Family Fun On A Budget – Is It Possible?

Budgets are a necessary evil because there is never enough money to go around. A shortage of moolah is enough to set the family back half a year. Then, all the hard work you did will wash away down the toilet. Goodbye scrimping and saving; it was nice to know you!

There is one problem: it’s boring. Staying in on a Saturday night isn’t enjoyable even when you’ve got the big picture in mind. The Holy Grail is to put money aside while having the time of your life.

For those who don’t think it’s possible, take a look at the following.

Look Local

You’re not the only mom who wants to keep the purse strings tight. Every mother in a five-mile radius will have the same idea, which is where the local community comes into play. Your neighborhood, or another one which is close by, should have events such as carnivals and street parties. Some even have drive-in movie nights where you sit in the car and watch from behind the wheel. The point is there are generally lots to do in the local community and the costs are low. If there is an admission charge, it will be low, and the kids should get in for free.

Go Out With Friends

Instead of cooking dinner for the millionth time this year, why don’t you treat everybody and go to a restaurant? Oh right, it’s because it’s expensive. Well, it doesn’t have to be if you go out as a group. As soon as there are ten to fifteen people in your squad, the cost of the meal reduces by a significant amount. Even with a tip, it shouldn’t be more than $15 per person, per meal. Tapas is a great cuisine to split with others because it’s made for sharing and you don’t need many dishes to enjoy it.

Or Invite Them Round To Eat

There’s no reason to eat as a family for every single meal. Although you love the kids, it gets boring when all they want to do is eat, play with their phones, and watch TV. Adults need stimulating conversation and lots of jokes to have fun, which your friends have in spades. That’s why this blog post recommends throwing a dinner party and inviting your nearest and dearest. Everybody can bring a dish, which cuts down on the costs, and you can supply the alcohol. Now that sounds cheap and like a lot of fun!

Bag A Bargain

Another tip from the same blog is to sign up for discount codes and vouchers. It might feel embarrassing at first, but there’s nothing wrong with adding a voucher code to your shopping list. Nowadays, you can do it online so there’s no reason to say it out loud in front of a restaurant full of customers. Being thrifty is about doing the little things to save the big bucks. Whether it’s 5% off or 50%, every little does help.

Plus, you get to go on an impromptu shopping session which is always fun.

 

Christmas Magic In A Letter | The Belief In Santa

The Christmas season is upon us and it is my favorite time of year. It seems that there is a little extra magic in the air as the spirit of giving surrounds us.

My heart is always extra full this time of year as I try to make each year more magical then the next for my daughter. Part of the Christmas magic is the belief in Santa Claus. A jolly man who makes a list of who has been naughty and nice. Then travels all over the world to deliver toys to the nice kids on the list.

The excitement to write to Santa and to receive a letter back helps keep the belief alive and one that we have done yearly with our daughter, Nikki.

In previous years we have sent our “Santa Letter” to a free service offered by Canada Post. Their special elves help Santa answer all the letters in time for your little ones (*there is a deadline date to watch out for). The first two years the letters back where cute and a personalized touch was added which made the letters extra special.

However, last year the letter was standard and no personalized touch was added. There was nothing special about it and what should I really expect from a free service, right?! So why not to do it myself?! 

One night as we were hosting a family playdate with my cousin and her boys. We both talked about how disappointed we were in the letters from Santa. I was relieved that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

So I pitched the idea that we should do the Santa letters for one another and my cousin Chantelle loved the idea!

Christmas Magic In A Letter

We now get to share some Christmas magic between family by doing Santa Letters to one another. The best part for us will be to see our children’s faces when they get a very personalized letter from Santa. 

Nikki and her adorable cousins John Lucas and Connor at our last playdate.

This is how we are doing it this year.

Writing “Dear Santa” Letter

Our child writes their letter to Santa (depending on their writing ability, it may be the parent writing most of it). In our case, I write Nikki’s letter but she adds her artistic flare to her letter.

