Reading is fundamental to early childhood development. The exposure to language and books at an early age has been proven to increase children’s vocabulary and reading scores. Thankfully, now more than ever, parents have the opportunity to expose their children to reading events in the community. Story times have become a staple of childhood and finding free ones is good for families’ budgets. Instead of scouring the Internet for free story times in your area, go directly to the places below to inquire about the story times they provide. Local Libraries
Daytime story hours are now the norm for most public libraries in the United States. From large communities to small towns, library story times often cater to specific age groups. Infant and toddler story time focuses on books for that age group, while preschool story time is usually more interactive. Check with your local library by visiting their website or calling their children’s department to inquire about story time hours.
You may be surprised to learn that most bookstores offer free story times as well. Whether you have a large, chain bookstore in your town or a small, independent shop, children’s story times are a great way for them to bring in families and potential customers. Like libraries, they often offer different story times for different age groups.
Check with your local community center to see if they have free story times for young children. As with the book stores, many centers offer story times to bring in potential clients. Some even have free story times while parents work out!
Finding free story times in your community is a wonderful way to expose your child to new books and people. Start with your library to see what’s available and go from there. You may find that you’re able to attend multiple story times throughout the week without making a dent in your budget.
I just love everything about the holiday! Christmas cookie decorating is a time for me to help my daughter have long lasting memories that hopefully, she will pass on to her own children. It can be fun to make mass batches of cookies as well as smaller batches of a few specials ones that become the stars of any host plate you choose to bless someone with. Here are some easy snowflake cookies you can whip up!
Snowflake Sugar Cookie
- 2 1/2 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cream of tarter
- 1 1/2 cup powder sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup softened unsalted sweet cream butter
Cookie cutter: Snowflake
- 2 egg whites
- 1 C powder sugar
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- blue food coloring
-Cream butter, sugar, vanilla and egg in a mixing bowl until well combined. In a small bowl add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Gradually pour in dry ingredients into the wet ingredients bowl and mix until well combined. Once all ingredients are mixed and a dough ball has formed. (if still sticky add in a half cup of flour and mix until a firm ball of dough forms.) place dough into a ziplock bag or in a bowl with foil to place on top. Place in fridge for 2 hours so that the dough can rise. it won’t double in size like bread dough.
Separate the egg yolk from the whites. put the egg whites into a mixing bowl and trash the rest of the egg. Add the sugar, cream of tarter and vanilla extra to the egg whites. Beat on medium speed for 6 minutes.
Tip-if the icing has a yellow color and looks like soup add in more powder sugar. about 1 cup.
Once the icing is done, pour it into a container that has a lid to it. Divide the icing into 2 bowls. Put more of the white icing into the bowl for white and less into the other for the blue color. Add in a few drops of coloring into the blue bowl and mix until combined. add in more blue to get the blue that you want for the snowflakes. Scoop a small amount of the icing colors into 2 different piping bags that have a #2 icing tip on the bottom.
For the white icing. add in 1-3 tablespoons of water to thin the icing out. you want it to be thick and runny, not soup like. If it is soup like add in 1/4 cup of powder sugar to thicken it. Pour into a squeeze bottle
– Outline the cookies in the white icing and wait 1 minute before filling it in with the white icing.
-Allow cookie to dry for 2 hours before adding the blue icing for details.
-Using the blue icing, pipe a line down the snowflake to create a X look.
-On the top of the lines create a arrow.
-repeat steps using the white icing.
-sprinkle on white crystals
I love Christmas and all that comes with it. Making cookies with Miss Sarah is a fun event and great memory for her to look back on. These DIY Bonbon cookies are easier than they look and make for an impressive host plate!
- 5 C flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 2 cream of sugar
- 2C C soft unsalted butter
- 3C granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 egg whites
- 1 C powder sugar
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- red, yellow, green gel food coloring
– Cream the soft butter with the sugar until the combination is smooth not grainy to the touch in a mixing bowl.
-Add all 2 eggs at one time…Continue to mix.
-Add the vanilla.. Continue mixing.
-Sift the four, baking soda and cream of tarter together.
-Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture.
-Continue mixing to make sure all ingredients are thoroughly blended.
-Make the dough into a ball, wrap it in cling wrap completely covering the entire dough ball.
-Put in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. Check to see if the dough is firm.
-Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
-Pull the cookie dough out of the refrigerator and sit it out to soften up a bit.
– Put flour out on the wood cutting board, rub flour on the rolling pin, and work some flour into
the batter. (if needed)
-Roll the dough out on the cutting board and using the candy cookie cutter begin to make your cookies.
-Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper.
-Using a metal spatula move the cut cookies to the parchment lined cookie sheet.
-Bake at 325 degrees for 8 minutes. Check to see if the cookies are thoroughly baked.
-Take the candy cookies off of the cookie sheet and put on a wire rack to cool completely.
(About 10 minutes).
-Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl mixing on medium speed for 4 minutes. (except your food coloring)
-If icing is not stiff enough add 1/4 C powder sugar.
– Divide the icing between 4 bowls. In the first bowl put 1/3 of icing leaving it white.
