Giveaway and Review: Alcatel One Touch Idol S2 Smartphone and Tablet

Until a few short months ago, I still used a phone that looked pretty much like this. Well, not exactly like that, because it was portable.  But it did have a screen that was about 1.5 inches square, with no data capability, and you had to press a key three times to get the right letter of the alphabet when texting. Which meant that it was never used for texting. It was basically like an emergency phone line. Or a walkie-talkie. Or maybe a bottle containing a SOS note.

For a long time, this didn’t bother me.  Who wants to be available 24/7?  I’ve given up instantaneous everything almost, even the Ramen noodles which I love. Convenience isn’t everything; slow and plodding could be a decent personal motto.

But then things started happening. My husband was gifted two iPads from work, and I got the little one. And you know, after I got used to it, the thing was actually pretty handy. It was nice not to have to rely on the big now-clunky desktop all the time.  And those smartphones… people did look kind of smart using them.  I started to notice how agile Beth-Anne and Nathalie were with their phones and, well, as someone on social media, I finally began wondering whether I ought to join the game. Sure it looked efficient and all that, but it also looked kind of fun.

And then, as I contemplated relaxing my grip on the Ghost of Telephones Past, I got the most perfect gift over the holidays and in time for 2015: my very first smartphone. The crew at Alcatel One Touch generously gave an Idol 2S as well as a Pop 8 tablet and just like that, they swept me into the new millenium.

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Like a proper nerd, I read the manual (a couple of times). The truth is I had never used a smartphone before and had no earthly idea how they worked. I was nervous, but didn’t need to be – the phone is easy peasy to use, and it was a cinch to start figuring out what all the fuss is about. Turns out these gadgets are really useful!

Texting, unsurprisingly, is a revelation.  Tapping a big key just once is a lot faster than punching a little one three times. But not just that – the Idol S2‘s predictive keyboard is fast and accurate. In the spirit of research, I borrowed my sister’s smartphone to compare, and was that new phone’s texting capabilities ever clunky (how does she manage with something so slow)!  I double-checked my impression with my 14 year old nephew, who categorically strikes me as the best possible judge of my phone. He played around with it for a few minutes and handed it back: It’s a good phone. It’s fast.” Gold seal of approval, people.

There’s a lot of other things to like about the phone.  It’s very slim and good-looking, for starters. It’s gentle on the eyes, with its clear wide screen (5″ HD 720 display), which is lovely when using the 8 megapixel camera.  As a blogger and a mom, this is a boon.  I also like that the battery lasts a good while.  I’m not glued to my phone, but heavier users will be glad to know that charging the Idol S2 is fast.  I love the camcorder, and that the phone can turn into a little flashlight.  It’s a marvel!

The Pop 8 tablet is a great little toy too.  Like the Idol S2. the Pop 8 is slim and sleek, and handles easily.  I was a bit less of an inexperienced user when it came to tablets, and the Pop 8 is intuitive and simple to use. It’s perfect for check-ins with the online world and handing to the kids for an educational app or 5.  Both the phone and the tablet clock in as fast, effective devices at affordable price points.

I can say without hesitation that my presents from Alcatel One Touch are among the most impactful items to enter my realm.  And as a former Techno-Resister, you’ll know I speaketh the truth when I say I really love my phone!!

The amazing thing is that you can enjoy similar presents too:  Alcatel One Touch is generously offering both the Idol S2 smartphone and a Pop 7 tablet to one lucky reader!  The contest will stay open until Sunday at midnight EST, and is open to Canadian readers (except Quebec).  Enter to win by liking our Facebook page, following us on Twitter or Instagram or simply leave a comment. It’s a great giveaway – best of luck to you!

Finally Get Healthy Beautiful Skin With Consonant + Giveaway!

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“What goes on your body goes in your body” is Consonant Skincare’s motto and never have words from a company permeated my psyche quite like these.

I first met Bill, CEO and creator of Consonant Skincare, this past summer at a holiday preview party. It might be unoriginal to say that it was his skin that I first noticed, but it’s true. His skin glows! His skin does what every clichéd beauty infomercial promises to do and I, someone who is always chasing after a perfect complexion, had to introduce myself.

Bill Baker didn’t always have aspirations to be Canada’s next skincare trailblazer, but we have a handicrafting co-worker to thank for his passionate foray into the beauty industry, arguably one of the most challenging fields to eke out a foothold.

