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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Shrek's Puss continues his adventures on the small screen in Netflix Original Series: The Adventures of Puss in Boots


I stood in the doorway chatting with my mom as she got ready to take my kids away for an overnight sleepover. She mentioned there was a new Netflix series she was going to show the girls. "I put it on to check and see if it would be appropriate for them.... and I ended up watching three episodes by myself.", she said with a giggle in her voice. I was puzzled to know just exactly what kid's show was so riveting that my sixty year old mom would get sucked into watching multiple episodes of it solo. The answer, as you can guess from the title of this post, was The Adventures of Puss in Boots.


The series follows the adventures of the Puss in Boots character from the DreamWorks Animation Shrek franchise. I like the Shrek movies, I like Puss, but I was still a bit leery about this show.... like I didn't want to expect too much from it, you know? Spin off shows, particularly when aimed at kids, are often sub par at best. But this didn't disappoint. The animation is top notch.The writing is clever. The humour is sophisticated enough that it appeals to adults as well as children, but with none of the double-entendres I dread having to explain.
Friday, January 30, 2015

PJs & Pancakes: Birthday Party Fun with Fisher Price Little People {plus Pumpkin Pancake Recipe}


Fisher-Price sent me on a mission to check out their new Little People First Birthday site, and I have to say I was impressed. The site is full of so many fun Fisher-Price Little People themed birthday ideas, it's the perfect source for some party inspiration.

Fisher-Price teamed up with professional party planner Nancy Zaretsky to create a bunch of first birthday party themes, complete with coordinating decorations, snacks, printables, and games and activities, all of which you can easily recreate at home, and all inspired by the Little People toys and figures that we all know and love so.

Now everyone in this family is well past their first birthday, but that didn't stop us from having some Fisher-Price style fun. My kids, yes even the seven year old, still love their Little People and play with them frequently. Browsing through Nancy's party planning suggestions I decided a PJs & Pancakes party would be the perfect way to brighten up a dull winter afternoon.


Seriously if I was planning a first birthday party, PJs & Pancakes would be the way to go. I remember how much time my girls spent in their PJs as infants, and how many utterly adorable little pairs of footie PJs they owned. I think the pajama idea makes the whole party low pressure and super cute.

The fact that it was only a faux birthday didn't stop my kids from loving the adorable Little People themed "Happy 1st Birthday" colouring sheets I printed out from the Little People First Birthday microsite. We also printed out and assembled a PJs & Pancakes banner. The kids had fun helping me put it together, the seven year old helped with cutting out triangles while the four year old manned the glue stick. The banner was simple to assemble and the end result looked great. For a real first birthday party, I think this would be a fantastic way to get older siblings involved.


The upside-down-ness of the entire theme delighted my children. They were giddy with excitement at the idea of wearing PJs in the middle of the day, of having pancakes for an early supper, and of me letting them bring the Little People into the normally toy free dining room. I let the girls decorate the room with Fisher-Price Little People. We had Little People hanging out around the bowls of cut fruit and in the bowl of apples, and set next to each place setting at the table. It got me thinking that at a real preschooler party it would be fun to put one Little People at each plate, and have that be a take home gift for the kids to keep.

Instead of a pancake shaped cake I opted for pancakes. I mucked around and created a Pumpkin Pancakes recipe that I would happily have feed to my girls on their first birthdays. Low on sugar and salt, and packed with pumpkin goodness, these thick cake like pancakes, which taste a bit like pumpkin pie, are a relatively healthy treat. My very picky little one asked for seconds and told me she'd like these instead of a cake for her upcoming fifth birthday, so I'm calling them a success. (The recipe's at the end of the post if you want to give them a try).

To go with the pancakes I put out bowls of cut strawberry, oranges and apples. To up the fun level we used cookie cutters to cut star and moon shapes out of the centre of each pancake. The little stars and moons made for a cute decorations to pile on the plates, and my kids were ridiculously excited to eat them.


It's a good thing Little People wash up so great, because syrup, sticky fingers and playing at the dining room table all made for a bit of mess.

