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Showing posts from 2015

Coldstone Creamery - Custom Cake

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My daughter celebrated her 13th Birthday last month and wanted a special cake. I stink at baking, I can burn anything... She asked for an ice cream cake, of course we said sure. Sounds delicious to me. After a little research we found that Coldstone Creamery offers a create your own cake option.

If creating your own is a little too crazy, (my kids choices were interesting...) you can go with one of their signature cakes which look just as delicious; A Cheesecake Name Desire, Peanut Butter Playground, etc. All offering the same delicious mix of ice cream, toppings, candy mixed in, ganache or frosting, and cake.

I would have loved it Darby would have chosen the one of the signature cakes, but that's not what she wanted... She ordered a large round cake 8", cotton candy ice cream with coconut and rainbow sprinkles mixed in, a layer of red velvet cake, fluffy white frosting on top, with sprinkles and white & milk chocolate curls, and of course Happy Birthday Darby! written o…

Kawaii Monthly Subscription Box - July

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There is something explainable about getting mail from another country. I love getting mail.. of course when its not bills, or ads. But something that has traveled from so far away is just that much more thrilling. The July Kawaii box showed up in late August, it had a long journey. It is the last of our 3-month summer fun subscription. Just like the May and June boxes it was packed full of fun goodies.


It seems like these squishy foods are quite the trend. They have been in every Kawaii box so far and they are adorable. This month's was a doughnut compact.

There were some great Back To School type items, pencils, a fold-out Rilakkuma post it note, a little box of stickers for sealing letters, glitter glue, and a fun key chain.


If you have a kid who loves to take you to the Japanese Animation store, this subscription might be a much better options. Not only do you get a box full of stuff for less than $20 a month, but you also get the joy of showing your kids how awesome snail ma…

Kiwi Crate - August Box

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We purchased a 3-month Kiwi Crate subscription for summer break and we are a little sad that this crate is our last one because it is our favorite so far. The August theme is "Day at the Lake", it came with a fish paper-lantern craft and 2 make your own paddle-boats.




The fish paper-lantern was easy and fun. It involved a lot of gluing but there was a general excitement about the end result. There is something magical about lights when your a kid... or a grown-kid, cause I loved the end result. It is only about 2 inches round, has a little light that will likely die within a few months considering how often my son turns it on. It also opened the conversation of paper lanterns, where they began, and what they are associated with in other counties.

Each box comes with 2 "big" crafts, and then the booklet with side crafts, snack ideas based around the box theme. The second craft was make a paddle-boat. We were so excited it came with 2, so they can race and my 13yo wa…

Parenting - Teach Kids Basic Manners

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It seems that more adults and children lack manners or etiquette than ever before. We can blame it on cell phones, media, video games, etc. But, truly we can only look at ourselves to see where most of the blame belongs. It is up to us as parents to teach our children these basic skills, just as it was our parents responsibility.

In this day and age having a kid with manners seems to surprise the older generation. Teach your kids these basic skills and it will help them when they step into the big-wide-world on their own.

1. "What's the magic word?". Please and Thank You! It starts with your toddler just saying these single words, then you roll that into "Make a sentence. May I have some milk please?"


2. Table manners. This one could be a blog in itself... Chew with your mouth closed, don't talk with food in your mouth(!), don't slurp, use your utensils, use your napkin not your pants. Burping and farting at the table is only funny on occasion let's n…

Canoe the Youghiogheny River - A Beginner in West Newton

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The Youghiogheny River is 134 miles, it flows through West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland. We live just outside of Pittsburgh and are lucky enough to close access to it. The river ranges from calm to advanced rapids.


About a 20 minute drive from our house is Youghiogheny Canoe Outfitters. They offer canoe and kayak rentals, with four different options in length to be shuttled and dropped off. Including an overnight. Cost is $39-$42 per canoe for a day or however long your float lasts, single kayaks are $22-$25 a day. Other boat options are available on their site.

Youghiogheny Canoe Outfitters were helpful, friendly and not overly concerned with when the boat would be returned. It seems like a lot of rental places charge by the hour and things can get pricey fast. The employees also made sure we had on our life vests and my two kids were set-up as needed. We were able to all fit in one canoe, and the staff gave us pads for the kids to sit on in the canoe.