Mailing Letter to “Santa”

Child mails the letter out to “Santa” (if they are young they will not notice the address so this wasn’t an issue for either one of us right now). 😉

Mailing a letter to Santa is serious business 😉

Highlights For Santa Reply Letter

Send some points (max of 3) of your child to the family member writing the Santa letter that you would like highlighted. For example, I wanted to make sure it was noted that Nikki started her first year of school; becoming more independent and her good manners.

Handwriting the Reply Letter

Once the “Dear Santa Letter” is received, the family member can now hand write the letter in response with the highlighted points and reference to any artistic touch done on the letter.

Mail the Santa Reply Letter

Family member mails the Santa response letter and add any other little touches that they may want to add (my cousin thought of adding an “Elf Report” indicating if they made it to the nice or naughty list – so cute!).

Open the Magic of Christmas

Child receives their magical and very personalized letter. The belief continues with much love.

We just started the process and we can’t wait to see our children react to their very special letters. A little extra that we are doing is keeping the “Dear Santa” from our children in little boxes. This way when they are older we can give them their letters so they can see what they said and did in their belief of Christmas magic. I think that is my favorite part of all this.

I am really excited to keep the belief going and doing this exchange between family. A more personalized, heart and love in our quest for that little extra spirit this holiday season.

How do you carry on the Christmas spirit in your family? Would love to hear from all of you in the comment section below.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

 

 

An Amazing Toy Center For Little Ones | Product Review

We appreciate toys that offer more than just bells and whistles. 😉 We love the toys that bring loads of fun and learning. This is why we love the toys from LeapFrog as they ensure their toys encompass all that and more.

We are delighted to share an amazing new toy that will have your little one learning in leaps! We called on my goddaughter, Adriana for her baby expertise to help us with this review.

Little Office Learning Center

Imagine a mini version of your office desk that fits for your little one. That is exactly what the Little Office Learning Center is. The major difference is that this interactive desk is fun!

The Little Office Learning Center includes eight role-play activities including a globe, laptop, clock, book, phone, piano keys, desk lamp and storage.

Product Features

As we mentioned the Little Office Learning Center offers eight features and we will break them down for you as you will be able to see it offers so much for your little one.

It also offers three play modes which are explore mode, learn mode or music mode.

Light-Up Globe

Spin the Light-Up Globe (middle of  the learning center) to explore music and greetings from around the world and hear phrases with light-up color effects.

Light-Up Crayon Piano Keys

Press the Light-Up Crayon Piano Keys to hear color names or musical notes. In Learn Mode, occasionally Scout will ask you to look for another feature on the table in that color to practice listening comprehension.


Clock

Rotate the Clock hand to hear time of day, daily routines, fun clock sounds and music.

Detachable Phone

Pick up the Detachable Phone and shake it to rattle the beads. Press the number pad or call button on the table for role-play fun.

Storage Tray

Flip the Storage Tray lid open and closed to practice fine motor skills. Place items in the storage tray for hide and reveal fun.

Book Page

Turn the Book Page to hear learning songs about the alphabet and emotions, melodies and phrases.

Light-Up Lamp Switch

Slide the Light-Up Lamp Switch to turn the lamp on and off and hear opposites, phrases and fun musical sounds.

Light-Up Laptop Screen and Shape Buttons

Press the three Shape Buttons to light-up and reveal hidden animal friends in the mirrored screen and hear shape, color and animal names.

#MelAndNikkiReview

The Little Office Learning Center is ideal for babies six to 36 months and this is why for this #MelAndNikkiReview we got our adorable goddaughter, Adriana, to help us out. 😉

As soon as I introduced her to LeapFrog’s Little Office Learning Center, her eyes just lite up! Adriana was so excited to give it a try. We used the Little Office Learning Centre in the standing up position as she loves to stand up. That is a feature that we love about this toy as it gives you the option to have it on the floor or in a standing up position. It’s great as it literally grows with your child. 😉

Adriana loved every activity on the Little Office Learning Center. However, if we had to pick her top three features it would be:  The Light-Up Globe, Light-Up Crayon Piano Keys and Detachable Phone. The activities are all educational from learning colors; shapes and so much more. It also helps build your little one’s fine motor skills which we love the best about this toy.

