Tag Archives: giveaway

Big Apple Circus Ticket Giveaway

event Big Apple Circus Ticket GiveawayI love having kids who are old enough to DO stuff and ENJOY stuff. We’re at kind of a sweet spot that way. And next week I’ll be taking them to the Big Apple Circus, which is coming to Boston from March 25 to May 11. 

Graham doesn’t know what a circus *is* yet, so I’m looking forward to finding some circus books and Youtube videos to watch with him to get him all pumped up. Honestly, I haven’t been to a circus since I was around 12, so it’ll be a great event for me, too.

Luminocity Ad BOS 9 5x11 Big Apple Circus Ticket Giveaway

Big Apple Circus has horses and dogs in their show, but no exotic animals and is a cruelty-free show. It’s handicap accessible and climate controlled, too. (Good thing, since we seem to still be due for a few more cold snaps.) 

Opening weekend starts on Friday the 28th and runs through Sunday the 30th. At these shows there will be performers out in the lobby for an hour before showtime if your kids want to get up close and personal. 

And I’m giving away 2 tickets to the Friday 6:30 pm performance right here. Just enter in the widget below. And if you’d like to get some tickets for your family, you can use the promo code BIGAPPLE to save $10 off EACH ticket. (Limited availability, conditions apply, etc.) Oh, and it’s also a littles-friendly show, you can bring kids under 3 in and hold them on your lap instead of having to buy another seat. LOVE that.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Thanks to Big Apple Circus for inviting me and the kids to their opening weekend and providing tickets for the giveaway.

Introducing Graham. The Other One.

review pic Introducing Graham. The Other One.


(Psst. There is a giveaway at the end of this post… Keep reading…)

My kids love animals. A pet was not exactly in the cards. Between the two of them and work and my half a billion projects a pet didn’t seem like a good idea. But then we found the perfect pet:

 Introducing Graham. The Other One.

This is Graham. (Guess who named him?) He’s a hot pink betta who’s happily living in our house. Fish are the bestest pets when you have little ones. No walks, no picking up poop, no chewing on furniture. Of course, this doesn’t stop me from worrying about Graham. Is he getting enough food? Is he getting too much food? Is he happy? Is he lonely? (Betta’s don’t do well with other fish but I’m wondering if he’d enjoy having a snail to keep him company.) 

But I still put off getting a fish for a long time. Buy a giant tank! Clean the giant tank! These were obstacles I didn’t have the energy to surmount. If you are in a similar position then I have a solution for you:

aquafarm Introducing Graham. The Other One. It’s the Aquafarm! I will tell you why I immediately said yes when given the opportunity to review it.

Tank Made Simple

 I am not an experienced fish buyer. I never had them growing up. This is my first fish too and I want it simple. I want a tank where I don’t have to spend a lot of time worrying about cleaning. That was the thing that held me back from buying a fish for years. But the Aquafarm has an awesome system where water goes back and forth from the fish tank up to the top. The fish provides nutrients for the plants. The plants clean the water for the fish. You don’t have to clean your tank. BOOM.

The tank is a good size, nice and sturdy but won’t take over the surface you set it on. Plus it comes with all the instructions you need and all the tools you’ll use to get it ready. We did it in less than an hour. (Not counting the time it took us to go pick up Graham the Fish.) Y’all know I’m not exactly a big ball of energy in the evenings, but it was totally doable, even for me.

Plants That Grow

At the end of the last school year, Graham the Boy brought home a potted bean plant. It grew. And grew. And grew. Until I forgot to water it. And then it died. I have that effect on plants.

But the Aquafarm gives you plants you don’t have to water! Another crowdpleaser with the kids. Our Aquafarm came with seeds for wheatgrass and basil. The wheatgrass is great for the kids because it grows FAST. This was ours less than a WEEK after I planted it.

 Introducing Graham. The Other One.

Seriously, the only upkeep is I have to trim the wheatgrass once it hits 5 inches or so. If you’re a juicer, you can even use it!

The other pods I use for the basil, which is just for Mama. Because fresh basil at the store costs a bajillion dollars. It’s a super cool system. You grow the seeds in these porous rocks instead of dirt, so less mess.

Problems? No Problem!

So while I did a great job and won my Mother of the Year medal presenting my kids with both a fish AND a set of growing plants, I forgot to turn the air pump off one night a week. And it died last week. My fish was looking tepid, the water turned cloudy, my plants wilted. When I do a review, this is where it has the potential to go to awesome or horrific. I tweeted and emailed Back to the Roots, the people who make the Aquafarm, and they were fantastic. Told me they’d send me a new pump free of charge. (They knew nothing about this review, by the way.) They also gave me a set of instructions for an alternate set up for the pump to help it run better. 

