Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Gift Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Holiday Gift Giveaway Hop! It's my blog's first hop and hopefully it will be successful :) I've done a similar hop before and I know you won't have time to read anything. Thus I am making it very easy for you to enter into my giveaway.

Giveaway Prize: 
One winner will receive an Amazon.com $25 Gift Certificate
(ANYONE can enter as long as Amazon ships to your country) 

How to enter: 
- Leave your e-mail address in every comment or make it visible in Blogger
- Complete the mandatory entry and leave a separate comment for each bonus entry

- follow my blog publicly via Google Friend Connect

EXTRA entries
- subscribe via RSS reader
- follow My Secret Home on Twitter (leave your twitter name) 
- like My Secret Home on Facebook (leave first name and initial) 
- add me as a friend on Facebook (leave first name and initial)

This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE and will end on December 5, 2010 at 11:59 ESTThe winner will be determined randomly via random.org. The winner will have 48 hours to respond back or another winner will be chosen.

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with Amazon in any way. I am sponsoring this giveaway myself.

Winner - Lovable Labels

The winner of the Lovable Labels is - #76 Kristen
(Winner has been contacted and has 48 hours to reply) 

Monday, November 29, 2010

US/Canada Cross Border Shopping

Living in Vancouver, it's fairly easy to get across the American border. Considering that there are always 2 hour line ups at the border, I can only guess that it's a pretty popular thing to do. God bless Nexus! (paid fast lane)

What is it that makes cross border shopping so popular in Vancouver? There is 1 reason and it's a darn good one. PRICES.
We go to Bellingham, WA just about every weekend to stock up on grocery and everything else imaginable. I am so used to buying everything there, that I barely buy anything locally. To me, Vancouver's prices are a complete spit in the face!
I've switched to Organic foods a while back and buying Organic in Vancouver will empty out your whole wallet in about one shopping trip. As great as Whole Foods Market is, spending $100 on a small bag of grocery isn't anywhere near a good deal. At Superstore (cheapest Canadian supermarket ) a  full cart of no name (an even cheaper variety of their store brand) products costs about $200. For the same price I can get a full cart of organic and brand name products in the States including milk, eggs, beef, chicken, you name it.

Here are some random price comparisons:
Gallon of organic milk - $4.99 US / $7.99 CAN
Large organic eggs - $3.69 US / $5.99 CAN
Cheese 1lb - $3.99 US / $5.99 CAN 
Ferrero Rocher chocolates - $4 US / $9.99 CAN
Gift wrapping paper 90 sq.ft. - $2.50 US / $9.99 CAN
Safety 1st baby potty - $15 US / $40 CAN
Baby corduroy pants - $3.50 US / $12 CAN
Full gas tank $40 US / $60 CAN

WA tax = 8.5% / BC tax = 12%

Wouldn't you wanna go too? It absolutely hurts me that I can't shop here in Canada, because I do love supporting local businesses. But until local stores smarten up and start lowering their prices, I'm afraid they won't have me as a regular customer. 

For fellow Vancouver readers, here is a great article about what to do in Bellingham.

I love you Bellingham, Washington.

Win a Nescafé Dolce Gusto @ Everything Up Close

I love my Keurig machine, but I'm dying to try one of these "can-do-it-all" coffee makers! Here is a great blog giveaway with pretty low entries for such a great prize!

@ Everything Up Close & Nescafe
WIN: Nescafé Dolce Gusto Machine (ARV $180)
Open to Canada / Ends December 15, 2010

Enter HERE

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with this giveaway in any way. However, I do get extra entries into the draw for promoting this contest.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Applied Labels Review

There are a variety of permanent labels available on the Internet. Each company offers something innovative and exclusive. How is this company different? They stick to "simple" and it's working great for them.

When I received a label pack from Applied Labels, I was very confused. The package consisted of two sheets of mini labels with my little guy's name, a sheet of white labels and a sheet of clear labels. I had to read the brochure to find out what those are for. Turns out that the clear ones are called "Shoe Shields". They are to be applied on top of the regular labels when applying them to shoes thus preventing any damage to the labels. The other white empty labels are "Clothing Backers". The labels themselves are bigger than clothing tags and to cover the excess stickiness, you have to stick another label to the back of the original label. 

I think the process for labeling clothing tags with Applied Labels is a bit too complicated. You have to align two labels and seal them perfectly and then you are left with excess label parts on the clothing tag, which are possibly going to scratch the neck area. However, Applied Labels do offer special "Tag-A-Long" clothing labels that fit more comfortably on the clothing tag.

I applied a label to Michael's sippy cup to see how it would hold up. Even though Applied Labels are very simple looking, I think the cup looks cute! I honestly can't wait to ship my baby off to Day care :D I'll be labeling everything he owns! Shoes, bottles, dishes, stationery, clothes, toys, etc.

