Friday, July 22, 2011

Giveaway: Real Simple Meals Made Easy Cookbook!

Every third Friday of the month on Dash and Grace will be a free giveaway!  This weeks item is a brand new hardcover Real Simple: Meals Made Easy cookbook.

To enter please leave a comment with your favorite all time recipe!  Please make sure I have a means to contact you.  Contest open from Friday, July 22 to Friday, August 5, 2011!  Winner will be chosen at random on August 6th. This contest is open internationally.

Enter now for your chance to win a free Real Simple: Meals Made Easy cookbook!

Good luck & Happy Cooking!

Contest closed.  My blog is still in it's infancy, we will try this again at a later date!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dora the Explorer Window Surprises Dollhouse

My daughter loves dollhouses and loves Dora.  I thought this Fisher Price Dora the Explorer Window Surprises dollhouse would be a major hit with her.  Actually, it is quite the opposite - and I am not too fond of it, either.
First off, it was playable when taken right out of the box, which is probably one of the few plusses of this toy.  All I had to do was place a few stickers on the walls of the house to give it a 'homey' feel.  But, half of these stickers have since fell off.  The doors that open to expose the 3 levels of the house stick more often the not, so she is constantly fighting to open the the house, and getting aggravated in the process.  Then, when the doors are open, you can't play with the front door because the main door has no stability and you have to hold the door with one hand and open the front door with the other.  The position of that front door is questionable too.  It would make more sense if it was on the main floor of the house next to the kitchen.  The stairs on the other opening flap serve no purpose.  My daughter loves to walk her dolls up and down the stairs, but these stairs are stationary, very narrow, and there is a plastic floor just above it (see where the Dora figure is standing).  Dora can only walk up a couple stairs before she has to stop - there is no place to go.  These are the stairs to nowhere!

Next, when you buy the house, it only comes with a Dora figure and maybe a couple other small accessories.  You have to buy all the rest to make it actually look and feel like a dollhouse.  I bought the bathroom set in which the bathtub/shower goes on the other blue plastic floor above the front door.  Problem is, it does not fit there!  It kept tumbling over onto the floor.  The doors of the shower also proceeded to break within the first few weeks.  This dollhouse has no flow to it and it is hard to imaginary play with it when you are getting frustrated because everything is falling over.  

The Dora and Diego figures are very cute and have bendable legs, but when you try and sit them on the plastic couch or chair, they just slide right off.  My daughter used to cry and cry because sit could not get them to sit and stay.  She got so frustrated one day that she hurled the figures across the room.  The accessories are cheap, small and easily breakable.  Our list of broken ones include: bathtub/shower, computer, lamp, umbrella that Boots carries, and kitchen chairs.  It is pathetic.

Perhaps the best feature of the entire dollhouse is the 'working' fireplace.  It gives a pretty glow and realistic crackling sound.  It almost feels like winter when it turns on.  This dollhouse also has two buttons on the very bottom to scroll the change of Seasons on the inside window.  It works nicely and the songs are cute, but the overall quality of this product forces me to give it a thumbs down - on both hands.

Once you buy this dollhouse and all the necessary accessories, you can easily spend $100.  Do yourself a favor and invest on a REAL dollhouse for you little girl.  Fisher Price dropped the ball on this one.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Crewcuts by JCrew Girls Long Powder Puffer Jackets

I am a huge fan of Crewcuts clothes for kids, especially when you can get an awesome deal.  Mind you, I am not going to spend $50 on a sweater for a kid who will outgrow it is a year, but maybe, just maybe, on an adorable and very warm winter coat (which I need here in the cold and snowy winter of western New York).  Last year they carried a very nice, long style powder puffer in toddler and girl sizes.  It was $128, and I was reluctant.  I never did buy it, but I talked to a few mom's who did and loved it.  The fit was true and the warmth was unmatched.  I usually have bought Old Navy Frost Free jackets and have had no complaints, other than the color choices.  This year I may bite the bullet and splurge on a Crewcuts puffer.  I recently searched the site and came across the coveted jacket.   Isn't that bow around the waist to die for?  What girl wouldn't want to look so toasty and cute?

They no longer have this color that I want, but only a neutral cobblestone with matching sash.  You won't find it in the regular clothing listing though.  You need to type puffer in the JCrew search box and then you will see last year's styles that are still in stock.  Last week I chatted with a JCrew rep to see if this same style will come along again for Fall/Winter 2011-12 and he seemed confident it would because it was such a hot seller.  I still kick myself for not buying it when they went on deep discount mid-winter.  Oh, the lessons I learn.

I love rich neutral colors for jackets, not the typical brights you find in most stores.  If you are like me, give these a little looky!

Nothing like promoting a little winter in July.  It is so darn hot here I could use a good snowstorm.  Happy Summer!

Thumb-Sucking: My Little Linus

I am a believer that every child needs a security object, be it a blanket, stuffed animal or other beloved treasure.  Having an object that makes him/her feel relaxed and calm can be a sanity saver in many situations.

My daughter has a healthy attachment to both her left thumb and two blankets which she lovingly calls, "Dora" and "Pink".  She was not a thumbsucker until the age of 2 months, when one evening she haphazardly put her thumb in her mouth and fell right asleep.  She looked so peaceful and happy, like she just found an old friend.  Since I used to suck my thumb up to the age of 5,  I have no issue whatsoever with my daughter doing this.  I guess I am a smidge biased.

Some people have made comments about the thumb-sucking to me, both family and strangers.  It always amazes me how people feel justified in judging someone else's parenting.  One absolute hideous example comes at the hand of an extended family member.  The summer my daughter was 6 months old was also the summer of our family reunion.  She was still taking 2 naps a day, the afternoon one between 2 or 3pm.  Since she was a brand new baby in the family, everyone was picking her up, touching her, and otherwise keeping her awake when she really wanted to nap.  I strolled her to less hectic part of our shelter so she could relax and sleep.  She cuddled with her blankets,  put her thumb in her mouth, and her eyes began to slowly shut.  I was turned a little bit talking to someone when I heard my daughter crying hysterically.  Much to my chagrin, my 'Aunt' pulled her thumb out of her mouth and sternly told me that is an ugly habit to start.  Habit? Yes.  Ugly?  Absolutely not!  Out of character for myself, I sternly told her to never, ever do that to a child of mine again.  At that point I realized that I was not only standing up for my daughter, but also solidifying my parenting beliefs.

My daughter is now 3 and still is a thumb-sucker, mainly when falling asleep or watching television.  She is a solid sleeper and has been since 2 months old.  She learned to self soothe and bring herself comfort.  She is happy, extroverted, and confident.  We have been to the dentist and her teeth are perfectly straight and spaced beautifully.  She has a bit of an overbite, but her dentist does not think it is related to thumb-sucking because she is not an "active" sucker.  She simply places her thumb in her mouth without sucking hard.  Not every thumb-sucker has dental issues, and not every child who does not suck his/her thumb have perfect teeth.  And these insane contraptions that have been invented to stop a child from sucking his/her thumb do more harm than good.  In due time, most children stop this habit, but it has to be their doing, and on their time.  

She is also my Little Linus.  Everywhere we go we bring her "Pink" blanket while "Dora" stays home because it is bigger and space consuming.  God forbid I would lose the blanket while running errands.  A few times I thought I misplaced it and my heart sank to my knees.  It may sound silly, but those blankets and her thumb are her complete and total comfort when Mom or Dad are not around.  It is a blessing.  Every child needs a security object, I am a staunch supporter of these lovies.

If she needs braces down the road, so be it.  That is why I have this strange thing called dental insurance.  If she continues the thumb-sucking until age 5 or 6, that is fine.  If she keeps her blankets until she is 10, that is fine, too.  These comfort habits are hers, and hers alone.  It breeds relaxation, calmness, and love.
If my daughter is happy and thriving, I am happy for her!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tiny Prints - Birthday invites!

I am a big believer that every birthday party deserves a fabulous invitation.  In a world where people rely heavily on email, Facebook and Twitter, it is nice to slow things down and snail mail a birthday party invitation to friends and family.

Now, I know there are cheaper and less inexpensive avenues to take here - store bought cookie cutter invitations, or gulp, evites.  Nothing says tacky more than evites.  It is maybe alright for mass invites on Facebook, but not for intimate family events.

If you are worried about price, do not fret.  For a extra $10-$15, you get a customized and stylish invite that is sure to impress.  A great invitation shows you put good thought and effort into planning your party  - which also shows that when your party day comes, it will also be well planned and organized.

I have been and still am a huge fan of Shutterfly.  I have ordered many Christmas cards through them and also my daughter's birth announcement - all of which came me coming back for more.  One Christmas, my girlfriend sent out fabulous holiday cards on thick cardstock.  When I glanced on the back, I noticed the Tiny Prints logo and quickly logged on their site to see where this great card came from.  I was completely impressed by the wide array of designs, colors and customizable versatility.  There is definitely a card for everyone's taste here.

My love for Tiny Prints is well known in my circle of family and friends.  Some I am sure think I am crazy for ordering special invites for a little kid's birthday party, but these parties happen only once a year, and you never get them back.  I always budget out $30 for Tiny Prints invites and I love the finished product.  My most recent invite was this fantastic design for my daughter's 3rd birthday.
Tiny Prints girl's party invitation

Of course, this is not our actual invitation, but the design we chose.  We then added all our personal information and any customization we were allowed.  They use a thick card stock, so the quality is rich, the colors are brilliant, and overall look screams STYLISH!  Oh, and they give you fitted envelopes too, AND, if you so choose, you can have the recipients and sender's address pre-printed on the envelopes - for a tiny, tiny fee.

And not only are there birthday party invites wonderful, but any event you can think of,  there is a card for - holiday cards, holiday parties, birth announcements, baptisms, First Communion, graduation....must I go on, I must....., Halloween, Valentine's Day, We are Moving cards, etc.  These are highly customizable, right down to having a few color options for each card.  How awesome is that?

Try Tiny Prints for your next event.  You will not be disappointed.

Don't forget: A fabulous party begins with a fabulous invitation!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Crewcuts by JCrew Girls Somersault Leggings

Crewcuts/Jcrew somersault leggings
I was excited last year to find reasonably priced leggings at JCrew/Crewcuts last winter for toddler girls.   I was even more excited to find neutral colors - navy, heather gray, cream - colors that I had a hard time finding at Old Navy, GAP or Target.

When I received them in the mail, I was excited - the cotton was soft and stretchy, the colors were exactly what I wanted, and the length was right to the ankle.  After a couple of wears, I noticed that my daughter was picking at her leggings under dresses/tunics.  As it was, the waist completely stretched out and they kept falling down and making her uncomfortable.  Even though we stopped wearing them often - only for wearing under snowpants now - the seam in the tushy area was beginning to split.  I was surprised because JCrew typically has very good quality.  In the end, I just threw these out because they are worthless to wear when they are falling down 85% of the time.

All in all, I love the colors that Crewcuts has, I love the feel of these, but the permanant over stretching of the waist made these a dealbreaker.  The price wasn't to bad - I got them at 2/$14 - but I would opt for the 2/$7 leggings at Target over these.  While both the Crewcuts and Target leggings wash very well and have no pilling, the Target leggings are superior in retaining shape.

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