March 31, 2014

My Favourite Apps for Preschoolers

You can say all you want that children should not be exposed to television, computers, or tablets, but the truth is that we do allow our children to be exposed to these things regardless of what age they are. But if we are going to let them be exposed to those kinds of things we might as well make it worth their while with a little bit of fun on the side. So here are five of my favourite apps that I have downloaded onto my iPad for my son to play with:




1. Endless Alphabet 2. Sound Box 3. Peekaboo Barn 4. Toca Train 5. Bug Builder

Endless Alphabet is fantastic because it is like a puzzle with funny little talking letters that repeatedly makes the sound the letter makes -- "are" for the letter "r" -- until you put it in it's correct spot. Once you have spelled the words there is a little video that shows and talks about the definition of the word. There are really good words to spell, too -- like  "gargle", "cooperate", and "famished". It's a lot of fun.

Sound Box is a great app because it introduces musical instruments and everyday sounds and then allows you to go wild tapping on the screen, making music and having a lot of fun with rhythms and sounds.

Peekaboo Barn is the very first app that I ever downloaded for my son. He loves how the barn interacts with him and how he has to tap on the screen to open the doors to discover what animal is inside. I like that it introduced him to animal sounds and allowed him to have fun while doing it. This app was a favourite for a long time.

I learned about Toca Train from our speech pathologist at work. It is a reward game that she uses with the kids after they complete all of the activities she has for them. It's a fun one because it's an interactive train track. You get to drive the train around town and collect passengers and freight. You even get to choose the speed and blow the whistle. We all know how much children -- and adults -- enjoy trains so it's a lot of fun for them to get to drive the train around.

Bug Builder allows you to create your own bug. You get to colour it, make it hatch from an egg, give it a hat, take care of it, and then snap a photo. Once you have completed that process, it lays an egg for you to help another bug hatch and then you get to design and take care of that bug, and so on and so on until you turn off the app. It's a simple, fun game.


March 26, 2014

The Imperfections of Homemade Bread

It was my dream that when I purchased a stand mixer that I would make some homemade bread. The day that I got my mixer I set to work making this fantastic recipe for homemade bread. It is very yummy bread, and, having never made bread before, it was quite easy to make.



I love the imperfections of homemade bread: the not so slight variations in colour; the bumps along the surface; the dips and lumps from the rising and cooking process. They make it that much more delicious :)



March 24, 2014

Listen, Look, Love: March

Listen:

As soon as this song came on the radio for the first time, I pumped up the volume. It is such a catchy and up-beat song -- which seems to be a trend in my Listen, Look, Love posts. I know that a song is good if it immediately gets my shoulders boppin'.



Look:

This is one oft he first pins that I ever pinned to my Fascination board on Pinterest. That specific board is filled with all of the images that catch my eye or pique my interest. This specific image reminded me of the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and I love looking at it.



Love:

I absolutely love this recipe for chicken nuggets from Six Sisters' Stuff. It is a go too recipe for when I want something simple and fun for supper, and it is sooo delicious -- I usually add a lot more of the spices than it says in the recipe because we like it with a little kick.






March 21, 2014

Symphony Day: Exposing Children to Music

It started when one of the children that I work with was colouring a violin on a piece of paper about the letter "V". She asked me what the stick was next to the guitar. I told her it wasn't a guitar but a violin, and tried to explain how the musician playing the violin used a bow -- the stick -- to make music. She didn't understand at all what I was trying to tell her, so I made it my mission to bring experiences with different instruments to the centre in order to expose the children to different forms of music.


All dressed-up for Symphony Day.

On Wednesday we had an amazing experience at my work. The local symphony orchestra arranges for a small chamber orchestra group to go to schools and teach children about their instruments and the elements of music. We had them come play for us and the children absolutely loved it. The group that I take care of sat nicely in their formal wear and barely wiggled in their seats. A couple of the children even got to experience what it is like to be the conductor and control the musicians with their arm movements. One of them was the little girl that originally asked me about the violin, and it was so amazing to me to see it all come full circle.

To prepare for the performance, we began teaching the children about the families of instruments -- string, brass, percussion and woodwind. We played games to group them all together; we watched videos of performances from the different families on the iPad; we talked about the different instruments that are part of the families; we even talked about the similarities and differences within the families themselves.

