Archive for the ‘crafts and hobbies’ Category

A Homemade Mother’s Day

My 5-year-old son has a bit of flair for the dramatic. Okay, he’s a bit of a ham. Sometimes that ham comes disguised as a beautiful Mother’s Day flower:

The story is he was practicing his angry face the day his teacher took the picture. I must admit when I first pulled the flower out of the bag I jumped a little. Wouldn’t you? This flower is hanging on our school wall in the kitchen and every time I look at it I can’t help but smile and laugh. And you know, my son makes me do that every day (as do all my kids). Having his silly face greet me in the kitchen first thing in morning, usually when I don’t want to be up and running the kids to school, is kind of the best gift a mother could ask for.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Spring, Earth Day, and Gardening: Guest Post on NTFFC

Spring officially arrived at the end of March and now the weather is catching up too. This means we’ll be spending more time outside, getting the yard and garden ready for Earth Day and the summer. My April guest post on Allie’s fantastic site, No Time for Flashcards is about plants and gardens. So if you’re looking for some books to get your kids excited about the gardening season and developing an appreciation for plants, be sure to jump over. And if you have a garden or plant book you enjoy reading, please add it in the comments so others can enjoy it too.

You can find my book reviews every first Saturday of the month over on No Time for Flash Cards. I hope you’ll pop by and check out some great books to share with your kids.

MagaBrands, Dora and CN Tower

Thanks to the lovely ladies at Mom Central Canada, my family was given the opportunity to come out and meet Dora. You know Dora the Explorer. My 3-year-old was beside herself with excitement. I probably shouldn’t have told her until the morning of our visit. That would have saved countless ‘Do we see Dora today?’ Followed by great sobs when I had to tell her it wasn’t time yet.

We were to meet Dora down at the CN Tower. MegaBrands and Dora were going to be there as part of a March Break event that was going on. It had been awhile since I had been to the CN Tower and I don’t think my youngest has been there at all, so of course being the good mom I am I decided to make a full adventure of it…and take the TTC down!

Actually it wasn’t as bad as all that. We bought a day pass for all of us (we had another event later that day to attend). The kids loved taking the streetcar and subway. We were lucky that it wasn’t too busy, considering it was rush hour when we left. I am glad I allowed a lot of extra time because we arrived right on time.

I had a chance to meet a few of the other Mom Central Canada moms I’ve only talked to online, like Wendy (@MapsGirl), Lindsay (@LindsayGlowbaby), Rebecca (@playcon) and Diana (@TeacherMomofTwo). It was great running into Maureen again too (@WeeWelcome).

Funny, I knew my 3-year-old was excited to see Dora, but when Dora walked into the room, my 5-year-old son was the first one to greet her. All three of my kids wanted to hug Dora and get a picture with her.

After a little meet and greet with Dora we were given a tour of the CN Tower. I forgot about the glass elevators. Thank goodness I was taking pictures of the kids and didn’t notice how high we were going. My two youngest loved it.

We also visited the glass floor. Now it seems my adventurous kids weren’t so adventurous. My son insisted emphatically that he wasn’t going on the glass. I eventually coaxed him on but he didn’t stay long.

Then it was another elevator ride up the highest public part of the CN Tower, the Sky Pod. We were lucky the weather was so clear; we had a great view around the city.

At the end, the wonderful folks at MegaBrands gave each family a few of their items to try. My 3-year-old was thrilled when she saw the new Dora Mermaid set (especially after experiencing Barbie Mermaid). And the next day all three of my kids were playing with the combined MegaBloks sets quietly and cooperatively for at least an hour. Any toy that can do that belongs in our family.

Of course no trip downtown would be complete without an exhaust dog (or sausage in our case) and then a weary subway ride home.

Thank again to the folks at MegaBrands and Mom Central Canada. We had a wonderful time.

If you are a Canadian mom, blogger or not, and want to share your thoughts on products being introduced to moms like you in Canada, join the Mom Central Canada Testing Panel.

