Category: Books-DVDs

Princess Cupcake Jones Calms First Day of School Jitters

Posted on Sep 1, 2014 by No Comments

If you have a daughter who is worried about starting school, Princess Cupcake Jones Won’t Go to School may help calm her fears.

In this cute children’s book, Princess Cupcake Jones is a sassy and spunky little girl who is afraid to start kindergarten. To avoid school, she tries to pout and whine. When that doesn’t work, she fakes being sick.

Then, after her mother tells her she’ll need to go to the doctor for some yucky medicine and a shot, she says she can’t go because her favorite tutu is dirty. Of course, Cupcake’s mom already washed the tutu last night!

When her last ditch attempt to hide under the bed fails, Cupcake has no choice but to go off to school.

Once she gets to school, Cupcake realizes it’s not scary at all. Her new teacher is nice, the classroom is full of fun books and toys, and a little girl named Violet wants to be her friend. Cupcake is happy to be there and eager to see what the rest of the year will hold.

Written by Ylleya Fields and illustrated by Michael LaDuca, Princess Cupcake Jones Won’t Go to School is the second book of the Princes Cupcake Jones series. Smart Mom Picks reviewed Princess Cupcake Jones and the Missing Tutu shortly after it was first published.

Both books are adorable and highly recommended for young girls. My favorite part of this series is how the word “LOVE” is cleverly hidden in each illustration to provide a way to keep kids actively engaged in the story.

Visit the Princess Cupcake Jones website to learn more about the books in this series, download free printable activity sheets, or purchase titles  for your child.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Princess Cupcake Jones

A Bilingual Picture Book to Encourage Your Child to Stay Active

Posted on Sep 1, 2014 by No Comments

Studies have shown that the early years are when children are best equipped to learn a second language, so it’s never too soon to start introducing your child to basic Spanish vocabulary.

Keeping Fit from A to Z covers words relating to sports, exercise, movement, and games. Reading this book with your child is a fun way to broaden his or her Spanish vocabulary while discovering new forms of physical activity that your family can enjoy together.

The book is intended for children ages 3 and up. It includes over 150 full color photographs illustrating the different featured activities, such as aerobics, baseball, cross country skiing, diving, exploring, fishing, and gymnastics.

The text for each activity is written in both English and Spanish, which makes this book perfect for teaching little ones how to be bilingual. (However, since there is no pronunciation guide, you will need to be able to comfortably read basic Spanish in order to help your child make the most of this book.)

After the ABCs of keeping fit are covered, the book includes a section with instructions for 10 games can play to stay active — such as Simon Says, Capture the Flag, Musical Chairs, and Crack the Whip.

There is also a list of tips for parents that discusses the minimum physical activity requirements for children and how exercise benefits a child’s physical and emotional development.

Edited by Stephanie Maze of Moonstone Press, Keeping Fit from A to Z is the followup to Healthy Foods from A to Z, a bilingual picture book that follows a similar format. Together, these books can help your child set the foundation for building a healthy mind and body.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Amazon

Link Round-up: Hair Treatment, Snacks, a Book Craft, and More

Posted on Aug 28, 2014 by No Comments

Today’s link round-up has a hair treatment, delicious snacks, a book craft, and more.

Muslin and Merlot showed us a cute book ball craft to make.

One Good Thing by Jillee showed us a DIY treatment for a dry, flaky scalp.

The Crafty Blog Stalker showed us how to make an adorable pom-pom pen.

link ru chocolate cherry mini muffins

Annie’s Noms showed us how to make chocolate cherry mini muffins.

Life with the Crust Off taught us how to make beautiful galaxy bark.

Create Craft Love taught us how to make a personalized lunchbox.

A Beautiful Mess shared a recipe for summer corn risotto.

Photo credit: Muslin and Merlot and Annie’s Noms

Crafty Ideas Using Rubber Bands

Posted on Aug 26, 2014 by No Comments

Rubber Band Mania contains over 40 different projects crafty kids can make using the humble rubber band. Author Amanda Formaro is a Midwest mother of four and the creator of the Crafts by Amanda blog.

Sections in this new craft book for kids include:

  • Stuff to Wear (rubber band jewelry)
  • Stuff for Home (things for your child’s room like a pencil can and memo board)
  • Stuff that Goes (toys like slingshots, bow and arrows, catapults, etc.)
  • Stuff to Create (crafts that involve rubber bands, such as tie dying)
  • Stuff to Play (rubber band musical instruments)
  • Stuff to Try (rubber band science experiments)

The book uses two different smiley face icons to designate between the easiest and the hardiest crafts, which is helpful if you are working with a very young child or a child who tends to have a rather short attention span.

