Friday, December 28, 2018

Winners in December 2018

Spirit of Giving Devotionals for the Family


Congratulations to the winners: Amanda T., Heidi B., and Kari B.!

A Charlie Brown Christmas (Snoopy Doghouse Edition CD) by Vince Guaraldi Trio


Congratulations to the winner: Bethany N.!

A Charlie Brown Christmas (Green Vinyl LP) by Vince Guaraldi Trio


Congratulations to the winner: John S.!

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas Soundtrack (CD)


Congratulations to the winner: Mycraftingworld!

Smallfoot (Blu-ray Combo)


Congratulations to the winner: Kathy P.!

Monday, December 24, 2018

My Favorite Christmas Movies

Merry Christmas! I hope you're all having a wonderful holiday. One of my favorite things to do each year is to watch Christmas movies. Here are my top 5 favorites.


It's a Wonderful Life

What can I say? It’s a classic, feel-good story with one of my favorite actors, Jimmy Stewart. I prefer to watch the original black-and-white version, but if you'll only watch colorized, that's okay with me, too. Just watch it and enjoy!


White Christmas

I love the music although I fast-forward through a couple of the weird dances. My favorite scene is when Bing Crosby is trying to keep a straight face while singing and dancing to the song "Sisters"!


National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Creepy Uncle Eddie makes me laugh every time.


Scrooge

This is the musical version of A Christmas Carol with Albert Finney. The wonderful songs really add to the enjoyment of the movie, but I love other versions, too.


The Year Without a Santa Claus

This isn’t technically a movie, but I love the battling Miser Brothers: Heat Miser and Cold Miser. Maybe it's because I have four sons, so I can relate to the sibling squabbling and competition. And the mini-versions of them are adorable!

So, what are your favorite Christmas movies or programs? Merry Christmas!



Disclosure: This post contains my Amazon affiliate link, and I will receive a small commission on purchases made through this link.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Meow-y Christmas!

Our cat, Bella, loves to sit in a shoe box that's just her size under the tree. Unfortunately, she's been crowded out a little bit due to the presents!


Does your pet like to sit under the Christmas tree?

Monday, December 17, 2018

Give a Gift That Gives Back with a Beautiful Handcrafted Product from Ecuadane!

I love to hear about companies that share their profits with the community to help better people's lives. One such company is called Ecuadane! This company truly captures the spirit of the holidays by giving back to the Ecuadorian community they work with. This season, Ecuadane is donating 50% of their sales from their website to build homes for five families in Ecuador, where a majority of Ecuadane's products are crafted. From their signature alpaca-blend blankets to their scarves and ponchos, their beautiful handcrafted goods are one-of-a-kind special gifts, and they also make the world a better place by giving back.

Learn more about this special company in this video:


Top Holiday Picks from Ecuadane



Blankets: Soft, warm and beautiful, these cozy blankets are ultra-soft and generously sized. And be sure to check out their special holiday blankets, which feature a beautiful holiday scene. I have one of these blankets, and it is absolutely gorgeous! This is a real keepsake that will be in our family for generations to come and makes a really eye-catching addition to my couch.


Ponchos: Wrap up your honey in one of these gorgeous ponchos in teal, oatmeal, steel, lime and amber. Aren't they beautiful?


Scarves: The Colibri infinity scarf is made of a luxe soft knit featuring an elegant contrasting print that gives any outfit a finishing touch. It’s named after Ecuador's beautiful hummingbirds.

If you're looking for a unique gift that has a lovely story behind it, I highly recommend that select a handcrafted product from Ecuadane. You'll feel the warmth of doing something special for those you love while helping others!



Disclosure: I received a complimentary product sample to facilitate my honest review.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Perfect Gift for the Middle-Grade Reader: "The Christmasaurus," by Tom Fletcher


THE CHRISTMASAURUS
by Tom Fletcher
Ages 8–12 (middle grade)

Once upon a time -- long, long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth -- an egg rolled away from its mother and landed in the ocean, where it froze solid and stayed peacefully for thousands of years. Then one day Santa and his elves discover the frozen egg, and Santa sits on it to see if it will hatch. But he can’t guess what’s inside ... a dinosaur!

Meanwhile, a young boy named William Trundle has only ever wished for one thing for Christmas: a dinosaur! So when Santa accidentally gives William the real Christmasaurus instead of a stuffed replica, it’s the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER! Until an evil man known as the Hunter decides a dinosaur will be the perfect addition to his collection.

THE CHRISTMASAURUS was first published in the UK, where it was then optioned for a movie and debuted as a stage play in London last fall.