I have had ear prob…

Columbus Ohio Zoo & Aquarium - a family outing

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The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium is located just north of Columbus, Ohio. The zoo opened in 1927 and in September of 1978 Jack Hanna was named Director of the zoo. In 1979 the lowland gorilla's of the zoo had never been outdoors and this was normal, with financial backing the zoo was able to overhaul the habitat to a more liveable state. In 1983 Jack Hanna had his first appearance on network television, long story short, Hanna's passion for animals made the Columbus Zoo what is today and home to many rescued animals.


The Zoo is large, allot a full day to see everything. There is no transportation within the zoo, be prepared and wear comfortable shoes. You can find discounted tickets at a local Kroger grocery store, there is one about 5 miles from the zoo.

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There are Koala's, turtles and reptiles galore, penguins, Red River Hogs, Flying Fox Bats, Markhor, a ton of beautif…

Taking my son to his first Concert

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My Mom took me to my first concert when I was 13 (maybe 14...). I saw Neil Diamond. He stood on a circular stage in the middle of huge arena in a sparkling jumpsuit, surrounded by middle aged swooning women. My Mom told me, "this isn't like a typical concert" and I remember a sigh of relief because this was kind of ridiculous. But, of course it was still fun.



We took our oldest to her first concert when she 11, Neko Case. Unfortunately we made the mistake of letting her sleepover at a friends house the night before, she fell asleep in the middle of the show and I had to sort of carry her. That following spring we took her and my younger sister to see First Aid Kit for their Lions Roar tour. It was a small venue and they gave out autographs after the show. Darby was excited at the end and she actually stayed awake for the whole thing. Success!

Last week we took our 8yo and the soon to be 13yo to see First Aid Kit. I got odd looks from younger and older people while sittin…

Nerd Block Jr. - July box

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I purchased a 3-month subscription to Nerd Block Jr. for my son over the summer. You can read about our first box here. We received the July box on Monday and it was ripped open with excitement before I could get home. This month didn't have an overall theme, just some stuff in a box. Here is what is inside:


The box came with a Middle School level book by Jeff Probst (the guy who hosts  the tv show Survivor), a summer activity book, glow in the dark Ninja Turtle tattoos, a kidrobot figure, a Yoda assembly "craft" and a Skylanders figure.


My soon-to-be 13yo quickly snatched up the book, otherwise it would have ended up on the book shelf for a few years. The activity book has crossword puzzles, outdoor facts, questions, but is a little too advanced for my 8yo. Both books are something we can work on and read together! The "big ticket" item is the Skylanders figure. My kids like this video game and have managed to collect quite a few characters over the years its …

Kiwi Crate - July Box

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I purchased my son a 3-month subscription to Kiwi Crate this summer. We received our first box in June, you can read about it here. June's box theme was "color" and Odin did the activities multiple times, it came with a lot of supplies. The July box is not as full of activities as the June, but still has fun and educational projects. Here is what was inside this month's box:

The July theme is "bugs". A great theme, since my kids are almost as scared of bugs as I am. There are two crafts in the box: My Dragonflyers and Bug tic-tac-toe. The Dragonflyers is a quick color and apply sticky tape project. You can see the green bottle and finished bugs in the above photo, squeeze the bottle and your dragonfly's fly! The tic-tac-toe came with Crayola modeling clay and accessories to create your bugs, as well as the game box. My 8yo was able to complete both of these projects on his own with zero mess.

The box also came with an activity book with mazes, coloring …

Kids - Excavating frozen Dinosaurs

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When Jurassic World came out the whole family really wanted to see it. But, I couldn't bring myself to take the kids unless they watched the first three Jurassic movies. I also wanted to gauge if they could handle the scary dinosaurs and occasional carnage, in the comfort of our living room.

Thanks to our local library I was able to request all three movies in a pack and we had three nights of dinosaur movie action. Kids ruling, the first one was the best. I agree.

