Roses Galore !

These beauties are from a park near my house. I have walked by them countless times and did not stop even once to say hello to them. I had a whole day in hand and my son and I spent many hours at the park. 

While he was playing, I chatted with other moms.
I felt the green grass with my hands and thought how soft they felt.
I poured sand through my fingers and smiled at the ease with which it flowed when I just let them go. It didn't feel good when I held them tight in my hands.
I ran a race with my son's friend who reminded me that my body had slowed down with age but my heart hadn't.
 I stopped to smell the roses and it reminded me of how much my mom loved roses.

So many reflections and memories, only because I stopped for a few moments.  


Can neighbors be angels? #Thanksgiving

I decided to be really picky about what I am really grateful for. Of course, there is a lot that I am thankful for. But this is from the depth of my heart as a very few things touch me deeply and become a "memoir" that I carry with me.

My son doesn't get to see his grandparents a lot as they live far away. But he wishes that they could be closer to him. God hears the little wishes of his heart.I agree with him 200%, they could be a great influence on his life.So I always pray that God would send the right people into my son's life for him to connect with  and learn from them. When I prayed in all my religious fervor, I was dreaming about pastors preaching a zealous message straight into my son's heart and that it will touch him. OR would he run away screaming "touch-me-not"! My faith was not simple. Not simple enough to let God act on my prayer.It was proud enough to tell God what to do and how to do.

Today, God showed me how he can use the simple people to touch a 5 yr old boy's heart.

A few years ago, my neighbor and my son's favorite friend moved. He was sad because they had birds and always invited him to listen and talk to the birds. It was a world apart when he was with the birds.. I waited to see who our new neighbor would be.Again I was hoping and praying for a young family with kids so my son could have some playmates. Finally, someone moved in. I couldn't figure out who it was. It was because they were too quiet to even be noticed.One day I rushed to the peephole to see them when I heard their door open. It was an elderly couple.

I stepped out and said hello to them. I learnt that all their grown-up children were living in different countries and held very good jobs but they didn't visit them much. So they were by themselves. I told them not to hesitate to knock on my door if they ever needed someone or something.They were quite old.

We became very good neighbors as they fell in love with my little son. Each time they would see him they would give him fruits or cookies or candies. They gave him $20 for his 4th birthday and told me to buy toys for him on their behalf. We were a part of their family.They had a few relatives who came by and visited them with food and groceries.Every now and then, the lady or as we affectionately call her grandma, would give us all the extra, delicious food she would make as it was too much for just the 2 of them.She loved to cook, what can I say. Grandpa is no less. I needed a small cup of yogurt one day to cook something. He made me take the whole container! It is hard to come across people like them as they have given us so much and they don't know what it had meant to us. Once we are living on one income and she gave us 2 bags of rice as it was extra for her. They speak a different language so it is hard for me to tell them anything more than a few words in English that they don't understand. Grandma loves sweets and my way of saying thank you to her without damaging her health is sharing our healthy desserts with them.

My son has been observing this elderly couple since he was a year old. He has probably eaten more apples from them than from his own parents! He has seen someone just give and pour into his life, even if it meant cookies and candies. What else can make a child more happier?

We recently read the book, The Giving Tree together at our local library. Some call it  "dysfunctional", some call it " a cautionary tale". But to my 5 yr old son, it was all about trees and how cutting down trees will impact our environment. Period.I will not be adding any emotions or feelings to this pure story. It is a great book nevertheless and he was able to narrate the story to his dad later in the evening in the same order.It is about a tree that gives everything it has to a little boy until he becomes an old man. It also puts an emphasis on giving.He loved the story and made a remarkable reference to it when he saw a stump of a tree that was recently cut down near my house. Again I say, it is a great books for kids.

Today, as we were walking back from church , my neighbor, the grandma was returning home from her walk.My son recognized her at a distance and pointed to her and said this:

" Mommy, I think we should call them "The Giving Grandpa & Grandma" because they give us so much and now they are old. I like to give like them."

My prayers were answered. But not how I wanted them to be answered. God chose the humble, elderly couple to plant a seed in my son's heart.

I am thankful for my neighbors. God Sent.Angels.

Little Critter : You Go First . A must read for #Kindergarten from Harper Collins !