“A satisfying feel-good Christmas caper.”
—SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

About the author: TOM FLETCHER (@TomFletcher | YouTube: tommcflytwitter | Instagram) is an award-winning songwriter, as well as a children’s author, YouTube star, daddy, and McFly band member. He has over one million followers on social media and his viral videos have been featured on Good Morning America. His picture book, There’s a Monster in Your Book, published in September 2017. His first middle-grade novel, The Christmasaurus, combines his love of Christmas and his love of dinosaurs. Tom is married to the author Giovanna Fletcher, and they have two children.

My thoughts: This is the perfect gift for a middle-grade reader. It combines two of kids' favorite themes -- Christmas and dinosaurs -- what genius! It also keeps children's attention with plenty of fun illustrations by Shane Devries and lots of CAPITAL LETTERS! There's also plenty of humor and funny made-up words, like "dinosawesome"! And the book's not over when the story's over because there's an interactive "Elves' Songbook" at the end, along with "Tom's Top 10 Things About  Christmas" (some of them may surprise you!). This magical book will entertain kids all year round!

Watch the book trailer!







Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book to facilitate my review. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link, and I will receive a small commission on sales made through this link.

Monday, December 10, 2018

"Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero" Marches onto Blu-ray, DVD & Digital on December 11! Celebrate with This Giveaway for a Sgt. Stubby Prize Pack!

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero
On Blu-ray™, DVD & Digital December 11, 2018

Based on the Real-Life Story of the First and Most Decorated War Dog in American History, This Inspiring Film Features the Voices of Logan Lerman and Helena Bonham Carter

With the “War to End all Wars” looming, the life of Army “doughboy” Robert Conroy is forever changed when a little stray dog with a stubby tail wanders into a training camp in New Haven, Conn. Conroy gives his new friend a meal, a name, a family and the chance to embark on an adventure that would define a century.

SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO depicts the little-known true story of the unbreakable bond between a young soldier and a stray dog on the brink of America’s entry into World War I. For his valorous feats, Stubby is still recognized today as the first dog promoted to the rank of Sergeant in the U.S. Army and the most decorated dog in American history. He is also widely considered the forerunner to the U.S. Army’s working dog program. The delightful animated film shows the world that the greatest heroes can come from the unlikeliest places.


Based on an incredible true story, the heartwarming, family-friendly animated adventure, SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO deploys on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital and On Demand December 11, 2018 from Paramount Home Media Distribution. Featuring an all-star voice cast, SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO has been lauded by critics and received the Dove Foundation’s “All Ages” Seal of Approval and Parents’ Choice Gold Award, making it an ideal holiday gift that the whole family can enjoy.

SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO was directed by award-winning documentarian Richard Lanni and features the voices of Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & The Olympians) and Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter films).

MPAA Rating: PG for War Action and Some Thematic Elements

Watch the Trailer!



The SGT. STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO Blu-ray and DVD both include a digital copy along with a behind-the-scenes featurette with cast interviews, a documentary short about the real Sgt. Stubby, never-before-seen production art and a historic photo gallery of the early 20th century world as depicted in the film.

Special Features:

“The Making of a Hero” Featurette with Behind-the-Scenes Footage and Cast Interviews
“Real to Reel” The True Story of Sgt. Stubby
“Animating History” The Art of Sgt. Stubby
Historical Image Gallery
Spanish Subtitles « Closed Captioning « Descriptive Audio


The true story of Sgt. Stubby has resonated with audiences of all ages, including parents, educators, animal lovers, military supporters and history buffs alike. The film has been selected as an official project of the United States World War I Centennial Commission and its French counterpart, La Mission du Centenaire 1914-18; additional endorsements and educational partners include the American Legion, the Connecticut State Library, the National Infantry Museum Foundation, the National World War I Museum & Memorial and the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes.

Beyond his military exploits, Stubby’s status as an adopted stray has resulted in nearly a century of recognition by animal rescues and welfare organizations. As part of the film’s theatrical release, Fun Academy partnered with more than 90 regional and national animal organizations across all 50 states – including the Humane Society of the United States and the Westminster Kennel Club – to shine a light on the human-animal bond and the amazing things adopted animals can do when given a chance in life.


About the Real-Life Stubby: Before he was a hero, Stubby was homeless, unwanted, unwashed and unloved, scrounging for scraps on the streets until he was taken in by Private First Class Robert Conroy of the 102nd Infantry Regiment, 26th “Yankee” Division.

In France, Stubby saw frontline action in four offensives and 17 battles. He found wounded soldiers, saved an entire company by alerting the men to don gas masks and even caught a German spy. After the recapture of Ch√Ęteau-Thierry, the women of the town made him an embroidered jacket that would serve as Stubby’s uniform and display his numerous awards throughout the rest of his career.