Review: Lego Adventures of Clutch Powers (DVD)

So how did you kick off March Break at your house? Us? With a Saturday afternoon movie of course. Earlier in the week we were watching a movie we rented from the library when we spotted the trailer for Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers; a full-length feature film based on Lego characters. My son starred wide-eyed in awe at the movie trailer. So imagine his surprise when a few days later someone sent us a copy of that very movie! [insert image of a 5-year-old doing a bit of a happy dance].

With my son’s Lego fixation (we even established a Lego building area in his room), it’s no surprise he wanted to watch this movie. So we watched it. And we watched it again. And again. In one day Lego: The Adventure of Clutch Powers has been watched four times! And if I allowed it, my son would keep watching it.

And actually I don’t really blame him. The picture quality is actually quite good, better than I was expecting, but I guess when you have the Lego name attached to it you have to make it good. The story is fun:

Meet Clutch Powers, the best builder and explorer in the LEGO® universe as he heads off on his most dangerous mission yet. Join Clutch and his team of LEGO® experts as their adventure leads them from LEGO® City to the Space Police prison planet to the medieval world of Ashlar where they must help the rightful heir to the King’s throne find the courage to regain the kingdom from the evil wizard Mallock the Malign.

Their brick-building skills will be put to the ultimate test as they face off against Mallock’s skeleton army. Get ready for an action-packed adventure like nothing you have ever seen before, The Adventures of Clutch Powers! (pulled from the official Lego Clutch Powers website)

We’re big fans of the Wii Lego Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Batman games and Lego: Adventures of Clutch Powers has the same sort of feel. My son loved seeing some of his favourite Lego sets come to life and screen and his favourite part was when the character’s built things on the spot. The adventure contained the same fun humour in the Lego Wii game vignettes. Because the movie is based on the Lego characters, we didn’t need to worry about scary scenes but it was still a great adventure story.

If you have a Lego fan in your house, Lego: Adventures of Clutch Powers might be a great addition to your home video library. Wonder what we’ll be watching on our road trip later this week?

Photoworks Studio. Interactive, easy, and fun.

When my first child was born, I had plans like all first time moms. I looked forward to getting the nursery ready, taking pre-natal classes with my husband, crying from both exhaustion and joy when my little one arrived, holding her for the first time, creating a memory book covering her first year. But unlike many first time moms, my daughter’s unscheduled early arrival and hospital care tossed all my plans out the window.

Of course that seems like a distant memory when I look at my now happy, friendly, creatively energetic seven year old. We did take a lot of pictures and videos of my daughter during her those early years; they’re saved on the computer or copied onto CD. When I do get the urge to look at them I always think I should do it more often. Having them in digital form, although a great way to save them, it’s not a convenient way to look at them.

PhotoWorks wants you to share and enjoy these photos, all the time, not just when you pull out that CD. So I did just that. Using the new Photoworks Studio service on their website I pulled together photos and images from videos to create a book for my oldest daughter’s first year. PhotoWorks Studio offers you the ability to create stylish photobooks with a simple click or two.

All you need is about 20 or more photos and about 15 to 30 minutes of time (maybe more if you’re like me and can’t decide on what photos to use). No need to worry if you’re not creatively inclined, PhotoWorks Studio has a variety of themes and templates and designs for you to work with. Since I wanted to create a book for my daughter’s first year, I choose the baby theme (they also have themes for weddings and travel as well as an everyday theme to cover any moment you think is special and worth preserving).

After I choose to build a baby themed book, the rest was as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Upload pictures to your online album
  2. Customize your book, with your picture size, position and groupings; adding words or leaving them out; changing layout, background and other decorative elements.
  3. Save, preview, and order or share.

It really is that simple. Although the themes have a default template, you can customize it the way you want, making this truly your book. I could change the background, look at a layout with just one or two or more images, add little decorative features. And I can see everything on screen just like it would appear in the printed book. Don’t like the way one page looks, change it. Decide that the image of my daughter opening Christmas gifts should go near the end, easily drag it to the area I want.

