Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 5 Posts For 2015

I did some digging to see what the most popular posts on Tales of Mommyhood were in 2015.  I have the top 5 listed below:

  1. People really like to know where kids can eat free. West Ottawa Restaurants Where Kids Eat Free was my #1 post for the year (and it was published in the spring)
  2. Kids health is popular as well - my post on Mr. K's vision had the second highest views
  3. I wrote a list of ways to help when kids are in hospital. A question that isn't easy to answer when you are in the middle of it.  This had the 3rd highest views for the year.
  4. If you will be flying with young kids, then you won't want to miss my tips for flying with them!
  5. Disney posts always do well also, and my recap of The Pirates League experience at WDW was also very popular
The above posts are my top evergreen posts.  Most of my highest viewed posts were giveaways, which are not relevant now as they have finished.

Do you have a favourite post from Tales of Mommyhood? Feel free to let me know what it is in the comments,  or what you would like to see more of in the year ahead!

Monday, December 28, 2015

December 28th Monday Madness Giveaway Linky

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Christmas has come and gone - I hope you had a wonderful few days with family and friends.  We had a great time celebrating with each of our families, and our children enjoyed it as well.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

I would like to wish you, my wonderful readers, a very Merry Christmas.  This is a bit of a strange year, and our weather has definitely not been normal for December.  I have experienced a few green Christmases in my life, but I don't remember ever having temperatures warm enough on Christmas eve to be outside in a sleeveless top.

I picked up a few last minute grocery items this morning and I didn't need a jacket - it was very odd. Personally, I find that snow adds a certain magic to Christmas, and it always takes me a lot longer to get into the Christmas mood without it.

This year, the boys are super excited.  They are hoping to catch Santa tonight (they hope this every year and always end up falling asleep long before he arrives).

We always go to my mothers house dinner on Christmas Eve.  My family is all together, we eat, chat and have fun.  When we come home the boys leave out cookies and milk for Santa, and we also read Twas The Night Before Christmas.  When the story is done, we leave the book by the cookies for Santa - and he signs it every year!  This is a tradition that my parents did with us growing up, and I knew I wanted to continue with my children.

Merry Christmas to all of you - thank you for your support in 2015, and I am really looking forward to what 2016 will bring!

Ashley P.

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 21st Monday Madness Giveaway Linky

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Hard to believe that Christmas is only a few days away.  Are you finished your shopping? If not, be sure to check out the 2015 Gift Guide . We hosted our annual Christmas party with friends this weekend and had a lot of fun (and lots of food...too much, lots left over)

Disney On Ice 100 Years of Magic is BACK in Ottawa this February! {giveaway}

We really enjoy taking our kids to Disney on Ice shows.  We have been the last 2 years and are excited to go back again this year!
"Grab your Mickey ears and get ready for the ultimate Disney experience at Disney On Icecelebrates 100 Years of Magic! Be charmed by a cast of over 50, with Mouse-ter of Ceremonies Mickey Mouse, sweetheart Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Disney Princesses including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Ariel, Snow White and Tiana. Relive the magic of Disney’s Frozen with Anna, Elsa and the hilarious Olaf as they discover that true love is the greatest magic of all. Sing-along to over 30 unforgettable songs including “Let It Go,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” and “Hakuna Matata.” Exciting moments from Disney Pixar’s Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Disney’s The Lion King,Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and more will leave the whole family with memories to last a lifetime. Show off your moves at the Disney Magic of Healthy Living dance-along pre-show inspired by the Disney Healthy Living commitment as the celebration of the century skates into your hometown!"
Disney on Ice will be in Ottawa from February 24th until February 28th 2016.  There are many shows available and tickets can be purchased from Capital Tickets.  Ticket prices start as low as $15.  If you are looking for an experience gift to give to someone this Christmas, tickets to one of these shows would be a great idea!