Returning home to a hero’s welcome, Stubby and Conroy toured the country leading victory parades and met three sitting U.S. presidents, among other honors.


Join the Conversation

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Like us: www.Facebook.com/StubbyMovie / www.Instagram.com/StubbyMovie
Follow us: www.YouTube.com/StubbyMovie / www.Twitter.com/StubbyMovie

GIVEAWAY

One lucky winner will receive the Sgt. Stubby Prize Pack featured above! Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on December 31, 2018.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Disclosure: I received no products or compensation for this post. Thank you to the sponsor for providing the prize pack.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Big News! "Smallfoot" Is Arriving on Blu-ray and DVD: Enter to Win a Blu-ray Combo Pack!


An animated adventure for all ages, with fun new music by Zendaya & Common and featuring an all-star cast, Smallfoot turns the Bigfoot legend upside down when a bright young Yeti (Channing Tatum) finds something he thought didn’t exist -- a human! News of the “smallfoot,” Percy (James Corden), throws the simple Yeti community into an uproar over what else might be out there in the big world beyond their snowy village. This is an epic story about friendship and courage!

Worlds will collide when Smallfoot arrives on Digital (December 4) and Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD (December 11).

Smallfoot Blu-ray Combo Pack contains the following special features:

* Yeti Set Go Sing-Along – Sing-Along, fun facts and much more!
* “Super Soozie” Mini Movie – Custom animation featuring the yeti toddler, Soozie
* Migo in The Secret of the Yeti Stones – Featurette featuring Channing Tatum
* Yeti or Not, Here They Come! Imagining Smallfoot – The making of Smallfoot
* Nial Horran “Finally Free” Music Video
* Cyn “Moment of Truth” Music Video
* “Wonderful Life: In 28 Languages, Sung Around the World” Music Video
* Theatrical promos

Smallfoot Standard Definition DVD contains the following special features:

* Yeti or Not, Here They Come! Imagining Smallfoot

This is such a cute movie. I love the "twist" in that the Yeti are seeking proof of human existence rather than the other way around. With a clever plot, cute characters, and catchy songs, Smallfoot makes a great holiday gift and will be enjoyed all year round!



GIVEAWAY

One lucky winner will receive a Blu-ray combo pack of Smallfoot! Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on Sunday, December 23, 2018.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this movie as a thank-you for sharing this information. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link, and I will receive a small commission on purchases made through this link.

Shinesty: Holiday Clothes for the Whole Family That Make a Fun and Bold Statement!

Have you got an upcoming holiday party where you want to shine? Are you taking family photos that you'll treasure forever? Do you love to dress up in fun clothing for the holidays? Then head on over to Shinesty, where you're sure to find something for everyone! Their clothes are truly stand-out worthy, and you can get holiday clothing for the whole family, including your pets! Get matching clothing for that perfectly coordinated family photo or give everyone a unique look.




Shinesty also has swimwear, pajamas, underwear, hats, socks, ties ... I could go on and on! And the fun doesn't stop with the winter holidays because they can outfit you for just about any holiday, including Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, and more! So, celebrate the holidays with fun new holiday clothes for your family. One of my sons is getting a fantastic snowflake tie for Christmas, and his girlfriend will be receiving a matching snowflake wrap dress. They're going to love them! Visit www.shinesty.com today.



Disclosure: I received some complimentary holiday clothing from Shinesty as a thank-you for sharing their clothing.

Children Will Be Inspired to "Fly High" and Be a Good Friend with Michael Dotsikas's Benjamin Birdie Books!

If you're looking for a beautiful picture book series for someone special this holiday season, I highly recommend the Benjamin Birdie series by Michael Dotsikas! These books have it all -- gorgeous illustrations by Morgan Spicer, rhyming verse to hold children's interest, and lessons about friendship, diversity, and becoming who we are meant to be. At the end of each book, readers are introduced to the unique tree-dwelling animals that help Benjamin Birdie, like a tarsier and a kinkajou! Read on to learn more about these enchanting books and pick up copies for all the children on your gift list!

Benjamin Birdie's First Flight
by Michael Dotsikas
Illustrated by Morgan Spicer

Benjamin Birdie wants to fly like all the other birds, like he was meant to! But his mama tells him he isn’t quite ready yet. Benjamin doesn’t listen and tries to give flying a go, but falls all the way down from the top of the tree to the forest floor. Now Benjamin Birdie must ask for help from all of the other tree-dwellers to get back to the top of the tree. Charming rhymes and colorful illustrations bring this story about friendship to life and teach the importance of coming together to help someone in need. Children will learn about different exotic animals, what makes each of them special and how each of their unique qualities help get Benjamin back home to his nest!