We also talked about the emotions behind music, and so I would play music for them on the iPad and they would close their eyes and tell me how they felt while listening to the music or what they imagined while listening to it. They told me some amazing stories like traveling around the planets out in space, fighting with super heroes on a pirate ship, and watching fairies dance in a field of flowers.

Not only did the children enjoy the chamber orchestra, but it was an amazing experience for myself as well. I grew up watching a lot of the musicians perform in the actual symphony orchestra and it was very surreal to see them only a few feet in front of me playing music that I have always loved and was so proud and excited to share with these young children. Some of the children that I work with come from families that don't have the money or interest in symphony music to be able to take their children, and I was so happy that I was able to share a piece of a world that they might not have ever been exposed to. If one of them even grows up to become a musician in the local orchestra, I would be more than happy to see them perform.



March 19, 2014

The Art of a Thank You Note



When I was younger my mom would always get me to write thank you notes to my grandparents after they had sent me a Christmas or birthday gift. It didn't have to be anything really long, just a simple thank you for the gift they had taken time to purchase and send to me and what I had done with it or what I liked about it. 

Over the years I lost touch with the thank you note. I could say that life took over or that I didn't care to write one, but, to tell you the truth, I just forgot about writing them. It wasn't until I started running a business that sells, among other things, thank you cards, that I began writing them again. Here are a few tips that I try to remember when writing a thank you note:

1. Be polite and thoughtful when writing a thank you note. If I receive money I always try to say thank you in a tactful way, and then I let them know how I plan to use it or what I purchased with it if I have already been out shopping. If it is a gift other than money I always thank the person for the specific gift and then say how much I love the colour, how I plan to use it, how I can't wait to wear it, etc.

2. Use beautiful stationery. Write your thank you note on cards or pieces of paper that you are proud to send out in the mail. Stationery that you love and spent a little bit of money on shows that you care about the person you are sending it to a little more than a piece of scrap paper or lined loose leaf. It also shows your appreciation better than something that you just quickly grabbed off of your desk.

3. You can write a thank you note for things other than presents. Writing a thank you note to someone that helped you with something like getting ready the hall ready for a big party is a way to show that person that you really appreciated what that person has done for you, and it is a good way to ensure that they will be willing to help you again.

4. Remember that a simple thank you goes a long way towards showing appreciation and respect. The person that sent you the gift -- be it an actual gift or the gift of their time -- gave up some of their time for you, and to receive a thank you note in the mail is like getting a gift in return.


Snail mail is not dead yet. Let's keep it alive by writing thank you notes!



March 14, 2014

DIY Project: Vintage Book and Mod Podge Side Tables

I was never truly happy with the original re-do of our living room side tables. I always thought they looked like something from a little girl's bedroom, so I decided to re-do the re-do with some Mod Podge and an old German version of Heidi -- I have used this book for other projects.



Because the table has a nice beveled edge around it, I didn't want to cover that part of the table with paper. So I let the pages go over the edge, but I didn't glue them down with the Mod Podge. Once the paper had dried a bit, I trimmed the random pieces of paper sticking off of the sides with a sharp X-Acto knife, and then sealed the edges with more Mod Podge. I was a little worried because there was some bubbling of the paper, but it settled quite nicely once it was dry.

After the Mod Podge had dried, I took the tables out into the garage and sprayed them with a sealer to protect them from any spills that will happen -- I say "will" because I know it's going to happen.

I am so much happier with how this project turned out, and think it is a lot more classy for our living room. I really like how it looks like the pages are just scattered on the tables and I love that I can still see some of the drawings -- I did that on purpose :)


Have a Happy Friday!




March 12, 2014

My 2-Year-Old's Favourite Books


1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7

As the Little Boy has grown, so has his love of books. He has gone from having only a slight interest in what we were reading to him to attempting to interact with the characters in the books and reading the books to himself using his memory. For the last year, these seven books have been among his favourites. Right now the Little Boy is absolutely in love with all things Curious George.

Do your children enjoy some of these books as well? And, if you haven't read any of these books, I highly recommend all of them!


