November 3, 2014

Non-Toy Gifts for Kids

My friend Marv and I are the authors of a new blog created for the parents and kids of the Twin Cities, MN. Just like me, Marv is a stay-at-home mom of 2 little kids: a little boy who just turned one, and his 4-year old sister.

During our play dates we get to chit chat about all sorts of aspects of our everyday lives, just like any other moms do. We share tips and tricks about potty training and making our kids eat more veggies, talk about our oldest's pre-schools, complain about the huge number of toys our kids have and how they both still want to play with the exact same toy at the same time, etc.

The idea of the blog NON-TOY GIFTS came once we started thinking of toy-alternative gifts for our children. When we had this impressive list of 60 non-toy presents, we thought it was a good idea to share it with other parents living in the Twin Cities. Although some are local gifts, like Family Theater Membership to the Stepping Stone Theater, Train Rides in Duluth or books from the Red Balloon in St Paul or Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, parents from anywhere can check out the blog to find interesting ideas.

We also made available a list of 25+ local freebies and activities for  children: gifts they  can receive for free on their birthday, treats to enjoy year round and events and activities the kids can attend for free. 

If you're looking for a place to celebrate your kids' birthday, all you have to do is go through our list of 40+ party venues.  There are so many in the Twin Cities and we try to put them all together in one place.
We created Non-Toy Gifts for all the parents in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul area, one place to go to when it comes to celebrating our kids and finding new ways in building them wonderful childhood memories. We hope that Minnesotan parents will find it resourceful and share their own ideas on non-toy gifts and experiences about the party venues they have used for their kids.
All the links  we provide on the blog are purely for information purpose.  We have no intention in promoting any businesses or services. We wished useful information like we've gathered, consolidated and put in one place, was available to us when we first became parents and that's the whole idea about this blog - to share this information with the Minnesotan parents like us.

October 21, 2014

Curious George and The Man With The Yellow Hat pumpinks

Curious George is one of my boys' favorite characters. My 16-month old baby (we still refer to him as a baby) can say up to 20 words and George is one of them - this is to get you an idea how much George is part of our lives. We watch the TV series and read books about the little curious monkey.
So when pumpkin painting time came (to continue the tradition I started last year with the Minion pumpkins), it was a no-brainer: Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat. This is in fact the Halloween theme for this year: pumpkins and costumes. 
The day I finished painting the pumpkins and took them outside, it was such a windy day and I was afraid the Man with the Yellow Hat would loose his hat. I had glued it to his head and managed to do a pretty good job as it stuck to the pumpkin despite the wind. Little had I worried about the real enemies: kids can be more destructive than nature. When my boys came out of the house, first thing Victor did was to pull out the hat.

September 23, 2014

men's shirt into boy pants

When he last came to visit us, my dad left behind a shirt. (He didn't forget it, just decided not to take it back) The shirt became immediately part of my refashion stash, waiting its turn for a second chance. 
 I used the comfy pants pattern in "Sewing for boys" book (same as in the blue pants ) to make this new pair of pants for Victor. Easy to sew and my little guy seems very comfortable in them - what else to ask for? 
 The shirt pocket, which I decided to place in front of the pants and not the back, proved to be a great hit for my little rock collector. The rocks he finds and decides to keep vary in size from pretty small to rather big and they all fit in. Besides, when you have a little brother, you want to make sure he doesn't lay hands on your belongings and what better place to keep them than a nice big pocket?

August 6, 2014

old jeans skirt reinvented

When I got tired of my old jeans skirt I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. The inspiration came from this bohemian jeans skirt found on etsy. 
Belles Roses bohemian jean skirt Renaissance Denim Couture long flowy boho gypsy faerie Made to Order
Though I felt very much tempted by the floor length I also wanted a knee skirt. With just a bit more than a yard of fabric I managed to transformed my old skirt into this neat skirt.

Curious about what I used to make the blue pattern at the bottom of the skirt? If you read this blog it means that you also like sewing and that you handle it quite often: thread spool.

July 15, 2014

The blue elephant shirt aka dr Seuss shirt

Our first mini-vacation as a family of four was a weekend spent at a goat farm. I was nervous about the sleeping arrangements, which proved indeed to be a bit of a problem, as the boys only wanted to sleep with me (so I ended up sleeping with both of them while Dan had the other bed to himself. Not fair!) and they kept each other up until late at night, but apart from that, we had a great time enjoying the calm and quiet country side and the playful goats. Victor couldn't get enough of feeding the goats and had a hard time leaving. We promised him we'd see more goats at the ZOO so the minute we pulled the car into the garage he asked to go to the ZOO.

We did go to the ZOO, though not that very day, and he was excited to see the animals (and the mountain goat) but not as much as pushing around his stroller. I'm not sure what it is about pushing around toys or strollers or anything that can roll but it tops any other activity. He showed an interest in the seal but didn't even glance at the zebra or elephant. Had the elephant been blue (like the ones on his new shirt) he might have stood a chance of being noticed.

 Once I was done sewing this shirt, I hung it in Victor's closet, among his other clothes. He noticed it right away and wanted to wear it the same day. -what better compliment! :)

July 1, 2014

Toddler activity: felt numbers

These felt numbers were of great help to Victor a few months back, when he started showing interest in counting. It was a 2-in-1 challenge: identifying numbers and colors.

They are pretty large and stuffed, different from the felt letters.

Victor's counting went thru different stages: English counting was a favorite at the beginning (though he would always pronounce 7 in Romanian) but now he can easily switch from one language to another while counting and he even amazed me one day when I heard him say: "uno dos tres cuatro" (he learns Spanish at daycare).

I rotate the toys and although I try to do it on a regular basis, that's the last thing on my mind, so Victor hasn't played with the numbers in a very long time. I wonder if he would still show an interest in them.
If not, they will get their second chance once Eric is old enough.

April 30, 2014

Toddler activity : felt letters

My 2-year old son is into colors, numbers and letters and we look for any opportunity to help him develop his new recognition abilities. We try to make it fun through games, foam letters and numbers for bath time and felt letters and numbers made by myself.
Growing up in a bilingual environment can be challenging for a little guy. We speak Romanian at home but he's equally exposed to English through all the books we read to him, visits at the library and our international friends.  
There are things, like the alphabet, that we prefer to teach him in English so it won't get too confusing. The Romanian alphabet has the same letters as the English one but some are pronounced differently.
This is how it originally looked like but as his little brother kept pulling the letters down I decided to place them out of the baby's reach.
 Both the board and letters are made from felt as felt sticks to felt. As for how to attach the board to the wall, I used Command Strips but you can also try pins. (I wanted not to damage the wall in any way)
I haven't put out all the letters yet, just the ones that Victor can identify so far. (enough to be able to spell his name)

April 19, 2014

Easter Egg Hunt Bag and Tee

We went egg hunting today for the first time ever. We don't have this tradition in Romania, where Dan and I grew up, so we haven't experienced it as kids but, hey, we get to live it now through our boys. It was such a nice day to be outside and spend time with friends while our children were tracing down the eggs and bunnies. It wasn't a typical egg hunt, we had to look for numbered wooden eggs and bunnies and get a prize after finding them all. 

The nature center where the egg hunt took place put together several kid activities and had also a small petting zoo. Victor got to touch a snake and frog (yuck!) and pet a few rabbits (his favorites).

I wanted to buy Victor an egg hunt bag , many nice bags to choose from if you have a girl...but not so many for boys...So I decided to make one myself.
I also made a tee to go with the bag. I used the same pattern as for raglan tee but went for a long sleeve version this time.
Happy Easter!

April 4, 2014

Toddler activity: color painting on snow

It may be spring where you live but here, in Minnesota, we're still covered in snow. Today is April 4th and we're expecting up to 10" by noon. Spring has shown its signs for the last couple of weeks and got everybody excited but now: boom! The only one who doesn't mind it is my son as I introduced him to color painting on snow.

When my oldest  woke up from his nap last Saturday these three bottles were waiting for him to play with. I had filled them up  with water and food colors: red, blue and green. 

Painting on snow got my toddler sucked into immediately and I must say it was fun even for me. Our neighbor's kid also joined us and Victor didn't mind at all. (He's at that age when if someone else toys with his stuff a tantrum may be on its way).

Trying to stay positive: more snow means more canvas for our art. (though I would gladly give it up for chalk drawing)

March 12, 2014

sewing for boys

Sewing for boys never crossed my mind when I started this hobby of mine. It's true that at the time I didn't have my two little trouble makers. Nevertheless  I have selfishly sewn almost exclusively for myself until the beginning of this year when I made PJs for my hubby . Next on the list: boy clothes. 

If you feel intimidated by sewing for boys, like I was, I would recommend getting this book: 

The book contains 24 projects for beginners to advanced. Most patterns are for sizes 2 through 7 but there are some for 0-18 months as well.

I started with these comfy pants:

Buying pants for my tall and thin Victor is usually a challenge. The 2T's are a good waist fit but too short while the 3T's are loose but the right length. Adjustable pants do the trick. Making some myself seemed like another good solution.

I made the pants in size 2-3 but longer as in size 4-5 so Victor can wear them for a long while.

Next project: short sleeve raglan tee

The instructions are for a seam-on-the-outside, raw-edged tee but I prefer a finished look. 

This book makes sewing for boys seem so easy and I will definitely try some other patterns.

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