Director Jewels: December 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

What's On Your... {December 2014}

I will not give up on this series, even if I never remember to post it. Even twice a year is good, right? It will have to do, since the last time I wrote a post for this series was back in May. Maybe I should turn it into a link-up! Would any of you participate?


Dresser | It's a hot mess. Like 13 tubes of lip balm, a bunch of Chewbeads necklaces that my kids beg to drag all over the house, jewelry that still needs to be sorted (it's clear I have other priorities, right?), a stud finder, a box of drill bits, two late 19th-century costume bonnets made out of straw baskets, and I don't even remember what else.

Perennial To Do List | Sewing stuff for my own kids. Editing videos. Figuring out a plan to be an awesome (or, at the very least - functioning) homeschool mom and not fail at preschool whenever we start it up again. MEAL PLAN. Can I meal plan for a year at a time? Because otherwise I feel like I'll never keep up.

Refrigerator Shelves | Leftover Christmas Eve food from my grandparents' house. So Delicious dairy-free Coconut Mint Chocolate milk (not an affiliate link - it's just divine). Fresh blueberries. Raw milk. Expired yogurt.

Itinerary | NOTHING. It is almost January and we are going to have a ton of pj-and-movie days and get our house CLEANED UP. I typically function fine in disaster zones, but it's so bad right now I can't even think about anything else until some of it is clean.

Fantasy Itinerary | I have really been dreaming about Disney lately. That's not in the budget, so to pacify us...for now, I think we're buying 2015 Silver Dollar City season passes!

Playlist | We've been hearing a lot of Christmas music lately, and Lincoln knows all the words to a whole lot of Christmas songs (particularly anything from Rudolph) - so that may be influencing our music selection for awhile. Right now, I'm really enjoying the Into the Woods movie soundtrack (which I got for Christmas, yay me!), William Joseph (awesome pianist), and as always because based on her lyrics, she just gets me...Mindy Gledhill.

Nightstand | Some pajama pants, the baby monitor, a big scratch, and my iPhone charger.

Workout Plan | Um. Bahahahahahahaha.

Phone | Not much storage space. Etsy app that goes "cha-ching" whenever someone buys something from my shop. Ebay app where I stalk vintage American Girl child sized dresses to use for costumes and Hanna Andersson clothes for my kids.

Top 5 List | New year, new goals, a clean house, a content heart, a fresh start.

Bucket List | Everything on my 30 by 30 list - because I've barely touched it and I have under two years to do it all now! Ah!

Mind | Purging, cleaning, and cleansing. I'm so over 2014 and need that lovely January 1 to roll around and inspire me.

Blogroll | I always love When at Home because Kristen is super real. I'm hoping to get back into a blog reading habit in the new year, because I've been so consumed with writing and sharing and chattering online, I have lacked time to network much!

Walls of Your Favorite Room in Your House | It's the Super Nintendo Nursery. Always has been, likely always will be. Though if it could have fewer toys to trip over, that would be lovely.

Last Credit Card Statement | Everything on earth and then some. Ugh. 2015 is going to be the year of banishing credit card debt, as well.

Screensaver | Still the same because it's a perfect shot! A really sweet photo of Addie walking at Silver Dollar City, wearing her sock monkey hat and grinning. It's my favorite.

TV Every Night | When the holiday season hits, we start watching epic movies. In the last couple weeks, we've watched several incarcerations of A Christmas Carol, and moving into the new year, we're starting a Harry Potter marathon. So far (in two nights), we've made it part of the way through Sorcerer's Stone. Clearly, parents get the short end of the stick when it comes to movie-watching ability.

What's up in your life this final week of December?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

52/52 - One Full Year of Weekly Portraits

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

When I started this series 52 weeks ago, I had no idea how dear it would become to me. I fail at completing projects fairly often, but this post marks one FULL year of a weekly portrait of each of my kids.

I can't believe how much they have changed. I know that I take plenty of photos throughout the year, but this specific series lets me see the changes progress from week to week and that's so cool. I also can see subtle improvements in my photography - which is something that's bound to happen when you require yourself to shoot regularly.

I don't always remember to link up to the hosting blog, Practising Simplicity, but I'm definitely going to do this project again in 2015. Anyone want to join me? I think I'll also be making a Shutterfly photo book featuring each of the portraits from this year.



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

Lincoln - watching him experience Christmas is maybe the highlight of my year. So much excitement!
Addie - Christmas Eve dinner "cheese" face.
 
Linking up at Practising Simplicity

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!


I hope you've had a wonderful day relaxing with family and friends. We're having fun helping our kids learn about giving and the real reasons we celebrate.

I'm going to be laying kind of low online for the next week - I have a few posts to share with you, but will also be planning for 2015, doing some behind-the-scenes work on my Etsy shop (there's a big sale going on right now), and planning drama classes for next year.