February 24, 2016 7:00 p.m.
February 25, 2016 10:30 a.m. 7:00 p.m.
February 26, 2016 7:00 p.m.
February 27, 2016 11:00 a.m. 3:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m.
February 28, 2016 11:00 a.m. 3:00 p.m. (in French) 

Tales of Mommyhood has partnered with Feld Family Entertainment to offer you the chance to WIN 4 tickets to opening night (7 pm Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 - Canadian Tire Center). Must be a Canadian resident (excluding Quebec) over the age of 18, and able to make it to the show in Kanata.

To enter for your chance to win this awesome prize pack, complete the form below - good luck!

Tales of Mommyhood received complimentary tickets in exchange for this post

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Simple, Fun Christmas Craft For Kids - Popsicle Stick Rudolph

The kindergarten classes at my sons school do a "craft-o-rama" day the week before Christmas break. Each class has 5-6 parent volunteers come in and lead a Christmas/Winter themed craft.  We design the craft ourselves, bring in a pre-made model and then the kids are split into small groups and go through each craft station.

Last year I made candy cane ornaments with them, and this year we made popsicle stick rudolphs.

The kids in class had a difficult time making a triangle with the popsicle sticks (the glue was wet, so they kept slipping off). Depending on your kids, you may want to make that part ahead of time so the glue can dry.

What you need:

Popsicle Sticks (3 per person)
Red paint or red pom poms (1 each) for the nose
Googly Eyes (2 each)
White glue
Construction paper antlers
Pipe Cleaner or ribbon (if you want to hang it on the tree)

If you want to paint the sticks brown, you could do that too. It would take a little while to dry before gluing them together.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Fantastic Four Blu-Ray Available December 15th

The perfect gift for any MARVEL fan in your life! Fantastic Four was released for home viewing on December 15th.

"The FANTASTIC FOUR make a triumphant return with MARVEL’s next generation of heroes — four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate universe, their physical forms altered in shocking ways. Their lives changed forever, Reed Richards (“MR. FANTASTIC”), Sue Storm (“INVISIBLE WOMAN”), Johnny Storm (“THE HUMAN TORCH”) and Ben Grimm (“THE THING”) must harness their incredible new powers and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy, the infamous DR. DOOM."
Feel free to download these free printables (right click, save as and then print from your computer)

My kids were so excited when our copy of the movie arrived, and they can't wait to watch it.  This will be watched on our next family movie night!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tales of Mommyhood's Top Picks From Hasbro for 2015

We are big fans of Hasbro toys and games in our household.  They have items that are great for all ages, and I am going to list a few of our top picks below!

Rescue Bots have been the center of most of Mr. K's gifts (birthday and Christmas) since he was 3 - I knew that I would have to include some on our list.

The Playskool Heroes Transformers Rescue Bots High Tide rig is an awesome gift for any Rescue Bots fan in your life!  Mr. K has spent a lot of time playing with it.

With Mr. K getting older now, he also loves the regular Transformers characters, and any of those such toys will never go wrong with him.  This 3 step Grimlock will be under the tree for him this year!  He also showed interest in the Roar to Rescue Bumblebee (easy to change modes)

Minions are also huge with my two little boys, and this Despicable Me 2 version of the classic game Operation is sure to be a hit. This is a great game to play that can help with hand/eye co-ordination! If you are looking for a "family" gift to give, this would be one to consider.

My Little Pony's are popular again (I had a huge collection when I was a little girl) and the Sweet Apple Juice stand would be a great addition for any pony fan in your life!

Tales of Mommyhood was sent these items in exchange for inclusion in our 2015 Christmas Gift Guide.  All opinions are honest and belong to ToM. Your opinion/experience may vary

Monday, December 14, 2015

December 14th Monday Madness Giveaway Linky

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10 days until Christmas Eve! Are you ready? I am finished my baking, have gifts purchased but they still need to be wrapped.  We cleaned up the boys rooms yesterday and while we were at it we had them choose a few things to donate.  I will be spending some time this week getting those items out of the house.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Snow Shoveling - Do Your Kids Get Involved?

Growing up I can remember helping out my parents with the snow shoveling.  I may not have always enjoyed being outside shoveling, but it was something we did.  My brother and I would often do our neighbours drive way as well.

As we got older, my dad ended up with a snow blower, but when he wasn't home we still had to shovel. After he died, we only had a few snowfalls that winter before my mom got out the Yellow Pages and found a snow plow company. She hired them for the rest of the winter, and has continued using a plow service ever since.

When hubby and I got our house, his parents gave us their old snow blower as they were buying a new one.  It was definitely nice to have, but hubby has this obsession with a clear drive way, so he still uses a shovel to scrape the driveway right down.

I didn't do much shoveling until I was home with the kids.  If it's a nice day, I would bundle them up and go out to "play" in the snow. From the time our kids could walk, we had them out helping us. They wouldn't do much other than play in the snow, but they were with us as this was happening.  As they got older and could handle a shovel, they would help with the walk way. Now that they are older, the kids will help dad with the driveway, and have now learned from hubby about how to scrape up the last remaining snow left.

Our previous neighbours had a snowplow service, but my kids would often shovel the walkway and steps for them.  Most of the time they would do this without prompting from us.

When I look at other houses around us, I am surprised that I don't see more kids out helping.  I know that a LOT of people have started using plow services, or they have a snow blower - but I am amazed at how many families don't seem to get the kids involved in snow clearing.

This year we haven't had much shoveling to do - yet. I know it is coming though, and we will be making sure the kids pitch in to help.

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7th Monday Madness Giveaway Linky

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Happy Monday everyone - first Monday in December. I hope that you all had a wonderful weekend! I have been enjoying spending time listening to Christmas music and sitting by my tree!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Stocking Stuffers To Help With Dry Skin

Every winter the weather plays havoc with my skin.  Having the heat on makes the house a little dry, and that transfers over to my skin, my hair and my lips.  I am not the only one feeling this way, and skinfix has you covered!

The skinfix Lip Repair Balm, Ultra Rich Hand Cream and Ultra Rich Body Butter would make great additions to a stocking this Christmas.

I really liked that they helped with the dryness, but didn't leave my lips and skin feeling greasy like some creams can.  It helped add some moisture.

I am normally not a fan of hand creams. I find that they leave my hands smelling nice, but then when I eat I am tasting the fragrance.  The skinfix Ultra Rich Hand Cream is fragrance free and absorbs quite quickly into the skin.

Tales of Mommyhood received the above products in exchange for being included in the 2015 Gift Guide.  All opinions are honest and belong to ToM. Your opinion/experience may vary.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Bundled Up Boys With Baffin Boots

Mr. K throwing a snowball at his brother

My boys love to spend time outside. It doesn't matter to them what the temperature is, -40 or +40 and they will be asking me to go outside and play.  I LOVE this about them. They have such diverse interests like climbing trees, playing video games, inventing games with their imagination, and in the winter climbing snow banks and having snowball fights.

Living in Ottawa, our winter temperatures can vary, and it could be -40 with windchill one day, and -5 no wind the next.  We need to be prepared for it all, and the cold doesn't stop our lives from continuing.  I was introduced to Baffin Boots 2 years ago, and I fell in love with them.  It was the first winter I played outside with the kids without having cold feet.

Both the boys needed new boots this year so I decided to check out Baffin's kids line. I love that they have boots with coverage to -60.  Mr. K's boots are good to temperature levels of -40, and Mr. J's to -60.
Mr. K loves the flames on the side of the boots
His boots are the Flame Jrs and have the fastener to tighten the straps, which I find works well for the little ones. It's super quick to get them tightened.

We are having fairly mild temperatures, and only one day of snow (with a very little amount) that they haven't had a good chance to test them out.  Mr. K wore his to school the day we had our first (and only) snowfall.

Mr. J received the Young Eiger in black.  He hasn't worn his yet, and he refuses to let me take a picture while trying them on.  One of the things I really like about his boots is that the white strips on them are reflective (which you can see in the photo below)

These boots have velcro straps across the front, and a fastener at the top to tighten the gap.  They are a little bulkier than the boots that he is used to wearing, so that is something to keep in mind. They are super warm however, and great for playing outside.

Tales of Mommyhood received the above product in exchange for this post. All opinions are honest and belong to ToM. Your opinion/experience may vary

Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30th Monday Madness Giveaway Linky

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Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a great weekend.  We spent time this weekend getting our house ready for Christmas!  Our tree is up, decorations are placed and the outside lights have been turned on!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Turning "Me" Into "We" This Christmas #MoreSurprises

Christmas time is approaching and minds are starting to race with gift ideas for those special people on our shopping lists.  As the holiday season approaches, my mind also goes to ways that we can help others. Donating toys to a toy drive, adding non-perishables to the food bin in the grocery store, making Christmas cards for seniors, and this year, buying gifts for my family and knowing that purchase is also going to help someone overseas.
"Warm hearts are giving hearts, give with all your heart."
Back pack, mittens, infinity scarf, socks, passport holder, adult beanie and toiletry bag 

The Staples Canada "Me To We" program is filled with gift ideas that can be purchased - warm mittens, back packs, school supplies, passport holders, magnets, water bottles and many more useful, everyday items.  When you purchase any of these products, life changing gifts are given to a child overseas.  The gift given depends on the gift purchased.  Each product has a tag attached that tells you (and your gift recipient) what gift was given to a child overseas.

Gifts available for purchase have a wide range of prices from $1.50 up to $49.98; gifts given to children overseas range from clean water, food, trees planted and even medicine for a sick child. Each purchase has a code that allows you to track your impact.  Go to the track your impact website, input the code and you will see how you are helping!

We are so fortunate to live in a country where we have access to clean water at our fingertips, warm clothes and healthy food. This year, while making your Christmas shopping list why not add some of these useful gifts, and feel good knowing that your purchase is helping a child in need.

Tales of Mommyhood received the products shown above in exchange for this post.  My family will be donating these to help people in our community that are in need.  A small way for us to help those around us this Christmas.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Have an XL Christmas With HASBRO and Jenga XL

Our family loves to play games. Board games, card games, video games - we like them all.  Mr. J played Jenga for the first time when he was 6, and it was a game that he really enjoyed.  When I saw that there was a new Jenga game out - Jenga XL, I knew it was a must have for our family.

Like traditional Jenga, you take blocks and build a tower, and then you need to remove pieces and build higher without knocking the structure down.  
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The twist on XL is that the blocks are extra large (XL).  

This gives you a much larger tower to play with, and much bigger topples!  

  • a lot of fun
  • blocks are cardboard and need to be folded together (be careful doing this, if they get bent, they won't build as securely)
  • have a bin or large bag to store blocks in so that you don't have to unfold and refold each time
  • if you are using a carpeted floor, a board underneath will help to keep the tower sturdy
Jenga XL makes our list for top holiday gifts! If you are looking for something to gift to a family, this is a great choice!

Tales of Mommyhood received the above product in exchange for inclusion in the 2015 Gift Guide. All opinions are honest and belong to ToM. Your opinion/experience may vary

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23 Monday Madness Giveaway Linky

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Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a great weekend.  My hubby and Mr. J attended the Ottawa RedBlacks game yesterday and got to witness the win that got them to the 2015 Grey Cup! 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Kellogg's Treats For Toys #TreatsForToys

It's no secret that I love to bake, and both my boys enjoy helping me in the kitchen.  Rice Krispies treats are one of our favourite things to make together.  My latest Kellogger package arrived this week, and it was filled with goodies for making Toy Treats! Yes, you read that right TOY treats.  In the package were all that was needed to make Rice Krispies treats, along with instructions and decorations to turn them into toys (hard to tell the kids not to play with their food when they make it into a toy!)

Back again this year is the Kellogg's #TreatsForToys program.  For each Rice Krispies treat toy that is made, photographed and uploaded to social media with hashtag #TreatsForToys, Kellogg's will donate $20 to the Salvation Army toy drive (up to $30,000)

What a great way for you to help spread some Christmas cheer - baking with your kids!  Quality time together and a gift for a child in need - how awesome is that?

Mr. J wanted to make a dinosaur, and Mr. K ended up making a puzzle - he used cookie cutters to cut shapes and then stuck them together like a puzzle.  We had a lot of fun together creating.