Interesting Applied Labels Facts
- Applied Labels are based in Collierville, TN
- These labels are printed in black because testing has shown that black ink on white labels provides the highest level of durability and the sharpest image.
- Applied Labels are dishwasher safe & laundry safe.
- They are Lead, BPA & DEHP Free and made in the USA.
- Labels are customizable with different fonts, icons and colored Baby Tape.
- Applied Labels are sized 1.5"x0.5"
- Classic Labels start at $14.95 for 30 and Shoe Shilelds start at $1.95 for 12 with Clothing Backers at $2.50 for 30.
- If you are buying a Label Pack - shipping is FREE! 

Connect with Applied Labels on Twitter and Facebook

Disclosure: I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Tomoson Product review & giveaway Disclosure.

Holiday Gift Guide Update

I apologize that I've been kinda quiet here lately. I didn't realize how much work review/giveaway kind of blogging would be! I used to enter a lot of giveaways and it was very time consuming, but there's no actual work-process involved. I have a new found great appreciation for all the bloggers out there. 
I absolutely love what I'm doing right now with this blog. I've said before that I love trying products and now I'm blessed to have a chance to do so. I'm very slow at writing reviews. I probably take a couple hours for each one. I like to research the company, share what I've learned and share my opinion. That's why I haven't had much time to write regular posts as I'm getting ready to host the 2010 Gift Guide! I'm very proud of what I've done and hopefully you'll appreciate it and enter the giveaways as they get posted :) 
I also hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Holiday Gift Guide starts December 1st!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Friday Blog Hops & Ongoing Giveaway Linky 11/26

Welcome to my blog! Please leave a comment here and I will follow you back :)

Check out my current giveaways.
Lovable Labels (11/29 US&CAN) 

Enter your giveaways in the linky below (please specify who they're open to - US/CAN/WW)

Promote your giveaways by entering them in the linky below. This linky is ONGOING, meaning that you only have to enter once. I will delete all expired links.

- specify PRIZE
- specify END DATE
- specify who the giveaway is open to i.e. US (United States), CAN (Canada) or WW (Worldwide)
- link to the actual gveaway post

Example - Amazon $15GC (11/11 US/CAN) 
(If you don't specify who the giveaway is open to, end date or don't directly link to the giveaway post, your entry will be deleted.) 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Baggu Review

I ditched plastic bags about two years ago and started using reusable ones. I hate regular plastic bags, they are not sturdy, they are small and they don't break down after you toss them out. I wish Vancouver would follow some of the cities who have done it already and ban plastic bags for good! I also hate grocery stores' reusable bags. They are ugly and they shed on the products you put in them (certain black ones I've had). I also always felt like I was a walking advertisement for these stores and companies which I didn't even support. Thankfully, now there are many other choices for reusable bags!

I wanted a reusable bag I could carry with me everywhere. A bag that was stylish, yet durable and light. Baggu sells a variety of reusable bags and I received an opportunity to review one. I couldn't decide between my usual colors grey and khaki so I decided to go for a completely opposite color. I chose RED! 

Baggu comes in a pouch of the same color for easy storing of the bag. Of course you could just throw it into your purse, but the bag pouch will keep your purse more organized. If you are a neat freak like me, you will love this pouch option. I love that I chose a red Baggu - the color is bright and looks good with anything! I usually wear a grey coat and brown boots (yes, I love boring colors!) and this bag makes my appearance way more interesting :) Another thing I love about the bag is that it has no logos on it but just a small tag that says "Baggu". This bag has long shoulder straps which many of my old bags lacked. I always walk to the store with a stroller and don't have free hands to carry extra bags. For me, Baggu is large enough to fit my groceries (it can carry up to 50lbs). 

While browsing Baggu website, I discovered that they sell pouches with zippers in many different sizes. I've been looking for something like this for a long time now! They would be great to carry a small camera, mp3 player, coupons/store cards, etc. I know what I want for Christmas now :)  

If you can't decide which reusable bags to get, I would absolutely recommend Baggu! They are stylish, durable and eco-friendly.

Interesting Baggu Facts
- Using one Baggu for one year replaces 300 to 700 disposable bags.
- Baggu bags are ethically made in China from 100% ripstop nylon - a super durable long lasting fabric and the pouch is made from scrap fabric.
- To clean - machine wash cold and line dry.
- Baggu company offers a recycling service - send back your expired Baggu and you will get a $1 credit towards a new one!
- Baggu bags can be screen printed on.
- To hold on to your pouch, throw it on the bottom of the bag when you unfold your Baggu.
 - Use it for clothes shopping, a quick trip to the drug store, takeout food or trips to the flea market. Aside from shopping, Baggus are good for travel, books, the gym, gifts, gift wrap, the beach, the trail, the mountains, the city, the country.
- Regular Baggu bags retail for $8 or $6.50ea if you buy 6.
- Shipping to is $5 to US and to $12 to Canada.