Considering the amount of books I have reviewed on my blog ( book reviews), I can go on and say that books are given great importance in our house and thus reading has become a regular activity at home. My son reads pretty well for his age and books speak to him. Over the years he has learned to listen to the voice of books. I jump in when I see a good book as I know it will have a positive influence on him.

You Go First by Mercer Meyer is one such book where thoughts are kindled through a crit-terrific story told in simple words. The story kept my 5 yr old's attention till the end. It is a must read for a kindergartner as their day at school revolves a lot around being "first". Who will be the first in the line? who will get to the lunch room first? Who will finish their snack first? While some competition is healthy, children will learn from this story that it also courteous, gentle and self-less to allow someone else to be ahead of them and take turns. They will be surprised to learn that this behavior can actually boost friendships.

 Unhealthy competition can ruin friendships. It can never be  too early in life to learn this important skill ! You will not regret buying this gem of a book. It can be read many times to reinstate the message.

Buy it from for $4.17 or add it to your wishlist. Santa might see it !

Disclosure: I received a sample for review purpose only. No monetary compensation was received. The above post reflects my personal opinion.


Top 6 Canadian Credit Cards with no annual fees. And the winner is....

Do you ever feel good looking at your credit card statement?  Noooooo...right? Who does?

Here's another interesting question: How often do you check to see if your credit card company is giving you the best deal? 

I was happy that I had a "rewards" option on my credit card for the spending. But it came with a limit.I could get up to $ in cash back each year depending upon how much I spend with my card.

This year, I had many expenses - my son's summer camp for 7 weeks, clothes and since my son started school this year, uniforms had to be purchased. So, I was aware that I had used my card for many of the justifiable expenses. But I wouldn't get any cash back as I had already crossed the maximum limit.

 I had to re-evaluate what the credit card market had to offer to see if there were cards that gave me more bang for my hard earned buck. Surprisingly, I had a rotten deal and was just going with it. T'was time for a reality check ! So I set out to look for better deals on Canadian credit cards.

Here's my profile:

  • We shop at Costco once or twice a month ( gas and groceries) and keep the shopping at other grocery stores to the minimum except for emergencies and some perishables.
  •  Some bills get charged on my credit card every month.
  • We rent a car once or twice a year.( I have to mention this as some credit cards give you points for using Shell gas station or renting a car at Avis / Budget.)
  • Dine out once a week. Coffee with friends etc.
  • Occasional shopping for clothes, shoes as per need.
  • We try to buy good quality "used" whenever possible even if it is expensive and take good care of it. We avoid buying many cheap products which will result in repeated purchases and a waste of money.
  • Always pay the credit card amounts and no interests. ALWAYS.No balance transfers or minimum payments as well. Bottom line, I don't spend if I cannot afford it.Or at least I try very hard to stick to this principle.I'll give myself a pat on my back for trying so hard!

Based on my spending profile, I wanted a "No Annual Fee" credit card with "Cash Back Rewards".

After sifting through the infinite number of options, I came up with a list of cards that matched my needs. So, here are the nominees !

On carefully comparing the cash back percentage and the fine print that goes with it, I tried to analyse the card that would suit me the most.

Want to see the comparison chart for the top 6 Canadian credit cards with no annual fee ? Click here to see the comparison chart : Credit card comparison. I recommend taking a look at it before reading further.You'll know the traps in which you will fall and loose the cash back. After all we don't keep a tab on when a certain expense reaches $2500 and after that no cash back. So to continue to get cash back, I will have to start using another card that will reward me for spending.Practically, very difficult. Well, that's why some cards are popular and some aren't.

.Some of them give 2% cash back on groceries and gas but 1% on everything else.But guess what, in reality I am not going to be carrying 2 different cards and each time think which one I am going to use. When I am at the cashier, I want to pay and get out asap! So I had to choose the one card that gives me the maximum space to spend without constraints on what I am buying.Be it a washer or a sack of potatoes.

Most of the credit cards give you the option of using a cash back calculator to give you an idea of how much cash back you can expect from your spending.

Based on their outstanding features, we have a tie between the 2 nominees who made it to the final  !
    I went on to choose the MBNA Smartcash Mastercard as they beat the RBC Cashback Mastercard with their promotional offer.
    I found a winner that will work for me!

    What credit cards do you carry in your wallet? Are they a winner for you? Do you know any Canadian credit cards that are better than what I have listed?