Kellogg's wants YOU to participate in the #TreatsForToys program and is giving you the chance to WIN a prize pack like the one I received.  It will contain Rice Krispies cereal, marshmallows and some candy to decorate the treats with.

Sound good to you? Just use the form below for your chance to win. This is open to Canadian Residents that are 18+ and ends on December 6th 2015 at 1159pm EST

As a Kellogger, Tales of Mommyhood receives packages a few times a year in exchange for these posts/giveaways.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish {giveaway}

I love the Christmas season.  The Christmas movies on tv, songs on the radio, decorations etc.  I am not sure what appeals to me so much about it, but it is a time I look forward to every year.  We are trying to teach our children that it is not about the gifts that are under the tree. But celebrating with family and remembering Christ.  Of course, being young they want the biggest and best, but it doesn't always happen.

"Holiday sequel to The New York Times bestselling Pout-Pout Fish series reminds young readers what being merry is all about
The grumpiest fish in children’s literature is back with another case of “the dreary wearies.” This time, Mr. Fish, star of The New York Times bestselling Pout-Pout Fish series, is down in the dumps over holiday shopping. With a message for readers of all ages, The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux Books | Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, Ages 2-6) finds Mr. Fish so consumed with finding that perfect gift for each of his friends that he forgets the true meaning of the holidays.
 When Mr. Fish—with his signature Pout-Pout Fish frown—comes up empty-handed, Miss Shimmer intervenes with a plan to make homemade gifts. He soon learns that it’s not about busting the budget or gifting the season’s hottest item, but giving from the heart. Together they experience the joy that comes from giving and sharing—the merriest gifts of all."
The author and illustrator are both on tour right now, you can check the list below to see if they will be near you:

Book Tour Schedule
Author Deborah Diesen
November 14, 3pm - Square Books, Oxford, MS
November 16, 3:30pm - Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, NC
November 18, 4pm - Vero Beach Book Center, Vero Beach, FL
November 19, 7pm - Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, GA
November 20, 4pm - Octavia Books, New Orleans, LA
Illustrator Dan Hanna
November 15, 11am - WORD Books, Jersey City, NJ
November 16, 4pm - Carmichael’s Bookstore, Louisville, KY
November 17, 4:30pm - Towne Book Center & Cafe, Collegeville, PA
November 18, 4:30pm - Cover to Cover, Columbus, OH
November 19, 4:30pm - Lake Forest Books, Lake Forest, IL
November 21, 12pm - Anderson’s Book Shop, Naperville, IL
November 21, 2pm - Anderson’s Book Shop, La Grange, IL
Learn more at

Interested in a copy for yourself? You can buy it on or - or, you can enter to win a copy right here!  Use the form below to enter!  This is open to residents of Canada and the United States. Giveaway ends at 1159pm EST November 23rd.  Winner will have 24 hours to respond or will forfeit.

Tales of Mommyhood received the above mentioned product in exchange for hosting this giveaway.
Plus a bit of bling-zing,
So I’ll shop till I drop
For each just-right thing.”

Monday, November 16, 2015

November 16th Monday Madness Giveaway Linky

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This past weekend marked the beginning of Santa for our town.  The Santa Claus parade was on Saturday morning, and now Santa is at the local mall for visits.  If you are curious what other Santa Claus parades are happening around the Ottawa area, check out this list I put together.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Give The Gift Of Experience This Christmas

Like most children, mine enjoy receiving gifts at their birthdays and Christmas.  However, like most parents, we prefer that they be kept to a minimum.  A few years ago we changed the way we do gifts at Christmas and started to follow the saying:
"Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read"

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Adding Memories To Our Walls With CanvasPop {giveaway}

I have always wanted to have a canvas print done, but never got around to actually doing it. When CanvasPop contacted me a few weeks ago to see if I would be interested in partnering for a review, I quickly said yes!  Photo's on canvas are great gift ideas (especially for grandparents) so I was happy to be able to add this to the 2015 Gift Guide.

Monday, November 9, 2015

November 9th Monday Madness Giveaway Linky

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November is prematurity awareness month.  We went down that road when Mr. J was born, and I put a post together with some tips to help if you know someone with a child in the hospital.  You may have read it already, but I would love if you could share the tweet that is in the post.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - A List of Ottawa Area Parades 2015

We have an annual tradition.  Every year on the day of our local Santa Claus parade, the boys and I (and hubby if he is home) head to my brothers for breakfast in the morning, and then we bundle up and head outside to watch the parade.

We are so lucky that they actually live ON the parade route.  We just have to walk out to the end of the driveway.

November is here and the Santa parades will be happening soon, so I decided to put together a list of local ones that you might enjoy.

Kanata - November 14th, 10am
Ottawa - November 21, 11am
Barrhaven - November 22, 5:30pm
Stittsville - November 28th, 6 pm
Carleton Place - November 28th, 5pm
Orleans - November 28th, 6pm
Light Up The Night Almonte - December 4th, 7pm (not a parade, but an outdoor Christmas concert)
Osgood - December 5th (no time posted)
Perth- December 5th, 5pm

I have never been to a night time parade before; I think it would be really neat to see all the lights. Timing just hasn't worked out for us, but we do always make our local parade where Santa is brought in on a fire truck!

Do you attend a Santa Claus parade in your area? If you do, remember that most of them collect non-perishables for the local food bank - so try and have a donation with you to contribute!

If you are looking to find out the Mall Santa hours at the local malls, my friend Stacey at Not Just Baby Brain has rounded them up!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Great Stocking Stuffer Ideas From Hasbro

When it comes to stockings in our house, we tend to fill them with things that are used daily (new toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo) but we also like to add in a few treats as well.  We will have a lollipop, their favourite chocolate bar, and also a small toy or 2.

Hasbro always has some really neat items that can be used for stocking stuffers.  Mr. J and Mr. K will each find a Jurassic World Stomp N' Chomp Dinosaur in their stockings.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I See Me Personalized Puzzles

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This year for Christmas my boys will each be receiving a personalized puzzle from I See Me.  There are 9 puzzles to choose from, and whichever one you choose will be personalized with their name on it.  

Mr. J is really into sports at the moment, so we ordered the Kick! Score! Run! theme for him, and Mr. K is all about dinosaurs right now, so he is getting the Dino-Mite themed one.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Disney's Tomorrowland {review}

"Dreamers Wanted…Disney invites you to an incredible world of epic imagination where anything is possible. Buckle your seat belt, as the
director of The Incredibles takes your family on an action-packed thrill ride.
Join former boy genius Frank (George Clooney), optimistic, science-minded teen Casey (Britt Robertson), mysterious Athena (Raffey Cassidy)and the brilliant David Nix (Hugh Laurie) in a world of pure Disney imagination. Tomorrowland transports you on an inspiring and magicaljourney of wonder and adventure to a place where if you can dream it, you can do it."
As a Disney loving family, we were all really excited when a copy of Tomorrowland showed up for us to watch and review.

We sat down as a family to watch the movie, and while I wish I could say we all loved it, that is just not the case.  The visuals of the movie are stunning, and I am a fan of George Clooney, so it was great to see him in a little bit of a different role than what he normally plays.  In terms of the actual movie though, I just found it didn't really ever GET anywhere.  Mr. J seemed to enjoy it, but he didn't understand a lot of what was happening; Mr. K wasn't really interested after the first 30 minutes or so.

If you are a Disney loving dreamer, then it may appeal to you.

Tales of Mommyhood received the above mentioned product in exchange for this post.  All opinions are honest and belong to Tales of Mommyhood.  Your opinion/experience may vary.

November 2 Monday Madness Giveaway Linky

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Happy November! I hope that you all had a great Halloween.  My kids had a blast, got lots of candy and I got to see a ton of amazing costumes.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

How To Make Your Own Homemade Vanilla Extract

As you all know, I love to bake.  It is a hobby that I have had for many years, and I don't foresee that changing anytime soon.  One of my favourite ingredients to use in baking is vanilla.  I always double the amount that a recipe calls for (and sometimes triple, depending on what I am making).

Pure vanilla extract can be expensive though, and a few years ago I found out that you can make your own using two ingredients.  Vanilla beans and vodka.
homemade vanilla, vanilla extract, gift guide 2015

It is super simple, and is an amazing gift to give that special baker in your life.

What you need:
  1. 5 Vanilla Beans
  2. 1 Cup Vodka
  3. Glass/Plastic Jar (with tight fitting lid)

To Make:
  1. Split vanilla beans lengthwise 
  2. Insert split beans into jar
  3. Pour in Vodka
  4. You want the beans completely covered by the vodka. If they aren't, then you can do a few things
    • use a smaller jar
    • cut the beans in half
    • add more beans and vodka (try to keep the 5 beans/1 cup vodka ratio
  5. Shake. Give the jar a good shake 2-3 times a week
  6. Wait. It will take approximately 8 weeks before the extract is ready to use

If you make it now, it will be ready in time for Christmas.  If you don't have 8 weeks until Christmas, it still makes a great gift just be sure to let the recipient know that the jar needs to be shaken and the date when it will be ready.

Do you have someone that would love to receive this for Christmas? I know my mom will! I made her a jar a few years ago, and will be gifting her another one this year!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tips For Pumpkin Carving With Kids

Halloween is a favourite for me.  I love picking out pumpkins, deciding on a design, and then getting everything together to gut and carve the pumpkin.  Seeing the kids on dressed up on Halloween night always makes me happy to (young or old - sometimes the teenagers put some awesome thought and time into their costumes).

Since having kids, I have found that pumpkin carving can't be spur of the moment anymore.  It needs to be well planned out.

Here are my tips:

  • buy a book of designs (or search for templates online). Make sure they look at ALL available before making their decision.  Nothing like getting it carved and then finding a different one they like better.  If they are young, try and steer them away from any designs that have are too complicated
  • make sure the surface of your pumpkin is large enough for the design you/they choose (this is important, if you have a small design, you don't want it on a huge pumpkin, same with a large design on a small pumpkin)
  • have all your carving tools at hand (the kits they sell are GREAT for this)
  • have a large bowl, newspaper, yard or food waste bag,  paper towels and a pencil close 
  • lay out the newspapers on your surface area
  • place pumpkin on top of newspaper
  • carve the top (or you could do the bottom and just fit the pumpkin over top your candle/light)
  • gut the insides - place the seeds into the bowl if you want to roast them and the rest of the guts into your yard/food waste bag (it can go with your green bin on garbage/recycle day)
  • once your pumpkin is gutted, wipe of the outside and make sure it is completely dry
  • tape your stencil onto the surface area you want to carve
  • trace around the areas to carve (or you can use the small poke tool that comes with the kits)
  • use a small pumpkin carving knife to cut out your areas 
If your kids are really little, they may do best with having 2 different sessions - one to gut the pumpkin, and one to carve.  My oldest started doing his own carving with the kits when he was 6, I was just there to help out if needed, and make sure he was using it safely.  Mr. J has never really liked the feel of the insides, so I always do the gutting.  Mr. K LOVES to help with it though.

The most important thing is to have fun. It's ok if they don't turn out exactly like the stencil - as long as they are happy.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Winter Driving Safety Tip

This may seem like a no-brainer, but based on all the cars I see on the road, apparently it's not.  So, here is a tip for you:

Driving with your windshield frosted up and only clearing a spot where you can see straight ahead is NOT safe. Not at all.  Depending on where you live, you will also receive a fine from the police if they see it.  Not sure what I am talking about? See the photo below

The same goes for snow. If your vehicle is covered in snow or ice, it needs to be removed before driving.   The snow piled on top of your car? Yep, that too. My windshield has been hit from chunks of ice/snow flying off the vehicle in front of me on the highway. Caught me off guard and startled me.

With winter on it's way and vehicles being frosted over in the mornings already, this is my reminder to all of you.  It may mean you have to leave the house a few minutes earlier to have time to clean it off, or maybe you could get an auto-start and have your vehicle started and warming up before you even leave your front door.  Whatever you choose, make sure to plan ahead so you can start your commute safely. It's not just about you, but others drivers, passengers and pedestrians.