Minted.com Art Collection Review

I have a mild obsession with home decor. Not that I actually go through with most of it, but man, I could spend hours pouring over Pottery Barn catalogs, Martha Stuart Living magazines and Pinterest (oh my god the ideas on Pinterest!). Now that we’re done with apartment living and finally in a house of our own, the obsession has grown 100 fold but our light blue master bedroom walls, for example, are still completely bare almost half a year here. (yikes!)

You might know Minted.com for their beautiful & customizable cards, invitations and birth announcements. But did you know they also sell ornaments, garlands, table runners, day planners, personalizable photo backdrops and tons more? When Minted approached me to review their Art Marketplace, I took it as a sign it’s time to start getting serious about decorating my house.
Minted Collage 1

Some gorgeous artwork available at Minted.com

First, I love how easy it is to navigate the Minted.com site. With their filters, if you’re looking for specific artwork, say a personalizable print for your little boy… no problem, look right here. How about limited edition, abstract art in non-traditional colors and a portrait layout? Yep, they’ve got a bunch of those here too. It’s really amazing how much variety they have and I’m surprised how much of it I really like.

But, I’m still not sure exactly what I want, so I let my kids go first and hoped for inspiration along the way. The kids previously had an ocean inspired theme to their bedroom, but since my daughter has developed an all-consuming obsession with bright orange (luckily we convinced her to go with just one wall instead of the whole room), the marine life doesn’t really fit as well as it once did. We picked an orange color filter (of course) at Minted.com/Art and scrolled through the limited edition prints. My daughter immediately began calling out favorites:
minted orange collageI also love that if you scroll down to the bottom of any page, Minted shows you a person holding the art in every size offered so you can see exactly how big your picture will be when it arrives. And, when you click on a frame, you can see exactly how each picture will look in each specific frame. Some pictures even have a few different customizable color options like the Schooner design below. Now I know what an 8×10 looks like, but I found myself checking to see how the print looked every time – it was comforting and sometimes actually had me going bigger or smaller.
minted Collage 2

 I’m still looking through all the options, but once I make my final decision and place my order, I’ll be sure to share with you what I think about these prints and frames in person. And if you’re looking for a great Christmas gift, there’s still time with 2 day or overnight shipping!

Plus take advantage of these great offers: Enjoy 20% off art & gifts. Code: GIFT20 | Free 2-day shipping on art orders $75+. Code: ARTFS2

This post is sponsored by minted.com. I received a Minted credit in exchange for my time and honest review. My opinions and ridiculously awesome picks are 100% mine.

Our DIY Frozen Halloween – Family Costume How To

Disney Frozen Halloween Costumes How To - Olaf and Anna

My daughter (along with half the kids in the US) decided she wanted to be a character from Disney’s Frozen movie this Halloween. After she made the big decision of which character (Anna) and we negotiated how the rest of the family would fit in (“Nobody is Hans because he’s a bad guy.”), I got down to the business of assembling our costumes as a mixture of bought (mostly at Old Navy with coupons!) and DIY pieces (because I do not have time to learn to sew dresses!).

Here is my do it yourself process:

How to DIY your own Frozen Anna Coronation Hair Ribbon

I fell in love with Anna’s Coronation outfit (which I found cheap on eBay direct from China) and convinced O to go along with the green instead of Anna’s typical snow travel ensemble (which involves a dress AND a cape). The hairpiece was the easiest part and I think it allowed us to not have to totally copy Anna’s intricate ceremony hairstyle (we just slicked her hair up in a bun instead).

HOW TO: For her hairpiece we picked out 3 sparkly ribbons: a light green, a dark green and gold. I cut pieces of equal length from each and hot glued them to a barrette (from A.C. Moore). Then I tied another piece of gold into a bow and hot glued just the back of it to the barrette (tip: put your fingers in the bow loops as you glue so the tops don’t get stuck  or your clip will look smooshed). Easy!