Amazon

Benjamin Birdie and the Tree-Dwellers
by Michael Dotsikas
Illustrated by Morgan Spicer

After an unsuccessful first flight, Benjamin Birdie is still anxious to fly high in the sky like all the other birds. With his wings now grown stronger, and support from his mom, Benjamin is ready to give flying another try. Nervously leaping from his nest, he stumbles at first, but recovers just in time after hearing the encouraging voices of all his tree-dwelling friends cheering him on! Benjamin's newfound flying skills inspire his friends to follow their own dreams and attempt things once thought they couldn't do. Join Benjamin Birdie and his tree-dwelling friends as they learn to believe in themselves, all while seeing just how important it is to be there for a friend when they're not feeling sure of themselves. Sometimes a friend is all you need to find confidence and courage to soar to new, spectacular heights!

Amazon

An Interview with Author Michael Dotsikas:

Where did you get the idea for the Benjamin Birdie story?
When my children were very young, we found a small robin’s nest in one of the trees in our backyard and noticed that one of the hatchlings had fallen out of its nest and was laying on the ground helpless. As I placed the hatchling back in its nest, my children asked what would have happened to the little bird if we weren’t around and how would it have gotten back to its nest. From that came the inspiration for Benjamin Birdie’s story.

How can Benjamin Birdie’s First Flight translate to real-life experiences children and parents may face?
On a daily basis, we are all faced with challenges in our lives; some small, some big. We can overcome a lot of these challenges if we are kind to one another and respect our differences -- just like the animals in Benjamin Birdie’s First Flight.

Benjamin Birdie’s story is very relevant in today’s world. We currently live in divisive times. Politics continue to divide our nation, including families, friends and media outlets. Benjamin Birdie’s First Flight teaches us that we could overcome divisiveness and contention with one simple attribute -- kindness.

The animals in Benjamin Birdie’s First Flight represent humanity -- different species of animals co-existing in this one tree. The tree represents our earth, or our nation, or our community. Similar to the different animals in the book, we come from different nationalities and cultures, have varying characteristics, and have different values and belief systems. What we can learn from Benjamin Birdie’s First Flight is that even with our differences, we can still peacefully co-exist by displaying kindness and compassion towards one another and by helping each other in times of need. These behaviors will allow us to achieve anything we set our minds to -- success, love, peace, and ultimately happiness. A kind world is a beautiful world.

If you could be any of the animal characters in Benjamin Birdie’s First Flight, who would you be?
That is a tough question because I love all the animals in the book. They each have their own special characteristics that make each of them lovable in their own unique way.

What is the first section you visit when you go to the zoo?
I don’t have any one favorite section, but I must admit that I love trying to find all the different bird species in the aviaries.

What message are you hoping to send by sharing information about endangered species in the book?
I did a lot of research for Benjamin Birdie’s story, choosing animals that are endangered or threatened so that I could raise awareness on this very important subject. Our earth is filled with a remarkable array of unique animals which all play an important role in our existence. We need to respect these amazing creatures by putting an end to illegal poaching and by stopping the deterioration of their ecosystems and territories that was brought on by humans. I want our children, grandchildren, and future generations to appreciate the vast species of animals and learn about what makes each animal unique, beautiful, and interesting.

How can readers contribute to the cause of saving endangered species?
They can read up on endangered species and also visit and research the websites of some wonderful organizations that are bringing awareness to the plight of these amazing animals. Some include:

World Wildlife Fund: www.worldwildlife.org
Defenders of Wildlife/Protecting Native Animals and their Habitats:
www.defenders.org
International Fund for Animal Welfare: www.ifaw.org

What do you want children to remember from Benjamin Birdie’s First Flight?
I want children (and adults) to remember that when we’re kind to one another we can accomplish great things that will fulfill and enrich our lives. Being humble and kind is the best way to live our lives and have the greatest impact on humanity.

About the Author

I live in Manorville, New York, with my wife, Dina, our blended family of five amazing children and two precious pups. I was born in Greece and immigrated to the United States with my family when I was four. In addition to my passion for creating stories for children, I run a computer consulting company that I founded in 1995. I love nature, especially the outdoors on warm sunny days and stargazing on clear evening skies. Traveling and spending time with family and friends are favorite pastimes. Visit www.michaeldotsikas.com.



Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of these books to facilitate my honest review. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link, and I will receive a small commission on sales made through this link.