Winter Walk

by Virginia Snow

I love the unique illustrations in this beautiful winter book. Line drawings cover the pages with colored images highlighting parts of the woods that kids are learning about. “Grammy”  takes her grandkids on a winter adventure and as they explore the woods, they discover different birds, trees, animals and snowflakes. The book educates kids in a simple, illustrative way and even gives two crafts at the end (paper snowflake and pinecone bird feeder).

“Can’t Wait Willow” and “Must Have Marvin”

by Christy Ziglar

These books by the niece of Zig Ziglar are fantastic! They have so many elements children love, including adorable illustrations. In both of these stories, the main characters Willow and Marvin are following their child desires for immediate gratification only to fall disappointed in the end because they didn’t hold out for what they really wanted. They teach a great lesson to children and make them think about the impulses the characters are making with a star that can be found on every page showing an emotion based on the character’s decisions. All families should add these books to their libraries!

The Man With the Violin

by Kathy Stinson

I love this book, perhaps because I am a former violinist. While this is clearly a children’s book it is actually a great reminder for adults to slow down and pay attention to the small details that children don’t seem to miss. This story is based on the true story of Joshua Bell, who played his Stradivarius in a D.C. train station and was barely noticed. The boy in the story, Dylan noticed the violinist and was moved. The music stays with Dylan, coloring his drab day and he eventually hears him on the radio later on. It is a moving story and it has nice illustrations. Children probably won’t appreciate the moral of the story as much as adults, but it is still a great one for kids to hear.

Guess Who Series

guess who zoo Kids love interactive books! We found a series of books that are so fun and catchy for little ones. The Guess Who book series by Howard Eisenberg includes Guess Who Zoo, Guess Who Farm and Guess Who Neighborhood. guess who farmThey are full of clever little rhymes that are engaging and keep children interested in guessing the animal, person or place. Starting the books are rhyming stories that introduce a character who the kids are helping guess throughout the rest of the book. guess who neighborhoodThere are clues with each rhyme until the answer is revealed. Even after your child has them all memorized, they will still love to read them over and over again. Having the answers and being right thrills them!!

guesswhozooCDThe Guess Who Zoo is accompanied by a musical CD that my 4 year old was OBSESSED with from the second she heard it. We had to listen to it over and over and over and over again in the car. In fat, she loved it so much that she preferred listening to it over watching a movie (which is a big deal for her)! The CD made our summer travels more bearable and I can now sing you every single song at the drop of a hat! When we go the actual zoo, the catchy tunes come up when we see the animals we sing about. And, again, even when your child knows what animal you are guessing for each song before the words even begin, it doesn’t take away any fun for them. They love it!

These adorable books can be purchased at a discount at www.guesswhozoo.com

[Dreaded] Time To Find A Swimsuit

Warm weather has finally arrived and it is time for swimsuit (and other things swim/beach) shopping!

For moms…

Swimwear

vintageflowersmulti chevron mint_cream retro dots
It is fun to pick out swimwear for your little ones, but finding a suit for mom tends to be a little more dreaded. Whether it’s extra weight, body changes, stretch marks, scars or loose skin, finding a swimming suit you feel comfortable in can be really challenging.

When you go to the store you might find a few styles that are cute, but as you bring them into the dressing room, your pile of “no” grows. Perhaps you find one top that you like, but you can’t find a bottom in your size, or one that matches. Or maybe you just can’t bring yourself to buy a bathing suit that requires you to wear a size that is 2x bigger than you normally wear. Maybe you are nursing and your chest is extra full and your breasts are exploding out of every option you try. Maybe you just had a baby (2 years ago counts, right?!) and you need something to hold things in until they tighten up. Perhaps you just don’t like showing too much, but the only full coverage suits you find are for a lot older women. For me, it is the new “love handles” that I possess even though I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight, stretch marks on my hips and thigh and small, deflated breasts. I can go on, but you get the point and you know your scenario.

Me and my daughter playing...swimsuit on a "normal" person!

swimsuit-divinita-sole2 Me and my daughter playing…swimsuit on a “normal” person!

