Monday, December 14, 2015

Winter Projects With Older Nieces and Nephews: Clever Paper's Intriguing Paper Buildings

I can be guilty of being too attached to my electronic devices. The kids on the other hand seem to live on them!

I remember having a bunch of kids over during one of the many power outages I get and it was as if the apocalypse happened! Luckily, I tend to have all sorts of activities for power outages.

One thing I started collecting are these 3D paper buildings by Clever Paper. These paper building activity kits have been such a hit to my nephews and nieces. No glue or scissors necessary, just an active imagination! Here are a few of my favorites:

This Paper Doll House has a really vintage look about it. It's decorated inside and out. This is really cool, it opens up and closes for convenient storage. I don't have this one yet, but I know that if I told my nieces I was going to grab my doll house they would never expect an antique styled paper doll house!

I really like the Stable with Figures .It will make a very good addition to my already awesome medieval village. This one also has nine figures and horses, so it's more than just a model.

My nephews love the Knight's Castle with Figures! It includes two squads with fifty-three figures with foam stands. It's a very intricate model, with a stairway and beautifully painted hallways. You can open and close it up so it's easy to store and take out. It measures 11 x 10 x 16.5, so it's pretty large!

I think that the Playing Toys Windmill has a lot of character! I would love to get this one for my collection. This one also includes a few characters dressed in historical outfits!

This Town Wall with Figures would be cool to have. This includes eleven figures with foam stands. All I would be missing in a moat and some watch towers.

These sets are incredibly clever gifts, but also great activities. Half of the time the kids forget they don't have their phones or video games when the lights have been back on for hours!

Let me know what you think of Clever Paper's 3D paper models below in the comments.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Adorable Cartoon Mattresses for Auntie's House

Sometimes when a young niece or nephew spends the night at Auntie's house for the first time, they might be nervous or anxious. Even if they are super excited to see Auntie and have a full action-packed day of exciting events and naughty sugary foods, bedtime is a different story. It's not unusual to suddenly out of the blue hear a tearful, "Where's Mommy?"

I have children sleep over often enough that I might have to outfit one of my guest rooms in fun decor specifically for the kids to enjoy. These Coosplay anime and cartoon mattresses are surely tempting me!

Aww Doraemon! Such a classic series and full of great morals! This Doraemon Bed can be used as a sofa bed, double size bed, or even a sleeping bag. The measurements for Doraemon is 79"x71". The inner padding is washable which for children is incredibly nice. The inside is 20% cotton and 80% polyester. I may know who this is because I'm old, but my nieces and nephews likely won't know who this blue robo-kitty is. Still, they might find it cute and enjoy sleeping here.

Out of all Coosplay's beds, this one is my favorite. The Totoro Bed is absolutely adorable. This bed is based on Hayao Miyazaki's classic "My Neighbor Totoro." It is about two little girls meeting a lovable creature named Totoro and going on a long adventure. In my opinion, it is the best Miyazaki movie for little ones. The Totoro bed is 90" x 69" and can be used as a sleeping bag, twin bed, or sofa bed. The fabric is made with 100% polyester and the inside is 80% polyester and 20% cotton.

Everyone's favorite little alien Stitch, from Lilo and Stitch, now comes in bed form! The Stitch Bed is 74"x 64" and made with the same materials as the previous beds. This cute, fuzzy, blue, animal would be so fun to have at the house!

Another favorite of mine is the Hello Kitty Bed ! It measures 79" x 71" and is made out of 20% cotton and 80% polyester on the inside. My nieces would absolutely fall in love with this bed. In fact, they would probably beg their mother to stay at my house! The only problem is, my nephews would hate it. It might be comfy and welcoming, I just don't think they would want to have a Hello Kitty bed. This is why the last one might be the winner!

The Minion Bed would be a really fun addition to my guest room! I think the kids would love the Minion the most and I wouldn't have to worry about displeasing my nephews or my nieces. The Minion bed is 79" x 71" and is made with 80% polyester and 20% cotton.

