Thursday, November 29, 2012

I love seeing all the stylish gift guides that come out this time of year, but I'm always more curious about the toys people actually own and love because as lovely as some gifts are, they don't always appeal to kids or stand up to wear as well as we'd like.  On that note, Meta, Merrilee, and I thought you might like to know about a few of the toys we each own and love.  Here's my list.
1.  Kid O A to Z Magnatag- you use a magnetic stylus to pull up little metal beads to "write" and then erase them by running your fingers over them.  Creed hated to practice writing so I picked up this toy and even he cannot resist its charms, but Ollie sneaks it away every chance he gets.  2.  Melissa and Doug Discovery Magic Set- I was surprised at how well-made and sturdy these magic tricks are.  They've survived many a performance and still work like new.  It's recommended for ages six and up, but Creed got this set for his fifth birthday and all the Five-year olds loved it and have no problem with the tricks.  3.  Plan Toys Animal Memo- The tiles are all so cute and their thick, curved shape make them easy for little hands to turn over.  4.  Haba Block on Tackle- I don't know that you need this particular pulley, this is just the one we happened to get on sale, but the pulley from one floor to another in our house is the first thing kids want to play with when they come over (they have to be supervised with it of course)  5. Janod Rocket- Creed's been able to take this apart and put it back together since he was tiny and the magnetic pieces have always amused him.  6.  Haba Ball Track Construction Set- My favorite thing about this marble run is all the interesting pieces that you can add to it.  We plan to add a piece each year which always renews interest in an old toy, and it's the kind of set that's worth holding onto for grandkids someday.  7.  The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game- If you've ever playing Hi-Ho Cherrio, this is basically the same game only so much cuter!  8. Schylling Musical Bells- Not only are they pretty, they have really pretty tones, but you just might have to leave the room if the whole neighborhood is over playing them because they are LOUD.  9.  Automoblox- Every time my kids take these out and about, people stop us to ask them about them.  These little wooden cars have interchangable parts so you can collect them and build all sort of cars.  Creed prefers the small size (which are much more reasonably priced) because we have more of them and he loves to switch up the pieces. Ollie prefers the large ones because little people sit in them and he loves matching the shapes on their feet to get them all into the car.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I keep getting emails from people with questions about how I made the chalkboard Christmas tree I had hanging in my living room last Christmas.  I wasn't going to post about it because there's not really much to it, and I didn't have any good pictures of it, but when I mentioned that to my sister, it was Candice to the rescue because she had pictures of Ollie in front of it last Christmas.  How could I keep these to myself?
 Can you believe how tiny he was just a year ago?

 He was a stinker when we tried to take pictures so I'm so happy Candice caught a few!
What's that you say? You wanted a tutorial, and my cute baby photos did not make you forget.

It all started when we were staring at our big, empty living room walls and wishing we could buy a giant Christmas tree, but it was not it our remodellers' budget nor would have it been safe for Ollie.  Then I remembered this idea I saw for a chalk Christmas tree on a drop cloth, and I knew we could do a huge version so I was off to Lowe's to pick up a painters canvas drop cloth and chalkboard paint.  The only advice that I really have is to lay a cheap plastic drop cloth below because the paint will seep through the fabric onto whatever is underneath your drop cloth.  I only did one coat, because I didn't want to buy another pint of paint, but had I known we were going to keep this up and continue using it, I probably would have done a second coat.  The fabric soaks up a lot of paint so you'll need more then you think.
 Since my drop cloth was so big, I drew my Christmas tree while it was still laying down in our garage and just touched up any smudges after we hung it up.  So simple and cheap for such a big effect.
 By the time Valentine's Day rolled around, I still hadn't taken it down so I just washed it off and drew something new.  My advice for erasing is to first vacuum your old drawing to remove as much chalk as possible and it will be much easier to erase (I just use our shopvac).  After that I use a wet washcloth and wash everything else away.  Use lots of water and scrub lightly or you'll scrub off some paint like I did the first time.
 Now we use the chalk board for just about every holiday/party around here.

But I have to say last Christmas is my favorite
All the pictures with Ollie are by Candice (the rest obviously are not)

Gift Guide 2012

So since moving to Provo, I've been blessed with two wonderful friends who happen to be just as obsessed with kids toys as I am.  I love seeing the fun toys at their homes so when Meta and Merrilee invited me to join them in putting together some holiday gift guides, I was happy to join in.  So to start off, here are a few things I know Ollie would love to find under our Christmas tree (and maybe a few of them are being shipped to us right now. Shhh! Don't tell)

1. Fox & Hat by Maileg  2.  Let's go for a Drive by Mo Willems- We're big fans of Elephant and Piggie around here, and I know this will be a particular favorite of car-obsessed Ollie  3.  Skip Hop Soapster Foaming Soap Dispenser- I might love this more than Ollie because he hates having his hair washed and this would free up one of my hands to help with his squirming  4.  Mini Speedy Le Mans  5.  London Bus with Driver  6. Lucy the Crocodile by David Weeks- We have Hano the Gorilla because I found one on clearance and we love it.  These are fairly indestructable and so fun to pose all over the place  7. Nutty the Squirrel balancing toy  8. Cascading Marble Tree- I love the musical sounds this toy makes  9. Stackable Panda Puzzle  10.  Magnetic Bulldozer- What toddler doesn't love to take things apart and this is actually meant to come apart and snap back together via its magnetic pieces  11. What Animals Really Like by Fiona Robinson - This book was hard for Ollie to part with when it was time to return it to the library   12. Modern Phante Chair- as much as I'd love the real deal, this knock-off is more inline with our budget.  It comes in many colors and oh, does Ollie love elephants!

Creed is starting to get a little more difficult to buy for.  He'd love an armful of video games, and while I wouldn't mind getting him one or two, I'd much rather have him off using his imagination and still enjoying being little.  Here are a few things that I think might walk the fine line of cool enough to interest him without being too grown-up.

1.  Penguin Kubix Domino Set- Creed loves setting up dominos to knock down, but it's still a little tricky for him to not knock them down while he's building.  These look slightly more stable and the moving parts would be so fun to mix in with the rest of our dominos  2. Fox Mibo tee   3. Kipp Klapper Bahn- This is just one of many cool pieces that you can add to the Haba marble sets. I love adding something new to renew interest in a toy that we already have   4.  The Book with a Hole by Herve Tullet- Many people know Tullet for his amazing picture book, Press Here, but his activity books are equally creative.  Creed isn't usually interested in coloring, but he was begging for this book once he browsed through it   5.  Secret Message Writing Set- we had a similar set that was a huge hit with Creed   6.  I Duck- this waterproof duck plays music in the bathtub.  You can plug your ipod into the egg transmitter and keep it somewhere dry or even listen to fm radio   7.  Aluminum Triceratops- Truth be told, Creed is not ready for this one yet, but it might be a fun project to do together and the price is so reasonable, I'd be willing to try   8. Lester's Dreadful Sweaters by KG Campbell - I dare you to read the excerpt on Amazon.  You're going to want it too   9. Cable Car Kit- We have a two story entry with openings on both sides, just begging for things to be sent from one side of the house to the other   10. Magical Crystal Growing Kit   11. Delux Magic Set- We have the basic set made by the same company and Creed loves to put on magic shows (over and over and over again).  I'm ready to see some new tricks so maybe this one is more for me   12. This Way to the Moon by Miroslav Sasek   13. Kikkerland Windup- Creed collects little Kikkerland windup robots and this one is high up on his wishlist   14. Robot Bank   15. Crank Music Box- We own one of these and it is the number one item my boys fight over.  I'd say it's time they each got their own, and I love that they have so many different songs to choose from

Don't forget to check out Meta's Gift Guide over at One More Mushroom and Merrilee's Gift Guide over at Mer Mag.  Later this week we'll all be sharing toys that we already own and love.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Wild Thing, I think I love you

Many of you have wondered if everything is ok with the Ford household because I haven't been blogging (so sweet of you to ask by the way). Not to worry, all is well, I joined Instagram and that has met my friend/family sharing needs for the most part, BUT not everyone is one Instagram, in fact some of my best far away friends are not on Instagram.  And this blog is my only form of journaling so I keep thinking about my poor kids won't know the details of this time of their lives unless I start blogging again so I guess I have a lot to tell you about.

But instead of playing catch-up today, let's talk about how magical this Halloween was.  Both of my boys love the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.  This year the fates aligned because not only does Ollie fit into the Max costume that I made for Creed a few years ago, but Creed was happy about the idea of being a Wild Thing.

I kept Creed's costume simple knowing he would need to be able to put it on himself for his school costume parade. I made the top a jacket (I lust after these beautiful coats by LittleGoodall and tried to come up with something similar, but I wanted Creed's face to be the Wild Thing's face) and I just sharpied scales on some old pants.  I bought a new crown for Ollie from my friend Annie, and we were good to go.

I've been wanting to schedule a children's portrait session with Ashley Thalman, and I figured why not let them have a wild rumpus in their costumes?  I called her up last minute and even though she had a busy weekend, she worked us in.  She sent me these photos the very next day (and many more. I know this seems like a million, but I had such a hard time cutting it down to just my very favorites).  I hope you don't mind me over-sharing; I just love them so much! It wasn't anything formal, just the two of them tromping around the yard, being themselves, and I think that's why they are so great.

Thank you so much Ashley!

I hope all of you had a Halloween as magical as ours.