Category: Books-DVDs

Learn to Make Fun Paper Toys with Your Children

Posted on Jan 26, 2015 by No Comments

If you’re looking for unique craft projects to do with your children, you’ll want to pick up a copy of The Paper Playhouse: Awesome Art Projects for Kids Using Paper, Boxes, and Books.

Written by award winning artist and crafter Katrina Rodabaugh, this book features simple techniques you can use to entertain your kids and spark their creativity.

In total, there are 22 projects featured in The Paper Playhouse. All of the projects use inexpensive materials like old books, junk mail, calendars, greeting cards, cereal boxes, shoe boxes, and shipping boxes. You’ll also need basic craft supplies like glue, scissors, tape, and paint.

Each project includes full color step-by-step photos, detailed instructions, a materials list, and some suggestions for how to customize it to make it your own.

Most of the projects are toys for children to play with when they are finished, but there are a few purely decorative items like a rainy day cloud mobile and book page block prints.

The cardboard dollhouse featured on the front of the book is actually my personal favorite project. Purchased dollhouses tend to be very expensive, but this project is super affordable and be customized to fit your child’s exact specifications. When you’re done, flip to the section on moveable paper monsters to make some dollhouse inhabitants.

My second favorite project is the homemade lemonade stand, which is the perfect summer activity for your budding entrepreneur. Once your child is done selling lemonade, it could easily be repurposed for indoor pretend play.

I think most of the projects in The Paper Playhouse should be suitable for kids ages 5 and up, although adult supervision is required when working with sharp tools and messy paints.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Katrina Rodabaugh

Russian Tattoo Paints An Exquisite Portrait of Mothers and Daughters

Posted on Jan 23, 2015 by 1 Comment

If you’re a fan of memoirs and learning more about other cultures, I’d highly recommend Russian Tattoo: A Memoir by Elena Gorokhova. This thoughtfully written story details how Elena adjusted to life in American society after growing up behind the Iron Curtain.

In 1980, the 24-year-old Elena entered the United States after marrying an American exchange student she barely knew. Not surprisingly, this turns out to have been a disastrous decision. Her new husband doesn’t understand her struggle to find a job or her confusion over all the options available to her in America.

Despite having been considered a promising student in her home country,  Elena’s English has considerable gaps and her communist upbringing makes mundane chores like grocery shopping unexpectedly difficult.

But, Elena soon meets Andy, the man who will become her second husband and the father of her daughter Sasha. With his encouragement, she starts to feel more confident about her life as an American.

Then, her Soviet mother arrives to meet her first granddaughter, forcing Gorokhova to figure out how to bridge the gaps between her Russian self and her American self. Even if you don’t relate to Elena’s cultural struggle, the issue of how to successfully bring together three generations of strong willed women is one I think any mother can sympathize with.

Russian Tattoo is actually the sequel to Gorokhova’s 2011 memoir,  A Mountain of Crumbs, which described her childhood in Leningrad. However, I had no trouble following the plot of Russian Tattoo even though I have not read her first book.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Amazon

Link Round-up: Crafts, Valentine’s Day Ideas, Hot Chocolate Popcorn, and More

Posted on Jan 22, 2015 by No Comments

Today’s link round-up has cute crafts, Valentine’s Day gift ideas, hot chocolate popcorn, and more.

Muslin and Merlot showed us how to make hearts out of stacked book pages.

Mind Body Green shared eight foods you can use to “eat yourself clean.”

Seven Thirty Three shared a Valentine’s lunch kit printable.

link ru baby bird scrambled eggs breakfast

Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons showed us how to put together an adorable baby bird scrambled egg breakfast.

Thrifty Jinxy shared some ideas for inexpensive Valentine’s Day gifts.

Lou Lou Girls taught us how to make hot chocolate popcorn.

I Should Be Mopping the Floor shared a free printable for houndstooth valentines.

Photo credit: Muslin and Merlot and Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons

A Young Girl Struggles to Solve the Mystery of Her Mother’s Disappearance

Posted on Jan 22, 2015 by No Comments

Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult’s newest bestselling novel, follows the adventures of 13-year-old Jenna Metcalf. Jenna lives with her grandmother and is determined to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance 10 years ago.