All of these beds are pretty handy because I wouldn't have to decorate my whole guestroom accordingly, I could pack this up and use it during the times I get the kids! Or it could be used in the living room and we could have a movie camp out night!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Small, Quick and Festive LEGO Projects for Snow Days

Because I work at home and have a flexible schedule, it's often up to me to entertain little people when school is out for a Snow Day. Often the schools close due to bus safety issues, but the parents can still get to work. So probably two or three times per winter I have a houseful of overly excited nieces and nephews for a schoolday or two in a row.

I do like to get the little guys outside in the snow and play around to burn off that "school's out!" energy. But there's only so many hours you can spend out in the cold, and only so much hot cocoa you want to feed them to warm them up. Eventually you're going to end up indoors with a houseful of kids who are excited to spend time with you. This is why I stock up on craft projects, puzzles and things we can do together.

I don't want to sit around watching movies or cartoons with them all day, and I (purposely) don't own a video game platform. We generally don't have a ton of time (or attention span) to devote to a bigger building project. So I have picked up a few of these smaller LEGO kits to keep on hand. (They're also nice to tuck into your suitcase and bring with you if you are a Visiting Auntie this holiday season).

The LEGO Reindeer has 139 pieces. He comes with an immensely silly red cap you can put on his head.

I'm not sure the LEGO Christmas rocking horse is all that thrilling. But it has something going for it: it's only 49 pieces. Maybe a nice idea if you have an under-five-year-old niece or nephew who needs a simpler set to put together with you.

This bagged "Decorating the Tree" set looks pretty fun. Its 110 pieces include two figures, some presents, and a little ladder for the minifig.

Here's my favorite - the LEGO Snowman! I especially like this because I can put him together with some Jewish friends' children - he's wintry, not necessarily Christmasy.

"Santa's Visit" has 167 pieces, so it's best for a long afternoon, or perhaps a pre-movie winter's evening. Note: If you pretend to be the kitty and talk in a silly voice, demanding Santa bring you catnip and put coal in the dog's stocking, your youngest nieces and nephews will probably think you are the most hilarious person ever.

Can't you picture yourself sitting around your breakfast nook table, steaming mugs of cocoa on hand, putting together one of these sets with a table full of happy nieces and nephews?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

LEGO's Seasonal Thanksgiving Feast Set

If you're traveling to visit a family with small children over Thanksgiving, I highly recommend bringing this Thanksgiving Feast seasonal LEGO set for the kids. (It's recommended for ages 7 and up). You could probably win lots of bonus points by helping them put it together, keeping the kids busy in the other room so the cook and hosts can attend to their chores more easily!

The set has 158 piece and comes with Grandma and Grandpa figures. There's a turkey on a cart, a kitchen scene, a pie, an apple, and other festive accessories.

How to Really Piss Off Your Brother or Sister

What would happen if you gave your nieces and nephews giant candy bars and huge boxes of candy? Would your sibling (or their spouse) kill you? Would being Best Aunt in the World (in the kiddos' estimation) be worth the grief and yelling your sibling might throw your way? :)

Check out the It's Sugar shop's Giant Candy section:

Giant 5LB Hershey Bar

Also available on Amazon.

Giant Reese's Pieces

Also sold on Amazon.

World's Largest Box of Nerds Candy

The World's Largest Box of Nerds is also sold on Amazon.

The shop also sells giant boxes of Airheads, Mike & Ikes, Hot Tamales, Twizzlers, and lots of 5 pound gummy bears.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Woven Backyard Swings - Delightful Fun or Too Dangerous?

With no playgrounds in walking distance of my home, I'm tempted to put up a piece or two of playground equipment. I don't see my nieces and nephews often enough to warrant a full on, expensive, yard-hogging playset. But I'm tempted by something like this Sky Island from Hearthsong. It looks fun, but perhaps a bit dangerous. It holds up to 400 pounds. I wonder if anybody can bang their head on the poles?

The Hearthsong Sky Island is also available via Amazon.

Magic Cabin sells a similar, smaller swing: Rainbow Weaver Swing. It holds up to 225 pounds worth of kids.

Do you have any experience with backyard toys like these?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Do Your Nephews and Nieces Like This Weird Cookie Mix?

I spotted this Betty Crocker cookie mix on the shelf today at Target. I was simultaneously horrified and intrigued.

Apparently this came out last autumn and I missed it somehow.

I have a bacon-loving nephew who would love to try this; and another who would refuse since he likes "real bacon" not "bacon flavor." As a vegetarian, it's not safe for me to try these cookies since they actually have pieces of bacon in them.

Still, I think it's pretty cool that Betty Crocker had the balls to make and sell these!

Here's a video of people baking cookies made with this mix:


Betty Crocker Limited Edition Maple Bacon and Candy Corn Mix (The Impulsive Buy)

Betty Crocker Maple Bacon Cookies Review (The Retail Judge)

Betty Crocker Maple Bacon and Candy Corn Frostings Reviewed (Baking Bites)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

My Favorite Shops: Zooble

Jessica's darling shop is based in Vermont. She sells colorful, fanciful storybook toys.

There are fairy castles, woodland animals, gnomes and gnome homes, cozy woodland cottages, play mats, and even a Rapunzel's Tower playset.

The toys are made from mostly wood and felt. She also sells a few darling crocheted dolls.

I'm having trouble picking just one favorite to show you, but I suppose I'll have to settle on this charming woodland animals and camper playset. This might be just soft and squishable enough to tuck into my purse and use as a restaurant toy to distract a young niece or nephew.

She also carries some pocket size playsets that might work well for restaurants too.

Beyond the Brick: The Lego Documentary

I don't think my nephews could have held still long enough in the theater to enjoy Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary, but I'm tempted to rent it for some quiet evening after a long day of vigorous play in the back yard. I think once they'd settled into a comfy chair with hot cocoa or root beer floats, they'd enjoy the documentary.


Beyond the Brick Trailer, at

Beyond the Brick at IMDB

Lego Brickumentary Offers an Inside Look at the Number One Toy Company (CBS News)

A LEGO Brickumentary, at Rotten Tomatoes

A LEGO Brickumentary, Official Facebook Page

Schoolbus Cookies for Back to School Treats

These decorated school bus sugar cookies are so darling, I'm tempted to get a dozen to gift to all the little people in my area who are starting school next week. Just one cookie apiece! Surely Moms wouldn't mind! These are from the TS Cookies shop in Wisconsin, via Etsy.

Here's a cute set of school bus cookies that show the front of the bus. They're made by May Tillie Baking Co in Tennessee.

Here's a cute school bus cookie jar you could keep on your counter, stocked with fresh baked cookies, if your nieces and nephews or neighborhood kids drop by your house often enough. You can also pick this cookie jar up on eBay.

Here's another cute school bus cookie jar. I think I prefer this one, it looks more retro. It's also sold on eBay.

If you're more talented than me, you could try your hand at decorating cookies you make with this school bus cookie cutter.

Friday, August 28, 2015

New Cookies from Krusteaz to Sneak Into School Backpacks

My nephews and I are big fans of Krusteaz baking mixes. (No, Krusteaz didn't send me any boxes or ask me to write about them. We're just big cookie eaters around here!) I was delighted to see the new box of Oatmeal Scotchies. I baked them up right away, in two batches luckily, since I overcooked the first batch. (I turned the too-hard cookies into biscotti!)

I slightly undercooked the second batch and let it sort of finish cooking on the cookie sheet after I took it out of the oven. Those were too gooey to eat for about an hour, but then firmed up nicely. I liked the combo of butterscotch (my favorite) and "healthy tasting" oatmeal.

Here's the official page over at Krusteaz.

