Friday, April 29, 2011

Chuggington Interactive Railway Wash & Fuel Set Review & Giveaway

We were more than happy to review the Chuggington Interactive Railway Wash & Fuel Set by Learning Curve.   First, I have to admit that we hadn't actually heard of Chuggington before but I am interested in watching the TV series now...we just don't happen to have the channel it's on in our area.  Connor has a slight obsession with trains, and Thomas and Friends in particular, so I have no doubt that he'll love this series of trains too.  I kind of like having something a bit different around because as much as I love Thomas, Percy and the rest of the gang, variety is good.

This train set is a bit different than the others we have so it took Connor some time to get over the fact that he has to actually push the train around and that the "train has wheels".  However, he seemed to get over that quickly once he realized that the train talked.  He turned into a little parrot and excitedly repeated the things the train said like "I'm big and strong" and "Ready to roll".   He also likes the wash and fuel stations as they make beeping sounds and even have lights which I tried to capture with my camera but didn't succeed at.  Of course, we just put this toy together for the first time yesterday so I have yet to see how long the batteries last..hopefully a long time because I used about 5 AA batteries between the two stations and the train that is included (Brewster) also required two batteries although those ones were included.

The whole set was quite easy to put together. I'm not particularly great with directions for these kinds of things but all the pieces are clearly marked and the instructions were easy to follow.  It maybe took a half an hour to get everything unpacked and put the actual set together.  Taking the items out of the box took the longest!  So far, Connor has been much better at taking the set apart than putting it together but he doesn't seem to mind if it's not exactly as it was intended.  He is still happy to push Brewster around the track that he has left intact and then stop at the stations every once in a while to play with them.

The set is called interactive because the trains can detect the other trains and the various stations when you buy multiple sets.  Obviously, I can't speak to that since we only have one set right now but I noticed the train says different things at the stations than it does on its own so that must be what it means.  The stations are kind of neat in that the fueling station offers different options including water, electricity or gas so there are some good educational aspects to the toy.  As far as the track itself, it clicks together nicely but it also flexible enough so that it's hard to break even when a two year old sits on it or bends it which may have happened a few times already.

Connor putting Brewster through the wash station.
The set is actually for ages 3+ which I assume is so they can put it together more easily on their own and because there are a couple of smaller parts.  The train we received is very solidly built and a bit bigger than his other trains.  I like that there aren't any loose parts on it that could fall or break off since Aleena is crawling around the floor too.  The only parts I put away when she was around were the road signs as they were much too small for a baby to be around.

Overall, this is a very well-made toy and I like the fact that it's different and includes the various stations that encourage additional creativity.  If he continues to play with it, I could see us investing in another set or at least another train to see how they interact.

Just a couple more notes:  The interactive railway sets are available exclusively at Toys R Us and this particular set costs $39.99.  There is a larger set which includes more trains and stations and there is also another smaller set available that could be combined with this one.

The Giveaway:
Learning Curve is giving away a Chuggington Interactive Railway Wash & Fuel Set to one lucky blog reader!

I will use to select a winner from the entries and remember that each entry must be made in a separate comment.

How to Enter:
1.  "Like" Learning Curve on Facebook.
2.   Visit the Learning Curve Website and tell us what you like the best.
3.   Follow A Sophisticated Mommy via Google Friend Connect (in the right sidebar).
4.  "Like" A Sophisticated Mommy on Facebook.
5.   Share this giveaway. (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Forum, Blog)

This contest is open until Saturday, May 7th, 2011 and I will announce the winner the following day.

Open to Canada & the US.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What did you get from the Easter Bunny?

Having fun finding eggs and putting them in the basket.
As the title suggests, every kid is asked this very question every year and I think it's part of the problem for parents.  Our kids are still young so it's not a big deal but once they start comparing Easter baskets with cousins and friends, things could get tricky.  I won't worry about it until they are older but I am kind of dreading this.  I'd love some advice from experienced mommies on how to handle this.  I suppose it's an issue for every holiday but I feel like Easter expectations have changed since I was a child.  I think it's great if parents want to give lots of little gifts for Easter and I also think it's fine not to.  I am just not sure that kids understand why there's a difference in what the Easter Bunny or even Santa Claus brings.  Oops..tangent!  Back to Easter...

