Thursday, March 27, 2014

Must-Have Marvin: a review and GIVEAWAY!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was selected to review a new children's book called Must-Have Marvin. Well, since that time, the book has come, we've read, and now I'm here to review (and offer a GIVEAWAY!).

The short answer of my review is that I liked it. I didn't love it, but I liked it.

"Must-Have Marvin" is the story of a kid named Marvin who is pretty much obsessed with having everything that's the latest and greatest. From a t-shirt to shoes to a new robot toy, if it's cool/new/hip, Marvin wants it! In the middle of the story, Marvin uses his own money (including "his secret reserves") to buy a "Super Galactic Robot"--his latest obsession. His dad agrees to take him to the store "after dinner, when your homework is done." Once he has the new toy, his relationships suffer and with the help of a wise neighbor, he soon realizes that things are no match for friendships. He has a change of heart and then saves the soccer team's trip from being cancelled, having put his friends on the team (and his relationship with them) before his new toy robot.

The things that stood out most to me about this book are:
-Marvin is black. (Or at least some version of dark skin. His brother and parents are as well.) One page showing the soccer team has kids that fall all along the color spectrum. But as much as attention was paid to skin color, I don't see anything in the way of different able-ness. One girl has glasses, but it appears that everyone is able to help plant a garden, play instruments, participate in the soccer team, etc. The diversity felt a little forced, to me, since it was only diversity in the skin color.

-Marvin buys the robot with his own money. There isn't a mention of his parents being unwilling or unable to buy it, he just digs through his money as soon as he has the idea of wanting the robot. I love the idea of him buying it with his own money, but found it odd somehow that it wasn't discussed.

-His dad takes him to buy the toy that very night after his homework was done. That also felt like bit of a moral plant without explicitly stating it and I guess I just prefer it being explicit?

-It's a bit hokey how he saves the soccer trip, but it's a children's book, so that's sorta to be expected.

-Marvin ends the book with "The only things I really HAVE to have are my FRIENDS." While I appreciate the message, as a Christ-follower, what I really want my children to need more than anything is a relationship with Christ. Friends are better than things, but Salvation through Christ trumps even the best of friendships.

-There are stars on each page, each either being perky/happy looking or looking sad. This is to help kids see whether Marvin is making a good decision or a bad one. For us, it was just fun for Austin to find all the stars and point to them.

So, again, I liked the book. I recommend the book. I definitely will be adding the other books in this series to my boys' wish lists (which is so far just THIS ONE), but just know that it tends toward predictability and doesn't have a faith component. It would be great if you have a kid who's having a problem with this.
It comes with a dust jacket with glitter!
Austin is pointing to a star.
Here's an example of a sad star.
GIVEAWAY time! Leaving a comment (with your name!) wins you one entry.
I'll be doing the random drawing on the 7th. The winner will be sent a brand-new copy of Must-Have Marvin.

UPDATE 4-7-14: Kristina wins the drawing! Thanks to everyone who entered. Stay tuned for my next giveaway.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Great Cookie Challenge

I recently tried a new chocolate chip cookie recipe. The recipe doesn't specify whether or not the butter should be salted or unsalted so I used unsalted which is what I usually use when baking. It doesn't have any additional salt in the recipe and given that I used unsalted butter, my husband thought that this combination left the cookies without enough salt taste. I asked the person who gave me the recipe and she said she simply uses whatever she has in the fridge so that wasn't any help. A quick, informal Facebook survey revealed that I was right about baking with unsalted butter so I decided that we needed a taste test challenge to determine if in fact more salt was desirable in that recipe.

I recently got an OXO cookie scoop and it made balling out the cookies SO much easier.
The cookies came out perfect in 10 minutes.
"A" was unsalted butter and "B" was salted butter.
(I didn't add any salt to the unsalted butter batch.)
I had my husband do a blind taste test and he immediately knew that "B" was the salted butter and thought they tasted a lot better. I then asked my in-laws and our dinner guests to choose their favorite and both chose "B" as well. All I had said was that one batch was made with salted butter and one was made with unsalted and they overwhelmingly liked "B". I admit that I like "B" better as well, but I can't identify why. It doesn't exactly taste saltier or even different really, just better. The texture also seems better with "B" even though I made them back to back with everything the same so I can't account for why that would be.
The baby likes both versions!

Here's the recipe:

"Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies"

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 4oz. sticks softened (salted) butter
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 4oz. package of Vanilla Instant Pudding and Pie Filling
2 eggs
1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix flour with baking soda in a bowl and set aside.

Combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and pudding mix in a large mixing bowl; beat with mixer until smooth and creamy. Add eggs and beat until mixed into batter. Gradually add the flour/baking soda mixture, mixing after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips. Batter will be stiff.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls, about 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and let cookies set for 2-3 minutes and then place on wire rack to cool.

If you try it, be sure to tell me what you think of them!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

R+F Mini Facials GIVEAWAY!

Who wants a free mini facial? I have 5 to give out. The first 5 people to comment on this post get them!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Must-Have Marvin

I am thrilled to be partnering with FlyBy Promotions again for a book review and future giveaway. I just got word that I'd been selected, so I don't have the book reviewed yet, but here are the details:

About Must-Have Marvin!
The second title in the Shine Bright Kids series, Must-Have Marvin! teaches children that people are more important than things. Marvin loves new things—he especially loves finding the latest, greatest, most awesome new things! Soon Marvin finds himself focusing on a new robot that he wants, to the exclusion of his friends. He lets them down when they need his help and nearly loses their friendship. 
Through a chat with a wise neighbor and a second chance to help, Marvin learns the important life lesson that people are more important than things.

About Shine Bright Kids:
Choose Right. Shine Bright.
The Shine Bright Kids series provides children and their families with a framework to teach the importance of making good choices. The principles that will be explored include: using good judgment, taking responsibility, having a positive attitude, and demonstrating perseverance.

Written by Christy Ziglar
Illustrated by Luanne Marten
Available now!
Hardcover with jacket, 10 x 10, 32 pages
ages 4 to 8 

Visit the official website: 
Tag in your posts:  #ShareAMoment 

Author Bio
Christy Ziglar, financial planner, mother of twins and niece of legendary motivator and the world’s original optimist, Zig Ziglar, is bringing the same timeless wisdom and ageless advice to an entirely new, younger audience through her new Shine Bright Kids picture book series.

Illustrator Bio
Thanks to her first-grade teacher, who recognized her superior skills in drawing a robin, Luanne Marten has been drawing, painting, and sketching ever since. She is a great experimenter and has a fresh, whimsical approach that brings her characters to life.

It looks like a great book to read with my boys. If you want in on the GIVEAWAY which is coming soon, watch for my review post!