How to DIY your own Frozen Anna Boots
Although technically Anna wore more formal shoes to the coronation, it’s getting pretty cold over here, so function won out (plus my daughter needed some fall/winter transition shoes). Luckily, she was okay with it because these boots are clearly featured in the movie during Anna’s visit to Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post & Sauna. I picked out The Children’s Place Ryder Boots to decorate.

HOW TO: I printed a picture of the costume boots from The Disney Store to use as a guide. Then I sketched out my design in chalk (you can easily wipe chalk mistakes off faux leather like this with a damp cloth or finger). I started out with Fun Paint Glitter Glue in gold but the applicator tube was too big and I knew all my lines were going to run together. Then I tried Martha Stewart’s brand glitter glue in lemon drop (pack of 16 assorted colors on clearance at A.C. Moore!) which had a perfect, long thin applicator but the yellow turned green on the black boots. I had to empty the Martha Stuart glue and replace it with the gold in her small tube but then I just traced my design and let the boots dry overnight.

How to DIY your own Frozen Elsa Hair Crown Braid
If my daughter is Anna, you know Mommy has to be Elsa. Since I have a pixie, I knew I’d need faux hair for Elsa’s signature over the shoulder single braid. Doing just a braid crown took less time than crocheting an entire hat and attaching the braid and I think it turned out pretty good!

HOW TO: First measure loosely around your head and down your shoulder to where you want your braid to fall and then double that length (I probably also added a few extra inches to be safe – better too long than too short). I picked a white yarn with some sparkle and cut about 200 pieces that size. Yes, it will be tedious, but turn on a movie and you’ll get through it before it’s over. Tip: make sure you lay your pieces of yarn out so that the ends on one side are lined up (doesn’t have to be exact) to save time and frustration later. Next, holding all your cut pieces together, tie a knot at the lined up end and stick it under something heavy (I put it under my laptop). Comb through the yarn with your fingers to make sure it’s not tangled (take your time!), divide it into 3 sections and braid. Use a large hairband to hold the end of your braid temporarily.

Find the center of your braid and hold the center up to your forehead. Wrap the ends behind your head so that it feels comfortable but not too loose (remember the yarn will stretch) and tie that permanently. I used two of those tiny rubber band hair ties (since they always break). Now, unbraid your 2 tail ends and re-braid them together into a single braid. Secure the end permanently and trim your ends even.

There are lots of ways to decorate your Elsa hair braid and I thought about getting some sparkly snowflake jewels but when I stumbled across these paper snowflakes in the scrapbooking section of A.C. Moore, I knew I wasn’t going to find a better deal. Put 2 aside for your shoes and hot glue the rest to your braid.

Perfect to DIY your own Frozen Elsa Costume
I already owned a blue skirt and I found this very Elsa-looking top on Amazon for $10!!! I decided to do without the cape (partially because somewhere inside I was convinced my daughter would change her mind at the last second and steal my costume identity) but I did buy some rhinestone stickers for $1.99, also from the scrap-booking section at my local craft store, and my 4 year old had a blast sticking them to me. Yes – they fell off all over the place but she went a little overboard so I had plenty to spare. :)

How to DIY your own Frozen Elsa Costume Shoes
I kept 2 snowflakes leftover from Elsa’s hair and hot glued them onto some teal blue Sueded Pointed Toe Flats from Old Navy. These are another totally different shade, but at least all the pieces of my costume were blue, right?

How to DIY your own Frozen Costumes for a Family - Olaf and Sven
For my son’s Olaf costume, I decided to plan everything around the hat but so many of them were kinda scary looking I was relieved to find this Disney Frozen Flipeez Olaf Hat on Amazon. From there I had planned to put him in just a big, cheap white sweatshirt but I couldn’t find any anywhere! I thought I might have to settle for like 3 layered white shirts for warmth when I noticed a shearling lined brown jacket in the Toddler department. Turned inside out, those unlined brown arms become instant sticks and I have my (off) white snowman. Oh, except there was brown down the center for the zipper too – so I actually had the jacket inside out and backwards. My little guy didn’t seem to mind one bit though. Circles of sticky-back black felt were used as faux buttons and easily covered the interior jacket tag. The best thing about this costume is that I can use all the pieces again later throughout the winter – no waste! :)

