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Get Caught Reading: Personalized Books Engage Young Readers (plus Discount Code)

19 May

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Did you know May is National Get Caught Reading Month?  In a digital age where kids are often seen holding iPads or their parent’s smart phone, it’s exciting when kids want to read and are engaged in their books.  I love seeing when my girls pick up a book and read.  Not because I made them or because it was homework but because they love what they are reading. Personalized books are a great way to engage kids and encourage them to “get caught reading”.

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I See Me offers personalized books for kids.  Include your child’s birthdate, gender, hair color, skin color, add a photo of your child, create a message/ dedication to them, choose your child’s favorite color, as well as add the name of their best friend and/ or sibling(s).  Each story will be unique and fun for your child to read.  They are able to relate and will want to read it over and over again.  The books make a wonderful gift for new babies or birthdays.

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My oldest received her first I See Me, My Very Own Fairy Tale  book as a gift when she was born, almost 7 years ago.   When  she was a toddler, I read it to her and she couldn’t believe that the story was about her.  She recognized her name.  Now that she is reading, she loves to go back and read her “very own fairy tale”.

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My youngest, 5, just received her first I See Me book.  She loves when I snuggle in bed with her and read at night.  I chose Sweet Dreams, Fairy for her first book.  The first time I read it to her she leaped out of bed surprised and excited that there were fairies named after her best friend and sister.  She loves it so much, I catch her “reading” all the time-not just at bed time.  She reads it to her dolls and our most recent visitor, my brother’s French Bulldog.  It’s a sweet story with beautiful illustrations.

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I See Me offers personalized products for everyone and every occasion.  In addition to books they offer personalized lunchboxes, puzzles, placemats, coloring books, stickers and growth charts.

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For more information visit: http://www.iseeme.com/. You can also find I See Me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Sweet Dreams Fairy to personalize for my daughter.  This did not alter my opinion.  All opinions and images are my own.

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Creating Beautiful Books With Your Child’s Artwork & Plum Print (promo code included)

28 Apr

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When it comes to creativity, my girls have no limit.  I love that their creative minds are always hard at work whether they are using a pen and blank piece of paper, building “castles” with recycled materials, or painting whatever comes to mind on a blank canvas.  I enjoy watching them.  It’s beautiful but the artwork piles up in almost every corner, on the windowsills , and on the tables in our apartment.  Last year, I started going through it all and took a lot of photos of various projects telling myself I would create a book.  A year later, those photos are still on the memory disk.  Balancing busy schedules, makes finding the time to put them into a book challenging.

Sorting through all of the artwork!

Sorting through all of the artwork!

Last week, my daughter and I attended an event hosted by Plum Print. Plum Print offers an amazing service, creating beautiful books using your child’s wonderful creations.  Founders Carolyn and Meg, didn’t know what to do with the artwork that was taking over their apartments.  With small spaces in mind and trying to figure out how to preserve such precious creations, Plum Print was formed.  They take the pieces of artwork and format the book for you.  Example books here.

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At the event, amazing art students (@rloricarto & @sujiparks on Instagram) created sketches and watercolors of my girls. It was a lovely treat and I can’t wait to hang them in my girls room.

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My daughter was also busy working hard on creating more colorful pieces of artwork to add to her first Plum Print book. 

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How Plum Print works:

  • Order a Plum Print Package, delivered to your door for a $39.99 deposit
  • Send Plum Print your favorite pieces of art. You can include paintings, 3D sculptures,  journal entries, or anything else your child created and you would like to include.
  • Choose the size of the book you would like. Books start at $85 (pricing). You can customize it by adding your child’s picture and/ or captions to be displayed under the piece of art. Soon canvases and note cards will be available. 
  • Once the Plum Print team receives your artwork, they will create your book. Once it is finished, they will send a proof for you to approve. If you like it your book will be shipped. If you don’t, you can let Plum know what pieces you would like changed.
  • During the process you can decide if you would like to send your original artwork back to you or if you would like them to dispose of it.
  • Enjoy your beautiful book for a lifetime.

As the school year comes to an end, what a perfect way to say goodbye to the artwork.  Plum Print would make the perfect gift for your little graduate.  Surprise them or let them help you choose their favorite accomplishments.  To get started, I’m excited to share a discount code to use on your purchase.  Enter “tastefully” at checkout for 10% off!  Click the link to start your Plum Print book.

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Plum Print also offers a School Partnerships to help raise funds for your school.  Learn more here.

Disclaimer: I received a book for attending the event.