    PlasmaCar Giveaway , Open to US / Canada , Ends 31/1

    I have added the giveaway in the same review post. I tried to re-post it but somehow it doesn't seem to work.

     So please click on the link under "current giveaways" and enter for your chance to win a PlasmaCar!

    { Giveaway added ! } PlasmaCar Review : One of the best toys we have owned ! ( Open to Canada / US, ends Jan 31, 2013)

    Scroll down to enter this awesome giveaway!

    My son calls it his own " Ferrari ".

    You might have seen this ultra-cool car with a toy-ish side to it at the toy store, huge book stores and yes, it is going places.Because parents and kids are lovin' it. The last time I saw it was at Chapters and kids of all ages were going bonkers wanting to ride on this car. AND it was Christmas time.

     My son gleefully exclaimed " Mommy! They have OUR car here!". Yes, he proudly says that he owns a race car ! After-all all the pompous race cars from Lightning McQueen to Ferrari seems to be painted red!

    Get together for play and fun

    This car aka PlasmaCar, can give the parents a joy ride too, because it can take upto 220 lbs of weight . When I noticed the weight limit, my imagination ran wild - hubby and me riding it together! NOT ! The seat space is too less to fit 2 of us, so we decided not to test that.Lest we break it and leave a little person in tears!  It is not all the toys that parents can play with too while the kids stand cheering at the side. It gets the parents and kids together. Hubby and sonny go for rides together and it is quite a sight to watch them giggle away while toggling their way around.

    Non-electronic, battery free play

    We seem to be surrounded by many electronic gadgets and remote controlled toys that the classical way of using hands and brain to move and play has taken a back seat. PlasmaCar has no electronics, remotes, batteries or motor. It is purely based on some concept of physics involving movement. My son has been using this for 3-4 months and I think it is one of best toys we have ever owned.

    Easy operation

     With steering the wheel left and right, you can control how fast, slow you want to go and also the forward , backward motion can also be achieved. The material provides for excellent grip and even a 2 yr old was able to figure out how to ride on it. As soon as you sit on this car and hold the steering, the child is naturally inclined to turn the steering wheel. That facilitates the movement and it doesn't take long to know how to back-up and how to make left and right turns.

    Best riding surface

    PlasmaCar is best suited for riding on a flat, smooth surface. Roads, carpet, grass and other uneven surfaces makes it tougher to make the movement smoothly. Indoors has been a great place for enjoying the car. The wheels are sturdy and well made. 

    The seat has a little raised area for the rider to sit comfortably. We really appreciate this design as young kids may tend to have little control over spacing themselves. The elevated area sort of prevents them from falling back or slowly moving all the way back to the edge.

    The PlasmaCar is designed to hold up to 220 lbs. Think of all the years that this toy will get used compared to all the age specific toys that are sold. That is a huge PLUS when you invest in this PlasmaCar.

    Hubby and me have taken rides in this car and the space parameters for keeping your legs comfortably is nothing less than perfect. This means that even your older children can have fun with this car while your younger one is busy coloring away!

     Do you see the gripping for the foot? It offers grip as you do not want your leg slipping away at each turn. You can even see the gripping for each of the toe fingers. You can go really fast in this car when you ride it on a smooth surface and the speed slows down with rough surfaces.

     Durability can be guaranteed  as long as the wheels are taken care of by riding it on smooth surfaces. A gym would be a great place to ride this car.

    This is an extremely simple toy right from putting it together to operating it. 

    It comes in different colors and retails for $69.99.

    Book Review : Empty Promises by Pete Wilson

    The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You're Believing

    Book Description

    We all long for more of something in our lives. In our endless pursuit to feel worth and acceptance we find ourselves sacrificing everything for the promise to be a little more beautiful, a little richer, a little more powerful and successful, a little more loved.
    How do we break free from these empty pursuits and start chasing the only Promise that will ever satisfy? How do we uncover the hidden idols that are driving us and turn our devotion toward the one true God?
    Join Pastor and best-selling author Pete Wilson in discovering the joy and freedom that comes with seeking after God with your whole life. Learn how to replace, and not just relinquish, life's empty promises by turning your focus and worship toward Him. It is the only thing that will set you absolutely free from the endless pursuit of everything else.
    My review:
    If we can be honest with ourselves, we will admit we have some things that we consciously and unconsciously idolize in our lives. Pete shows us some of the main things that people tend to base their lives on and hence idolize them. He also goes on to talk about how the promises that stem from these idols can be shallow or most often, just empty.We often base our identity on money, job, beauty etc and when it gets taken away from us, we are left with an empty feeling. That's a dangerous place to be as these material things do not have a solid foundation to stand on. Christ is the only solid rock and He never forsakes us - doesn't matter if we have money or no money, employed or unemployed and so on. God looks at us and says we are perfect in Him. We can feel that ONLY when we put our trust in Him and not on any other empty promises.
    Since life is filled with a lot of empty promises, this book will be worth the read to know how to base our identity on something that will last forever. 

    Disclosure: I received a review copy as a part of Thomas Nelson Book Reviewers Program. No monetary compensation was received. The above post reflects my personal opinion.

    Review : Bible Stories that End with a Hug!


    • 75 easy-to-understand Bible stories with charming illustrations
    • Lessons on how to apply each story to your child’s daily life
    • Bible verses kids will want to hide in their hearts for a lifetime (Psalm 119:11)
    • A special “Hug Time” after each story for you and your child to share a great big hug!

    We read one Bible story each night before going to bed. Since we got this book, we have been reading this along with the Bible stories. There are 75 stories and it covers most interesting stories that children would love to hear. So, when we read about creation in the Bible, I refereed to this book as well as it throws some questions at children. When children think and answer, it helps them to understand and clarify any doubts they may have.

    Sharing with friends was something that needed some attention last week. So I picked out a fun storybook about sharing and read it aloud. Then we picked out a great story from this book - the story about how Jesus blesses five loaves and two fish from a little boy. It was such a great combo and the questions with the hug time, rounded it off perfectly just on the right note. I was able to pass on the message about sharing and end it with a hug!

    The illustrations are beyond adorable and each story is spread across two pages. Mini, easy-to-read stories in a colorful form makes the whole reading experience all the more enchanting. Each story ends with something that goes like this : " Now give the one that is made by God a big hug ! ".

    My son loves this book and it is such a sweet way to start a good night's sleep.

    You can buy it for $11.49

    Disclosure: I received a sample for review purpose only. No monetary compensation was received. The above post reflects my personal opinion.


    Best free, educational kids' apps from PBS Kids.

    To help parents and kids start the 2013 year off right, PBS KIDS has compiled a list of some of the best FREEand educational apps available to kids. Not only are they learning tools, but they are also fun, engaging and feature some of their favorite PBS KIDS characters.

     Here’s a look at what should be in everyone’s 2013 App Library….

    Professor Fizzy is holding a competition to see who has what it take to be the next Lunch Labber! Kids put math and problem solving skills to the test while navigating their way through the grocery store, coming up with the right amount of change in the check-out line, and successfully serving food to a room full of hungry customers.  For iPad, Kindle Tablet and Nook Tablet for kids ages 6 – 8.

    Watch videos from your favorite PBS KIDS television series anytime, anywhere (in the USA). “PBS KIDS Video” features more than 1,000 videos from over a dozen top PBS KIDS and PBS KIDS GO! television series, including Curious George, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, Dinosaur Train, SUPER WHY!, Sesame Street and Wild Kratts. For iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch for kids ages 3-6.

    FETCH! Lunch Rush is PBS KIDS’ first mobile app featuring Augmented Reality technology – a term for blending the virtual and real world into a truly engaging experience.  The app will teach kids ages 6 to 8 math skills while blending a virtual world right on top of the real one. The multi-player app is designed as a 3-D game, which helps kids visualize the math problems they are trying to solve. In the app, Ruff Ruffman is making a movie and needs kids to help him to keep up with lunch orders from the movie’s crew. The challenge is keeping track of how many pieces of sushi everyone wants using augmented reality “markers” or printable hand-outs that prompt activity within the mobile app.  For iPhone and iPod Touch.

    “Wordball” aims to help players 5 & up increase their ability to manipulate sounds in spoken words and then map those words to print. Discover the wonders of the silent E, the hard and soft sounds of C (as in “cat” and “ace”), the transforming powers of the letter H (the sounds ch, sh, th), and much more! Players look out for wordballs and catch them if they can as they groove to 9 game-enhanced music videos starring Ne-Yo, Jimmy Fallon, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and their favorite characters from The Electric Company. For iPhone and iPod Touch.