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22 December, 2012

More Than A Bucket List: Book Review

     So to continue with the theme of setting goals for the coming year, I thought I would share with you a book that I recently had the opportunity to check out.  It's called More Than A Bucket List by Toni Birdsong.  It is a book all about dreams and goals and making time to make them a reality.  Here is the cover description:
Fun ideas of things to do, places to see, and ways to make a difference!

Everyone dreams about places to see, people to meet, and things to do in their lifetime. But too often we lose sight of those dreams and get buried in everyday busyness and demands. More Than a Bucket List will inspire you to seize and act on a range of dreams—anything from visiting the Holy Land, donating your time at a soup kitchen, learning to climb a tree, or helping a child learn to read. The book also includes ideas to make lasting memories as you marvel at a new sight, laugh like crazy with an old friend, or change a life.

The compilation of bucket list items is divided thematically and blended with Scripture and personal stories. Pages at the back allow you to write your own bucket list items. Are you ready to finish this life well and start checking off items from your bucket list?

      From reading the description of the book I figured that it would make a good present for my kids, kind of like a list of ideas to do together.  After getting the book, I wouldn't say that were necessarily true.  It really is geared more toward adults, unless of course you like your kids pestering you to take a trip to Santa Claus, Arizona or to take them to India so they can try some Monkey Toes.  I certainly don't.
     At first glance, I noticed  lot of ideas that definitely didn't fit my budget and never would.  I honestly had a hard time picking the book back up to take a deeper look because I was fairly disappointed.  But when I did pick it back up, I was glad I did.  I must have happened to land on all the Adventure pages on my first look-through because after looking at it more closely I saw that most of the ideas inside were free.  They were ideas on how to take advantage of every day situations and moments and turn them into something you could remember and be proud to look back on.  Some examples of this are:
     Bury a time capsule.
     Fix what breaks rather than buy a new one.
     Register to be a bone marrow donor.
     Make a pie from scratch.
     Simplify.  Give away all that stuff.
     But then there are also many ideas on things that you could do for that yearly or once in a lifetime trip, such as:
     Take a camel trek in Morocco
     Raft the Grand Canyon
     (Watch other people) run with the bulls in Pamplona.
     Drive a Nascar track.
     Stay in an ice hotel.
     Climb the steps of the Mayan ruins.
     Throughout the book are plenty of bible verses for inspiration, stories for encouragement, and miscellaneous study findings or tidbits to make you stop and think.  For instance, did you know that numerous studies have shown the benefits of gratitude?  'Some even revealed that people who kept weekly gratitude journals had less aggression, reported fewer physical ailments, and were more optimistic about life compared to people who recorded neutral events and daily hassles.'  That makes ME stop and think.
     Although a lot of pages in this book are nothing more than just pages to make me envy those who can afford the adventures listed on them, I am actually very glad to have this book.  I will take what I can from it and do what I can to make this next year one of seizing opportunities and getting my life on track.

Except for the product(s) given to me for the purpose of reviewing, I received no compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
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Kelly Kits Review

     When looking into the new year, it's always a good idea to set some goals on how you would like this new year to be different.  Usually people wish to lose weight or read X amount of books, step out of their shell a little or maybe learn to do something new.  Maybe your plans are bigger, maybe you would like to go to college, start a family, or finally buy that forever home.  Or maybe you wanna go small and just vow to cut down on soda or set up a paper organizing system and actually stick to it.
     One of my goals for the new year is to spend more time being actively involved with my kids.  Now, I am a stay-at-home mom, so my kids and I spend all day together.  Sometimes by the end of the day, I am so frustrated or just downright angry that the idea of sitting together for a bedtime story or a movie makes me wanna crawl under a rock!  This is where I need to be proactive.  One of my goals is to just get over myself and however I am feeling and just read the book, watch the movie, put on that puppet play or play that game... just do things WITH my kids, not just for my kids.
     Kelly Kits is a subscription service that delivers a craft to your door once a month.  It supplies everything you need.  If you need a pencil, they will send one even if they are pretty sure you have one already.  November's Kelly Kit was all about Mosaics.  In the kit, we received 4 pieces of black cardstock, a glue stick (thank you!) and a pencil, along with a bunch of double sided paper squares.  Our project was to take these squares and choose 4 colors to work with and create a masterpiece.  There were more guidelines than just that, including video through the Kelly Kits members section of the site, but that was the basic idea.
     The Big One had trouble with her sisters constantly wrecking her mosaic and got frustrated with it.  She will try again soon with The Punk who was next door at Nanny's.  The Streaker decided that she was going to copy mine, which was a very simple design... because apparently, though I rock the photoshop, I am no good at pixelated imagery.  Who knew?  So we both filled only half the space on the card and did a diagonal design.  Mine is made of single rows of various colors while her colors are in every which pattern in four coordinating colors.  We will later laminate them all and and use them as coasters :)
     What I loved most about the Kelly Kit was that it gave lots of information on mosaics themselves, or as The Big One can't stop calling them, "Mosaks".  Want in on some of that info?  Sure you do:
  • A mosaic is a picture or a pattern produced by arranging small colored pieces of material such as stone, tile, glass, shell, etc.
  •  The oldest known examples of mosaics are pebble floors found in the Anatolian region of Turkey dating from circa 700 B.C.
  • Mosaic artwork has always adorned public spaces in cities and churches. Mosaic artists are often commissioned to create a meaningful or symbolic artwork that the community can admire and enjoy. A mosaic could be on a wall or a floor. Does your city have a public mosaic artwork? Because these public works of art are made of such durable hard materials, they can last for centuries!
  • Visit the AMP Gallery at www.americanmosaics.org for a look at some inspiring modern day mosaic artwork.
     And although I truly stink at mosaic work, I do fully appreciate the skill and talent involved in making them.  Check out this mosaic done on the front steps at the local library that was unveiled last month:
     It was fun watching it all happen from the sketching of the design to the finished piece.  What a beauty!
     Kelly Kits offers a free Kelly Kit to anyone who wished to try it out, just pay shipping of $2.49.  But if you wish to continue receiving them after the first month, kits are $9.99 plus shipping per month.  Just become a fan on their Facebook page to receive your free kit code, then go to their site to claim it, easy peasy.
     What's your favorite kind of art? 

Except for the product(s) given to me for the purpose of reviewing, I received no compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

21 December, 2012

Sproutkin and our Holiday Countdown: Day 8

     Tonight, we unwrapped the book Father Bear Comes Home.  It's about Little Bear and his friends and the imaginary adventures they have when Little Bear's father is away and when he comes back home.  The friends imagine whales and mermaids and even try to cure hiccups.
     For our activity from the Sproutkin Sproutcard, we had The Big One draw her perfect world.  She drew who would be in it and what the weather would be like.  She decided that Little Bear's imaginary world was pretty great and so she drew herself on a boat, spending some alone time with a whale chasing close behind her and a shark hanging out in the water nearby.  The weather is slightly cloudy, but still nice and warm.
     The Big One was having one of those days today where she just needed some time alone and her sisters were too much for her.  It was a nice escape for her to be able to create a place of solitude for herself even if she couldn't physically be there.
     Does your child enjoy their alone time?

Except for the product(s) given to me for the purpose of reviewing, I received no compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
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Sproutkin and our Holiday Countdown: Day 7

     Last night, we had the pleasure of opening Zak's Alligator from our Sproutkit.  It's about a boy who receives an alligator keychain from his uncle.  When he puts the keychain into water, the alligator comes to life and grows bigger and bigger.  They go around town exploring and getting into lots of trouble and having lots of fun together.
     For this book, we asked Streaker what talking pet she would want, what she would do with it and what it's name would be.  Then we had her draw a picture of it.  She chose a unicorn for her pet and named it Sally.  She decided that the best thing to do with a unicorn was of course to ride it.
     She also was not allowed to see the pictures in the book until after she drew her own illustration for it.  Her alligator bore a remarkable resemblance to Sally, but we will forgive her for that ;)
     What animal would your child choose to be their talking pet?

Except for the product(s) given to me for the purpose of reviewing, I received no compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
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Sproutkin and our Holiday Countdown: Day 6

     Well apparently trying to stick to a schedule in my home is just not a very practical plan.  From kids going to the Emergency room, to the start of a new sports season, to the flu wiping us all out... my family is just not cut out for routines.  We did manage to read the books for the 12 Days countdown, just not when we had planned.
     For Wednesday's part of our holiday countdown, we opened the book Silly Street: Selected Poems by Jeff Foxworthy.  It is a book about all the things you can do if the silly bug strikes.  My girls loved it. As our activity, which was a combination of two of the activities found via the Sproutkin Card was to cut pictures from a magazine and to create a silly story about how the cut out people knew each other and what they were doing.
     The Big One had the most fun with this activity, I think mostly because the other kids and myself are still so very drained from the flu.  Our creative juices just weren't at their peak.  But Baby Bee sure did have fun cutting up everyone's work as they were attempting to create their stories.
     We enjoyed the book a lot.  The girls liked that the book was made of lots of silly poems as opposed to a regular story book format.  They had fun with all the characters and fun things they did.

     What kinds of things do your kids do when they are feeling silly?

Except for the product(s) given to me for the purpose of reviewing, I received no compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
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18 December, 2012

Sproutkin continued (pt 2)

     In the last post, we discussed the first two books that the girls opened in our '12 Days of Christmas' Holiday Countdown and how we used the Sproutkin card to get more from the book than what we normally would.  It opened doors to important discussions and lessons.  We were really starting to learn about each other.
     So the third night, after reading Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, a book about an island that rained, snowed and blew in all three daily meals (I'm sure you've heard of it), we once again consulted the Sproutkin Card.  This one had both questions and an activity.  Sadly for us, we couldn't do the activity due to the weather the past few days, but we did have us a good discussion.
     The card asked first, "What would you want the sky to drop for Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert?"  For this, I got some strange answers, like The Big One wanting pepperoni for Breakfast and Streaker wanting soup for Dessert.  Baby Bee seemed pretty fond of the idea of bananas for the last half of the day.  When asked if they would want to eat the same thing as everyone else all the time, only Streaker showed any objection to the idea.  And when asked "What if you could never choose what kind of snack you would eat?" The Big One had the answer.  She said "You'd just wait until it falls.  You'd have to see what kind of food falls, it might be a food you never tried."  This statement is ironic because The Big One is the pickiest eater of them all and is always being proven wrong about foods that she utterly refuses to try until she has no fight left in her.  All 3 of the younger girls agreed with her statement however, as did I.
     The next book is my favorite so far.  It's called How to be a Supervillain.  It is a super fun book.  It had me almost wanting to dig out Streaker's super hero garb early.  Almost.  We'll wait.  But it was super fun and it brought on another great discussion.  It started with the Sproutkin Card asking what power we would choose if we were superheroes and what our costumes would look like and how we would use our powers to help people.  Since Streaker copied The Big One's answers, I'll just tell you what The Big One said.  She said, "My name would be Lightning Thunder.  My power would be to fly.  No wait!  Lightning... to control the weather.  My costume would be a black skirt with a long-sleeved black shirt with lightning and clouds on top with 'Lightning Thunder' on the skirt."  And when asked how she would help people with the powers she had, she replied "I would use lighting to shock people who are killing" and she also described her world as "All black with lightning shooting down".  She's so creative.
     The last book we've read so far is called Where the Wild Things Are, another I'm sure that you are probably familiar with.  It was actually my first time reading it.  Honestly, after seeing the movie and knowing how popular the book is, I was a little let down at it's lack of thrill.  BUT, we had tons of fun doing silly monster crafts afterwards.  The monster crafts were probably intended for the last book we will be reading, but we thought it fit nicely with this book as well.  First we folded some paper accordion style and used it for the body of a monster and finished it off with things such as arms, legs, eyes, etc.  Then we folded another piece of paper accordion style and took turns drawing different body parts in different sections of the accordion to create one monster.  Both were fun, though only one of those ideas were on the card.  The other was adapted from the idea on the card.
     Come back each night until Christmas Eve to see what new book we've opened!
    

Except for the product(s) or service given to me for the purpose of reviewing, I received no compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
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17 December, 2012

Sproutkin, More Than Just Books

     So this year, the girls and I decided to do a '12 Days of Christmas' Holiday Countdown.  Each night until Christmas Eve, we will unwrap a new book and read it.  I wanted to do an advent style countdown this way last year, but I just didn't get the wrapping paper in time.  This year I swore I would.
     I thought of wrapping our books.  We have so many on our shelves that honestly, I could probably have found twelve books that they never even knew existed and just use those.  But wouldn't it be funner to open new books?  Of course it would.  That's where Sproutkin came in.  Sproutkin is much like an online library mixed with a Book of the Month Club.  Each month you get surprised with a whole new set of books (10 to be exact) which all have something in common.  You can choose to keep those books at 10% off the retail price or you can send them back at no extra charge.  The box comes with activities and thought provoking questions to help your child get more from the books.
     I was super excited to try Sproutkin's service.  When it came, I looked the books and information over and was in love with all the books and the activities.  I gave it all a good examination and then wrapped them all to be opened each night.
     So far we have unwrapped 5 of them.  The girls thoroughly enjoyed each one, even one that The Big One didn't want to even listen to.  She quickly changed her mind when she heard the upbeat and inviting tone of the book.  Our theme this month is all about children who make their own worlds through imagination and our first in the set to be opened was Strega Nona's Magic Lessons.  I had never even heard of it before.
     It's a book about a Baker's daughter who is tired of all the work that she has to do day in and day out and goes searching for something better through the town's magic woman.  The woman, Strega Nona, offers to teach her magic and this enrages the woman's handyman who wished to also learn and was denied.  The man tries his hand at baking and fails, so he dresses as a woman so that Strega Nona will teach him, but he soon also fails at that.  When he is discovered, he must apologize to Strega Nona and promise to be good before he can get his old job back.
     For this book, I decided to start with a very easy activity and simply ask them questions throughout the book.  I asked them who they thought the new lady apprentice was and if they thought the handyman was being smart when he took shortcuts while baking bread.  we discussed the disappearance of Strega Nona and whether they thought she really did turn into a toad.  It opened the door to discussions about other things as well, like hiding who you are and being lazy.  It was a great door opener for some good life lessons.
     The second book we read was Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.  It follows a donkey who likes collecting pebbles.  One day he stumbles upon a magic pebble and he begins to wish things.  When confronted by danger, he makes a very hasty and rash wish that leaves him stuck in a predicament for a very long time.  Eventually fate would have it that he is released from his predicament and he learns that nothing good comes easy.
     For this book, we used the question provided in our Sproutkin Card.  Here are the answers I got:
     When asked what they would wish for if they had a magic pebble, The Big One told me "I would wish that there would be no more Breast Cancer, that nobody would die."  Streaker responded with: "A ball that we bounce on with the handle!" and The Punk and Baby Bee both said that they would wish for hot dogs.  Of course, Baby Bee likes to copy answers and The Punk had to be roused from a half-conscious state to answer... but I suppose they might also just be happy wishing for hotdogs :)
     The books were really starting to get interesting and I was starting to learn more about what is important to my kids.  I was beginning to get excited about this whole thing.  To find out what the other three books that we have read so far are about and what we did with them, check back for part 2 of this review.  Stay tuned!

Except for the product(s) or service given to me for the purpose of reviewing, I received no compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
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12 December, 2012

Slap-on Gear Review

     My grandmother got me a watch for Christmas once.  It was a beautiful watch and I never really appreciated it's beauty until it was lost and I couldn't wear it.  Most of the time I chose not to wear it because I felt like it was too "old".  It was more delicate than watches my friends had and I just decided that it was best to leave it off.  When you are young, you don't care so much about how how fragile or intricate a thing is, you just care about how it looks with your outfit.
     Well I hope my kids will find these watches a touch more versatile than I found mine.  These watches are from Slap-On Gear and are much like the slap bracelets we had as kids, except these are not made of welt-raising plastic, but of silicone instead.  The bands slap on just like those bracelets did, but they don't hurt.
     The watch faces themselves pop right out to be swapped with bands of different colors, so it makes for a nice accessory.  They sell in sets of 2, 3, 5, 10 or 13 as well as wholesale packages.  And of course you can just buy one as well.  We got the luxury of trying out the four above, which are Magical Magenta, Princess Pink, Royal Blue, and Sky Blue.  There are 13 colors in all.  The two sets mix and match wonderfully, see?
     They came in two sizes, child and adult.  The child size is also great for women who prefer a slimmer look like myself, they are 8 7/8 inches long.  The adult size is 11 inches long and sports a rounder end to the band.
      The watches are water resistant and durable, so they are great for kids and for parents.  As a result, the battery compartment might be a touch hard to get into, but we won't complain, right?  Of course not ;)
     Slap-On Gear also offers 4 GB USB bracelets.  These would be prefect for the computer nerd of the family or for the one who is always crashing their computer with a bazillion photos and other tid-bits (you know who you are).  I would recommend Slap-On Gear for any child or any adult with a confident fashion sense.  They are fun, they are colorful and they are useful, what's more to ask for?
     Do you wear a watch?

Except for the product(s) given to me for the purpose of reviewing, I received no compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
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11 December, 2012

Plow and Hearth Review and Giveaway!

     I'm really kind of bummed about winter coming.  It seems like here in the Northeast, it never stays warm for long enough.  We barely get water warm enough to swim in when the air gets too cold to even want to swim.  Winter means the end of camping season, fishing season, hiking season, and pretty much anything fun that you could do outside.  Of course you can still go snowshoeing and we probably will, also ice skating and even ice fishing if you are into the idea of sitting over a hole in the ice.  But winter means the end of flowers and frogs, butterflies and most of your pretty song birds.  It makes me sad.
     But luckily for us, next year the song birds will have one more place to call home around here because next year, we will have this outside:
     It's a Guest Cottage Birdhouse from Plow & Hearth.  It's a birdhouse that is a recreation of a cottage originally built for Marie Antoinette and her friends to use as playhouses in the village of Versailles.  It is made of red cedar and has a one nest box.  The inside has plexiglass over the windows to protect the birds and has an easy access panel in the back should you need to get into the birdhouse.
     The birdhouse is 7-1/2"W x 6"D x 8-1/2"H which I think is an excellent size.  It isn't too big or very small.  The shingles are scattered and not perfectly even, which gives it a nice character.  It also has a very pretty marble look to the sides of the building.  Plow & Hearth also offers a matching bird feeder as well.
     The birdhouse has a stone chimney which has small polished rocks of varying colors and a grey mortar of some sort.  It is topped off with a decorative white wooden cap.  The house seems to be very rugged and durable.
     Plow & Hearth has much much more than birdhouses.  They have a great selection of outdoor solar lighting for instance.  You can find anything from lights to light up your Family name sign to lights for your steps and walkways.  Plow & Hearth also has many things in the way of outdoor and indoor decor.  In fact, it has pretty much anything you want for your home, inside or out.  One of my personal favorites is this cute turtle table:
     And for those of us strapped on cash this holiday season, there is a whole section of gifts under $25.  I love when websites make budget shopping easy.  When you go the the Gifts Under $25 page, you are given categories for all budget types without even having to choose a main category first.  I love Plow & Hearth for that.
     Plow & Hearth will definitely be on my shopping list next year for Christmas, especially now that
 that I've seen the quality of their products first hand.  And now you can too, because Plow & Hearth was kind enough to offer one of my readers a $50 GC to their site!  Of course you know the drill by now, just use the Rafflecopter below and god luck!  Contest ends the day after Christmas :)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Except for the product(s) given to me for the purpose of reviewing, I received no compensation for this post. All opinions are 100% my own.
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