Sunday, September 4, 2011

Zhu Zhu Puppies review and giveaway!

***And the winner is Jen S.!***

I guess its time for the big ticket items to start hitting the shelves for the holidays. I received our annual preview of the latest ZhuZhu craze the other day, thanks to MomSelect.

This year it is ZhuZhu Puppies! And ZhuZhu Babies and ZhuZhu Fashion, too, but we were sent the Puppies. We received one puppy, one outfit, and the Puppy Car and Meter to test out.

Kiel thought the puppy was so cute. Thor was thinking "puppy? who said puppy?".

The car was the most exciting part.

The outfit was cute, but Noah said it was too girly for him.
It didn't stop him from taking an opportunity to look cute for the camera though.

Here's a little video of the puppy in action, along with a little cat terrorizing action.

My thoughts:

This is definitely cute. Kiel was very excited when we opened it up. Like the other ZhuZhu toys you have to have a very smooth surface for them to run if they are not on a track. We had varied results using the car, especially when trying to get the puppy to go into it himself from the parking setup since it kept getting stuck.

The outfit we received was a little disappointing as it didn't fit very well. The Velcro in the front kept coming undone so then the outfit slid around or came off entirely when the puppy was moving. Kiel took it off because it was frustrating him.

It was definitely entertaining when we just let him run around, especially when the cat was watching.

Noah lost interest pretty quickly (he's 8 1/2). Kiel (3 1/2) played with it on and off most of the afternoon. He played with it in conjunction with his fire station and trucks.

I don't think this is the kind of toy that is going to be used every day. It could be frustrating for kids because it doesn't always work as it is supposed to. My past experience with the pets themselves is that if you push them while the wheels are running you will break the mechanism that turns the wheels. I doubt the puppies are any different.

I sense this is the kind of toy that will get a day or two's use and then will have broken or will lose its excitement. If Santa leaves this under the tree for your kids I imagine they will be pretty excited, but I'd be surprised if it is used much past New Years. Or maybe that is just my kids.

Overall: two MNT thumbs-up for cuteness, one for the fun factor, zero for the likelihood of getting your moneys worth.

That said, I would not pass this up if I received it for free, which I did!

And even better, one of my readers is going to win a Puppy and outfit!

To enter to win your own ZhuZhu Puppy and one outfit all you need to do is leave a comment on this blog post!

Don't forget to include your email address in the comment. I know you have to include it to publish the comment, but unless it is actually within the body of the comment or you have email enabled on your Blogger profile I can't see it.

You have until midnight on Sunday, September 11, 2011 to enter. I'll announce the winner that week. Again, don't forget to leave your email address so I can contact you!

Full disclosure: MomSelect and Cepia, LLC provided me with our ZhuZhu Puppy and accesories . I am not receiving monetary compensation for hosting this giveaway. The opinions in my review are purely my own. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Young Rembrandts

The following is a guest post from Lisa Zollinger of Young Rembrandts. I thought you would find this art program interesting for your children.

Hi readers of Mommy Needs Therapy! Many thanks to Kristine for this wonderful opportunity to share my story with all of you. I hope you’ll enjoy my tale of how I left a fast-moving career to open a Young Rembrandts franchise and teach children how to draw.

From the time I was a child, art has been a passion of mine. I expressed myself through drawing, painting, and creating art of all kind. As I worked my way up the ranks and my career developed at the Philadelphia Inquirer, I decided to temporarily shelve my dream of making art my career for the betterment of my family.  I always knew I’d fit art into my life one way or another when the timing made sense. Sure enough, one day I had an epiphany and realized that the time was right. I took a leave of absence from the Inquirer and decided to pursue my lifelong passion of starting my own business related to the arts.  Through research and careful consideration, I found Young Rembrandts.

At this point, you may be wondering how I could make such a bold move in today’s economy. Secure job, great lifestyle, and I (seemingly) throw it all away to take a chance on an ambitious dream. As off-the-wall as it sounds, I was one hundred percent confident in my decision and knew I couldn’t deny my purpose any longer. It also helped that the Young Rembrandts unique and proven method, developed by an artist and educator, fit my needs perfectly. The program allowed me the flexibility to be there for my family, and was the perfect avenue for me to share my passion with children of all ages.

Young Rembrandts is built upon an exceptional mission, to teach the drawing skills children need while developing learning skills that give children an academic advantage in the classroom. Young Rembrandts teaches children how to draw using a proprietary method, which combines unique step-by-step instruction and best education practices.  Coupled with the fantastic curriculum, that is what defines Young Rembrandts and sets them apart from other art businesses.  The same structured, skill based learning used to teach science, math and reading is used to teach children how to draw.

I was also honored to learn that my franchise would mark the Young Rembrandts’ hallmark 100th opening, which is an incredible testament to the power of the program. For over 20 years, this program has delivered a top quality classroom experience that is fun, engaging, educational and affordable. To find a Young Rembrandts location near you, enter your zip code on our Class Locator page (

There will undoubtedly be bumps along the road, and we’ll face our fair share of challenges, but I’m excited to see where this next chapter of my life takes me and my family.  This is a new family-friendly lifestyle where I can apply my business skills to a new venture.  Sometimes you just have to have faith in yourself and trust that the reward will be greater than the risk. Knowing that my franchise will mean dozens of small smiling faces every day serves as a constant reminder that I did the right thing by following my instinct. I hope you see the power in art as much as I do! 

