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Friday, October 31, 2014

Getting Crafty with Curiosity Box

I admit it: I've started my Christmas shopping. But I know I'm not the only one! Every year I try to think of gifts that aren't just picked up from a big- box store from a selection of made- in- China toys; instead I look for ones that are unique and fun. And before you tell me you don't have the time to shop like that, don't forget the virtues of online shopping my friends!

In my hunt for some gift ideas for my nephews I came across Curiosity Box, an Ontario- based company that offers subscription options for your kiddos to receive craft & activity boxes shipped right to your door. And let's face it: what kid doesn't love getting something in the mail? Add to that anticipation the fun of creating something that encourages creativity and I think we have a winning idea. When I ordered the craft boxes for my nephews, the company generously offered up one of their Halloween Fun Curiousity Boxes for our family to try. Who could say no to that offer???
Photo: K Petrunia

When they arrived in the mail last week I couldn't wait to dive in and get crafting! (Can you tell I'm a DIYer at heart???) Each box contains the materials and glue needed for 3 crafts, plus an activity. I noticed there were even a few bonus items to play with- all matching the theme of the box. Our box contained the materials to make a bat sock puppet, a foam haunted house, & a tissue paper jack- o- lantern; a nice variety of crafts and sharable if you have multiple kids to entertain (or in our case, 2 adults and an enthusiastic 16- month old!).

When Will came home home from work the 3 of us dug into the crafting: he took over construction of the haunted house while Ari and I started on the bat sock puppet. I really liked the instruction pamphlet that came with the box that had easy-to- follow instructions (perfect for younger kids in need of some direction) and that the materials for each craft were organized into separate bags to keep everything organized. 

We stretched the crafting over 2 nights since we wanted to allow the glue to dry on the haunted house and with a little help from some tape to hold the roof in place, it came together. On night 2 of our crafting adventure we added the finishing touches to the haunted house & made the tissue pumpkin  (you can see the finished projects below). I'd say the three of us did pretty good. ;)


I really like that this is a fun gift idea that encourages creativity, following steps, and can be a group activity. For the variety of projects you get I don't think you'd be able to buy the supplies cheaper at a craft or dollar store, and I think there's a fun novelty about receiving the boxes in the mail. The only tip I have is that for older kids who can be trusted with one, a cool glue gun may be a good idea to help the projects come together a little quicker. Otherwise you simply have to wait for the glue to dry (but hey, a good lesson in patience isn't bad either). 

All finished!
Whadya think???
Photo: K Petrunia
You can order from the Curiosity Box website, with options for a single box, 3 month6 month, or 12 month subscription. (Subscriptions start at $25.95/ month, $24.95/ month, and $23.95/ month, respectively; prices vary for individual boxes).

You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram: @Curiosityboxcrafts, and other social media sites.

A big thank you to Curiosity Box for giving us a Halloween Fun box to try out- we had a lot of fun! OXOX TPB






October posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique








Monday, October 27, 2014

Yummy Mummy Monday: Gluten Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who can resist a good cookie recipe? Especially one packing a nutritional punch? Aaaaaand added bonus: these puppies are sans gluten (and you'd never know it from the taste!). The night I baked these I barely had them out of the oven before Will had his paws on them, and they didn't last long. These are a great yummy addition to lunches and a delicious late night snack with milk (for another great cookie recipe, check out this one for thin & crispy chocolate chip!). I think Cookie Monster had good taste in food, no? 


Yummy Mummy Recipe: Gluten Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar (you can swap with honey if you prefer)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups gluten free flour
1/2 tsp xantham gum (I've found this really makes a difference in GF baking)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon (add more if you love cinnamon!)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup flax seeds, whole (sub ground flax seeds if you prefer)
3 cups oats (not instant)
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees & line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Beat the butter & sugars until creamy. Add the egg & vanilla and combine well.
3. Follow with the dry ingredients, saving the chocolate chips for last. Add them when the batter is well mixed.
4. Scoop generous tbsp sized balls of batter onto the cookie sheet, allowing approx. 2" between for them to expand.
5. Bake for 8- 10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove & cool.

Enjoy fresh from the oven with a cold glass of milk, or save for later! 



I told you I could barely get them out of the oven! ;)

October posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique






Saturday, October 25, 2014

Trick or Treat Fashion for Moms

Who's excited for Halloween? I feel like no matter how old we get, 
this time of year always brings out our inner child. ;) I did a little 
online window shopping this week trying to find ideas for Moms 
who wanted to dress up without donning a costume- a little 
faux fur is both fashionable & cozy, non?

While some of these items are definitely a splurge, I thought 
they would still be good inspiration when looking for more 
budget- friendly styles.

Trick or Treat Fashion for Moms

1. Plaid Pea Coat- Old Navy $67 CAD
2. Leather Gloves w Faux Fur Trim- Ralph Lauren, Hudson's Bay $90 CAD
3. Faux Fur Pompom Toque- Nordstrom $18 CAD
4. Wedge Booties, Tory Burch $445 CAD
5. Convertible Mittens, Nordstrom $34 CAD
6. Suede Boot, Michael Kors $170 USD

What's your favourite Fall must have? I'd love to know! 

October posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique

Friday, October 24, 2014

Music Together of the Fraser Valley Feature & Review

Kids love music. It's one of those things we grow up with and it offers so many learning opportunities. As parents we often play the same music for our kids that we loved growing up, mixed with new favourites. But a love of music goes so much farther than singing along to the tunes. It's an opportunity to move and dance, to learn about rhythm, and to bring people- families- together.


Erin leading the class
Earlier this year I featured a post with Erin Parr from Music Together of the Fraser Valley, an organization that encourages musical learning from a young age. The idea behind the classes is to nurture a child's natural enthusiasm for music and movement through interactive activities that include singing, dancing, and introducing them to instruments. What really makes these classes unique is that all members of the family are encouraged to participate.

Erin recently contacted me and invited me to one of her classes to see how Ariana would like it. It was perfect timing since several of my friends and I had been discussing different activities we were interested in for our kids, and music was right up there with swimming and gymnastics. 

The class I attended was tailored for kids between the ages of 0- 5 years, making it perfect for Ari, and it allowed her to interact with kids both older and younger than her (new classes tailored specifically for babies are now being offered, click here for more information). It was great to see her observing how the older kids participated in the class and she seemed to feed off their energy and enthusiasm. The older kids also seemed to enjoy helping the younger ones with their instruments- this interaction is encouraged and is one of the goals of the classes to offer a rich learning environment. 

The materials provided to parents
When I arrived with Ari, Erin explained the goals of the class and what parents are provided with to encourage musical activities beyond the class. At the beginning of the course parents are given a package that includes a CD that they are encouraged to play for their kids in the car and at home, and a songbook to help them and their kids remember the songs that will be sung in class. It's suggested that the songbook be included in bedtime reading to help them become more familiar with the songs and so they can see that music notes can be read just like words. This is noted to help them when they are ready for more formal music instruction when they reach school age. Each class allows for 6- 12 registered children plus their caregivers, and throughout the semester older siblings of registered kids are allowed to attend once so they can participate. 

The class was 45 minutes with a variety of songs that included sounds and noises, dancing, and keeping a rhythm, with many of them including different instruments for the parents and kids to play. Erin led the class in a warm & friendly manner, interacting with the kids and leading songs with her guitar. Her passion and enthusiasm for what she does really shines through.

Some of the instruments for the kids
For some of the songs, the kids could choose instruments to play and it was cute watching the kids select their instruments and help put them away at the end of songs; the kids were encouraged to take responsibility for the instruments, and the older kids were excited to help Erin with them (a great bonus is that you can purchase the instruments used in class from the MTFV Store, and gift certificates are available in any denomination to be used towards class enrolment). A cute finishing touch came at the end of the class, when the kids were invited up  to strum Erin's guitar- Ari even got to pluck the strings. The kids were all excited to try out her instrument and were instructed how to do so carefully.

We really enjoyed the class and I would encourage any parents who are interested in introducing their kids to music to look into those offered by MTFV. While it can be hard to choose between activities, especially when you have a budget in mind, music is such an important thing to introduce our kids to from a young age, and offers so many learning opportunities. When you register, each 45 minute class works out to $15, which is a great value considering the quality of the class and the material that families receive.

Ari moving around to the beat!
Here is the breakdown of cost for the classes:

  • $150 for the first child
  • $100 for each additional sibling

Tuition includes:
  • 10 weeks, 45 minute, fun-filled music, movement and singing classes
  • 2 copies of professionally mastered CD recording of class activities to use in home or in your car
  • An illustrated song book filled with musical notations and activity suggestions
  • Music and Your Child, a parent’s guide for families that are new to Music Together
  • Parent education

If you're trying to decide what activities to enrol your youngster in, here are the top 5 reasons music is important in early childhood development:


1. Music can increase and improve early language skills
2. Music aids in gross motor development. Music evokes movement which allows children to develop and grow their motor skills
3. Music engages the brain. Music stimulates neural pathways associated with such higher forms of intelligence as abstract thinking, empathy, and mathematics
4. Promotes social and emotional skills music groups allow children to interact with peers and relate to others in a complex way, leading to school readiness.
5. Music promotes creativity that allow freedom to explore and experiment within a structured environment allow children to develop their creativity.


If you would like more information about MTFV, including upcoming classes, go to their website & find them on Facebook.


A big thank you to Erin from MTFV for inviting us, and to the other lovely Moms & kids who were so welcoming & friendly.

October posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique

Monday, October 20, 2014

Yummy Mummy Monday: Leftover Turkey Soup

I know you're probably sick of turkey right about now. Thanksgiving is over and now it's time to shrink those tummies back down just in time for Christmas. Right? Hehe, sure that's what we tell ourselves.

