Why American Girl Dolls Really are ‘Worth It’

Maryellen-LarkinWhen my daughter first started collecting (and pairing birthday checks with her allowance to procure) American Girl dolls, I knew the looks I’d get from some. I’d given them myself years ago, in the way that all non-moms assume that they know so much more than the mothers standing before them … only to be rudely awakened when the progeny arrive.

Yes, I allow my daughter to play with dolls that cost more than my favorite pair of sneakers, favorite pair of jeans AND my favorite top combined. Yes, I do think they’re pretty great … and not only for the myriad lessons about finance that my now 10-year-old has learned several times over each time she’s plunked down her own money, collecting checks from great-aunts, dollars and quarters from helping around the house, scrounged change from beneath the couch cushions and random 20s from birthday parties to put together her own collection of flaxen-haired dolls with fluttering eyes and petite outfits. [Read more…]

10 Kids Books to Watch on Netflix

kids-books-turned-into-movies(1)There’s long been a struggle to balance how much time our kids spend with their eyes on the TV vs. their noses burrowed in books. So what’s a Netflix-loving household to do to juggle the two?

How about handing your kiddo a book … with the promise that they can watch the film version on Netflix when they’re done?

Here are some fun films your kids probably don’t know where books first … and they’re all streaming! [Read more…]

‘Paddington’ Movie Brings the Best of the Children’s Books to Screens

PaddingtonIf there’s one thing book lovers can agree on, it’s that the book is almost always better than the movie. But sometimes it isn’t about being better. Sometimes, it’s about being different. And that’s where the folks behind the new film Paddington got it right.

When the Weinstein Company decided to turn Michael Bond’s book series into a feature length film, they were venturing into dangerous territory. If they fumbled, they wouldn’t just be making a bad kid’s film, they’d be making a film that ruined one of children’s literature’s most beloved characters.

It was a gamble that paid off. [Read more…]

Giveaway: Giada De Laurentiis ‘Recipe for Adventure’ Boxed Set

recipe for adventureWhen I was a kid, reading was a means of escape. We didn’t have television in our house, and the internet was but a glint in Al Gore’s eye (kidding, kidding). All I had was books to take me away on an adventure. But in a day when kids can just grab Mom’s smartphone and visit anywhere in the want to go — virtually anyway — it’s more necessary than ever to get them hooked early on imagining their own way around the world through the stories on the pages.

One of my favorites of late? Food Network chef Giada de Laurentiis’ Recipe for Adventure book series for kids — one part adventure to foreign lands, one part culinary education. Like a gourmet version of the popular Magic Treehouse books, they follow a kid named Alfredo and his sister on foodie adventures around the world, and each comes with recipe cards so the kids can cook up something sweet from their travels.

The first four books are now available in a box set that comes with a chef’s hat and new recipe cards (plus adventures in Paris, Naples, Hong Kong, and New Orleans), and Inside Out has partnered with publisher Penguin to give one box set away!

[Read more…]

Children’s Book Giveaway: Whatever After Books 1 – 4

Whatever After sarah mlynowskiI have a princess kind of kid. It’s OK. I’ve come to understand that the word “princess” carries with it so much more than pretty dresses and sparkly things. Look at Kate Middleton. No one would accuse her of being an airhead, would they? ‘Nuff said.

When you have a princess sort of kid, one of your greatest responsibilities is to present them with the better side of princessdom — not the wilting flowers waiting on a man to rescue them but the heroines of their own stories.

Kind of like the girls in Sarah Mlynowski’s Whatever After series for elementary readers. Each book follows a girl named Abby and her little brother, Jonah, who get sucked into classic fairy tales. Fairy tales featuring a princess, of course. [Read more…]

Children’s Book Giveaway: Giada De Laurentiis’ Recipe for Adventure

Giada De Laurentiis Recipe for Adventure

A funny thing happened in my house this week. Well, two really. I had a weekday off from work, for one, and my daughter wanted to do exactly two things: cook a meal and watch a movie with me.

Which of these things is not like the other? With a self-confessed Disney obsession, let’s just say movies are a regular happening in this household. Days off and Mommy and Me cooking, on the other hand? They don’t happen as much as either of us would like.

I have a book to thank, more specifically Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis’ new children’s book series, Recipe for Adventure. Set for release in September, it’s being hailed as a foodie’s version of the popular (and ingenious) Magic Treehouse series and follows a little boy named Alfie (short for Alfredo) and his sister on food-fueled adventures through the world’s culinary landmarks.

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?
My 8-year-old sped through Paris, book two in the series, and she had but one thing on her mind: eating.

Well, that cooking, but really that was just a means to a gastronomic end.

Specifically she wanted to eat crepes, which happen to be one of my few standbys for homemade breakfast (I admit we’re more yogurt and cereal people than whip out the griddle folks in this house), but she had pulled out one of the two recipe cards that come with each of De Laurentis’ new books. She wanted to make Giada crepes, not Mommy crepes.

And so we did:


I’m never one to say no to a new book that my daughter enjoys, but I have a feeling we’ll be working our way through the Recipe for Adventure series as much because it facilitates really fun Mommy and Me time as anything.

What could be better than a book that teaches your kids AND makes them want to spend more time with you? Score!

And now for the best news: the folks at Penguin have offered up one of the Recipe for Adventure books to an Inside Out reader. Want in? You know what to do:

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Children’s Book Giveaway: The UltraViolets Power to the Purple

The golden rule of reading is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t happen … especially with my kid. Sometimes all it takes is a good title to hook her.

And when it came to Sophie Bell’s new girl power series, The UltraViolets, the title said it all. They’re girls, who like purple, and they’re ultra-cool.

What’s not to love when you’re an 8-year-old girl, now really?

Fortunately for this mother of an 8-year-old girl, when I managed to wrest book two, Power to the Purple, from her clutches, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was more than just a colorful title.

The Ultra Violets are everything my girly girl needs in this femmephobic world. Kick-ass little girls who are not thwarted by their love of things proto-typically girly.

I love that there is finally attention given to the fact that girls do not need pink, boys do not need blue, that girls can play with LEGOs and boys with dolls. But even as we’ve shifted toward a more gender-neutral environment, there’s been an unfortunate tendency for some to lash out against all things pink, glittery, puffy … all things that were once “girly.”

Folks, that’s not OK. Girls AND boys can like pink and puffy. Girls AND boys can like blue and boisterous. What we need is freedom of choice for both sides, not a banishing of one or the other.

This is what I found in the Ultra Violets: a merging of the two sides of my daughter that happily co-exist. She can be a fierce female and love pink and purple at the same time, and so can the super-powered Ultra Violets.

It’s not a book for adults — I should put that out there — it’s definitely for kids. But my kid is loving book two enough after Penguin sent us a copy that I’m now on the hunt for book one.

And she’s loving it enough that I asked the folks at the publishing house if they wouldn’t mind sharing one with an Inside Out Motherhood reader. They gladly obliged.

Want in on the giveaway? You know what to do!

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Summer Reading Giveaway: John Grisham’s Theodore Boone

John Grisham Theodore Boone The Activist

Summer vacation has just started in my neck of the woods, and already I’ve had to walk into the living room and hit the power button on the TV (which, by the way, is not nearly as satisfy in these touch-screen days). My daughter is a self-described “super reader” who will stay up until the wee hours to finish a good book, but the lure to do something a little more brainless is always there.

I never thought I’d have to “work” at getting her into the habit of summer reading, but it seems after a school year of saving her reading time for bed, she’s not USED to reading during the day.

So what’s a mom to do? I’m bribing her. With books, of course. She got a new pile for her birthday a few weeks ago, along with a brand new bookcase, and I dove into the attic where I’ve saved the books that I’ve long collected for her to “grow into.”

Have a reader who hasn’t really gotten into it? How about a new book?

The folks at Penguin have offered one Inside Out Motherhood reader a copy of the newest edition in John Grisham’s Theodore Boone series!
The Activist follows 13-year-old Theodore, son of two lawyers with his own taste for the law, in another courtroom adventure that puts a whole new spin on crime for the kids who love Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys (wait, kids still read those, right?). Although it’s presented to kids as a regular adventure with a kid crime solver, hidden inside is an education on heavy issues from eminent domain to political machines.

Kids can join the Theodore Boone Fan Club online to dive a little deeper into the intrigue (and have their appetites whetted for more reading).

Want a copy to put in your reader’s hands?

You know what to do:

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Giveaway: Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects

Mike Adamick

There are two types of people in this world. The ones who are crafty … and the ones who have friends who are crafty. I’m the latter.

I am the reason the word Pinterest Fail exists. But my friend Mike Adamick (you might know him as the dad behind Cry It Out — the blog, not the parenting method) more or less looks at a needle and thread and unicorns and kittens pop out. His daughter is so lucky.

And you and I? Well, we’re close. Mike isn’t going to fly in with a superhero cape he just Macguyvered up flapping in the breeze behind him to save you from that unfortunate glue gun accident. But he does have a book out: Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects.

I’ve read it, and I can assure you, this is not hyperbole on behalf of the book publishers who really just want to move some product. It is indeed awesome in the way that only books that provide you with the means to make your kid a fruit crate scooter can be. This is not another book filled with baking soda volcanoes and pipe cleaner flowers. Mike has come up with projects you can do with your kids, and they’ll actually want to play with after.

Oh, and the awesomeness isn’t just in the creativity of the projects, but in the detailed instructions that you’d have to be an idiot (or you know, me) to screw up. 

And because I am ALSO awesome, I’ve got a copy to give away!

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Have you checked out the Gluten Is My Bitch Book Giveaway?  

Giveaway: Gluten Is My Bitch … the Book!!

gluten-free cookbook

Part of being a writer is being really jealous that your other fabulous writer friends get book deals … and bitching that you haven’t gotten one yet. OK, so maybe it’s because you haven’t actually written a book yet. Or, well, even come up with your idea. But you get the point. My fabulous writer friends are all getting book deals … and in the case of one fabulous April Peveteaux, aka the funny behind the blog Gluten Is My Bitch, that book is now out on shelves!

If the word gluten made your eyes just glaze over, please come back to me. Didn’t you read the rest of that title? The hilarity that comes out of her head is enough to actually make this gluten-loving non-celiac read her blog on the regular.

As a vegetarian, I can’t help getting into people who really understand alternative eating lifestyles, and my girl April has gone full bore into gluten-free since being diagnosed as a celiac (nope, she’s not trendy … just unfortunate).

And my friends, it’s good. Good enough to make me try eating a gluten-free donut kind of good.



Oh wait, where was I? Oh right, fabulous writer friends and their fabulous books.

Being friends and what not means I got the hook up for a copy of Gluten Is My Bitch … the book. And of course I have to share. The book, that is, not the donuts.

Want a copy? Take it away ….

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