Got my pump, my fish is happy again, and all is well. Nicely done.

Where to Get It

Uncommon Goods Introducing Graham. The Other One. The Aquafarm is such a fun, funky gift. A great thing to give as a family gift, too. You can get one from Uncommon Goods, an online retailer that specializes in handmade items, green and recycled gifts, donate to several charities, and pay a living wage to their workers. You’ll be hearing more from me about them in my upcoming Cyber Monday Shopping Sites roundup. 

I’ve had my eye on the Pick Punch for years as a gift for my brother the musician. Guitar picks out of old gym cards? Sweet.

They have a set of iPhone cases with designs made by independent artists. Not the same old stuff you seen in the mall kiosk. 

And you can bring the beach beneath the tree with the super cool Kinetic Sand. 

I love a site that picks their products with care and stands for something. 

Giveaway Time!

The lovely folks at Uncommon Goods are offering a $50 gift card for one lucky Don’t Mind the Mess reader, just in time for your holiday shopping. 

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Uncommon Goods for providing us with the Aquafarm for review. Opinions are my own. 

Take Your Trains to the Next Level with Chuggington StackTracks

review pic Take Your Trains to the Next Level with Chuggington StackTracksTrains are big at our house and I know we’re not alone. We also live in a small apartment, so if Graham decides he’s going to pull out his wooden tracks, odds are it’ll take up half the living room when he’s done. The wooden tracks have served us well, but I admit that when I first saw TOMY’s Chuggington StackTracks all I could say was, “My kid would love these.” affiliate links pic Take Your Trains to the Next Level with Chuggington StackTracks

 Take Your Trains to the Next Level with Chuggington StackTracks Take Your Trains to the Next Level with Chuggington StackTracksI’ll be totally honest, I saw those StackTracks at a party at BlogHer in 2012. I gushed and gushed over them to the person repping TOMY. But it wasn’t until this year that I finally got a chance to review them. I did not let the long wait hold me back, I jumped at the chance. If anything, Graham was way more ready for them now than he was a year ago.

There are a bunch of Chuggington StackTrack playsets, we received the Chuggington StackTrack Rescue at Rocky Ridge Action Playset Take Your Trains to the Next Level with Chuggington StackTracks with the accompanying ChugPatrol DVD. The fact that the playset has an accompaying episode is cool, though it hasn’t influenced Graham’s play, but I do think it’d be good for the re-enacting types.

So, parents of train enthusiasts, here’s the skinny: The StackTracks come with a variety of pieces, some flat, some going up, some going down. There’s a bunch of hills and turns and other stuff that makes trains go fast. There are guard rails on the side so you won’t lose your train on tight curves. And there are supports to stack to hold up the elevated parts of the track. The set came with 2 trains (Koko and Wilson, who Graham has always called Rilsen because it’s the name of a kid in his class last year) and they’re die-cast plastic. 

20130830 185335 768x1024 Take Your Trains to the Next Level with Chuggington StackTracks

Overall, it’s very easy to assemble for an adult. The track pieces fit together very simply and obviously. It may take a child under 5 a little effort to figure it out but they’ll make progress quickly. The supports are also easy to attach. There are some extras that come with this playset: a gate to break through, a boulder to chase you down the hill. These extras are a little harder to get on and off and click on over the supports. The track looks a little intimidating. But it comes with instructions for 4 layouts. One of them has a detailed set of instructions to assemble, the others are pictures. Once I’d gone through one assembly, I was good for the rest by sight. Younger children will probably need a parent to assemble for them.

The Pros:

  • As I’d hoped, it takes up less space than the wooden tracks. The stacking means they can go up instead of all over the floor.
  • The kids get way more into it than with the wooden tracks. We’ve had it for over 6 weeks and I’ve waited to see if it wears off… but it hasn’t.
  • The trains look just like the ones on the show, lots of character and the kids seem more eager for pretend play with them than some of the trains we have on the wooden set. 
  • The price of this one set is about the price of one stinking Thomas train. Seriously, the price of Thomas merch is ridiculous. I am HAPPY to expand beyond Thomas gear.
  • I was really worried that we wouldn’t be able to do anything with this set beyond the planned layouts. It took Graham about a month before he started building his own tracks. They may be wobbly and he may ask for help, but he’s showing creativity, and he gets to show a lot more of it than he can with the wooden tracks. 
  • There are multiple StackTrack sets and they all can fit together. And yes I will be asking for StackTrack merch for Graham this Christmas because I think we could design some wicked awesome tracks.
  • The trains can couple up, always good. And it’s a more secure coupling than the magnetic wooden trains.
  • Price is good, a new train is $5.99 or so and a set runs from $20 to $40, with expansion packs varying in price. 
  • They’re just plain fun. Here’s a look at Graham playing with the set:


  • Younger kids will need help. As I mentioned, some of the extra elements like the gate are harder to connect.
  • Some layouts are wobbly. The supports don’t actually click into place, you just push them together like legos. So if someone bumps the track this can lead to a big collapse. This only happened to us on a couple of layouts, but it is an issue. The tracks themselves are nice and strong, it’s the supports that I wish were better.
  • The many kinds of track pieces may frustrate some kids.
  • Overall, I’m just not sure this is going to be a good product for kids who are very perfectionist, anxious, ASD, etc. If you think they’ll have a meltdown if the track falls down, this may not be the set for you. With that said, Graham can certainly fall into that category sometimes but he’s at the point now where a track that falls down can mean extra excitement for the story he’s telling in his head.

20130831 091906 1 1024x768 Take Your Trains to the Next Level with Chuggington StackTracks

Both kids have really enjoyed playing with these tracks and I find that for us the positives outweigh the negatives by a good amount. I’m weary of putting together wooden train tracks, there’s only so much I can do with our limited amount of straights and curves. We just have more fun putting these together, whether we follow the instructions or not.

So, would you like to bring one home? The kind folks at TOMY are giving away one Chuggington StackTrack Rescue at Rocky Ridge Action Playset Take Your Trains to the Next Level with Chuggington StackTracks  and a Chug Patrol – Ready to Rescue DVD Take Your Trains to the Next Level with Chuggington StackTracks for your kiddos. Want to enter?

Mandatory entry: leave a comment on this post letting me know the train lover in your life who’d love these StackTracks.

Bonus entry: Tweet this: “Win Chuggington StackTracks from @Tomy_Toy from @jessicaesquire! http://bit.ly/1ae53QQ” and make sure you leave a comment with the link to your tweet. (You can find it by clicking on the timestamp of the tweet.)

Rules: No purchase necessary. By leaving a comment you agree to the rules of this giveaway. One entry per household. Limited to entrants over 18 in the US and Canada. Contest begins as of the time of this post and ends on 10/31/13 at 6 pm Eastern Time. The winner will receive a Chuggington StackTracks playset and a Chuggington DVD, a retail value of  approximately $40 US. The number of eligible entries received will determine the odds of winning. The winner will be chosen randomly using the plugin And the Winner Is…  Winner will be notified by email and must respond within 48 hours to receive their prize. If the winner does not respond within that time, a new winner will be chosen. The prize will be provided by TOMY Toys. Don’t Mind the Mess is not responsible for any problems with receipt of the prize. This contest is governed by the rules of Massachusetts, void where prohibited

Disclosure: Thanks to TOMY for providing us with these products for review.

Happy Family Tot Review and Giveaway

review pic Happy Family Tot Review and GiveawayI still remember the day I discovered what is known in our house as “the pouch.” I saw one in a Starbucks the day before I was scheduled to take Graham on a plane to Boston where we were just about to get settled. I needed to find snacks for him to eat easily. He was only 11 months old and I wasn’t looking forward to spooning baby food into his mouth on the plane. The puree pouch was miraculous. And I started finding them on the shelves at BabiesRUs shortly after that. They’ve been a staple ever since. They are usually in my purse, they’re something the kids can eat for any meal of the day, and even Graham has been known to take them in his lunch box.

My independent eaters love to be able to feed themselves without utensils and without a mess. It’s really a win-win for everyone.

happy family 277x300 Happy Family Tot Review and GiveawayWhile I love the pouches, there are now so many brands out there that it can get a little overwhelming. But I definitely have my favorites after using pretty much all the brands there are. Among my favorites: Happy Family. 

My favorite things? 

  • Price. Some of these pouches are around $2 each! I can consistently find Happy Family pouches for close to $1.
  • Bulk. I can find whole boxes of Happy Family pouches and get them for less than $1 each. Right now I pick them up every time we go to BJ’s.
  • Multiple Food Groups. My kids are always avoiding something, be it vegetables or grains or dairy. The Happy Family pouches don’t have just fruit and even go beyond the fruit/veggie combo. They also have salba grain, great for my carb-avoiders. And they have new Greek Yogurt pouches when someone’s going on a milk strike.
  • Organic. I don’t always get to go organic for my kids, so that’s a plus.