Mimi went as Sven the reindeer (a close win over a rock troll). I already had a brown furry cape so she paired that with some brown pants, a black turtleneck and inflatable antlers (the fuzzy ones looked really straggly, plus these were cheaper). Of course her costume wouldn’t be complete without an “Official Arendelle Ice Master and Deliverer” medal, so I found a glittery snowflake and hot glued it to some leftover maroon ribbon from Daddy’s costume to make it a necklace.

How to DIY your own Frozen Kristoff CostumeMy husband’s costume was the only one that required sewing but it was still fairly simple. He used his own gray twill pants an Bogs boots to finish off the look.

HOW TO: I started by pinning the grosgrain ribbon around the collar and v-neck of the shirt/tunic. Then I added a stripe across each shoulder, following the existing seam. I didn’t have a thicker piece of ribbon, so I laid 2 about 6 inch long pieces of my 1.5 inch wide ribbon side by side down the front of the shirt from the point of the v-neck and sewed everything down. Next, I cut out a V shape from the bottom right side of the tunic and pinned faux fur along both sides of the V and around the bottom hem. I pinned and sewed faux fur around both arms and the neckline – but not all the way to the center of the V-neck – leave an inch or 2 free of fur there. I don’t think you can even tell in the picture above that I left that empty space in front, but, trust me, his chin would have been swallowed by fur otherwise (it also helps ensure he can pull the shirt over his head – see below).

Quick tip: I found out that sewing trim onto jersey material is hard; if you pull too much, it’ll bunch and if you pull too little, the sleeves might be too tight to get on. To solve this, I sewed 3/4 of the way around and left the a big tail at the underside of the sleeve. Then I had my husband try on the shirt to make sure his arms fit in and just did a quick tack stitch by hand to connect the fur pieces and cover the empty section. Faux fur is so forgiving, it was completely unnoticeable.

Frozen Anna Boots After Tantrum
P.S. This is what happens to the boots after they’ve been worn during an epic, probably candy-fueled, tantrum. Next time I’ll add some sort of mod podge or sealant or something over the top of the glitter glue. But it was good while it lasted!
How to DIY your own Frozen Costumes for a Family
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Terms of Bedtime Surrender

giraffe-bedtime-terms editedSometimes bedtime goes smoothly but other times my daughter claims it simply isn’t possible for her to sleep, close her eyes or even breathe without someone else in the room with her. After exhausting the classic, surefire stalling tactics: I need water, I have to go potty, my tummy is exploding (hungry), I finally got this bedtime request last night:

“Mommy, will you make a surprise for me for in the morning?”

“Will you go to sleep now if I make you a surprise?”

“Um, yes.”

“Ok, what kind of surprise?”

“I want you to draw me a picture of a giraffe. With hearts on it. And say Love O.”

“I would be happy to do that for you.”

“Ok, can you do it right now? Go get the crayons and white paper and sit at the table.”

As I backed out uncertainly I said, “Ok, I’ll go right now. Good night, I love you.”

“Ok. Do it right now and I’ll go to sleep.”

She said it. And I didn’t hear another peep.

If this became a tradition and actually helped her go to bed at bed time, that would be amazing. I’m going to ask her if she wants a surprise picture next time she doesn’t want to go to sleep. Fingers crossed. (Luckily my artistic abilities don’t seem to be a deciding factor either, haha.)

I’m a Guest Blogger – E-Time Rules (in both senses)

Creative Geekery is doing a series on Screen Time Rules (how different families manage television and other forms of digital entertainment in their families) and I am so thrilled to be her first guest blogger! Come read how the ThinkerMommy family allots E-time here:

http://creative-geekery.com/family-screen-time-rules-thinkermommy-com-style/

Warning: we do sometimes exceed the AAP’s recommendations for E-time.

