Candy Flower Cupcakes

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My 8-year-old helped me decorate these amazingly simple cupcakes for her birthday this year.  I simply made cupcakes with a boxed cake mix and frosted them with store-bought frosting.  I chose to make lemon cake with cream cheese icing, but feel free to choose whichever flavors you like best.  Then my daughter used M&Ms to create the cute flower on each one.  We were really pleased with the results and it was a fun and simple activity to do together!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box cake mix + ingredients to make it
  • frosting (from grocery store or homemade)
  • M&Ms candies

Directions:

Make cupcakes according to package directions.  Let cool.  Frost.  Use M&Ms to make a flower on each cupcake.  Enjoy!

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Melissa & Doug Review

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I made a large purchase with Melissa & Doug recently for our church’s Children’s Ministry.  It’s the end of the fiscal year, and I had to use our funds or lose them.  Well, we did need some new toys since most of ours had been donated and some were looking a little worse for the wear.

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Everything came in a large box with a variety of cushioning–cardboard, air mailers and paper.  Once everything was unpacked I was glad to see that nothing was broken or damaged.

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I got a wire puzzle rack because our puzzles are in an untidy pile right now.  I hope this will help it look a little more tidy and make it easier for the kids to use the puzzles.  Below the puzzle rack you can see the latches board that I got.  These are a really cool toy for younger kids who are just learning how to manipulate small things.  It’s great for improving their small-motor skills!  The next picture has a set of magnetic farm animals that came free with the order because I spent a certain amount.  Next to that is a giant Underwater floor puzzle with 48 pieces.  Kids just love putting big puzzles together.  I also got a transportation peg puzzle for the little ones.  Next to that is a set of coloring sheets and crayons that was thrown in free.  I’ll show the coloring sheets below–they’re really nicely designed.

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I also decided to augment our block play area.  We have a set of basic wooden blocks, but nothing fun to go with them.  I got three sets of wooden block people and a set of Town Blocks.  The town blocks are really fun and let the kids make some fancier buildings.  I got another simple animal jigsaw puzzle, too.

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The puzzle rack was perfect and allowed me to corral all of our stray puzzles.  A couple of the super-chunky ones wouldn’t fit, but that’s okay.

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The latches board was a big hit and everybody wanted to try it out at the same time.  I definitely recommend this board for any environment that needs toys for younger children!

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The blocks were also a huge hit and kept the kids busy until church started.  I probably could have gotten two of these sets!

Check out Melissa & Doug for yourself and see what they have to offer!  I love that they have toys that help kids use their imaginations and that the toys are good quality.

St. Patrick’s Day DIY Shamrock Window Clings

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The kids and I got our craft on the day before St. Patrick’s Day.  Thanks to Scotch® Tape for this awesome idea!  The method for making these is rather simple and you could use this technique for any holiday.  I’m looking forward to experimenting with it in the future.

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First you’ll want to gather your supplies.  We used:

  • Clear Con-Tact paper (make sure it is the removable kind)
  • Colored masking tape (we used Scotch® because it was available at Walmart)
  • Washi tape
  • Permanent marker
  • Scisscors
  • Shamrock template (I found a free printable online and shrank it to the size I wanted)

Directions:

Cut out shamrock template from paper, or draw one and cut out if you don’t have a printer.  Unroll Con-Tact paper and trace several shamrocks on there.  Cut out shamrocks.  Lay Con-Tact paper shamrock flat on table, grid-side down.  Use masking and washi tape to make stripes on shamrock.  Decorate entire shamrock, then carefully peel the entire thing off the table.  Cut out around shamrock shape, trimming off excess tape from the edges.  Slowly peel paper backing off shamrock and affix it to the window.  Repeat!

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Kids’ Books Highlight # 2

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This post contains affiliate links.

Here is another installment of our top children’s book picks!  This is something that I get excited about because I love good children’s literature.  I sit down on the couch with the kids crowded around me and we have bonding time over a stack of kids books.  Something so simple, yet it will produce lasting memories.  *Sigh*

All of these books came from the local library.  A few you may recognize because they’ve been around for a long time.  Here they are…

  • Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg — This book has been around since I was a kid.  I still love it and enjoyed sharing it with my kids.  The illustrations are fantastic, as are all of Chris’ books.  Also of note, it won the Caldecott Medal back in 1982–the year I was born!  Must have been a good year!  The story is about a couple of kids who are bored and find an intriguing board game in their local park.  They bring it home and play it only to find out that it is not a light-hearted game, but a try-to-stay-alive game.  If you haven’t read it, you need to.
  • Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman — Apparently this book has been around for quite some time, but I had never read it before.  It is the sweet story of a little girl named Grace who loves to tell stories, dress up and act them out.  At school her class is going to put on the play Peter Pan and Grace wants to play the leading part.  One child tells her she can’t because Peter Pan isn’t black.  Another says she can’t because she’s a girl.  Grace is crestfallen, but when she gets home and tells her mother and grandmother about it, they encourage her to try out anyway.  Grace gets the part and does an outstanding job.  I love how this book pushes against the stereotypes of gender and race, while still maintaining a storyline that is interesting to children.  The illustrations are really fantastic, too.
  • The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola — Here is another book that was new to me.  For anyone who is a fan of Tomie’s books, this is a must-read.  It is the story about how he came to be an artist, tracing the roots through his childhood.  It also has messages about what art is, and about not letting others box you in with their arbitrary rules.  My kids and I just loved this book.
  • LEGO NINJAGO: The Visual Dictionary by Hannah Dolan — I included this one not because I particularly care for it, but because my son is obsessed with it.  Both of my boys love Ninjago.  My second son loves books with lots of pictures and short captions of text.  He is all about the details.  This book is the best of both worlds for him.
  • Math Curse by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith — I also remember reading this book when I was a kid.  A boy starts to have problems with math when his teacher tells the class that everything can be thought of as a math problem.  Suddenly he can’t think about anything without it becoming a math problem in his head.  If you take the time, you can even get your kids to try to figure out some of the problems.  I like how this book relates math to normal life–it isn’t just a textbook endeavor.  The illustrations are a bit off-the-wall.

I hope you get a chance to check out our picks this week.  Let me know what you think of them!

Kids’ Books Highlight # 1

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This post contains affiliate links.

One passion that we share at our house is the love of reading.  We are obsessed with books, which is evident from the large number of books throughout our house.  In fact, we are getting to the point that most of our shelves are full.  I’m not sure what we’ll do once they are full–build a library addition onto the house maybe.  I’m getting to my point, really I am.  I wanted to share with you some of our favorite books.  We own some of them and others have been library discoveries.  Each time I make a new post about kids’ books, I’ll include five books.  I hope you get as much enjoyment from these books as we have!

  • Star Wars Origami by Chris Alexander — I got this book for my boys for Christmas.  It is amazing for anyone who is a Star Wars fan.  The book consists of directions for folding a variety of Star Wars characters and includes the specialty paper that makes them really look the part.  I can’t overemphasize how neat this book is!
  • Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown — I checked this out on a whim from the library.  It’s about a little girl who decides she wants to play the trombone and how she eventually becomes a jazz great.  A super story!
  • LEGO Minifigures: Character Encyclopedia by Daniel Lipkowitz — This book gives you all the information you could possibly want to know about a variety of the more generic LEGO characters.  These are not the Star Wars or other franchise characters, but the random ones.  It’s a really fun and colorful book for major LEGO fans.  If you buy it new, it also comes with a bonus toy soldier minifigure.
  • Down by the Bay by Raffi — We have had this board book since my eldest was a baby.  That was ten years ago.  The kids love this song and the silly illustrations that accompany it.  “Did you ever see a bear combing his hair?”
  • Tyler Makes Pancakes! by Tyler Florence & Craig Frazier — This was a recent library find, too.  In this book Tyler wants to make pancakes, so he goes down to the local grocery store for the ingredients.  The grocer helps him pick out each ingredient and tells him how it is grown and/or processed.  What a great way to teach kids that there is more to food than just picking it off the shelf at the supermarket!

That’s it!  Look for more posts like this in the future!  We love books and love to share them with others!

Citrus Lane Review # 1

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Guess what?  I signed up for another subscription box to review–this time it was Citrus Lane.  Each month they will send a box of goodies and surprises appropriate to your child, from newborns up to age five.  I signed up to get goodies for my four-year-old girl.  Of course the items will be shared, because that’s how we roll.  Let’s see what we got!

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This is what the box looked like when I opened it.  I kind of chuckled at the handful of paper filler thrown in there.  It turned out there was more underneath everything.

