Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Spectrum Workbooks from Carson Dellosa Review

I got to check out the new Spectrum workbooks from Carson-Dellosa and can't wait to share what we thought of them!

What they are
A new line of workbooks currently covering math, language arts, and science for grades K-5

Who made them
Carson-Dellosa, one of the leading companies for workbooks and educational supplies (I'm a huge fan of their bulletin board materials!)

Our experience
My son loves new workbooks, and these definitely kept his attention. We got to try 5 of their workbooks, so we chose a variety of kindergarten level books. So far he seems interested in all of them, and like they're all really helping him learn!

The Spectrum Kindergarten Sight Words seems like a great way to introduce and work on sight words. I love that there are workbook pages with a variety of activities but also flash cards and word lines to cut out so we can work on learning sight words in many different ways. 



I really love this phonics book. I think my son is going to really make great progress by working through this book towards being able to read and write anything he wants! I am impressed with the wide variety of activities in it.


I was a little skeptical intitially-how can kids who can't spell yet do a spelling workbook?!? But this book has tons of totally age appropriate activities to encourage learning to spell.


My son is so excited to learn to read and this book has so many great tools in it to help him reach that goal. The focus seems primarily on understanding what you see or read, sequencing, etc, so it pairs really well with the other language arts books. 


I really love this math workbook. My son is very mathematically oriented and loves the variety of exercises in this book. I can tell he's going to learn a lot and enjoy doing it while using this book. It covers counting, addition, and even simple subtraction. I do with they had a bit more explanation on the page with a number grid since that's "new math" since I was in kindergarten and I think many parents are not confident in navigating the new math. It wasn't hard to figure out in the K book, but in higher grade levels I think some explanation for parents might be very appreciated!

Pros:
Variety
Tons of content
Reasonable prices

Cons
No science for K

The bottom line
Definitely worth having for any family who homeschools, supplements school or preschool with workbooks, or uses workbooks over the summer!

Get it
You can buy Carson-Dellosa Spectrum workbooks directly from Carson-Dellosa, on Amazon, or at many other great online and brick & mortar stores!

I received 5 free workbooks for review purposes. I received no other compensation for this post.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Super Easy Italian Breadsticks Kitchen Hack!!!

A long time ago I tried the almost famous breadsticks recipe but wasn't a big fan, because I'm not good at shaping my breadsticks evenly. Luckily my husband liked the way they tasted so much he encouraged me to make them again, and even more luckily, I remembered a technique a fast food place I used to work made their breadsticks and figured out how to modify it to work in my own kitchen! So anyway, this is the easiest way to to make evenly shaped breadsticks ever, and they taste as good as they look!


What you need
Lasagna pan-mine is 11x14 and I recommend getting one that does not have a nonstick coating, like this one:
 

Oil
Pizza cutter and/or butter knife
Cloth napkin or placemat

What you do
Make and knead your bread dough according to the recipe
Oil bottom of lasagna pan
Spread dough evenly along bottom of pan

Put a little oil on your pizza cutter and/or knife
Use pizza cutter and/or bread knife to cut dough into even strips

Cover lasagna pan with cloth napkin or cloth placemat to prevent drying while rising
Allow breadsticks to rise
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes as specified in recipe
Rub a stick of cold butter across the tops of the breadsticks then sprinkle with garlic salt and Italian seasonings, or with cinnamon sugar

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lottie doll review

What it is
Lottie dolls are 7.5" tall dolls designed to look like adventurous 9 year old girls (and her proportions are based on those of real 9 year olds!). Lottie dolls come in a variety of skin and hair tones and fun themes including pirate, equestrian, ballerina, naturalist, and more!


Who makes it
Lottie dolls are made by Arklu, a British toy company established in 2011. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter. 

