Sunday, December 3, 2017

This yummy treat is for all the Frozen fans, more specifically the Olaf fans. So everybody, cause who doesn't love Olaf?  
The Olaf snack mix is great for movie nights, birthday parties, winter get-togethers, or a fun treat on a random Sunday. I was inspired to come up with this snack after watching the new Frozen short, Olaf's Frozen Adventure. 

Olaf is such a fun character that is full of sweetness and joy. That is exactly what I wanted the mix to be, too. I carefully selected each ingredient to represent the lovable snowman, while still staying tasty. 

- Rice Chex.
- Snowflake pretzels. 
- White Chocolate.
- Sprinkles. I found snowman and snowflake sprinkles. I also added in the orange sprinkles to represent his carrot nose and the blue sprinkles just because it's a fun pop of color.
- Mini Marshmallows.
- Mini Chocolate Chips. 
- Blue Sugar Sprinkles.


Lay out your Chex cereal on a piece of wax paper. Melt your chocolate and put it in a sandwich bag. Cut off a corner of the bag and drizzle your Chex with the chocolate. Add some blue sugar sprinkles for some extra Frozen magic. The best part is, not even the Duke of Weselton will accuse you of witchcraft because of this magic!

Let the chocolate harden up in the fridge. That should only take a few minutes. Place your Chex on a plate or in a baggie and then add in your other ingredients and mix it up. That's it. It really is that simple. 

Kid's Thoughts:

Bug is a huge Frozen fan so it wasn't a surprise that she was thrilled with this snack. She loved exploring all the different ingredients. I heard extra giggles when she found the snowmen sprinkles. 

Bear's favorite part was the snowflakes pretzels which is surprising since he doesn't usually like pretzels. (By the way, I found those at Wal-Mart.) 

Bean loved the cereal.  I think he might have a new favorite.

I would call that a success. It is always a good feeling when you get smiles and giggles from putting together a treat like this. And it lasted about as long as a snowman doing whatever snow does in summer. 


Sunday, November 26, 2017

I'm going to do things a bit differently, and give you the TL:DR version first of my movie review of the new Pixar film, Coco. See it. Just do it.
You're better off going now and then coming back to read my thoughts after. If you simply must know right now, just check below this adorable photo of Bean enjoying himself thoroughly.
Now either you've already seen the movie, or you're bad at following instructions. Either way, we're here now, so let's make the most of it. Going in, I wasn't super excited about Coco, not gonna lie. Which is a little odd for me, since I lived in California for a time, and have some passing familiarity with Dia de los Muertos. The girls were all amped up for Olaf's Frozen Adventure, which was good enough to warrant its own review. We were curious about Coco, even though Olaf's latest adventure was as long as a TV show. And I am so glad we got to see it.

Now, on to Coco.  First off, the visuals are amazing in this film. Being married to a photographer, I found myself paying extra attention to things like color and lighting. And they were breathtaking. I'm used to seeing visually pleasing elements in Pixar movies, that's nothing new. This movie went beyond all that. The scene where you first see the land of the dead is stunning; there's no other word for it. 

But the story is what really makes this film a classic. I won't re-hash all the details, that isn't what we do here. Instead, I'm going to tell you that this film has an engaging storyline, a whole host of fully realized characters, and includes a lot of Mexican history and tradition, while still remaining accessible. It packs an emotional punch, too. While it isn't as heart-stopping as Toy Story 3, for example, I think the emotional current runs deeper in this film. For me, it was right up there with Big Hero 6 and Inside Out in terms of the feelings it generates.  

Now, the reason that I told you to go see it first is because I do feel a bit like the movie did benefit from having relatively no expectations going in. It's Pixar, (and not the Good Dinosaur,) so it's liable to be pretty good. But not knowing much else may have lent this movie a little more punch; only time and repeat viewings will really tell about that. My initial response is to put it up with such favorites as Big Hero 6 and Inside Out, due to this being a big story and emotion-based movie. Like I said, additional viewings will show if it holds up, like those two did, or if it falls a little flat, like Monsters U. My gut feeling is that this will be a classic, though. And Bean loved it, start to finish. He successfully fought naptime off the entire movie, and when it ended, he started signing "more." The only other time he's done this for something non-food related was the Incredibles 2 trailer. We might end up hitting this one again before it even leaves theaters.  