Thank you for spending even a little part of your year here with me on this little blog. It's so wonderful to have each one of you here. I wish you all so many blessings for the new year!

From my family to yours - we wish you a very, very Merry Christmas!

Into the Woods: Now in Theatres! {Movie Review}

Disclosure: I received passes to an advanced screening. No compensation was received and I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I hate movie musicals. There, I said it.

Really, though. They're typically terrible, featuring star-studded casts that aren't up to par with their Broadway counterparts and changes to the story and songs that are at best, unnecessary - and at worst, utterly ridiculous and revolting.

I'm a purist when it comes to most Broadway shows. There's a certain level of magic achieved from seeing a live performance that just can't be replicated on a screen. So, I went into the early screening of Into the Woods with a heavy heart, hoping for better - but expecting the worst. I played Cinderella (Anna Kendrick's character) in a stage version of this show several years ago, so I know the show inside and out! I was quite afraid the movie would be a big disappointment.


Imagine my surprise when the music started to play and the entire fourteen+ minute opening song was left surprisingly intact, accompanied by lovely sets and costumes. I settled in for what suddenly looked like it might be a much more enjoyable experience than I had anticipated!

Into the Woods is a mash-up of many fairy-tale stories; primarily Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel. We're introduced to a Baker and his Wife right off the bat as they play a significant part as these stories are woven together. The opening of the movie introduces the characters as they each declare what they wish more than anything in the world. The rest of the story is spent showing us how their wishes do or don't come true - and the consequences that occur as a result.


I felt the movie was cast well. The two characters that had the strongest Broadway feel were Lilla Crawford (Little Red Riding Hood) and Daniel Huttlestone (Jack) - surprisingly, the two youngest cast members.

The movie is just star-studded enough (Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt) to draw in a crowd, but maintains enough anonymity in the other, perhaps lesser-known, casting decisions to enchant the audience without making our expectations unrealistically high. The standout song of the film is Agony, performed by Chris Pine (Cinderella's Prince) and Billy Magnussen (Rapunzel's Prince) - it quite literally made me laugh until I had tears rolling down my face, and was applauded by the audience in attendance.


This movie is a visually stunning piece, featuring special effects that are magical, but not overwhelming. While there were changes made from the original stage version and even characters omitted, the differences overall did not affect the tone of the original - which leads me to believe that much thought was put into preserving the integrity of the script. When adapting something from stage to screen, cuts have to be made for the sake of time - and almost always in this film, where a song was cut, it was still used in the musical score in the right sequence. It felt like a nod to those of us in the audience who were waiting to see if specific pieces would be included - "We didn't quite have time for this song, but we love it just as you do."

Are all of the actors able to sing with Broadway's standard? No. But in this rare instance, I feel pretty forgiving. This movie has done a remarkable job of bringing to life the deepest parts of each character, and I have no doubt that there will be a wide increase in the number of productions of this musical throughout schools, community theatres, and even on professional stages - all thanks to the much wider reach a movie can bring. And anything that can bring more awareness to the beauty of live theatre is a winner in my book.


Have you seen Into the Woods yet? What did you think?

Disclosure: I received passes to an advanced screening. No compensation was received and I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Kansas City SEA LIFE Aquarium & LEGOLAND Discovery Center Ticket Giveaway

Disclosure: I received passes to visit these attractions. No other compensation was received and all views expressed are my own. 
 

Kansas City is a pretty awesome place to raise kids - especially at Christmas. There are so many things to see and do...so many places to visit. We've barely hit a handful of the Christmas-themed spots around town, but we've had so many fun adventures already!


If there's one place you don't want to miss at Christmas around here, it would have to be Crown Center. From the Mayor's Christmas tree to skating at the Ice Terrace to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (playing right now at the Coterie Theatre), there is enough to keep a family entertained for days on end.


My kids thought that the wooden toys on Crown Center Square were pretty awesome, but it was cold outside and we wanted to warm up - so we only spent a few minutes playing there. Our main entertainment for the day was to visit SEA LIFE Kansas City and LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City - and we were so excited!


 We've had the chance to visit these attractions several times, and my kids love them.


SEA LIFE Kansas City boasts thousands of sea creatures and one of our favorite ways to see them is in the Interactive Rockpool exhibit. My kids are obsessed with The Octonauts these days (and were excited when they met Captain Barnacles and Kwazii at SEA LIFE back in August), so the study of sea creatures is extremely fascinating to them.


The kids stopped at each tank and attentively pointed out all the creatures they could find. Lincoln was a little rambunctious, but when I got him to pay attention and slow down, he did a great job finding new ocean animals at every turn.



I love being able to take my children on adventures that entertain them while also educating their minds and enhancing their curiosity. SEA LIFE is a perfect mix of those things!


What's your favorite sea creature? Chances are, you'll find it on display here at SEA LIFE. 


 The aquarium is currently all decked out for the holidays, and seeing the Christmas lights reflecting in the ocean displays is pretty neat!


I pretty much had to drag my kids out of the aquarium to get them to head upstairs to visit LEGOLAND Discovery Center next! 


We had to make a pit stop at the bathroom when we first arrived, which meant we were right by LEGO® Racers Build & Test when we were ready to start exploring. And that meant that we stayed right in that very spot for quite some time. Lincoln loves many things about LEGOLAND, but building race cars and racing them down huge tracks is definitely a highlight for him. 


I have to admit: I need to ramp up my LEGO® building skills, because I was a little bit lost on where to start with constructing a car for Lincoln. That didn't stop him for a minute - he wanted to run wheels down the track by themselves.


After a lot of playtime and energy exertion in the LEGO® City Play Zone, Lincoln and I took a little tour of MINILAND® in all of its holiday glory! Lincoln's favorite part is racing the cars from the Kansas Speedway around and around the track, but he got a kick out of helping with some construction in downtown Kansas City, as well. 



I never tire of looking at MINILAND® and if my kids would let me stay in one room for more than ten minutes, I would definitely be checking out every single inch. There were even Christmas lights up on the Plaza - definite attention to Kansas City detail there.


If you have family in town for the holidays and need a warm place for little ones to let off some steam this weekend after your holiday celebrations, head down to Crown Center, soak up some awesome Christmas decor, and visit all the fish and all the LEGO® toys. Because it's all awesome.

 
Now through January 3, Annual Passes to each of these attractions are on sale for just $35! Annual passes include unlimited admission, priority entrance, special events, a shop discount, and much more. 

Follow both attractions for all the latest updates:
LEGOLAND Discovery Center website | Facebook | Twitter
SEA LIFE Kansas City website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

One Director Jewels reader will win a family 4-pack of tickets to visit SEA LIFE and LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Kansas City! This giveaway will end on January 5 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 SEA LIFE and LEGOLAND for providing my review passes 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.

Monday, December 22, 2014

#CrushTheCups with Cameron's Coffee & Say Goodbye to Plastic

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Cameron's Coffee, but all opinions expressed are my own. 

It's three days until Christmas. This year, I am so not prepared. I have been up incredibly late every night and have had to peel my eyelids open several mornings this week. I honestly try not to drink coffee too often (even when it's delicious) because I fear I will become dependent on it - but this week...it may just become a necessity.

When I do indulge, I have to admit I am not much for basic. I need something beyond the coffee flavor on its own, so you had better believe I was excited to find this Chocolate Caramel Brownie variety from Cameron's Coffee. Chocolate + caramel = true love, so this choice was super simple.

http://ooh.li/3008658

 The best thing about Cameron's Coffee is that their single-serve coffee packets feature a soft-bottom filter instead of a plastic cup! I don't think coffee tastes very good when it includes a plastic aftertaste - do you? Cameron's is brewed through a filter and is BPA free and polystyrene free.

Cameron's Coffee is giving away FREE boxes of coffee to anyone who's willing to #CrushTheCups and destroy a plastic single serve coffee cup on video! My kids thought this was perhaps the most fun we had all day.


Just upload your video and follow the instructions to receive a free box, shipped right from Cameron's Coffee to your home. This promo ends TONIGHT - December 22 - so hurry!

http://ooh.li/3008658

All right...now, talk to me about holiday survival tips. What else can I do in the next two days to stay awake while I am finishing my Christmas cards, wrapping all of our gifts, and finishing up the decorating (yeah...even that's still not done)? I'm all ears!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Cameron's Coffee, but all opinions expressed are my own. For more info, you can read my Disclosure Policy

DIY Wall Christmas Tree & Put Out the Fire Game with Free Printables - #PlanesToTheRescue

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PlanesToTheRescue #CollectiveBias


My kids love Christmas and they love any sort of vehicle - whether cars, trains, or planes, they'll play with them for hours! I've been meaning to make them a Christmas tree that they can play with (so that we avoid things like the time Lincoln knocked down our tree), and it was a no-brainer to add in an element of play based on the success of our Firefighter Birthday Party Game.

So, it was decided: we would make a Christmas tree for our wall that featured FIRE! The kids would have to use their awesome Disney Planes rescue toys to put out the flames and save Christmas! With everyone sufficiently excited, we headed off to Walmart to grab all the supplies we would need.


Lincoln was all too happy to select a set of Disney Planes Fire & Rescue Die-Cast Vehicles, 3-Pack and I was excited that they were on Rollback to $14.97. At less than $5 each, this set of three die-cast vehicles made a welcome addition to our toy collection. 


