Director Jewels: November 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Clifford the Big Red Dog Animal Science Kit Review + Giveaway - #HolidayGiftGuide2014

Disclosure: I received a product sample to facilitate my review. No other compensation was received and all views expressed are my own. 


We started preschool earlier this fall...and have not managed to find a rhythm that works perfectly for us. I need a little bit more time and a lot more organization, but I'm still trying! We were really excited to have the chance to check out the Clifford Animal Science Kit from The Young Scientists Club

The Clifford the Big Red Dog kit collection is designed with preschoolers (ages 3+) in mind and includes Water Science, Rainbow Science, Kitchen Science, Magic Science, and Food Science. These kits use everyday items to make things like bird feeders, exploding volcanoes, and dancing pasta! The Clifford licensed line was introduced in 2013 and has been received with enthusiasm everywhere - and most definitely in our house! I think Lincoln would love the whole series.


Here's a little more info about this kit:
Clifford and his friends love exploring the world around them and with this exciting kit they are learning all about ANIMAL SCIENCE. Emily Elizabeth, the narrator in the colorful 20-page manual, guides young scientists through versatile experiments with catchy titles such as animal habitats, edible play dough, animal track cast, animal scavenger hunt, animal fossils, bug house, camouflaged animals, animal life cycle, what is in an egg, what do animals eat, bird feeder, and habitat diorama. This kit comes with reusable habitat stickers, scavenger hunt chart with stickers, a bug house, 12 miniature animals and much more. Young Scientists will feel like real scientists when they use the included colorful lab tray, measuring cup, and magnifying glass to perform their experiments! Join Clifford and his friends on an adventure into the world of science! (Ages 3 and up)

We broke open the kit the same afternoon we tried the Does It Sink or Float? experiment, so we had a science-filled day. Lincoln loved every minute of it. He and Daddy decided to start with the Animal Track Cast project. The instruction book contains step-by-step directions that are easy to follow.


Lincoln was fascinated by the entire creation process. He wanted to help with each step - measuring, mixing, kneading - all of it!


The animal track cast project required just oats, flour, and water - things we already had in our house. The included tray contains both the mixing bowl and mold necessary for this project.


Lincoln spent a good portion of the project trying to eat the experiment, but overall - I still think he learned a lot!


The finished animal cast turned out really well! Lincoln was very proud of it and showed it to everyone he saw in the next few days. He wanted to paint it as well, and had a grand time adding some color to the finished cast.


I'm so impressed overall with the contents of the kit. We've been able to complete a few of the other projects as well, and they have all been big hits - but there are still plenty of new experiments to explore. These science kits will be perfect for the upcoming long winter months when we are stuck inside due to the cold weather!


These Clifford kits would make excellent and unique holiday gifts for preschool kids who enjoy learning creatively. The Young Scientists Club offers many additional products that are perfect for elementary age, as well - there's a Magic School Bus series that looks great! I have my eye on the Clifford Kitchen Science kit next!


Visit The Young Scientists Club online for more info about this kit and all of the others available. You can also follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Giveaway

One Director Jewels reader will win a Clifford Animal Science Kit! This giveaway will end on December 16 at 11:59pm CST. This giveaway is open to US readers only. Winner will be emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or prize will be forfeited.

To enter the giveaway, follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter form below (you may need Javascript enabled to see the form and it may take a moment to load)! Once you complete the first entry, the other options will open up so that you can complete them as well. All of the "extra entries" are optional - you can do just one, or as many as you want! Winners will be contacted by email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclosure: Thank you to The Young Scientists Club for providing my review sample and the giveaway prize! I received no other compensation and all views expressed are my own. For more information, you can read my Giveaway Policy and my Disclosure Policy.

Tips for Paying Bills on Time....even with Mom Brain



Before I had kids, I never had a single late payment....on anything. I easily balanced bills, credit card statements, and the mortgage without forgetting a single due date. I was pretty proud of myself and thought that I was rather impressive in my financial abilities.