Our thoughts
I got to check out the Spring Celebration Ballet Lottie and the raspberry ripple outfit and was very impressed by both. Her clothes are well made and she is a perfect size to be carried around by a preschooler or elementary school student. I love that her clothes are stylish and cheerful and fun but not "sexy" like so many popular dolls these days. They were also fairly easy to get on and off. Her tights in particular were much easier to get on and off than I remember Barbie tights being to get on and off (probably the lack of curves helps!) And I think the prices are pretty reasonable--about $20 for the dolls or pony and about $10 for the accessory/outfit sets.The only problem I had with our Lottie doll was that you can't really do her hair. While it is soft and shiny, it can't really be styled. When I braided her hair, her scalp became exposed near her bangs: 

When I tried pigtails, it was even worse, this time on the back of her head:

But a low ponytail did work okay: 




The only other thing I'd change would be to make it possible to buy some of the outfit sets that come with Lottie dolls. For example, I would've wanted the ballerina doll with dark hair and blue eyes like me, but I also would've wanted the pirate outfit. Actually it would be really fun to buy a bunch of Lottie dolls and a bunch of pirate outfits and then have a whole pirate crew!
Here are a few of the other Lottie dolls I love: 
And Snow Queen Lottie, which I predict will be one of the hottest toys for Christmas 2014 due partially to the popularity of another ice princess who recently graced the silver screens...


Pros
Cute
Age-appropriate
Knees bend
Well-made clothes
Reasonably priced
Soft shiny hair

Cons
Can't do hair
Can't order all outfits

The bottom line
A wonderful little doll that parents, grandparents and others can feel good about gifting girls this holiday season. 

Get it
You can buy Lottie dolls for $19.95 and the raspberry ripple outfit for $9.95 at time of posting this review. 

I received a free doll and outfit for review purposes but received no other compensation for this post. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin Time children's book review

What it is
Pumpkin Time is a book for kids about a girl who ignores distractions all summer and fall to achieve her goal of growing and harvesting pumpkins. 

Who wrote it
Erzsi Deak

Our experience
My sons seemed to really like the story and illustrations, and especially all the silly things all the other animals were doing. I really liked how it encouraged holiday tradition and shared info about the pumpkin life cycle. The only thing that I didn't love was that on each page, rather than saying what she was doing, it asks "What was {name} doing?" but my preschooler wasn't always able to explain without help what she was doing. It might have been nice to have an explanation on the next page, or have an explanatory page at the back that identifies what she was doing on each page and why that task is necessary for a farmer.

Pros
  • Whimsical
  • Lots of info on pumpkin life cycle

Cons
  • Wasn't always clear to preschooler what she was doing

The bottom line
A cute fall book that's definitely worth getting if you're looking for seasonal reads for toddlers and preschoolers!

Get it
 

You can order Pumpkin Time on Amazon for $11.63 at time of posting this review.

I received a free copy of this book for review purposes but received no other compensation for this post.

Why I love Hobo Mama and you should too!

Hobo Mama has been one of my favorite bloggers for several years, and in celebration of her being due this month with her third baby, I thought it'd be fun to tell you about my favorite posts on her blog so you can check them out!

I've always wished I had curly hair or that my hair would at least hold a curl, but no such luck...until I had kids! If it weren't for Hobo Mama's post, I might not have recognized my secretly curly hair or known what to do with it!!

This one is a life-saver. Side-lying nursing is such an essential skill for a successful breastfeeding relationship, but something we rarely see, even at a La Leche League meeting. Her great post and clear pictures make this a must-read for nursing moms and moms-to-be!

I've shared this with friends and in groups because it's just an awesome explanation of how to sew a mei tai along with clear pictures. Definitely the place to start if you want to sew a mei tai!

Are you a Hobo Mama fan too? What's your favorite post on her blog?!?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why crunchyish moms should register on Amazon!

Creating a baby registry can be frustrating when many of the products you're interested in can't be bought in big box stores. Target seems to be the most common place to register for my friends & relatives (and where we registered in the past), but the options for carriers and cloth diapers and other things I love are so limited, it's difficult (if not impossible) to register for the things many families really want and need for their babies!


My solution? Register on Amazon! That's right, mega-site Amazon has the option to create baby registries to share with friends and relatives, and besides the amazing selection of Amazon itself, their baby registry program also features the ability to add items from any website! 

So, here are my top reasons crunchyish moms should create their baby registries on Amazon:

Easy to find
Your Aunt Louise may not know where the local cloth diaper store is or how to find the Babywearing Swap on Facebook, but I bet she can find Amazon!

Cloth diapers
Amazon has a surprisingly wide selection of cloth diapers. Whether you're looking for pocket, prefolds, covers, aio, hybrid, cloth wipes, sprayers, a spray pal, wet bags, pail liners, or cloth safe detergent, Amazon probably has it.