Random picture found on my iPhone after O had played with it

Found on my iPhone after O had played with it

Thinker Contest: Interpret That Masterpiece!!

I’ve been endlessly amused lately by my 3 year old’s long and detailed explanations of her drawings. Her art became an after hours guessing game with Daddy for a while – the ultimate how well do you know your child showdown – but he knows her too well, it was way too easy for him. I was expecting a lot more creativity, a lot more comedy. Then I realized I just needed different players for this game. (Plus I have a wonderful prize from Starbucks that I need a reason to give away!).

O drawing 2

So here’s the rules: 1. Follow me on Twitter @ThinkerMommy, 2. Follow me on Pinterest and 3. Leave a comment below with your best guess at what the drawing above depicts. The person whose comment most closely matches the description my daughter gave for this original piece of art will win. And if this guessing game turns out to be far easier than I expected and more than one person gets it “right,” I will give extra points for creativity (and/or use a random number generator) to select the winner. P.S. #1 and #2 aren’t totally required (like if you don’t have a Twitter account or you don’t use Pinterest, don’t let that stop you from entering) but please follow me on those sites otherwise, I’d really appreciate it!

The winner gets a 10 oz bag of ground Holiday Blend coffee from Starbucks and 2 stacking peppermint-striped Starbucks mugs (12oz).

Note: Only 1 bag of coffee is included in the prize - I had to sample the other one.

Note: Only 1 bag of coffee is included in the prize – I had to sample the other one.

Holiday Gift Guide 2013

The best gift guides are ones that people actually purchase from right? So here’s what we’re getting and giving this Christmas:

b toys teepee blue1. Although I think a $249 play teepee from Pottery Barn Kids is beautiful, that is way more than I want to spend on a single Christmas gift for a kid under 5 years old. This version by B. toys, though, is only $39.99 and includes a star-projecting lantern inside! I’ve honestly never seen a teepee for under $100. Plus it looks like it’ll last longer than the cardboard castles and playhouse we’ve gotten in the past (although those were great to color on!).

hape-ukelele-red2. My 3 year old loves making noise… er, music. Instead of getting another electronic toy that plays automatically with the push of a button (of which she has tons), we thought this year she might enjoy something a little more individually powered. This tunable, 21″ Baltic birch & maple ukelele by Hape grows with your child if they wants to keep honing their skills. And at $29.95, it’s cheaper than most wooden guitars (in case the love is short-lived).

piggy paint orange3. This is more of a stocking stuffer, but we’re definitely getting some Piggy Paint non-toxic nail polish in Mac-n-Cheese Please – their most Vibrant, Pumpkin Orange and O’s favorite color. But, of course, there are lots more colors and sets to choose from (the Fancies and Frills set and Jingle Nail Rock sets are especially cute). I did my research and have used Piggy Paint since I was pregnant so I feel safe using their low odor, water based formula for both me and my young daughter. merida plush doll

4. I have a soft spot for all things Disney. It hasn’t completely taken hold in my children yet, but I’m pretty sure once they start watching the movies, it’s only a matter of time (of course, we may need a trip to Disneyland to cement the love, haha). In the meantime, I’m completely in love with these all-soft, 18 to 21 inch Disney character dolls. I love the large-but-not-too-large size, their creative fabric hairstyles that will never tangle, and their cuddly bodies. I’m stocking my son and daughter’s toy boxes with Woody, Rapunzel, Captain Hook, Cinderella, Flynn Rider, Merida & more. Plus frequent sales (including the Black Friday weekend prices happening now) often take these dolls from $19.95 each to under $10!!

Dyson Toy Vacuum5. Both my kids love whenever I pull out the vacuum: when they were babies, I swear the sound would put them to sleep, and when they got older, they’d crawl around the room following it, throwing a fit when I finally turned it off. My oldest has asked to help vacuum a number of times (yes, please!) but the large Dyson is hard to handle at her height. So, when I found a near identical, mini version of our red Dyson, I knew it had to be ours. This cool toy can even suck up little pieces of paper which will delight my kids. But this is just a toy, not an actual vacuum cleaner – from the reviews I’ve read, as long as you keep that in mind, it’s a pretty great gift.

6. We’ve had quite a few failures with blocks. I never bought plain wooden blocks because I’ve known too soft foam blocksmany people who’ve gotten hurt on those hard wooden corners and I was worried about them being thrown. So in my search for alternatives, first we had the set of giant Lego-like eco blocks that were impossible to separate and hard for kids under 3 to push together – oops. Then, we had the slightly smaller Lego-like blocks that refused to stick together making life frustrating for a little girl who wanted to walk around with her creations. But on a recent playdate, I found these soft foam Wonder Blocks which seemed like the answer to my prayers – no interlocking pieces and no worries about tall towers falling on someone’s head.

my pal scout7. My one year old really doesn’t need much, but he has a serious soft spot for puppies. So this year, his big gift is an oldie but a goodie: The My Pal Scout doll from Leapfrog. This toy has been around a while but it’s still on the shelves because moms and kids love it: you can customize Scout so he’ll say your child’s name and a few other fun personalized things, he sings songs, plays games and is easy to use. I hope the lullaby feature will help with naptime once Bugaboo stops nursing too. Kiwi Crate box

8. Last but not least, my daughter has an aching love of craft boxes. We already get monthly boxes from Kiwi Crate and BabbaCo but each box only lasts a few days and the months are long. So, I’ve put a few subscription sites on our Christmas wish list: M is for Monster, The Little Thinker Box and CareFree Crafts all look really promising.

Happy Black Friday shopping!

Potty Training Tip – Beware the Fancy Diapers!

toddler upsidedown $

Beware the fancy diapers!

I thought we were doing my daughter a favor by getting her the really soft disposable diapers. Sure they were more expensive, but she was our firstborn, our baby! I gathered up all my diaper samples from the various baby expos I’d attended and did a complete, almost scientific, brand test. Some of the diapers leaked on us, some were so papery they crinkled every time she moved and I worried the rustling would be loud enough to disturb her sleep (yes, I was paranoid), and some just seemed really scratchy. Didn’t we love our daughter enough to spend a few extra dollars to prevent an itchy and uncomfortable feeling that we wouldn’t put up with ourselves? Well, when you put it that way…

I later discovered our fancy disposable diaper brand also had a loyalty rewards program with some pretty cool “free” stuff we could earn (with points from our purchases) and I’m a huge sucker for that kind of stuff. So that, plus the fact we had no complaints (no rashes, etc), kept us from switching brands as she got older. We did eventually get a big plastic Little Tikes grocery cart for “free” which I still find totally awesome (please do not reply with logic about how with all the extra money we could have saved by buying cheaper diapers we could have bought 10 grocery carts – I don’t want to hear it. It was free I tell you, free!!).

cart 076

It was free I tell you, free!! (doll not included)

Then came potty training. Or it should have. We passed her second birthday and her third and still my daughter had no problems being wet or poopy. Like no problems whatsoever. She would have stayed in one diaper for the rest of eternity if left to herself. As I scoured potty training guides and parent manuals, many said the first step was for your child to show readiness, meaning discomfort being wet or soiled, or at least notifying you in some way before or after. Of course this is all usually supposed to happen a lot sooner too. We got nothing. I might have tried the “run naked and free until you feel pee dribbling down your leg” method but we have carpet throughout our house so I stuck that in the last resort file. I also read that rushing potty training can seriously backfire (constipation, taking longer to train overall, etc.) so I just kept telling myself, it’d be fine, no one goes to prom in diapers.

minnie potty chair

Our 3rd potty – the self “flusher” that says “hip hip horray” made this one the winner

We decided to move our daughter into Pull-Ups even before she was “ready” to potty train because 1. she was too big for the changing table, 2. we wanted to associate the changing table with babies, like her brother, not big girls like her and 3. we wanted her to get in the habit of pulling her diaper on and off by herself. But we stuck with our expensive brand out of habit. I tried giving O lots of liquids and asking her to try to use the potty every 10 or 15 minutes but she would go in her diaper directly before or after sitting on her potty. I tried demonstrating for her. I even tried a different potty that mounted onto the big toilet. Still no success. I think she knew exactly what I was asking for, but her body wasn’t cooperating; it just hadn’t clicked yet.

