Friday, July 31, 2009

Baby Gift Set: Keepsake Boxes and Book

Today, I'm sharing a more gender neutral version of the baby's first year mini book and keepsake box gift set that I like to make and add to my shower gifts. I think adding a little handmade something makes a gift more personal and special.
I made these several years ago, going on four I believe, when I was first getting into making papercrafts. The boxes are fairly small craft ones, that I painted yellow. I used some Sizzlits die cuts for the top of the large one and a border sticker strip around the little one. I printed out the poem and used die cut letters to spell out sweet baby sweet baby, kind of like a border for the smaller one. At this point I coated both boxes with Mod Podge to seal the paint and the embellishments. After it dried I used glue dots to attach the rest of the decorations onto the box.
The smaller box is for little keepsakes like baby bracelets or booties and I put this little accordian fold mini book in the larger one.
Here's the inside pages, the strips of paper on the outside of each page are attached with brads and the photo can be slipped underneath them. The idea is to attach a photo from each month on each page. I've made several of these as gifts since then, but shockingly have yet to make one for myself. I think I need to get on that pretty quick!

Update 3/1/11: Also shared at Maryanne's & Christine's Baby Themed Events:
Crafty Mommy DivaMemories by Christine scrapbooking

Shared At: Xazmin's Mod Podge Mania, Blue Cricket Design's Show & Tell, Make it for Monday at Cottage Instincts, Twice Remembered, and
The DIY Show OffMakingThe Girl CreativeSumo Sweet Stuffgiveaways

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why Doesn't This Ever Happen to Me? {and} My Life in Pictures

I came across this video on Amber's blog Everything Except the Grill and had to snag it share too. This is way too much fun and if this is what might happen when riding a train in Belgium than I'm so there☺ I just love how it spreads a little happiness and we could all use more of that, right?

BTW Amber is having a very fun photo challenge that starts next week and is very easy to participate in. All you need is one picture a day; it looks like a great way to capture details of your life.

Here are the assignments:
Monday- Summer Fun
Tuesday- A Favorite
Wednesday- Out and About (anywhere but home)
Thursday- Something You Are Proud Of
Friday- Something (or someone) in Black & White

I plan to join in and I hope some of you decide to too. Visit Amber's post on the My Life in Pictures Challenge to find out the rest of the details. Let me know if you'll "be" there☺

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Watering the Garden

Taken a few weeks ago at Grandma Norma's, while Brad and I were out celebrating his birthday, ER proves once again that she loves anything to do with water and particular watering plants. Bet she was thrilled to get her little hands on the actual hose. I personally find it a big hassle, which is probably why I have a brown thumb but she just loves it. Hope she still feels this way in ten or fifteen years so my garden will be lush and beautiful. Isn't it amazing what little kids like to do, mine especially loves acting out chores like ironing and dusting of all things!

Haven't done one of these for awhile, but my long time blog friend, who I've got big plans to met IRL soon, Noelle has inspired me to join in again. Thanks for stopping by, leave me a comment so I can be sure to visit you too. For more wordless or in some case word full Wednesdays: Five Minutes for Mom, Go Graham Go, Ordinary and Awesome, and 7 Clown Circus, and don't forget to enter the two giveaways I've got going on. Links to them are at the top of this column.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Hat Parade, with a few Sweaters Thrown In

Since today is my mom's actual 60th birthday, I thought I'd honor her by featuring her creative side on my blog. She used to tole paint and take drawing lessons. I have one of her sketches framed and it hung in my childhood bedroom for many years. However, it would seem that her true creative calling is as a knitter.
When my mom came out to visit us the March before ER was born she was already busy working on this sweater. It is really cute and the perfect light layer. ER never quite fit it perfectly, it's peak time fit wise was unfortunately during the summer.
When I got pregnant I started seeing all these cute little fruit inspired hats in all the baby magazines. I just had to have one for mine. Being a teacher, the apple hat is certainly appropriate for my child don't you think! There is a cute little green leaf attached to the stem, but it's in the back. We had two or was it three apple hats? Hmm...memory is already going not a good sign, LOL.
Mom also made her this really cute pumpkin hat, it got all sorts of comments her first fall and I do mean a lot of ooohs and ahhhs!
This sweater is one I helped pick the yarn for. It's made out of super soft cashmerino yarn, so snuggily!
This is my all time favorite hat made by my mom. It even made an appearance on our Christmas card. I love all the colors.
This white hat was the first one she made for ER but it was so huge that she didn't get to wear it for a long time.
This is yet another request by me, heehee I must be a bossy daughter putting in all these demands. Seriously though my mom loves making ER all these fun hats. She says they are quick and easy projects. ER loves her "Chair-wes" hat. The fun hooded sweater with fluffy trim was also made by my mom and ER should get a couple of years wear out of it as we had to roll the sleeves last winter.
We're ready for fall with this one waiting in the wings. It comes with strings to keep it put when the wind blows.