Another major factor that really made the movie is the music. I'm a fan of Flamenco guitar and Mariachi music, so I wasn't shocked that I enjoyed the soundtrack. What was more surprising was that the rest of the family loved it so much, too. When we quizzed the kids about their favorite part, Bug's was Remember Me, a key song in the movie. She went so far as to dig out Bear's guitar afterwards and try to play it. She's never shown any interest in even picking up a guitar before, so we'll call it a work in progress. 

But Benjamin Bratt and Gael Garcia Bernal both put in impressive musical performances. I wasn't familiar with the other actors, but there isn't a bad song on the soundtrack. I'm less fond of the pop version of the main song, but well, that's been the deal with pretty much every Disney soundtrack, ever. I guess I'll have to learn some of the songs (if I can,) so that I can teach them to Bug.  

Who should go see this movie:

Everybody. Seriously, it's a buddy comedy. It's a musical. It's a cultural piece. It's an emotional story. It's a fun adventure. There are so many hats this movie wears, and yet it never felt scattered or disjointed. It never felt like they were trying to combine too many things. All the ingredients came together to form one fantastic pan dulce. Okay, fine so let me be more specific.
- Dates. If you're seeing somebody who doesn't mind heading to a cartoon movie, this wouldn't be a bad option. You'll seem sensitive.
- Parents. In classic Pixar fashion, we get a film that can entertain kids while still engaging adults. There's some humor, and a great family ethic.
- Kids. Duh. Even the one-year-old stayed locked in.
- Pixar fans. If you think the company's been a bit off lately, apparently you missed Inside Out. But this is the Pixar we know and love, and they hit it out of the park on this try. 

Who should skip this movie:

- People without souls.
- Hardcore MMA enthusiasts who don't want to be caught walking out of a kids' movie all misty-eyed. 

So finally, I just want to say that you really need to give this movie a chance, even if you only really want to see the Frozen (really, really long for a) short beforehand. Stick around. You're missing out big if you don't.  
- Jacob

Friday, November 24, 2017

Disney and Christmas may well be two of the most magical words in the English language. And we are putting them together with this Mickey Mouse Christmas wreath. This is a super easy DIY that even the kids can help with. Bug and I made a special day out of it by visiting the craft store together and picking out the perfect supplies for our wreath, then heading home to make it. Together we came up with a beautiful wreath that is the very definition of magic.

If you've read our DIY Mickey Mouse Fall Wreath post, then you know that I like to play it by ear. I visit the craft store with only a vague idea, and see what inspires me. This wreath can be made so many different ways with different ribbons, foliage, hat or no hat, etc.  It really is about what inspires you. Bug and I found ourselves in an aisle loaded with reds and greens and glittery foliage. I could see her little mind racing with ideas. She immediately fell in love with the ones you see on the wreath. She's a big fan of sparkle and glitter, as you can see. (Confession time, me too.) I was all about the Santa hat and burlap ribbon. I grabbed one big wreath plus two smaller wreaths and a can of spray glitter and we were all set.
To recap, you will need:

  • One big wreath and two smaller wreaths for the ears.
  • The decor items that inspire you.
  • Ribbon.
  • Santa Hat.
  • Glitter spray.
  • Also, grab some cardboard, thick floral wire, and a glue gun.
All set? Good.

Now for the fun stuff.

My method for getting the ears on seemed to work last time so I went with that. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? 
Use your hot glue gun to glue the ears in place and then use the floral wire to tightly wrap around your ears to secure them in place. I mean, the wreath's ears, not yours.
I wrapped some small battery-powered lights around the wreath. You could skip this step, but I think the added lights make it even more magical. Wrap your ribbon around Mickey. Use hot glue at the beginning and end to secure it. Nothing fancy. Just a whole lot of wrapping. You will get tired of wrapping. If you do decide to add the lights, make an extra loop with the ribbon on the back to hold the battery pack in place.
Next, spray glitter everywhere. Okay, not really everywhere. Just on the wreath. The glitter gives it extra sparkle and almost looks like snow. 
Now it is time for the hat. I wanted to make sure that the hat stayed upright. I got some cardboard, and then cut out a trapezoid that was slightly smaller than the hat. The trapezoid shape allows the tip of the hat to hang down. I used cardboard from a cereal box, but I would actually recommend a thicker, more sturdy cardboard. Once you have the look of your hat down, glue a small wooden stick to the cardboard at an angle so it can slot into the top of your wreath and down the side. I used a bamboo skewer, but a popsicle stick should work just fine too. For extra insurance to prevent floppiness, spray the hat with spray starch. Hot glue the actual hat to the wreath for added support. 
Bug picked a pretty silver flower to put on the hat so I hot glued it straight to the hat. I would have never thought of that, but it was a perfect addition. 