I found PhotoWorks Studio very intuitive but they do offer a great step-by-step pdf file if you’re really stuck. The little rollovers were helpful too. It’s from these that I discovered I could move pages around in my book easily without having to recrate them; just click on a page and drag it to the new spot. Some of my images aren’t high quality since they have been saved for my computer, especially a few of the video image captures. That doesn’t mean they can’t be used in my book; it just means they’re not ideal for some of the full picture pages. PhotoWorks Studio will flag any images that might be too low resolution for a page your creating which was very useful (and avoids any surprises and disappointments when the finished book arrives).

I had a great experience going through the images of my daughter’s first year. I’ve just finished my book and can’t wait for it to arrive and share it with her. And even though, or maybe especially because, my daughter isn’t a baby anymore, having her first year, a year that was such a blur, preserved in a book will enable to me relive all those special first moments we shared together so long ago. I may not have had the chance to do a lot of my planned new mom moments when my daughter arrived, but at least with PhotoWorks Studio I could do one; I now have a memory book of my first daughter’s first year.

You can visit the PhotoWorks Studio website to see the different themes, read FAQs and view a video on how to get started.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaig by Mom Central on behalf of American Greetins PhotoWorks and will receive a free photo book to facilitate my review.

A bouquet of Valentines

Valentine’s Day is this Sunday. It’s actually not a big thing for us at home but it seems to be a big deal at school. When we were visiting the US not too long ago my seven-year-old daughter found these pink Tootsie-Pop lollipops and thought they would be perfect to give her friends on Valentine’s Day. Nothing says ‘you’re my friend’ like hard candy with a chewy center. Of course we bought them.

Our original plan was to just tape a little strip of paper to each stick for my daughter’s message. I say original idea because that all changed with Andrea Tomkins‘ (@missfish) blog post: Valentine’s Day card crafting with kids, DIY lollipop flowers. I couldn’t believe it. These were perfect for my daughter’s lollipop valentines. The pdf template made it even easier, just print, cut and stick (the lollipop through the middle).

Of course I left it to the last minute so I spent the afternoon cutting like mad so my daughter could sign and pop the lollipops in. They turned out great. My daughter is so excited about giving her friends a Sweet Valentine Flower tomorrow. Thank you Andrea.

Magic for the Emergency Room

I think most kids like magic; my kids are no different. At the grocery store this morning my I caught my five-year-old son showing his younger sister his newest magic trick. He has a penny (which he found on the dirty ground outside the grocery store I should add) and he explains how he’s going to make it disappear from his hand and then make it reappear somewhere else. He squeezes his hand tight around the penny and asks his sister to blow on his fist (magic is part showmanship you know). Then he waves his hand around in the air, grabs his head and shakes it back and forth then stops. He slowly opens his hand to show the penny is gone. His sister lets out a dramatic gasp.

So where did his penny disappear to? He reaches up to his ear and pulls it out. Impressed? Maybe if it wasn’t for the fact that my son had jammed the penny into his ear during his trick to later pull it out. Thank goodness he was able to get it out and that he didn’t try his trick with something smaller. So we’ve put that trick on the back burner. But I know it won’t be long before he goes up to the privacy of his room and practices it, unsuccessfully, resulting in us performing the reveal part of the trick in the emergency room.

Tada....it's magic!

Every Lego has its place

You may remember my son’s Lego obsession. He loves these little blocks. He likes to build cities and cars and buildings and robots and secret hideouts and…well I could go on and on. There really seems to be no limit to my son’s imagination when it comes to these little blocks.

And like most parents, when you child finds something they like and can do well (assuming it’s legal of course) you encourage them; in our case we buy more Lego sets and Lego pieces.

The problem with this of course is my son’s collection has exceed his current containment set-up. Originally he had a drawer in his toy cabinet. That drawer expanded to two drawers. Then it took over his little table, then his dresser, then is storage bench (which is really supposed to be for dirty laundry). But when it started to creep out on the floor so we were stepping on it and vacuuming it up I knew something had to be done.