For parents who are concerned about “noise” as we all know how much toys can make, this toy has a feature to adjust the volume. #ParentWin

For all the reasons above, we give the Little Office Learning Center 5+++ Globes out of 5! We know that Adriana will continue loving this toy for months to come. In fact, she loves playing with it so much that she even gives her grandpa lessons on how it works!

We know the Little Office Learning Center would be a hit for all the little ones on your holiday list. If you would like to know where to purchase one, click here.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

Supportive Parenting: Your Child Wants to Take a Year Off College And Go Abroad

Written By: Claire Adams

Before we begin, we need to answer the age-old question – what constitutes a supportive parent?

First of all, a supportive parent is one that encourages their child in their academic pursuits as well as their hobbies. Their other task is to be there, listen without judgement and try to put themselves in their child’s shoes, particularly during those turbulent teenage years. This one is difficult, but vital, as kids tend to drift apart from their parents at this age and you need to show them that you are there unconditionally. Don’t judge their mistakes or write off their goals and dreams as unreachable – acknowledge that you may not have all the answers and don’t underestimate your child’s wisdom. Finally, if you want them to act like adults, you need to treat them as adults.

Why is this all important? Because children who feel support and encouragement tend to make better choices and grow up to be independent, responsible and successful. Now, every parent wants to see their child successful, finishing college, finding a lucrative career – that’s a given. This is exactly why many parents struggle to understand when their kid comes to tell them they want to take a year off from college, whether in the middle of their studies or before going to grad school. That, let’s call it ‘a gap’, isn’t something you’ll be thrilled with, but let’s consider some of the reasons this might actually be great for their personal and professional development.

Photo credit Pexels

Immersion in other cultures

When you go abroad and you mix with locals with a completely different language and a set of religious and every other beliefs, it simply makes you a better person.

You may have taught your child to be tolerant, understanding and free of any form of prejudice and stereotypes, but there is absolutely no better way to raise a great person, a worldly one if you want, unless you let them spread their wings and explore everything the world has to offer. Each culture can teach you a different thing, instil a different great quality in you, and give you life lessons that will last forever. By letting your kid fly, you are giving them the chance to be better in every sense of the word.

Photo credit Pexels

It teaches them independence

Let’s admit it. While in college, your kid isn’t truly independent. They can always count on you to send a care package, a little extra money, and they live comfortably, whether in a dorm or private housing. Yes, being a little far away from you gives them a taste of independence, but going abroad will teach them so much more. They will have to work for a living, find their own apartment, pay their bills – simply put, pay their dues. That makes a person resilient and more capable.

As a result, when they come back, they will be this whole new amazing and improved person you will be even more proud of. And worry not, there are tons of ways for them to make a living and perhaps even develop new skills. For instance, if they decide to go to China, they can always make a living by putting their native English skills to use and become a teacher at such amazing schools as Monkey Tree ESL. The one thing a native English speaker can always rely on is a teaching job abroad, so don’t you worry about them making it on their own.

Photo credit Pexels

They will learn the value of money

They say you don’t know the value of money until you begin to make your own. Having to pay bills, take care of food, or buy clothes will be an amazing lesson on how to save, to be economical and frugal. They will even become more grateful for all the years and money you’ve invested in their education, and perhaps even continue to work part-time when they come back home, as a way of taking a part of the burden off of you, and to also retain that newfound sense of independence.

 

You may not believe that a year off is a great idea, and that’s your natural, parenting instinct speaking. You want your child to be safe, not to go without, and most importantly, to go back and finish college or get their Master’s degree. However, you have to believe that you have raised a great and responsible person, and that this year off will only fortify these qualities and make them an even better, more competent and more qualified person. A person with a new sense of direction. A real goal-getter. There will always be concerns, but if you’ve done your job right, you will have very little to worry about.

