy's book via Stacey at Sunny Mummy (thanks Stace!) and was very excited when it came in the mail. I'm a sucker for any book, but books that are pretty to look at and make my life easy, those are my favourites, and this one is a winner.

Here's what I love about this book (besides the pretty factor):
  • There's a really big range of meals included, using different ingredients, so not boring at all
  • The recipes include handy tips such as how to prepare the meals bit by bit throughout the day when you have a minute or two spare - so that by dinnertime, it's 10 minutes and it's on the table
  • it points out which meals are good to freeze for an easy dinner another day
  • The recipes have adjustments listed to make it more interesting for adults to eat - I'm a big fan of just cooking one meal for the family, not different meals for adults vs kids, so I love this
  • The recipes are really easy and not expensive
  • There's a comment and rating box for each meal so you can remember later what was popular with the kiddies
  • It gives me the confidence to try new styles of food for Soph that I wasn't sure she was ready for yet - and she's loving it!

The recipe that's been the biggest hit with my daughter is the Vegetable Slice. Sophie's a great eater but loves her bread with dinner - she usually wants to eat all the bread first and then start on the meal. With this slice, she doesn't even look at the bread until it has all disappeared!

So if you're reading this Wendy, thanks for sending me such a great book, it has made dinnertime at my house very easy. Just don't ask for the book back - I'm keeping it!

Has anyone else tried this book? What do you use as inspiration when cooking for your family?

xo Marissa.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Christmas Gift Giving - How to avoid going crazy and broke this year..

Christmas is only 72 days away. Yep. Seventy-Two.

Have you bought any gifts yet?

If you have, do you remember where you have put them? Or is there a chance you will find them buried in the back of the cupboard next Easter and wonder who you even bought them for?

This is one of the reasons I love my Christmas Planner - It has a page for Gift Closet Inventory. At a glance I know what I already have and who it's for, which will save me time, stress and money as I know I won't be double buying.

So let's talk budget. I'm on a smaller one this year for a couple of reasons:

  • We have less money coming in while I am on maternity leave

  • We have more family members and friends to buy for as we are all in baby making mode!

    I wouldn't want it any other way - For me, Christmas is more about spending time and creating happy memories with loved ones than about presents. But I love giving gifts, and I still want to hand out some pretty packages over Christmas this year.

    So how will I cope financially and still make sure no-one misses out?

    Here's my plan:

  • Write out my gift list early - who am I giving to this year? Jot down the $ amount I would like to spend, and any gift ideas I have for each person.

  • Ask each person on my list if they would still like to swap presents this year. After all, maybe they're on a smaller budget too. If I ask early enough (i.e. before December), it's not an awkward conversation - it's giving my loved ones a say in how Christmas will be this year, rather than leaving them wondering whether we are exchanging gifts and possibly causing them last minute shopping stress.

  • Go through my Gift Inventory and assign any presents I already have.

  • Make a copy of my gift list and put it in my handbag - this way, when I am out and about running errands, I can look at my list and pick up one or two at a time when I see them at a good price.

  • Shop online whenever I can to save battling the Christmas Shopping Queues

  • Cross each person off my list as I buy for them - because I just love the feeling of accomplishment it gives me ;)

  • Label gifts as I put them in my gift cupboard so I remember who they're for in the coming months

  • Look at other ways to give rather than buying: Christmas cooking or craft, or using talents I have in everyday life - facials / pamper treatments etc (trust me, it's not a cheesy gift if you actually follow through with giving the treatment, and really focus on making them feel good).

    So that's my budget-conscious-but-still-in-the-spirit-of-giving Christmas Plan for this year.

    How do you organise your gift giving?

    xo Marissa.

    P.S If the picture above is yours and you would like me to remove it, please let me know :)

  • Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    The Kmart $20 challenge!