You can find them at Target, at Haagen grocery stores, and maybe Fred Meyer, as well as on Amazon (though they only sell them in sets of 3 boxes! Shoot!).

I'll bake a fresh batch for my cousin to slip into her six year old's lunch box for his first week back to school next week!

They'll Lose Their Little Minds Over New Crush Flavored Gelatin

I don't make Jell-o or gelatin for myself, as it's not vegetarian. I'll make it for my nephews on rare occasions when they visit. (Don't worry, I won't put celery in it like my mom did in the 1970s).

Recently I saw soda-flavored gelatin in the Jell-O aisle. Crush-flavored, to be exact. I knew my nephews would be overjoyed to sample these, so I picked up a small box of each.

Grape Crush Gelatin 4-Pack

Grape would be great for making dark colored skulls for Halloween.

Here's a skull-shaped jello mold you could use.

Orange Crush Gelatin 4-Pack

I'd use this pumpkin Jell-O mold with the Orange Crush gelatin.

Strawberry Crush Gelatin 12-Pack

If the Strawberry Crush gelatin comes out as red as pictured, there are all sorts of nefarious Halloween-related uses you could apply it to!

Find Orange Crush Jell-O, Strawberry Crush Jell-O, and Grape Crush Jell-O on your local grocery store shelves or via Amazon.

Cool Jewels Mold for Fun and Sparkly Ice Cubes

Recently I picked up this Fred & Friends "Cool Jewels" ice cube molds.

I was excited to make pretty, fun ice cubes for my nephews who were visiting. I initially tested it with cranberry juice (something they wouldn't drink) but had disastrous results. The sugary juice made the ice cubes sticky and they melted all weird and gross in the glass of 7-Up I put them in.

So instead, I tried some of my Wilton gel food coloring. I stirred just a toothpick full into a bit of water in my squeeze bottle.

I shook the squeeze bottle up carefully so the gel was mixed up nicely. It looked brown at the time but I knew it would turn into a nice burgundy when the ice froze and set.

I used the squeeze bottle to carefully fill the molds as full as I could. I then gently transferred them into my freezer, where I set them on top of a frozen pizza box so they'd be stable. I forgot to knock the mold a bit to get air bubbles out - oops.

Here are the jewel ice cubes about an hour later. (Sorry the picture isn't great!) They're not sticky, but they definitely melt fast and leave color behind. (My fingers definitely got stained!)

For best effect, I make several batches the day before I expect nieces or nephews to arrive. I store them in a big bowl in my extra freezer. Then I dish them up in front of the children so they can see the pretty jewels plopping into their glasses of water or Sprite or some sort of clear drink that will best show off the colors.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Bubble Soccer

Though I can't actually afford to do it, I'm getting such a kick out of imagining my nieces and nephews playing bubble soccer in my back yard with a gaggle of neighbor kids.

You get a set of six bubble soccer suits for around $1000 and shipping. The set comes with a storage bag and, I really don't want to know why, zipper oil. Hrm!

I wondered what a game of bubble soccer actually looks like, so I snooped around on YouTube and found this funny video of Jimmy Fallon playing bubble soccer against Colin Farrell and Chris Pratt!

Also, here's a bubble soccer webpage that helps you find a place to rent the soccer suits.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Skittles Orchards Candy for a Special Treat

I live in the Pacific Northwest, where apple and cherry trees abound. So it makes me smile to think of treating my nieces and nephews to orchards-themed Skittles. Perhaps I'll tuck a bag into our my purse ahead of our next road trip. I don't normally buy them Skittles in particular (we prefer M&Ms) other than occasionally at the movie theater. But we like doing taste tests on limited edition candies and foods, so this could be fun.

The flavors include lime (I wish it was green apple instead!), red apple, cherry, peach and orange.

Skittles Orchards, on Amazon

Related links:

Skittles Orchards Review at CandyBlog.Net

Skittles Orchards Review at Eat Up Albany