Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summer Activities: Practicing Writing with Your Preschooler/Kindergartner

Yesterday I talked about how to beat the summer blahs. Structured activities are a great way to do this, and they don't have to involve a lot of prep or work.

One activity I plan to do with Alex, who just finished a year of preschool (and will be heading off to kindergarten in the fall) is helping him with his writing skills. In school this year, every day when the preschoolers arrived, they were to get out their name books (which had a picture of the child on the front). Inside were places to practice writing their names.

So this summer, I'm going to do the same, but with all of the letters of the alphabet to help Alex get ready for kindergarten.

Creating Custom Printouts for Your Preschooler or Kindergartner to Trace

At KidZone.ws, you can create custom tracing papers that can be used for practicing writing. This is especially helpful if your child is still working on the basics of writing. Here you can choose block, script or cursive writing (which is great for your older kids) and you can type in exactly what you want, so you can create pages with your child's name on it (first and last) or whatever you want them to learn. 


Writing time will be included every day on the daily schedule. Hopefully this will be a fun activity for us to work on together.

What activities are you going to work on with your kids this summer? I could definitely use some ideas!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Beating the Summer Blahs with a Daily Schedule

Now that summer vacation is here, school is no longer there to help with the daily schedule. When summer hits, it's easy to fall into bad habits like sleeping in, wasting days not doing much, and not keeping a good schedule each day. Rather than falling into bad habits, create a schedule for your kids to help them keep their brains and bodies active throughout the summer months.

Making a Summer Schedule

Of course, this is just one idea for something you can do every day during summer vacation. Think of what else you want to do this summer to keep up a routine. For kids ages 5 to 7, a sample schedule may include:
Wake-up and get dressed
Eat breakfast
Clean up breakfast (have child clean up his or her own dishes)
Brush teeth
Clean up bedroom or spend time cleaning up something together in house (picking up living room, dusting, etc.)
Take a walk or spend time outside togetherPractice writing
Color/art project/drawing
Read books together
Lunch time
Lunch clean up
Quiet time (i.e. playing quietly on own, looking at or reading books on own, watching some TV, etc.) This is a great time to get stuff done you need to get done!
Snack time
Dinner prep (have your child help get dinner ready). Afternoons are also a great time for play dates or going to the park.
Dinner
Dinner clean up
Bedtime routine (brushing teeth, getting on pajamas, reading a couple more books, etc.) I often use this time to just talk with Alex about his day and about how he's feeling and what's going on in his head. It's great one-on-one time if you can swing it (though it's hard depending on how many kids you have and their ages).
Of course, you should always be flexible when it comes to your schedule, but if you have a general routine to follow, it will help prevent the summer blahs.

Scheduling Summer Activities

Another great way to beat the summer blahs is to get out your calendar. Decide on some things that you want to do this summer, such as visiting the local zoo, taking a camping trip, visiting at nearby state or national park, taking a day trip to the water park or even trips to the local pool. Decide on what days you're going to do these activities throughout the summer months.

By having a firm schedule for these activities, you'll have something to look forward to throughout the summer and as the dates for the activities get closer, you'll have motivation to plan for them so they actually happen. This way you won't get to the end of August and realize that school is about to start and the summer was wasted.

On the calendar should be days with activities with you and one of your kids one-on-one. Try to plan something once a week with one child. This way it won't be too overwhelming and you can have a few good mother-child dates throughout the summer.

Summer is upon us. Make it a good one!

Friday, April 12, 2013

5 Favorite Things of the Week - 4/12/13

This week has flown by and I haven't gotten nearly as much done as I should have by now. I guess that's just part of being a mom, right? Well, here are my favorite things from this week.
  1. Book Bomb success. This week an author I know, Dave Wolverton (who writes under the pseudonym David Farland), had a tragedy in his family. His son was in an accident that caused severe brain trauma. There are sites set up to raise money to pay for medical bills which could easily reach in the millions. On Wednesday, a book bomb was held for Dave's books to help raise money. Another benefit of a book bomb is it raises the book's status so it's more visible on sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. By the end, the book, Nightingale, reached #1 in contemporary fantasy for both books and ebooks, #2 for paranormal fantasy books and #84 overall for paid ebooks on Amazon. It's pretty amazing. If you are planning on buying things from Amazon, consider going to the book bomb link and then clicking on the link there for the book. After doing so, anything you buy on Amazon after will also pay back a little money to the Wolvertons. I'm so glad it was a success!
  2. School's back in session! This week Alex headed back to preschool after a week off for spring break. He was excited to go back and I was excited to spend some one-on-one time with Micah in the morning and get some stuff done.
  3. Fresh fruits and veggies. I've been trying to avoid going to the groceries the last couple weeks because we've been going over our monthly budget for food, but yesterday I headed to the store and got lots of fresh produce, like apples, bananas, strawberries, oranges, onions, sweet peppers, broccoli and spinach. I love having these fresh fruits and veggies around to make smoothies with (and more!). Despite having a completely loaded shopping cart, I also only spent $130 on food. Woohoo! 
  4. New smoothie. This week I discovered a killer smoothie combination: peanut butter, bananas and spinach. I'll be telling you all about it next week. Let's just say it's delicious and I think with the protein from the peanut butter, it works as a meal (I know it kept me full from lunch all the way till dinner, no cravings).
  5. Easter with family. Yes, this is a little late, but I missed my weekly post after Easter. We had a great time visiting with my hubby's parents over Easter. They also brought treats for us and the boys. I love getting to spend time with family :D.
Have a happy weekend!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Vacuums: Review of the Dyson DC40 Animal Upright Vacuum

So I'm sure you're dying to know (and I've made you wait in anticipation long enough). So what vacuum did I end up buying? I went with the Dyson DC40. Let's go over why I picked it and then I'll talk about the what I like and what I don't.