Ideas For Thanksgiving Fun

20 Nov

I always enjoyed sitting at the “kids table” when my entire family got together for meals over the Holidays.  It gave me a sense of independence and freedom from my parents and I got to sit with my older cousins, who I looked up to.  We are headed down to my parents in Virginia this year.  It’s the first time in a long time, I can’t even remember how long, that we will be getting together with extended family.  There will be about 60 people and I am excited for my girls to experience the “kids table” with the next generation cousins.  In the past, we got together at a family members house so the kids could run around in the yard or play in the basement.  With the number of people expected, we had to rent a place so I have been on Pinterest everyday trying to find ideas to spruce up the “kids table” and keep them entertained until it is time to eat.  Here are five ideas I found for Thanksgiving fun:

1.  Pin It: My girls love Pin the ____ games.  We decided to make a Pin the Gobbler on the Turkey game.  Each child will get a gobbler.  They will have to write what they are thankful for on it.  They will be blindfolded and will have try to pin it closest to where the gobbler goes. My daughter just finished coloring and is checking out how her gobbler will look.

2. Coloring is always great for keeping little ones entertained.  I love this crayon holder from parents.com.  Put a turkey at each seat or spread a few out on the table for sharing.  Make sure to leave some paper or print Thanksgiving Themed coloring pages.

Image from parents.com. Click to find out how to make this adorable Turkey.

2.  Let them Play: These finger puppets are adorable from The Idea Room are adorable and you can purchase the pattern for $2.50.

Image from The Idea Room

3. Mix it up: The kids can make this adorable Gratitude Turkey Treat Jar from Toddler Approved while they wait for dinner or dessert.  Fill it with a snack mix or left over Halloween candy as they suggest to take home.  My oldest came up with a mix using cheerios, raisins, dried cranberries, Brach’s Autumn Mix and Enjoy Life chocolate chips.

Image from Toddler Approved, click link to find out how to make.

4.  Save your place:  My oldest loves place cards.  She enjoys looking for her name and her sisters name.  Attempt to avoid arguing over who is sitting next to who by using adorable these adorable place cards from Dandee: A Happily Crafted Life. We are going to try cutting lollipop sticks so the little ones don’t poke themselves on the toothpick.

Image from Dandee: A Happily Crafted Life, click link to find out how to make.

5. Story Time:  Have the older kids read to the younger kids at the table.  A few fun Thanksgiving books we love are:

Image from Barnes and Noble.

Image from Barnes and Noble.

Image from Barnes and Noble.

Never Too Young To Learn How To Prevent Cancer

20 Sep

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and with early detection she was able to beat it.  On the day I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter, she found out the cancer was gone.  I will never forget that phone call and am so blessed that she is able to be a big part of my girls’ lives.  We all know someone affected by cancer whether it has been someone close to us or an acquaintance. I have several friends who have battled the disease themself and friends who have lost a family member to the disease.  According to the American Cancer Societynearly 1 of every 4 deaths is caused from cancer, making the disease the second most common cause of death, exceeded only by heart disease, in the USIt is important that we educate children about taking preventative measures to slow the disease or stop it from invading our bodies all together, especially when it comes to educating children with healthy choices for meals.  What we eat now may not have immediate impact but could have detrimental impact in the long run.

One of many fun adventure’s with their Mema!

The Prevent Cancer Foundation has provided millions to support cancer research to better understand the disease, funding many impressive discoveries.  In 2011, the Foundation provided the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium with funds to support the development of a traditional food and activity workbook that aims to promote healthy lifestyle choices and nutritional habits among alaskan children (8-10) at risk for obesity, cancer and other diseasesAlthough, the workbook is geared toward Alaskan Natives it provides a wealth of information that could be useful to all youth.  It educates children on foods we need, why we need various nutrients, how much we need, when to eat, portion sizes, the importance of hand washing, food sanitation, food safety and includes easy recipes kids can make.  My girls are a little young for the workbook but they enjoyed coloring it and talking about the pages they worked on.

One important fact I tried to stress was the impact on sugar.  I taught them about the difference between natural sugars versus refined (added) sugar.  My two year old wasn’t interested but my 4 year old had a lot of questions especially after an experience she had after eating too much candy without permission (her tummy really hurt her).  We talked about how fruit is a better choice than gummy bears and that too much fruit isn’t good either.

Working on their workbook with their Uncle!

As a parent, I need to do a better job of making sure my girls learn to make healthy choices by modeling healthy eating habits at home and teaching them about healthy choices.   Educational games and workbooks like the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s are a great way to engage children to learn about healthy choices and the impact they have. Click the link to find out how you can buy  the Traditional Food Guide Activity Book for your home or classroom.