Then I had two kids in two years, basically stopped sleeping, and eventually realized maybe I wasn't so special after all. There are more bills now, since there are more people in my family. There are fewer hours in my day that I can think about things in an uninterrupted manner. And, there are more little hands to displace important papers when they are placed anywhere other than in our filing system. I don't habitually have late payment notices sitting in my mailbox, but I would be lying if I told you it had only happened once since my kids came along.

There's nothing quite as terrible as the sinking feeling you get when you realize that a bill went unpaid and you now face a late charge. Bills are not fun to pay in the first place - so the realization that you just cost yourself more money is pretty tough.


I'm 100% ready to declare late fees a thing of the past and achieve financial peace of mind. For our family, financial peace will mean paying off medical bills and debts, improving our budget, and having a solid plan for the future. We're determined to stay on track through the upcoming holiday season - which is when buying tends to get out of hand for a lot of families.

These are some tips I'm implementing in my own life to say goodbye to late fees forever...will you join me in applying some of these ideas to help improve your financial well-being?

  • Set Up Reminders (in more than one place). There's one particular bill that I have forgotten more than once - it is due at a different time of the month than anything else on my list. I've set a Google Calendar reminder for a couple days before the due date, and an alarm on my phone the day the bill is due. That way, I'm getting reminders from more than one place and I'll be way more likely to remember it is due!
  • Set Up Auto Pay. Whenever possible, I'm making all of my payments automatic each month! This takes the worry of forgetting to pay off my mind almost entirely.
  •  Pick Two Specific Days Each Month to Pay Bills. Sit down with your stack of paper statements, email reminders, spreadsheet, or whatever method you use to keep track of upcoming expenses twice a month and make sure to take care of anything that will be due before your next scheduled bill self-evaluation.

To encourage consumers to stay on track with their finances this holiday season, Capital One 360 is decking the halls with deals you can bank on, including new account bonuses, referral bonuses and closing cost credits. I've been a Capital One user for several years and have always been pleased with their services! All of Capital One 360's products are designed to save consumers time and money. They are always available - either online or via an excellent mobile app.

Capital One 360 is getting the holiday season off to a great start with lots of deals and incentives this weekend! Check out the Black Friday sales below:

ShareBuilder Up to $1,250 bonus (tiered offer)
  • Must be a new ShareBuilder customer
Home Loans $1,250 off closing costs
  • Must sign up for the loan during the sale period
360 Checking $100 bonus
  • Must make a $500 minimum initial deposit and make five transactions
  • Must be new to 360 Checking
360 Savings $100 bonus
  • Must make a $1,000 minimum initial deposit
  • Must be new to 360 Savings
Refer a Friend $40 bonus per successful referral
  • For someone to receive the referral bonus, they must be a current customer
  • Their friend must meet the minimum initial deposit requirements
  • Applies to all accounts

I especially love the free $100 bonuses just for opening an account - if you open a checking account and a savings account, that's $200 FOR FREE! That could definitely help maintain financial peace when Christmas shopping - am I right?
What steps are you taking to achieve financial peace now and in 2015?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

48/52



 "A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014."

Lincoln - literally shoving pumpkin pie in his mouth.
Addie - checking out the Thanksgiving spread.
 
Linking up at Practising Simplicity

Friday, November 28, 2014

Code Babies: Picture Books for the Youngest Web Developers - #HolidayGiftGuide2014

Disclosure: I received sample books for review, but no other compensation was received and all views expressed are my own. 

There are books about police officers, firefighters, teachers, doctors, and many other jobs - reading is a great way to introduce kids to a variety of professions. But until recently, there has been a lack of material when it comes to learning about more modern jobs like web developers, content creators, and technical positions. My children are lucky enough to have two parents who work in the online content world, so there's a good chance they'll be learning HTML code right along with addition and subtraction. I was so excited when I came across Code Babies that I knew that these titles would be a perfect fit for this year's holiday gift guide!


