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The Story Box Review

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

In our house, we are avid readers, Henley included.  We read so many books with her each day (I'm talking ten or more books), that they tend to get old.  We have shelves and baskets of her books in nearly every room of the house, and they are all well loved.  I am thrilled that she loves to read, not only because it is something that I have loved from the time I was her age, but because I know it does wonders for her language skills.

Another thing I love...subscription boxes.  I currently subscribe to two for myself and I love the thrill of getting surprises sent to you each month.  So, last week, when I happened upon a new subscription box, The Story Box, while perusing Instagram, I was so excited!  The Story Box is a subscription box  for young children (ages 1-7) that was created by a speech-language pathologist and her husband, and includes two books and a learning guide to go along with them.


When The Story Box arrived today, I couldn't wait to open it!  The packaging was neat and fun, and Henley was excited about it too.  The books were carefully wrapped in tissue and fun crinkle paper, and sealed with a note.  Inside, there is a note from the creators, Holly and Clint, and a general guide on how to read and involve your child(ren) in any story at a variety of ages (baby, toddler, preschooler, or early elementary).  I found this interesting, and a great reminder to not just read to my little one, but to ask her questions and involve her in the story more.



Then, onto the books!  Included are two quality, hard cover books (not board books, these have paper pages), and this month, the books were Outside by Deirdre Gill and Go to Sleep, Little Farm by Mary Lyn Ray and with art by Christopher Silas Neal.  Both books were right up Henley's alley.  As most toddlers do, she loves animals and Go to Sleep, Little Farm has a bunch of them in it.  She really liked going through and naming each one, making its noises, and saying goodnight to them.  In Outside, there is a little boy playing in the snow, which Henley is also obsessed with right now.  Thanks to Frozen and last month's Frosty the Snowman on repeat, she is always saying that she wants to build a snowman.  This book was a hit with her, too.



Also included in The Story Box is a parent guide to go with each book.  It gives you a language concept to work on at each age group, along with an activity you can do to correspond with the story. For example, with Go to Sleep, Little Farm, it suggests to introduce prepositions to your toddler and as an activity, gives a recipe for a puffy paint mixture to make a moon painting.  I know Henley will love that! Since there are concepts and activities suggested for each age group, you can keep these guides and use them as your child grows.

Snowman Activity for Outside 
Overall, I was really impressed with The Story Box and I am looking forward to seeing what books they will ship out next!  I was also impressed to see that a portion of each sale goes toward materials for children with disabilities and from low income families.  I always am more inclined to purchase or partake in something when it goes toward a good cause!

If you love reading like we do, and are looking for something new to try or new ideas for learning with your littles, check out The Story Box! Holly and Clint have been so kind to share a coupon code with my readers, so make sure to enter TAKESIX at checkout and get $6 off of your first order!  I hope you love it as much as we do!


Powdered Sugar "Sweetheart" Playdough

Sunday, January 17, 2016

My gosh, how are we well into the new year already?  I cannot believe that the holiday season is behind us.  I am always a little sad to take down all of our Christmas decor, but this year, I was super bummed to have to put it away.  This past season was so magical, with Henley able to understand and get excited over everything.  It was especially hard to say goodbye to Chrissy, our Elf on the Shelf.  Henley was looking for her for a week after Christmas!

To fill the void of holiday spirit in the house, I started to break out my Valentine's Day things.  While not quite as exciting as Christmas, it is a holiday that is all about pink and girlie things, so I'm sure Henley and I will have some fun with it.  Here is the first Valentine themed project of the season: we turned a recipe for Powdered Sugar Playdough into pink "sweetheart" play dough.

Not only is this project is quick and easy to make, it is edible!  So, even your littlest ones can get in on the fun, but be warned...once they get a taste of this stuff, its hard to get them to stop!

Powdered Sugar Playdough


What you need:
  • 1/2 Cup of canned cake frosting (any color or flavor)
  • 1 1/2 Cups+ of powdered sugar
  • Food coloring (optional)

Directions:
  1. Scoop 1/2 C of frosting into your mixing bowl.  
  2. With your mixer on low, slowly add in powdered sugar.  After about a cup has been added, test your dough and see how sticky it is.  
  3. Add the rest of your sugar very slowly and keep testing your dough. It will be ready once it no longer sticks to your hands (you may need a little more powdered sugar than called for).  
  4. If you add too much powdered sugar, you can remedy your stiff dough by adding a little olive oil/canola oil to the mix.  
  5. Once you are satisfied with the dough's consistency, add food coloring if you wish.
  6. Have fun!  We used cookie cutters, utensils, and Sweethearts candies to play with ours.
  7. When finished playing, you can store your playdough in an airtight container or Ziplock bag for up to two weeks. 


Hope your littles love this project as much as mine did!  


Easy Spider Cookies

Sunday, October 25, 2015

About a month ago, Henley walked into a spiderweb.  Since then, everywhere we go, she points them out and exclaims "Spider! Spider"!  Being that it's Halloween season, there are spiders everywhere and she loves them! I don't get it, but it's really cute.  I saw these cookies on Pinterest last year and knew I had to make some for her.  


I am not the best at decorating cookies/cakes, but these are so simple and so cute, anyone can make them!  If your kiddos are old enough to help, this is a great baking project for you to do together. Or, you could just surprise them with these cute cookies like I did! 

Easy Spider Cookies



Ingredients: 

• Betty Crocker Peanut Butter Cookie Mix (or your favorite peanut butter cookie dough)
• Dove Chocolate Eyeballs (or any round chocolate candy you can find) 
• Candy eyeballs
• Black or brown decorator icing 

Directions: 

1.  Mix your cookie dough according to the directions on the package (or your own recipe).  You could also use premade cookie dough.  

2.  Roll the cookie dough into 1in. balls and bake according to package/recipe directions.  While baking, unwrap your chocolate candies. 

3. When cookies are done, place a chocolate ball in the center of each one and press down gently. 

4.  Allow the cookies to set a few minutes and then place two eyeballs into the chocolate.  

5.  Once cookies are cool, use your decorator icing to draw legs on each cookie.  

6.  Enjoy!  Store in a single layer in an airtight container.  



As you can see, the girls enjoyed them very much! I hope you do, too! 






Halloween Jello Jigglers

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Who remembers Jello Jigglers from when they were a kid?!  I can think of a few times my mom made them for us and we loved them.  So, when I was shopping at Walmart a few weeks ago, and saw some fun Jello flavors, I wanted to make them for Henley.  My husband had the bright idea to get a silicone mold for them instead of using cookie cutters and the result is genius!  Here is how to make an easy Jello Jigglers treat for your family:

Halloween Jello Jigglers
(Makes roughly 12 servings)


What you need: 
  • 1 box of Jello in any flavor
  • Silicone mold
  • 1 1/4 Cups boiling water
  • Pam spray
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Spouted measuring cup


 Directions:
  1. Bring 1 1/4 C water to a boil and add to Jello mix in a bowl.  Whisk together for 3 minutes, until gelatin is dissolved.
  2. Prepare your silicone mold by lightly spraying each individual mold/shape with Pam. I rub it in with a paper towel so that there isn't an excess of Pam...it will leave a film on your jello if you have too much in there, yuck! 
  3. Transfer gelatin mixture to a spouted measuring cup and pour evenly between your molds.  If you fill your molds about 1/3 full, you should yield about 12 shapes.
  4. Place molds in the refrigerator for 1-3 hours (until firm).  In my fridge, they are usually ready in about an hour.
  5. Enjoy!

I have been making these every week as a little afternoon snack or after dinner treat!  They are so fun, especially for little ones.  I alternate which mold I use and I even have one mold with space shapes and my daughter loves to pick out which one she wants.  She runs to the fridge saying "Jello! Moon! Star!" and its so cute, it makes it hard to say no! Haha! 

Hope your family enjoys these as much as we do! 


What I Wish I Had Heard About Breastfeeding

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

This week is National Breastfeeding Week, and my social media feeds have been full of articles and posts about breastfeeding.  They all mimic what I had seen and read before my own breastfeeding experience, which is why I think it is important to share my own story...it's not like all of the posts out there!  It's what I wish I had heard about nursing prior to having my first baby.  Listen up, moms-to-be, this is for you!



I always had planned on breastfeeding.  I was aware of all the great benefits it has for both mother and baby, and I wanted what was best, especially for my own baby. That being said, I was not looking forward to it one bit!  The whole concept was just so foreign to me, and as a relatively modest person, I pictured it being awkward and thought I wouldn't care for it at all.  I gave myself a goal of breastfeeding until six months and thought that might even be pushing it.  Aide from my own thoughts, the biggest cause of anxiety about breastfeeding came from all of the negative stories and experiences I heard from virtually everywhere! Now, maybe you haven't found this to be the case, but for me that was my experience.  

Any time I read about or heard breastfeeding mentioned, it was about how painful it was, how hard it was to get baby to latch on correctly, lip tie/tongue tie, having to drastically change diet to suit babies needs, etc. In fact, I heard so many negative stories from others that the ONLY fear I had about having a baby was that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed successfully!  Labor didn't phase me, but a baby who couldn't latch on?! I had nightmares about it.

I researched as much as I could to be as knowledgable as possible without having any hands-on/breasts-on experience (ha!).  Even so, I couldn't escape negative comments from others.

Well, when the time came and I had my beautiful baby to feed, guess what? I did it just fine.  No issues, no unbearable pain, nada. Sure, it took some getting used to, but I absolutely had no problem breastfeeding, and continue to do so successfully, over a year later.  I also surprised myself with how I could care less about breastfeeding in public and how much I actually enjoy nursing my little one.  Now, I am in no rush to wean Henley, which is a long way off from where i thought I'd be.

So...what do I wish I had heard about breastfeeding prior to having my first baby? Positive stories like mine!  Yes, I completely understand that there are many challenges that one can have and can overcome when it comes to breastfeeding, however, it is possible to have a great experience with it!  This is written only with the intent to encourage moms-to-be that breastfeeding can be a wonderful experience, and not to discount those whose experience has been less than so.

The only person who didn't have one negative thing to say about breastfeeding was my mom...I should have just listened to her (wow, how many times I have said that in past)! Go figure! 

Anyone else have a similar experience to mine?  Scared to breastfeed but then pleasantly surprised by it? 

Taco Rice

Monday, August 3, 2015

A few years ago, we went to visit my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and their first baby girl in Okinawa, Japan. They are both Marines and were stationed there at the time.


I had no idea what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised to find that Okinawa is a tropical island with clear water and a beautiful landscape. We spent nearly two weeks there and had a wonderful time.  We hiked, went to the beach, visited the amazing aquarium there, held a giant snake, and saw a Japanese castle. 


One thing I took away from that trip is Taco Rice.  My sis-in-law made it for us when we were there and it stuck with us. Think of it basically as taco salad over rice.  Super easy and super good! 


Taco Rice 
(Serves 4) 

Ingredients:

• 1 cup of rice (Dry) 
• 1 lb. ground beef
• 1 packet of taco seasoning 
• Toppings ( we like cheese, sour cream, salsa, corn, and tortilla chips.  You can add whatever you'd like!)

Directions: 

1.  Prepare rice as you normally would.  I use a rice cooker because I have yet to figure out how to make rice well without one, ha! If you are like me and forget the ratio of water to rice, it's 2 parts water to 1 part rice, so for this recipe it's 2 cups of water and 1 cup of rice. 

2. Brown ground beef/turkey and follow directions on your seasoning packet.  

3. Serve taco meat over rice and add what ever toppings you want! 



See, told you it was easy!  :) 

This is the perfect busy weeknight dinner.  It only takes about 20 minutes from prep to table and everyone loves it! 


Father's Day Grilling Aprons

Thursday, July 23, 2015


I am so excited to finally share with you the Father's Day gift we made for my hubby this year!  I knew he might see it if I wrote about it prior to that day, so keep this gift idea in mind for next year!  It was a huge hit!

Hubs got a new grill as an early Father's Day/ it's summer and our old grill is falling apart present, so I knew I wanted to get him grilling accessories to go along with it.  I put together a grill basket with some new grilling tools in it.  I also love to give handmade gifts, so Henley and I made him an apron and I made one for her too.  They turned out so adorable and they both loved them!  They are so easy to make; only took me maybe an hour total.


What you need: 

• Canvas aprons
• Fabric paint
• Sponge brush
• Small paint brush (for lion's face detail)
• Silhouette machine
• Vinyl
• Transfer tape

NOTE: If you do not own a Silhouette, you can still make your own version of this!  You could get stencil letters at the craft store or draw freehand and paint over it!

Directions: 

1. Using fabric paint and the sponge brush, paint your child's hand and make a fan shape of handprints on the Daddy apron. Let dry, then using the small paintbrush, paint a lion's face over the bottom portion of the prints.  (The fingers make up the mane and the palms make up the face).  Let dry completely. 

2. Create your stencil on your Silhouette software and cut it out using vinyl. I buy basic vinyl on Amazon instead of Silhouete brand stencil vinyl because it's cheaper and you get more. I also use coupons at craft stores to buy transfer tape at 40-60% off depending on the coupon.  Saves so much money that way! 

3. Weed out your image and use the stencil tape to place your vinyl stencil where you want it on your aprons. 

4. With a sponge brush and fabric paint, paint over your stencil carefully.  I go over the image at least twice to make sure I have a bold and even coating of paint.  Allow to dry completely before removing the vinyl (I let mine dry overnight, but a few hours is usually fine). 

5. Iron over your image if your fabric paint calls for it.  Silhouette brand fabric paint does, and in my opinion it's the best.  It doesn't dry stiff like I have found some brands to do.  Now, you're done! 




These aprons were a hit!  My hubby couldn't wait to try them out, and our little one was so excited to grill with her Daddy.  



Father's Day was great at our house!  We started off with a nice breakfast, had a picnic lunch at the pool, then finished with a BBQ (of course)! How did you celebrate?