March 10, 2014

Behind the Shop: Items I Can't Live Without

I wanted to share with you today some of the items that I couldn't live without for the shop. The first is the custom stamps made by Hello Donna. I do so much with the little stamp that is my logo. That little guy goes on pretty much everything to do with the shop, and the big stamp is my new business card. I love the handmade quality that it gives my business cards -- which I are the next thing that I can't live without for my shop.

Business cards are one of the best ways to get your business out there. I sometimes like to leave them in random places, and I always put on along with any cards or art prints that are being packaged up -- along with a handwritten thank you note.



While I really couldn't do anything without all of the items that I use in my shop, among the highest ranked in use and need is, of course, the paper and envelopes that I use for my cards -- which has a fascinating history that I'm excited to share with you a little later.

My pens are also incredibly important as I use them to create the little drawings that you see on all of the cards and art prints. They are also used to write on the envelopes that are ready to be shipped out, and sometimes they are used to write the thank you notes when I can't find my regular pen because my husband stole it.



March 05, 2014

Why I Should Be the Host of the 2015 Academy Awards


Because this is how I imagine people accepting their awards.

Dear Academy,

While Ellen did a wonderful job of hosting the 2014 Academy Awards -- the pizza delivery was especially priceless -- I'd like to give you my formal request to be considered as the host for the 2015 Academy Awards. While I myself am not a celebrity, except in my workplace, I believe that I would be the breath of fresh air that the Academy is looking for. Please note the following qualities that I think make me perfect for the job:

1. My day job is to keep a group of preschool children in order, and provide fun activities and opportunities for them to grow as people. On a daily basis, I have to guide young children in learning how to problem solve, resolve differences with other children, and find ways to keep them active and entertained, especially when it is becoming clear that they are getting bored. I think I can keep a few thousand adults in line for a few hours.

2. Which brings me to my next point: I am creative and inventive, which is what I would need to be in order to keep those adults entertained. My plan is to provide activities to keep the energy going, especially during the commercial breaks. There would be all sorts of games and art supplies available -- and smocks, of course, to keep all of their clothes in mint condition. The best thing about all of these activities is that everyone is a winner!

3. It is also good to let you know that I am a plateful of classy with a side of fun -- please note that the above photo is my fun side. I'm not going to lie, I do burp, but I know how to keep it professional. Curse words are not in my vocabulary when on network television, and I have excellent posture while wearing Spanx. My fun side is the part of the meal that everyone looks forward to, like fries. It's the part of me that likes to laugh, tell jokes, and be silly. I should probably mention that this side of me is actually super sized -- I do work with children for a living.

4. I can sing, dance, and act, or at least that's what my elementary music teacher would tell you from my clearly amazing performance as one of the people of the Emerald City in our school's production of The Wizard of Oz. I am known to break out into random song and dance performances be it a popular tune, or one that I've made up about putting on my shoes. While I may not be the next Judy Garland, I can be highly entertaining.

I have learned many things from working with children including the fact that everyone has impossible dreams, but no one has the right to crush them. Everyone that is part of Oscar night has had impossible dreams, and on that special night their dreams are validated despite how many times they have been crushed. Yes, the reasons for my being the next Oscar host may be rather silly, but I'd be lying to myself and you if I didn't say that a little party of me secretly wants to be the host of The Oscars.



March 03, 2014

Moving into March



Spring is a long way off where I live, but it is still exciting to look ahead and plan for the warmer weather. We've already got our Summer vacation in the works, and I have an exciting announcement that I will share with you in the next little while -- it involves Spring, the shop, and a group of extraordinary people.

January and February brought us much excitement with my sister flying in for my Mom's birthday. and her big birthday party celebration with friends and family. The Little Boy finished his toilet training -- minus naps and over-night -- which we were very excited about, and I welcomed my very first KitchenAid mixer into our kitchen. I immediately started making cake, bread and other goodies.

Within less than one month we will have a three-year-old running around our house. It is such a bitter-sweet time to celebrate your child's birthday. Time flies, and when his birthday comes around again it is a reminder of how long it has been. We have enjoyed these first couple of years with him so much, and look forward to what the age of three will bring us.



What are you looking forward to this March?




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