Learn more about the Prevent Cancer Foundation and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

Disclaimer: I received two workbooks from The Prevent Cancer Foundation for the purpose of this review.  My brother works for the foundation and worked with the girls on the workbook too.  All opinions expressed are my own unless otherwise noted.

Picnic Time!

8 May

The girls and I love having picnics in the park on nice days.  Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been great lately so we haven’t had many picnics in the park.  Yesterday, I was on Zulily and saw this adorable Playtime Party Picnic Set by Dwell Studio, perfect for cold or rainy days when you need an indoor activity.  The Playtime Party Picnic Set comes with a carrying case which includes a coloring book, a sheet of stickers, and a punch out kit that has: pretend food items, plates, cutlery, napkins, and placemats.(information from B&N.com)  It retails for $15.99 but is on Zulily now for $9.99 and BarnesandNoble.com for $13.49 .  We are heading to Florida on Friday and I have looked for activities to keep the girls busy on the flight.  I will definitely be purchasing this to have an “in-flight picnic” to keep the girls busy.

Image from Zulily.com

Downtown Bookworks: The Do It Myself Kids’ Cookbook and Other Great Books

7 Feb

Image from downtownbookworks.com

Downtown Bookworks is a children’s publishing company founded two years ago by Julie Merberg.  Julie is a mom of four and tests everything out on her own children. Their “mission is to raise a new generation of book lovers with books that engage, entertain, educate and feel good in small hands”.  Initially, I reached out to Downtown Bookworks for the The Do It My-Self Kids’ Cookbook but Julie invited me to their office to see more of their books.  They offer a variety of books for all ages.  They have a cookbook, a “green and groovy” craft series, activity books for on-the-go entertainment, and many adorable reads with beautiful illustrations. Downtown Bookworks accomplished their mission with both of my girls and here is how…

Click image to purchase from B&N

Image from downtownbookworks.com

Over the holidays I bought The Do It My-Self Kids’ Cookbook by Laurie Goldrich Wolfe on Zulily as a joint gift.  Since buying the cookbook, the girls have enjoyed making and eating many of the recipes.   I have used it as part of our morning or afternoon activity time to keep the girls busy so they won’t get caught up with the TV or scream for the IPAD. The recommended age on the book is 5+, but with support, direction, and preparing ingredients beforehand, the girls have been able to make many of the recipes.  Pela has had the most difficulty, as expected, but has no problem letting Maddie create so she can eat.  The best feature of the book, especially if you are using it with younger children, are the step by step illustrations for the recipe.  None of the recipes require anything sharp and are not hot, perfect for little ones.  We noticed many of the recipes have peanut butter as an ingredient.  Peanut butter can easily be substituted with alternatives like soy butter.  Our favorite recipes are the Cream Cheese, Strawberry Quesadillas, and the Orange Juice Strawberry Spritzer.  The Do It My-Self Kids’ Cookbook  would be a great addition to any parents kitchen and would make a wonderful gift for your child’s friends.

Making Cream Cheese Strawberry Pineapple Quesadillas

Yummy in my Tummy!

Ready to make Fresh Fruit and Yogurt Cones!

Delicious!

Books I received that are perfect to take to restaurants, the doctor’s office, long car rides, and other places you have to entertain while waiting:

Click to purchase from B&N

I’ve never met a child who doesn’t love keys.  It was the first item my girls tried to grab from me to play with as babies.  Now they take turns trying to unlock our mailbox and apartment door. Turn the Key  Around Town by Julie Merberg is a favorite for both girls.  They fight over it when we are out.  The book has a yellow key attached, and a little slot in the top of the book to store the key when not using it.  Each page has a door to different spots around town.  You have to unlock the door to see what is inside.  I tell the girls that they need to lock the door when they turn the page to go to the next store.  It is a great book to keep little ones busy while working on their fine-motor skills.  Maddie goes through it pretty quickly so to buy time we talk about our favorite neighborhood spots.  She also likes making up her own story with the illustrations.  It is a must when packing our activity bag. Recommended for ages 1-4.

Unlocking doors until Maddie finishes dance class!

Even great for a long drive!

Click to purchase from B&N

EYE Q Picture Puzzler by Georgia Rucker is a beautifully illustrated with bright themed puzzles.  Each puzzle is a different theme with three or more challenges.  The book includes a dry erase marker to complete the challenges.  Challenges include circling what doesn’t belong, counting, choosing your favorite treat, finding shapes and more.  Maddie  has difficultly completing the challenges independently.  If I am not there to help she attempts to do it on her own by circling her favorites.  Recommended ages 4 and up.