CVS brand pull up diapers

CVS brand pull up diapers. AKA not fancy.

Then we went to a CVS I’d never been to before due to a mix-up with a prescription at the pharmacy. I have a secret love for drugstores like Walgreens or Rite Aid; stores where there’s a little bit of everything and you never know what you’ll find, and where there’s always a holiday section filled with cheesy adorable themed knickknacks you don’t need (I always end up buying 1 or 2). While living in Boston, I discovered that very CVS is different, so I’d always wander the aisles whenever I was in a new store or just had time to kill (this is all related, I swear). While wandering this time for new and interesting products I didn’t know I needed, I noticed a super sale on the CVS brand pull-ups and I swear a light bulb clicked on above my head. What if the super plush, super absorbent, fancy diapers were part of the problem? What if she needs a flimsy, cheap diaper to feel that she’s wet and that wet is not good? What if she needs an uncomfortable diaper to motivate her to switch into comfy cotton undies? I still had fears about leakage but the sale was enough to prompt me to give it a try. Wait… what are my design options? Adorable alien monsters and/or pink butterflies? Ok, Sold.

It was like magic. Once we started wearing the cheapy diapers, O started telling us when she wet her diaper. So we started regularly asking her if she had to go, or to just sit and give it a try, and finally she successfully used the potty. I went the bribe route by offering m&ms for every attempt which worked sometimes but O was still going in her diaper frequently. The turning point was when she had 2 total leak-through accidents within 2 days (something that would never have happened in her expensive pull-ups) and suddenly the switch in her brain flipped. She’s been using the potty like a pro ever since. She has actually requested to wear her undies at night too and has stayed dry (5 nights and counting!!).

So there’s my cautionary tale. Should have saved this post for Halloween, haha. Beware!!

Planning our Itsy Bitsy Spider First Birthday Party

spider label collage watermark

Unbelievable. It’s almost time for Number 2 (aka Oren)’s first birthday. I admit I used to roll my eyes a little every time someone said it with a nostalgic sigh, but one day it’ll hit you – the time really does fly! Funny thing about time though: when you’re looking forward to something it can move faster or slower depending on what you don’t want it to do. Ten more minutes until the school bell rings takes forever because you want the day to be over. But I’m so excited to be planning this party and loving every minute of it and then all of  sudden I’m like, “Wait… what?! It’s already Thursday?!! I only have how many weeks left?!”

Anyway, Grandpa in California decided he wanted to throw the big 01 party this year and we needed to check off a long-overdue visit on our end, so that decided things quickly. Nana Mark’s monster theme is going to be spectacular but I obviously don’t want to miss out on a second opportunity for cake… I mean, I don’t want to miss out on having a party with my east coast friends masquerading as a party for my one year old who won’t even remember it (except in pictures – which is what I have to keep reminding my husband to prevent it from turning into a lame single balloon and sheet cake type of event). So… we’re having 2 birthday parties; bi-coastal celebrations!

P.S. Since I’m so cool to be having an east and west coast party for my son, I’m also going to pretend to be a movie star as we schlep car seats, a stroller, diaper bags, gobs of toys, suitcases, 2 children and god knows what else through the airport. I’m pretty sure all I need is a funky new infinity scarf, big sunglasses, new books on my Kindle and a secret Godiva stash. I have an excellent imagination.

The Itsy Bitsy Spider theme for the east coast party came about because it’s the first song that ever really caught Oren’s attention – stopped him from squirming on the changing table or fussing while getting into a car seat – and it became a favorite. Unfortunately, the minute we stop the song he usually goes into hysterics, so there have been some memorable never-ending musical adventures. Plus spiders are cool (and my 3 year old is totally into bugs right now – every time we go outside she tries to force an ant to hitchhike on her hand to destiny unknown).

Sorry this post has serious ADD! Anyway, when I started buying things for the party, I realized that most of the adorable shops I love that sell printable invites, etc., didn’t offer Itsy Bitsy Spider themed items. For such a popular nursery song, I was really surprised. Most of what I could find was in Halloween oranges, purples and black – not the happiest colors. But I had already fallen in love with the spider idea and nothing else seemed right for Oren.

So, I made this Pinterest board and decided to emphasize the “out came the sunshine” and “down came the rain” parts of the song. First, I made the color scheme bright blue and yellow – nice, happy colors for a little boy’s birthday party. Then, I focused on those 4 visuals: rain, clouds, sun, spider (I’m pretty convinced there’s no way to make a water spout look good on anything but the invite). There are actually lots of “You are my Sunshine” themed party printables so I tagged a few as something I might be able to use with slight alterations (just add spider, right?). But eventually I decided to enlist the help of a talented graphic designer on Etsy to design something original and adorable for me. Etsy has this great feature where you can request a custom order from sellers that are willing to do accommodate them – so no matter how crazy your idea, someone out there will probably help you make it happen. Luckily my idea wasn’t so crazy (for once).  ;)

Here’s what Mia at thepartyfairydesigns on Etsy, came up with for me (also pictured at the top of this post):

spider party xtra collage watermark

clockwise from top left: invite, t-shirt iron-on design (!), treat bag toppers, party hat

And this is just a VERY small part of what I got for only $32 ($12 for the invite and $20 for the rest of the custom party package). Mia even made me a personalized coloring book page for Oren and his little guests, a welcome sign, a custom happy birthday bunting, and more. Click here to see the amazing amount of stuff she’ll make for you in a custom party package.

So the decor is mostly done, just need to do some printing and cutting, buy a tablecloth, plates, streamers and such. Now I can move on to trying to figure out what we’re going to serve our guests to eat. I give Mia total credit for coming up with rainwater as a beverage idea (and I’ve got a cool label to go with it) but I’ll need a bit more than that. Wish me luck! And please, comment if you have any ideas – I’d love some suggestions!

Family Summer Bucket List: Week 3 and 4

I love that I’m able to see exactly what we’ve done this summer and relive those fun moments through these blog posts. So, we crossed off the following bucket list items: Make Gak, Find a New Playground, Have an Adults Only Monster Golf Date and Make Stained Glass with tissue paper.

gak collage

1. I found a bunch of different recipes for Gak (aka goop, slime, silly putty) online; most use Borax but there are also creative versions made without borax too. I decided to go traditional since this is our first time. Surprisingly, even though there are only like 3 ingredients, there’s more than one “right” way to do it – so I had to try 2 different versions (we needed 2 colors anyway). Both recipes are below for you. First we tried making Gak using the recipe from The Magnolia Barn. I used some leftover purple pigment from Glob Natural Paints to color the Gak which also made it smell fruity and amazing . The end result wasn’t as stretchy as I assumed it should be; it tended to break off in nice chunks instead (which was still cool looking), but it took on shapes easily and held them for a while (hand prints or shapes of things left on top of it, for example) and it had a nice feel. O immediately asked for her rolling pin and began making tissue paper-thin sheets of Gak and then started methodically punching out “cookies.”

Next we tried the recipe from Come Together Kids. I was able to get almost 6 half teaspoons into mine (see step 4) but I was trying to get as much Borax as possible to really see the difference in these recipes. We made this batch orange. It looks like the Borax helps make the Gak stretchier. I put a small bit of each Gak version over two outstretched fingers about 12 inches from the top of the table and timed which one would blob down to the table first. The orange recipe (from Come Together Kids) stretched down to the table in about 10 seconds but our purple version (from The Magnolia Barn) was barely starting to feel the pull of gravity. The downside to the orange version though is that shapes formed are quickly gone (hand prints almost immediately flatten out) which might be frustrating to some.