 

About the Author

Claire Adams is a personal and professional development expert who believes that a positive attitude is one of the keys to success. She enjoys life to the fullest in the healthiest way possible and loves to share her insights into parenting, education, and entrepreneurship. Feel free to reach her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Tough Cookie | Book Review

‘Tis the season for Christmas books! It is our favorite time of year and we will be introducing some great new books that you will all adore.

Our first book up for review is Tough Cookie: A Christmas Story which is written and illustrated by Edward Hemingway. This book would make a delicious part of your reading line-up!

Synopsis

Once upon a time, while Fox was visiting the Land of Holiday Treats, a little cookie, still warm from the oven, burst out the bakery door looking sweet and delicious.

But as it turns out, Cookie is not as fast as he thinks, and when Fox finally catches him, they’re both in for a big surprise: Cookie does NOT taste delicious – and he’s certainly not fit to be eaten. What’s an unsavory cookie to do?

#MelAndNikkiReview

The classic tale of the Gingerbread Man takes a humorous new twist in Tough Cookie: A Christmas StoryAs we read the adorable storyline, we couldn’t help but giggle along the way. We loved the friendship that was built between Fox and the Gingerbread man. Their quest to find out what Gingerbread Man was meant to do was heartwarming.

We especially loved the recipes in the back of the book – amazing touch! This book will be in our reading line-up all the way to Christmas as it is so much fun to read. By the second time that the book was read to Nikki, she had parts of the story memorized which was awesome. That was the key sign that the book must be great if she had her favorite parts memorized. 😉

Therefore, for this #MelAndNikkiReview, we give this book 5+++ Gingerbreads out of 5! For its creative and humorous storyline, illustrations and the recipes in the back.

This will make the perfect holiday gift this season! To purchase your very own, click here.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

How Sara Josephine Baker Saved The Lives of America’s Children | Dr. Jo

Teaching history to children in book form is a magical way to tell the story.

We are excited to introduce our readers to Dr. Jo How Sara Josephine Baker Saved The Lives of America’s Children which is a new book that does just that; telling history in a child friendly way.

This book is written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by Julianna Swaney.

Synopsis

Sara Josephine Baker was a strong girl who loved adventure. But growing up in New York in the late 1800s was difficult. When she lost her brother and father to typhoid fever, she became determined to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. In Jo’s day, people did not think that women should be doctors, but times were changing, and Jo was at the forefront.

Jo persisted and attended one of the only medical schools open to women. After graduating in 1898, Dr. Jo took a job with the New York Public Health Department. She was sent to a neighbourhood called Hell’s Kitchen, where many poor immigrant families struggled to survive. She focused on treating the most vulnerable patients: babies and children. Dr. Jo was determined, compassionate and full of innovative ideas to improve the health of inner-city families. Her successes made her famous across the nation for saving the lives of thousands of children.

#MelAndNikkiReview

We were very intrigued with this book in our reading line-up as we haven’t heard of Sara Josephine Baker or the amazing impact she had in the American history books. We loved everything about this book! From the easy to read story, illustrations and to the empowering history lesson – it was a perfect combination for a great book.

I loved how I was able to read the book and educate my daughter at the same time. Best part was how easy it was to explain since the book was child friendly. Not only did the book provide an inspiring women to know but it helped educate myself as a parent too. This is why we give Dr. JO 5 stars out of 5!

To purchase your very own copy, click here.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

 

 

The Real McCoys Series | Book Reviews

Mystery and comedy is what you can expect from the REAL McCoys series and they are great books for middle grade readers!

We had the pleasure of reviewing both books for this review – two for one deal! 😉

The Real McCoys

Synopsis

“When someone kidnaps beloved school mascot Eddie the Owl, the world’s greatest fourth-grade detective is on the case. But Moxie’s forced to fly solo now that her best friend (and crime-solving partner) has moved away.

