From the category archives:

Reviews, promotions and giveaways

So I may have mentioned (cough cough) that I’ve become something of a fangirl of Chef Michael Smith lately. But please believe me when I tell you that even if I weren’t already predisposed to great affection for the towering chef from PEI, I would still rate his new Family Meals cookbook as the best one I have ever owned.

I was lucky enough to receive a free copy from Penguin Canada, and it arrived in the mail this weekend. How much do I love it? Let me count the ways!

  1. I love the emphasis on family. From lunchbox ideas to sharing tasks in the kitchen to appealing to finicky kid palettes, this is a cookbook written by a dad who happens to be a chef and who is passionate about cooking for and with family.
  2. It’s real food, and not even a little bit scary. I’ll admit it, we have very simple tastes and are collectively a little bit suspicious of foods we don’t know. While there are a few exotic ingredients here and there, mostly there are recipes for foods you and your family will love, like pancakes and street tacos and smoothies and baked beans and pulled pork and beef stew… it may be possible that I’m drooling just perusing the index again.
  3. The meals are quick and generally uncomplicated. While I am an initiate to life’s school of cooking, and I’m gradually building up my comfort level, I still don’t have the time or interest on a busy weeknight to invest hours on complicated processes. I’m sure the vast majority of these meals could be made in 45 minutes or less including prep time – which is just about exactly my attention span for anything in the kitchen – and I love that tips are woven into the sidebars on many of the recipes.
  4. He consistently emphasizes meals made from fresh, real ingredients sourced locally when available. This is so important to our family right now – meals made from food, not processed junk.
  5. I can think of no better proof that this cookbook was made with me in mind than finding not one, not two, but THREE of my own go-to recipes, but made oh so much better. Let’s just say those of you who look forward to an annual batch of home-made peanut brittle at Christmastime are in for a delightful surprise!

We’ve had this cookbook for less than a week and have already made a few of the recipes. Beloved whipped up a batch of Weekend Pancakes within the first 24 hours, and I kid you not, they were the best pancakes I’ve ever had. (Oh the hyperbole, I know – but I can’t help myself. I am genuinely this excited!!) They were so good we ate them before I could take any photos. Luckily, the fine folks at Penguin Canada were more than happy to allow me to share this photo from the cookbook AND allow me to share the recipe for you here.

Photo courtesy of Penguin Canada.

In the cookbook, Chef Michael charmingly divides the ingredient list into “Kid 1: the dry ingredients” and “Kid 2 (or parent): the wet ingredients,” just one of the many ways he encourages both cooking and eating to be a family affair. Here’s the recipe more or less exactly as it appears in the cookbook:

Chef Michael Smith’s Weekend Pancakes

Kid 1: The Dry Ingredients
1 cup (250 ml) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 ml) whole-wheat flour
1 cup (250 ml) quick-cooking rolled oats
2 tablespoons (30 ml) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5 ml) nutmeg or cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) salt

Kid 2 (or parent): The Wet Ingredients
2 expertly cracked eggs
2 cups (500 ml) of any milk (dairy or otherwise)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) of vegetable oil or melted butter, plus more for the pan
2 tablespoons (30 ml) honey
1 teaspoon (15) pure vanilla extract

“While the kids get out bowls and measure the wet and dry ingredients, heat your largest, heaviest skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Gas, electric, induction or campfire – strive for that magical mark just past halfway, where food sizzles and browns without burning.

“Share the whisk so you don’t have to wash two of them. First whisk the dry ingredients together, then give the wet team a turn. Switch to a wooden spoon and gradually stir the wet into the dry, letting everybody stir the works a bit and not worrying whether the batter will be mixed wrong. Just make sure the batter is evenly combined.

“Coat your hot pan with a swirl of vegetable oil. Spoon in the batter, filling the pan with any size or shape of pancakes. Cook until the bottom of every last pancake is golden brown before flamboyantly flipping the flapjacks. Continue cooking for a few minutes longer until the pancakes are firm. If need be, keep warm in a 200F (100C) oven while you repeat with the remaining batter, dealing with pancakes like you’re working the Vegas strip. Devour with lots of decadently melted butter and of course a long pour of real maple syrup – none of that Auntie-artificial corn syrup stuff for these high-grade pancakes. Serve and share!”

