Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ABC Soft & Nesting Blocks Review

When purchasing a new toy for my daughters, I generally try to answer three questions... is it safe and durable, is it developmentally age appropriate, and what is it's educational purpose?

These questions can be hard to answer. Thankfully, I've discovered a toy website called Ebeanstalk that is dedicated to selecting good, safe baby toys and toddler toys. Each toy has been selected by a team of specialists, which includes experts in clinical psychology, speech-language pathology, physical therapy, pediatric occupational therapy and education. The team reviewed over ten thousand toys before selecting the best developmental toys for children according to age. In addition, they have asked over 700 moms like me what they think of the toys too.

I was thrilled when they sent us a set of ABC Soft & Nesting Blocks, one of their many unique toys to review. The ABC Soft & Nesting Block set includes five soft quilted cotton blocks and a First ABC's book featuring adorable illustrations by Susan Winget. They are conveniently stored in a reusable package.

1. Are the blocks and book safe and durable?

Yes! I really appreciate that the quilted cotton blocks are made out of fabric that is safe for Mac to explore with her hands and mouth! It's a relief that the blocks are safe for washing too! The book is a board book, which means it can withstand a teething baby and daily readings.

2. Are the blocks and book developmentally age appropriate?

Yes! According to the team of experts at Ebeanstalk, the target age for the ABC Soft & Nesting Blocks is 9 months. Stacking blocks and especially knocking them over is very popular with Mac at this age. The blocks are sturdy enough for her to grab and try to stack up, but soft enough for her to explore with her mouth. The board book is the perfect size for her little hands to help turn the pages.

3. What is the educational purpose of the blocks and book?

The ABC Soft & Nesting Block set is a toy that can be used now and in the future. Currently, Mac is having a blast learning how to stack the blocks on top of one another, as well as, nesting the blocks inside of each other. These simple activities are helping her with her fine motor skills and teaching her object permanence and size relationships. The ABC book is a perfect way to introduce her to the alphabet and simple vocabulary words. The simple illustrations are the same in the book and on the blocks, which can be used for matching.

I would recommend The ABC Soft & Nesting Block set. The soft quilted blocks are perfect for stacking and nesting for little hands and the book is a great way to introduce the alphabet.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Last Minute Stocking Stuffer

I really like the concept of the Melissa and Doug See and Spell, but was disappointed when I found out that it came with only 16 different words to spell. So, I started thinking how I could "make" Izzie her own See and Spell with more words...

I bought the Magnetic Wooden Alphabet by Melissa and Doug. I love that this set includes the lower case letters too. Izzie can identify all the upper case letters, but still has a difficult time with a few lower case letters. I created a few simple words for Izzie by tracing the wooden letters and adding clip art.

The magnetic wooden letters are wrapped and under the tree, while the See and Spell homemade cards are waiting to be stuffed in Izzie's stocking.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tot School

Tot School

Izzie is 39 months old and Mac is 10 months old.

We had a very relaxing Tot School week...I'm hoping to get more on a schedule for the new year.

I found my old table top tree from teaching. Izzie loves that she has her own "baby" tree to decorate, which she does several times throughout the day!

She also was a super helper, while decorating our "big" Christmas tree. Who cares that all the ornaments are upfront in one section!

Izzie enjoyed stringing beads on pipe cleaners. She made a bracelet for herself and a wreath for our Christmas tree.

She really enjoyed making these premade craft kits. I gave her one kit each day and placed all the materials out with a glue stick and the picture of the finished craft. I stepped back and watched to see what she would create. I'm impressed that her creations look a lot like the finished craft on the package! I helped with the drawing of the whiskers and mouths. I bought these at Michael's last year after Christmas for only 10 cents each!

Izzie loves receiving mail and is having a blast with receiving Christmas cards. Her Great Aunt sent her these cute Nativity stickers. I gave them to her with a scrap piece of paper and to my amazement, she created a picture perfect Nativity scene.

Izzie made several adorable snowflake ornaments for our Christmas tree. Click here for original post with more pictures and material list.

I'm still encouraging Izzie to use tweezers to pick up objects, but she politely refuses!

Izzie playing with the homemade Play-doh that we made. Click here for original post with instructions.

Who's in Mac's toy box? Izzie enjoyed counting and organizing Mac's toys.

Mac is having so much fun with our Fisher Price Nativity set.

Mac is fascinated by the washing machine. She loves standing and just watching and watching!

Mac has recently learned how to open the kitchen cupboard doors and loves making music with Izzie! I have all the doors locked, except two (the one with my pots and pans and the other with my Tupperware...I don't mind her exploring in these two cupboards).

She's been walking for about 2 weeks now and is getting better everyday! She's up to about 5 steps before falling down.

Be sure to check out 1+1+1=1 for more Tot School activities!

Sunday, December 20, 2009


To celebrate our 31 inches of snow, Izzie created these cute snowflakes for our Christmas tree!

I love homemade Christmas ornaments!

Materials needed: Popsicle sticks, glue, paint, and glitter.

Homemade Yahtzee Game

I'm still working hard on finishing homemade Christmas gifts...next year, I'll have to remember to start a little earlier! When I saw the Family Yahtzee game by The Home Teacher, I knew I had to make it!

I made the blue box for my husband's grandparents, who play Yahtzee every night! I hope they'll enjoy playing their new version. The patriotic version is for my husband's aunt and uncle. And, the last one is for us! I had to make one for myself!

Here are the dice for each of the games...again, first row for grandparents, second row for aunt and uncle, and the last row is for our game. I also printed out some Yahtzee score sheets to include in each box.

I really love the way this turned out!

Each game cost approximately $3 to make. I found the boxes (1 for $2.99) and blocks ( 13 for $2.99) at Michael's. Of course, I did use a 50% coupon for each item. I printed off the pictures at home and used scrapbook paper and Mod Podge that I had.

Please feel free to link your homemade gifts too! I would love to see what you've been creating!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Let It Snow and Snow and Snow...

It started snowing on Friday afternoon...

And continued....

The last picture was taken this morning (Saturday) around 8am...compare the two photos...especially the building and swingset...look how deep! We have 18 inches in our yard and it's still snowing!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Favorite Holiday Treat Swap!

I love baking during the Christmas Season! For the past few days, I've been elbow deep in flour and sugar. My favorite all time cookies are Snowballs or Wedding Balls.

  • 2 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped nuts
  1. In a medium-size bowl, stir the flour and salt. In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, mix together the butter and 1/2 cups of the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract and then the flour mixture until it is blended. Finally, stir in the nuts.
  2. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about 2 hours or until it is firm enough to work with.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Shape the dough into balls that are about 1-inch in diameter.
  4. Place the balls on ungreased cookie sheet, leaving about 1-inch between the cookies. One sheet at a time, bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes or until set, not brown. Meanwhile, place the remaining 1-cup of confectioners' sugar in a shallow bowl.
  5. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 2-4 minutes. Carefully, remove the cookies completely on a wire rack. Sprinkle them with any remaining sugar.
  6. When cool, store the cookies in an airtight container. These cookies freeze well.
Makes: Approximately 72 balls

What is your favorite holiday recipe? Feel free to share!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Super Stocking Stuffers: Boo Boo Cube Review and Giveaway!

Does your child have a boo boo, bump or bruise that needs some extra care? The Boo Boo Cube™ from Lil Boo & Co. is a great solution and would make a super stocking stuffer for your little one!

When Izzie gets a boo boo, she loves getting kisses and a bandage to make it feel better, but refuses to put an ice pack on her boo boo. She complains that the ice pack is too cold, even when I try to wrap it in a towel, which usually creates a chaotic mess. I am so excited that I discovered the adorable Boo Boo Cube™ from Lil Boo & Co. It is a great alternative to an ice pack because it's soft to touch, not too cold, and can even be used as a warm pack too! Izzie enjoys that it is "pretty" with the fabric design and is the perfect size for her small hands.

The creator of the Boo Boo Cube™ had this to say, "Place in the freezer for a safe, non-toxic cold pack and grab it anytime a boo boo happens (a nice alternative to the toxic gel packs...that often leak)! The Boo Boo Cube™ distributes the "cold" evenly without the burning sensation of a bare ice cube or the drippy mess of a cold rag. The Boo Boo Cube™ can also be placed in the microwave for 30 seconds for a soothing warm therapy bag for sore muscles, backaches or even headaches (I've even had some people tell me that they used them when they were breastfeeding for a clogged milk duct and soreness)! There's endless uses for the Boo Boo Cube™! When you're done with your Boo Boo Cube™, just toss it back in the freezer until the next time you need it."

The Boo Boo Cube™ measures approximately 5" x 5" and has a small ribbon "tag" for easy grabbing. It is made with cotton material and filled with only the best high quality rice, that can be frozen or heated in the microwave. Because the Boo Boo Cube™ is filled with rice, do not submerge it in water...the rice may spoil. Spot clean only. In addition, it has been carefully sewn for extra durability.

Lil Boo & Co. has agreed to giveaway a Boo Boo Cube™ to one lucky reader!

You have 10 chances to WIN:
(Please leave a separate comment for each entry)

1. Mandatory: Visit Lil Boo & Co. and choose which Boo Boo Cube™ design you would like for your child's stocking.

2. Make a purchase from Lil Boo & Co. during the giveaway period.

3. Follow Lil Boo & Co.'s blog.

4. Follow Lil Boo & Co. on Twitter.

5. Become a fan of Lil Boo & Co. on Facebook.

6-10. Post about the Lil Boo & Co. giveaway on your blog. (Be sure to leave a link and you will need to leave 5 separate comments, which can be short and simple, such as #1, #2, etc).

The giveaway will close at 10pm (EST) on Sunday, December 20. One lucky reader will be randomly drawn.

Disclaimer: The product reviewed was provided for me free of charge in return for writing a review and hosting a giveaway.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Super Stocking Stuffers: Gulf Coast Cottage Review and Giveaway!

Are you looking for a way to stock your child's play kitchen this Christmas? I was thrilled when I discovered Gulf Coast Cottage's adorable PDF patterns! Gulf Coast Cottage offers a variety of felt food patterns that are quick and simple to create, even for a beginner sewer.

I made the above items from the Felt Food Boxes and Canned Goods PDF Pattern. I'm extremely new to sewing, so this was a huge undertaking. I was a little scared to attempt the felt food after learning that the creator was a professional upholster and seamstress. But, all my fears quickly faded away when I received the PDF pattern. The directions were so clear and precise and I really liked that the patterns were of actual size. In addition, I really appreciate that on Gulf Coast Cottage's blog, she has kindly posted a tutorial about the blanket stitch, which was used when creating the above felt food. I am so excited with the way the felt food turned out and can't wait to make more!

The creator of Gulf Coast Cottage had this to say, "Two years ago for my Daughters birthday- I was looking for safe, imaginative, toys. It was really difficult to be sure the items I found in stores were REALLY safe. So- I commissioned my Father to build a kitchen set from solid wood- (immediately upon it's completion it was painted pink) and there began my obsession with felt. I had never really been a big fan of felt- (things certainly have changed) but it seemed to be a great medium to start with. Being a professional upholsterer and seamstress- it was a task that was new and exciting. And so, my designs of play food and toys have been coming ever since."

Gulf Coast Cottage has agreed to giveaway one PDF pattern to a lucky reader!
You have 10 chances to WIN:
(Please leave a separate comment for each entry)

1. Mandatory: Visit Gulf Coast Cottage and choose which PDF pattern you would like to create for your child's stocking.

2. Make a purchase from Gulf Coast Cottage during the giveaway period.

3. Become a follower of Gulf Coast Cottage's blog.

4. Become a fan of Gulf Coast Cottage on Facebook.

5. Publicly follow my blog (Izzie, Mac and Me).

6-10. Post about the Gulf Coast Cottage giveaway on your blog. (Be sure to leave a link and you will need to leave 5 separate comments, which can be short and simple, such as #1, #2, etc). If you feature Gulf Coast Cottage on your blog, you will receive a free sushi roll pattern. Click here for more details.

The giveaway will close at 10pm (EST) on Thursday, December 17. One lucky reader will be randomly drawn.

Disclaimer: The product reviewed was provided for me free of charge in return for writing a review and hosting a giveaway.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thrifty Thursday: Homemade Play-doh

I like to get the kids at church and our playgroup a little something for Christmas. So, this year, I decided to make them homemade Cinnamon Play-doh. It turned out great and smells delicious!

I saw that Mari-Ann from Counting Coconuts recently made some Play-doh, so I asked her for the recipe. This is what she sent me:

"I got this from another blog, My Montessori Journey – it’s the BEST playdough recipe I’ve found. Here you go: Homemade Playdough

1 c. flour

1/2 cup salt

1 T. cooking oil

1 T. cream of tartar

1 c. water

Food coloring of your choice

Add-ins of your choice (i.e. spices, extracts, glitter, etc.)

Stir ingredients together well. Just measure them into the saucepan you will be using to cook the dough, but mix them well before heating up the pan. Over medium heat cook the dough, stirring constantly until it forms a ball. (NOTE: When it starts to pull away from the sides somewhat and clump together and most of the "wet-looking" parts look dry, it's ready to remove from the pan.) Turn dough onto a board (or the countertop) and knead until very smooth. (NOTE: It will be pretty warm to the touch, but try to knead it until it becomes a nice, smooth ball. If it feels sticky, you can work a little more flour into it and it will be fine.) Cool. Store in a covered plastic container OR in a sealed ziploc bag. (ANOTHER NOTE: This dough does seem to always stick in the saucepan somewhat. I have tried spraying the pan first, but I still have a crusty residue on the pan when I'm finished. I am used to this now and just plan on soaking the pan after I make a batch. I just wanted you to know about that though so you wouldn't think you had goofed something up if that happens.)

When I add spices, I usually start with about a teaspoon (though I never actually use a spoon). I just shake a bunch in until I think it's going to produce the desired level of scent. (I like a LOT of scent.) If you are adding an extract like vanilla or peppermint, for example, probably just a teaspoon will be enough, but you can experiment with a little more than that. Also add gradually if you are doing glitter. I would still start with only about a teaspoon and go from there."

I packaged one ball of red and one ball of green Play-doh in a holiday goodie bag. I attached a cookie cutter to each bag. I found the bags (20/pack) and cookie cutters (6/pack) at the Dollar Tree.

To see more Thrifty Ideas, please check out Brilliant Moms!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Super Stocking Stuffers: Lou Bugs Boutique Review and Giveaway!

This time of the year, we spend more time in the car traveling. Thankfully, Izzie has a tendency to fall asleep on long drives. However, she also has the droopy head sleeping position, which looks and probably feels very uncomfortable.

I was so excited when I discovered the perfect solution for her droopy head sleeping position! It's a Car Seat Travel Pillow by Lou Bugs Boutique. A travel pillow would be a comfortable addition to your child's stocking!

Lou Bugs Boutique offers a variety of adorable designs for the Car Seat Travel Pillow. The travel pillows are made out of flannel fabric and are filled with 100 percent fiberfill, which makes them extremely soft and cozy! Each pillow is 9 inches wide and 7 inches long, the perfect size for an infant or toddler to use while riding in the car.

I'm thrilled with the way the travel pillow fits perfectly around Izzie's neck and how it prevents her neck from drooping to one side. The pillow can also be placed around the back of the neck. The Car Seat Travel Pillow by Lou Bugs Boutique is a must have for all children, who tend to fall asleep in the car!

Lou Bugs Boutique has agreed to giveaway a travel pillow to one lucky reader!

You have 10 chances to WIN:
(Please leave a separate comment for each entry)

1. Mandatory: Visit Lou Bugs Boutique and choose which travel pillow that you would like for your child's stocking.

2. Make a purchase from Lou Bugs Boutique during the giveaway period.

3. Subscribe to Lou Bugs Boutique.

4. Publicly follow my blog (Izzie, Mac and Me).

5. Grab my new Izzie, Mac and Me button for your sidebar.

6-10. Post about the Lou Bugs Boutique giveaway on your blog. (Be sure to leave a link and you will need to leave 5 separate comments, which can be short and simple, such as #1, #2, etc).

The giveaway will close at 10pm (EST) on Sunday, December 13. One lucky reader will be randomly drawn.

Disclaimer: The product reviewed was provided for me free of charge in return for writing a review and hosting a giveaway.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Let It Snow...Let It Snow!

We woke this morning to our first snow of the season!

We have all been under the weather this week, hence the lack of blogging. So, we won't be taking the girls out to play today. Instead, we are baking cookies, drinking hot cocoa, and watching college football...Go Gators!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Gift Reviews: Dolls and Action Figures

It's that time of year again, when I start researching for Christmas gifts. I'm always curious to know what other parents are buying for their children. I read countless reviews on toys that I'm considering to buy because I want to know the pros and cons for each toy. The best way to really discover a toy is to ask other parents and children too. I would love to know what your children favorite toys are. So, each week, I will have a different category to review. Click here for the category list and dates. Please feel free to share your views about toys in each category too.

This week's theme is Dolls and Action Figures.

Izzie is not much into playing with baby dolls. However, she does enjoy dressing-up her Melissa and Doug Magnetic Dolls!

Pros: Another durable product from Melissa and Doug. This set comes with two dolls, which are the perfect size for a preschooler's hands. It's nice that there are stands included to place the dolls in. There is a large amount of clothing and accessories with bright colors and patterns. Izzie can spend an hour at a time dressing up her dolls!

Cons: There isn't a lid, which is problematic! It's hard keeping all the "stuff" together. The shoes and hats are extremely small, which could be a possible chocking hazard.

*This set can be found at A.C. Moore, where you can use a 50% coupon on it!* I buy most of our Melissa and Doug products here for this reason.

Disclaimer: I did not contact or receive any products from the above companies. These are my opinions, which may vary from your experience with these products.

Please link your child's favorite Dolls and Action Figures too!

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