Archive for the ‘crafts and hobbies’ Category

Lego Master Builders and the New Lego Store

The first Lego store in Ontario (only the second in Canada) officially opened last Friday in Sherway Gardens shopping centre. To celebrate the store gave away prizes and gifts to shoppers and held a big Lego build in the center of the mall with a Lego Master.

You know how my kids love Lego (like most kids their age) so of course we hopped over to check it out. You can read all about the weekend celebrations on EverythingMom‘s Toronto edition. The kids had a great time and after helping with the build project they earned their own Lego Master Builder certificates.

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Decorating with Colour

There’s something about a new house that brings the designer out in people you know — your real estate agent, your new neighbours, your family, completely strangers — and their advice is always the same, if you’re going to update the paint keep it neutral. I understand where they’re coming from, colour can be very personal, but the whole off-white, beige, neutral colour scheme just doesn’t work for me. When we bought our first house we didn’t do much in the way of painting because we had more important things to take care of. But after a few months the neutral colours in the place were bringing me down. We went and painted every room, bright bold colours: ox blood red, royal blue, mustard yellow. And when it came time to sell the place we had no problems, no issue with colours.

So when we bought our second home, paint was one of the first things we did (though some rooms, like my son’s, are still waiting for a good colour of paint). We followed with the same colours we used in our old place. Many people who visit say they love the colour but they could never do it in their own place; it’s far too bold. I find the colour warms the rooms up, translates our house into a home. The rooms may be darker, sucking the light into the walls versus reflecting them off of a white, but that just gives me an excuse to buy funky lamps. And forget the idea about not using bold colours in a small place. We painted our small downstairs bathroom a dark red and it has such a rich feel, like a royal throne (pun intended).

A forest green for our foyer

Mustard-like yellow for the living room with green accent

Dark red for the kitchen with black and stainless accents

Red kitchen connects to a burnt orange dining room

Granny smith apple green with yellow accents in youngest' bedroom

Blue in the upper stair hallway

Blue hallway leads to read and yellow office space

Red office with yellow accents

Even if you don’t think you can do a whole room with one colour, try painting just one wall or the ceiling or a banding. There’s a great article on EverythingMom about painting with colour, specifically red, and it has lots of great tips. You might be surprised at how much your room will warm-up with a little (or a lot) of colour.

Picture It Picture Books – Illustrated by Your Child

Books are big in our house as I’m sure you can guess from the Write a Review Wednesday posts every week. I love how books encourage learning, discovery and imagination. So when the folks at Mom Central Canada told me about Picture It Picture Books, I was interested to see these first hand how these would work.

The concept behind Picture It Picture Books is to tap into your child’s creative imagination. The stories are already written and your child adds the illustrations, sharing their interpretation of the story being told. There are currently 6 different titles available and the subject matter varies depending on your child’s interest. For younger kids there’s My Alphabet where kids illustrate something for each letter, something that might be more personal to them.

For older kids (and by older I mean maybe six or seven), there’s Captain Zane or The Moon Story. These are closer to stories to actual stories you might read and your child adds the illustrations.

The sample we were sent was Imagining Me, a story about your child. This isn’t really a story but rather a collection of pages about your child’s interests: their job when they grow-up, a wacky hairdo, playing with their best friend. I thought the Picture It Picture Books would be appealing to my 8-year old who has a current fascination with illustrating her own stories, but the sample didn’t appeal to her at all. She has a few books like this, books that she can customize based on her preferences and she had no interest in doing another one. This wouldn’t be one of the books I would have chosen either. For a book about your child, some of the pages are very specific and are of topics kids might have no interest in.

My 6-year old decided he liked a few of the pages, like developing a vehicle or designing a new toy (as his job) but that was the extent of his interest. I would love to see one of the more story oriented books to see if there would be more interest; the kids would actually be illustrating pictures of a story versus more of a workbook type activity (like the alphabet or Imagining Me).

The finished books do make great keepsakes for your kids as they grow-up or maybe even something to give to grandma (a story to read together when visiting and something grandma can enjoy because of the personal illustrations).

You can find the Picture It Picture Books on their website or at other stores and markets across the country.

