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Welcome to Grandma's Back Room

Grandma's Back Room is where you'll find all kinds of fun stuff, including GIVEAWAYS, REVIEWS, SPONSORED POSTS and more!

So go ahead: Enter the giveaways, read the reviews, peruse the sponsored posts. And be sure to take a moment to visit the websites of the kind folks who have provided the goodies of which I write about, give away or plug.

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    Review: Riding Dump Truck from HearthSong

    Bubby loves trucks. And because GiGi, his paternal great-grandmother who babysits him each Friday, takes Bubby outside or to the window to watch the garbage men collect his trash each week, Bubby especially loves garbage trucks.

    So when I approached HearthSong -- a company I've loved and patronized since Bubby's mom was Bubby's age -- to ask if I could review some of their products and they offered up the Riding Dump Truck, I jumped all over that.

    HearthSong sent me the oversized truck, which I then sent to Bubby. And here, in photos, is his review:

    Bubby posing with the Riding Dump Truck.Checking out the capacity of the mini dumpster.

    The mini dumpster is the perfect size for Matchbox cars.Doing a Vanna White display of the rear cargo hold -- the spot Bubby puts Mom's large (size 10!) shoes for hauling around the home.Hopping on for a ride.Mastering the parallel parking skills ... and keeping it safe between rounds of riding.He loves it! He has a little trouble using his feet to push himself along because the width of the truck is a bit wider than Bubby's stance, but the truck is made for kids 3 and up and my Bubby is only coming up on the 2-year mark. So I'm sure his riding skills will improve. In the meantime, a little push from Mom or Dad is all he needs.

    One thing that was a bit confusing -- for Bubby, his mom and me when I checked out the truck before shipping -- was figuring out how to make the lift work for the large dumpster on the back of the truck and the smaller one on the side. We couldn't figure out how to make the buckets lift and dump as you'd think they were meant to do. And there were no instructions included, on or in the box. Although, as Megan pointed out, the product is German made, so unless one of us could read German, it would have made no sense anyway.

    Overall, Bubby loved the truck. He can't ride it well by himself yet, but that'll come as he gets closer to the age 3 recommendation on the box (age 4 on the website). In the meantime, he uses it to haul all his Matchbox trucks and cars and helicopters ... and his mom's shoes, too.

    I was especially pleased with the fact that the truck was made of a heavy-duty plastic. It's tough and sturdy for all the play to come -- especially considering that it holds up to 100 pounds and it's gonna take Bubby a long time to reach that weight! -- but it was light, so shipping costs weren't exorbitant. Of course, grandmas looking to purchase one for a grandchild could always choose to have it shipped directly from HearthSong to the lucky recipient.

    Visit HearthSong -- where their tagline is "Toys You'll Feel Good About Giving" -- for more information on the Riding Dump Truck ($59.98) and other nifty, creative toys.


    Review and Giveaway: "Writing Home" by Cindy La Ferle [CLOSED]

    When I was a young mother, I devoured Joyce Maynard's Domestic Affairs column that ran in my daily newspaper. She was a young, hip mom and I wanted to be just like her.

    The same went for Elizabeth Berg's essays in Parent magazine. Where Maynard was unconventional and cool, Berg was sweet and traditional. The heartfelt and often poignant words from both made me feel not so alone in the sometimes solitary madness of motherhood and inspired me to create -- and cherish -- the ordinary moments that make one's home "home."

    A recent reading of "Writing Home" by Cindy La Ferle did much the same for me.

    "Writing Home" is a collection of 93 columns and essays originally published in regional newspapers and national publications as esteemed as Reader's Digest and Better Homes & Gardens' Country Garden. Cindy recently sent me a copy of "Writing Home" to review on Grandma's Briefs.

    (Note to FTC-rule watchers: The copy was free. Note to my readers: The "free" status in no way influenced my review of Cindy's book.)

    I call Cindy by her first name because I feel like I came to know her well through her essays. Like a friend, I learned what makes her tick, and -- like the best of my friends -- it's the very same things that make me tick: family and home.

    Of course, home means cooking, and in the essay titled "Baghdad and Banana Bread," one paragraph in particular resonated with me:

    Fortunately, my attitude toward food preparaton changed after my son was born and I started working from home. This change of heart had less to do with my son's preference for homemade cookies and more to do with the fact that working in the kitchen was a creative release from parenting and writing deadlines. Recipes were easier to manage than a cranky three-year-old or an unruly paragraph. Sifting flour and breaking eggs seemed soothing, almost Zen-like.

    ... tick ...

    In "Willie," Cindy relates her enjoyment of a squirrel who resides on her property and nibbles nuts right outside the window where she writes every day. I, too, love the squirrels -- including the two white ones! -- who run from tree to tree outside my windows, much to the chagrin of squirrel-hating Jim. Cindy writes:

    I've asked myself why I find this so entertaining; why I'd bother befriending a nervy little rodent when I have bigger chores on my list.

    ... tick ...

    So many of Cindy's words resonated with me that I found it difficult to choose a favorite. So I e-mailed her to ask which of the essays were her favorites. Like me, she couldn't pick just one; she chose three. Here are her choices and why she chose them:

    "October Memories" -- "One of my favorite pieces honoring my beloved dad's memory. I was in my late 30s when he died, and his loss was difficult time for me. I wrote my way through my grief."

    "Grandpa's Ferns" -- "Both a garden essay and a tribute to my Scottish immigrant grandfather."

    "Home Sweet Office" -- "A favorite because it recalls the events that led me to become a work-at-home mom. I didn't begin writing personal essays -- which are now my forte -- until this phase of my life. In retrospect, being a mother made me a better writer -- not college, not journalism school. That's why this particular piece is special to me."

    ... tick, tick, tick ...

    If family and home are what make you tick, you'll enjoy "Writing Home." It may even do for you what Maynard and Berg -- and now LaFerle -- did for me: made me feel not so alone in the sometimes solitary madness of motherhood and inspired me to create -- and cherish -- the ordinary moments that make one's home "home."

    "Writing Home" is currently available on and is distributed to bookstores by Wayne State University Press. Proceeds from new book sales are donated to organizations serving the homeless in Oakland County, Mich.



    Cindy sent me one signed copy of "Writing Home" to give away to one lucky reader of Grandma's Briefs. If you'd like to be in the running for this collection of poignant essays and columns, comment to this post with your answer to following question:

    What is one thing that defines home for you? Is it a certain scent, a special family member, a piece of furniture passed down through the family, or something else special that simply means "home"?

    Comments will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, April 1 (no fooling!) and the winner (randomly chosen by my trusty ol' BINGO ball roller) will be announced Friday, April 2.

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