As the mother of a nine-year-old boy, this book gets bonus points from me for including projects that would appeal to little crafters of both genders. I expected it to be a girly book based on the cover design, but I think my son would enjoy making everything except for the jewelry.

The only thing I didn’t like about Rubber Band Mania is that several different sizes of rubber bands are required for the different projects. Some of the projects use the super tiny bands you use to make Rainbow Loom bracelets, while others require larger office supply type rubber bands. There are even a few that require wide bands that you might not have lying around the house if you’re not an avid crafter yourself.

If you’re buying this book for a child, make sure to give a whole bunch of rubber bands in different size and colors with your gift. There’s nothing worse than a kid who wants to create, but can’t find the right materials!

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Amazon

The Oh She Glows Cookbook Is Worth It for a Single Recipe Alone, but All of Them Are Delicious

Posted on Aug 20, 2014 by No Comments

I hate to cook, but it’s a little more tolerable when I have faith that the recipe I’m following is going to result in something not just edible, but good. It also helps when each recipe is an adventure, but a manageable one.

I’ve gone to the biggest farmer’s market in the area just to piece together meals from this book, even though the ingredients aren’t all that exotic (but I will say I couldn’t get rainbow carrots at my local grocery store and it was nice to find them there).

My family has enjoyed every recipe we’ve made from this book, but there’s one standout recipe that makes the whole purchase worth it all by itself: the roasted potato salad with asparagus, avocado, and dill. Doesn’t that description make your mouth water?

Angela Liddon knows her stuff. I should mention that this is a vegan cookbook, but you won’t miss the animal products. The meals are filling, have variety, and look beautiful on the plate. Even my husband is satisfied when we cook from this book. He’s said he knows we can’t go wrong as long as we’re cooking from it–he totally trusts her recipes.

The only downfall has more to do with the ingredients than the book. Sometimes the recipes take a little (lot) more preparation and forethought than I usually want to give to dinner.

For example, some ingredients may need to be soaked overnight. I generally notice that about five minutes before I’m ready to start cooking or, in the very least, I realize I forgot to do it even though I knew it needed to happen.

The majority of the recipes aren’t like that, though, and can be whipped up when you realize, “Uh-oh, they want to eat again,” and then ask yourself, “Why every night?”

Photo credit: Amazon

A Family in Transition Struggles to Adapt

Posted on Aug 18, 2014 by No Comments

What makes a family? How do we pick ourselves up and move forward when life takes an unexpected turn? The Art of Adapting is a compelling look at the trials and tribulations of a family in transition.

The Art of Adapting tells the story of Lana, Abby, Byron, and Matt. Lana is a newly single mom trying her best to take care of her son Byron and daughter Abby. As teens, Byron and Abby are both struggling to find their place in the world. Matt is Lana’s younger brother. He’s moved into their home after being hospitalized for a drug overdose.

Matt has Asperger’s Syndrome, which makes it hard for him to fit into his new environment. Nevertheless, Matt’s nonjudgmental attitude ends up providing a lifeline for Lana, Byron, and Abby.

He helps Lana see that’s it’s OK to take time to care for herself instead of focusing all her energy on worrying about what others need. He supports Byron’s desire to be an artist despite his father’s instance that Byron’s a natural athlete and provides Abby with encouragement when she’s struggling with an eating disorder.

I found all of the characters in The Art of Adapting to be well developed and likeable, which made for a compelling narrative despite the lack of scenes which could be classified as dramatic in the traditional sense.  I’m not normally a fan of books where the perspective keeps shifting constantly, but the alternating voices in The Art of Adapting give you a unique look at how everyone is connected in this non-traditional family.

The Art of Adapting is author Cassandra Dunn’s debut novel, but I’m already looking forward to reading her next book.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Amazon

Introduce Your Little Crafter to the Joys of Washi Tape

Posted on Aug 12, 2014 by No Comments

Totally Washi! More than 45 Super Cute Washi Tape Crafts for Kids by Ashley Ann Laz is chock-full of crafty inspiration for creative kids. Laz’s project suggestions are perfect for children ages 8 and up to make on their own or with a friend.

In case you don’t already know, washi tape is a type of decorative masking tape used for various forms of paper crafting. It originated in Japan, but is now fairly easy to find in the United States. You can find rolls for just $1 at Joann Crafts and Dollar Tree Stores. The Scotch Expressions line at Walmart and Target is a little more expensive, but there are some gorgeous patterns available there.

Totally Washi! is divided into four sections:

  • For You and Your Friends (gift ideas, including jewelry)
  • For Your Room
  • For the Holidays
  • For School

Totally Washi! is nicely laid out, the instructions are easy for a young crafter to follow, and the author always points out when adult supervision is needed. For example, the temporary wallpaper project clearly states that the child should have a parent help them place the tape instead of attempting to climb the ladder on their own.

You might not think there are that many things you can do with pretty tape, but there’s an impressive range of ideas in Totally Washi!

Honestly, there were several projects in this book that I wanted to make as an adult. The jewelry organizer and washi tape wall calendar are cute, practical, and inexpensive. The washi tape stud earrings would be fabulous handmade gifts for friends and family. I even saw several projects that could be made with patterned duct tape, if desired.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Amazon

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey Can Show You the Way to a Debt-Free Life

Posted on Aug 11, 2014 by No Comments

I’ve heard so much about Dave Ramsey over the years, but for some reason I was really stubborn about actually buying one of his books, thinking the tidbits of information I’d heard, little snippets of advice shared, pretty much summed it all up.

Curiosity recently got the best of me, though, during a sale, and I picked up The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness.

You know what? I don’t feel like a sucker. I actually enjoyed his writing style, found his message clear to understand, and liked the fitness analogy he used throughout the book. I think his tips are practical and see how they could lead anyone straight out of debt.

His tips aren’t necessarily easy to follow, because it takes a lot of planning with your spouse, and you may have to tell yourself “no” a lot when you’re used to telling yourself “yes” (that one’s pretty hard when you find out a bunch of small things have been adding up to a totally butchered budget).

Ramsey discusses an emergency cash reserve, IRAs, budgeting your money so you don’t overspend, paying off your debt (including your house), and even saving for your kids’ college. It’s like he paved the whole road for you—all you have to do is hydrate, put on your sneakers, and put in the effort to walk all the way to the end (see how easy it is to carry on with the fitness metaphor?).

I highly recommend this book. I’ve already started putting some of the tips into practice, but I plan to get a babysitter and go out for coffee with my husband for a date solely devoted to setting up a game plan for becoming debt-free (yep, even the house!) and with a more concrete savings plan for our daughter’s college tuition.

Photo credit: Amazon

5-Ingredient Recipes for Quick Weeknight Meals

Posted on Aug 5, 2014 by No Comments

Even though I own a ridiculous amount of cookbooks, it’s the 5-ingredient cookbooks I find myself coming back to again and again. If you share my love of easy to prepare meals, you’ll definitely want to check out the newly published WHAT’S FOR SUPPER: 5-Ingredient Weeknight Meals written by Southern Living Test Kitchen Specialist Vanessa McNeil Rocchio.

The goal of this beautifully designed book is to encourage you to whip up tasty homemade meals in less time than it takes to call for takeout. Everything is made using 5 ingredients or less (not including basics like oil, vinegar, sugar, or condiments) and can be prepared in 30 minutes or less.

The ingredients all look fairly easy to find and there are several ideas that even the pickiest child is sure to enjoy. There is no nutritional data provided, however, so please keep this in mind if anyone in your family has special dietary restrictions.

Chapters in this 160-recipe collection include:

  • Hot Off the Grill
  • No-Cook Suppers
  • Pastas and Pizzas
  • Not Just for Breakfast
  • Dinner in a Dish
  • So Easy Sides
  • 3-Ingredient Desserts


Here’s a sample recipe for you to enjoy, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Curried Mango Chicken Salad

MAKES: 4 servings
TOTAL TIME: 8 min.

This tropical-inspired chicken salad gets a kick from curry powder. For a spicier version, try hot Madras curry, or stir in some hot mango chutney.

  • 4 cups chopped deli-roasted chicken
  • ½ cup chopped salted cashews
  • 1 large mango, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1½ tsp. curry powder
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • ½ tsp. table salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • Garnish: chopped cashews

Place first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together mayonnaise and next 4 ingredients;  add to chicken mixture, stirring gently. Serve over lettuce.

Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Photo credit: Southern Living