First, Moxie must interview her classmates – as possible suspects and as potential new best friends. She finds clues and points fingers but can’t save the owl on her own. Enter Moxie’s little brother, Milton. Quiet, cautious, and boring as a butter knife, he listens carefully and connects the dots. Can the Real McCoys form an unlikely alliance and solve the crime of the century?”

#MelAndNikkiReview

It has been awhile since I read a good book that made me laugh out loud. The story is full of adventure, mystery, problem-solving and a whole lot of comedy. The artwork throughout the book made it a breeze to read right through it and it brought the story to life. The Real McCoys characters are a great balance of one another. On one side you have a lively and spunky Moxie and on the other side you have a quiet and calm Milton. They make the perfect pair in solving the toughest of mysteries such as the missing mascot.

“For the first time, I can see the possibility that he’s my actual brother – that he’s a real McCoy.”

We give this first book in the series a 5 hoots out of 5 for creativity, mystery and a whole lot of laughs of joy.

To purchase this book from the series, click here.

The Real McCoys Two’s A Crowd

Synopsis

“When a baffling mystery strikes Tiddlywhump Elementary, sibling detectives and absolute opposites Moxie and Milton McCoy are on the case. She’s the doer. He’s the thinker. She’s the heart. He’s her heartburn.

Moxie’s friend Emily has received a suspicious letter signed with nothing but a sinister purple squiggle. Then more letters arrive – along with more questions. Who sent them? What do they mean? Is the world on the brink of collapse?

Milton and Moxie are the perfect problem-solving team…if only they could get along. When their partnership falls apart, Moxie races to identify the mysterious Squiggler first – while learning the hard way that two McCoys really are better than one.”

#MelAndNikkiReview

It is no surprise to me that this book went beyond our expectations as it was as captivating to read as the first book in this series. The added “Moxie’s Dictionary” was a very cute touch in the book too. We don’t want to spoil the book as it is a must read but we loved it. The mystery, creativity and laughs went to a new level with this second installment and we can’t wait to read the next one! For The Real McCoys Two’s A Crowd we give it 5 Squigglers out of 5! 

To purchase this book from the series, click here.

Overall, both books are great and if you are looking for a gift idea for a middle schooler who loves to read, then this would be an amazing series for them!

We also love the face that the series is created by husband and wife writing/drawing duo Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr. The series were inspired in part by their own children and you need to follow them on Instagram and Facebook as they are a hysterically funny couple!

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

Eleanor Wyatt Princess and Pirate | Book Review

Empowering little girls to be who they want to be is a message that we love in our household. Especially since we are raising a little girl of our own. We believe that it is best for children to know that they can be whatever they want to be. This is why we are in LOVE with this book that we will be introducing all of you to.

Eleanor Wyatt Princess and Pirate, written by Rachael MacFarlane and illustrated by Spencer Laudiero the book you will want in your reading line-up!

Synopsis

“Her name is Eleanor Wyatt, and some days she’s a princess, some days she’s a pirate. Eleanor’s parents have taught her she can be anything she wants to be, from a ninja to a cowgirl to a fairy with wings. She can even star in her own book! Join Eleanor and her friends as they romp through tea parties and sword fights to discover the best treasure of all – being yourself!”

#MelAndNikkiReview

To say that we loved the book, would be an underestimate of the year! Eleanor Wyatt Princess and Pirate is a must read for every child as it is empowering. The message is loud and clear – you can be anything! Nikki loved it and felt that she could relate. One day she is fighting crime as a Superhero or she is playing princess with her toys. Either way she is herself and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Our favorite is that “there’s no right or wrong way to play.” YES! YES! YES! We love that message as there is no room for “gender” type play as we can be anything.

Overall the story flowed easily and the illustrations are captivating with the colors and characters. This is why for this review we give this book 5+++ stars out of 5! It is an empowering story that instills great confidence in being who you want to be and that is why this book is on our most recommended list!