While making all these hats and sweaters for ER, my mom has also made scarves, hats for my brother and I, and a shawl for herself among other projects. She's a busy working on a pair of socks to keep my toesies warm this winter, right now.

So you can see with me being crafty and my mom too, there is no way ER can escape getting involved in something creative. And as if that isn't enough, her other Grandma makes jewelry and knits too. She's currently at work on a blanket for ER. Can't wait to see what inspires ER!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Alex Toys Review

Award winning Alex Toys have been played with in our home since ER was very little. Our first introduction was when we purchased a set of Rub a Dub Dirty Dogs bath toys. They have little dirt marks that you can "clean" off in warm bath water. They were an instant hit with ER, because she loves anything puppy. So much so that they've never actually made it into the tub where they belong. She likes to play with them like little action figures too much. One often comes along with us in her bag.
We also really like their Rub a Dub Draw in the Tub bathtub crayons and are on our second set. What's really nice about these is that each one comes in a little plastic holder you can hold on to while drawing. That way your wet hands don't waste any of the crayon when you hold it to draw. There is a little lever to push up more crayon when you need it. ER loves drawing all over the tub with them and they really are easy to wash off the side of the tub.
Recently, in our prize package from we got their Water Flutes, and now ER wants them to be a part of every bath. It takes some practice to get the water to the correct line inside each one, and we have to monitor ER with them closely. The first few tries she kept tipping them and would've ended up with a mouthful of bath water if we weren't careful. She really enjoys them, so if you're willing to put in some practice, just like learning to play a real instrument, the rewards will come in time!

Before we got the following three products from Alex Toys to try out and review, our experience with them was limited to bath time. I only recently realized that they made products other than bath and art supplies. I was really happy to find out that they carry a wide range of toys, games, and learning activities that stimulate little minds and creativity.
My Layered Lacing, was a very exciting product for me to use with ER. I've always made my own lacing cards or borrowed from another teacher the kind made out of thick cardboard before. Alex Toy's versions are made out of big, chunky, foam pieces. Four pairs and five laces are in the set and they are very bright and colorful with fun designs. You attach a lady bug to a leaf, a shoe to a sock, pizza toppings to a slice, and add a fish to a fish bowl. They are great for kids who have mastered lacing around single layers, and continue to challenge fine motor skills as it can be a lot to hold two pieces in place and lace them together.
ER was doing pretty good with the little ones I made for her out of old greeting cards so I figured she was ready for these. Now that there are two layers it's a whole new activity for her, and one she needs a lot of practice with! It doesn't help that she has tiny hands but it's a lot for her to control and manage at once. She requires a lot of help to complete one; it's definitely a parent and child activity for now. I use the opportunity to talk a lot to her about what we're doing.

I had a four year old neighbor over who tried them and it took her a little bit to get the hang of them. These are an activity you can get years of fun out of. These are great for fine motor skills and getting those little fingers nimble and ready for writing.

I have to say I love the foam lacing shapes. I wish I'd purchased these for her before. I like them a lot better than the wooden or cardboard lacing shapes I was more familiar with. The foam has a little give in it. As toddler hands push and pull on it, it can move a little and sometimes that has enabled my daughter to be able to get the lace through. The pliable nature of the foam makes this a more enjoyable activity for her and I'm not worried about things tearing as it snaps back into place. This product, and many others also by Alex Toys has also won the National Parenting Center's Seal of Approval.
Next up was the set of two Jungle Touchable Puzzles, Alex Toys says that, "Colorful textured puzzles are fun to explore and stimulate learning." We certainly have to agree. We are just beginning to move onto real puzzles, instead of ones where all you have to do is put a single piece into a matching slot. So there were quite challenging to ER the first several times she tried them.
Being a big fan of the zoo this set was of a highly engaging design for her. We really like how there are some pieces with raised textures, like the lion's mane and the flowers in the puzzle with the giraffe on it. The giraffe puzzle with seven pieces was the more challenging of the two and it can still take her a few moment to figure it out.

Like the lacing shapes, I did not have much experience with foam puzzles before. This time the pliable nature of the pieces had pros and cons. Pros were that once again they have a little give and even if the piece wasn't in quite the right position, a lot of the time they pieces would still go together if you were at least close. On the con side, it meant that the puzzle can give a lot, meaning that pieces shift around as you put others into place. We learned that it's best to do these puzzles on a hard surface as opposed to the carpeted floor. This cuts down of the movement factor while putting them together.

For both the lacing shapes and foam puzzles, my only suggestion would that making the packaging something you can also store the activities in would be helpful. Both come in containers that are open in the front, this is so that part of the product can be displayed while in the box, but with all the pieces and laces it can be hard to keep everything in the set together. A nice box you can keep things organized and stack would be very helpful.
With the Zoominoes we don't have a problem with storage as it does come in a nice sturdy box. Inside are 24 large cardboard dominoes with a zoo theme. The animal pictures are easy to match up and it's a very good beginning game for young children. Since most will be able to match independently by age 3, the earliest reccommended age, it's greatest value is in teaching cooperative play while having the fun of playing a game. It provides opportunities to take turns, follow the simple rules of the game, and share.

Sharing is the hardest part for my daughter, she doesn't like to give her zoominoes up. Giving one up to match it by another one is very hard for her. The last time she rather indignantly picked all the pieces up about halfway through the game, put them in her purse, which she then zipped tight and hid under her bed. So much for sharing! Obviously we need to work on that.

I enjoyed reviewing our samples from Alex Toys immensely. It was very fun for this kindergarten teacher to get her hands on some new fun things to play with, um...I mean use with my daughter to enhance learning☺ Looking at their catalog was like being a kid in a candy store, they have so many great products for every stage of your child's life.

At this point of ER's development, besides activities like lacing and puzzles I am also very interested in seeking out games appropriate to her level and Alex Toys have several. I'm a big fan of the Moody Monsters, which incorporate social skills and emotions into a memory game, as well as the Wash and Dry Bingo and Silly Sandwich Game. But I am eagerly awaiting the time when she'll be ready for some of their craft kits!
Being the crafty mama that I am, I'm so super duper excited to try some of these! She's a little young for most of them but the second she's old enough you know a bunch of these are going to show up at our house. Imagine getting to color your bag or decorate one with fun peel and stick patches. You can paint a garden pinwheel or your own umbrella. There are a bunch of paper craft kits that would make great gifts, like the tissue art, giant paper flowers, and baggy bunch. They are the kind of projects that get you excited to get glue all over!

I think my favorite section of crafts is sewing for kids or style projects. I really like the variety of things you can make to wear and how everything you need to make a one of a kind creation come included. The ease of just opening a box for the supplies and not having to hunt everything down is worth it, and these are priced so well that you'd have a hard time purchasing the components you need separately for less.

For now I am content to plan out which of Alex Toy's art supplies I'd like to add to our collection! I am sure I could write and even longer post than this one on all the things I like. Not only do they have great art supplies, they have a great storage solution on how to store all those masterpieces, like this supersized accordian keeper. As you know if you've been by before, I'm always looking for ways to take things on the go, this car valet is already on ER's holiday list. I love it!

This review really only touches on the surface of all the great products Alex Toy's produces. This is one company will continue to support with many purchases in the future. Spend some time checking out what they make, and get ready to make a long wish list☺ I'd love to hear what you think is their best product, leave me a comment and tell me what you think!
Thank you to Alex Toys for providing the lacing, puzzles, and zoominoes for this review.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Mom's 60th Birthday: A Ladies Afternoon

Yesterday we celebrated my mom's 60th birthday with a special ladies day; two of her dearest and longtime friends as well as her sister Barb joined us for an afternoon touring a museum, lunch, and shopping.
I know it meant a lot to my mom that everyone took time out of their very busy lives to make her feel special. The day was filled with lots of laughter and good conversation. The museum exhibits were interesting, especially one of all these sweaters with political sayings on them. I didn't realize until after I was home that I could've taken pictures of them, with my flash off, or I'd have shared some with you. They certainly do make you pause and notice them.
My mom and my Godmother Annemarie, in front of one of our favorite antique shops. I can remember going there with my parents when I was younger too. Annemarie is the most familiar with the area, as it's her Alma mater.
After the museum we ate at a restaurant specializing in Cuban fare. The ladies all enjoyed a little sangria and agreed that the vegetarian Cuban sandwich was delicious. There was lively music playing that gave it a party atmosphere. It was really nice for my mom to get to socialize and relax with one of her little sisters, that's my Aunt Barb above and to the left.
Our group of ladies who lunch: Barb, Fran, Ro, Katie, and Annemarie. After we finished eating we were all pretty full and planned on doing some window shopping but...
When we came across the cupcake shop on our travels, we just had to peek inside. Greeted by the sweet smell of butter cream, we didn't even try to resist! My mom had scoped out this place online, the owner's been on the Food Network and made cakes for Kid Rock. Fran and Mom both enjoyed their yummy bites of confectionery heaven. I did too; I have to say it might just have been the best cupcake I have ever had in my entire life. Seriously, it was THAT good. Good thing we walked a lot afterward to burn it off!
I had a great time Mom with you and your friends! It was fun to have a ladies day out on the town. I hope this day to celebrate you was special! Happy 60th birthday, I love you ♥

Saturday, July 25, 2009

July Birthdays

We celebrate three birthdays in July, Brad's on the 9th, ER's on the 21st, and an extra special one on the 28th, my mom's 60th! Last Sunday we all went out for a nice family dinner together and then stopped at the park we've been having our birthday picnic at, to walk and play a little.My Dad, Mom, and ER on one of the bridges over the stream that runs through the park.
The July birthdays, on my mom's front garden bench. Please note Brad is in the first green shirt I've been able to get him in, other than one he once got for free. When we uploaded these pictures I thought it was amusing the one time he wears a green shirt, he and my mom end up looking like bookends for ER. A little too matchy matchy, and if you knew him, you'd know he SO doesn't find that amusing...but I DO, LOL.
The required family picture.Me and my mom, taken because she wanted it and it's hard to refuse a birthday wish no matter how much you want to. Seriously, what is up with that ridiculous poof in my hair?My mom really likes these garden gazing balls. I do not understand the facination with them, but it's her birthday not mine. ER seems to like them a lot, but she likes most shiny things☺This is only in here so I can remember the "good" birthday outfit I put her in this year. With the party being at an indoor climbing and play structure a long dress wasn't practical and I've waited an entire year to see her in this dress. It finally fits. I am a sucker for the smocking, especially since there are strawberries on it. I love all the classic details like the peter pan collar and of course the big giant bow in the back.

I fell for this dress when I first saw it at Lily Pulitzer, but at $125 it was way out of our price range. When ER's Godmother saw it at TJ Maxx for $40, I just had to have it. Even though 40 bucks is still way more than I'd normally spend. Needless to say I made her wear another outfit to eat spaghetti and meatballs in and run around the park.ER's dream comes true, a Cinderella dress up dress and there are even shoes too☺ When I asked ER what she wanted this was all she said over and over, followed by a Cinderella doll. Grandma Norma took care of that wish. My child, spoiled? Whatever gives you that idea? When she got this she immediately began jumping up and down and ran around and hugged everyone, telling them thank you. Did I mention we are Lily Pulitzer fans? Here's our newest one, a gift from Godmommy Alicia out in Arizona. With the exception of the strawberry smocked dress, she's the one who feeds our addiction. This one is very fun because it has flamingos on it; ER loves her birdie dress. Thank's Alicia! We miss you♥Time to eat cake! Old habits linger, we didn't eat at the park we normally go to but we stopped by anyway and we had to get our dessert from the same place as usual too.ER and Uncle Dave, who couldn't come to her birthday party because it was during the week and he had to work. Geez sometimes it stinks to have to grow up, huh? We missed you there Dave but were glad we got to celebrate with you early☺
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