Of course what's a good party without tunes? The night before I spent a bit of time search for kids songs and made up a pancakes and PJs themed playlist. Once the pancakes were all gobbled up we cranked the music and had a very energetic pajama dance party. Overall this was super fun way to spend the afternoon together with my girls, and I think we may be having more for-no-real-reason-at-all parties in the future.




Pumpkin Pancakes for Your Little Pumpkin

Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree (aka 1 full 14oz. can)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbs coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
1 tbs maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk

Directions
In a large bowl mix together all dry ingredients, the flour, baking powder and spices. Then add the wet ingredients.

Note that it's easier to mix everything if you've already beaten the eggs before adding them. Also I used coconut oil, but if you don't have that unsalted butter, or any vegetable oil should work.

Mix everything together until it is moist and doughy throughout. Try not to over mix. Now let it sit for about five minutes. The end result is a very thick cake like batter.

Using a large spoon scoop the batter into a preheated frying pan that's been lightly greased with unsalted butter. About two big spoon fulls did the trick for me. Use your spatula to smooth the batter into a pancake shape.  Allow the pancake to cook for 2-3 minutes on medium low. You'll know it's time to flip when the sides of the cake are cooked enough to be solid. Flip and cook for another about another two minutes. Then transfer to a plate and repeat until you've got a stack of very thick cake-like pancakes.

This recipe makes about 8 medium sized pumpkin cakes. These could be made up the earlier in the day, or even the night before, and stored in the fridge, stacked with wax paper between each layer. To reheat simply pop in the frying pan on low until warm throughout. Serve with maple syrup and fresh fruit.


For further party inspiration visit the Fisher-Price Little People First Birthday website.

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Fisher-Price, however, as always, my words and opinions are my own.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Redefining what it means to do something "like a girl"; Join in the @Always #LikeAGirl conversation! {Giveaway}


This Super Bowl Sunday Always is releasing a pared down sixty-second version of their #LikeAGirl commercial. Back in July I discussed at length as to why I loved the full-length video, when I wrote about how we all need to think #LikeAGirl.

I want to invite you to join in the conversation. Use the hashtag #LikeAGirl & tag @Always to take a stand and show young girls everywhere that we can make “like a girl” mean amazing things! Let's work together to redefine the meaning of "like a girl" from something negative to something awesome. Let's talk about why being a girl rocks. Tell people what you are proud of doing #LikeAGirl, and help inspire girls everywhere.

Here's a sneak peek at the condensed version of the ad which will air during the Super Bowl:

And as a small bonus incentive, if you head over to Twitter and tell the world what you think "like a girl" means or should mean and then come back here and share the link via the Rafflecopter form below you'll be entered to win a $40 Always prize pack which includes a very cool #LikeAGirl t-shirt.

How My Husband Broke the Bathroom and My Home Renovation Epiphany


My husband broke the bathroom. I went out of town overnight, and when I got back I came home to a mess. Our bathroom has double sinks, but for whatever reason we usually only use the one sink the one which is closest to the toilet. The other sink, which has been in a dinged up state since we first moved in, usually has my make-up bag laying in it, maybe a used towel, a stray pair of socks.

I knew something was up before I left. The "we-use-it-all-the-time" sink had been draining slowly. I had removed the stopper and used a chopstick to pull up tufts of matted hair and soap scum. It still wasn't draining right. So I carefully poured the bright kool-aid blue "all natural enzyme based" drain cleaner the plumber had sold us on after his last visit, left it sitting over night, ran piping hot water, and plunged at it over and over. My arms were sore from pushing the plunger up and down, and water had sloped over the sides into a mess of puddles, but it still wasn't draining right.

I decided I'd worry about it when I got back. I went away for a few days and when I returned I found a broken light fixture sitting in my sink. The light fixture broke a few months back when my husband was bravely trying to slay a wasp that had snuck into our bathroom. You remember that day when I was swarmed by wasps while attempting to mow the lawn? Well I brought a few stragglers in with me when I ran screaming for the house. And my husband tried to take them out by waving a towel at them, and ended up whipping the towel into the bathroom light fixture and breaking it. Of course the light fixture was left sitting on the bathroom counter while I tried to decide if it was repairable.... and ended up staying there as a semi-permanent fixture... perfectly normal, right? Now, three months later, as I walked into the bathroom I noticed the light fixture had moved from it's previous "right in the middle of the counter" spot and was instead sitting at the bottom of the sink.

My husband noticed me walking into the bathroom and hollered out in warning, "The light fixture is there to remind everyone to not use the sink." He followed it up with a sheepish, "I think you need to call a plumber". When I asked why he told me there was a hole in the pipe. When I asked why there was a hole in the pipe he told me he has pretty sure he'd drilled through it, on accident, with the coat hanger. When I asked why he was drilling into our pipe with a coat hanger he told me it was because the extra strength Drain-o hadn't been working fast enough.

From what I could reconstruct he was annoyed with how slowly the sink was draining so he poured Drain-o down the hole and when that didn't produce immediate results he jury rigged an "eel" out of an old metal coat hanger. He bent the hanger until it was straight and then wiggled it down the hole, when it met resistance he rolled the rod back and forth between his hands, drilling down, and right through the pipe. The stagnant water and chemical crap then poured out through the hole, coating my children's bath toys and soaking the various bathroom staples I had stored under there. He put a towel in the cupboard to mop up the mess and then shut the door and left it for me to take care of when I got back.

Everything in the cupboard needed to be tossed out, including the still damp chemical soaked towel and my kids rubber ducky collection. I may have growled when my husband complained that I was being silly and wasteful, as I tossed out Always pads that had been stewing in Drain-o scented sludge for two days. I muttered, and alternated between wishing he just hadn't touched it and wondering why he couldn't call a plumber and get it fixed while I was gone. And then I did the sensible thing, I told everyone to just use the other sink. I fished the kids hair ties and the spare tooth brush out of the bowl, gave it a quick wipe down, and turned on the taps. It took a moment for the long unused faucet to sputter into life, but water did come pouring out and drained promptly away. There. Problem solved.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Great Canadian Giveaway Link-Up ~ Week of Jan.29th


Welcome to the The Great Canadian Giveaway Link-Up 
This is a weekly link-up, with a new linky published every Thursday (often up by Wednesday night).
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Answer to my How to Find Decent Kids Books Conundrum {plus a GIVEAWAY}


We have overflowing bookcases peppered throughout the house. There are book everywhere. Paper backs, hardcovers, new books, a hundred and twenty year old books, cheap books, rare books, novels and picture books; books, books, books. All of which is to say I am a sucker for books. I love books, and I love reading,

I never really stopped loving children's books. There's this quote I adore, it's from Tam Lin by Pamela Dean, in which someone asks the main character about her children's book collection;
"Do you read children's books?"
"I'm afraid so, I started when I was young, you know, and never got out of the habit."

Passing that love on to my kids has been of prime importance to me from day one. I figure if I can do just this one thing, get them hooked on loving books as I do, then I'll have done my job here. Plus sharing books with kids is just plain fun.

I love reading with my girls. I love our bedtime storytime rituals and I love the fifteen times a day my little one asks me to read her a picture book (even when it's often the same picture book fifteen times in a row). However picking out which books to buy for my kids... well, that part can be somewhat harrowing. Yes, every kid needs a copy of the Paperbag Princess and Where the Wild Things Are, L Frank Baum's Oz books are another must, as are C.S Lewis's Narnia series, and Wilder's Little House Books. But what the heck do you pick once you venture outside of the classics?

I'm not saying there aren't great contemporary kids books being published, there most certainly are. But there are also what feels like an endless infinity of crappy books for children out there. When I stand in the book store I often feel like I am lost at sea, adrift in shelf after shelf of, at best, mediocrity. And in my opinion the worst of the worst, the real dregs of the kids book section, is the licensed stuff. If there is a character from some kids cartoon on the cover I'm willing to bet money the book is a stinker.


