The Subscription Service for Budding Bookworms: Little Fun Club

Sample box provided for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own, as always.

You guys, I LOVE to find beautiful, unique and well-written children’s books. I think any parent can tell you from experience that despite the thousands and thousands of children’s books on the market, most of them aren’t all that great, especially if you have to read them 100 times.

Little Fun Club takes the guesswork out of finding high quality, sure-to-be-loved books for your kids. For $25/month, you will get a curated collection tailored to your child based on age, of delightful books that are a bit off the beaten path, but that are true treasures. Some boxes also include other great learning tools like puzzles. You should expect your box to have 3-4 items.

Here’s what came in our box for a 5-year-old.

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We got 3 great titles; all hardback books, too! They were all quite good, but I think two of the three are going to be kept indefinitely.

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This read, A Blue So Blue, was one that really tugs at the heartstrings. It’s about a little boy who is an artist, and who finds himself traveling all over the world in search of the perfect shade of blue. Spoiler alert: he finally finds it, in his mother’s eyes. I totally cried when I read it! The pace and rhthym of the book are just wonderful. Such a great read!

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And The Beastie Book, while perhaps just a touch scary, is nothing short of breathtaking. I’ve never seen such rich illustrations! Every letter of the alphabet has a corresponding beastie to go with it. They are funny little (and BIG!) characters and I noticed that Darah likes to spend a lot of time looking at the pictures.

I really love the concept of this subscription service. I also like that you don’t have to sign up for a set number of months; you can feel free to cancel at any time! Could you purchase these books on your own online for less than the subscription price? Most likely, but in my case, I’d never even heard of these books, so I didn’t know to look for them in the first place. That’s part of what you are paying for here: the curated selection!

I can tell that a great deal of thought was put into the selection of the books, and I was impressed with our first box, so much so that I plan on ordering another one early next year!

Our Elf on the Shelf Has Arrived, and He Brought Provisions!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.#LoveV8Protein #CollectiveBias

Well, well, well. Look who just rolled up on our doorstep!

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Our Elf on the Shelf, Owen, is back for his second round with our family, and we are just tickled to see him. Looks like he got a sweet ride while he was away, and he even brought a few provisions.

I see that he brought some peppermint chunks for himself, which is fitting since candy is one of the four food groups (you may recall that the other three are candy canes, candy corn and syrup).

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But what’s this I see? Has Owen brought a gift just for me???

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Owen knows that while his boss is St. Nick, his business partner for the next month is yours truly, and try as I may this time of year, I can’t survive on candy alone. I need good-for-you choices, and in particular, some protein in my belly to boost my energy and to give me the strength of Beyonce, which is what anyone with an Elf on the Shelf needs to get through an entire month of pint-sized mischief.

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The V8 Protein Bar is loaded with healthy components, and I’m pleased to report it has a great flavor, as well (chocolate peanut butter? Yes, please!). One bar will net me 10g of protein and 5g of fiber.

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While my Elf on the Shelf brought me my V8 Protein Bars, if yours was not quite as generous and you need to go pick these up yourself, let me show you where you can find them at Walmart.

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There they are, in the health and beauty section of the store! And if you want to learn more about V8 Protein Bars (and the new V8 Protein Shakes!) be sure to follow V8 on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll be among the first to hear about any new promotions that way!

Our Favorite New Family Game: Moustache Smash

Products received for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own, as always. Affiliate links may be included. 

A few weeks ago I told you about 5 different family games my family would be testing out, and that I’d report back with our top pick. Well, we have a very clear winner, friends!

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The game is called Moustache Smash, and while it is designed for ages 7 and up, we have been able to play with our two girls (ages 4 and 2 1/2) by making some adjustments to the rules.

The basic concept is that everyone get a moustache that they must hold up under their noses. There are 6 different moustaches from which to choose, so there can be up to 6 players. There is a deck of cards that get flipped over, one at a time. If the moustache on the card is the same color OR the same style as your moustache, you smack it (there’s a little suction cup on the end of your moustache wand) to collect the card for your pile. Sometimes, this happens:

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There are also wild cards in the pile that simply say, “Moustache Smash!” and anyone can collect those. Additionally there are “Moustache Pass!” cards, and if you smack one of those, you lose 2 cards from your pile.

To make the game easier for younger children we have tried simply going for the same color and not for the same color OR the same style. We’ve also removed the “Moustache Pass!” cards from the pile. Additionally, we take turns letting each person have first dibs on smacking the card that gets turned up. That gives the little ones a little extra time to think about if the card would fit in their pile. If it is their turn for first dibs, then they can take a second to think, and then smack it when they realize they can. If they aren’t able to smack it (perhaps they have a brown moustache and a black moustache is shown) then the other players will have had time to figure out if they can smack it after the person with dibs lets it go.

We all laugh a lot when we play this game, and the girls both want to play it at least twice a day. You can purchase Moustache Smash on Amazon right now, but just yesterday I spied it in the game section at Walmart for just shy of $10, which I thought was a terrific buy!

Holiday Entertaining Hack: The Appetizers-as-Dinner Trick

This post brought to you by Farm Rich. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Stuff Parents Need.

This is one of my very favorite things to do when entertaining guests during the holidays, OR when I want to treat my family to something special and fun but not spend too much time in the kitchen: I make an entire meal out of appetizers, and by using a few simple tricks, I pull this bite-sized feast off without too much effort on my part.