The oats and the addition of some whole wheat flour gives these a wonderfully nutty taste and substantial texture. Try them and let me know what you think!

I feel like my culinary horizons have expanded exponentially in the past year or two. Rather than seeing meal preparation as a chore to be endured, I am really starting to enjoy my time in the kitchen. Cooking real, wholesome food for and with your family is way, way easier than I could have ever imagined. Heh, turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks! ;)

Edited to add: wheeeeee, thanks to the fine folks at Penguin Canada I have an extra copy to give away! How would YOU like to win your very own copy of Family Meals? Just leave a comment on this post telling me your go-to family favourite meal.

Here’s the fine print:

  1. This is a giveaway for a copy of Chef Michael Smith’s new Family Meals cookbook. Trust me, you want to win this one!
  2. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post (not on Facebook, must appear on danigirl.ca/blog) telling me your favourite family meal – no takeout, no pre-made frozen meals, no boxes. Real food meals please!
  3. One winner will be chosen at random from all comments posted.
  4. This giveaway is open only to residents of Canada, excluding residents of Quebec. (sorry!)
  5. This giveaway will run until 11:59 pm EDT on Friday August 22, 2014.
  6. If you win, you must be willing to share your contact information with me so I can arrange for delivery of the cookbook. Please leave a valid e-mail address in your comment – e-mails will not be used for any other purpose.

Disclosure: Thanks to Chef Michael Smith’s team and Penguin Canada. I love this cookbook, and the opinions in this post are 100% genuine.


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I‘m taking a break from All-PEI-All-The-Time blogging to share a terrific little bit of news that hits a little closer to home. Did you hear that my very favourite toy store, Mastermind Toys, has opened a Barrhaven location? You might remember last year I blogged about it when they opened their first store in Ottawa, and it quickly became a family favourite.

I really love Mastermind Toys, and I especially love that I won’t have to make the trek out to Kanata or St Laurent Blvd when I’m hunting for birthday gifts or treats for the boys. In fact, the day the new Barrhaven store opened, Beloved stopped in and stocked up on a couple of party gifts and a neat jigsaw mat for Lucas. I love that the selection of products at Mastermind Toys seems to be a curated collection, not at all the same old things you see in all the big box stores. Sure, they have popular toys like the Rainbow Looms and Playmobil, but they also have toys, books and games I’ve never seen in any other store. I especially like the wide selection of things that only cost a few dollars but aren’t junky, perfect for loot bags, wee treats and things for boys to spend their allowance on.

The new Barrhaven Mastermind Toys is celebrating its grand opening this weekend, July 10 – 13. Drop by the store and you will enjoy free loot bags for the kiddies, special offers and giveaways and only on Saturday July 12, cupcakes! Of course, Mastermind’s complimentary gift wrap will be available all weekend as well.

Speaking of giveaways, I’m delighted that the fine peeps at Mastermind Toys have offered a $50 gift card for me to share with one lucky reader. Yay for sharesies!!

Would you like to win the $50 gift card from Mastermind Toys? Leave a comment on this post (on the blog, not on Facebook, please!) telling me what you love about summer. That’s it!

Here’s the fine print:

  1. This is a giveaway for one $50 gift card from Mastermind Toys.
  2. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post (not on Facebook, must appear on danigirl.ca/blog) telling me what you love about summer.
  3. One winner will be chosen at random from all comments posted.
  4. Everyone who “likes” Postcards from the Mothership on Facebook will get a bonus entry. (This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.) If you already like Postcards from the Mothership on FB, just say so in your comment.
  5. This giveaway is open only to residents of Canada, excluding residents of Quebec. (sorry!)
  6. This giveaway will run until 11:59 pm EDT on Friday July 11, 2014.
  7. If you win, you will pick up your gift card at the Barrhaven store. You must be willing to share your contact information with me so I can share it with Mastermind Toys.

Thanks to Mastermind Toys for sponsoring this giveaway (and for opening a store around the corner from us!) and good luck to everyone who enters.

If you go:
What? Grand opening of Mastermind Toys third Ottawa location in Barrhaven
When? July 10 – 13
Where? 71 Marketplace Ave (in the Chapman Mills Marketplace, near Loblaws)

Edited to add: Congratulations to Joy, belated winner of the gift card from Mastermind Toys. Sorry to all for the delay in wrapping this up – remind me to never sandwich a bloggy giveaway between two vacations again! ;)


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When I was a kid, my dad did a fair bit of overnight traveling for work. I always knew my dad was on an out of town road trip when I smelled the unmistakeable odour of cabbage being boiled for dinner. My mom and granny loved it; my dad couldn’t stand even the smell of it cooking. I therefore called it a victory of considerable magnitude when we had my folks over for dinner recently and he not only didn’t hate the cabbage side dish I’d made with meatloaf – he actually liked it.

I had never cooked cabbage before this year. I neither liked nor disliked it as a kid so I never bothered to try cooking it or even paying much attention to it. I knew I liked coleslaw and cabbage rolls, though, and knew it was a fundamental ingredient in both. It turns out cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. It is also a very good source of manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B1, folate and copper, and weighs in at a hefty 22 calories per cup. (That’s about the same as one twisty snack pretzel!)

But you know what I love the very most about cabbage? You can fry it up with bacon, garlic and onions and have the world’s best side dish. My friend Danielle recommended this recipe not too long after Christmas and I’m sure we’ve had it at least twice a month, maybe more, ever since. The smell of garlic and onions frying in rendered bacon fat is a thing of beauty, and despite being fried in bacon fat the sheer volume of low-calorie cabbage turns this dish into a reasonably nutritious, low-calorie AND flavourful option. This is the dish that I want to cook up for Sobeys #PotluckChallenge for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day!

(Remember I mentioned it last week? The Better Food for All site is now live – you can now register your potluck event and to share tips and tools to host the perfect potluck event. And through it all, Sobeys will be donating to the Children’s Aid Foundation in support of cooking workshops for kids across Canada. And don’t forget to visit the Food Revolution Day site, too. Food Revolution Day is coming up two weeks from this Friday on May 16!)

So, back to the recipe – I streamlined and tweaked it a bit from the link above. Here’s how it rolls in my kitchen. Chop up three, or six, or however many you have available, strips of bacon and set them up to cook in a really big pot over medium heat. While the bacon is cooking and rendering, spend an inordinate of time cursing and trying to peel several cloves of garlic (seriously, there must be a trick to peeling garlic that I am missing. Help?) and decide that three cloves is better than the six you were aiming for, and chop that up with half an onion or so. When the bacon is mostly crispy, about 10 minutes or so, pour most of the fat into a jar without pouring it all over the outside of said jar (I am still perfecting this part) but don’t be too fussy about getting it all out. Put the pot with the bacon and a little bit of the fat back on the burner and dump in the garlic and onions. Give it all a good stir and wait for the magic.

While you are waiting for the alchemy, cut up the cabbage and swear that one day you will replace the ridiculous child’s toys that are your kitchen knives. I cut mine into strips that are small enough that they aren’t coleslaw candidates but not so large I can’t stuff a lot of them into my mouth at once. Avoid the core of the cabbage – you’ll have more than enough to fill your pot, trust me! Right about now take a deep whiff of the heavenly aroma that is the garlic and onions carmelizing in the bacon fat. There is no smell better in my kitchen, ever. Once the onion becomes translucent, maybe 5 or 7 minutes, start dumping the chopped-up cabbage into the pot. I dump some in and then use tongs to mix the cabbage in with the garlic, onions and bacon, then add more cabbage and mix some more, until the pot is full or I run out of cabbage. Despite the recipe, I usually only add a smallish pinch of kosher salt and that’s all – I find the bacon plenty salty and the onions and garlic give it all the flavour it needs.