-Add several drops of red gel food coloring in the second bowl of icing (about 1/3). Stir well to mix the color.
-Add several drops of green gel food coloring in the third bowl of icing. Stir well to mix the color.
–Add several drops of yellow gel food coloring in the fourth bowl of icing. Stir well to mix the color.-Spoon each color of icing into individual frosting bags with a #2 tips. Twist the open end of the bag to push the icing to the tip.
-Outline each of the round cookies in white then fill in the top and bottom of the cookies in with the white thinner icing.
-using the other colors, pipe the colors onto the wet icing in a circular motion, like int the picture.
-Allow the cookies to dry from 5-10 hours.
How to decorate Christmas tree cookies with royal icing
- Green, red, brown and yellow food coloring
- 2-3 C worth White of royal icing
- Soft Sugar cookie dough
- tooth picks
- Christmas tree cookie cutter
- 2 sandwich sized or a little larger zip lock bags
Roll out sugar cookie dough to ¼ inch thick.
Using cookie cutter cut out 12 Christmas trees.
Bake them at 350 for 7-10 minutes.
Once cooked and cooled they are ready to decorate.
In four separate bowls mix royal icing and food colorings. You will need more green color than the other three. Plan accordingly.
Add frosting to the zip lock bags and cut the tip off a corner.
**make sure it is tiny tiny! If it’s too big then you won’t be able to get nice clean edges.
Pipe a line around the border of the Christmas trees with the green royal icing on each of the cookies.
Now fill in each of the Tree-if there are tiny holes you can use a toothpick to smooth it out-you must do it quickly otherwise the frosting may have already hardened and you can’t really fix it without it being noticeable.
let that dry for 10 minutes.
Grab the brown bag and create a border for the tree trunk and then fill it in with the icing.
Grab the yellow bag and pipe a star onto each top of the trees.
Finish with the red bag and create ornament like circles around the tree.
Let dry before serving. Best to let it dry overnight but 1 hr. should be OK too, then rip into them like a monkey on a cupcake!
Makes 12 cookies
Total time to make-1 hr
Doctor Strange is Marvel Studio’s 14th film in the continuous world they are building known as the Marvel Cinematic universe. Since Iron Man back in 2008, the company has been making success after success with their superhero films. However Doctor Strange has accomplished something that these Marvel movies have not done in the past few years, this film made me feel like a kid again.
The film begins with our main character Stephen Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) performing a surgery on a patient. You soon learn that Strange is one of the finest neurosurgeons in the world and this has gone to his head. He has a cruel ego, wears expensive suits, drives fancy cars, and talks down to everyone he speaks with. However after a horrible car accident, Strange’s hands are severely damaged and due to nerve damage he can hardly use them, let alone consider performing surgery again. A now depressed Strange seeks out any medical help he can to repair his hands. When nothing works, Strange travels to Kathmandu, Nepal to find someone rumoured of saving a man from paralyzation. He then learns that this person is the ancient one (played by Tilda Swinton), a mighty sorceress who promises that if he learns to use magic under her, his hands may heal. After much training, Strange learns that he is gifted at the art of magic and joins the ancient ones forces against all evil that threatens to destroy earth. Now Doctor Strange and his new partners must fight together to fight an evil sorcerer who betrayed the ancient one and stole a secret spell that may bring destruction to the world.
Possibly the most wonderful thing about this film is how fresh it is. From the stunning kaleidoscope like visuals to the unique character that is Doctor Strange, this film looks and feels like a new take on the classic superhero story. When I say this film made me feel like a kid, I meant that leaving the theater I WANTED to be Doctor Strange and use magic to fight against evil. A feeling I used to feel all the time going into superhero movies as a kid but have not felt in a long time.
That being said there are some things parents should be aware of bringing their children to this film. Being that Doctor Strange is a neurosurgeon, there are scenes that show surgery being done. Nothing is too graphic but there are scenes of blood and one scene in which a needle is injected in a body. This is not to deter you from seeing this film but rather to give you a heads up if you have children who are squeamish to that sort of thing. Also, there is a part in the film where some villains are disintegrated in a rather grotesque way. I would say that if your child has seen many of the other Marvel films this should not be dramatically different but this may not be the best introductory superhero film for a younger viewer.
With its amazing visuals, exciting action, and a fresh take on the superhero story, I give Doctor Strange a 4/5
If you are planning a trip to Disneyland, either as a first-timer or a returning visitor, you are probably overwhelmed by the amount of things to do there. Since there are only so many hours in a day, it can be hard to decide which ones you should defiantly see in order to make sure you have very few regrets. To make your Disneyland park planning a little easier, here are some things you should definitely put on your Disneyland bucket list.
Get the Mickey Ears Hat– This has been a thing to do park opened and is still something that you should seriously consider. You can get your name put on the back for a fee and it is something to treasure for years to come.
Drive the Mark Twain River Boat– It isn’t something that they offer right up front, but you can sit in the captain’s chair and steer the boat as it moves down the track. Make sure to sign the guest book.
Look for the Hidden Mickeys– There are at least a hundred of them in the park hidden in signs, on the ground and everywhere and this is a great way to keep kids excited and entertained when you are waiting in lines.
Ride the Teacups– This has been a classic ride since the park opened and it is even better at night when it lights up!
Get a free pin for a special occasion– If it’s your birthday, anniversary or even just your first time at the park, you can go to city hall and get a free pin to remember it by.
Stay for the Fireworks– You won’t believe your eyes when you stay for the closing fireworks. It will definitely be worth the wait.
Ride Splash Mountain– Another classic ride at Disneyland is Splash Mountain. Make sure to do this one and throw your hands in the air. You can purchase the picture they take of you or not, but it’s still fun to see after.
See at least one parade-The park has numerous ones every day and they do special ones for holidays like Christmas and Halloween. Make time to see at least one of these parades.
Try all the weird popcorn flavors for free– The Cozy Cone has a place that sells very strange popcorn flavors and they give out free samples if you ask.
Collect signatures from all the cast members– If you bring a sharpie and a notebook, you can create your own souvenir by collecting signatures from all the cast members in the park.
Try some iconic and newly iconic foods– You just have to eat a Mickey’s ice cream bar and Dole Whip. You won’t regret it.
Did I miss something? Please share!
I am a firm believer that chocolate is the fifth food group and you should have at least three servings a day! This decadent brownie parfaits recipe is one to add to your recipe box so you can indulge when you are running low on that daily quota. Sticky, sweet and guaranteed to raise your blood sugar!
- 1 pkg. White Chocolate Pudding Mix
- 2 cups cold Milk
- Pre-Made brownies from your favorite recipe
- Caramel, chocolate syrup, pie filling, etc for layers
Make the pudding by mixing the pudding mix with the cold milk. Whisk for several minutes until the pudding thickens. Make sure you use instant pudding and not the baked pudding. Find the glasses you would like to make your parfaits in. Start by breaking the brownies into bite size pieces and placing at the bottom of the glasses or jars.
Top the flavor layer with a layer of pudding. To make it easier to place the pudding in the jars, put it in a zippered bag and cut off one of the corners. Use the bag like a frosting bag and add the pudding to the jar in another layer.
Repeat all layers until you fill up your jar or glass.Top with an additional layer of caramel or some chocolate sauce for extra flavor and then rip into it like a monkey on a cupcake!
Kubo and the Two Strings is a magical experience from beginning to end. Created by Laika studios, a company that has produced countless classics from Coraline to Boxtrolls, Kubo already feels like an instant classic. The story follows Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson), a boy in ancient Japan, who lives in a cave with his mother.
Every day Kubo travels down to a village to tell the people stories of a great Samurai’s adventures. With the help of his magical shamisen (an instrument similar to a guitar) pieces of origami come to life turning into anything from monsters, to samurai, to clothing to help him tell the stories. However Kubo can never finish his stories because he must always return to his cave before sundown by his mother’s request. You soon realize that all of the stories he has told are true and the Samurai in the stories is Kubo’s father. One day Kubo does stay out after sundown and is attacked by his evil aunts sent by Kubo’s grandfather, the moon King. Kubo escapes and learns that he must go find a magical suit of armor and a powerful sword from his stories to defeat the moon King. On his adventure he encounters new friends including a protective talking monkey (voiced by Charlize Theron) and a Samurai who was transformed into a beetle (voiced by Mathew McConaughey). Together they search for the armor and sword, fighting beasts and Kubo’s aunts in the process.
The magic of Kubo and the Two Strings lie in the films ability to tell the story in a way that is easy to accept. Not once did I question what was going on. Everyone’s motivations for their actions are completely understood and the plot is easy to follow. This story, not unlike other Laika films, feel like a bedtime story, starting with once upon a time and ending with happily ever after.
In addition to the genius of the storytelling. The beauty of the film also lies in its animation. Kubo and the two strings was made by a style of animating called “stop-motion animation”. This is where they use actual puppets and models and take individual photos of the scenes, slowly moving the figures piece by piece and once the photos are put together it looks like motion. This art style is a very time consuming process that usually requires years to produce a good product. Laika has said that it takes them a week to produce about 4.5 seconds of the film. Kubo took 5 years to make, and includes hundreds of different creatures and people. Possibly the film’s greatest triumph is a fourteen foot model of one of the monsters Kubo must fight. But do not think that because they are puppets these characters are lifeless. I found myself connecting with these characters in a way that a children’s movie has not done for me in a long time.
From start to finish, you can feel the love put into this film.This is a movie that all ages will enjoy and appreciate equally. A grandfather will enjoy this film just as much as his grandchild. My only warning is that some of the fighting can get pretty intense and some of the monsters may be scary to younger viewers. While I don’t think this should stop you from seeing the movie, taking that into consideration and potentially telling your child that this is in the movie would be helpful to fully appreciate the film. From the tender relationship between the mother and son, to the tension between Kubo and his grandfather. This film might be the best film to come out this year.
–>I give Kubo and the Two Strings a solid 5/5