Off to Ikea!

I found a storage unit with buckets that fit perfectly under his bed (we raised his bed so he has a play area underneath). Now my son had various buckets to store the different Lego pieces. It took my son and I almost an entire afternoon to go through all the Lego hiding places in his room and sort it into the new containers: one for Lego people, one for small pieces, one for big pieces, one for those pieces that don’t seem to fit into one category and of course he needed one for work in progress. We also set aside three drawers for the bigger Mega Bloks that his younger sister likes to play with.

A drawer for the various Lego blocks

...the small pieces go here...

Now to build the holding cells for secret spies

Pay no attention to the builders behind the curtain

Now my son can find that long triangle piece when he needs to build a jet or the hinge piece when he’s building a trap door or an army of Lego guys when England is invading France. Plus the top of the storage area makes a great construction, display and play space. But the best thing is I’m not pulling Lego blocks out of the central vacuum system or the washing machine anymore.

Breakfast with Santa

You know Christmas is around the corner when you have breakfast with Santa.  

There are a few things we like to do as a family to get ready for Christmas: attend the Santa Claus parade, read some of our favourite Christmas stories, and write letters to Santa. Another favourite activity with my kids is having breakfast with Santa at Ikea.  

Okay, so it means we have to get up early (8:00 a.m.), but at least I don’t have to worry about feeding the kids (they get eggs, sausage, potatoes, pancakes and milk).  

Eating Ikea breakfast while waiting for Santa

After breakfast the kids get their turn to sit with Santa and tell him their Christmas wish. My oldest of course volunteered to go first. My son went second (he had made a picture at home the night before to bring to the breakfast).  

All I want for Christmas..

...and transformers and walkie-talkies and ...

My youngest wasn’t so sure about seeing Santa, but with a little encouragement she actually sat on his lap. I don’t think she actually talked to Santa; she looked anxious to get off his lap. At least this year she sat for a photo with Santa without gripping me right beside her. Each child was given one of those crazy little stuffed animals that only Ikea could sell.  

Are we done yet?

Group Santa hug

After visiting Santa, while we waited for the pictures to print, the kids we’re given a picture frame, glitter pens, stickers, and stamps to decorate their frame. All three kids loved decorating, though my youngest two quickly lost interest and started playing attack animals with the toys they received from Santa.  

Decorating photo frames for Santa pictures

Working on her work of art

Playing 'animal attack', very festive

And the best part of this, Ikea Santa breakfast only costs $5 Cdn per person. You can’t go wrong with that. Now if only we’d get some snow (that’s not included in the ticket price).

Have you been bad or good?

It’s funny the affect one person can have on kids, at least on my kids. I’m talking Santa. And don’t I use it for all it’s worth:

  • You better clean your room. Santa doesn’t like messy rooms
  • If you three don’t stop fighting and learn to share, Santa might have to skip this house

You get the idea. Now that the Christmas season is upon us (any time after the Santa Clause parade is the Christmas season in my book) one of the first things my kids do is write letters to Santa.

Now with my kids, a standard pen to paper type letter just won’t do. There has to be crayons, markers, scissors, glue, stickers and glitter. And let’s not forget the images cut out of magazines and flyers illustrating the exact toy each child wants (my kids are so considerate of Santa’s senility).

So with Christmas music playing through the iPod and hot chocolate from our Tassimo beverage system, the Christmas letter mayhem started:

Making a snow scene on the back of his letter

My 5yo making a snow scene on the back of his letter to Santa

My 2yo writing her letter to Santa (big sister helped)

My 7yo creating a picture for Rudolph

My 7yo making a picture for Rudolph

Everyone working together

Everyone working together

The letters Santa and crew will be receiving from our house this year.

The letters Santa and crew will be receiving from our house this year.

Have you sent your letters in yet?