    So Kmart have issued us Mummy Bloggers a challenge: to take a look at their online catalogue and find items for our families that we can purchase with $20.
    I'll take that challenge - I love shopping, especially online!
    And perfect timing, I might add - I have a 3 hr car trip with the family this week, and let's just day my daughter is not fond of her car seat.
    I currently pack a HUGE bag of toys and sit it next to her in the car to keep her busy. She goes through it in about 10 mins, so that leaves 2 hours and fifty minutes of entertaining I have to manage on the road...
    So let's see if Kmart can help: Can $20 buy me something to keep Sophie busy in the car?
    The results are in!
    Here's what I found:
    • A travel Activity Set for $15: Perfect as Soph has just discovered a love for colouring in! Should keep her busy for ages...

    • Photo prints for 15c each: I can print out some pics of family and friends and pop them in a little photo album - we'll play a game of 'guess who that is?' - 10 prints should do it!

    • And for Husband and I... a couple of packets of lollies for $1 each: Nothing like a sugar rush to help you handle a family roadtrip ;)

    All up that's $18.50.

    Well done Mum, if I do say so myself.

    Now pass me the lollies and be quiet back there ;)

    How would you spend $20 on your family at Kmart?

    xo Marissa.

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Christmas is coming (sooner than you think)!

    77 days to be exact...

    See? Not that long to go!

    Not much time to organise:

    • Christmas Card List

    • Gift shopping

    • Menu Planning

    • Wrapping

    • Parties

    • Getting the house ready

    • Santa photos

    ... and that's just the start of it!

    How are you feeling? My guess is one of two ways - Happy & Excited (H&E), or Panicked & Frazzled (P&F).

    If you're H&E - WooHoo! Only 77 days till Christmas! Pretty lights to put up, parties to go to, bubbly and eggnog to drink, gifts to wrap - the fun is just beginning!

    If you're P&F - Whoa. Take a deep breath. Breathe in... and out. You're going to be ok. Really.

    How do I know this? Because I have been both of the above. I know what it's like to be P&F, but THIS year, I'm H&E all the way. With the help of Organised Christmas and 101 Days to Christmas.

    Just to be clear - I'm not being sponsered to write this post. I actually really adore both websites.

    This year, I have used Organised Christmas to build my Christmas Planner. It's a folder that has everything: monthly calendars, gift ideas pages, checklists, even a week by week To Do list starting in October designed to get me ready for the Big Day with minimum stress. And it's so pretty!

    I only discovered 101 Days to Christmas the other day and I love it already. It has daily messages to inspire and motivate you. This is where I go to get "In the Christmas mood" before I pick up my planner and get to work.

    So this year, I am well prepared. No more last minute rushing around, trying to get things done. I am going to spend my December relaxing, catching up with friends and family and enjoying all the pretty things Christmas has to offer.

    I also have to give a HUGE thanks to Tina from Tina Gray {dot} Me for inspiring me to blog about my favourite time of the year. Tina shares my love of all things Christmas and currently posts about it every Friday on her blog. She's also kindly agreed to let me do the same, so I'll be posting Christmas updates on Fridays as well...

    OK Fine. You got me. This week I'm late. but starting next week, I'll be doing it on Fridays, I swear ;)


    How will you be getting ready for Christmas this year?

    xo Marissa

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    5 steps to an easy bedtime - even with Daylight Savings

    I've noticed a LOT of comments online this week about how hard bedtime is now that Daylight savings has started.

    If you live in an area where Daylight Savings has begun, you may share this pain, or you may really enjoy having the sun out for a bit longer.

    Either way, Daylight Savings seems to have an impact on most of us - good or bad.

    The biggest problem I find with Daylight Savings is (obviously) that it's still light at 7pm when I put Soph to bed. Why would she want to go to bed when the sun is still up? There's still so much playing / crawling / laughing / reading / colouring / dancing etc to be done!

    What works for us? A consistent bedtime routine. Whether it's dark or light out, it works.

    So here's how I do it: Our Daily Bedtime Routine.

    1. 5pm: Dinner Time. I find an early dinner means no witching hour to worry about. We take our time, no rushing and I find she's usually finished around 5.30pm.
    2. 5.30pm: Quiet play before bath. I find this is works best when we have packed most toys away before dinner, leaving only 1 stuffed toy and a couple of books or blocks. Less toys means less chance of Soph getting a second wind and wanting to do noisy, lengthy play. And I have the TV on ABC2 - same show every night at this time, so it fits with the next part of our routine.
    3. 6pm: Bath time. After the ABC2 show's Goodnight songs, we have "Toys away" time - the rest of the toys go in the toy box, and Sophie helps put them in. The next step is really important - after "Toys Away", we close all the blinds / curtains and turn on a soft lamp in the lougeroom and her bedroom. I also turn on a lullabye cd in her room. Then we set out towels and pjs, and run the bath together. I like to do a bath every night because all the splashing and warmth uses up all her enegry and I find she's quite sleepy as a result. She listens to the lullabye cd while she's getting dried and dressed, and we never rush this process - it can take up to 10 mins.
    4. 6.45pm: Milk Time. She drinks a cup of milk, sitting with Mum, Dad or both quietly in the loungeroom. The tv is on really low, no toys out, no bright lights on - just the lamp with all blinds / curtains closed. It's not as dark as it would be at night, but it gets close. If we were going to read a story, this would be the time - in the lounge room, with 1 book, away from the bookshelf where she would be tempted to ask for another. After milk it's time to brush teeth, and then we are nearly done.
    5. 7pm: Bed time. Goodnights, kisses and cuddles, and into bed. No toys with flashing lights, no musical toys. No other chatting, just simple words - "It's time for bed, Goodnight, See you in the morning". Then door closed, and bedtime is complete.

    The added benefit for Mum and Dad is that after this routine, we are calm and relaxed as well!

    How does your bedtime routine run?

    xo Marissa

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    5 ways your family can actually benefit from having a cold

    Let me start by saying I am not a crazy woman.

    I hate having a cold, especially when the whole family gets one at the same time. It bites to be sniffly, achy and generally miserable and not be able to delegate the housework and child rearing to a healthy family member.

    But if we have to all suffer together, I think it's important to try to stay on the sunny side as much as possible - so here are 5 ways I have found having a cold benefits my family:

    1. Pyjamas are mandatory: Don't you just love the idea of staying in your snuggly pjs all day long? There's something warm and comforting about the idea of staying in your pyjamas all day. Well, that day has arrived! You can even step it up and add a Snuggie if you like - I won't tell anyone ;)
    2. Shrink your To Do list: Whether it be written mentally, on scraps of paper, a detailed checklist or typed on a laptop or iphone, most of us have a list of things we need to get done for the day. If you and your family have colds, I give you permission to Shrink That List. Here, let me help you. Cross off anything that needs to be done outside of the house. Yes, that includes work, school, errands. I know you are busy. I know you and/or your significant other should "really go to work anyway". But let me be really clear. Most of your workmates, teachers, and the general public does not want to catch your cold. And honestly, most will forget within 3 months that you had this day off anyway. So why struggle in? Next, Forget the Housework. Why make the bed when you'll be jumping back in soon anyway? And as for dishes? Not today. Get the leftover birthday party paper plates that you won't use again (after all, no-one has the same theme every year these days) and use them up today. And don't bother cooking. It's one day. This is where cup-a-soup and sandwiches belong. See? that's two big chunks of your list gone already! Bet you can find more ways to shrink that list if you try...
    3. Embrace Nap Time. If your children are small, this wil be easy. When they nap, you nap. No excuses. After all, it's not like you have anywhere you need to go, and there's no housework to be done!
    4. Now that you are feeling refreshed, round up the family. Everyone's sick which means no one can escape, so family time, here we come! Break out the board games, card games, puzzles etc. Tell your kids (and your other half) that it's not safe to use electronic devices when sick and that you need to find other ways to amuse yourselves. If anyone tries to smuggle in an ipod, put it in the freezer, they'll get the message straight away!
    5. You'll probably be tired after all this family bonding, so go ahead - be a tv junkie for the rest of the day if you want. (Although, you will have to explain to your kids that you lied about the electronic device safety rules.. but you're the boss, so don't let it trouble you).

    So there you go, 5 ways my family makes the most of those annoying, whingy, snuffly, croaky sick days. I'm sure there are many more options!

    How do you make the most of days like this?

    xo Marissa


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