Even thought the thought of eating anything else containing the bird may not excite you right about now, if you're like me, you know how much you can make out of the leftovers from a big meal: sandwiches, potpie, soup... this probably sounds like your menu from the past week. ;)

My favourite thing to do after any roast (beef, ham, turkey, etc) is to boil up the bones and remaining scraps of meat and make a nice stock that is a great base for soup (see info below). I try and it make up into soup right away, but I also freeze the stock and pluck it from the freezer at a later date when I get the craving to make soup.

So for anyone trying to think about what to do with those turkey leftovers that made it through the week or are now nestled into your freezer, why not make some yummy soup to be enjoyed on cozy Fall & Winter evenings? (Plus it's a great way to use up extra veggies too!) There, doesn't that make you look forward to turkey again?



Yummy Mummy Recipe: Leftover Turkey Soup
Serves 4- 6

Ingredients:
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, sliced (whites only)
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, peeled & sliced
1L turkey or chicken stock* (store bought is totally fine)
Approx. 2 cups diced leftover turkey
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp poultry seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste (I love lots of pepper!)
Optional: Cook up some pasta to add when the soup is cooked. It's best to add it last or when you serve it so the noodles don't soak up all the liquid

Directions:
1. In a large pot, saute the onions and leeks on medium heat until cooked/ translucent (approx. 5 minutes), followed by celery & carrots.
2. Add stock, bay leaf & poultry seasoning & give a good stir. Increase heat to high & bring to a boil
3. Allow to boil for approx. 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low& simmer for 30- 45 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste (add any other favourite seasonings as the soup simmers so the flavours combine).
4. Serve immediately, or allow to cool & freeze for later. 

*To make your own stock, toss the remains of a roast (bones, scarps, drippings) into a large pot & add 1 litre of water with salt & pepper. For added flavour, add some diced onion, carrot, & celery to make a basic soup base. Bring to a boil, then reduce & simmer for 30- 45 minutes. Can be used right away, or refrigerated/ frozen for later use.

Image Source: Saveur


October posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique

Friday, October 17, 2014

Madison Ave Baby: Amazing Mom Feature & Giveaway

After talking to so many women I know about returning to work after starting a family, it's always interesting to hear their stories and learn how they decided on their journey. Many return to the jobs they had, while others start on a whole new career path. Today's Amazing Mom Merina is one of the ladies that decided motherhood meant a change in her career. Today I am really excited to introduce you to Merina and her adorable business, Madison Ave Baby  (make sure you check out the giveaway at the end of the post!).

            In the beginning...
My Sister in law Shawna and I started a website with of some of our favourite jewelry, home decor, party supplies, and other favourite finds. Madison Ave Baby is a section of that site that offers handmade, local, modern and- most importantly!- adorable baby head bands.  

The baby head bands retail between $7.50- $13.00 online- I really want them to be affordable. 


            How did it all get started?

I started Madison Ave Baby when I was still pregnant with my little girl and was starting to think about her first photo shoot and how I was going to style it (naturally, having been in the beauty/ fashion industry for so many years). Looking around trying to find accessories that were fashionable, sweet & stylish was a huge issue. So like every situation I encounter, I created a solution that I was happy with instead of settling for what is out there. I began to sew little simple head pieces for her and suddenly Madison Ave Baby was born! 







Naturally my baby girl inspired me to create something unique. In my personal day to day look I like to have my own style and flair and I LOVE accessorizing. True style believers know accessories can make any outfit. I figured why not do the same for baby girls out there?
  
What makes you love what you do?
My favourite aspect of this venture is design and marketing. Shawna and  
I design the line together, collaborating and incorporating both our styles.  
When you really love something you do, you're not shy to show the world what you have created.  

What are the challenges with your business?
The most challenging part is limiting the amount of styles we put out. There are so many fabrics, buttons, stones, ribbons and ways to get carried away, but buckling down and narrowing down options can be challenging.  

What advice do you have for other Moms thinking about starting their own business?
Just do it! You don’t have to know a darn thing. Just start simple and grow as it comes naturally; don't dive into the deep end off the bat, its to overwhelming and intimidating. With a busy life don’t bite off to much. Just do what you love and start small.. grow as it needs to, keep the passion. 


More about Merina:
I started out as a make-up artist 10 years ago, and ventured into the world of wedding planning. While working for an up scale bridal boutique I started making bridal head pieces and customizing accessories for brides. It has always been in my nature to create beautiful things, and I'm continuing the pattern into the world of baby girls' accessories.  

My goal in life is to be my own boss, use my skills and abilities, and strive for success while doing something I love.. after all isn't that the dream? 






If you'd like to get your hands on some of Merina's cute accessories, go to our Contests page for a chance to win a set of 3 headbands from Madison Ave Baby (fits 0- 18 months).

From top to bottom: Vintage Flower in Grey,
Cheetah Diva in Ivory,  City Chevron in Pink


 
To see more of what Madison Ave Baby offers, check out their website.

You can also find the company on Facebook & Instagram: @merinachandra.

Photos & logo courtesy of Madison Ave Baby

October posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique