Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sending summer off with a crafty shindig

Summer is officially over, and never has that meant more than now– Pudding Pie’s first week of kindergarten. I could veer off topic here and write screeds on this emotional milestone, but I will not. Instead, I’m going to talk about how we decided to end our summer of fun: with a no-holding-back, super-awesome craft party! 

We wanted to have a last hurrah with Pudding Pie’s preschool friends. (Not one of them is attending the same elementary school as PP – one of her BFFs moving to Warsaw, Poland, for goodness sake!) 

Anyhow, we were mulling over various ideas for a girly get-together – deciding against a pool theme, since we checked that one off with our beginning of summer bash – when the decision was made for us. We were lucky enough to be chosen as hosts for a Mommy Party with Creativity for Kids Craft Kits – yes!  

Earlier this month, not one, but two enormous boxes of fabulous craft kits arrived outside our front door, courtesy of Creativity for Kids. Pudding Pie could not contain herself – neither could her mom – we immediately began craft party planning. 

We chose to have our shindig at a local park, since we were anticipating plenty of ‘yes’ RSVPs. We made it to the park in the nick of time, Pudding Pie and I have a habit of being late for our own parties… 

We set up the tables: one long table with the crafts grouped into ‘stations.’ The fashion headbands station, the fashion braceIets station, the pop art necklaces station (PP loved these!), the Stuck-On-Fashion tote bags station, and of course, the take-home goody bag station.  We set up another long table with our yummy party snacks cheese scones, Lil’ Smokies sausages, and cheese on cocktail sticks, fruit trays, veggie trays and lots of juice and water of course. 

The scene was set; everything was perfect (aside from the sudden gusts of wind that decided to show up that day in a summer that has been filled with day after day of still, suffocating heat. But, aside from some frantically flapping tablecloths and a few runaway crafts, everything went well and the girls were in craft heaven.  
Never having hosted a craft party before, I did need to make some on-the-spot adjustments to my rigidly planned itinerary. This because I was quickly reminded that 5-year-olds do not do well with rigidly planned itineraries, especially when a feast of fun crafts is laid out in front of them.

My craft ‘stations’ were done away with when it became apparent that all crafters wished to participate in the same project at the same time. It was also quickly apparent that there were some strong color preferences when it came to colors of bangles, headbands etc.  with pink and purple as front runners. (Who would have guessed that 5-year-old crafty divas would face off over pink and purple bangles?!) With the help of ever-diplomatic moms, compromises were made, and the crafty fun continued on.  

I was impressed at how long the crafts held the girls’ attention. We were at it for a little over two hours, with a break in the middle to feed and water everyone. Everyone made at least one of every craft and it was incredibly sweet to see how proud they were of their finished products. With the pop art necklaces, even the previously disinterested younger siblings got in on the action. A modern version of the old bottle cap necklace, these are so fun to make! 
The fashion headbands required a little more dexterity – and patience and some of our group needed a little more help here, but they were all thrilled with their end results.

I thought the fashion bracelets would be the biggest challenge, but once the girls understood the process, they made several of these. I am trying to get Pudding Pie to donate me one of hers; she did such an awesome job! We began with the fashion totes and, once the girls had stickered up their totes to make them uniquely their own, we used them to store the growing stash of hot-ticket fashion accessories the crafters were churning out.
Once we had wrapped up our crafty event, the girls were worn out, but there were squeals of delight when each crafter received her take home crafts mini feather trinket boxes and truly awesome, fashion-themed coloring and activity books. These books feature vellum pages for tracing and high quality paper, so that little fashionistas can design with any media, from watercolors and pastels to crayons and pencils. Pudding Pie informs me that when she grows up, she will no longer be just a grocery store check out lady ("you know, the ones that have all the money") and a vet, and a cake baker, and a golfer; she is also going to design amazing (princess-themed) evening wear. This girl wears many hats...
The moms were pleased, too, since they received 20% off coupon codes toward scooping up more Creativity for Kids craft kits. Sweet.
We loved our Creativity for Kids Craft Kits and testing them out was a treat!  Whether you are buying for your own child, or looking for gifts, you can't go wrong with a product that so thoroughly engages and leaves the crafter feeling immensely pleased and proud over her end result!

Cuddle Cottage was given the opportunity through MomSelect  and Mommy Parties to host a craft party. All craft kit products were supplied by Creativity for Kids.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Rainbow Party

It has been three months since the event, but better late then never! The following is a quick post about Pudding Pie's fabulous rainbow-themed 5th birthday bash.

How do you fancy our rainbow banner? I think we had about 80 balloons in this! All balloons blown up the old school way by Mommy. Next time, I'm investing in one of those balloon pumps! I found a wonderful step-by-step tutorial on how to execute this at Design Mom.

The invitations and rainbow labels were custom designed by the super talented Heather of Chickabug.

I made the  rainbow cake, and although it had a rather severe tilt (6 layers will do that), I was so pleased with the end result. (My first time working with fondant, too!) My dear friend, Jackie, of 1derful Bakes, gave me a crash course in fondant decorating, and Pudding Pie decorated the top with edible markers. I wish I could say I came up with the rainbow cake recipe on my own, but I didn't. I have the Whisk Kid to thank for this found via Sweetapolita's fab site thank you, talented ladies!

Pudding Pie rocked her rainbow leotard from Jilly Beans (worn backwards as it turns out).

 The food was rainbow-themed wherever possible. Rainbow slice 'n bake cookies found via the Good Life Eats blog. My finished result did not exactly resemble hers, but I like to think it was close!

Rainbow treats galore!

So much fun! I do recommend the rainbow theme; the possibilities are endless. Your biggest problem will be where to stop!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

An Exchange of Notes
In which I learn that my daughter is more of a tour de force than I previously thought.

This afternoon, I am pounding away on my laptop, hoping to finish up some work before we must leave for my afternoon job. My daughter is listlessly rolling around on the bed, bored and not heeding repeated admonitions to stop the various activities she is engaging in to get my attention. I snap after she decides to unfasten my computer bag shoulder strap and use it as a lasso to catch our elderly cat. The cat beats a hasty retreat and I rebuke my child very sharply. Silence. Then, she gives me her intimidated/hurt/little-bit-defiant look and marches out of the room. Seconds later I hear her bedroom door slam shut. One ticked off five-year-old.

No problem now I can finish up work without the background interference. I resume working, but I feel bad. Did I have to be that sharp with her? I decide to smooth those ruffled feathers with a note pushed under her door. So I do, then I tap on the door, call out “special delivery!” and go back to work. This will make her happy again.

Exhibit A:
 My guilt alleviated and her good graces regained.

Except it doesn't quite work out this way. Some time later (hmm, longer than I thought it would take), she yells out “special delivery” herself and again I hear her door slam. This time, she’s left me a note outside her door.

Exhibit B:
Translation: “I don’t love you until you apologize”

What?! I am speechless at how she has skillfully turned this around. One crisp sentence with a clear message: You are in trouble with me, Mommy!  (And who knew she could string sentences together on paper like this?!)  She is right, an apology is in order.

Exhibit C:
 Mommy surrenders.

My second note is snatched from underneath the door. There is much sighing and sounding out of words (and a little help from the other side of the door). Then more sighing and sounding out of words as she crafts her response. Finally, the note is slid under the door and now I snatch it up (and do my own sighing and deciphering of words...).

Exhibit D:
Translation: “I love you my dad more than my mom  but mom I still love you mommy.”

Still nursing wounded feelings with a final, calculated zinger to mom's heart, but beginning to soften her stance...
What did I learn today? My frustrated rebukes go deeper than I thought. I am so lucky to have this smart, sensitive little girl to hold me accountable. :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Ultimate Blog Party 2012!