Jenna’s parents, Alice and Thomas, worked at an elephant sanctuary. Her mother studied elephant grief and memory, leaving behind journals that Jenna reads religiously for clues. Her father suffered from mental illness for several years and had a complete psychotic break the night her mother disappeared.

Despite the long winded descriptions of elephant behavior, I was drawn into this story immediately. You can’t help but feel sorry for a young girl who desperately wants to find her mother. I also found Jenna’s sidekicks, Serenity and Virgil, to be quite likeable.

Serenity is a famous former psychic who faded into obscurity after making a few bad calls. Virgil is a former detective turned PI who has been haunted by the disappearance of Jenna’s mother for the past 10 years. They develop a somewhat parental relationship with Jenna, even though they’re all seeking the same thing — a way to atone for their past mistakes.

Jodi Picoult is famous for her surprise endings and Leaving Time is no different than her other books. The ending is a shocker, but not it in a good way. I felt like the abrupt change in the direction of the story left me hanging after I’d grown emotionally attached to the characters. I would have given this book four stars until the last few chapters, then my opinion dropped considerably.

In many ways, Leaving Time reminded me of Lone Wolf. First published in 2012, Lone Wolf tells the story of an animal conservationist who became famous for living with a wild wolf pack but has been gravely injured.

Lone Wolf was one of my least favorite Jodi Picoult books to date, so I suppose it’s not surprising that I was disappointed by how Leaving Time ended.

Have you read Leaving Time? If so, what did you think of this compared to Jodi Picoult’s previous books?

Photo credit: Amazon

Too Much to Do? The Passion Planner Could Help.

Posted on Jan 21, 2015 by No Comments

If you feel like you have too much on your plate, as most moms seem to, the Passion Planner may be helpful.

It has the hourly layout of each day that’s typical of most planners. However, there are other empty spaces to catch all the things you might not be able to fit into those tiny boxes—errands, doodles, random notes, and your personal to-do list. It helps you prioritize the things you have to get done throughout the day.

The website calls the Passion Planner “your own personal, 24/7, inexpensive life coach.” Because there’s plenty of room for work and personal tasks, motivational quotes, space at the end of each week to reflect and write down the positive things that happened that week, and space to plan your goals, it may be able to help create balance in your life if you’re struggling with organization.

It’s faux leather and hand bound, with thick paper, and covers January through December. Each week starts with Sunday, not Monday.

If you’re curious about whether the layout would work for you, you can try it for free with a weekly PDF download from the site. You can even get a free printed calendar when you refer friends to the site and three of them make a purchase.

I feel like this is a great planner for moms who work in an office or at home, and it provides options for planning out your goals and the future.

I know sometimes as a work from home mom, I get bogged down in getting through one day at a time. Sometimes that works during tough weeks, but I’d like to keep myself motivated to keep moving forward and achieving personal goals, too. The prompts and empty spaces can help with that.

Photo credit: Passion Planner

Personalization Fit for a Princess

Posted on Jan 14, 2015 by 1 Comment

If you have a little girl who dreams of being a princess, My Chronicle Books offers the perfect keepsake gift idea.

The Day in the Life of a Princess lets your little girl share in royal dreams by incorporating her name, skin tone, hair color, photo, hometown, birth date, and favorite color throughout the personalized story. (Click here to take a virtual tour of the book.)

The illustrations in The Day in the Life of a Princess are absolutely adorable and I love how photos of the gift recipient are incorporated into select pages.

The story is easy for children to follow and filled with details that let girls fulfill their dream of being a real-life princess who feeds her stable of horses and has fancy tea parties before taking a relaxing bubble bath and being tucked into bed by the king and queen.

The 24-page book is suitable for girls ages 8 and under. With standard delivery, you can expect to receive your book approximately two weeks after order.The Day in the Life of a Princess sells for $34.99, but you can save 15% by liking the company’s Facebook page.