I recently headed to Walmart, armed with a get $1.50 off 2 Farm Rich snacks coupon and after viewing all the great options, I basically just went nuts and brought this awesome assortment home to my deep freezer.   photo farmrich1_zps59d61914.jpg

I decided to have a special weekend meal for my crew today, even though my “to do” list was a mile long. Still, I wanted to make a bit of time for getting into the spirit of the season, and that means having festive and fun food for some of our meals. I knew that I could put together an entire meal with appetizer options from Farm Rich Snacks , and I’d have enough of each item left over to repeat this meal again later on in the season since the boxes and bags can all be closed. 

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I started things off by preheating my oven to 425 degrees and getting out my toaster oven, which I needed for the pizzeria bites, as they need to cook at 375 degrees. While my oven was preheating, I got out two baking trays and covered them with aluminum foil, and sprayed them lightly with olive oil. I put Farm Rich meatballs on half of one of the trays. The meatballs went in first because they take the longest to cook (around 35 minutes). While they were cooking, I made a super easy sauce for them out of a bottle of barbecue sauce and a can of whole cranberry sauce, just letting it warm on the stove top. DELISH!  photo farmrich7_zpsa1642fb4.jpg

After the meatballs have been cooking for 15 minutes, it’s time to add the breaded mushrooms. Set the timer for just 3 1/2 minutes, because more food will need to go in the oven at that point. The breaded mushrooms taste fantastic with a ranch dip. I made mine by combining 2/3 cup of greek yogurt, 1/3 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 of a packet of ranch dip mix.  photo farmrich9_zpsc80f6247.jpg

After the breaded mushrooms go in the oven, you’ll also want to put your pizzeria bites in the toaster oven, set at 375. They need about 13 minutes.  photo farmrich11_zps683cba50.jpg

When your meatballs and breaded mushrooms have about 10 minutes left to cook, it’s time to add a second tray of food to the oven, and it should have toasted ravioli and cheese sticks on it. They are both HUGE hits with my kids, and I loved arranging the raviolis in the shape of a circle and putting a bow at the bottom to make it look like a wreath. This couldn’t have been easier, friends!

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And the cheesesticks really can shine on their own, but they are out of this world with a little homemade marinara.  photo farmrich10_zps41bb26f3.jpg

I found it easy to make the sauce in between the time I was putting everything else together. You’ll need one 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, 1 Tbsp of minced garlic (I buy the stuff in the jar; I can’t really tell the difference between it and garlic I peel myself and it saves a TON of time). You’ll also need some olive oil, a pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp black pepper and a bit of fresh basil.  photo farmrich3_zps029cd6cf.jpg

Cook the garlic in the olive oil over medium-high heat for about a minute, and then add the tomatoes and give it a stir. Then add the salt, oregano, black pepper and a sprig of basil (spring for the fresh stuff…it honestly makes a difference). Give it another good stir and bring it to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to just above low (so that’s setting 2 on my stove) and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove the basil before serving. Easy!

The only other thing that I added to our appetizer feast was some yummy rasperry and honey crackers with goat cheese. You just need some water crackers with a smear of goat cheese on them. Place a fresh raspberry on top and drizzle with honey. These are nearly effortless and they were inhaled VERY quickly. I made them as everyone was getting out plates, cups and utensils.  photo farmrich5_zps920a7157.jpg

I so love that this entire meal came together with me just putting stuff in the oven at the right time and making three SIMPLE sauces! And yet, it felt like quite the feast. Having some Farm Rich products tucked away in your freezer this holiday season for a quick appetizer, or for an entire meal of appetizers, is a great idea. I’ve found the food to taste fantastic and to be really enjoyed by those it is served to (which makes them great for bringing to gatherings, too!). And of course, I have personally loved how much time they save me in the kitchen. My family enjoyed every product on our table today. On my list next to try are the Loaded Potato Skins, which sound absolutely perfect for a cold night!

Have you ever done an entire meal of just appetizers? I think it is so much fun! If you’d like to try it for your family, be sure to look for Farm Rich Snacks to help you out so that the fun dinner idea doesn’t become overwhelming for the chef! Use the Farm Rich Product Finder to make your search a snap.

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Veggie Snack Break: Check Out Harvest Snaps

This post was created in partnership with Harvest Snaps. Product has been provided for review purposes. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I always love hearing about new snacks. And I REALLY love hearing about new snacks that my daughters’ school will accept in lunch boxes (they are pretty darn hardcore about not allowing sugar).

This week I’ve been sampling 6 different flavors of Harvest Snaps. These are baked, gluten-free, high in fiber and protein, and low in sodium and fat. They are also all very flavorful. I was actually expecting them to be loaded with sodium based on how yummy they tasted. I was so glad to be wrong!

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The big surprise for me was the flavor that I assumed I would absolutely hate: wasabi ranch. Doesn’t that just sound like an assault to your taste buds? But I did try them since I needed to report back to you all on them, and guess what? They are one of my favorite flavors. They definitely clear out your sinuses, but then you find yourself reaching for another, and then another. I actually liked all the flavors offered except the onion thyme variety. It tasted like exactly that, and those are flavors that need to be combined with something else, and not enjoyed on their own (at least in my opinion!).

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If you are looking for some Lunchspiration for your kids’ lunches or even for some new snack ideas for yourself, I would definitely suggest Harvest Snaps. They’ve got a satisfying crunch, they are absolutely packed with flavor, and they are relatively guilt-free.