Lastly, just stick in any foliage or decor item that you picked out. I believe less is more in this case. I also hot glued those to make sure they stayed. Basically, hot glue everything. Again, not actually everything, just wreath things.

I love the way this turned out and it holds a special mommy-daughter memory too. Let us know how you did your Mickey wreath and send us pictures. We can't wait to see them.

As always, feel free to leave a comment with any questions.


Friday, November 17, 2017

We've made this Thankful Tree a Thanksgiving tradition for our family. It is an easy craft and a great conversation starter. It reminds us that this is a time for us to come together as a family and talk about what we are thankful for. Afterwards, you have a beautiful Thanksgiving centerpiece. 


You will need:
  • Fall colored construction paper.
  • Sticks.
  • Scissors.
  • Any kind of string. We used twine.
  • Vase.
  • Hole punch.
  • Leaf. (optional)
  • Pine cones. (optional)

The kids went on a nature hunt to find the perfect set of sticks and a leaf to use as a template. The size that you need will depend on how big you want your thankful tree. Pine branches worked out really well for us. The kids found some nice size sticks with lots of little branches. They even picked out a branch with a pine cone on it. I left it there because it was a cute addition to the thankful tree. Then they picked up some pine cones to add in the vase which looks pretty and helps keep the sticks in place.  
We used a real leaf to trace around on the construction paper, cut it out, and then used that one as a template for the rest. 

Next, we all wrote what we are thankful for on the leaves. It made me proud to see that they were writing things like family, friends, our house, and God. But it was fun to throw in ones like Star Wars too. It is interesting to see what they will come up with each year. 
Punch a hole in each leaf and then tie your string on it so it is ready to hang. Tuck your branches in the vase and add your thankful leaves. I added a string of battery-powered LED lights to the branches, too. 

It got hectic at times with a one year old that wants to help, but I am so thankful for that time together. 

Check out the video from last year to get a visual of how we made our tree.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. And send us pictures of your thankful tree.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

This is a recipe that we have tweaked and perfected over the years and I feel like it's finally ready to share. I especially enjoy making this on a cold winter night. The whole family enjoys this one, including the baby.  I was inspired when I used to get this at Ruby Tuesday, before Bear was born. Let's not talk about how long ago that was though. Do they even still serve this? This recipe may not be an exact match to Ruby Tuesday's but it is definitely close.


You will need three or four cans of white kidney beans. I usually use four but this time I used three and there was still plenty.  Four bouillon cubes. Or chicken broth. I prefer the bouillon cubes because they're cheaper and easier. An 8 oz bag of Mexican blend cheese. 1/2 tsp of cumin, oregano, and paprika seasoning. One can of diced green chilies. Shredded rotisserie chicken. I prefer to get my chicken already cooked from Costco so that is one less step that I have to do. Cilantro for topping because you need cilantro on everything. And pretend like a half of onion and 1 cup of sour cream is pictured.


Prepare your bouillon in a large pot, add beans, chicken, seasonings, and canned green chilies.

Stir it all together and simmer on low-medium heat for 20-30 minutes. Easy, right? Yeah, I'm all about easy. While that is cooking, dice your onions and saute them and then throw it in the pot with the rest of the stuff.

Right before serving add in your cheese and sour cream. Stir, top with cilantro, and enjoy!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Thor Ragnarok is an awesome movie. Is it in the top 3 MCU movies? Not really. But it's a great film nonetheless, and a must-see for most MCU fans. Why didn't I say all MCU fans? I'll cover that and whether or not I think this is a family-friendly film.

Bear and I went to see Ragnarok today, for his birthday, which was not today. But we did a bunch of stuff on his actual birthday, so this was easier. Now, just like with my Spider-Man review, I'm going to warn you ahead of time: while I won't go out of my way just to spoil things, there probably will be some mild to moderate spoilers. And yeah, there you go.

So, if I characterize Spider-Man Homecoming by saying it had heart, this movie had funny bone. In a whole backstory I won't bore you with, Chris Hemsworth and some other people who aren't Chris Hemsworth decided to make Thor funnier than before. Which is, to say, funny at all.  They definitely injected the humor into this film, and it mostly works. Really, the only time I thought it was a misstep would be when there were some pretty serious things going on on the screen, such as attempted genocide, and then Blam! Thor is being funny. While they didn't literally juxtapose jokes with genocide, the jumps from serious to funny were at times jarring. But really, this would be my biggest complaint about the movie, and it's a minor one. After a couple of minutes, the less serious parts would start feeling totally natural again.

Overall, this is the Thor we all know and wanted to love already, but now he's ready for our adulation. Thor is funny, and also pretty awesome. I've described Thor in the past as "You know, he should be just about the most powerful character in the universe, but he just isn't, know what I mean?" Well, without giving too much away, some of the awesomest (yes, it's a word.  I just made it up. Got a problem with that? Consult the section on Hawkeye in my Spider-Man Homecoming review.) scenes in this movie take place once Thor learns a few things about himself. And you don't have to wait until the very end for anything good to happen. Except to Doug. Nothing good happens to Doug.

Seriously, there are some amazing visuals in this film. In terms of bright colors coming at your face, I'd put it just behind Dr. Strange. Also, the entirety of the planet Sakaar seems to occur in the 1980s, somehow. So there are lots of 80s colors, and synthy music, and a Duran Duran t-shirt. (No, really.) Oh, and the synthy soundtrack was all composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, so that's kind of awesome, as well. This whole segment never gets too serious, and also introduces us to the Grandmaster, who is incredibly evil. So evil, in fact, that Bear actually despised him well beyond Hela, who impales just about everyone in the film  I suspect she has an impalement addiction. He even hates him more than Kylo Ren, who killed Han Solo. (You need to understand, nobody is worse than Kylo Ren, in Bear's eyes.) In many ways, the Grandmaster is the true villain of the picture; Hela serves more as a plot device/force of nature with a whole lot of eye shadow. But possibly still less then Jeff Golblum's Grandmaster, who is so greasy it feels like he's going to leave spots on the movie screen.

Bear's Favorite scene: The hugest bolt of lightning in the history of lightning.
My Favorite scene: Either when Thor does a little self-discovery around the middle of the film, or when similar life-affirming transformations occur in several other characters toward the end.

Okay, so here's the big question- to whom would I recommend this movie?
  • If you're an MCU aficionado, and not quite as picky about writing as I am, definitely.
  • If you're 10 or above, almost definitely.  But this is where things get a bit hairy. MCU films have been sneaking in some swear words, and this is no exception. So that needs to be out there.  Also, as I've mentioned, there are just so many impalings. None of them are ever bloody, but it happens a ton. There is an army of resurrected warriors that show up as skeletons with glowing eyes, which might be scary to younger ones. Thor suffers an injury which could be pretty upsetting to younger viewers.  (OMG SPOILER FOR REAL he loses an eye, and while not gory, it's shown uncovered OKAY SPOILERS ARE DONE NOW.) There is some casual alcohol consumption, which is simultaneously treated as a source of humor, and played straight to explore the consequences of trying to hide in the bottom of a bottle.
  • If you're looking for an "in" to the MCU without having to watch 27 hours of back films, sure, why not?  It's entertaining, and gives you a fair idea of what to expect without leaning too heavily on what's happened in the past to be consumed without all the backstory.
I would not recommend it to:
  • People, (like Beth,) whose interest in the MCU doesn't extend much past Guardians and Spider-Man, (although I did get her to get involved while watching Civil War, much to her chagrin.)
  • Kids who are just wayyyy too girly, (like Bug. Impalements freak her out, unless it's that one time with Olaf.) Be who you are, nothing wrong with that. But if who you are is super girly, this probably isn't the movie for you.
  • Children younger than 10, in general. All the aforementioned reasons. You know your kids, you know what they can handle. But just understand, while the MCU films are no stranger to violence, I think Ragnarok showed considerably more of it than any before. Bear handled it just fine, but it's definitely more than what we've gotten in the past.
  • Cinemaphiles. You know your really annoying friend, who always critiques every movie y'all watch?  This is not the MCU film to start him on. Yes, it's getting tons of praise for the humoristic take on Thor, but well, there are times where it sells the movie out to set up a joke.  The jokes work, but it still weakens the movie just a lil bit. Nothing major, but your friend is a pain in the butt, remember? He'll latch on to this like a remora on a shark.

In the end, I'll say that this was a great film. Bear and I both really enjoyed it. Not flawless, and I think that, like Age of Ultron, a bit of time will show that more, but I'm also finding that its charm is growing on me, even as I write this. It has tons of appeal, great effects, good action bits, and an uncharacteristically deep undercurrent of self-exploration that I don't think even Dr. Strange managed to touch.


Friday, November 3, 2017

We have a huge Harry Potter fan in the family. A Harry Potter fan that is actually turning 10 today! What better way to celebrate than a gift guide that includes gifts that he actually received?

I'm sure I'm not the only one with an elementary aged Harry Potter fan so I'm going to show you the most wished for Harry Potter gifts for kids. These gifts would be perfect for Christmas.

(This post does contain affiliate links. We receive a small commission if you choose to purchase anything through the links, but it does not cost you any extra. Read our full disclosure here.)

Harry Potter Fidget Spinner

Fidget spinners are all the rage right now. It seems like every kid has one, but not quite like this one. We'd actually been avoiding getting one for Bear, but we had to give in with this one.  This unique fidget spinner looks just like the golden snitch from Harry Potter. It is a bit higher than most fidget spinners, but if you're going to do it, do it right.  This thing is worth every penny.  It's solidly constructed, and spins approximately forever.  Any Harry Potter fan would be thrilled to unwrap this little doodad.

Check out more unique gifts for kids at Just Mommin Around.

Chocolate Frog

This is actually from last year's birthday, but we had to mention it, because they are so cool.  You can order the Chocolate Frog online, but we prefer to get them from the source, because then you actually get to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.  
The box is a really neat keepsake, and will be reusable, if you want.  The frog itself is very tasty, huge, and made of solid chocolate.  There was enough for Bear to share with the whole family, so I liked it.  Finally, each frog comes with a Wizard card, just like in the book/movie.  Bear got Salazar Slytherin.  While these, again, are a bit pricey to try to collect them all, it's a neat surprise that really adds value for your HP fan.  

Science Kit for Wizards

This idea is great for the kids that love to learn. We went through several different magic/wizard science kits, including some branded ones, but we settled on the Magic Science for Wizards Only for a few reasons. First of all, it was substantially cheaper. Yes, we pay extra for quality in some areas, but Jacob's wallet can only take so much of a beating. Also, it contains every ingredient you will need to perform the experiments. Nothing will take the magic out of your child's Christmas like a frenzied rummaging through the cupboard only to find out you are out of baking soda. Finally, since this is a science kit, this one seemed to have a good focus on the science aspect of things, which is important, even with the wizard theme.

Visit Pennies & Playdough for more gifts to inspire a love of science and engineering

Harry Potter Board Games

There are actually quite a few themed board games for the Harry Potter fan in your life.  We wound up choosing the Harry Potter Triwizard Maze game because the Trouble-style game is easy for children of different ages to play, and also because this is the one Bear actually asked for.  Some of your other options are the Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle, which we haven't played, but it looks like fun.  Also, there is Harry Potter Wizard Chess, and finally Harry Potter Pictopia.  And this is just naming a few.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Illustrated Edition
This book is beautifully illustrated. Even if your child owns every copy ever made of this book, you need to add this one to the collection. It's full of full-color illustrations, that bring the classic tale to life in an entirely different way than even the movie did.  It's one of Bear's most treasured possessions, and he chooses to read this version every time he re-reads the series.  

Also, check out The Quiet Grove for educational gifts your kid will LOVE

Do you have any suggestions to add to this list? What will you be getting your Harry Potter fan for Christmas? Leave a comment letting us know.

This gift guide is in participation with a gift guide blog hop. Be sure to check out the other blogs to find the best gifts for elementary and school age kids

Have fun shopping!

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