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Monday, January 30, 2012

Check this Freebie out!- Scholastic Books and Kellogg's Partner up!

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Are you a mom of a Pre-school to school aged child?  If so, you've probably heard of scholastic books, right?  Being a mom, I'm sure that you also buy food... and I'm sure that at least one thing that you buy is a Kellogg brand.  So, I've got a nice deal for you!  With the codes from your Kellogg's products, and the Scholastic website, you can get a free book, valued up to $5.00.  It takes two codes to get a free book, but get this... there isn't a limit!  You can keep redeeming codes and keep getting free books!  

Now, let me just say this, yes, it takes two codes per book and you have to save all your codes and do all this work... blah blah blah.  Don't make excuses on this one!  If you're already buying the Kellogg's products, it just makes sense to then take those codes and turn them into free books.  Do it, please, for me?

Offer is good through July 1, 2012!  Start Saving today!

Holiday Crafting, Tutorial, Sugar Scrub

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Sugar scrubs are so easy to make that it is ridiculous.  I have to say that after making them for everyone, I will never buy another one for myself.  The ones that I made came out wonderfully and I was so pleased to give them as gifts for everyone!

Begin my mixing 2 1/2 Cups of Sugar with 1 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 
Add in 4 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice {or scented essential oils to your liking- I made three varieties, Lemon, Peppermint and Jasmine}. This mixture will make enough to fill a 12oz. Mason Jar.

You can add color to the mix or any vitamin oils for the extra benefit to your skin, such as Vitamin E or B (or really any that you desire).  

The sugar and the oil will separate, so instruct your gift receivers to stir the mix thoroughly before using!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

At least one reason why Dolly Parton is more awesome than you think...

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Yes, you read that right.  Perhaps you, like myself, have laid Dolly Parton to the side of the road somewhere in your past... but here is one reason that you should know that she is way more awesome than you think. 

It's simply because of her Imagination Library.

All residents of Tennessee, who are of ages birth to 5, can sign up to take part in her Imagination Library.  The library, in turn, mails each registered child a book, tailored to their age, every month.  It's still an expanding enterprise, but they have currently over 686,000 children registered for the program. 

You all know how I love books.  I think they're the doorway to the imagination, keep us young inside and especially in younger children, books can help them understand, cope and imagine their way through all of life's most complicated questions.  When my daughter had trouble sleeping in her own bed, we read books about being afraid of the dark and growing up, when she potty trained we had about a half dozen books about the potty alone, and more recently we've added books about friendship, manners, and being mad.  Even when we aren't reading with our children, I often find them curled up in beanbags "reading" by themselves.

Dolly Parton, you are awesome.  I tip my hat to you and I am so very jealous of your program in Tennessee.  If I were rich, I would do the same thing here in Iowa. :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Freebie! Chuck E. Cheese Coupons!

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 Expires 2.1.12- We love going to Chuck E Cheese... even if I am the one who has the most fun.... Skeeball wooo!



Holiday Crafting, Tutorial, Reindeer Poop Cookies (Toffee Blondies) in a Jar

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I thought these cookies just sounded amazing, so I converted them into jar cookies!  These are Toffee Blondies, and they're incredibly easy to put together and just look amazing in the jar.  I thought they deserved a naughty name and thus they were called...

"Reindeer Poop Cookies"
 
Ingredients for the jar: 

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup Heath Chips
1 quart size mason jar
To make the Toffee Blondies:
the contents of the jar
1/4 cup melted butter
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

How to construct the Jar:
 
Layer the brown sugar, chocolate chips, flour, baking powder, salt, Heath chips, and pecans.

Preparation Instructions:

To make the Toffee Blondies, melt some butter in a bowl.  Whisk in the eggs and vanilla.Pour in the contents of the jar.  Even that looks pretty doesn’t it? Pour the batter in an 8x8x2 pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the blondies are set and start to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Cool in the pan and cut into 16 bars.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Great Deals Online: Diapers.com Coupon Codes!

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To all you Moms of kids who wear diapers!


If you’ve never used diapers.com, now would be the time!  If you use coupon code WOWDEALBB at checkout and it’s your first order, you get $15 off!!  (if you go with the cheapest kind they have, that’s half price on already low prices!!)
Or, alternatively, use code BESTDIAPERDEAL and get $10 off of a $49 order AND $5 off every case of diapers every time you shop. 
ALSO, if you buy the Earth’s Best brand value pack diapers, use code EBWIPES and you can get a free travel pack of wipes!
I don’t know if you can use these codes together or not, but if you can, GREAT!  (and please let me know!)