For years Bill tried to remedy his skin issues with pricey products that promised relief only to find that said products exacerbated his skin issues and left him in search of new, pricey products. Bill continued to run on this hamster wheel until one day when he reached for a bar of his luxe soap and found his supply gone with the exception of a single bar of organic soap made by a co-worker, bought by Bill to be courteous. Little did he know that transaction would improve his skin and change the trajectory of his life.  8003776491_48b12c6e0b_z

Marrying his newfound interest in organic skincare with his years of experience in advertising, Bill knew that for him to make it in the competitive beauty market his product had to standout.

“It can’t just be natural and organic. It has to work.” Bill didn’t want to put out another ho-hum moisturizer that promised the world but became bathroom counter clutter within a few months.

First off, Bill educated himself about skincare and was appalled at what passes for acceptable beauty standards in our country. Furthermore, he was disheartened that some big-name, flashy brands were not being completely transparent about their company’s practices and organic/natural/healthy claims. Bill knew that he needed to do whatever he could to change the marketplace, through education and affordable, high-quality products that are natural and deliver results.

Bill’s commitment to finding just the right formulation resulted in success.

6289156202_c883f0b1f7_oThe Natural Foaming Face Wash ($9-$18) and Ultra Moisturizing Organic Face Cream ($54) have usurped my previous go-to brand, free from parabens, phthalates, sulphates and more*. The Perfect Sunscreen ($45) really is just that. I have searched for years for a natural sunscreen that blends well without leaving a chalky residue. I have tried department store brands, drug store brands, and independents and nothing comes close to this. But perhaps my favourite product, that has a cult-like following, is the Grand Prize Winner of the 2012 Canadian Beauty Innovation Awards, HydrExtreme® ($72). It provides hydration and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles – Amen!

Bill generously gave me some samples of Consonant products but I returned with a re-fill list and I crossed several names off my holiday gift list by purchasing their skin care kits including one for my mother and expectant sister-in-law.

Consonant recently launched their Healthy Baby line touting 100% natural and free from all harsh, irritating and toxic ingredients. In an effort to be as gentle as possible the products contain no artificial scent or essentials oils.

Consonant is the real deal and I want you know what I am raving about. Bill and his team have generously donated Healthy Baby Hair and Body Wash and Healthy Baby Body Lotion, a combine value of $45 to giveaway to a lucky reader. The contest opens today and ends Friday at 6 pm. Sorry friends, but only Canadian readers for this one.

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Enter to win by liking our Facebook page, following us on Twitter or Instagram and if you already do, simply leave a comment. A random winner will be contacted Saturday to arrange delivery.

To find out where you can buy Canadian-made Consonant products or to order on-line visit their website by clicking here. *Parabens, phthalates, sulphates, petroleum,/PEG, BHT, artificial colours, TEA, DEA, propylene glycol and diazolidinyl UREA. For more information visit: www.icareaboutcosmetics.com

To be clear:  I was not paid to review Consonant Skincare.  Bill gave me some samples to try, I enjoy them and want to spread the word.  All of the opinions expressed are my own.  

Giveaway: Mike the Knight Book and DVD

Mike the Knight is on tour through Canada, and to celebrate, we have a Mike the Knight book and dvd to give away.  If you have a little Mike the Knight fan, please leave a comment on this post.  Competition ends Friday, December 19th at midnight.

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And if you’d like to see Mike the Knight in person, he begins his Canadian tour on January 25 and is coming to the Sony Centre in Toronto on February 28.   Mike the Knight in the Great Scavenger Hunt will bring a thrilling mix of adventure, comedy, music, song, puppets, dance – plus a little bit of magic – to Canadian cities beginning January 25. Based on the popular CG-animated series from HIT Entertainment and Nelvana, Mike the Knight in the Great Scavenger Hunt takes audiences on an interactive and eye-opening adventure for the whole family complete with an enchanting world of medieval castles, plucky trolls and flying dragons.

The live show is based on the animated series. In each episode of the animated series, preschoolers follow Mike the Knight on a mission to protect his kingdom and become a fully- fledged knight. Mike discovers the power of responsibility and doing tasks and activities the right way. Along the way, he reminds viewers of his motto: “Be a knight, do it right!”  The live show encourages independence, self- confidence and problem solving while inspiring kids to engage imaginations with dress-up and pretend play.