So both recipes are good but each might be better for different ages and/or different personalities. For kids who are tickled by gross things and boogers, for example – I recommend the orange. For kids who like to mold shapes and flatten with rolling pins – the purple might be better.

Gak Comparison colored

2. Our goal to find a new playground was actually fulfilled by accident. I had signed us up to go to an annual ladybug release event sponsored by our local Junior Women’s Club and that meetup just so happened to be right next to a cool new playground. Releasing the ladybugs to help local gardens and doing ladybug-related crafts was fun too though. And yes, I’m playing with photo editing software again (addicted!!).

ladybug collage
ladybug park dance

3. As I mentioned when I made our summer bucket list, we added in a few Adults Only items to ensure that daddy and I made time for our date nights (which always seem to get pushed back for some reason or another). A new Monster Mini Golf place open up near us a while ago and we’d been wanting to go for months – thanks to our bucket list, we finally made it happen. We were hoping we could go back with O, but it was lucky we tried it out alone first – the place was way too scary for a 3-year-old (large animated monsters, loud music, monster paintings on the walls, etc). But it was fun for us (and mommy won by 9 strokes). For the future, clearly we missed the memo and should have worn white shirts.

monster golf collage

4. I’d been waiting to do tissue paper stained glass with my daughter since before she was born – I clearly remember doing it myself when I was little. When the activity came in one of our monthly craft subscription boxes and I didn’t have to do any work to make it happen, I was even more excited. O and I peeled the backing off a piece of contact paper and laid it sticky side up on the table, then we placed the black paper frame over the top to hold the contact paper down (and make it look nice). I cut pieces of colored tissue paper into small squares and O applied them with the concentrated precision of a focused preschooler. It was a quick project but at least our art can stay up in the window for as long as we like.

stained glass collage

FREE DIY Summer Reading Camp

PBS Kids Summer Reading

My daughter and I read before bed every night but I am always inspired by contests and pledges – and any motivation to read more and seek out new books is always a good thing. So when I found out about a free 10 week DIY Summer Reading Camp sponsored by Education.com and PBS kids, I was excited to learn more. And when I discovered there are activities appropriate for kids as young as preschool age (and up to fifth grade), it sounded even better.

All you have to do is sign up for an account at Education.com and then take the pledge to read at least 10 books this summer. Mom and dad will also be entered to win one of 5 a Kindle prize packs valued at more than $350 – Bonus! Education.com asks you to select your child’s grade and then gives you a great list of summer “Must-Reads” at your child’s reading level to start you out.

But wait, it gets better. Each of the 10 weeks of Reading Camp has a theme (“Bugs”, “Heroes”, “Get Wet”, “Dragons and Dinos”, etc) and at least a dozen activities per week to do with your kids using materials you likely already have around the house. There are free worksheets to download in the weekly activity sets too. They even give you weekly print outs with all the activities and supplies on a checklist so you can collect everything in advance and pick and neatly choose which activities you want to try. All 10 weekly activity sheets and all the activity instructions are already posted online (no waiting!) so you can do them in any order you want. And did I mention it’s all FREE??!!

Here are the books O and I picked (some based on the cover pictures, but that’s okay):

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Caps for Sale
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon
  • Flat Stanley
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
  • I Stink
  • Harry, the Dirty Dog

We will probably add in extra books that work with each week’s theme also. And for older kids it would be cool to make a chart to tape to the wall so that they can mark off each book and see their progress. Maybe get some star stickers involved – what kid doesn’t love stickers on a chart?

Poking around the Education.com site I also found that you can download 10 additional free printable worksheets every month (more if you want to get a paid subscription to Education.com). Why haven’t I been using this site more often?!

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