Freebie! Scotch Brite Sponge!

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Who couldn't use a free sponge?  Go to the Scotch Brite website for your coupon that grants you $1.00 off of a Scotch Brite Sponge.  Wait you say? I thought it was free?  Well, Wal-Mart carries these sponges for $0.97... so yep, it's free! There's also a few other coupons that you could make use of, if you're interested. :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Holiday Crafting, Tutorial, Jingle Your Bells Coffee (Snickerdoodle Coffee)

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I created this recipe to be reminiscent of Snickerdoodle cookies, using many of the same things that you use to make the cookies themselves, and I think it's downright delicious!
"Jingle Your Bells Coffee"

Ingredients for the Jar:

1 cup sugar
1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons powdered instant coffee
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


Construction Instructions:

Mix all of the ingredients together well and put into jars.  Decorate the Jar with cloth, ribbons, or labels and make sure to attach the preparation instructions!

Preparation Instructions:

For single serving place 3 tablespoons mix in mug and add 3/4 cup boiling water.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Goodread's 2012 Reading Challenge

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I'm taking part in Goodread's 2012 Reading Challenge and have pledged 100 books.  This is a great opportunity to get your children excited about reading, ask them to pledge a certain number of books, even if it's just 5, 10 or even 100!  Encouraging your children to read constantly expands their horizons.  (And don't forget, you can count the books you read to them!)

Holiday Crafting, Tutorial, Stocking Stuffer Stomach Pumper Coffee (Toffee Coffee)

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Once again, another great name thought up by my husband, and another great recipe that I've put together!  This one is for an instant drink mix that is Toffee Flavored Coffee!  I hope you enjoy!

"Stocking Stuffer Stomach Pumper Coffee" (or Toffee Coffee)

Ingredients for the Jar:

2/3 cup instant coffee
1 cup non-dairy creamer
1 cup brown sugar


Assembly Instructions:

Mix all ingredients together and place in a jar.  Decorate the jar with ribbons, stickers or cloth and make sure to attach a tag with preparation instructions!

Preparation instructions:

To serve, place 2 to 3 teaspoons of mix in a mug and add boiling water.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Giveaway! Win a Free Book? Please!

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Do you love books as much as I do?  If you do, why don't you hop on over to goodreads?  It's a great website kind of like pinterest, but for books.  It's where I find a lot of my ideas for what I'm going to be reading and reviewing next, and I love it!  Well, I just discovered that they had a Giveaway section!  It's worth a look and it's certainly worth a try if you're a booklover like me!


Goodreads Book Giveaway!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Holiday Crafting, Tutorial, Colored Coal (M&M) Cookies in a Jar

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Here's a simple recipe for an M&M cookie mix in a jar!  We used the red and green m&m's for the holidays and the mix was very easy to put together.  My only wish was that we had saved the m&ms for the very last layer because they almost got lost in the layers of flour and sugar.

"Colored Coal Cookies"

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups candy-coated milk chocolate pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Directions

  1. Mix together flour, baking soda and baking powder.
  2. Layer ingredients in jar in order given in a 1 quart ''wide mouth'' canning jar. Add the flour mixture last. It will be a tight fit when you add the flour mixture so be sure to pack everything down firmly.
  3. Instructions to attach to jar:  
  M & M's Cookies. 
Empty jar of cookie mix into large mixing bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly blend mix. 
Add 1/2 cup margarine or butter softened at room temperature. Mix in 1 egg, slightly beaten, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Mix until completely blended. You will need to finish mixing with your hands. 
Shape into balls the size of walnuts and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet 2 inches apart.
Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 12 to 14 minutes until edges are slightly browned. Cool on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes then remove to wire racks to finish cooling. Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Free Coloring Book!

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    Wally Bear and Friends Coloring Book: Building Blocks for a Healthy Future is a coloring book that is being given away for free by SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  If you order the book, it comes in the mail (with even free shipping as long as you choose standard!) or alternatively, you can download the pages and print them yourself!  

    Wally Bear and Friends Coloring Book: Building Blocks for a Healthy Future

    Holiday Crafting, Tutorial, Joy to the Cookie (Cranberry Nut Cookies) in a Jar

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    I really wish I had taken a picture of just the jar here, because this mix, when layered, looks gorgeous.  The cookies themselves are lovely!  

    Joy To the Cookie

    Ingredients for the Jar:
    • 5/8 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup rolled oats
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup white sugar
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
    • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

    Assembly Instructions: 

    Using a canning funnel, layer the ingredients in a 1 quart canning jar in the order listed.  Decorate the jar with cloth, stickers, ribbon or other accessories.  Make sure to include the cooking instructions!


    Cooking Instructions:
     

    Ingredients not Included:
    1/2c. softened butter
    1 Egg
    1 tsp. vanilla

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a cookie sheet.
    In medium bowl beat together the ingredients that were not included with the jar until fluffy.  Add the contents of the jar and mix together until blended.
    Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto baking sheets, bake for 8-10 minutes.
    Cool.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Must Do for all Parents! Sesame Street Free Learning Tools!

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    Sesame Workshop, the creators of Sesame Street, have partnered up with PNC Grow Up Great to create the Sesame Street® “For Me, for You, for Later” kit. This free bilingual, multimedia kit includes a guide for parents, a Children’s Activity Book, some Jar Labels, and an original Sesame Street DVD that features Elmo, Cookie Monster, and their Sesame Street friends as Elmo learns the basics of spending, saving, and sharing.
    The Sesame Street “For Me, for You, for Later” kits, including the Elmo DVD, are available for free at any PNC branch, or you can simply request one over the phone by calling 1-877-PNC-GROW (more details are on their website). Several parts of this free Sesame Street kit are also available to download for free directly from their website. You can even watch the original “For Me, for You, for Later” DVD for free right from their website!
    If you’re a teacher, they also offer a free, downloadable Educator’s Guide to help you easily incorporate fun activities that build financial skills into your lessons.

    Visit the site and download the tools today!  I am going to start doing this with my children (more with my older one because she's about the right age) but I think it's a great idea, and I have always had lots of luck teaching through sesame street!  They just understand children!

    P.S.- You can watch the movie on their website, or they include a DVD if you call to get the whole kit!

    Sesame Street "For Me, For You, For Later" Kit 

    Wednesday, January 18, 2012

    Book Review: Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events"

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    For this review, I'm not writing about just a single book, but a series of books instead.  I read all 13 books in Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events."  This series is geared toward children ages 10+ and grades 5 and up.



    First off, let me start by talking genre.  This book falls into several different genres, including Absurdist Fiction, Children's Fiction, Children's Fantasy, Gothic Literature and Black Comedy.  These are the wildly fantastic tales of the Baudelaire children, whom you are warned on the very first page do not have a happy tale.  What ensues is a wildly funny, yet dark tale of three children and their bad luck in life, how they keep themselves in good spirits and a close knit feeling of family.  The villain in the story, Count Olaf, is as ridiculous as he is scary, and you will find yourself constantly cheering for the Baudelaires as they repeatedly escape his clutches through means of sheer ingenuity.

    It has many good life lessons for children, such as teamwork, family bonds, and the importance of constantly expanding one's mind.  Throughout the book, they continually have to work together to solve riddles, escape sticky situations and escape Count Olaf's deadly but ridiculous traps.  Their family values always remain strong, even through trying and stressful situations, and even when they get frustrated with one another, they are able to recognize their bond and apologize.

    Each of the Baudelaire children has a favorite pastime or study that they engage in, for Violet, it is her love of inventing and all things mechanical, for Klaus it is his love of researching and reading, and as Sunny comes of age(so to speak), she displays remarkable culinary talent.  Through these studies, they are always able to find a solution to even the hardest problem, and even as an adult, I am often left wondering what they're next move will be.  It encourages children to explore their interests and how to use them in a variety of situations in their lives.

    The story, as I said is ridiculous, funny, dark and scary and yet leaves you hungering to read more!  The best part of the books, however, is coming from my viewpoint as a Mom.  Throughout the book, the author continually uses very large words or tricky idioms that most children at this age are either just getting a grasp on or are getting close to. Instead of leaving your child to have to either look it up in a dictionary or try to figure out what it means themselves (which you have to admit with many idioms it is rather difficult to discern their meaning if you weren't familiar with them),  the author is kind enough to include in text definitions.  These definitions not only include what the word/phrase means in this particular context, but also what it might mean if you used it in a different situation.   Here are a couple of examples:

    I find this to be excellent for several reasons,
    1- it expands your child's vocabulary by not only making it accessible but also providing extra contextual situations for your child to further understand the definition.
    2- it does a great job building suspense throughout the story
    3-It's just a fun read.