Tickets will go on sale on November 7 and will be available through local box offices or get tickets here.

 

 

Giveaway: Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

 

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We have five sets of family passes to give away for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair!  (Each set has passes for four people.)

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is the world’s largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show.  This year, The 92nd Royal Agricultural Winter Fair runs November 7-16, 2014 in the Direct Energy Centre and Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto.

All you need to do is leave a comment saying you’d like to go and we will select the winners on Thursday, November 6th.  (That’s tomorrow!  Enter now!)

 

 

 

Snackbox

UPDATE: THE COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED.  FIONA WAS THE WINNER!

One of the perks of blogging is that companies send us things to sample and to review, and while we decline many most of these offers, some of them are a lot of fun.

Snackbox is just such an offer.

Snackbox is a monthly subscription of healthy, natural snacks.  Each month the Vancouver-based company ships 10 – 12 items to its members across Canada through Canada Post.   Subscriptions start at $24 a month.  All of the snacks are curated by their in-house holistic nutritionist, and the package comes with a description of the contents and where to buy more if you enjoy them.

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I received a sample box last month, and it was fun even before I opened it.  The presentation of the Snackbox is beautiful, and it was a bit of an event just to receive the box and to open it with the kids.   Inside, there was a wide variety of snacks, including dried pears, energy bars, dark chocolate and quinoa crackers.  What I particularly loved was the fact that many of the products were totally new to me, and it was an adventure to sample the various snacks.

Now, because we have so many allergies in our house, the contents were not a perfect fit for our family, but the good news is that the company is working on a flexible plan for members to customize the boxes.

Snackbox is offering 4Mothers1blog readers a chance to win a one-month subscription.  If you’d like a chance to win a sample Snackbox, please leave us a comment on this post saying you’d like to enter, and we will draw for a winner.  The giveaway will be for one Snackbox, and it is only open to Canadian residents.  We are unable to ship to the US at this time.  And, if you would like to subscribe to Snackbox, 4Mothers readers will get a $15 discount until Feb. 28th, 2014.  Just enter the coupon code 4MOTHERS when you sign up.

From Pea to Pumpkin: A Pregnancy Journal Giveaway

download4Mothers recently received a pregnancy journal for review, and it’s so lovely that it’s our pleasure to tell you about it and to offer one reader a giveaway copy.  It’s called From Pea to Pumpkinand it’s beautiful.  Wistful watercolours of fruits and vegetables, appropriately sized for each of the 40 weeks of pregnancy, accompany gentle prompts for the expectant mother to note her thoughts and feelings during this unique time.

Each page starts with a simple sentence to be answered with multiple choices, followed by a few more fill in the blanks and sentences for the week.  If you are a natural at pregnancy, reflection, and scrapbooking, this journal may be a little rudimentary for you.  For the rest of us, though, it strikes me as a gentle call to record a distinctive time in an easy and accessible format.  And as all mothers know, a journal in the hand is better than two in the bush.

Something I like about From Pea to Pumpkin is space for feelings about pregnancy that aren’t as sweet as the watercolours (the artist says she learned to draw at 40!).  In week 9, the mom-to-be is asked what her moods of late resemble, and one of the choices is “those of a person I’d rather not know”.  If, let’s say, pregnancy didn’t come so naturally to a mother, it’s nice to know that one’s state of mind is common enough to make the top five answers, and that you can still participate in some variety of mother club.  Okay, let’s talk about me.  The truth is that I wish I’d had something like this journal at the beginning and actually used it because, as cranky as I was during my first pregnancy, now I’d love to revisit that period with more clarity than my memory affords.

We assume that most of our readers at 4Mothers already have children, but know that many of you are still in the game for more.  Wouldn’t you like a journal like this?  We also know that some of you are expecting yourselves, and well, almost everybody knows someone who is pregnant somewhere.  If you fall into any of these categories, just leave a comment to enter our giveaway for this pregnancy journal!  It would make a lovely gift, for yourself or for someone else who is special, and we are very pleased to offer it to you.

