Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: ZhuZhu Puppies

The wee ones were introduced to ZhuZhu Pets via the Kung Zhu line last fall. They fell in love. They each named their ZhuZhu Pet, and they and their friends played with them for hours. The Kung Zhu have moved into our basement, where the wee ones still get them out to play with, setting up the battle arena and giggling like mad once again.

Now we have a new ZhuZhu Pet to introduce to the wee ones. They are ZhuZhu Puppies! While we like dogs, we don't have a dog of our own. The wee ones have asked in the past, and my response was simply, Do you see how Grandma and Grandpa have to go home to take care of Stella whenever they go somewhere and have to leave early and not have as much fun as they'd like? Would you rather have a dog or have fun like we do? Thank goodness they were smart and chose having fun. Ahem.

The ZhuZhu Puppies are adorable, and now Little Miss can pretend she has a dog all her own. They are tiny, just a little larger than the ZhuZhu Pet hamsters, and adorable. They actually look like the different breeds - mostly "real" ones - and primarily the lap dog type. Although some are pink and very girly looking, others are more gender neutral, like the Husky and brown or grey and white puppies.

The puppies, of course, need somewhere to play, and you know they have one. There are two "play yards" where the puppies can go in and out and race around the center circle. And yes, we have discovered that the play yard does attach to the Kung Zhu track, so we've had quite the interesting set going on. Fortunately the Kung Zhu hamsters haven't tried to battle the puppies - yet. I'm sure it's coming though.

The puppies are another really cute addition to the ZhuZhu Pet family that already includes the original hamsters, ZhuZhu Princesses (fairy tale hamsters), ZhuZhu Babies (just what they sound like), and of course Kung Zhu.

They are available at all major retailers, in store and online for around $16 apiece. And fortunately, we've yet to go through a full battery, although given the frequency of play, I'm sure that will change (get it?) soon.

But really, I don't need to tell you about it. Little Miss does just fine with it. In her own words, a review from my five year old - the roving reporter.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided by BSM Media with two puppies, an outfit, and a play yard for review purposes. I was provided with no compensation. All opinions expressed are my own, as always.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Managing Family Finances

Thank you to TurboTax for sponsoring my writing about household finances. Learn more about how TurboTax can help you find every tax deduction you deserve. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

I am the financial manager in the household. I pay all the bills, and I track our spending, transfer money between accounts as needed, and determine when we can afford major purchases we're anticipating. Ironically, my husband is the one who does our taxes, but that just keeps it real, right?

Because of this, I'm aware of every penny spent and where it goes. I have a spreadsheet - and no one who knows me should be surprised by this - where I break down all of our spending into category by month versus what we'd anticipated spending. To do this, I go through each credit card statement as they come in to ensure there isn't anything on there that shouldn't be, amongst other reasons.

That works great three quarters of the year. That last quarter? That's where I realized the problem came in.

When my husband and I were newlyweds, he planned an awesome trip for us for our first anniversary. We went to Spruce Meadows in Calgary for their summer show and spent four days there - including two in a really cool VIP tent super close to the course. It was awesome.

It wasn't, however, a surprise. Remember those credit card bills I and I alone peruse? Unfortunately, that meant that I saw the airline tickets to Calgary. I saw the hotel deposit. I saw the tickets to Spruce Meadows. And I knew exactly what he was getting me for our anniversary. Weeks in advance.

How much cooler would it have been to be surprised as we headed to the airport? How much more exciting would it have been if I hadn't been on the web exploring Spruce Meadows ahead of time? And how much more authentic would my happy face have been when he handed me the card with the details on our anniversary?

It isn't the knowing that makes me sad. It isn't not having the surprise. It's the fact that my advance knowledge meant that this completely cool surprise that my husband created for me was still cool but was no longer a surprise because I'm the one who handles the finances.

I needed to find a new solution because of him - because I didn't want to do that to him. And so of course I did. I simply don't look at the details of those credit card bills in the month leading up to my birthday, Christmas, and anniversary. I still pay them - and know the totals throughout the month by managing them online - but I keep the specifics a mystery. Or at least as much of a mystery as my husband creates! There's plenty of time to enter the line items into my spreadsheet after those glorious occasions have passed.

Because our anniversaries and birthdays aren't about the presents we receive. It's about the love our family and friends show us, the caring and the joy. And I'm going to do my part to ensure that none of that part gets spoiled.

Accountants are allowed to have fun after all, right?

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided compensation by Clever Girls Collective for writing this post. All opinions expressed are my own, as always.