Then I found a solution to my kid-book-finding problem: Barefoot Books. When I was first introduced to Barefoot Books I was a bit leery, as I'm not really keen on that whole house party sales shtick. The thing is, when the product is this awesome I'm willing to overlook the whole party-marketing thing. Because these books are consistently fantastic. My kids love them, I love them. We own dozens of Barefoot Books and I've yet to run into a stinker. No gimmicky licensed crap here. Just words artfully put together with illustrations that run the gamut from simple and stylized to breathtaking.

So when my friend Kim became a Barefoot Books consultant I was actually excited. Go figure, me excited about one of my friends becoming a party-hostess style consultant. However in this case you can shop online via their website and get it shipped directly to your home, no party silliness required. Over the past year or so my kids have accumulated quite the pile of Barefoot Books, and I've never hosted a party, virtual or otherwise.


There are classics to be found here, fairy and folk tales, some popular and well know, and some perhaps more exotic, there are picture books, and chapter books, books designed for those learning to read and board books for babies. Many of the books include a CD. With any of the CD ones we've listened to the quality of the narration has been consistently outstanding.

Physically the books are well produced, the binding  and the paper quality is top notch. The books are sturdy and well made, and hold up to little hands reading them, turning the pages a little less than gently, tossing them on the floor or stacking them in odd configurations on the bookcase.

We love our Barefoot Books. These are books that my kids love, which I love reading and sharing with them. I will admit I'm not crazy about reading the "song" books out loud (think Wheels on the Bus or Over in the Meadow) but my kids adore them and the accompanying singalong CD gives me a chance to let someone else do the reading/singing.

DEAL ALERT
Over the next few weeks I'm going to post a detailed review or two of some of our favourite Barefoot books. In the meantime you want to hurry over and check out the huge Winter sale they have going on right now (up to 60% off, ends Feb.2nd).

And if you've ever thought about becoming a Barefoot Books Associate now is the time! The pile-of-books "starter kit" you get when you become a consultant has a $300 value. Normally they charge $139.99 for the kit, right now it is on sale for $99(USD). $300 value for $99, pile of gorgeous books, and the opportunity to earn money by sharing books with others. Yeah, even house-party hating me is tempted. My friend Kim has a few spots open for new consultants to join her team, CLICK HERE to check out the sign up page.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Planning Your Spring Cleaning


It’s almost that time of year again, time to give the house a good old fashioned spring clean! Most of us are not fans of this annual task, but with a bit of planning you can make it feel like less of a chore. I find it easiest to make a list of what needs to be done and then work on one room at a time rather than moving from room to room doing small tasks. This means I have evidence that what I’m doing is working which keeps me motivated to carry on.

Before you start, make sure you have all of the cleaning products you will need, go for non-toxic products that won’t be a danger to your kids. Make sure you use different cloths for different surfaces to avoid spreading bacteria around the house. Set aside specific time to devote to your spring clean and then go for it!

Image credit: stephcarter


A few tips:

Make your windows sparkle, the sun is out so make the most of it! Give them a good wash inside and out to remove any dirt that has accumulated on them over the winter, a small amount of washing up liquid will help to give them that extra shine. Once those windows are squeaky clean, open them regularly to prevent mould and damp in the house.

Don’t forget to flip that mattress, you can freshen it up by sprinkling baking soda onto it, let it sit for a short time and then vacuum it up.

Clear some space! Organise your closet and remove any old or unwanted clothing, donate any suitable items to charity shops. This will free up more space for storing things properly. Similarly, go through your kitchen and bathroom cabinets and get rid of out of date cans of food and medicines. Not only will you create more space but it can be bad for your health if you take/eat these items.

It’s not only inside the house that needs a spring clean, your outdoor areas will also need a spruce up. Clean your deck or patio up, pressure washers are perfect for this job and a quick and easy way to remove dirt and mildew. Take your outdoor furniture out of storage and clean it well so that it is ready to use for those evening BBQs.

Finally, don’t be daunted by the amount of work you need to do, many of the jobs will be small ones and you’ll be glad you took the time to do them. Enlist help from your friends and family if it all seems a bit too much and remember that your hard work will make your home a happy, clean and efficient space again!
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About Me ~ Maple Leaf Mommy



Hi, I'm , a Canadian stay at home mom to two rambunctious little girls.
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