As always, there are no strings attached to this giveaway.   As we’ve mentioned about our giveaways before, there is no skill-testing question, you will not be charged for shipping, and you will not be peppered with spam.  It’s a simple, straightforward affair.  Just leave a comment before Sunday at 10 pm EST, then we’ll randomly pick and announce a winner on Monday morning, and that reader will get a copy of From Pea to Pumpkin in the mail shortly after that.  (Note that this giveaway is only open to readers in Canada and the United States.)

Please enter!  And good luck for the giveaway!  (Oh yes, and also best wishes for the little one coming your way…)

 

The winner of the giveaway for From Pea to Pumpkin:  A Pregnancy Journal is Carrie:

I would love to have this for round two! =) I really wish I had recorded my first journey of pregnancy…

Congratulations Carrie!  And thank you to everyone who played along with us!

My Pretty Playhouse Giveaway!

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Recently 4Mothers was sent a cardboard playhouse called My Pretty Playhouse, by Cascades, and I was the lucky one who got to try it out at my house.

Part of Cascade’s ecological boutique, the playhouse is made from 100% recycled paper, and was quite easy to set up.  It’s also quite sturdy, and didn’t get knocked over easily.  It also presents various play possibilities besides using it as a house:  as soon as my boys saw it, they grabbed their paints and for two days, we painted away, making the house our own.

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My boys found new ways to play with it when friends came over, and actually used it as a house.  The house is recommended for 3 years and up, but our 15 month old baby toodled in there and explored on his own terms quite comfortably.

It’s possible, of course, to create your own cardboard playhouse out of a big box, and we did do that a year or two ago.  But we rarely buy a new refrigerator or furnace, so My Pretty Playhouse is a delightful shortcut to some good old-fashioned fun with paper.  Plus, who would make sweet attic windows from a refrigerator box?

Also, sturdy as it is, being made of recycled paper also means the playhouse won’t last forever – ours didn’t survive a particularly rambunctious playdate – but for us, this is part of the charm of the cardboard playhouse.  Cascades’ lovely playhouse is big, and our house is small, so the fact that it wasn’t a permanent fixture worked well for us.

The bottom line?  The playhouse is a lot of fun, easy to put up, and comes down in its own time for the recycling bin:  a great toy.  And for every playhouse sold, Cascades donates $2 to Habitat for Humanity, thus helping to make real houses where they are needed too.  Other fun items, like cardboard Christmas trees and furniture, can be found in their ecological boutique.

It’s my pleasure to announce that Cascades is generously offering one My Pretty Playhouse to a 4Mothers reader!  Simply leave us a comment, and you will automatically be part of the pool from which we’ll randomly pick a winner and announce on Monday morning.  Cascades says that they can ship within 5 days, so with any luck, you could have this sweet toy over the holidays.  Please note this giveaway is available to readers in Canada.

Dear Readers, there are no strings to this giveaway.  There is no skill-testing question, you will not be charged for shipping, you will not be peppered with spam, you don’t have to sign up for anything, it is not a hoax.  You don’t have to do anything except leave your name and sit patiently while a playhouse makes its way to your door.  This is a gift from Cascades and a thank you from 4Mothers to you, because we love our readers.  Please enter!

ps.  We’ll keep the giveaway open until Sunday, December 16 at 10 pm EST.  Good luck!

 

Congratulations to Anna, our giveaway winner, who wrote:

Sounds wonderful! Crossing our fingers up here in Thunder Bay!!

And thank you to everyone who played along with us!

Win a Prize for Telling Us: What Do You Wish You Knew?

Were you surprised by some of the changes in your body when you were expecting?  Did you know what to expect when you were expecting?  Did you even have time to read that book?

That famous (or maybe you’d say infamous) book, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, has been turned into a blockbuster movie coming to theatres May 18, starring Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Matthew Morison, Dennis Quaid and Chris Rock.

To celebrate all you mothers, expecting or not, we’re giving away a Pregnancy Survival Kit, provided by the Spoke Agency.  This box is full of goodies sure to satisfy all your cravings, nourish your skin and put a little spice back in the bedroom.

To win, leave a comment sharing your ultimate pregnancy tip for the expectant mother – the one thing that you wish you knew to expect when you were expecting.

Make sure that you leave your comment before 11:59 pm on Sunday, May 6.  The 4mothers will announce the winner on Monday, May 7.

As much as we love our friends living outside Canada, this contest is open to those residing in Canada only. Residents of Quebec are excluded as well (sorry.)