I have found an incredible swimming suit that I became OBSESSED with the second I tried it on. Diviine Modestee has a swimwear line, Divinita Sole, called the “Perfect Fit Swimwear” that truly is perfection. All of their styles are tankinis, although many of them look like a one piece, and they are very, very cute. They have a solution for all body types (and even a guide to help you find which ones will work best for you). They have plenty of color options AND adorable swimwear skirts to match every. Single. One. I selected my sizes based on the sizing chart and had my fingers crossed that they would fit the way I wanted. You know how swimming suits always fit so small?! Well, the fit was ideal. In every way. The bottoms didn’t create that extra bulge with my love handles the way all the ones do in the stores. They are fuller coverage than I have had in swimming suits before, but with a tankini it is perfect. I felt amazing when I put it on and the skirt made the swimming suit look like a little dress you can wear when walking around in public (and it totally covered up my stretch marks on my thigh). I wore it to my baby’s first mommy-and-me swim class and I wasn’t self-conscious at all. It is comfortable, doesn’t ride up or require any tugging. It is the highest quality bathing suit I have ever worn and I highly recommend it to any woman (or teen!). I doubt anyone would be disappointed with the purchase of a Divinita Sole swimming suit.

So, for all you moms that are dreading the search for a new swimming suit this year, just go straight to this site and pick one out. Search over! Right now a top and bottom combo is $99 and a skirt is $36. It is worth the cost to have a swimming suit you will be confident in and that will last for years. www.divinitasole.com

If you are plus sized and looking for trendy and flattering swimwear, check out www.alwaysforme.com. They are all under $90 and they have tons of styles and colors to choose from.

For the Kids…

Beach Wear

daisy-langKids swimming suits are pretty easy I think. It is easy to find adorable designs and your little ones look cute in everything they put on! But, I came across a couple of beachy items that were too cute not to mention. Daisy Lang has a great “resort wear collection” that includes classic shift dresses, shorts, shirts, and sweaters in fun prints including sailors, mermaids, and sea life. Pulling inspiration from 60’s and 70’s design, Daisy Laing incorporates whimsical embroidery and knits in their collection. I fell in love with the crabs! http://www.daisylaing.com

Flip Flops

blue flik flopKids love light up shoes and we found LED light up flip flops! They add safety at night and they are just fun. Flikflops is a family run business, with a 7 year-old innovator coming up with the idea. They come in blue and pink and cost $16.95 (with free shipping). www.flikflops.com

SPF

aubreyProtecting your children’s skin from harmful UV rays is an important job for a parent. I always rush to bathe my children after they have been wearing sunscreen because I am not sure what ingredients are in it, but I found an all natural SPF that would take away some of my fears! This broad spectrum mineral sunscreen contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to block UVA and UVB rays naturally without parabens or petrochemicals. Organic green tea extract, pomegranate, Baobab Oil, Canadian Willowherb and vitamin E are powerful antioxidants that help neutralize cancer-causing active free radicals. Plus, this sheer formula is moisturizing, non-greasy, protecting kids comfortably all day long! What’s even better is that they have a spray version. $15.95 at www.aubrey-organics.com

hello kittySome kids hate putting sunscreen on, but if it had a favorite character on the bottle and come in fun scents they might be more willing. Australian Gold has launched a new Hello Kitty collection, which got my daughter super excited. They have wet/dry body mists, lotion and face lotion in SPF 30, 45 and 50 and in Summer Berry, Krazy Kiwi and Paradise Pineapple fragrances. $8.99 at all major retail stores.

Perfect Children’s Wall Art…with a Cause

horse girl I am obsessed with children’s illustrations. Obsessed. We have tons of books for our girls and of course my favorite ones have the best illustrations. Every time we read one of those I can’t help but visualize them being on the wall and incorporating them into my decorating. If my favorite artwork was available to purchase you can be certain it would already be consuming the walls in my girls’ rooms.  While there are certainly plenty of options for cute artwork for children’s rooms at your favorite stores, the beauty and unique look of a hand painted book illustration is just better!

I was beyond ecstatic when I found about customizable wall art from award winning children’s book artist Phyllis Harris. One look at her web site and I wanted EVERY. Single. Print. They are adorable, beautiful, sweet, colorful, unique, faith-inspired, whimsical and just perfection!

Jesus_and_boyPhyllis Harris is the award winning illustrator of over 30 Children’s Books including ‘On Christmas Day’ (written by the amazing Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Phyllis) released October, 2012 by Booksamillion. In addition to Picture Books, Phyllis’ illustrations have appeared in numerous children’s magazine publications over the past 15 years (‘Highlights’, ‘High Five Magazine’, ‘Jack & Jill’, ‘Humpty Dumpty’). She is certainly the real deal.

In May, 2012, Phyllis launched PhyllisHarrisDesigns.com, her online Children’s Wall Art store featuring over 60 of her original illustration prints which can each be customized for any child’s room or nursery. Every print can be customized with a child’s hair color, hair style, ethnicity, child’s name and inspirational quote; and is lovingly signed by Phyllis. Oh, and it’s not just prints. They have huge murals too! The prices are very reasonable ($25 for an 8.5×11 print) and well worth it.

dancing in the woodsAt the heart of Phyllis Harris Designs is the mission to give back to children in need; and children battling serious illnesses. Phyllis Harris Designs gives back 5% of every sale to Children’s Mercy to help in their fight to save children’s lives.

I have been spending a lot of time decorating my oldest daughter’s room (now being transformed into to be a shared room for the girls) so when I first was looking through the prints I had her room in mind. And, of course, had at least 10 prints that I wanted. But when I saw ‘Dancing in the Woods’ it had to become my first choice to put in the nursery. The theme of our nursery is “Forest Friends” (Carter’s brand bedding set) and this print pulls the entire room together and makes it feel a little less “right out of the box.” elizas-roomI absolutely adore the way it looks. It is the first thing I look at every time I walk into the room and it honestly just makes me smile. Daily 🙂

More of these prints will be making an appearance in the girls’ shared room very soon!

Phyllis Harris Design’s original and customizable illustration prints can be viewed at phyllisharrisdesigns.com

 

Francis And Eddie

Francis And Eddie caught my attention immediately for the unique and very cool illustrations.  It also appeared different from most of the children’s books that I come across being a non-fiction and historical sports story. Targeted at ages 6-10, it is the true story of 20-year-old unknown amateur golfer Francis Ouimet, his 10-year-old caddie Eddie Lowery and their astonishing triumph at the 1913 U.S. Open in Brookline, MA.  At its heart, it’s really a book about kids who loved golf and became champions.

Admittedly I am not a golf fan. Actually I am not a sports fan in general. But, I read this book and truly enjoyed it! I love stories where the underdogs win and when it’s a true story it always leaves an impression. I think my favorite part about the story, however, was the respect and adoration the caddie received from Ouimet. I mean, who doesn’t cheer for a sweet young kid with innocence and passion?!

This really is a wonderful story and I imagine that golfers, both young and old, can appreciate all it stands for. Oh, and I can’t forget to emphasize that the illustrations were as neat as I thought they would be. Beautiful depictions of people, combining insane realism with a caricature dynamic.

I Love You To God and Back

by Amanda Lamb

This is a super sweet bedtime prayer book that we adore. A bunny mommy and child go through their bedtime routine they talk about their love for each other and learn how to pray to God. The illustrations are just as sweet as the words!

Curious Critters

by David FitzSimmons

A delightful book with beautiful photography of critters, all on white backdrops so you can see every detail of the animals. The narrative is silly yet educational. It is entertaining and informative covering diverse animals that you don’t see in every other children’s animal book.

My Lucky Elephant

I admit that some days I let my daughter watch more TV/movies than I probably should. But, some moods (hers and mine) and some amounts of work to catch up on make it an easy solution that Cora loves. When I got sent this movie to check out I wasn’t sure what to expect. Since our family loves animals I figured we would think it was cute, but I wasn’t sure how cheesy it would be or how interested Cora (2.5 years) would stay in it since its not animated. Well, it turns out I was pleasantly surprised and the whole family truly enjoyed it.

There is not a lot of dialogue or a complicated story line, which makes it easy for younger kids to follow and I think that helps you appreciate the beauty of the elephants. It starts off with adorable footage of a sweet baby elephant that sucks you into the cuteness of the entire movie. You get to watch a wonderful relationship develop between the elephant and an orphan boy, which is relatable to any relationship between an animal and a child. The ultimate destination of these two, an art academy where the elephant learns to paint, was the best part of the movie to me. I was seriously blown away by how incredible these elephants can paint in real life! In fact, I was so intrigued that as soon as the movie was over I had to get online to see where I could purchase art done by elephants. Elephant art is now on my wish list!

This movie really is great for families with kids of many ages and even mom and dad can enjoy it. It is totally cute and completely safe!  Definitely worth checking out!

My Lucky Elephant DVDMY LUCKY ELEPHANT 

Available on DVD on February 26, 2013

Synopsis:  In a far away land of jungles and wild animals, there lived a little orphan boy who was all alone in the world. But he knew that no matter how hard life can be, it’s always better if you can share it with a friend. This is the story of how he found one, an elephant named Lucky. Together they face a changing world, but always manage to triumph. After a series of humorous challenges, they discover the Academy of Art, where elephants learn to paint. And Lucky becomes the star painter, a famous artist and celebrity. Finally, life is good for them, with money and food aplenty. But when Lucky falls in love with another elephant, Candy, and starts his own family, what will the boy do? My Lucky Elephant is an exotic adventure in a magical and beautiful place, and yet it’s about what everyone is looking for in life – a true friend, a home, family.