Why I Chose the Dyson DC40 Animal Upright Vacuum

Here is why I chose the DC40:
  • Got it at Costco, which has a great return policy and they had it for $100 off.
  • Though it's an upright, it's light and you can easily maneuver it around furniture.
  • It's bagless with washable filters, so you don't have to replace either bags or filters on it. 
  • You can easily take it apart to clean the rug beater (have I mentioned I have long hair?).

What I Like about the DC40 Animal Upright Vacuum

For the most part I do like this machine. Here are some of the highlights:
  • To release the cord, you just flip the cord minder down and then pull it off. 
  • It's really easy to dump the dust that's in the dust bin into the garbage (my one-year-old proved this by doing it himself ... all over the newly vacuumed carpet).
  • The dust bin opens at the bottom, so you're not taking it and turning it upside down to dump it (which I think would cause more of a mess).
  • It's light and easy to push around and get around furniture.
  • It has powerful suction to really clean the carpet.
  • And, as I mentioned, it's easy to take it apart to clean or to take out filters and such. 

Here's What I Don't Like about the Dyson DC40 Animal Upright Vacuum

Though it's a great vacuum, there are some things I would like to see improved:
  • Though the hose has really good suction, it's also really awkward to use. Half of it is a flexible hose and half is a stiff hose, and the stiff hose just seems to long and you can't take it off to use the vacuum without it.
  • The head doesn't go under the furniture. It's those days I wish I still had a canister.
  • It doesn't seem to work as well on hardwood floors. OK, so I don't have hardwood floors, but I noticed a lot of reviews mention this, so I figured I'd add it to the list in case you do. I really think this vacuum was made for carpeted floors (I haven't used it for the kitchen or anything so I couldn't say).

Just the Facts:

Store: Costco
Price: $400
Date Purchased: August 2012
Rating: 4/5
Recommended: Overall, yes, but it's an expensive vacuum. It's possible there are cheaper vacuums that work as well.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Vacuums: Canister or Upright? Bagged or Bagless?

This week I'm going to be talking about vacuums, carpet cleaners and other topics related to carpet care. Today I thought I talk about what to look for in a new vacuum.

I used to own this Bosch canister vacuum
So last August, we moved from Utah to Washington so we could live closer to family. As we were getting packed up and ready, our vacuum died after 5 years of use. What bugged me the most about it dying though was the fact that it was just a part within the vacuum that no longer worked and if I could have opened it up to replace it, it probably would've lasted a few more years. But the manufacturers of the vacuum created it so there was no way to get the cover off of the head. There were no screws or anything as far as I could tell. I don't even know if I could have taken it to a certified vacuum repair shop to have it fixed because I didn't see how it could have been repaired. Typical of our throwaway society right? I hate that!

So I borrowed a friend's vacuum to get our place ready for moving and once I got settled into our new place, we decided to look for a new vacuum.

Canister or Upright?


Upright vacuum from Bissell
The first thing to consider is whether you want a canister vacuum or an upright. We really like our canister vacuum for the most part because the head was so small, it was able to get underneath furniture like the couch and beds so we didn't have to move furniture in order to clean underneath. It also makes vacuuming the stairs really easy and you were only pushing a light head back and forth instead of the entire heavy vacuum.

However, when I started researching vacuums, I discovered something about canisters. In order for them to work as well an upright, you need to have the motor that's in the body and a separate motor in the canister head. Otherwise, the head is using air to turn the rug beater and it's not going to have as much power as an upright vacuum. Because of this, the less expensive canisters are really made to work with carpets that have no pile whatsoever (which isn't very common for homes).

Obviously having two motors costs more, so in order to get a good canister vacuum that will do as good of a job as uprights, you're looking at paying $100 to $300 more than for a comparable upright. Something you'll have to consider if you decide you want an upright.

Bagged or Bagless?


Bagless upright vacuum by Panasonic
The next thing you'll have to consider when purchasing a vacuum is whether you want to go with a bagged vacuum or a bagless vacuum. Bagless vacuums seem ideal. You no longer have to pay for bags, which can be expensive. Instead just dump the dirt into the garbage when you're done vacuuming. There is a hidden cost to these bagged vacuums, though — the filters. Sometimes you don't think about the fact that many bagless vacuums have filters that have to be replaced every so often and can easily cost as much as vacuum bags.

Bagged vacuums come with bags. Many consumers try to buy off brand bags for their vacuums, but this isn't always wise. Branded bags are usually made using cotton and paper that is designed to trap particles so they don't escape when you remove the bags from the vacuum. These thick, 3-ply bags trap the dirt and dust particles so you can remove them cleanly. However, off brand bags often just use paper and have small holes in them allowing the smaller particles to escape releasing them back into the air to settle on the floor once again. If you're allergic to dust, it's especially important to buy the name brand vacuum bags.

So when it comes to vacuums, there are lots of decisions? Do you want to have a vacuum that is light and easy to push around? That's easy to clean stairs or can easily be transported upstairs and downstairs? Are you willing to put in an investment into your vacuum or would you rather pay less and go with a middle-of-the line vacuum?

Tomorrow I'll tell you which vacuum I chose and give you a review on it. In the meantime, tell me which vacuum you use. Do you love it or hate it?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Activities for Preschoolers: Scissor Skills

This year, my son is part of the Head Start program, so every Monday through Thursday morning, he has school from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. It's great because he's learning a lot, not just about typical school stuff (ABCs, writing, numbers, etc.) but he's also learning other skills. They talk about what to do if you're angry, how to wait your turn, sharing, eating healthy, etc. They also serve the kids breakfast and lunch, which is awesome because that's 8 meals a week that I don't have to worry about feeding Alex. It's also great because that's 14 hours a week where he's out of the house and I can get more done without worrying about IBS — I'm Bored Syndrome.

But this week is Spring Break, which means Alex is home all day every day. This is especially hard for me since I'm a work-at-home mom, so it's not like I can just take time off and spend it with him. Still, I am trying to use the time to be with him more and not work the whole day.

Getting Ready for Kindergarten by Teaching Your Preschooler to Use Scissors


Before Alex started at Head Start, I didn't even think about working with him on using scissors. I taught him his letters, shapes, numbers and counting, animals, etc., but scissors never entered into the equation. Then last week the teacher said to me right before leaving on the last day, "Alex really needs help on using scissors. Maybe you could work with him on it over the break." I was thinking, What? Why? Why would being able to use scissors be important? Luckily for me, there's the Internet.

Why Kids Need to Learn to Use Scissors 

  • Cutting with scissors builds muscles in the hands needed for fine motor skills like writing and painting — anything that requires a grip. 
  • It helps strengthen hand-eye coordination, so your child is more coordinated (like for throwing balls and such). 
  • It works on bilateral coordination — two sides of the body work together (for example, holding the paper with one hand while cutting with the other).

Ways to Practice Using Scissors

There are many ways to practice using scissors with your preschooler. The important thing is to not stress about it too much and go with what you're up to doing that day. Here are some ideas:
  • Draw shapes on a piece of paper and then have your preschooler cut them out. After, you can decorate the shapes together. We just used scrap paper I had in the recycles bin for this.
  • Print out some worksheets, like those found at Kids Learning Station, and have your child cut along the line.
  • Create an art project that requires cutting, such as this one from Make and Takes. That way it's fun and your preschooler won't realize that it's practice. If you need inspiration, there are lots of ideas on Pinterest.

When Should You Start Teaching Your Child to Cut with Scissors?

Did you know that you should start having children use scissors as early as 2? I had no idea, but I suspect it's why Alex is so far behind in writing, so it's definitely something we'll be working on, and I'll start working with MW on it sometime in the next year. Here are the recommendations for when you should teach your child what:

  • 2 years old: Use scissors to snip the ends off of pieces of paper
  • 2.5 years old: Cut through a piece of paper from end to end
  • 3 to 3.5 years old: cut along a line that's 1/2 inch thick (should be able to stay within that line without cutting outside of it more than 3 times)
  • 3.5 to 4 years old: cut out a circle (should be able to stay close to the line for at least 3/4 of the circle)
  • 4.5 to 5 years old: cut out a square
It's also recommended to use a variety of thicknesses, starting with thick paper and working towards thinner paper (which is harder). Materials would include play dough, thick folders, construction paper, regular paper, and then tissue paper.

When choosing scissors, find ones that allow for stability, such as these children's scissors, especially the ones on top from Fiskars. These allow stability, making cutting easier, and they have blunt ends that are rounded.

Alternative Activities to Using Scissors

If your child doesn't have the strength yet to use scissors, there are other activities they can do that use the same muscles so they can build up to using scissors.
  • Use tongs to pick up objects and put them in a bucket.
  • Cut out pieces of paper and have your child use tweezers to pick up a piece of paper and drop it into a box.
  • Have child use a single hole puncher to punch holes in paper.
  • Create a race where your child has to pick up an object with tongs and carry it to the other side of the room and drop the object into a tub.
So if you're looking for ways to help your preschooler prepare for kindergarten, don't forget to work on those scissoring skills! What things are you doing to help your preschooler prepare for kindergarten? I'd love to hear it!

Friday, March 29, 2013

7 Reasons Why You Should Be Reading E-Books


So hopefully, I haven't totally confused you with whether or not you should get an e-reader, but I wanted to talk about whether I recommend e-readers in general. I don't know if I recommend an e-book reader per se (it really depends on your situation and your preferences), but I definitely recommend e-books. 

Whether you read them on an ebook reader or on a tablet using an app, I do recommend you getting into the world of electronic books. Here's why:

E-books are often cheaper

First I'd like to say that people seem to have a misconception and believe that e-books should be dirt cheap or they should be free just because you're not buying a physical product. Understand though that the cost of printing and shipping a book is only a small fraction of the cost of producing a book. That said, e-books do tend to be cheaper, especially if the book has been out for a year or more. Once the cost of producing a book has been covered, publishers have more leeway in offering a discount on e-books since they can produce an infinite amount without costing more.

Not only that, but you don't have to pay to have the book shipped and books are instantly delivered to your e-reader or other device, so no waiting for it to reach you. You want to read a new book, you can within seconds.

E-books don't take up space

This last summer I moved two states away and let me tell you, I got rid of a lot of books. You can't sell used books very easily (unless they're expensive, up-to-date text books). I had a bunch at my yard sale and I probably sold five of them, mostly kids' books. They're heavy and once you've read them, you might not read them ever again (or you might read them only every 5 years and in the meantime they're taking up space). E-books on the other hand take up no space, you can have as many as you want (especially with cloud storage) and they weigh nothing.

You can borrow e-books from libraries

Libraries are starting to have e-books as part of their inventory. To borrow one, you just have to have a membership to that library. You don't have to go to the library to get a book; you just need an internet connection. Just like with the regular books, you may have to wait in line till a book is available and the selection may be limited, but there are no worries about losing the book or forgetting to return it and paying a late fee. You also don't have to worry about paying for a new book after your toddler decided to turn it into an art project. 

You can borrow e-books from friends

Just like with regular books, you can borrow books from friends. Unfortunately, there are some restrictions. You can only borrow each book one time. Book lending periods are for 14 days, so only borrow a book when you know you want to read it. Publishers of the book also have to have the option of lending enabled, so not all books are able to be lent. Still, it's a great way to read a book your friend recommended to you, and you don't have to worry about forgetting to return it!

You can read ebooks on any device from practically anywhere

Did you know that you can get a program that allows you to read Amazon e-books from your computer? Yep, you can read them right on your desktop ... no e-reader required. There are apps for every mobile and tablet OS (as far as I'm aware) as well as Kindle. Not only that, but if you start reading a book on one device and then switch to another device, the Kindle app will remember where you left off and you can pick up from there on the next device (assuming you're connected to the Internet while you're reading, that is). You can go from reading on your computer to reading on your phone to reading on your table to reading on your e-reader. This makes it great if you were reading on your Kindle at home and then got stuck somewhere without it because you can just continue on your smart phone. Genius!

You can take the reader with you wherever you go

And unlike with real books, you don't have to worry about them being too heavy. By having your e-reader in your purse, you will always have something to do if you find yourself waiting for your car's oil to be changed or waiting at a doctor's office for an appointment.
This shows some of the books I'm borrowing along with The Da Vinci Code I got for free :)

You can get books for free

Despite what I said about how you shouldn't expect to get books for the fraction of the cost, books are still available for free. Typically, these books are ones by self-published authors who are looking to gain a readership, but that's not always the case. Another reason a book might be free is that it's the first book in the series and the publisher is trying to get more readers interested in the other books, and therefore buy them. I've even got big named books for free like The Da Vinci Code and Must Love Dogs. These books are typically not free for long, though, so check back to Amazon often to see what the deals are that day.
    So whether or not you've owned an e-reader in the past, dive into the world. If you don't have a lot to spend, start small with a Kindle Touch or something equivalent. For only $69, you really can't go wrong.

    *Hot* Insider's Tip


    Want an insider's tip. I know how you can keep a library e-book rental (or other rental for that matter whether you're borrowing a book from a friend or from Amazon) longer than the due date. Typically on the due date, the book will automatically be removed from your e-reader and you won't be able to read it again unless you borrow it again or buy it.

    However, if you turn off your Wi-Fi on your Touch, so it doesn't connect to the Internet, your book will stay on your Kindle till you connect again. (Shhh, don't tell Amazon we know this!) Of course, this could be problematic on a tablet, which pretty much has to connect to the Internet to function (i.e. there are certain apps that won't work without connecting), but on the Touch, the only reason you'd need to connect would be if you need to download another book onto the device. As long as you don't need to, you can disconnect it from Wi-Fi and finish reading your book. Once you're done, reconnect, say buy to the book, and get new books.

    Protecting Your Kindle


    And if you do end up getting either the Paperwhite or the Touch, I highly recommend this leather case. I got it for my Kindle and it's been great. Easy to open and close, good quality, and the Kindle fits perfectly. It comes in 8 colors and is only $9.45 to $13, so you really can't go wrong. With it on, I can just throw my Kindle in my purse and go without worrying about the screen getting scratched.

    Well, I hope you've enjoyed the series this week on e-readers and e-books. Let me know what you liked about the series and what you didn't :).

    I'd also love to hear about your experiences with e-readers and e-books. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Leave them in the comments.

    Thursday, March 28, 2013

    E-Reader Series: If I Had to Do It Again, Would I Get an eBook Reader over a Tablet?


    This is what I've been thinking about the last few weeks and it's a hard question to answer. Overall, I really do love my Kindle Touch. Still, I wonder if I should have waited. Here are some reasons that I would consider getting a tablet instead of the Touch:

    Why a Tablet Is Better Than an E-Reader

    • More versatile. Tablets are made for more than just reading books. You can play apps, music and video on them. There are dozens of apps for tablets whereas the Touch is made just for reading ebooks and nothing else.
    • Operating system. Operating systems on tablets are made to be fast and easy to use.
    • Graphics. You can see the covers of books as you're going through them to figure out what you want to read.
    • Same size. Now that 7-inch tablets are all the rage, you can get awesome tablets that can also be held on one hand. This makes reading in bed easy. The release of the iPad back a few years ago caused a slew of copycat tablets that were all about 10 inches. Now that the 7-inch tablet has caught, in part spurred by the Amazon Fire tablet, there are many choices for smaller tablets that can be held in one hand.
    • Battery life. Maybe batteries on the tablets won't last a month, but many are made to last 10 hours of active use and up to a couple weeks on standby. This means at the very least, it should last all day and you can then charge it while you sleep so it's ready for the next day.
    • Kindle app. No matter what tablet you get, whether it's Android, Windows RT or iOS, there's an app that allows you to access your Kindle library. This means that you can read your ebooks on lots of devices rather than being stuck with only reading on your Kindle. 
    • Read non-Amazon ebooks. Not only that, but on tablets you can get apps for other e-readers, such as Nook, so that ebooks that you've bought through other sources can also be read on your tablet. With a Touch (as well as other Kindle devices), you're limited to only purchased made through Amazon.

    Why an E-Reader Is Better Than a Tablet

    So you're probably wondering, if a tablet is so much better, why should I even consider an e-reader? Well here are some thoughts about that:
    • Eye strain. It's possible that reading on a tablet may cause more eye strain than an e-ink reader like the Touch. However, if you have problems with eye strain, the recommendation is that every 20 minutes, focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. I know that from my experience, I have not had any problems reading on the Touch any more so than reading a book.
    • Doesn't work in bright light. So a few years ago, I was working from home on my laptop and I got this bright idea that I would take Alex, who was a toddler then, outside of our four-plex to play on the grass. I would take my laptop so I could get some work done and still keep an eye on him. Well, that worked not at all because the light from the sun completely washed out my laptop screen and I couldn't read a thing. For this reason, the e-ink display wins. If you want to read at the beach, at the park, or anywhere else outside, a tablet just won't do.
    • Cost. When it comes to price points, nothing beats a Touch. With the Kindle Touch now only $69, there's really no reason to say no. And despite the fact that I was so excited when the Paperwhite came out (and it was only $20 more than what I paid), honestly I don't think it's essential to have one instead of the Touch (unless you think you'll be reading in dark or very low light a lot). I can't think of an instance where I haven't had enough light from a lamp, an overhead light, or the sun to read just fine.

    What Should You Get Then? A Tablet or an E-Reader?

    That is a question you'll to answer yourself, but I think the major factor that comes into play is the price. For only $69, you can have your own e-ink reader, so if you can't shell out $200 or more for a tablet, why not get a Touch. 

    However, if you can afford a tablet, and especially if you want to do more on than just read ebooks (such as using apps and watching Netflix or movies and TV shows), I would definitely recommend a tablet. There are so many to choose from and they all have their benefits, so it will take some research to decide which one is right for you.

    And really, if you can swing it, I'd get one of each. There will be times when one or the other will work better  for that situation. You could keep the Kindle in your purse ready to read if you ever need something to pass the time (without worrying about the battery being dead) and bring the tablet with you when you're going on a long trip and need to keep your kids occupied. For that matter have both with you so your kids can play games while you're reading a book—everyone wins!

    So do I regret getting the Touch? No, not at all. Whether or not I get a tablet in the future, I will continue to read books on my Touch. Overall, I love it.

    Do you have an e-reader or tablet? If so which one do you have and do you love it?

    Wednesday, March 27, 2013

    E-Reader Series: Review of Kindle Touch from Amazon

    I've mentioned a couple times in the last couple weeks about how I used my downtime to read on my Kindle. As I've been using it more, things came to mind about what I like and what I don't like, so I figured I'd do a review about my Kindle Touch.

    What I Like about the Kindle Touch


    Let's start off with what I like about the Kindle Touch.

    It's easy to use. There are certain parts of the screen that do certain things. While reading a book, you touch the top to bring up the menu, the right side to go forward and the left side to go back. You can also swipe up and down to to move to the next chapter or previous chapter. 

    See definitions of words while you read.
    You can bring up the dictionary to find out what a word means. Unlike a regular book where you have to physically get out the dictionary or search online to find out the definition of a word, the Touch automatically comes with a dictionary preinstalled. To find out what a word means, just press down on the word for a couple seconds and let go. The definition will pop up in a little window. Click outside of the window to go back to reading.

    Battery life. Battery life on the Touch is long, like a month. No need to charge it every day or two like with tablets. 

    Read one-handed. Since the Touch is about the same size as a book (it's just a little smaller than 7-inch tablets), you can hold it in one hand to read. It also fits easily into purses, so you can easily take it with you wherever you go.

    Read in direct sunlight. This one was a big reason I chose the Kindle Touch over a tablet. Where tablet screens will get washed out in sunlight (such as reading at the park or on the beach), the screen on the Kindle Touch can be read in almost any light level. It's also easier on the eyes with the e-ink display.

    What I Don't Like about the Kindle Touch


    Though I like it overall, there are things I don't like about the Touch. 

    Can't read in no light or very low light. Just like a regular book, you can't read on the Touch if you don't have much light or any light. This typically isn't a problem, but every once in awhile it can be. This is what Paperwhite tries to eliminate. It's supposed to work in any light level from direct sunlight to no light. Of course it wasn't around when I got my Touch, or I'm sure I would have gotten it.

    Not very responsive. When you're reading a book and turning from one page to the next, it works great. However, trying to get to the home screen and searching around for books, it takes quite a lot of time to think about what it wants to do. This can get annoying if you're trying to organize your book collection or are browsing around trying to decide what to read. Luckily, it doesn't affect use of the Kindle too much.

    List of books. No book covers.
    Not high def screen. When you use the Kindle app on your tablet or smartphone and are browsing through your library, you see these beautiful book covers that help you find something you're looking for and help you decide what to read. On the Touch, all you see are book titles, which isn't always helpful in trying to find stuff. Obviously, the Touch can't give you beautiful color pictures, but if it had a faster processor, it could probably give you at least gray scale pictures of the books, which still might help you figure out what you want to read. You pretty much have to know what you're looking for or go onto your computer or other device to find what to read and then get it on your device. 

    It only comes with a charger cable that connects to your computer. This isn't huge deal because you can charge it, but if you've ever had a tablet, smartphone or other device, you know that it will charge a lot faster if it has a wall charger. You can a wall charger for your Kindle but it will cost extra ($20). 

    Operating system. I am not happy with the operating system on the Kindle at all. Besides being really slow, it's really kludgy. For example, sometimes I'll be searching for a book and will search for the title. It will bring up a search results that shows all the books with those words, including the book I want. So I tap on the title, but instead of taking me to the book, it just takes me to where in the book those words are found and I have to fumble around trying to find the beginning of the book.


    So am I happy with my Kindle? Would I choose it again if I did it all over again? Tune in tomorrow for a continuation of As the Kindle Turns ... I mean the continuation of my e-reader series ;).

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    E-Reader Series: All about the Kindle Touch

    This week I've decided to focus my articles on e-books and e-readers. Today, I'm going to talk a little about the Kindle Touch and then tomorrow, I'll have a review on the Kindle Touch. Later in the week, I'll talk about e-book readers vs. tablets and then whether I'd recommend getting an e-book reader. I hope you'll join me in this e-book adventure!

    What Kindle Do I Own?


    First, let's clarify which Kindle I own, since there are so many models out there now that it's been on the market so long. I have a first generation Kindle Touch, which I got for Christmas 2011. When I got it, it was $99 and now it's only $69 regular price. I have to say, I wish I'd waited! The reason for the price drop is that the Kindle Paperwhite came out . You can get the Paperwhite for only $119 with Special Offers and $139. Mine has special offers as well.

    What Does It Mean to Get a Kindle with Special Offers?

    Example ad shown with my Kindle locked.
    If you're considering getting a Kindle, you may wonder what it means to have special offers on it, how that affects using the Kindle, and whether it's worth paying extra for one without.

    In my opinion, get the one with special offers. If later you don't want them, you can always pay the extra cost and have them removed, but here's why the special offers is not a bad thing:
    • It never interrupts reading books. You will never have a pop-up window with a special offer. You will never see an ad at the bottom, top or side of the screen while reading books. 
    • When do you see them? There are two times that you'll see the ads: When the Kindle is locked and when you're on the home screen searching through your library (it's a small bar at the bottom of the screen). I've never been annoyed by them.
    • Sometimes the ads are good deals that you would want to know about, such as a book that's on sale for only $2.99 or a buy one get one free deal. For this reason, it might be helpful to see the ads.

    What Can You Do If You Don't Want to See the Special Offers on the Kindle?


    Click to enlarge. Ad is on the bottom there.
      Because the ads are so easy to ignore, and they don't interrupt me while I'm reading, I just don't see them as much of a bother. As I mentioned, if they do become annoying, you can always pay for them to be turned off.

      Another option is to turn off the Wi-Fi. This option will also save you on battery life. Without Wi-Fi to receive the offers, you'll just shown a generic wallpaper when you lock the Kindle and as long as you don't need to download a book from the library or Amazon, you don't need Wi-Fi to be turned on. (Note: This may take some time after you turn it off for the ads to stop coming.)

      Since it saves on battery life, it might be worth doing just for that reason alone. Unless you're actually searching for books on Amazon or looking at books you have saved to the cloud, you really have no reason to have it connected to Wi-Fi anyway.

      Come back tomorrow to find out what I think of my Touch. I'll talk about the good and the bad. Questions? Comments? Feel free to ask below and I will answer them :).

      Friday, March 22, 2013

      5 Favorite Things of the Week - 3/22/13


      I know you're all dying in anticipation of what my favorite things are this week, right? ... *crickets chirping* ... *crickets chirping* ... Well, settle down because I will now reveal to you what made me happy this week. :D 
      Scramble with Friends

      1. Amazon Kindle. I mentioned on Monday that I've been sick. I thought I was almost over it on Sunday, but apparently it's decided to linger. So all last weekend I spent reading books on my Kindle and it's made me very happy. No need to drive to the bookstore or library (especially awesome when you're feeling sick). What's my favorite genre? I admit that it's YA fantasy. Can't get enough of it.
      2. Scramble with Friends. Another fun thing that I've been doing with my downtime is playing Scramble with Friends. It's a variation of the game Boggle where the tiles have point values like in Scrabble. There are three rounds of play and in the second round, there are double word and double letter values for some letters and in the third round there are triple word and triple letter values. You can play with friend or random players through Smart Match (so hopefully you don't play people who are amazing. If you want to know what amazing is, search on YouTube. It's crazy).
      3. Tax Returns. This week our tax return was deposited into our bank account. I turned it in two weeks ago. How cool is it that we can do our taxes online and then have it deposited directly into our accounts two weeks later. Plus it's nice to have that cushion so I can pay bills without worrying about whether there's enough in there. Yay for tax returns :D.
      4. Nasal strips. Since I've been sick, and stuffed up, it's harder to breathe at night (which makes it harder to sleep. To help with that, I've been using these Nasal Strips by Clear Passage. I think that they do a good job and help open your nose so you can breathe easier. Plus these are cheaper than a lot of ones I've seen. I don't use them all the time; just when I'm sick (or if my husband complains that I'm snoring).

      5. My Wedding Anniversary. Today I've been married 11 years! It's crazy how fast time goes by and how things have changed in 11 years. When we got married, we got a digital camera as a gift and it was the hot new thing. Everyone who took pictures at the wedding used film. Also, I don't even think that phones had cameras back then (or at least not that common) let alone anything like the smartphones we use today. If things can change that much in 11 years, it makes me wonder what will happen in the next 11.
      So that's my list of favorite things this week. What did you like about this week? I'd love to hear about it!

      MW Gets a New 'Do

      So my freelancing gig is crushing me (that plus I'm still getting over being sick) so I've been a bit behind on my Mommy Hints tasks, that's for sure. I have plenty of ideas for posts, it's just about having the time to write the danged things!

      Anyway, for whatever reason, I finally got around to giving MW a hair cut. Being almost 2 years old, the idea of trying to wrangle him while holding scissors wasn't one that I was looking forward to. Alex didn't have enough hair to cut till he was much older (like 3 as I recall), so I never had to deal with this before. My sister recommended cutting his hair in his sleep. Yeah, that wouldn't work with MW. He wakes up when I just go in to check on him before I go to bed (one little movement and he shoots up).

      But I decided to go for it, and to help keep him somewhat immobilized, I stuck him in his high chair. At least he couldn't run off.

      I don't have a great picture of his hair before the hair cut, so I just spent the last hour or two putting together this little video for you. Not only does it have cute little MW, but you can see how scraggly his hair was before:


      And here he is now:



      Have I mentioned he's a cutie? Look at that face!

      This was definitely a challenge and more than likely I missed some spots, but at least he's not so shaggy :D. 

      Monday, March 18, 2013

      Where Did the Weekend Go?

      I'm not sure how productive I'm going to be for the next few days. I started feeling sick Thursday night and then woke up Friday with a full-blown head cold. Ugh. So I spent the weekend mostly relaxing. I did have to take Alex to ballet on Saturday and we stopped on the way home to get some essentials (milk, eggs, bread, etc.) but other than that, I pretty much chilled.

      So there are good things and bad things to that. On the plus side, it was kind of fun to do nothing. On the not-so-plus side, my house is now a disaster and I'm not quite fully recovered. Luckily, my husband and I dug into the kitchen yesterday so at least that is respectable. I think the burst of energy did us in, though, because we're feeling a big worse to day. :(

      So what did I do all weekend? I chilled and read on my Kindle. Lucky for me, I have access to an online library which allows me to borrow ebooks (though just like a real library, they only have so many copies and sometimes there are like 70 people on the waiting list). So I got some books on there to read and read all weekend. I can't tell you the last time I did that. It's times like this I'm so glad to have a Kindle!

      Anyway, I may be slow in getting posts out this week, so sorry about that. But thanks for your loyal support :D. And as a reward for reading this, a cute picture of my youngest, who rocked himself to sleep on the arm chair:


      What was the funnest thing you did this weekend?

      Friday, March 15, 2013

      5 Favorite Things of the Week - 3/15/13

      Ugh. I woke up sick today. It's not all that bad, but I worry about how bad it will get before I get better. Plus, you know how it is when you're a mom: you don't get a day off. It doesn't matter that I'm sick. I still have to feed the boys, make sure they're not destroying the house, etc. I don't get a "day off" (unless maybe I'm lucky enough to have the grandparents take the boys for a day, which is wonderful when that happens).

      So anyway, here are my favorite things of the week:
      1. Papa Murphy's Pizza. So I think in the past I was not all that interested in Papa Murphy's Pizza, but lately, because of circumstances, we've been having it more often. Since we've been going more, I've noticed some advantages:
        • You can pick up hours before you plan on eating (assuming you can stick it in the fridge in the meantime). This is great if I'm out and about in the afternoon and I don't want to run out right before dinner. And we're just too cheap to have pizza delivered because we don't want to pay the tip :P.
        • You don't have to worry about the pizza getting cold before you eat it.
        • Every time you order (at least for our local Papa Murphy's), the instructions sheet comes with a coupon to upgrade a medium to a family size free (which is like $3 off). 
        • They have dessert pizzas (so good!) that are only $3 (at least here locally).
        • Since they aren't cooking the pizza, it doesn't take more than 5 minutes for them to make the pizza, assuming it's not overly busy when I go.
      2. My new HP laptop. This year we got a decent tax return and I decided to replace my laptop. The monitor had gone out on it and it was really huge and bulky. I wanted a smaller one that was more portable, so I got an HP laptop from Best Buy. It's been a great investment and it's so light, I can take it with me anywhere (right now I'm typing from the living room arm chair instead of my desk). Oh, and did I mention the battery lasts about 4 hours? My last laptop only lasted 1.5 hours or thereabouts.
      3. Having two awesome sisters. I was lucky enough to grow up having two sisters 6 and 8 years older. They've always watched out for me and are there for me. When I was younger, they would often take me out to lunch or buy me candy. Despite the difference in age, we're close and even now, they call and see how I'm doing and help whenever they can.
      4. Warm weather. Today it's supposed to get up to 70 and even when I've had to slip out at night to slip something into the garbage can, it's been so warm. I haven't needed to rush back in because of the cold air. The boys have been playing outside a lot and we've all enjoyed going places without having to bundle up. It's supposed to cool down this next week (highs in the 50s), but it's been so nice enjoying the warmer, sunnier weather.
      5. White noise machines. Earlier in the week I wrote an article all about white noise machines. These really are awesome, whether for you so you're not woken up by other members of your household or whether for your kids so they can sleep undisturbed (especially for naps). We use ours every day!
      What were your favorite things about this week?

      Thursday, March 14, 2013

      Healthy Strawberry Banana Smoothie with Pineapple

      Tonight for dinner I decide to make the traditional strawberry banana smoothie, but I wanted to jazz it up a little, so I decided to make a healthy banana smoothie with pineapple in it. I think I was think that it would sort of be like a strawberry pina colada. Yummy! I think, though, that it would have helped if I'd added more coconut flavor and more ice to thicken it up.



      Here's what I did:

      Ingredients

      1 cup coconut milk
      1/4 of a pineapple, chopped
      1/2 lb strawberries
      2 stalks of kale, stem removed
      1 banana
      2 tsp Truvia, or to taste
         ice

      Add to blender and run till smooth.

      I was a little hesitant to add kale to my strawberry, banana, pineapple smoothie since this was my first time, but just like baby spinach, you couldn't taste it.



      Why Add Kale to Smoothies?

      With no fat and hardly any calories, kale has 5 grams of fiber for every cup. It's also very nutrient-dense, containing vitamin K, iron, calcium, vitamins A and C, and anti-inflammatory agents. It's full of antioxidants (those things that prevent cancer and help you to stay healthy, even from colds), including flavonoids and carotenoids.

      Here's a breakdown of what you get in just one cup of kale:
      • 15% DV calcium
      • 15% DV vitamin B6
      • 40% DV magnesium
      • 180% DV vitamin A
      • 200% DV vitamin C
      • 1020% DV vitamin K
      • 5 grams fiber
      • 36 calories
      Kale also has minerals including copper, iron, phosphorous, and potassium. 

      So the next time you're making a smoothie, whether a smoothie with pineapple or some other combination, consider adding kale to the mix. You may need to add a little extra sweetener, like stevia, because kale (as well as other greens) tend to saturate the sweetness of the fruit, but in the end, you have a healthy smoothie.

      See Alex in the background gulping it down :D.
      And what's even better is that my kids loved this smoothie with pineapple too!

      Is a Banana Smoothie Healthy?

      If you're wondering whether banana smoothies can be healthy, the answer is yes! Depending on what you put in it, you can make healthy smoothies with bananas. A couple important things to remember:
      • Add protein or make it a side dish: If you're planning on replacing a meal with a healthy banana smoothie, be sure to add some protein to the mix. This could be some sort of nut butter (peanut butter and almond butter come to mind) or protein powder or some other source of protein, you need that to stablize your blood sugar levels so they don't spike from the sugar in the smoothie. If you can't do that, eat the smoothie as a side dish along with a balanced meal.
      • Diversify: That means don't have the same foods every day. Find new and exciting things to put into your banana smoothies. Healthy smoothies don't come from just having milk, bananas and ice. Try new combinations. What I've found is that bananas do add wonderful flavor to your smoothie, but make sure you're always trying new fruits and vegetables along with the bananas.
      So try a smoothie with kale and see what you think. Let me know in the comments.

      Wednesday, March 13, 2013

      Romantic Dinner Recipe Ideas: Easy Meatballs with Cream Sauce

      As moms, it helps to take some time away from the children and have a romantic dinner with your significant other. If you aren't able to make it out of the house for a date (maybe because there's no extra money in the budget for a babysitter), here's one of the best ideas for romantic dinners that's easy and oh so yummy. Fix the kids some chicken nuggets and send them off to bed. Then fix this easy romantic meal for your sweetheart.




      Meatballs and Cream Sauce

      Ingredients:

      Pkg of Premade Meatballs (your choice. I used Kirkland Signature Italian Meatballs)*
      2 tablespoons butter
      2 tablespoons flour
      1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
      salt and butter to taste
      1 14-oz can chicken broth
      2/3 cup evaporated milk or heavy whipping cream


      1. Prepare 24 meatballs according to the instructions on the package.
      2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in flour, thyme, salt and pepper until smooth. Gradually add broth and evaporated milk. Bring to boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
      3. Top meatballs with sauce.
      By using prepared meatballs for this dinner, it makes for an easy romantic dinner for two, so you can spend more time with each other. Sometimes it's easier to have canned evaporated milk on hand rather than fresh cream, but either will work.

      Now if you have the time and want to make your own meatballs for your romantic dinner at home, here's how to do it:

      Ingredients:

      1 egg
      1/4 cup milk
      1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
      2 tablespoons ketchup
      3/4 cups quick oats
      1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
      1 teaspoon salt
      1/4 tsp pepper
      1 1/2 lbs ground beef
      3 tablespoons flour
      1. To make these easy meatballs, just combine the first 8 ingredients in a bowl and then combine with ground beef.
      2. Shape into balls that are about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Roll in flour. 
      3. Place 1 inch apart on a baking. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes (till they're no longer pink inside).
      4. While baking, prepare the sauce.

      Steamed Green Beans with Brown Sugar

      If you're looking for a recipe for steamed green beans, this is an easy one.

      Ingredients:

      4–6 cups fresh or frozen green beans
      1–2 tablespoons brown sugar
      1/2–1 tablespoon butter
      salt and pepper to taste


      1. Heat 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Place green beans in pan with a little water and cover. Steam the green beans for 8–12 minutes (depending on your preference for doneness).
      2. To stop the cooking process, add cool water to the green beans.
      3. Drain the water from the beans and set aside.
      4. Just before sitting down to the table (about 5 minutes) put the beans, the sugar, and the butter in a saute pan and saute them for 3-4 minutes.
      5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately and enjoy.
      Now it might sound weird to have pepper with brown sugar, but trust me, these are divine. They are similar to the beans you can order at Outback Restaurant (one of my favorite places to eat out). So if you're looking for easy romantic meals, give this one a shot.

      And that's it! This is one of the easiest romantic dinner recipe ideas I've found (especially if you used prepared meatballs), and it's also delicious. And you don't have to reserve this meal to meals just for two either. This is a great meal for the whole family as well and my boys loved it :D.

      What do you and your sweetheart do for your romantic dinners at home? I'd love to hear them!
       
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