The kind folks at Happy Family sent over some of their products for the kiddos to try out and we’ll be giving away a bundle of Happy Family loot!

Toddler med e1374668934130 Happy Family Tot Review and Giveaway


We got 4 new kinds of pouches to try: the Plus pouch with loads of healthy boosting ingredients (kale, apple and mango), the Greek Yogurt pouches (one with kale, apple, spinach and one with pomegranate, apple and beet), the Super pouch (with Acai grape and apple) and the Treat pouch (caramel apple). My kids went through the Plus, Greek Yogurt and Super pouches just as fast as they usually do. All finished, all happy.

As for the Treat pouch, that came in handy for a bit of healthy bribery (only 100 calories) while I finished this post.

 Happy Family Tot Review and Giveaway

In addition to the pouches we got happyyogis (yogurt/fruit drops), happy munchies (carrot rice cakes) and toddler meal bowls. The yogurt melts went fast and while they were a little puzzled by the rice cakes, they happily took them when they realized they were just like a chip. 

The only thing that wasn’t a resounding success was the toddler meal bowls. But then again, my kids don’t really like it when their food touches. So they don’t like ANY meal bowls.

I’m definitely pleased with the new pouches. I need to get as many nutrients into my picky kids as I can and they almost never say no to a pouch. And we’ll be adding the rice cakes to our snack routine.

If you want to find Happy Family products near you, check out the Store Locator.

And YOU can win a Happy Family toddler pack, too!

Happy Family Recipes
Happy Family reusable tote bag
Take One coupons
(2) Free Trial coupons for each: Happy Yogis, Happy Tot Plus, Happy Tot toddler meal bowls, Happy Tot pouches
Hey, free snacks for your kids. Get a chance to see what they think of the Happy Tot offerings. Good luck!
Here’s how you can enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Happy Family for providing us with their product for this review and giveaway.

The Great June Book Giveaway

I was getting ready to write another roundup of summer reads when I realized I have half a million books in my house. 

I have to share the love.


There are too many to send to just one person so I’ve divided them up into 4 separate giveaways. Yes, I know, I’m crazy.

I’ll choose 4 winners and they’ll get to choose their prize in order they’re chosen. 

The Greatest Hits Bundle New books by Curtis Sittenfeld, Colum McCann, Karen Russell, Jonathan Lethem, Chris Bohjalian, Jhumpa Lahiri, Aimee Bender and Alexander McCall Smith. This list is ridiculous. 

The Crime Fiction Bundle with thrillers and mysteries galore.

The Historical Fiction Bundle WWII, 1960s South, depression-era adventure, and romance straight from the Romantic. 

The Kitchen Sink Bundle has all the rest, a little bit of everything for the reader who wants it all.

Here’s a peek at the titles. These are all pinned from their Goodreads pages so go ahead and click through to see more about them.


So enter using the Rafflecopter below. I’ll also have it up at Red Letter Reads, where we’ve been tearing it up with some great reviews.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, everyone!

Crowning a Fetching Winner

It’s been over a month since this happened. I’ve been glasses-less for weeks.
 Crowning a Fetching Winner

But today I had a happy package waiting for me. My new frames from the lovely folks at Fetch.

Here’s the new me wearing Sadie in Ballet.

 Crowning a Fetching Winner

Going so long without glasses means it’s a little bit of a readjustment, but I feel really great. My glasses compliment my face and serve as an eye-catching accessory instead of just a way to see stuff that’s far away.

Which brings me to the winner of the giveaway! It was SUPER hard to choose, you guys, and I just had to pick the finalists. I was so impressed with your boards. 

Ultimately I narrowed it down to 3 that I dubbed Red & Black, Unique You and Roman Holiday. I loved how all 3 boards had a theme and drew on a great variety of elements to really give you a feel for a specific style. Plus they all worked with the glasses perfectly.

I sent off my finalists to Fetch and they have crowned the winner: Mayette with her Unique You Board. Mayette pinned a lot of her own outfits and really went all out building this board. Great work. (I particularly love her pins of pups in glasses.)

- Pinterest feed not found. Please recheck your ID.

Enjoy your frames, Mayette! 

Thanks to everyone who participated. I cannot even tell you how hard it was to choose finalists. These Pinterest giveaways are hard work, y’all!