    My negative point about the book was that at certain points it seems to be rambling and I found myself wanting to skip over these sections entirely... which might not be good for a budding attention span.
    All in all, a great series.  One that I look forward to introducing my children to... when they get to be the right age, of course.

    Beware though, there isn't really a certain happy ending...

    Holiday Crafting, Tutorial, Christmas Tree House Fire Coffee (Bavarian Coffee)

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    This coffee was designed with the crafting of my "naughty" gifts.  My husband named it, I thought it was hilarious and had to use it.  It is actually a bavarian coffee, which is often used with mint of some sort. Making the coffee was very easy. 

     Christmas Tree House Fire Coffee (Bavarian Coffee)

    Ingredients for the Jar:
    In a bowl, mix the following ingredients:

    1/4 cup instant nonfat powdered dry milk
    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1/4 cup instant coffee
    2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder


    Assembly Instructions:

    Then, using a canning funnel, pour the mix into a canning jar, tapping the jar on the table to settle it a bit.  Then, decorate the jar however you like, with a square of fabric, a piece of ribbon, sticker, tag, whatever that you like.  Make sure you include the directions on how to serve a cup!

    Cooking Instructions:

    To serve combine 3 tablespoons of mix with 1 cup boiling water; stir to blend.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Hello to my readers!

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    I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for being my readers, and following me through all my crazy exploits. I have made the decision to split this blog, in a way, where this blog, tied to my business "LiLu Studios: Photography, Crafts and Mayhem" will become the primary focus for my personal crafting and artwork.
    I have started a second blog, called "Fantastic Finds for the Fam{ily}" and it will contain things that are meant for Families and Children to do. This part of my blog will contain more of my personal life, more activities and crafts for kids, reviews on products and books, and kid friendly cooking. I am doing this to separate my work and personal life in a way, and I hope that it doesn't affect anyone in a negative fashion. Feel free to follow both, if you happen to be a mom and a crafter, and I hope to see you here and there!
    You might also see me over at My Nerdy Mom, which will slowly become my headquarters for all the nerdy technological things in my life... but this is going to be a longer process than my new family blog.  It doesn't have any actual content yet, but it's coming... I've got several articles in the works right now, and they'll be coming up soon.   

    I hope to see you all either here, there, or everywhere!

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Holiday crafting, Tutorial, Cream of Elf (er... Mushroom) Soup

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    This is yet another soup that was made for my "Naughty and Nice" gifts.  This soup is just amazing, and the kudos for the awesome name goes to my husband, who giggled for a long time before he was even able to share it with me.  It's easy to put together, and it looks incredible in the jar.


     

    Cream of Elf (er.... Mushroom and Wild Rice) Soup

    Ingredients for the Jar:

    • 1 package Country Gravy Mix (2.75 ounces)
    • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
    • 2 teaspoons dried minced onion
    • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
    • 1/4 cup uncooked wild rice
    • 1 cup uncooked white rice
    • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped dried mushrooms (I used Oyster and Porcini)
    Assembly Instructions: 

    Pour Pioneer Country Gravy Mix into wide-mouth pint jar. In small bowl, stir together bouillon granules, onion, celery and parsley. Pour into jar to make second layer. Add layers of wild rice, white rice and mushrooms. Seal with lid.

    Decorate the jar with cloth, stickers or ribbon and don't forget to include a tag with the cooking instructions!

    Cooking Instructions: 

    Empty contents of jar into a large saucepan. Add 7 cups water; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until rice is tender, stirring occasionally. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley. Makes 6 servings.

        Sunday, January 15, 2012

        Scouting Sunday! {Play A Game, Oobleck, Megaland, Hunger Games, Corn Cakes}

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        Part of this blog is going to be hooking you, my beloved reader, up with great deals and ideas for your entire family.

        Each week, I will post one link, along with a small blurb about what I liked about the site or its idea, or the product or book and hopefully provide you with new and fun ideas to follow!

        So without further Adieu, I hope you enjoy our first Scouting Sunday!

         

        To Do:

        I've been recently looking for things to keep my 4.5 year old busy, and I ran across this site and was instantly engaged.  There are activities for all ages and grade levels, different holidays and situations, and I guarantee you'll be able to find hundreds of new activities to do with your children!

        To Make:

        We made Oobleck yesterday (you can see our post on making Oobleck here)  I chose this particular site from Mossy Mossy because not only did it give the directions on how to make the oobleck, but also it gave interesting information on how it worked.  (I didn't go into near as much detail on my post, simply giving the recipe and showing you how much fun it was!)  For older children, utilize the information that they provide and make it into a science lesson as well!

        To Buy:


        To Read:

        To Eat:

         I make these delicious corn cakes all the time, and they're a big hit in my household.  The best part is that they're so tasty and they have a hidden vegetable inside!  This recipe is wonderful because it is simple and it is tried and true through the years.  I enjoy this particular website because it like a blast from the past and most of the recipes that you find are "from scratch" recipes, requiring very few processed ingredients.

        Saturday, January 14, 2012

        Saturday Play Day! {Oobleck, Crazy Cotton Balls, Catch with a Catch, Mess Free Painting}

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        Now that I'm no longer working on Saturdays, I've deemed that these days be "Play Days," In which I do nothing else than play with my children, provide them with activities and play dates and just have fun.  This Saturday was our first play day and we had our good friends Audra and Charlotte over to play with us!

        First, we made Oobleck.  (See my post on making Oobleck)  The kids had great fun playing with this stuff, and they actually came back and asked to play with it again!  All said, they played with it for a grand total of 75 MINUTES over two sessions and the adults even had some play time with the Oobleck too before we cleaned it up and got ready for the next project.



        We even pulled prints from our oobleck.  We were left with stained hands (which I'm happy to report have been cleaned up after a nice long bath) and a sense of great satisfaction that we were able to entertain them for that long with one simple item that is made from just two household ingredients.  Five out of Five hearts for sure!



         Next, we took a break to play some games.  First we played "Crazy Cotton Balls", and the kids had a lot of fun chasing cotton balls from one room to the next.




        They giggled uproariously during this whole activity.  It didn't last very long, but then again, how enjoyable can be crawling around on your hands and knees for a very long time.  Perhaps I should have kept this to carpeted floors. :)



        Next up was "Catch with a Catch" which I didn't take a single picture of because the game was downright dangerous!  The way you play is each player has a ball.  They throw the ball up into the air and have to accomplish a task before the ball hits the ground.  We gave them commands like, touch your nose, jump in the air, sit down, touch your toes, and spin in a circle.  (not all at once, mind you!)  It was fun, but it was short lived before the balls were flying too close to heads, tvs and other important pretties in the house, so we had to stop the fun.  This game only earned two hearts from me.
         
         Next up, was mess free painting.  I found several suggestions of applying blobs of paint to a piece of paper, and then either A) inserting it in a plastic sleeve (which is what we did) of or B) using a ziploc baggie.  Then, you let the kids mush the paint around with their fingers and make some fantastic art.








        Overall, this was a fun activity, but seemed to take more time to put the paint onto the paper and into the sleeve than it did for them to actually paint with it.  After some experimenting, it seems that it takes more paint to make a pretty swirly effect, but be warned, we used acrylic paints, and we weren't able to take them out of the sleeve afterward.  The paint soaked into the paper and actually would peel, sticking to the plastic part.  I didn't particularly care about the plastic sleeves, so I just decided to leave our works of art in them and we'll find some place to display them.



        I even got into the art, and made my own.  I thought the black and white contrast would be interesting, and yes, it was amazing!  I think I'm going to have to explore this one more with my camera later.  
        Fun, mess free, but not as long as I would have liked it to be.  I'm going to give it Four out of Five hearts.
        Lastly, we popped up the Playhut Megaland toy that the girls got for Christmas, and us adults sat down for a bit!  The girls had fun crawling through the tunnels and keeping all their toys inside.   



        They even found alternative uses for the little holes in the side.  
        See my review of the Playhut Megaland and why it deserves Five out of Five hearts.




        Overall, Saturday Play Day was a success!  I'm already dreaming up ideas for the next week!

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