“Let your inner light shine, and be who you are. Let your friends do the same, and you’ll shine like a star!”

This wonderful book will be available on November 6, 2018. If you would like to purchase your own copy, click here.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

Corduroy Takes A Bow | Book Review

A beloved children’s favorite, Corduroy is back in a brand new adventure as he takes the stage.

Corduroy Takes A Bow is a bow-tiful story about Corduroy is taken to the theater for the very first time. It’s so magnificent and exciting that he just had to explore on his own. From the orchestra pit to the prop table to the dressing rooms, Corduroy sees it all. With all the action happening to get a better view, Corduroy ends up getting the best view of all – the stage!

It has been fifty years since this lovable, inquisitive teddy bear was first introduced to readers and he’s now the star of the show. With the magic touch of author, Viola Davis it is no surprise that this book takes centre stage. Ms. Davis’ uses her own experience as an Emmy, Tony, and Oscar Award-winning actress to imbue this story to come alive.

#MelAndNikkiReview

We adored this book and it was so great to see Corduroy again in a new adventure. He is such a classic! The storyline was beautiful and the illustrations complimented it perfectly with a classic feel. This book is a great introduction of theatre to young children and we are fans of theatre. It was a heartwarming story as well and you will want it in your reading lineup. This is why we give, Corduroy Takes A Bow, 5 stars out of 5! 

If you are a fan of great books and of course of the adorable Corduroy, then this is the book for your little one. Like it says in the book:

“It’s the role of a lifetime for America’s best-loved teddy bear!”

To purchase this lovely book, click here.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

Dr. SEUSS’ The Grinch Is Scheming BIG This Holiday Season | Hitting Theatres This November

“You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch…
You really are a heel…
You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel…
Mr. Gri-INCH!”

A beloved holiday classic, The Grinch is a well-known tale for many by Dr. Seuss. It is one of our favourite stories to read during the holiday season and we are delighted to see it grace the big screen once again in its natural form, animation!

Synopsis

For their eight fully animated feature, Illumination and Universal Pictures present Dr. SEUSS’ The Grinch, based on Dr. Seuss’ beloved holiday classic. The Grinch tells the story of a cynical grump who goes on a mission to steal Christmas, only to have his heart changed by a young girl’s generous holiday spirit. Funny, heartwarming and visually stunning, it’s a universal story about the spirit of Christmas and the indomitable power of optimism.

Academy  Award® nominee Benedict Cumberbatch lends his voice to the infamous Grinch, who lives a solitary life inside a cave on Mt. Crumpet with only his loyal dog, Max, for company. With a cave rigged with inventions and contraptions for his day-to-day needs, the Grinch only sees his neighbors in Who-ville when he runs out of food.

Each year at Christmas they disrupt his tranquil solitude with their increasingly bigger, brighter and louder celebrations. When the Whos declare they are going to make Christmas three times bigger this year, the Grinch realizes there is only one way for him to gain some peace and quiet: he must steal Christmas. To do so, he decides he will pose as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, even going so far as to trap a lackadaisical misfit reindeer to pull his sleigh.

Meanwhile, down in Who-ville, Cindy-Lou Who – a young girl overflowing with holiday cheer – plots with her gang of friends to trap Santa Claus as he makes his Christmas Eve rounds so that she can thank him for help for her overworked single mother. As Christmas approaches, however, her good-natured scheme threatens to collide with the Grinch’s more nefarious one. Will Cindy-Lou achieve her goal of finally meeting Santa Claus? Will the Grinch succeed in silencing the Whos’ holiday cheer once and for all?

Find out when the Grinch hits theatres this November!

We know that we will be checking it out and we will be doing a review of our thoughts once we do. Stay tuned!

Special thank you to Universal Films Canada for the opportunity to promote The Grinch and host a giveaway on our Facebook page (contest only valid on November 1, 2018).

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga