Homemade Holidays: Three-Dimensional Picture Ornaments

I am good at following instructions and I sometimes will make variations on the original but very rarely do I experience true inspiration.  Several years ago I was walking through the craft store when I saw papier mache ornaments and I immediately knew what I wanted to do.  At a dollar a piece I picked up several and set my plan to work, making ornaments for us, for the grandparents, for the cousins, and for a close friend.

It was so simple to do and it cost practically nothing to make.

I use Word to size the photos I wanted to use, cropping out extraneous stuff. There is probably a better way to do it but I needed to do something cheap and fast the year I started these and have stuck with what works.  I printed it in black and white to accommodate for the differences in light and colour in each of them.  Then it was just a matter of cutting, fitting, and glueing the pieces together.  I have used both ModPodge and white glue on this project and they both work.  It's best to do a clear coat over the whole thing to protect it, especially since I find ModPodge stays a little tacky long after it dries.

We're rather minimalist but it would be so easy to adorn these and make them flashier. Add beads, glitter, colour, anything!

The Grandparents love seeing those cute smiling faces on their trees. The boys are completely enraptured by seeing their younger selves. I love that there are photos on all sides -- flat ornaments make me twitch a little. When the ornament spins, or when we look at them from any angle, there's a cute face smiling back at me.

I have concluded that I must do an ornament a year for the boys, capturing the highlights and growth of each year. (But I'll get caught up in January.)

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Review: Letters from Vancouver Island

Every year I know that at least one of my gifts will be late. It doesn't matter how early in the year I start planning, something will be late. I am getting better. This year all the presents were either made or purchased in time, and I am proudly sending out New Year's cards.

So if you've got someone for whom you haven't yet shopped, consider a monthly art subscription. Janelle Hardy, a Canadian artist, has begun a monthly subscription titled Letters from Vancouver Island, wherein she sends via snail mail, a real, honest-to-goodness, handwritten letter, illustrated. Not only has letter-writing become a lost art, but to have a monthly infusion of love and nature and art in your mailbox is such a beautiful inspiration to improve your day.

I have known Janelle for years and have always been inspired by her ability to find beauty everywhere and create art out of anything. Each piece she creates is unique and has been imbued with a piece of her lovely soul. It is a delight to peer into her creative process.

A subscription to Janelle's monthly letters would make such a delightful gift for the art-lover in your life, or even for yourself. And best of all, as a gift that keeps on giving it won't matter that you didn't make the purchase until you could count down to Christmas on your fingers.

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I received no compensation for this post nor was I asked to write it. (Don't worry, I'll tell her I talked about her.)
I have received a couple of letters from Janelle by virtue of our friendship.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This post has been written in my own words.


Review and Giveaway: The Peculiar Tales of the S. S. Bungalow

I have a confession to make: I don't think pushing pirates on kids is adorable. I think adventure is adorable, and treasure hunts, and mysterious islands, but I don't like pirates, they are the bad guys in history. I know this is an unpopular position.

It is therefore with such pleasure that I discovered "The Peculiar Tales of the S. S. Bungalow" because it combined all the things I love about the pirate trend without the pirates. (I won't say without bad guys entirely, but the story also includes redemption and forgiveness, which I thought was an especially nice touch.)

This two-disc delight tells the story of Sleepytime Greg, a narcoleptic fisherman who stumbles upon a treasure map and embarks on a journey that will change his life. Along the way he and his mates learn important life lessons including the value of sleep and keeping a tidy ship. The first CD includes narration between each song. The second CD is music only, allowing the listener to recall the facts and embellish them a little, following sea-story traditions.

The music is varied in style, the lyrics are clever and thoughtful, the performance are tight and wonderful. There's even one song which contains no words and is a simple piano solo for which I'd like to find the sheet music -- what a fun recital piece that would be! I enjoyed this album so much I carried on with the story even when the kids weren't in the car with me.

This album is great to play in the house for an afternoon of snacks and crafts, but it would be even better on a road trip. There's more than just adventure in those seas, there's joy. Pick this up and travel with your family, we're taking our copy on our next road trip.

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One lucky reader will win "The Peculiar Tales of the S. S. Bungalow" CD!
US residents only, please.
~enter after the jump!~
I received this album free of charge for the purpose of this review.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This review is my opinion and has been written in our own words.
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Review: HERBTHEORY: Hair, Skin and Nails

Have you ever wanted to look in the mirror and think..."gosh I just love my hair"? It is possible, It is. About a month ago I started using HerbTheory Hair, Skin and Nail supplements and since then I have seen much improvement not only with my hair but my skin and nails as well.

   My hair is normally wavy, frizzy and outright unruly but since starting my HerbTheory
supplements I have noticed that it is much calmer, stronger and shinier. My nails are growing faster and my skin looks and feels more supple and bright. My skin was suffering from breakouts due from the change in weather and since starting the supplements my breakouts have pretty much disappeared.

So why should you choose HerbTheory supplements over others? 

HerbTheory products are naturally gluten freehealthy, non-GMO sustainable and eco-friendly line of herbal supplements that not only help give us all a little boost but also provide solutions to many women's and men's health issues like sleep deprivation, stress, menopause, detox, postnatal slim, weight management, heart and LDL, blood glucose, eye health and more.

HerbTheory's mission is simple – give consumers the healthiest alternative in supplementing their lifestyle with effective yet naturally made herbal supplements. With an “East Meets West” philosophy in mind, HERBTHEORY combines modern technologies and these time-tested formulas to create superior natural and synergistic products.  ALL products are naturally gluten free, wildcrafted, healthy, safe, non-GMO, sustainable and eco-friendly.
HerbTheory's line is broken down into Women's Series (featuring products for hair, skin and nails, postnatal slim, fertility and more), Men's Series (featuring male fertility and prostate health), Boost Series (featuring detox and weight management) and Solution Series (featuring eye care, stress and sleep and more).   
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I received this item free of charge for the purpose of this review.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.


Review: Busch Gardens Williamsburg Christmas Town 2014

  There is no place like Busch Gardens' Williamsburg, VA for the Holidays. 

This year my family and I experienced Busch Garden's for the very first time (read my review here). We had a great time this summer exploring the park, eating the delicious food and riding some terrific rides. I also would like to mention that I rode the Griffon roller coaster and survived. I have been on many roller coasters but the Griffon has to be the most frightening one I have ever been on. So, if you LOVE roller coasters you MUST visit Busch Gardens. We had so much this summer, my family and I decided to come back and experience Busch Garden's Christmas Town

If you've never been to Busch Gardens' before the park is divided up into different countries; England, Germany, New France, France, Ireland, Scotland, and Italy. The park even features a Wild Animal Reserve where you can see wolves, eagles, and other various animals. The park is gorgeous--and I  love just walking around to admire the scenery.

Since it was our first time at Christmas Town we didn't really know what to expect. Upon arriving we realized that many of the rides we rode this past summer were closed leaving a very select few open (which is understandable in the chilly weather--). My husband and I were shocked at just how crowded it was (and we went the weekend before Thanksgiving!). We were glad we were rather familiar with the park after visiting in the summer so we could get around rather easily. We were hoping to take our children to see Santa but the line was so long we would have wasted most of our day, so we decided to visit the Ice Palace instead. The Ice Palace at Busch Gardens contains real live penguins being fed in enclosed areas. Our eight year old (who is a animal lover) loved seeing the cute penguins eating fish and waddling around happily. After we left we happened upon some Clydesdale horses who we got to pet. In my opinion, Clydesdale are the quintessential Holiday horses and it was so fun to get up close to them....I never
realized just how large they are! Afterwards, we took our time strolling through the park while sipping on delicious Busch Gardens' Hot Chocolate. We loved viewing the more than EIGHT Million lights and listening to the beautiful traditional Holiday music-sung in different languages throughout the park.  We ended our night with a few rides (including a rather chilled ride on the Battering Ram) and a nice hot dinner at Trappers Smokehouse.

We didn't have much time to shop so I would love to go back and do some shopping--everything looked so lovely (especially the handcrafted jewelry that was sold in Italy). 

It was a fun and festive night and a great way to welcome the 2014 Holiday Season!

Busch Gardens' Christmas Town 2014 is open select days through December 31st.

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Review: Chuggington: Snow Rescue

Chuggington: Snow Rescue just released to DVD on December 9th from Anchor Bay Entertainment and Ludorun. This all new winter collection is a must-have for your little conductor this holiday season! 

    My almost four year old son is a HUGE fan of Chuggington. He often walks around our house singing the theme song--"chugga chugga chugga". He was thrilled when I put on the latest Chuggington DVD: Snow Rescue. The DVD features all the beloved characters Wilson, Koko and Brewster. They are all getting ready making preparations for the Parade of Lights Festival in Chuggington. They are adorning themselves with glowing lights but when freezing fog traps Koko and a snowy avalanche derails Fletch, that's when Wilson and the Chug Patrol must set out on a winter rescue. This collection features five Chugginton specials (including the all-new Snow Rescue Special airing for the first time this fall on Disney Junior). Added bonuses include new character montages and coloring sheets. I love that my son learns great lessons from Chuggington including working together as a team, keeping safe and being responsible. The show is very well done and I really enjoy watching it with my son. The bright colors, CGI animation and friendly characters are sure to keep your little one's imagination chug...chug....chugging away!

Episodes included are:
Snow Rescue Special
Iron Chuggers
Deputy Chug Patrollers
Movie Maker Brewster
Toot’s Tall Tale

Special Features:
Bonus Badge Quest Episode: Wilson Winter Feed
New Character Montages: Fletch, Cormac and Tyne
Coloring and Activity Sheets (DVD-ROM)

CHUGGINGTON: Snow Rescue has a run time of 64 minutes.

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I received this item free of charge for the purpose of this review.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.


Review: "Why'd They Wear That?"

My eight year old daughter is currently in love with anything fashion related. So much in fact that she wants to start taking sewing lessons so that she can make her own clothes. When I heard that Sarah Albee and National Geographic Kid's were releasing a book called 'Why'd They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History' I knew my daughter would be very interested in reading it. My daughter absolutely loves to read and learn about history...you add in fashion and you've got the perfect book for her. 

    Each chapter focuses on a different major period of world history. From the invention of needles made from woolly mammoth tusks to the evolution of armor to modern-day bulletproof vests. Of course, the evolution of fashion wouldn't be complete without mentioning the politics, class hierarchies, religion and economics of the time. The photos are fun and engaging and colorful sidebars answer questions that kid's may have (that aren't easily answered by us non-fashion designer parents) such as; how did people keep clothes on before zippers or buttons were invented? How did soldiers go to the bathroom when wearing their armor? and more. Pictures, artifacts and paintings also help illustrate the concepts in every chapter. This book is perfect for young and old who love fashion, history or just love learning new things. Of course no fashion book would be complete without a foreword by "Project Runway"...'MAKE IT WORK!' Tim Gunn. 

About National Geographic Kids

   National Geographic Kids inspires young adventurers to explore the world through award-winning magazines, books, apps, games, toys, videos, events and a website, and is the only kids brand with a world-class scientific organization at its core. National Geographic Kids magazine (10 issues per year) and National Geographic Little Kids magazine (six issues per year) are photo-driven publications available on newsstands or by subscription in print and on tablets. The award-winning website kids.nationalgeographic.com excites kids about the planet through games, videos, contests, photos, quizzes and blogs about cultures, animals and destinations. National Geographic Kids Books is the leading nonfiction publisher with 60 titles each year, including The New York Times best-seller “Kids Almanac.” National Geographic Kids safely engages kids to learn through digital play in the virtual animal world of Animal Jam. National Geographic Kids apps bring the best of National Geographic Kids to smartphones and tablets.

About Sarah Albee

   The New York Times best-selling author Sarah Albee has written more than 100 books for kids, ranging from preschool through middle grade. She enjoys writing about topics where history and science connect, including “Bugged: How Insects Changed History” (Walker/Bloomsbury, 2014) and “Poop Happened: A History of the World from the Bottom Up” (Walker/Bloomsbury, 2010). When she isn’t writing books or visiting schools in person or via Skype, Albee enjoys blogging about offbeat history at http://sarahalbeebooks.com and contributing to the Interesting Nonfiction for Kids “Nonfiction Minute” (http://www.nonfictionminute.com).

About Tim Gunn

   Tim Gunn is a renowned fashion consultant, television personality, actor and author. He has served as the chair of fashion design at Parsons New School for Design as well as chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne. He is well known as the chief mentor to designers on the hit reality television series “Project Runway” and the headliner of spinoff shows “Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style” and “Under the Gunn.” He is also the author of “A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style” as well as “Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet.”

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Post: Christmas with HoneyBaked Ham


     HoneyBaked is where I go for my Christmas Ham (their #1 selling item) year after year. No other Ham can quite compare to a HoneyBaked Ham. HoneyBaked Hams are slow smoked and glazed by hand in a crunchy sugary glaze by a Master Glazer. If you aren't a lover of Ham, HoneyBaked also offers whole turkeys that are oven roasted or smoked. I prefer white meat so I normally purchase Honeybaked sliced and glazed turkey breast. The turkey breast is moist and so flavorful. 

HoneyBaked also has the following Heat and Share sides to choose from; Stuffing, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Cinnamon Apples, Macaroni and Cheese, Green Bean Casserole, Broccoli Rice Casserole, Sweet Potato Souffle, Stuffing and Potatoes Au Gratin and turkey gravy!

Seasonal pies vary by location but my local HoneyBaked location had Rum Cake, Pumpkin Coffee Cake, Sweet Potato Pie and a cheesecake sampler available. 
I love not having to stress about Holiday meals and that I am able to rely on HoneyBaked for a delicious meal (no matter what time of year). 

My Review
    I went in my local HoneyBaked store in Fairfax, VA. Once there, I decided to purchase a HoneyBaked Ham along with garlic mashed potatoes, turkey gravy and a petite collection of Rum Cakes in a variety of flavors. The Ham was absolutely delicious-moist, full of flavor with that delicious sugary coating which my whole family loves. The garlic mashed potatoes were the perfect texture and the garlic flavor was perfect--not too strong. I absolutely loved the turkey gravy with the ham and potatoes-the gravy was peppery and gave the potatoes and ham an extra kick of flavor. My picky kids ate everything on their plates and asked for seconds. We ended our delicious meal with petite rum cakes in  Vanilla, Coconut, Chocolate and Cinnamon Pecan Streusel flavors. My favorite of the cakes was the coconut while my husband preferred the pecan streusel. I am so happy we have a HoneyBaked so close to our home--it makes the Holidays less stressful and our bellies filled with delicious food!

From now until 1/11/15 you can enter to win a $25,000 HoneyBaked Kitchen Makeover when you buy a Ham and Turkey Breast bundle.

Check out this limited time coupon for $7.00 off any Sliced and Glazed Whole Turkey and 4lb Quarter Ham (Or Larger) from HoneyBaked Ham to help you make your holiday dinner easy and delicious! 

 (Offer Valid at Participating Retail Locations: Forestville, Silver Spring, Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fields Ertel, Beechmont, Kenwood, Colerain, Florence, Salem, Centerville, Sawmill Road, McNaughten, Louisville, Lexington, Fern Creek, Glendale, Paradise Valley, Superstition, Tucson East, Tucson North, Overland Park, Independence, Barry Road, Norristown, Parma, Willoughby, Rocky River, Strongsville, Maple Heights, Canton, Fairlawn and Chapel Hill.)
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I received these item free of charge for the purpose of this review.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.


Review: My Little Pony 'The Complete Series'

      Growing up in the 1980's my sister and I watched My Little Pony (Generation 1)....which was very different from this generation's My Little Pony (Generation 4). 

My own daughter absolutely loves My Little Pony (Generation 4) but I was anxious to have her watch the My Little Pony I grew up with...just to see if she liked it. I was so excited when My Little Pony: The Complete Series was released on DVD on September 30 of this year in the U.S. and Canada from Shout! Factory Kids in collaboration with Hasbro Studios. The DVD contains all 65 original episodes from the 1980's in their original format. 

This series is set in the beautiful country of Dream Valley (Ponyland). Ponies are divided into earth ponies, unicorns, sea ponies, baby sea ponies, flutter poniesand Pegasus ponies. All are magical and each of them is identified by the small picture on their side. Also in Ponyland are Spike (a baby dragon), Moochick (a magician) the Buschwoolies, Grundles and more. The ponies' have a human friend, a young girl named Megan who is brought to Ponyland to help them during a dark time (when villains threaten Dream Valley). She continues to visit and is soon joined by her brother Danny and sister Molly who help the ponies as well. The show teaches lessons about love, kindness and bravery and also features original songs.

Talk about a trip through time. Watching these episodes with my daughter has been so much fun. The characters are exactly how I remember them being and it has been so fun watching my daughter discover a different generation of My Little Pony almost 25 years later! My Little Pony 'The Complete Series' would make a wonderful gift or stocking stuffer for the My Little Pony fan in your life. 
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I received this product free of charge for the purpose of this review.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.


Review: Old Factory Candles

Even though I don't drink it, I love the smell of coffee. There is nothing quite like the smell of a coffeehouse with the sweet aroma of coffee beans floating through the air. 

Being the candle lover that I am....I recently discovered a new candle company, Old Factory Candles. Old Factory Candles are made in the USA with natural soy wax and self-trimming cotton candle wicks. Old Factory Candles knows you will love their candles so much that every purchase is 100% guaranteed. What this means is if you aren't completely thrilled with the fragrance or appearance of the candles you can send them back to the company (at their expense) and they will give you a FULL refund. A company that stands behind itself 100% I love it already!

I was able to review a Old Factory Candle Gift Set in Coffee Shop which comes with three fragrance-themed candles. The candles I received were Coffee Bean, Hazelnut and Chai Tea. The candles come nicely packaged in a gift box (perfect for gift giving) and smell amazing! The jar design is subtle making it perfect for any decor in any room of the house. I burned the Coffee Bean and the Hazelnut together and when my friends walked in they asked if we were making coffee--thats just how real these candles smell! Each of the candles burn clean for over 20 hours making your house smell deliciously fragrant. These candles would be perfect for a housewarming gift, stocking stuffers or a gift for yourself. 

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I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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