With a motto of "It's never too early to develop!", Code Babies currently offers four titles that help introduce kids to the basics of web language. HTML for Babies and CSS for Babies are perhaps not the easiest books to read aloud (they are written in code, after all), but they help kids become acquainted with the look of code and I imagine that will help greatly down the road! Familiarity makes learning new skills so much easier! I love the board book format that these books come in.


The big hit at our house, however, is the picture book ABCs of the Web. Lincoln (my three-year-old) is fascinated by this book. I've actually lost track of how many times we have read it in the past few weeks.


ABCs of the Web is an alphabet book that features a different web element for each letter of the alphabet. My kids have learned about anchor tags, browsers, cookies, domains, and so much more just from this book!

The illustrations by Tom Holmes include adorable little babies both at work and at play, learning about web elements along the way.


Some of the elements are basic - Internet, links, and keywords. Others are a little more in-depth, such as Node.js, Open Source, and PHP. And there are even a couple I had never heard of myself (Google (letter G!) filled me in about Ruby).


These books are cleverly written by John C. Vanden-Heuvel Sr & Audrey Ostrovsky MD, featuring rhyming text around many, many web language vocabulary words. Hearing a three-year-old repeat "rasterize" and "JavaScript" is pretty amusing. One of Lincoln's favorite pages is "S is for SEO" - he loves to trace his way through the maze featured in the illustration.


My favorite part is that it even includes Wordpress as letter W - so I'm able to make a correlation for my kids that W is like what mommy does when working on her computer!

We love these books and will be referring to them often as our kids learn about the basics of web development!


You can purchase Code Babies books on the web, plus keep up with the latest news via Facebook and Twitter! You can even grab some really cute Code Babies t-shirts!

Disclosure: Thank you to Code Babies for providing my samples! I received no other compensation and all views expressed are my own. For more information, you can read my Disclosure Policy

Black Friday Deals from Silhouette + Sneak Peek at Addie's Birthday Party!

Disclosure: I received products from Silhouette to facilitate this post. No other compensation was received and all views expressed are my own. 

I've been dreaming of owning a paper cutting machine since the first time I learned they existed - but until I actually had one for myself, I could only dream of how wonderful it would be to have this tool in my crafting arsenal. I'm a proud new owner of a Silhouette Portrait - and let me tell you...it has changed my crafting life!


Addie's second birthday party - Tea for "2" with Winnie the Pooh - was last weekend, and I (of course) waited until almost the very last minute to start putting things together for it. One of my big focal points for each birthday party is the Happy Birthday Banner that I hang on my fireplace. In past years, I have borrowed a machine from a friend or just made them by hand, but that is usually time-consuming. Time was not something I had for party prep this time, and I was amazed at how much my creative process was sped up just by having my very own Portrait!


Silhouette's two cutting machines, the Portrait and the Cameo, are especially awesome because they connect to your computer to cut any design you can dream up - no dies required. This means you can select any font on your computer, or any Silhouette file from the vast Silhouette store, customize it to the size you need, and start cutting with just the click of a button!

Silhouette is designed to make your crafting easier with their all-in-one tool. So far, I've only experimented with cutting on regular cardstock, but the Portrait or Cameo can be used to cut vinyl, fabric, and other materials, too! I can't wait to try cutting felt with my Portrait!

Pooh Chipboard purchased separately.

For Addie's birthday banner, I had purchased some Winnie the Pooh chipboard pieces and just needed to put together the main part of the banner. I only had to use two shapes and one font to cut all of the pieces for the banner - it was super easy! The colorful pieces were cut using a basic circle (3.5"), and the circle frame (4"). The circle frame file comes with the purchase of the Portrait and it automatically loaded into the shape library. I just counted how many of each color I needed and set the machine to cutting!


My machine, the Portrait, can cut up to 8" wide and 10 feet long! It is remarkably lightweight and could easily be transferred to a girls night or craft show for crafting on the go.


Are you sold yet? I'm seriously beyond excited that I get to play with the Portrait over the next few weeks during Christmas crafting season! You can snag a great deal on a Silhouette machine now through December 8, thanks to the Black Friday sale!


Use code JEWELS at Silhouette to snag a Portrait for $179.99 - that price includes a 1 year FREE membership to Club Silhouette, which ensures that you can keep your library stashed with new designs for every project you can dream up. I have my eye on some sea creature designs for Lincoln's 4th birthday party!

There are a bunch of great deals this week, so you can pick the one that is the best fit for your crafting needs! Just make sure you use the code JEWELS to get the prices listed.


Portrait Bundle
-          Portrait machine & 1 free year to Club Silhouette for $179.99

CAMEO Bundle #1
-          CAMEO machine, Designer Edition software upgrade, Dust Cover, 4 Tools and $25 Download card to the Silhouette Design Store for $269.99

CAMEO Bundle #2
-          CAMEO machine, Design Edition software upgrade and 1 free year to Club Silhouette for $299.99

CAMEO & Portrait Bundle (One for you, one for a friend!)
-          CAMEO machine, Portrait machine and 2, $25 Download cards to the Silhouette Design Store for $299.99

If you are already a Silhouette user, use the code JEWELS to receive 40% off at SilhouetteAmerica.com (*excluding machines, design downloads, download cards, subscriptions and gift cards) PLUS Free Shipping on orders over $25 for the lower 48 states. And, all designs at SilhouetteDesignStore.com are 50% off – no code needed!

What would you create with a Silhouette this holiday season? 

Disclosure: I received products from Silhouette to facilitate this post. No other compensation was received and all views expressed are my own. For more info, you can read my Disclosure Policy.

Hank Finds An Egg + Hank Has A Dream Children's Book Review + Giveaway - #HolidayGiftGuide2014

 Disclosure: I received sample books for review, but no other compensation was received and all views expressed are my own.

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you already know I'm a sucker for children's books. We have books coming out of our ears here in our home, yet when I was planning for the Holiday Gift Guide this year, I still accepted tons of wonderful new titles to share with both my kids and all of you! I can't help it - reading opens the doors to so many adventures, it only makes sense to let my kids experience that wonder often. 


We were all really excited to check out two titles from Peter Pauper Press and we were not disappointed in any way. Hank Finds An Egg and Hank Has A Dream have become new favorites in our collection.

These titles are simply adorable. Created by Rebecca Dudley, they feature a small woodland creature who has fantastic adventures in his forest home. The pictures in the book all feature amazing dioramas made by the author! Lincoln and Addie were both just fascinated the first time we read these books, and they continue to ask for them during storytime.


Hank Finds An Egg was released last spring, and is actually a wordless book. At first, I thought this would disappoint the kids, but I honestly think they like it better! I love that I can ask Lincoln questions about what's happening in the pictures and watch as he figures out his interpretation of the story. What a great way to help reading comprehension - even without words!


The images are beyond beautiful and we stare at them for long periods of time, picking out new details each time we open the cover.


Hank Has A Dream is a new release this fall and you can check out the sweet book trailer over on YouTube. In this second title (which does contain text), Hank tells his little hummingbird friend of the dreams he has dreamed and how he imagines himself flying, sailing, soaring across the land. Each dream parallels an action on the ground and it's easy to spot the similarity to that of a child's imagination at play.


I really think these books are a wonderful addition to a child's library, and highly recommend them as a Christmas gift for a child on your list this year!


You can find both books on Amazon: Hank Finds An Egg and Hank Has A Dream.


Visit Peter Pauper Press online for more info about Hank and other great books, journals, and stationary. You can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

Giveaway

One Director Jewels reader will win a copy of Hank Has A Dream and Hank Finds An Egg! This giveaway will end on December 12 at 11:59pm CST. This giveaway is open to US readers only. Winner will be emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or prize will be forfeited.

To enter the giveaway, follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter form below (you may need Javascript enabled to see the form and it may take a moment to load)! Once you complete the first entry, the other options will open up so that you can complete them as well. All of the "extra entries" are optional - you can do just one, or as many as you want! Winners will be contacted by email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: Thank you to Peter Pauper Press for providing my samples and the giveaway prize! I received no other compensation and all views expressed are my own. For more information, you can read my Giveaway Policy and my Disclosure Policy.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Our 2014 Hallmark Keepsake Ornament Picks + A Giveaway - #HolidayGiftGuide2014

Disclosure: I received a free product for review. No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed are my own. 

Last year, I wrote a little bit about our Keepsake Ornament tradition. I've been drooling over the Hallmark Dream Book since I was a teenager and each year, I love to select a few ornaments for our family Christmas tree.

I'm supposed to only be choosing one ornament to represent our family each year, but I have yet to actually get my list down to one. This year (again), I found two that I wanted to represent the memories we've made this year!


Family Ornament 1 - Snow Angel Team. This one is too perfect - Lincoln and Addie have spent half the year pretending to be Captain Barnacles and Peso from the Octonauts. A polar bear and a penguin are perfect to remind me of 2014 in years to come.

Family Ornament 2 - Cozy Country Church. We've been church hopping for what feels like years now, but I think this year we have finally found the place we belong. That's such a great feeling! I feel like an ornament to commemorate this milestone is perfect.

Lincoln's Ornament - Mickey's Fire Brigade. Much to my chagrin, Lincoln seems to be outgrowing his truck obsession, at least to some degree. I never dreamed how much I would miss finding little cars stashed all over my entire house. But at the beginning of 2014, he still loved them and we had a fun firetruck birthday party for him. The fire-fighting Mickey perfectly describes the first half of Lincoln's 2014.

Addie's Ornament -
The Doc Is In. Addie doesn't have a lovey that she carries around with her, but her Doc McStuffins doll has definitely been the leading contender for such a position (we even bought a second one as a backup). She loves Doc and all her little toy friends, so this seemed like a great fit for her this year.

Hallmark graciously offered to send me one of the ornaments from my list this year - and they're giving one away to one of you, as well! Keep reading for details on how you can win.


We were sent the Cozy Country Church Keepsake Ornament, and we're so excited for it to have a place on our tree this year. The snow-capped roof glistens as the little church rests in the branches of our Christmas tree. It measures 3.19" W x 4.38" H x 2.44" D.


My kids love to press the small button on the side to hear a choir sing a snippet of O Holy Night, which is one of my favorite Christmas carols.


Hallmark wants to hear about your #KeepsakeIt moments this holiday season! Hop over to enter the #KeepsakeIt Sweepstakes. The contest is going on now through December 18.

What's your favorite Keepsake Ornament from this year's selection? Check out the Dream Book or visit Hallmark online for more info. You can also follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Giveaway

One Director Jewels reader will win a surprise Keepsake Ornament from Hallmark! This giveaway will end on December 12 at 11:59pm CST. This giveaway is open to US readers only. Winner will be emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or prize will be forfeited.

To enter the giveaway, follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter form below (you may need Javascript enabled to see the form and it may take a moment to load)! Once you complete the first entry, the other options will open up so that you can complete them as well. All of the "extra entries" are optional - you can do just one, or as many as you want! Winners will be contacted by email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclosure: Thank you to Hallmark for providing my samples and the giveaway prize! I received no other compensation and all views expressed are my own. For more information, you can read my Giveaway Policy and my Disclosure Policy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hanna Andersson: Welcome to Kansas City!

Disclosure: I received a gift card for participating in this event, but was not asked to write a review. I seriously love this brand and just wanted to share the awesome with all of you! This post contains affiliate links.


Where are my Kansas City readers? I know there are some of you lurking out there! I'm so excited, you guys, because there is a new Hanna Andersson store open at Town Center Plaza in Leawood. I had actually never heard of Hanna until my friend Stephanie pointed me their direction when I was working on my Toddler Girl Fall Fashion Roundup earlier this year, but once I took a quick look at their online shop, I was hooked. Organic cotton, glorious colors, and sweet designs that let kids just be kids? Yes, please.

To say I was excited when I was invited to be a blogger hostess for the Leawood store Grand Opening Event would be the understatement of the year. I was able to invite some friends to attend a special pre-sale event the night before the store's grand opening and it was such a blast!


I had the chance to chat with Adam Stone, the CEO of Hanna Andersson, during the event. He shared with me the company's background story - how one mom (originally from Sweden) decided to create a brand of clothing that would last for a long, long time - as is customary with most things in Swedish culture. The cotton clothing is designed in vibrant colors that don't fade regardless of how many times they are washed, and they're intended to be clothes that can be handed down from child to child. The company was started in a garage in Portland, Oregon 30 years ago and has grown immensely since that time! I'm so excited that we now have our very own Hanna store here in KC!


You know that one clothing item in your wardrobe that you love because it is so soft and comfortable you can just chill? Everyone has something like that, right? They're the clothes that you run to put on as soon as you walk in the door from work at night, or the ones you don't change out of when you're planning to just stay home and organize all day. Hanna's clothes for kids are all like that - from the very first day you buy them. They're the softest cotton I think I have ever felt in my life!


From the casual play dresses (with which I am obsessed), to the amazing adorable collection of holiday pajamas, every single piece of clothing sends a message that it will become a wardrobe staple. And it's a worthy message: Hanna Andersson guarantees that you'll love their clothing and that they'll last - or you can bring it back, anytime. There's no return deadline!


As if everything I've already shared isn't enough, Hanna offers a line of Star Wars pajamas right now that are (for this geek) to die for....seriously. Striped Darth Vader jammies (they also come in pink)? And Star Wars in Christmas sweater design? I almost can't handle it.

What, you forgot I'm a Star Wars fanatic? Please see: Nerd Alert: Family Star Wars Halloween Costumes.


The sizing works a little bit different than the American standard, but it's really easy to figure out as long as you know your child's general proportions. The friendly employees at the Hanna store were handing out size charts to each shopper like the one pictured below.


I think I could have spent an entire paycheck in this store without blinking an eye, but since my budget wouldn't look kindly on that idea, I managed to pick out a few favorites to bring home to my kids. Some of my favorites? The Heathered Henley for Lincoln and the It's a Playdress, It's a Daydress for Addie. I had such a hard time narrowing down which dress I liked best! They are all adorable.

Enjoying Festivities at the Grand Opening Party with Stephanie.


How cute is the snow monster shirt and the Pippi Longstocking doll?

I know that there will be sales this weekend for Black Friday, so if you're planning to look for kids clothing, make sure Hanna Andersson is on your list!


I can't wait to give my kids their Christmas Eve pajamas this year - not only will they look adorable in my Christmas morning photos, they'll be super comfy too! I couldn't pass up the Red & Green Striped Organic Cotton Pajamas!


Addie is so far a huge fan of her Hanna Andersson clothing. The first time I put on her Lotsa Ruffles Dress, she declared "I'm beautiful!" and spent the next ten minutes twirling around. I love that it's one of her favorite outfits - because it's one of MINE, too! I can already tell that the quality is spectacular. This dress will hopefully be handed down to a little sister someday!


We love our Hanna clothing! If you're in Kansas City, stop by the store to check it out - but if not, you can find great deals online, too! Make sure you watch for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday deals all weekend!

Made to match headband by Adelaide's Attic.
Thanks to Hanna Andersson for allowing me to be a part of your grand opening celebration! I can't wait to visit again!
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