Lucky for me we are on a dinosaur kick. We saw Jurassic World, it was good, kids loved it. We went to the museum and saw the dinosaur exhibit. Then I came across this craft on Pinterest. Frozen dinosaur excavation.


Take some plastic dinosaurs and put them in some Tupperware or a bowl, fill it with water, add some food coloring to help hide them, put it in the freezer. We had a collection of dinosaurs from the dollar store that we accumulated over the years of two kids. You can also purchase a bag of tiny or medium dinos…

Gauging a successful vacation with kids

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1. Thinking or talking about work less than 35% of the time.

2. Yelling at the kids to stop fighting less than 5 times. (This is a serious achievement.)

3. Letting the hubby have alone time to read and draw more than one-hour total during entire vacation.

4. There was actual all of the family involved, fun-time had. At least once.

5. We all came back alive and tired.



Kawaii Monthly Subscription Box - May

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So we subscribed to a Kawaii monthly box. Kawaii is a Japanese term for cute. My 12yo daughter is into anime and manga, so over summer I got her a 3-month subscription. Our first box was the May box. Because of over-seas shipping in showed up mid-June.

The box design is cute with a little bow around it.


Inside the box was quite a few Kawaii items, stationary, comb thingy, squishy Hello Kitty doughnut, stickers, candy, cell phone charm, hair dingy, eraser and a little banana. Even the tissue paper in the box is custom with little cute figures on it.

Her two favorite items were the stuff banana and the puffy Alpacasso stickers.


Needless to say she is very excited for the June box to show up mid-July. The subscription cost is $18.90 a month, you can sign up for a 1,3, 6 or 12 month subscription. We can't wait to get the next box!




Kids - Creating a chore chart

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I think it is really important that kids understand the importance of earning. We try hard to not buy a lot of toys and junk for our kids. Of course occasionally we do purchase them something, but its usually because they behaved well under a circumstance or helped out with something around the house (babysitting your little brother while Dad and I dealt with a leaking ceiling). Because we have been firm about our "no's" since they were little, they don't throw tantrums when they don't get something they want. If they really want something they have to save.

We have a white-board calendar in our dining room with weekly "mandatory" chores for each kid. On that board is also the kids virtual bank that keeps track of their funds. The image below shows the start of July and the end of June at the bottom. As they do their chores they cross them off.

The 12yo cleans the cat box every week, she also feeds the cat and makes sure his bowls are clean. The 8yo dum…

Kids - Magic Science Kit

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My daughter received this kit as a birthday gift three years ago. We did some of the activities and then she was no longer interested and the kit was shelved. Earlier this year we pulled it out of her closet and handed it to the 8yo. I figured nothing was going to work because it had been sitting in the closet for so long, but I was wrong.


There are seven activities in the box. Most have to do with density, acids and bases. A lot of color changing and fizzy experiments. Basic contents in the box: baking soda, citric acid, vegetable oil, red cabbage juice powder, zinc sulfide, 4 test tubes, a test tube stand, scooper's for measuring, and a few other random items for the experiments.



None of the experiments are overally messy and there are none on an explosive level, like Mentos and Coke-a-Cola. It's a very good learning tool for me and for my kiddos. The lowest cost I found online is at Target for $17.99.


Being Sick - my Husband & my Job

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My husband knew when we were dating that I have a handful of medical annoyances. I'm not one to shy away from being blunt about my "issues". On and off for the past 9+ months I've had foot procedures, ear, respiratory and sinus infections, plus a few other annoying things occur. Due to another illness I am writing this blog.

We eat mostly healthy. I haven't been able to exercise as much because of my feet and that probably has something to do with me catching all these fun illnesses, but generally we are okay at it.  Always, no matter how much stress is happening in our household or at our jobs (deadline!), my husband makes me a priority. Making sure I stay in bed, that I take my meds, that I sleep okay, gets the kids out of the house, cooks every night and tries to stay positive.

It strengthens our relationship. Plus, fourteen years of marriage to me can't be easy.