Pretty nursing bras and tanks
No story local to me even carries nursing bras in my size, let alone pretty ones. Amazon carries nursing bras from brands like HotMILK and Cake that are seriously gorgeous and come in a much wider range of sizes than anything available at the big box stores. 

Completion discount
All parents with an Amazon registry receive a 10% off discount for any registry items that aren't bought by 30 days before their baby's due date! 

Baby carriers
Amazon has a wide variety of high quality baby carriers, from soft structured carriers like Boba (my favorite) and Ergo and mei tais like the budget friendly  infantino mei tai to stretchy wraps from Boba and Moby and woven wraps from Ellevill, Didymos and more!

Natural bath/hygiene products
While some big box stores are beginning to stock more natural bath and hygiene products, it's still difficult to find a wide selection. Amazon has great toiletries for mom and baby, from brands like Earth Mama Angel Baby to baby gentle castile soap, natural deodorants, and even mama cloth!

Babylegs
I loooove Babylegs, and I love that you can find them on Amazon! I tend to buy lots of them straight from Babylegs for whoever I know who is pregnant at the time and save them for the baby showers. But if you love them *slightly* less and want to just get a pair or two, Amazon is a great way to go. 

Free shipping
Like all things on Amazon, baby registry items feature free shipping for prime members on prime eligible items and for all shoppers purchasing $35 or more in eligible items at one time (in my experience most, but not all, items directly from Amazon are eligible and it's usually items from other sites that are not eligible for free shipping)

Amazon giftcards
Indecisive friends and relatives can easily buy Amazon giftcards, which you can hoard to build up your stash of wraps or cloth diapers, buy a big ticket item like a carseat or changing table, or use on things you run out of often like coconut oil and soap!

Natural toys
From natural rubber teethers like Sophie the giraffe to wooden baby toys, Amazon has tons of toys that can't easily be found in big box stores!


Extended returns
There is a 90 day return period for Amazon baby store items purchased through your registry, which is awesome because no one wants to feel rushed to return stuff when they have a newborn to snuggle instead!

Support your favorite bloggers without spending any extra money
If you create an Amazon baby registry through an affiliate link like this one (or any of the others on my site or other participating blogs), that blogger will get a small bonus from Amazon (which doesn't affect how much you pay)! I have a few favorite bloggers who I know participate in the Amazon Associates program, and I often try to use Amazon links from their site when I see them advertising things I want, to show how much I love their blog!

Have you created or shopped from an Amazon baby registry? What did you think? 

I did not receive any compensation for this post. If you purchase something or create an Amazon registry through an affiliate link though, there is no cost to you but I get a teeny bit of Amazon's profits!

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Monsterator Children's Book Review

What it is
The Monsterator is a picture book about Master Edgar Dreadbury who finds Halloween dreadfully boring...until a mysterious shop appears out of nowhere with a Monsterator inside. The book also includes a unique monster making feature at the end of the story. 

Who wrote it
The Monsterator is written by Keith Graves. It is published by Roaring Brook Press.

Our impression
My sons both seemed to like the pictures and my 5 year old liked the story too. Most of all though my preschooler totally loved the monster maker. There are pages divided into four segments, so you flip until you get the heads, tummies, hips and legs you want to create your own silly monster. My son said his favorite part was the spooky pictures, and if he could change one thing, he'd make the flaps lay flatter. So perhaps a tiny pocket along the edge to the page with Edgar on it so that kids could tuck the flaps into would make the book more appealing to younger readers. My husband and I also felt there was a lack of world building and character development. Why is Edgar bored with Halloween (this seems difficult for a kid to relate to without providing some explanation)? Is he a kid, and if so where are his parents, and if not, why is he so much shorter than his maid? Where did the shop come from? Where did it go? The lack of answers to these questions did not bother my son one bit, but they did leave my husband and I wishing they had put more of that sort of background information into the story.

Pros
Creative
Funny
Spooky monstrous fun without being too scary

Cons
Lack of world building

The bottom line
A fun book for kids who like monsters anytime, but especially for Halloween!

Get it

You can buy The Monsterator for $11.37 on Amazon at time of posting this review. 

I received a free copy of this book for review purposes but received no other compensation for this review.