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Here’s what was included:

  • Sample Packet (2 ct.) Smarty Pants Vitamin Gummies — retail $1.25.  Three of my kids tried these (I cut one in half) and they all liked the flavor.  So I guess this is a good way to get your kids to take their vitamins.
  • Petit Collage Color-Me Safari Placemats — retail $12.  This is a pad of placemats with cute, simple designs that your child can color.  Great idea!
  • Blox + Bits — retail $9.95.  I think it’s great that they included a building toy for girls, but I don’t particularly care for this building set.  It seems fiddly and like you would need a lot more pieces to make anything with this.  I’ll be passing these on.
  • Faber-Castell MAX Colored EcoPencils (12 ct.) — retail $7.  These are high quality colored pencils and they’re triangular so they won’t roll away!  We have a ton of colored pencils though, so I’ll save these for my niece who is a manga artist.  She’ll appreciate them.
  • Coupon for Fabletics — 60% off the first outfit

Total Retail Value: $30.20

Cost: $22.07/month (I signed up for 6 months)

Shipping: Free

Final Thoughts: I wasn’t feeling most of the items in this box, so I was rather disappointed.  The placemats are great, but the other stuff didn’t impress me much.  I do appreciate the quality of the colored pencils, and am glad that I know someone who will enjoy using them.  Also, the cost of the box is quite close to the actual cost of the products.  So it feels kind of silly to spend the money on a box that has items I wouldn’t choose to buy in the first place.  I did sign up for a 6-month subscription, so we’ll see if I’m more impressed with future boxes.

Check it out for yourself: Citrus Lane

If you sign up using the above link you’ll get 50% off your first box.

Bluum Box Review # 1

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This post contains affiliate links.

Here is a box that I signed up for with my two-year-old daughter in mind.  Bluum is a subscription box for pregnant moms and infants and toddlers (through age 4) which sends you toys, books, and other goodies that are appropriate for your child’s current age and gender.  We have five children and quite frankly, the last one hardly gets anything of her own.  We already have more than enough books and toys, and all of her clothing is inherited from her two older sisters.  It’s nice to have a special box delivered each month, with things that are appropriate for her.  Without further ado…

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This is exactly what it looked like when I opened the box.  There wasn’t any packing material.  I think that’s why the chunky board book got a bit banged up on the edges.

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And here are all the treasures!

  • Melissa & Doug numbers peg puzzle — retail $7.99.  This was a big hit right away.
  • B kids bathtime dolphin flute — retail $7.  Sadly there is no bathtub in our house, so this will probably have to be passed on.  I am curious about how well it works.
  • Dot and Dash Lots of Love book — retail $4.34
  • Animal World ABC chunky book — retail $3(?).  Unfortunately this book got a bit banged up in shipping.  A bit of packing material would help cushion more fragile items.
  • Kee-Ka Small Change Organics tights — retail $15.  I love these tights!  They are very thick and nice quality.  My toddler will still be able to wear dresses in winter with these on.
  • First Time Dentist book — retail $3.99

Total Retail Value: $41.32

Bluum Box Cost: $20.67/month, free shipping (I signed up for the 6-month subscription)

Final Thoughts: I was very glad to receive these items for my toddler.  I feel like they are all age appropriate and that they will appeal to her.  It’s also nice that there were a variety of items–a bath toy, three books, a puzzle, and a clothing item.  Looking at cost vs. retail value, this box was totally acceptable.  And like I said earlier, I think that a bit of packing material should be thrown in to help cushion the items.  This would make a great gift for a special little person in your life (it can be gifted), or it is a nice option for newer parents who don’t have a lot of kid paraphernalia sitting around the house.

Check it out for yourself: Bluum Box

Fab Kids Review # 1

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Fab Kids is another subscription service that I’m trying out, at least for a short while.  It is a clothing service for children.  You put in your child’s information, and each month you can choose an entire outfit for your child for $29.95.  If you don’t want an outfit that month, you simply login to your account between the 1st and 5th of the month to opt-out.  They had a great deal on my first outfit–only $4.95 after the amazing discount I got!  I was very excited to get a dress and leggings that I knew my daughter would love.  It came in this cute pink bag.

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Here they are in all their awesomeness!  Notice the price tag on the dress saying $42 and the one on the leggings for $14.  I do not spend that much on my kids’ clothing!  With five kids, I would go bankrupt.

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She was so excited to wear her new dress today!  I must say that I love how it looked on her.  The leggings were good quality and it seemed like the dress was, too.  The zipper on the back was a bit chunky for the garment, but I wasn’t too worried about that.

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This is what had happened to the dress only halfway through the day.  The front was covered by runs in the fabric.  Boo!  I was so disappointed, not because I had paid a lot, but because I really liked this dress.  For some reason this fabric develops runs like nobody’s business.  My daughter didn’t play outside in it or do any other very active things that could account for this.  If I had paid full price for this dress, I would have been muy mad.  I’m sure not all of their garments have issues like this; it was probably just the fabric of this particular garment.  I think it should be pulled from the website, though.  It’s a quality control issue.

Final thoughts: I’m still willing to give Fab Kids a try, but I’ll be more careful about the types of garments I order in the future.  Definitely nothing that is made from delicate fabric.  I’ll wait to reserve judgment until I’ve had a more thorough sampling of their products.