My job is pretty amazing. I set my own hours and telecommute pretty much full-time. When I…

Nerd Block Jr - June Box

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Our Nerd Block Jr. June box arrived! Nerd Block has six different box subscriptions, we opted for Nerd Black Jr "for boys" for ages 6-11. There is one that is "for girls" that is for any kid into; Care Bears, My Little Ponies, Hello Kitty, etc. I don't think they need to gentrify it, should just be the "pink" or "blue" box. Or something more creative then that... I digress.

June box was full of fun geek-type things; A Ninja Turtles Plush that says things when you squeeze it, A Ninja Turtle magic painting activity, Batman tattoos, Scatter Brainz "dart" game, Superman figure and a Minions comic book. The comic book is basically picture following and no words, has one activity of "find all the banana's".

The cost of a3-month subscription is $38 plus $18 for shipping. A bit steeper than Kiwi Crate we got earlier this week. Odin was very happy with the toys and spent most of the day playing on his own in his room. We have…

Kiwi Crate - June Box Part 2

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We tackled a few more fun projects from the June crate this weekend!

"Walking Colors" is the name of this project. It teaches Capillary action. (Which was a learning experience for me to.) The project uses cups, food coloring and paper towels to move water from one area to another. Like a tree's roots to branches.


It takes time for the the liquid to transfer and little man was not going to sit around waiting. So we headed out to see the movie Inside Out. Side note: the movie was funny and cute. Both the 8yo and the 12yo were entertained, as well as the hubby and myself.

We came back about 2 hours later and the liquid had transferred quite a bit into the other cup. As you can see in the photo above, we started with red, yellow and blue. So, as two colors transferred they mixed and made: purple, orange and green.

This is such a fun and easy do at home project if you have some food coloring, small cups and paper towels. I never would have thought of it, so thank you Kiwi Cr…

Kiwi Crate - June box

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We received our very first Kiwi Crate box today! Kiwi Crate offers four different age brackets of subscription boxes. Depending on the age bracket, the boxes can contain projects involving; art, science, crafts or all the above. The price depends on how many months you sign up for. I went with the 3-month subscription for summer break.

After weeks of anticipation from the 8yo, the box showed up today. Every month has a theme, this month is color. Because this was our first box, we received a welcoming letter, color-in poster titled "My Adventures with Kiwi" and a pair of kid-scissors. For every box, there is a Kiwi sticker that is related to the monthly theme, kids adhere this sticker to the poster every month so they can track their Kiwi Crate fun. This month's was Kiwi with a rainbow. One of today's do on-your-own activities was color the poster and hang in his room.


There are two main projects and some other fun side projects. To our surprise the box is packed ful…

Favorite Kid appropriate Podcasts

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Telecommuting means that my kids are often sitting in my office (bedroom) while I'm working during the summer school break. I don't like to have my headphones on all the time, so I have to make sure any podcasts I'm listening to are not to "adult".

One of the only kids specific podcasts I enjoy is brains on! This podcast is all about science, there are episodes about specific animals, volcanoes, roller coasters, etc. The length of each episode is 10-25 minutes. Which is perfect for my son who struggle sitting still and not talking for more than 5 minutes. Sometimes when he is working in his activity books we will have a binge and listen to 3-4 episodes. Odin really enjoys the "The Mystery Sound", its a sound that relates to the episode topic, and you guess what is.


 The second podcast is Stuff you Missed in History Class. Its exactly what the titles says, history. The history related topics are pretty broad and full of fun stories and facts. The adults …

Our favorite Family Board games

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We love board games, we are not experts on the topic, but here are a few of our favorites that the entire family can play.

Apples to Apples Jr. is for ages 9 and up, but my (just turned) 8 year old has no problems playing and understanding the concept of how to play. It also entertains my 12 year old teen daughter.
Educational wise the game gives the opportunity to teach new words, what they mean and how other words could relate to it.

This game gets very fun, and rounds of laughter happen often. We scored our game at the Thrift Store for $2, but I've seen the game available used online for $6-$15. And I've seen it on super sale during holidays at your local big Box store, for $10-12.


Our second most played game is Trivial Pursuit Kids. Like most Trivial Pursuit games, the questions cover entertainment, history, people, animal, etc. We often have to sift through the cards to find a question the 8yo might know or would be good for him to know. We also change the rules a little …