If you’re not in the market for a princess-themed book, My Chronicle Books also offers a wide range of other titles, including a personalized version of The Night Before Christmas, birthday adventure books, and books to celebrate becoming a big brother or big sister. Visit I See Me for details.

Does your child love personalized books? If so, what do you think of this gift idea?

Photo credit: I See Me

ArtFolds Book Sculptures Are a Fun Project for Crafters of All Ages

Posted on Jan 12, 2015 by No Comments

ArtFolds makes it easy to explore the unique practice of book folding.

ArtFolds books are hardcover versions of classic novels that are designed to be folded into book sculptures. A book sculpture is a little like origami, only it’s made entirely with the pages of a book and there are no special folding techniques to learn.

The ArtFolds selection includes words such as “Love” and “Joy” as well as special designs like hearts and snowflakes. Each sculpture is professionally designed by a skilled book artist.

For example, the “Love” sculpture is folded from the pages of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and designed by Luciana Frigerio. Based in Vermont, Frigerio sells her book sculptures in her own Etsy shop. You can learn more about her work on her Paper Cuts blog.

ArtFolds book sculptures look complex, but they are not difficult to create as long as you’re fairly patient. I folded two of them to decorate my bedroom, but they are easy enough for a child to do if desired.

Each page has a gray bar printed on it. Fold the top corner down so it is flush with the top edge of the grey bar. Fold the bottom corner up so it is flush with the bottom of the grey bar. Crease well.

As you continue to fold, you’ll gradually see your sculpture come to life. No glue or scissors are needed; the folds are sufficient to keep the sculpture in place when the book is set upright.

If desired, you can write a message on the blank pages at the end of the book or decorate the cover to create a personalized keepsake.

I purchased my ArtFolds books at Michaels Crafts, but you can visit the ArtFolds website for details.

Photo credit: ArtFolds

An Easy Way to Teach Kids the Basics of JavaScript

Posted on Jan 8, 2015 by No Comments

If your tech-obsessed kid wants to learn more about how to create games, animations, and nifty interactive web graphics, JavaScript for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming by Nick Morgan will give him or her the tools to do so.

Written as an introduction to programming essentials, this book covers everything from working with strings, arrays, and loops to drawing graphics with the HTML canvas element.

There are humorous illustrations and lots of hands-on examples scattered throughout the book, including opportunities to build your own games like Snake and Find the Buried Treasure.

Two of my favorite exercises were in the beginning of the book: a random insult generator that can be personalized with your favorite insults and a complete decision maker that is the modern equivalent of a Magic 8 Ball.

The various exercises in JavaScript for Kids include programming challenges to test the reader’s problem solving skills, such as asking how to make alternating stripes on the snake within your game or how to go about creating an online score keeper for a board game you’re playing with your friends.

Since kids are naturally curious, the Afterword does an excellent job of suggesting topics for further study as well as selected high quality educational websites that provide a chance for young programmers to enhance their skills.

JavaScript for Kids is recommended for children ages 10 and up. My son just turned 10 in November. He is intrigued by the idea of learning JavaScript, but lacks the patience to work through the book without some adult supervision.

I’m not really tech savvy myself, but this is a fairly easy book to understand as a parent. So, you don’t need to be intimidated by the prospect of being enlisted as a helper in your child’s programming quest!

Visit the No Starch Press website to learn more about JavaScript for Kids or to download samples, including the instructions for creating a Hangman game.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: No Starch Press

Link Round-up: Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupcakes, DIY Tissue Pouch, and More

Posted on Jan 6, 2015 by 1 Comment

Today’s link round-up has peppermint hot chocolate cupcakes, a tissue pouch DIY project, and more.

Chocolate Covered Katie showed us how to make peppermint hot chocolate cupcakes.

Create Craft Love shared a recipe for a Valentine mocktail.

Pink Heels Pink Truck shared her favorite books of 2014.


Muslin and Merlot taught us how to make cute a tissue pouch.

Mommypotamus inspired us with her happiness jar project.

Mommy in Sports showed us how to make Sharpie mugs with the kids.

Confessions of an Overworked Mom showed us how to make orange flaxseed soap.

Photo credit: Chocolate Covered Katie and Muslin and Merlot