Our Easter was pretty much under control this year.  The kids got a couple things but we didn't go too crazy with gifts or treats.  I took a couple photos of Connor's little basket although we somehow missed Aleena's until it was Easter egg hunting time.  I think the Easter Egg hunt is my favourite part of Easter and something we didn't do when I was younger.  I got into doing Easter egg hunts when I lived in Taiwan and worked at an American English school.  We used to hide eggs and take our students to Cheng Ching Lake for a huge Easter egg hunt.  I really think this is more of an American tradition than a Canadian one.  Regardless, it's a lot of fun and a great way for kids to burn off some of that Easter candy.  That was also the time I learned all sorts of Easter songs like Here Comes Peter Cottontail.

In the end, we got Connor a small chocolate rabbit (yet to be eaten..probably by Mom and Dad), a set of Curious George books and his first box of washable markers.  Aleena received her first colouring books with large wax crayons which she proceeded to eat..not sure what I was thinking when I gave her those.  I also gave her the Blu Ray version of Bambi and plan on buying more of the Disney movies as they become available.  I am already prepping the kids for a future trip to Disney World.  It's way more fun when they know the characters and stories so they can relate to everything.

Here are a few photos from our Easter this year.  I always wish we had taken more but then we get busy with everything and forget unfortunately.

Aleena with Great Grandma
Aleena and her favourite past pulling!
The only "Eastery" photo of Aleena on her first Easter and I focused on the bowl of eggs..oops!
Aleena all dressed up for goes the headband!
Connor was on a mission to collect the eggs.
Thanks to Uncle Curt, Connor "found" each egg about six times each.
Connor colouring with his new washable markers on Easter morning.
For those of you looking for some amazing Easter basket inspiration, I wanted to share my friend Amanda's version of Easter baskets.  Her blog is called A Modest Mama although I'm not so sure how "modest" her Easter baskets are.  They sure are impressive though!  Thanks to Amanda for letting me post photos of her Easter creations here.  The first photo is from a previous year and the second photo shows this year's baskets for her two daughters.

Just a reminder for anyone in Regina, Calgary, Edmonton or Lethbridge that Taryn Laine Photography is giving away two free photo sessions on my blog.  You can read the post with all the details if you click on her logo below.  The contest is open until May 2nd..aka as Election Day..aka as my first day back at work.  I'll somehow find time to announce the two winners that evening. :-P

Monday, April 25, 2011

Taryn Laine Photography Review & Giveaway

This review and giveaway was a bit different for me but it will certainly be a memorable one as we received some adorable photos of our baby girl shortly after her first birthday.  Taryn Laine Photography is a new photography business in Regina and Area and she has already been very busy taking photos especially ones of adorable children.  She took some photos of Aleena about a week and a half ago which was perfect timing as I was able to use some of those photos for my last giveaway.  She wore the pink flower headband from GurlyStuff... and more in her little photo shoot and Taryn did a great job of capturing (literally) a very active one year old that didn't sit still for long.  We've received plenty of compliments on the photos and it was fun to give some to our families at Easter.

Since Taryn is just starting out, her rates are very reasonable as she is still working on developing her portfolio and growing her business.  For only $100, you will receive an hour of her time and at least 10-15 edited high-resolution images on a CD.  Our CD included photos with the original background, several others with an edited background and also some black and white versions for a total of about thirty images.  I included one of each here so you can see the variety.  Basically, there was lots to choose from when I was trying to decide which ones to print!  I love this because the prints are often the most expensive part of buying professional photographs.  This way, you are able to just purchase your photo products on your own from whichever company you prefer.

Some other things I really appreciated about Taryn were her patience, professional approach, and her relaxed attitude.  There was no rush to push us through and we just sort of worked with what we were given since babies and toddlers are very unpredictable.  I was also impressed that she went out of her way to buy new backgrounds just for our photo shoot based on what Aleena was going to be wearing.  This just goes to show that she's interested in working hard to ensure she takes the best photos possible.

Speaking of the background, I love how she added a bit of texture to the background and jazzed it up a bit when she edited the photos.  The photos were ready within a few days and I picked them up about a week later so it doesn't take long before you'll have your photos.  Usually, you'll have at least a couple photos available for viewing within a day or two.

I hate to use cliches like "a picture is worth a thousand words" but I'm going to in this case because it's a photography review and giveaway after all and you can see her work for yourself.  Really, for a great price, you will receive some lovely photos in digital format with which you can do whatever you want.  At this time, Taryn's home studio is quite small but she can accommodate up to 2 children.  For larger groups, she will do 'on location' photography.  She would be happy to take photos of babies, children, families, soon-to-be mommies, and couples in love!  You can check out her website for more comprehensive pricing as well as to view her blog and portfolio.

The Giveaways:
Taryn is going to give away two free single-child photo sessions which will include at least 10-15 high-resolution edited images on a CD like we received.  This also includes optional background colour choices with the potential for optional patterns available.

There will be two winners for this giveaway!  She is located in Regina but would be happy to take photos in Regina, Edmonton, Calgary, or Lethbridge.  Taryn travels to Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge frequently and a winner from these cities will need to make special arrangements.  (Note: Studio sessions are only available in Regina.)

As always, I am going to pick the two winners using 

You can submit up to five entries and must make a separate comment for each entry.

How to Enter:
1.   Visit the Taryn Laine Photography website and let us know what your favourite blog post or photo is.
2.  "Like" Taryn Laine Photography on Facebook.
3.   Follow A Sophisticated Mommy via Google Friend Connect (in the right sidebar).
4.  "Like" A Sophisticated Mommy on Facebook.
5.   Share this giveaway. (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Forum, Blog)

This contest is open until Monday, May 2nd at 6 pm SK Time.  I will announce the winners that evening. 

The GurlyStuff... and more Giveaway Winners are...

The winner of the newsboy hat is Taryn M!

The winner of the flower headband is Lyne G!

Thanks to everyone that entered this giveaway! I am very excited that we have two winners this time around.  I wish everyone could win.  Since that's not possible, GurlyStuff... and more is offering all my blog readers a coupon code to thank you for participating in the giveaway and for becoming new fans! 

Coupon Code: SOPH20 for a 20% discount until May 31st, 2011.  You can use the coupon code on their Etsy shop here: GurlyStuff... and more Etsy Shop

Also, GurlyStuff... and more has lots of fun promotions and deals so stay up to date with any news on their Facebook page.  They are often adding new products as well so check out their page every now and then to see what's new.  My favourite thing about the shop is just the amazing customer service and the level of quality in everything they do.  When you order something, you will receive it quickly and it won't disappoint.

Check back later today for another giveaway.  Finally, please take a moment to click on the Top Mommy Blogs logo to vote for my blog! 

Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter!

I hope that everyone has a lovely Easter with family.  It's one of my favourite holidays because I love warmer weather and Easter always feel like the start of Spring even though the weather isn't always "Springy" yet.  In fact, this year we still have snow around even though Easter is later than usual but that should be gone soon.

So, the other day, I asked what everyone was giving their kids for Easter on my Facebook page and it seems like there is a huge range of opinions on Easter.  Some of us treat it like another gift giving holiday while others don't plan on giving anything at all.  Here's my opinion on this one.  Just like Christmas or Thanksgiving, I believe that getting together with family is the most important part of the holiday.

With that said, I feel obligated to at least replicate what we did when I was a child.  We all got Easter baskets from the Easter bunny and it included the eggs we had decorated the previous day along with a large chocolate Easter bunny and a variety of other Easter treats.  That is all we expected and we had fun looking for our Easter baskets.  Yep, that's right.  We didn't do an Easter egg hunt in our house.  We were big game Easter hunters and searched for the entire Easter basket.  I remember finding mine in the Lazy Susan one year.

I find it interesting that the concept of giving gifts on Easter is on the rise.  Admittedly, I have fallen into this trap of commercialism myself.  I try to reason that it's appropriate for babies since I clearly can't give chocolate or candy.  Instead, I am giving Aleena a book and her first large crayons...and I may be sticking the Blu Ray version of Bambi in her Easter basket too.  Yep, there ya go.  I have officially gone overboard.  I mean, really!  She doesn't know the difference.