Ultimate Blog Party 2012I'm so pleased! I'd thought I'd missed it, but I'm just managing to skid in before the official end of this year's Ultimate Blog Party, hosted by 5 Minutes for Mom

Here's a little share about me and my blog; I began this blog back in 2008, as a way to connect with other mom bloggers and to chronicle the bliss of being mom to my most adorable little girl (Pudding Pie). I write occasional product reviews and lately I've been considering veering off into making this an outlet for my resurgence of interest in baking and sewing. I've held off because I'm no gourmet cook, nor am I master sewer, but I've decided it will be a fantastic way to get feedback, improve and be inspired. So, in honor of the 6th UBP, here are my culinary and crafty and creations from the past 2 weeks: (drum roll...)

The Easter Cake - Vanilla with Lemon Buttercream and homemade marshmallow fondant!

A sundress for Pudding Pie - first time I've sewn in almost 2 decades! The dress turned out great, but I made some rather significant size miscalculations and it is way too big, so Pudding Pie will not be wearing it until next spring...

That's a little about me and my interests, I'd love your comments! And come join the fun! Visit 5 Minutes for Mom and celebrate their 6th UBP!

Monday, January 2, 2012

And that's a wrap...

December was a holly-jolly, sugar-loaded, carb-filled, dashing-all-over-the-place blur. Too much food; too many trips to the madhouse mall; a never-ending wish list for Santa from a certain junior member of the household; a cat with a newly-developed penchant for nibbling the branches of a fake Christmas tree – and then rewarding us in the wee hours with alarming retching sounds... You get the picture. But lots of fun all the same, and still my favorite time of year!

Now, all of a sudden, here we are on January 2nd, 2012, and I'm still trying to figure out where to put Pudding Pie's vast stash from Santa and how to quietly get rid of the last of the Christmas cookies and candy, so that my goal for a new year of health and fitness has at least a slim chance.

In spite of the excesses, we weren't completely terrible this festive season. You see, while our family indulged in way too much sugar this past month, we did go on a fab trip to Seaworld and, if you read my last post, you'll know what this means – we successfully completed our two-week Oral Care Challenge!

We did it!

Successful completion of the challenge meant that Pudding Pie, hubby, and myself had to brush, floss, and rinse every day, twice a day, for two weeks. It wasn't always pretty, and it wasn't glitch-free; but we did it, and we are so proud!

Actually, it was a wake-up call. Having to log our daily brushing, flossing, and rinsing activity made me see how often we allow 'rush jobs' or skip altogether the brushing and flossing parts because we're 'out of time', or more commonly, because we don't want to deal with a rather recalcitrant Pudding Pie.

For this challenge though, the rather recalcitrant Pudding Pie rose to the occasion quite magnificently. I am always amazed at the power of a chart. Once we'd taped up our daily progress chart for the challenge, she was all business. Of course it also helped having a bunch of new dental hygiene products to try out! Post-challenge, she has become a far better flosser (She loves the cool Reach flossing products we used!) and brusher, but she is still a very reluctant rinser. She is just not a fan of mouthwash, no matter who is on the label – even Barbie couldn't sway her. We came to a compromise by allowing her to rinse with just a teeny amount of the mouthwash. At least this way, she's rinsing, and I figure we're still laying the foundation for good dental habits.

Pudding Pie isn't the only one who has made progress. I've become a better rinser and this is because I've been using the Listerine Total care Zero mouthwash – zero alcohol – so great! I can't bear the taste of alcohol in mouthwash, unlike hubby who savors the way it makes his mouth feel and always opts for Listerine Antiseptic in the Cool Mint flavor.

When we began this oral care exercise, I wondered how we'd fare during the challenge and afterwards. I'm so proud of how we stuck with the challenge and I'm happy to report that our two weeks of concentrated effort are paying off long-term, too. The other evening, I told Pudding Pie to pick out her pjs and get ready for bed. She did. (Amazing.) Then, she headed for the bathroom, squeezed toothpaste onto her Barbie toothbrush and began brushing. (Stupendously amazing.) Pudding Pie is moving on from the notion that dental hygiene is optional, and this is a very good thing.

Pudding Pie Sums It All Up.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Listerine and received a sample to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Challenge For Our Family!

The holiday season is in full swing and we’re headed full throttle for Christmas. Those Halloween treat baskets are a distant memory. The pecan pie, stuffed turkey, and candied yams of Thanksgiving are behind us, and now we’re all about gingerbread houses and Christmas-themed sugar cookies, with visions of glazed ham and Old English Trifle just around the corner.

Yes, it would be correct to conclude that the food alone could make this a favorite time of year in our family! However, it’s not the best time of year for our teeth, and in a home where teeth brushing in the morning and and night are already occasions for pleading and fussing, the holiday season presents quite a challenge.

We have long been educating Pudding Pie on the need for good dental hygiene, but it was only recently that I discovered pediatric oral disease is the number one chronic childhood illness. We do brush regularly (even if it is under duress for one young lady), but we don’t floss enough, and Pudding Pie loathes mouthwash. Because she kicks up such a fuss about it,  I’ve let the mouthwash slide, and I've counted myself victorious after each successful tooth brushing.

This is about to change. I’ve learned that but brushing alone misses the germs in 75% of a person’s mouth – I had no idea! It is essential to include mouthwash in everyone's dental hygiene regimen to keep our mouths protected.

Because we’d like to improve our entire family’s oral hygiene, Pudding Pie, myself, and hubby have decided to take part in the Oral Care Challenge created by the makers of Listerine® and Reach®. To complete the challenge, kids (ages 6 and older) alongside their parents, have to brush, floss, and rinse every day, twice a day for two weeks. Learn more about the challenge by visiting the Listerine site.

We officially begin the challenge tomorrow, December 4th, and we’re ready. We have a daily progress chart taped to the bathroom mirror and Pudding Pie will log our progress with stickers each evening before bed. (She is very excited about being the Official Record Keeper. We have an array of new toothbrushes, flossing products, and mouthwashes to use during our challenge – I can't wait for Pudding Pie to test out the Listerine Smart Rinse mouthwash especially for kids.

Of course we need an incentive so... if the entire family successfully completes the challenge, we’ll reward ourselves with a day trip to SeaWorld! That’s our big incentive – and lots of pressure not to let the team down! Pudding Pie has her eyes on the prize, and she’s determined. I’ll be sure to let you know how we did at the end of our challenge!

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Listerine and received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Share it Forward with o.b. and help make a difference
Living in a first-world country, there is so much we take for granted, yet many of the things we consider necessities are luxuries in developing countries. I should know, I spent the first half of my life living in a developing African country, and I am well-acquainted with the hardscrabble existence that is daily life for millions.

I’ve yet to encounter a woman who looks forward to her monthly menstruation, but for most of us in the United States, a quick trip to the grocery store takes care of sanitary supplies and all that’s left to worry about is the minor discomfort that accompanies this time of the month.

This is not the case for millions of girls in developing countries. Imagine having no access to (or being unable to afford) sanitary protection. This is the plight of many young women in developing countries, and when these young women lack the resources to afford sanitary protection, the consequences can be devastating. Many are forced to resort to dangerous alternatives or avoid school while they are menstruating, which can lead to them to dropping out altogether and also increases their vulnerability to poverty and disease, including HIV.

o.b. has created a Share It Forward Facebook campaign to raise money and awareness for Huru International, a non-profit organization that provides at-risk young girls in developing countries with the resources and knowledge they need to complete their education and safeguard their health. Through this month, o.b. will donate $1 (up to $25,000) for every person who visits the o.b. Outreach Tab on the mighty. small.™ movement Facebook page and “Shares” a message about Huru International's mission.

$25,000 for Huru International translates into 1,000 Huru Kits (or 8,000 reusable sanitary pads), valued at $25 each. Each free Huru Kit comes packaged in a drawstring bag that doubles as a backpack, and includes: eight reusable sanitary pads; three pairs of underwear; detergent-grade soap to wash the sanitary pads; a re-sealable, waterproof bag to safely store used sanitary pads; educational insert focused on proper Huru pad care and usage, and life-saving HIV/AIDS prevention information.

Let’s work together to help make a difference in the lives of these young women, please join me in Sharing it Forward and we’ll spread the word about the o.b. campaign.

How to Share it Forward:
Visit the Facebook page:

If you are not already a fan of the page...
Step 1: Like the mighty.small.movement: (Facebook Page. If not on the tab already, click the o.b. Outreach Tab.
Step 2: Select your state from the drop down box (under the green box)
Step 3: Put a check mark next to the box that says you've read the Terms & Conditions
Step 4: Click the pink "Click to Share" button to post the message on your Wall
Step 5: Spread the word!

If you are already a fan of the page...
Step 1: Go to the o.b. Outreach Tab on the mighty.small.movement Facebook Page, or click this link:
Step 2: Select your state from the drop down box (under the green box)
Step 3: Put a check mark next to the box that says you've read the Terms & Conditions
Step 4: Click the pink "Click to Share" button to post the message on your Wall
Step 5: Spread the word!

I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of o.b. and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

One more gym excuse bites the dust with my music-on-the-go!

Update: Congrats to Erica - winner of the 100% off coupon code! Congrats to Mary Anne and jp26, winners of the 20% off coupon codes!
It doesn’t take much for me to find a reason why I can’t head to the gym and burn off some flab: no time; too tired; workout clothes too tight; don’t want to wait on the gym equipment; need to do laundry or make breakfast/lunch/dinner. Don’t challenge me, in spite of how energized I feel post-workout, I have turned my “why I can’t go and work out” list into an art form. My quest for physical fitness is most definitely a work in progress.

Just last week though, I received a Sansa Clip Zip MP3 player and one of my excuses was summarily removed from the list. You see, when I do hit the gym, I have a particular frustration which has nothing to with the workout routine or the equipment. I get peeved because, whether I’m pounding away on the treadmill, trying to de-jiggle my thighs on the exercise bike, or using that instrument of extreme torture, aka the stairstepper, I like to distract myself with tunes from the in-house radio system. This works well until a fellow fitness enthusiast enters the gym and chooses to either change the station or, even worse, turn off the radio in favor of some TV talk show, grrrr. Now I’m out of my groove and irritated – I told you it didn’t take much….

Thanks to Sansa, I am out of my groove no more! This morning, I downloaded a bunch of hip hits onto my ridiculously small, light, and easy-to-use Clip Zip MP3 player, clipped it onto shirt, and headed for the gym. It didn’t matter a jot that the TV was blaring or that the radio had been set to some insanely repetitive techno station, I simply plugged into my own world and got on with my fat-burning, flab-firming mission.

I’m not exactly a technophile – I’ve never owned an MP3 player until now; I’ve don’t have a smart phone (yet), and handheld computer games mystify me. Yet, in spite of myself, I find the Sansa Clip Zip remarkable easy to use. Uploading music from my laptop is a matter of connecting the player and dragging in the new music files. For the most part, operating the player is intuitive. I did struggle for a while trying to figure out how to turn off the device, until I figured out that the Power/Lock button is also the on/off button.

The player comes with earphones but I found them a little big and I used my own as they were a better fit. I also received a 4GB microSD card, which doubled the storage for my Sansa MP3 player – 500 more songs!

The Sansa Clip Zip includes a stopwatch for timing laps, an FM radio, a microphone for voice recording, and a long-lasting battery for trips away from home. Available in seven colors, the player is compatible with virtually every major media format, including iTunes songs and audio books. For more information on the 4GB Sansa Clip Zip, Visit the SanDisk product page.

Feeling Lucky?
If you’d like a chance to enjoy some music while you’re on the go, leave a comment on this post by midnight on Monday, November 14th and you could win either the:
GRAND PRIZE: One 100% Off coupon code ($50 value) for a 4GB Sansa Clip Zip! (Includes free shipping)
OR: One of four 20% OFF coupons for all ClipZips!
*Giveaway open to US readers only*

I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of SanDisk and received a product sample to facilitate my review, and coupons to give away.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Celebrating Halloween with an awesome Zombie Hexbugs Bash

Zombie bugs in custom coffins. These were the guests of honor at our little Halloween shindig, and they did not disappoint. This year, we were thrilled to host a Halloween-themed Hexbug Nano party, and Pudding Pie rocketed to the top of the ‘coolest kids in the neighborhood’ list… OK, there isn’t really such a list, but she for sure scored points with her peers after doling out first the super cool Limited Edition Hexbug Nano Halloween Zombie bugs and then later the Glows in the Dark Hexbug Nano Galileo Collection bugs! We set up our Elevation Habitat Set, which also glows in the dark, and it was soon covered with quite a population of nano Hexbugs – and the hovering hands of their very vigilant new owners! We had some heated debates over hexbug ownership, but luckily these were resolved with minimal bodily injury… Yes, the Hexbugs are amazing for their capacity to entertain and excite. I was impressed at how long the kids hung out around the Habitat Set, setting their Hexbugs on various paths, inventing games, even creating Lego obstacles for their bugs to navigate around in the habitat! It was interesting, too to watch the dynamic as a bunch of kids figured out how to play together with their Hexbugs in the same habitat. In our case, they banded into teams (girls vs. boys) and declared certain zones as their own or as the other team’s. The Yummy 'Mummy' Dogs Candy Corn Puddings - A favorite with the moms!
We refueled the Hexbug owners with ‘Mummy Dogs’ – hot dog mummies wrapped in croissant ‘bandages’ – and cotton candy puddings, and then we challenged any willing participants to a ‘mummy’ race. This involved wrapping the aspiring mummies in yards of toilet paper. There were some party-goers who didn't find the idea of getting bound up like a mummy that enticing, and they elected to spectate. For the others, we discovered that getting mummified was easier said than done. The 2-ply was no match for the excited contestants, and we had a few cases of emergency mummy surgery just before race time. (I recommend at least 3-ply should you wish to hold your own mummy race.) The race rule was ‘hop, don’t run,’ but apparently few remembered this once the race was underway and general frenzied chaos ensued. The judges turned a blind eye to the flagrant breaking of rules, declared a winner, and then issued all party-goers with a prize – their very own Glows in the Dark Nano Hexbugs! This put the Habitat sets at maximum capacity and happy Hexbug mayhem ensued!

The Mummy Race!
Cuddle Cottage was chosen to host an in-home party for HexBug Nanos through Mom Select and Mommy Parties, and was given the materials and samples to do so.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Too cool for school - spin your own light shows

**Congratulations to Jax for winning a Fyrflyz! Jax, please email shipping info so that your prize can be shipped!**

My nephews and nieces live in Africa – the other side of the world from us. I adore them all and lament the fact that they are growing up so far from us. We stay in touch via Skype, but wonderful as this, it’s never as good as the real thing.

In an effort to compensate for the distance between us, I am forever shipping off little care packages, and I’ve since developed a reputation as the ‘cool aunt’ – the one who sends the best Christmas and birthday gifts – shhhh, don’t tell the other aunts!

Keeping the ‘cool aunt’ status has become increasingly difficult as the nieces and nephews grow older and their gift needs become more complicated than a quick trip to the Disney store.

My oldest nephew celebrates his seventh birthday early next month, and up until last week, I’d found nothing cool enough – or compact enough – to ship quickly and relatively inexpensively. Then, just when I was despairing, the perfect cool toy arrived for review on my doorstep.

Meet Fyrflyz, a neat spinning toy that creates light shows in the palm of your hand! Pudding Pie was entranced by this fun little toy – and her dad even more so! We took our Fyrflyz outside after dinner and had a blast making awesome rings, figure eights, and other light shapes with the Fyrflyz. (See very amateur movie clip at the end!) And, as evidenced in this photo, Pudding Pie was happy to continue the fun indoors, although the effect is not quite as dramatic!

Not only is my nephew going to love this toy, I am quite sure he is also going to be one of the first kids in his school to have a Fyrflyz – which will significantly elevate my ‘cool aunt’ status – love it!

Fyrflyz are available at Toys 'R Us stores.

*If you'd like a chance to create your own Fyrflyz light shows, leave a comment on this post by midnight, September 28th and you'll be entered to win a Fyrflyz for yourself!

I wrote this review on behalf of Mom Select and Fyrflyz, and received items to facitlitate the review.