Connect with Baggu on Twitter and Facebook.

Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation to write this post. I received a free product mentioned above in order to provide my honest opinion.

7 Days of Giving at EcoMom

From Tuesday, November 23 to Monday, November 29, EcoMom will randomly choose FOUR ECOMOM ORDERS per day and make them ABSOLUTELY FREE. No matter the purchase size, you could be a winner and your whole order will be free! What's more, EcoMom will duplicate every free order and donate it to Baby2Baby--a wonderful organization that helps support families in need. Everything in the store will be on sale, too, so even if your order isn't one of the free ones, you'll still be getting the best prices on our eco-friendly products for your family. 

          Details About Event: 
  • The 7 Days of Giving countdown begins November 23rd and runs through November 29th – in conjunction with our big sale. Winners will be announced daily. 
  • The donation will be made at a Los Angeles shelter in collaboration with Baby2Baby the week of November 29th. 
  • 4 orders per day will be selected at random to get a free order. 28 EcoMom shoppers will win - meaning they'll be getting paid back in full by for their entire purchase.  
  • EcoMom will take care of their bill AND match the grand total with a equal donation to a Los Angeles shelter in collaboration with Baby2Baby.  
  • Event partners are: EcomomBaby2Baby.org, Plum Organics, SmartyPants and Episencial.  
  • Baby2Baby supplies Los Angeles families in need with essential baby gear and clothing for their children 0-4 years old.  They distribute new and gently used items through a network of community-based organizations.
Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation to write this post.

*Money Saving Tip* Tuesday #5 Brand vs. Store Brand

I am a pretty picky and hard to please person. I used to be a big stuck up when it came to the famous "brand vs. store brand" debate. I thought that store brands are of a way lower quality. A couple times when I did buy store brand products, I actually felt ashamed of it. Why not spend $2+ and get a brand name product?

The truth is - most store brand products are made by the same factories which make brand name products. They are made on the same equipment and with the a lot of the same ingredients. Brand name products cost more, because companies spend a lot of money on advertisement and research. Whereas store brand products don't have to spend anything on the advertisement and research has already been done for them.

After I found out the above, I began experimenting with store brand products and was surprised when I realized that a lot of them actually tasted the same and some even better! Now I buy most of my canned vegetables, bakery and dry items in a store brand.

The only product I would never buy in a store brand are skin care items! I have yet to try store brand medication, but I have heard on medical TV shows that they are exactly the same as brand name and are worth trying.

If you are like I used to be and think that store brands are not as good - try buying something and you might get surprised! (I don't promise that everything will be as good!)

Winners - CSN Stores $35GC & The Wedding Planner DVD

The winner of CSN Stores $35GC is - #142 shala_darkstone.
(Winner has been contacted and has 48 hours to reply)

The winner of The Wedding Planner DVD is - #24 Erin Lenore.
(Winner has been contacted and has 48 hours to reply) 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lovable Labels Review & Giveaway (US&CAN 11/29)

As I mentioned before, I'm on the hunt to find great products for my son's upcoming Daycare and school. When I say great products, I mean - quality, value, eco-friendly and actually useful! It's also a plus when the company is Canadian as I love supporting local businesses (and need I say that the shipping rates are way lower!).

I had the pleasure to review Holly Jolly Gift Pack - Santa's Pick from Lovable Labels. It came in a cute red envelope which contained a booklet with pages of different labels. I love the fact that it came in a booklet as it's easier to hold on to than separate sheets of paper. The booklet included 15 blue sticker labels, 40 red slimline labels, 12 shoe labels, 24 clothing dots (in 3 sizes) and 2 mini metal tags. That's 93 different labels! You can also personalize the labels with your choice if an icon. I chose a dinosaur icon for Michael, because I found it to be the cutest.

I immediately went to test out the labels. The first ones I used were the shoe stickers. I often take my son to a baby playground where he has to take his shoes off. I'm always worried that because there are tons of baby shoes lying around, someone will take ours accidentally. Now I don't have to worry as much anymore! The labels fit size 6 shoes perfectly. These labels do peel off, but I think it's because the insoles of the shoes I applied them to were cloth-like. The next labels I tried out were the clothing dots. I love that they come in 3 different sizes to accommodate different sizes of clothing tags. Michael's hoody had a very small clothing tag and the smallest label fit it well. My favourite items from the package were the mini metal tags. I think they look very adorable! It's easy to unhook the metal chain, but not easy enough for a kid to do it. These can be attached to a diaper bag or a school backpack.