Waiting for dinner

Other books I received:

Click to purchase from B&N

Animals in Art: Art from the Start by  Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober teach children about animals through historic artwork.  The artwork makes it fun for adults too, you may see some of your favorite artists in there.  A list of the artists with museums is in the back of the book.  If you are feeling adventurous, visit the museum where your child’s favorite animal is.  Both of my girls love animals so this was a great book for them. There are two other Art from the Start books: How is Mona Lisa Feeling and Mama, Baby, & Other FIrst Words.  Recommended ages 0-3.

Click to purchase from B&N

Absolutely adorable is the only way I can describe The House That Mouse Built by Maggie Rudy and Pam Abrams.  We read it at least once a day.  Every detail of the house is so amazing, Maddie has asked to go to Mouses House.  The story is about a mouse that left cheese out and another mouse stole it and got hurt while running away.  Every time I read it I think about Maddie and Pela at meal-time.  Maddie always leaves food out and Pela runs off with it.  When Maddie tries to get it back Pela always ends in tears.  It is definitely worth reading. My girls love it.  Recommended age 4 and Up.

A book before bed!

Click to purchase from B&N

 I’m So Not Wearing a Dress be Julie Merberg is about a girl who would rather play sports and get dirty then wear pink and get manicures.  Her Aunts asks her to wear a dress for her wedding but does not want to. In the end she makes a deal and wears the dress. You need to read it to find out how her parents got her to wear a dress.  We haven’t read this book as much as the others but I often find myself making deals with Maddie when getting dressed in the morning because her choice is usually inappropriate for the weather.  Recommended age 3-6 years

"Reading" on the stroll home from school!

To find out more information and see more books visit Downtown Bookworks.  Books are available at Amazon, indiebound.org, and Barnes & Noble.
Disclaimer:  I was not compensated for this post.  I received books for review.  All opinions expressed are my own.  

Allergy- Free Cooking at the Kids Food Festival NYC

22 Jan

My mom, Maddie and I braved the snow yesterday and headed to the Kids Food Festival NYC at Citi Pond at Bryant Park.  I signed Maddie up for the Allergy- Free cooking event with Kristin O’Connor.  Maddie was able to help pour, mix, and crush ingredients to create chocolate truffles.  She rolled the chocolate into balls and covered them with cinnamon, crushed dried pineapple, and crushed dried apple.  While she was learning to make the truffles, she tasted the different ingredients she was using.  Her favorite ingredient by far was Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips.  I have been looking for allergy friendly chocolate chips to use for pancakes, cookies and frozen yogurt for sometime now and have finally found some that are soy, dairy, and nut free.  Kristin was kind enough to send the remaining bag home with Maddie and she has been eating them as a snack.  I tried them and you would never know that they were different then your regular chocolate chips.  They tasted the same if not better.  Maddie had a wonderful time cooking with Krisitn.   She was so excited to bring her truffles home to Daddy and Pela. The truffles were amazing, the entire family enjoyed them.  The recipe will be featured in her book, Personalized Living..Using the Blood Type Diets, which will be in stores on February 14, 2012 and will include other recipes for eating right for your Blood Type.

At the Kids Food Festival Maddie also participated in the USDA Choose My Plate Scavenger hunt.  She went to different booths which included Plum Organics, Horizon Organic Dairy, Wild Planet and Little Duck Organics to collect stamps for each of the food groups on her plate.  She had a great time despite the cold and snow.  Kids Food Festival will be traveling to Washington, D.C., so I think we will have to make a trip so she can go with her cousins who live down there.  Keep checking the Kids Food Festival website to see when it will be held.

Tasty Gifts

5 Dec

We have so many people to buy gifts for during the holiday season and I never know what to get.  I always like doing a gift involving the girls.  Last year we made calendars and picture frames.  This year I was stuck on ideas until my mom came to visit over the weekend and brought the girls the Kids in the Holiday Kitchen, by Jessica Strand and Tammy  Massman-Johnson.  Maddie has gone through the book a few times picking out what she wants to make.  When she finally put the book down and wasn’t looking I was able to sneak a peak and found a few cute ideas to give as gifts for friends and/or family.  Below are two ideas from Kids in the Holiday Kitchen, that we will be giving to grandparents/ great grandparents this year.  I can’t wait to make them with the girls.