As for Connor, he'll find some treats in his basket this year and his first set of washable markers.  I also bought him some Curious George books for his Easter basket.  He will be getting extra spoiled this year because I just happened to receive an item I am doing a review and giveaway for very soon.  Let's just say that he is going to love this particular Easter "gift" and I am also really looking forward to giving one of these away too!  There will be photos to come..holidays are so much fun when there are kids around to be excited about it.

So, whether you are into gift giving at Easter or not, I hope you have a wonderful weekend with your loved ones.  And, at the very least, colour a few Easter eggs..and better yet, organize a little Easter egg hunt for the kids because they'll love it and it'll help burn off some of that extra candy and chocolate energy.  That's my plan anyway..Happy Easter!!!

One last reminder that the 'GurlyStuff... and more' giveaway will end on Sunday.  I"ll announce the two winners on for a newsboy hat and one for a flower headband.  Click on the photo to enter the giveaway!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pinned and Purchased! (Livie and Luca Woodland Boots)

Even though I've cut down substantially on online spending, I still managed to have a nice pile of parcels waiting for me when we came back from Florida.  It felt like Christmas really!  At least some of the items were only $5-10 and it was fun to check everything out.

Amongst the pile of goodies were the Livie and Luca Woodland Boots I bought for Aleena from Babysteals.  I think that when you pin something in Pinterest, it almost feels like you have permission to buy it when you see it on sale.  In my defense, my baby girl doesn't have many shoes that aren't sandals for the summer so these adorable boots should get a lot of wear out of them.  They are made of a soft leather and they open at the top with a large velcro closure so they are easy to get on and off.  Really, they are just so darn cute that it wouldn't even matter if they were a bit inconvenient (which they aren't).

These are the type of boots that almost makes me wish they made adult sized ones although I would likely look ridiculous in this style of shoe.  Here are some more photos!

PS- These boots were the most expensive item in the pile of parcels at $33 including shipping.  They are priced regularly at $47.50.

The cute shoe box containing the cute shoes.
Aleena's adorable new boots!
One year olds don't sit still for very long..this was the best I could do!

Here's a little info from their website about the shoes:

Artisan Touch
We want people to remember that our baby and toddler shoes are made by hand. In this spirit, we’ve asked our shoe makers to leave their markings which can be found under the strap. To reduce our carbon footprint, Livie & Luca chooses to use remains of high quality leather that would otherwise be discarded. In addition, because they are handmade, every pair of shoes will be a little different. Each pair of shoes is as unique as the child who wears them.

Also, if you haven't already, remember to enter the GurlyStuff... and more giveaway.  There are two prizes, a boys' newsboy hat and a girls' flower headband.  Both items will be customized and winners will have their choice of size and colour.  Click on the photo below to check it out.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 5 at Disney World: Hollywood Studios (Part III)

For our last day at Disney World, we headed back to Hollywood Studios just for the evening in order to watch Fantasmic.  We had heard it was the best show at Disney World so we didn't want to miss out on it.  As I said in my last post, it does not play everyday so it wasn't available the previous day which was actually kind of a bonus for us in that the crowds generally stay away from Hollywood Studios when it's not playing.

We didn't leave for Hollywood Studios until later in the afternoon since we were only planning on attending the show and possibly buying another souvenir or two at the park.  We arrived around 6:15 pm and found the line for the show had already started when we got there.  We lined up too and got excellent seats when they let us in at 6:30 pm.  Of course, the show didn't start until 8:00 pm so we had a long wait.  Jeremy was able to sneak out with Connor and waste some time since two year olds simply don't wait for that long in one spot.  They don't make it well known but they will let people in and out of the amphitheatre before the show starts.

Fantasmic - This show did not disappoint and it really was the most spectacular show at Disney with all sorts of special effects such as holograms, lasers, fireworks, and fire set to familiar Disney music.  It's basically a montage of everything Disney all-in-one and we really enjoyed it.  We took plenty of photos and captured a lot of great video as well.  I am just posting the video that I took on our smaller camera and may try adding the good stuff in HD when I have more time  Just a bit of a warning about taking young kids as Disney movies feature lots of villains and almost half of the show is dedicated to these evil forces.  Connor was hugging Jeremy pretty tightly and we have to calm him down after the show.  He seemed satisfied that Mickey Mouse made everything better at the very least.

Last Moments at Disney World in Photos

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