- Lisa Zollinger

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Powertek Precision Cordless screwdriver set by Husky Tools Review

In a departure from the products I typically review on MNT, I was sent a 13-Piece Powertek Precision Cordless screwdriver set by Husky Tools to review.

I figured the perfect time to review a cordless screwdriver was at Christmas when I'm putting together toys!

Husky Tools has a number of under-$20 tools available at Home Depot.

I have to admit when this showed up in the mail I wasn't quite sure what it was. (At first I thought maybe it was a surprise gift from one of my sponsors that also sells "tools" that often require batteries.) Obviously, I figured it out.

  You can get a decent idea of the size of it in this picture. 

Here is some info from the company about the screwdriver.

13-Piece Powertek™ Precision Cordless Screwdriver Set - ($9.88)

* Easy to Grip, Soft Touch, Forward and Reverse Precision Cordless Screwdriver Set

* Ideal for Toys, Electronics, Eyeglasses, Hobbies, Crafts and More
* Contains 12 Multiple Use Mini Bits with a Single Tool Design
* Includes Easy Use Bit Storage Case
* Ready to Use with 2 - AAA Batteries

*Guaranteed Forever

Initially I was underwhelmed. It felt very light and bit flimsy. You also have to provide the batteries. I didn't immediately grasp that because it's a "precision" set it its for smaller jobs and uses mini-bits. I first tried to use it to put together a wooden fire house for Kiel, that requires regular size screws to be screwed into wood. It took about two tries before I set it aside and was using our regular rechargeable screwdriver for that job.  

The next day however, I needed something to open up the battery compartment on one of Kiel's cars so I figured I'd give it another try. It worked beautifully! And that was when I really looked at it and the size of the bits. Duh! Mini-bits!

We've used it several times in the past week to open and close battery compartments and it is great. The bits are the perfect size and the power provided in forward and reverse is good. 

The set comes with 12 mini-bits. I have no idea what I would use the majority of the bits for, but as long as it has the three or four that I would use who cares, right? The storage "case" holds the bits and also allows the screwdriver to stand upright in the middle of it. I like that because I have it on my kitchen counter where I keep my pens and other odds and ends, and it is easy to find. 

Husky Tools provided me with this set. All opinions are my own.

Lionel Little Lines Train Playset Review

Did you know that Lionel Electric Trains now has a retail store in NYC? They also opened pop-up stores this holiday season in Cherry Hill, NYC, Westchester, Dallas, and Minneapolis. I'm not exactly sure what a pop-up store is, but if it involves trains I know my boys would enjoy visiting it.

We weren't able to attend a special event in Cherry Hill earlier in December, so Lionel sent us their Lionel Little Lines Train Playset for the boys to play with and me to review. I didn't want it to get missed in the chaos of Christmas, so we just opened it up today to play with. 

Rich and I put it together while a very 
excited Kiel waited a bit impatiently. 
Here is a picture of the pieces right out of the box. The train isn't in this picture, but it includes an engine, coal car, carrier car, and caboose.

As with all toys we review, Thor is right in the middle of the action. He was actually more patient than Noah and Kiel were during the assembly. 

The assembly itself wasn't too bad. I only swore once when I pinched my hand between two of the tracks. I was impressed by the solidity of the track considering it is made of plastic. 

Snapping the tracks together took some force, but other than some difficulty snapping the tracks into the risers until I figured out it was easier to slide them in than snap them in, it wasn't too bad.

The hardest part was getting Kiel to stop playing with the engine before the track was ready.

Here we are mid- construction. 
You can see my little engineer is anxious to get started.

Here it is 95% complete, just before I realized I had a 3" piece of the track under the bridge that wasn't supposed to be there, which was making things not quite snap together correctly at the curves. After I fixed that part the track looked and felt very stable.

The engine itself moves very slow in the forward direction, a bit faster in reverse. We didn't have much luck getting the engine to pull the other three cars around the track. Fortunately, the boys were happy just playing with the engine. 
The remote control is easy to use and a nice size for little hands to hold. You can see Kiel is holding the remote in the picture below.

We have to keep an eye on Kiel because he really wants to push the train around the floor himself. We don't typically have good luck with trains/cars/ Zhu Zhu pets that have a gear mechanism because of that, as eventually the inner mechanism breaks from the misuse. Hopefully, I can prevent that from happening with this train. 

**Updated to add that four hours in and the train now only works in reverse.**

The engine is a little tricky for Kiel to get on the track correctly but Noah does fine with it.
The age range is 2 1/2 +. I think that is a realistic age as far as ability to use the remote, but not to play with the train by itself.

Both boys have been playing with it (together even) on and off all afternoon and the track is still in one piece. We've had a couple small plastic Thomas sets in the past that quickly became frustrating because the track wouldn't stay together. So far that isn't an issue with this Lionel Train set.

My thoughts on this set

Durability of the tracks initially seems good and feels solid. 

The engine is slow, which is a little disappointing. I think it would keep kids attention longer if it had a bit more pep. 

If you are thinking of getting this for a toddler keep in mind that if your kids are like mine you are going to have to supervise any use so they don't try to push it themselves, which will likely break the mechanism in the engine.

I don't see where you can buy additional track for it, but if you can that would be a nice feature.
I'll let you know if you can buy the engine by itself, since its a shame we now have a nice track without a working engine. 

Lionel Trains and Dan Klores Communications provided me with the Lionel Little Lines Train Playset. All opinions are my own.