I want to thanks the folks at Mom Central Canada and Picture It Picture Books for sending the review copy along to me.

5 Ways Your Kid’s Toys Keep You Fit

I know that adding exercise to your daily routine is a great way to keep healthy and energized and believe me, with 3 kids I need all the energy I can get. Starting a routine is easy, especially at the start of the new year; keeping a fitness routine can be harder. It doesn’t help that I work from home and have my 4-year old with me at home for half the morning. I actually thought having my kids start school would free-up my time but the whole half-day kindergarten is turning out to be more inconvenient than I thought. Now I wouldn’t change that but that’s another post.

All said and done, my situation isn’t going to change. At first I would bemoan not having time to do my workout but the more I thought about it the more I realized I’ve been working out all this time. If you have kids, you probably are too.

So here are 5 Ways Your Kid’s Toys Keep You Fit:

  1. Video Games. It may seem like 30-minutes of saving the alliance from the dark forces but if you’re like me and really get into playing videos games (especially on the Wii or Xbox Kinect) you’d be surprised how much of a sweat you can work-up. Bonus: you’re kids might even think you’re kinda cool. Kinda.
  2. Obstacle Course. My 6-year old son loves his hot wheels cars. He received a track extension set at Christmas which means he can make his own track with loops and jumps. Forget the standard loop with a hoop jump at the end, my son loves to make tracks that go over chairs, under book tunnels, around stuffies, all the way down the hallway on the second floor. Creative right? Sure, unless your office is on the third floor and the courier arrives and you have to dash and jump and swerve down the hall and stairs without killing yourself or ruining the track.
  3. Game Cupboard. I thought I was being smart, setting up our sideboard as a family game cupboard. The idea was that kids could easily pull out a game to play together or on their own to use right on the dining room table. This would cut-down on the requests for me to pull out a game and tidy them up. In theory this is great if you only have a few games but over the years we have amassed quiet a large collection. It’s like a puzzle to try to get something out of there and fit it back in, which means I end up back into the routine of digging out and putting away the games. Who wants to play a game after 20-minutes of digging out from the back of the Jenga game cupboard?
  4. Clean-up Chase. My 6 and 8-year old are pretty good at tidying up after playing with their toys. My 4-year old, however, is a work in progress. This usually involves me running around, looking under beds, in closets, behind doors, to find my hiding 4-year old. I think she takes the expression ‘out of sight, out of mind’ a little too literally when it comes to putting her toys away.
  5. The Clean-Up. Like I said in point four, my older two kids are pretty good at tidying up but no one’s perfect. This means there are books in the bathroom, boats and plastic sharks in the tub, pencil crayons and play dough pieces under the table and Lego everywhere. You can get a good workout slipping on, stepping over, bending down to pick-up, sorting out, reshelving these items all over the house.

Even if your kids are super tidy or don’t have toys, trying taking them grocery shopping. A trip to the grocery store can be a workout on its own (with or without kids). If you’re looking for more of a structured workout, checkout these hi-tech options on EverythingMom.

So next time you’re picking up the umpteenth piece of Lego buried in the shag carpet, remind yourself that this is for your own good, that you’re giving your body a workout so you can be around for years and years (and years) to come and your children are still living in your basement, unemployed. Hmm, maybe I’ll rethink this workout craze.

Family Day: World Records and Wet Heads

To mark the 200th anniversary of the McIntosh apple, the Ontario Apple Growers hosted a Winter Apple Ball in Toronto at the Westin Harbour Castle. The event was a free event for the first 1000 people who registered and we were lucky to be invited to attend.

About the McIntosh Apple

We’re big apple eaters in our home, Delicious, Empire, Granny Smith. But my personal favourite has always been the McIntosh; it’s soft and sweet on the inside with just enough crispness on the outside for a good crunch with each bite. The first McIntosh was discovered in Dundela, Ontario by John McIntosh in 1811; however it wasn’t sold until much later when John’s son, Allan McIntosh, took a more serious interest reproducing the tree and selling the apple across eastern Ontario.

The Winter Apple Ball

When we arrived we spotted apples throughout the hotel, providing directions on where to find the Winter Apple Ball and giving out apple tattoos. We were also greeted by royalty when we arrived and of course my girls had to have their picture with them (my son, not so much).

In Candy Apple Lane the Ontario Apple Growers had a display of all their apples. Each had a description and samples so you could see that not all apples are the same.

My kids were more interested in the guy making balloon animals.

There were tables all around the Winter Apple Ball offering guests apple cider. I loved the warm apple cider but my kids preferred it cold; both options were available. There were water jugs if cider didn’t appeal to you. You could also sample apples as well as tasty muffins. Trust me, they tasted as good as they looked.

After the kids had gained some nurishment from their apple snacks, they were off to the obsticle course. My 4-year old thought it was the best thing every, climbing and crawling and diving and sliding.

Eventually my girls decided to go to the craft area, making their own princess crowns. I couldn’t convince my son to leave the obstacle course. He’s not much of a crafter but they did have cardboard shields the boys could decorate if they wanted to.

Then the big moment arrived; time to go for the apple bobbing world record. Each registered person had their own bucket with 10 apples to bob for. They also provided ponchos and hair bands to try and keep yourself as dry as possible. Some tables were shorter, ideal for younger kids.

It turns out apple bobbing is harder than it looks, especially in the case of my 6-year old son who is missing 3 of his 4 front teeth, but he still tried. The video will give you a peak at how the apple bobbing event went down:

With 357 participants, it’s pretty exciting to say we were part of breaking the apple bobbing world record.

Even though my 8-year old daughter was the only one to bob all 10 apples, everyone had fun trying. The kids even walked away with a fun goodie bag, including an Apple Crumble mis from Et Tu.

Making crumble was the perfect way to use up the bitten apples from my daughter’s apple bobbing and celebrate our fun day filled with apples.

Lookout, It’s an Xbox Christmas

You would think with both a Wii and PS3 we would have enough gaming paraphernalia in our home. Well, you’re wrong of course. After my kids and I experienced the new Kinect from Xbox we were eager to add it to our collection. Thank goodness Santa pulled through (gotta love that guy). It was easy to set-up, though we had to find our own HDMI cable since the console doesn’t include one, and the kids were right into it.

We didn’t get any games but the Kinect bundle comes with the Adventure game so we could start playing right away. And the kids did and have been playing since Christmas morning. It’s amazing to see how active my kids can get playing a video game. Gone are the stereotypes of sitting slouched on the couch building up callouses on the thumb. Now I need to get a faster camera.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 22 – Christmas Wrapping Tube Craft

My kids love doing crafts, even my 6-year old son, so I knew for one of our 25 Days of Christmas activities I would have to work in some craft ideas. I was going to pick one of the great Christmas crafts found on EverythingMom‘s site but as I was wrapping gifts I had another idea. My wrapping used up a lot of paper from last year which meant I was left with a few of those cardboard rolls the paper was stored on, 6 rolls to be exact. I was going to put them in the recycling bin when I had an idea: Wrapping Paper Tube Garlands.

I cover the dining room table with newspaper since this craft would have the kids painting. We received a sample of Faber-Castell’s Young Artist Texture kit that included primary paint colours as well as 6 brushes with unique heads on them for making patterns and my 4-year old has been bugging to use it so this activity was perfect. I also brought out the Reeves Oil Pastels (I love these).

The kids each had their own wrapping paper tube to paint and colours as much as little as they wished. The experimented with the different pattern brushes but of course just plain paint brushes would have worked too.

Aft the tubes dried I cut them into shorter lengths using scissors. The actual lengths don’t really matter and because I’m not a big measuring type of person our pieces ended up in all sort of different sizes which I actually liked. We used thinner rolls so they were easier to cut, however, I still did the cutting.

With a single hole punch I cut a hole in the each end and then tied a piece of ribbon through the holes. I just repeated this until either all the ribbon was gone or all the tubes were connected.

Then the kids strung their garland around the tree. They loved pointing out which segment was one they painted. I love it on the tree too. And our recycle bin isn’t as full. If you’re looking to keep the kids occupied and distracted today, checkout these other fun holiday crafts on EverythingMom.

Merry Christmas!
How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.