If you perchance have burned the bacon to the bottom of the pot, which never happens to me regularly, don’t worry! Put a lid on the pot when you’ve crammed in as much cabbage as it can hold and let it stew in its own juices for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring frequently with tongs or a big spoon. The juice from the cabbage will soften up the flavourful burnt bits and you can scrape them into the mix as you’re cooking. Take the lid off the pot for another 10 to 15 minutes of cooking and you’re done. It is one of my favourite side dishes (goes great with meatloaf or any BBQ meat) and it’s even better by itself for lunch the next day, cold or warmed up. Best part? The kids eat it!!!!

Since I loved that dish so much I thought I would love this easy variation on the same theme – cabbage wrapped in bacon and grilled in foil on the BBQ. But meh, it was not worth trying a second time. I did expand my cabbage repertoire to include homemade coleslaw last week, though. I’ve always liked coleslaw but hate that the storebought versions have so much sugar and other things I can’t identify. This vinegar coleslaw recipe was fairly easy and I liked the tangy-ness of it.

I’m open to suggestions, though – got a family favourite coleslaw recipe to share? I personally like mine on the oil and vinegar side of the spectrum, but I am not opposed to a creamy recipe if its a keeper. Do you cook cabbage? I’d love to hear your favourite recipe or tips!

And now for the giveaway part! Thanks to our friends at Sobeys and their Better Food for All campaign, I have a $50 Sobeys gift card to share with one lucky winner. You could buy a lot of cabbage at Sobeys for $50, I’m just sayin’! Want to win? Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favourite dish is to bring to a potluck. Or are you the one who volunteers to bring the plates and napkins?

Here’s the fine print:

  1. This is a giveaway for one $50 gift card for Sobeys.
  2. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post (not on Facebook, must appear on danigirl.ca/blog) telling me your favourite dish or item to bring to a potluck.
  3. One winner will be chosen at random from all comments posted.
  4. Everyone who “likes” Postcards from the Mothership on Facebook will get a bonus entry. (This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.) If you already like Postcards from the Mothership on FB, just say so in your comment.
  5. This giveaway is open only to residents of Canada, excluding residents of Quebec. (sorry!)
  6. This giveaway will run until 11:59 pm EDT on Friday May 9, 2014.
  7. If you win, you must be willing to provide your full name and address to me so I can mail you the gift card.

Thanks to Sobeys for sponsoring this one and good luck to everyone who enters. :)

Disclosure: The author has received consideration from Sobeys or Sobeys’ media partners in exchange for this content. Sobeys has not reviewed these claims and is not responsible for the content.


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Have you heard about Kidsfest Ottawa?

What’s Kidsfest?

At Kidsfest Ottawa families will enjoy quality, family-fun entertainment including stage shows, interactive animal exhibits and opportunities to meet popular children’s characters, explore over 70 exhibitor booths providing a unique platform for parents to purchase products and services for their families, and have access to fun and valuable information and resources.

Some of the events and activities to expect:

 the Kratt Brothers will be performing a 1/2 hour live show Amazon Adventure Event on Saturday followed by an autograph signing session

 Mike the Knight will delight crowds with two performances on Sunday with his motto “Be a Knight, Do it Right”

 “Inspiration Stage” will expand your imagination with songs and music

 Junkyard Symphony will perform on the Main Stage both days and later teach children how to play instruments using recycled materials on the Inspiration Stage

 Ray’s Reptiles will showcase its new performance of ‘Under the Canopy – Animals of the Rainforest’

 Funatorium Emporium will be a new partner with its Gyro Gym, Magnetic Wall, Lego Build & Plasma Cars

Kratt brothers!! *swoon* I have such a mom-crush on them! And there’s a special place in my heart for Ray’s Reptiles, too. We do love our critters around here! The boys are super-excited about attending this one – doesn’t it sound like kid heaven? Kidsfest runs Saturday and Sunday April 5-6 at the EY Centre. For details on tickets and the schedule of events, visit the Kidsfest website.

But you, my bloggy peeps, can win one of two family passes that I have to give away! I have TWO family passes, each comprising two adult and two child admissions to Kidsfest Ottawa on either April 5 or April 6, 2014. If you would like to enter the giveaway to win one of the two family passes, simply leave a comment on this blog post telling me about a family-friendly activity you enjoy in Ottawa.

Here’s the fine print:

  1. This is a giveaway for one of two sets of family passes to Kidsfest Ottawa on April 5 or 6, 2014.
  2. A family pass comprises two adult and two child admissions to Kidsfest.
  3. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post telling me about a family-friendly Ottawa activity that you enjoy.
  4. Two winners will be chosen at random from all comments posted. Each winner will win one family pass [2 adult and 2 child admissions] to Kidsfest, good for either April 5 or April 6.
  5. Everyone who “likes” Postcards from the Mothership on Facebook will get a bonus entry. (This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.) If you already like Postcards from the Mothership on FB, just say so in your comment.
  6. This giveaway is open only to residents of Canada, excluding residents of Quebec. (sorry!)
  7. This giveaway will run until 11:59 pm EDT on Friday March 21, 2014.
  8. If you win, you must be willing to provide your full name and contact information to me to share with Kidsfest Ottawa. Your pass will be available at the EY Centre’s “Will Call” desk during Kidsfest.
  9. Please note that the family passes do not include fees for parking at the EY Centre.

Sounds like fun, right? Good luck!

Disclosure: In addition to offering two family passes for this giveaway, Kidsfest also offered us a family pass in exchange for this promotion. Now to figure out which kid has to sit in the parking lot since the pass only covers four admissions, and I don’t think I will be able to convince Beloved to sit this one out, either! ;)

Edited to add: Thank you all for entering. Two winners have been selected and contacted via e-mail and I will share the details once they confirm their availability. However, here’s a good deal for everyone else from Capital Parent: Use promo code ‘CPSOCIAL2014′ and get $3 OFF adult admission when you buy your tickets online!


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I like it when pitches for sponsored posts align with the ideas rattling around in my head. This is another one of those instances.

Canadian Olympian and mom Silken Laumann worked with Multi-Grain Cheerios on the World Without Dieting campaign. This is the basis of the campaign:

We believe that nutrition is healthier than deprivation and that dieting is harmful to us and to our children. So let’s embrace a healthy, balanced lifestyle, and empower the next generation to do the same by removing the word dieting from our lives and replacing it with words like nourished, strong, and fulfilled.

In this video, Silken tells her young daughter why she thinks “dieting” is a hurtful word.

I like this message. To me, “diet” implies something to which you subject yourself, something you endure, something short term and unpleasant. Although I never framed it in those terms, I do see how dieting can be a hurtful word.

You might remember back a few years ago I lost nearly 30 lbs, and I felt terrific. Since then, my weight has crept back up – doesn’t it always? It’s not as high as it was after I had Lucas, but it is about 10 lbs heavier than I want to be. I’ve been hesitant to go back on the “diet” I was on because it was restrictive and involved a lot of planning and hard work and denying myself things I really like to eat. Instead, I’m trying to bump up my activity level and be much more moderate with things that are yummy but perhaps not quite the best nutritional choice. (Hello, cheddar jalapeno cheesies, I am talking to you!)

Even more of a challenge is watching the eating habits of one of the boys. His metabolism seems to be a little slower and he is disinclined to physical activity, so his weight is starting to creep up. It may well be one of those growth phase things, where he is filling out and about to shoot up in height, but I am still trying to take this opportunity to teach all three of the boys about good nutritional choices without actually restricting what they are eating. All that to say, I’ve been making the same choices that Silken outlines in her video without being consciously aware of it. I’m trying to teach them the best possible every-day eating habits so dieting will never even cross their minds.

What do you think about the whole idea of doing away with the word “diet”? Do we empower ourselves when we take away the power of the word? Does taking away the word take away the problem?

Edited to add: Hmm, I’m having trouble with the embedded video player, are you? You can see the video and take the “never say diet” oath here.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Multi-Grain Cheerios. However, as always, the opinions in this blog are my own.


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Sigh. After a lovely three-year run, this will be my last post on as a Fisher-Price Ambassador. It’s been fun, eh?

Speaking of fun, for my last post I’d like to tell you about four iconic toys that Fisher-Price has re-invented this holiday season. Everything old is new again!

Take the Chatter Phone Talking Game, for instance. I don’t know anyone who didn’t have the iconic 1970s version of the Chatter Phone with the extra-long cord – can anyone say choking hazzard? Now they’ve updated it as an interactive game with fun sounds, phrases and prompts that plays four different games and helps your child learn about animals and animal sounds, numbers and counting. (In all truth, I kind of prefer the original Chatter Phone, but props to FP for keeping up with the times. I’m kind of an old-school forget-to-put-the-batteries-in-the-noisy-toys kind of girl, but I’m sure kids will love this!)

And speaking of my childhood, while we did have a Chatter Phone, I always coveted a See ‘n Say. Funny what you remember, isn’t it? We received samples of these toys (that have now been donated to Toy Mountain, thank you Fisher-Price!) and even in the box Lucas loved playing with this one.

I was thinking about Simon as a toddler when I saw the Lil Snoopy Tippin’ Treats game. I think he would have loved this toy much more than the Mr Bucket he begged for and then was terrified of many years ago. Same idea, but less terrifying to a toddler, I think: collect the bones and chase the motorized Lil Snoopy around the room to get them into his bowl before he tips over. This has three games in one, and helps develop hand-eye coordination while getting kids up and moving.

And last but not least, I wish we had this toy a few years ago. Lucas loves loves LOVES jigsaw puzzles, but he’s such a little savant with them and has been doing them so long that I think this one might be a little too easy for him. So much more than a jigsaw puzzle, the I-Jig Interactive Electronic Puzzle System has several modes of play. First you put the puzzle together, but then in mode 2 you play an electronic game of seek and find. Mode 3 is more advanced with games to play that are unique to each puzzle. And don’t worry about kids getting bored with this one – you can get two additional puzzle refills to keep them challenged. See what I mean about 21st century spins on old favourites?

And since this is my last post as a Fisher-Price Ambassador, I’d like to steal a few pixels here at the end to say a few thanks yous. Thanks, of course, to the amazing team at Fisher-Price. I am as proud to work with you today as I was the day I signed on to the program. It’s been a wild ride with you and I could never say thank you enough for all your generousity through the years. Thanks, as well, to Mom Central Canada, and especially to Kathryn, Pam, Cora and Sarah. You guys are terrific. And finally, thanks to you, dear readers. I know that it’s your visits and your views that make sponsorships like the Fisher-Price one possible.

Disclosure: I receive special perks as a part of my affiliation with the Fisher-Price Play Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada. The opinions in this blog are my own.


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Ho-ho-hot holiday toys from Fisher-Price!

4 December 2013 Fisher-Price Play Ambassador

It’s the first week of December, do you have your Christmas shopping done yet? When did I become the kind of person who is done the bulk of her shopping by the first of December? I am all about the last minute! I’ve noticed in the last few years, though, that if I don’t have [...]

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Imaginext makes multimedia fun by incorporating toys, apps and webisodes

26 November 2013 Fisher-Price Play Ambassador

This month, Lucas received a wonderful treat from our friends at Fisher-Price: the Imaginext Rescue City Centre play set. What little boy doesn’t love playing firefighter and police officer? Come to think of it, I know a few little girls who would love that adventure, too! Like its cousin the Eagle Talon Castle (one of [...]

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New: Ed Venture webisodes from Fisher-Price’s Imaginext

1 November 2013 Fisher-Price Play Ambassador

I may have raved a few (ahem) times about Fisher-Price’s Imaginext toy line. From the Batcave to the Eagle Talon Castle to the Imaginext Dinosaurs, we love them all. (Did you know that the dino on the left is called an apatosaurus? When I was a kid they were called brontosauruses, but apparently that was [...]

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Now YOU get to give away the hottest Fisher-Price infant toy of 2014!

28 October 2013 Fisher-Price Play Ambassador

One of the hottest new toys from Fisher-Price is the adorable Laugh and Learn Crawl Around Car. I heard it was so popular that they had wanted to share one with each of the Fisher Price Ambassadors but they kept running out before they could even send one to us! Have you seen it? This [...]

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