When the time comes, I'll be labeling all of Michael's stationery. I know from personal school experience that your supplies always get mixed up with other people's and then you end up having to buy another set of crayons, etc. I would absolutely recommend Lovable Labels.

Interesting Lovable Labels Facts
- It is a Canadian company based in Oakville, Ontario.
- Lovable Labels are UV resistant, microwave and dishwasher safe and are made to withstand children's environment.
- Lovable Labels are made with a "perma-grip" backing that will stick to almost any surface.
- These labels are easy to spot (especially for younger kids) because they are bright and simple looking.
- Lovable Labels offers multi-purpose labels, clothing labels, bag tags, household labels, safety products and stationery.
- The also offer a variety of combo packs such as Holiday Packs just in time for the holidays (starting at $14.99)!
- Shipping rates start at $0 (awesome rate!) for Canada and $3 for USA. 

One lucky winner will receive a Santa's Pick OR Christmas Jewels Holly Jolly Holiday Gift Pack ($24.99 value)
How to enter: 
- Leave your e-mail address in every comment or make it visible in Blogger
- Leave a separate comment for each entry

- visit Lovable Labels and let me know what your favourite labels are.

EXTRA entries
- follow my blog publicly via Google Friend Connect
- subscribe via RSS reader
- subscribe via e-mail
- add me as a friend on Facebook (leave first name and initial)
- like My Secret Home on Facebook (leave first name and initial)
- like Lovable Labels on Facebook (leave first name and initial)
- follow me on Twitter (leave your twitter name)
- follow Lovable Labels on Twitter (leave your twitter name)
- tweet (1 time per day) - Lovable Labels Holiday Gift Pack #Giveaway US&CAN Ends 11/29 http://www.mysecrethome.com/2010/11/lovable-labels-review-giveaway-us-1229.html (leave direct link)
- grab my button (tell me where I can find it)
- grab my Gift Guide button (tell me where I can find it)

This giveaway is open to residents of USA & CANADA and will end on November 29, 2010 at 11:59PM PST. The winner will be determined randomly via random.org. The winner will have 48 hours to respond back or another winner will be chosen.

Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation to write this post. I received a free product mentioned above in order to provide my honest opinion.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Friday Blog Hops & Ongoing Giveaway Linky 11/19

Welcome to my blog! Please leave a comment here and I will follow you back :)

Check out my current giveaways and enter yours in the linky below.

Promote your giveaways by entering them in the linky below. This linky is ONGOING, meaning that you only have to enter once. I will delete all expired links.

- specify PRIZE
- specify END DATE
- specify who the giveaway is open to i.e. US (United States), CAN (Canada) or WW (Worldwide)
- link to the actual gveaway post

Example - Amazon $15GC (11/11 US/CAN) 
(If you don't specify who the giveaway is open to, end date or don't directly link to the giveaway post, your entry will be deleted.) 

Costume SuperCenter Review

Every year (well, there's only been 1 year so far, but more to come!) we take our son to take professional photos with Santa. Last year we just went in regular clothes, but this year I want it to be more special and have our son dressed up for a perfect photo. There aren't any costume shops in my area and Internet shopping is definitely a great alternative to driving around and looking for a specific store.
With a kid growing up, I'll need a fresh new Halloween costume every year as well as various costumes for themed school events. Costume SuperCenter offers costumes for every occasion and of course during the Christmas season, you can choose from many Christmas costumes and Santa suits.

I chose to review a Toddler Snowman Costume which I thought would look cute on Michael. I had a bit of a struggle trying to dress him up, as he clearly didn't want to be dressed up. Sorry Michael, until you grow older and move out, mommy will have to make all the decisions for you :) I finally managed to dress him up and he looked absolutely adorable! I couldn't keep the costume on him for too long as he succeeded with taking off both the scarf and the hat, but I did manage to snap a couple pictures.
Michael is almost 18 months and the "1-2 year" size costume fit him well with some room for growth. The main costume is a one-piece with buttons at the back. It comes with a hat, scarf and a nose. I did not try to put the nose piece on an 18 month old for safety reasons.
We have a "Breakfast with Santa" event coming up and I can't wait to show off my little guy's costume to everyone.

About Costume SuperCenter
- Costume SuperCenter offers over 4,000 different costumes
- Brands include Disney, Marvel, Nickelodeon, Barbie, Star Wars, Superman, Universal and, Playboy
- You can find costumes for all holidays including Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, Easter, St. Patrick's Day, Purim, President's Day, Luau, 4th of July and Thanksgiving. 

Connect with Costume SuperCenter on Twitter and Facebook.
Shipping starts at $6.99 for USA and $11.49 for Canada
Toddler Snowman Costume retails for $29.99
For Canadian orders $30+ use Promo Code 10MAPLE at Checkout for 10% Off All Costumes
Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation to write this post. I received this product for free in order to provide my honest opinion.