There's nothing better than a surprise Rollback just in time for Christmas! We had a tough time deciding which toy to buy. Although Lincoln ultimately chose the die-cast three-piece set, we also considered the Disney Planes Flight to the Finish Speedway (Rollback to $24.97), Disney Planes Fire & Rescue Deluxe Talking Vehicle Assortment (Rollback to $19.97), Planes Character Assortment die-cast set and the Disney Planes: Fire and Rescue Character Assortment die-cast set (both on rollback at $4.97).


With so many toys to choose from, I'm surprised that Lincoln made a confident decision! I was pretty proud of him!


After our toy choice was decided, we picked up the other supplies we would need to make a large Christmas tree and headed home. Once we were there, Lincoln waited approximately 0.442291 seconds before declaring "Mommy! Get them out of the box! And let's make our Christmas tree!"

I was worried that the Christmas tree project would be really complicated with two toddlers involved, but with the help of daddy, it ended up being not too bad. And I only got one spot of green paint on my nicest yoga pants.


If you want to make a tree for your kids this week, here's how!

DIY Wall Christmas Tree for Toddlers

Supplies Needed:
-Poster Board (I used two sheets)
-Packing Tape
-Acrylic Paint and Paintbrushes (you could also use markers or crayons - or just buy colored poster board to save the trouble!)
-Cardstock and a Printer
-Sticky Tack or some sort of wall adhesive


Directions:

1. Tape your Poster Board sheets together and cut out a Christmas Tree shape. We went with a very simple design - just a triangle, but if you're more motivated than me, you could do individual branches, too!


2. Let Toddler Decorate Tree. We threw on a paint smock (aka one of my old t-shirts), gave Lincoln a couple of paintbrushes, and let him go to town. We did end up helping him finish the green paint - it's a big tree!


3. Print off some Decorations, Ornaments, and Flames. You can print the ones we designed here! The flames are pre-colored, but we let Lincoln and Addie use acrylic paint to decorate each of the ornaments, candy canes, and strands of tinsel.


4. Let Paint dry, then laminate to increase sturdiness. We don't have a laminating machine, but were able to take the pieces to a local shop and have them covered for a nominal charge.

5. Use Sticky Tack to Adhere Tree to Wall. This was the easiest part!


6. Apply Sticky Tack to each decoration and let toddlers decorate and re-decorate to their heart's content! This has been so fun for the kids - they love having something Christmas related that is on their level that they are actually allowed to play with!

7. Don't forget to add Flames to your tree - then gather up all of your willing Disney Planes Fire & Rescue toys! We used regular straws as "water hoses" and this created hours of play as Lincoln pretended to put out fires with the planes.


He was even creative enough to connect the straw to his Dusty!


Both the tree and the fire rescue game have been a huge success and I think we'll probably add more decorations to our wall tree each year.


I'm all about projects that entertain my kids for more than five minutes - and this one definitely did!


What fun things are you doing with your toddlers to get ready for Christmas this week?

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. For more information, you can read my Disclosure Policy. #PlanesToTheRescue #CollectiveBias

Holiday Baking Fun with Hallmark & Northpole1820 - plus a Giveaway!

Disclosure: I received sample products for review. No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed are my own. 

Baking is not my strong suit, but my kids think it's fantastic. Our Christmas cookie baking project last year was kind of a fail, so I wasn't sure how things would go when we set up a cookie workshop this weekend. But Lincoln was all about it. 


He happily donned his apron, requested to help with each step, and generally followed directions as we measured ingredients and put together something scrumptious.


He made a perfect little elf assistant, and we definitely were able to create some holiday magic just in time for Christmas.


Baking with toddler assistants tends to be far, far messier - and much more rewarding. I've never seen little kids SO excited about a cookie treat before!


I thought his favorite part of the cookie-making process might be rolling out the dough with the Cookie Wonder Wheel from Hallmark...but I was wrong.


The best part (for both kids) was definitely sneaking lots of bites of cookie dough! 


If you're needing some magic inspired by Santa's magical city (you know...Northpole!), make sure you stop by Northpole1820.com or find these adorable Hallmark baking supplies in stores. The Bake Like an Elf kit comes with special elf-shoe sizes measuring cups that Lincoln loved. I wasn't brave enough to hand over the Sprinkle Bell for long, but it was a big hit. And seriously...that apron could not have a better description.

Hallmark pulls out all the stops for holiday magic, and we were so glad to be a part of it this year!


Have you made Christmas cookies yet this year? Visit Northpole online for more info and inspiration. You can also follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Giveaway

One Director Jewels reader will win a baking prize pack from Hallmark! This giveaway will end on December 31 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.
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