Jolly Cookie Jar 

Image from WilliamSonoma.com

This one-of-a-kind, do-it-yourself layered glass cookie jar comes with all the necessary dry ingredients already measured out! It is a “just add butter, eggs and vanilla” kind of gift, which will delight grown-ups and kids alike. Any favorite cookie recipe will do; however, we chose a recipe with walnuts, dried cherries and chocolate chips for a festive look and delicious taste!
Ingredients:

Note: Since we have allergies in our house we will not be adding walnuts. To make it personalized you can elimate the walnuts, cherries, chocolate chips and let your child get creative with what he/ she would like to add for the person they will be giving it too.

  • 1-quart wide-mouthed jar (with a lid) in glass or clear plastic
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3-by-3-inch piece white card stock
  • Hole punch
  • 16 to 18 inches narrow ribbon or kitchen string

Directions:
Add each ingredient into the jar in the order listed. After each addition, use a large spoon or a small fist to level and pack down each layer. Attach the lid.

On the white card stock, make a gift tag that includes the following instructions: “For scrumptious holiday cookies in a flash, preheat the oven to 375°F. Beat together 3 ounces (3/4 stick) softened unsalted butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 egg in a large bowl or mixer. Add the contents of the jar and stir or mix until well blended. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until golden, 7 to 10 minutes. Makes 2 dozen cookies. Enjoy!”

Punch a hole in a corner of your gift tag, and thread your ribbon or kitchen string through. When the tag is centered in the middle of the ribbon, tie the ribbon around the jar’s neck, or secure it under the threads of the lid. Makes 1 jar.

Adapted from Kids in the Holiday Kitchen, by Jessica Strand & Tammy Massman-Johnson (Chronicle Books, 2007).

Tasty Treasures (Fill with home made cookies from your child, we will be using decorated sugar cookies)

  • Newspaper
  • 6x6x4- inch craft box (white or natural color)
  • Assorted beads, such as rhinestones (any flat bottom is fine)
  • Assorted colored poms poms (my addition)
  • Assorted colored glitter glue  (my addition)
  • Assorted Holiday Stickers (my addition)
  • Good quality craft glue
  • Parchment or waxed paper

Directions ( I made my own shortened version of the directions):

On a work surface spread a newspaper, take the top off the box and set the bottom aside.  Let your child get creative and start decorating.  Once your child is done, let the glue dry for about 2 hours so that the decorations hold.  Line the bottom and sides of the box with a large piece of parchment or waxed paper.  Fill with your child’s favorite cookie.

Tip: These boxes are a very versatile craft.  Buttons, beads, pieces of ribbon, (you name it!) will all work beautifully.  Pom- poms add a fun dimension and contrast nicely with rhinestones.

Adapted from Kids in the Holiday Kitchen, by Jessica Strand & Tammy Massman-Johnson (Chronicle Books, 2007).

I Know Two Little Girls Who Swallowed a Pie…

22 Nov

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a PieBoth of my girls love books.  We visit the Barnes & Noble in Tribeca at least once a week.  A few weeks ago I was on a mission for books for Thanksgiving and found I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Allison Jackson.   We have read it just about every night since we bought it.  The girls LOVE it and my older daughter even helps read it to my younger daughter.  Since we have been reading it so much and talking about Thanksgiving, we decided to make a pumpkin pie to share with some friends at a potluck.  I had most of the ingredients sitting around so I only had to pick up a few things.  The recipe below was very easy.  Unfortunately, my youngest was napping but it would have been so easy for her to help with.  While the pie was cooking we read I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie and I changed it to “I know two little girls who swallowed a pie” and my older daughter thought it was funny.  If you are looking for a last minute activity that you could share on Thanksgiving, definitely try this.

Tips before you start:

  • Measure out all the ingredients and set them up where your child will be preparing the pie.
  • Number the ingredients if you want your child to work on number identification and then have them count the ingredients you are using for the pie.
  • Make sure you encourage proper hand washing.
  • If you have more than one child helping, let them take turns putting in the ingredients and when whisking count to ten and then switch whiskers.

Recipe for a Perfect Pumpkin Pie (1 9 in Pie)

Nutritional Information: Amount Per Serving Calories: 379 | Total Fat: 14.3g | Cholesterol: 70mg

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin (I used Libby’s Pumpkin)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can EAGLE BRAND® Sweetened Condensed Milk (I used Santini Organic Sweetened Condensed Milk)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt ( I didn’t measure salt, only put a little in our pie)
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust (I used Whole Foods brand in the freezer section)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Whisk pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, spices and salt in medium bowl until smooth. Pour into crust. Bake 15 minutes.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from crust comes out clean. Cool. Garnish as desired. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.
     

Other cute Thanksgiving books I found:

T Is for Turkey  10 Fat Turkeys