Preserving through Pandemic: Pittsburgh’s Cultural District

PITTSBURGH — With the highly anticipated return to normal activities, the reality of what it has taken for us to get from March 2020 to August 2021 is really setting in. Through it all, I’ve placed a confidence in my faith and the science that has helped us as we’re preserving through pandemic.

For the Willis house, that has meant getting used to wearing masks in most settings. We’re “half vacinated” – three of the six of us are eligible and the others are ready! The biggest change is that we have had to adjust our usually fully packed schedule and haven’t been as “cultural” as we’re used to.

The ‘lil Burghers enjoying a July evening at Mellon Square, Pittsburgh

One of the things I’ve realized that we really miss are making it to in person performances. (The last one we were able to attend as a family was Monster Jam in 2020!)

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust: 9/17 – 11/30

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has announced what they are doing to keep guests to their indoor performances as safe as they can and yet move forward through November 30, 2021.

According to a press release from Pittsburgh Cultural Trust on August 19:

Masks will also be required inside venues should levels of community COVID-19 transmission in Allegheny County reach ‘substantial’ or ‘high’ as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (status available at: covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view). Some events are subject to exception from this rule and will require audience members to remain masked regardless of community spread. These shows will be noted as such at all points of ticket purchase, alerting buyers of the mask mandate. Ticket buyers will also be contacted by guest services to confirm attendance requirements prior to the event. Real-time vaccination and masking requirements, and any updates, will continue to be available on each organization’s website (listed in boilerplate information).

The vaccine and masking policies begin with the return of indoor performances on September 17, 2021 and are currently set to run at least through November 30, 2021. Health and safety policies will continue to be regularly evaluated and adjusted based on community health data, and public health and government guidance.

Guests will be required to be fully vaccinated with the Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine and must show proof of vaccination at their time of entry into the theater with their valid ticket and driver’s license or government issued identification. “Fully vaccinated” means that on the date of the performance, a guest has received their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or their single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, at least 14 days prior. 

All individuals entering a Cultural District venue must be vaccinated with exceptions for children under the age of 12 and people with a medical condition or closely held religious belief that prevents vaccination. Guests who fall into one of these exception categories must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time, or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 24 hours of the performance start time. COVID-19 tests must be administered by an official testing center. Self-administered tests will not be accepted.

This family is happy for the work the Roadmap to Reopening committee has done here in our city. While these measures might not be the most comfortable, it’s a way we can show how Pittsburgh is preserving through the pandemic.

Click here to read more about how Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is handling the current status of COVID-19.

Tiny Dancers

When Isla was a baby, one of the only things that would soothe her to sleep was Elton John’s song, “Tiny Dancer”. It was no surprise that this twirling, pink-loving girly-girl would be begging to be in dance class when she reached the age to get started.

Becoming Dancers

Unfortunately, Mama missed sign-ups when “Beatsy” (Isla’s nickname because she’s always moving to a beat) was three and four. Whomp. Then when the time came for enrolling a five-year-old, Mama paused and remembered how things went with Arianna in gymnastics at that age (not so awesome for both kiddo and parents). Isla promised that she would stay in dance and that she’d love it, so she was enrolled in a class with a friend from church – a motivator to make sure she was ready to go every week for rehearsal.

If there was something good about COVID and the restrictions, Mama is not afraid to admit that the fact that our dance studio didn’t allow parents in during classes was a BLESSING. Isla was very happy to keep her dance moves secret and have an hour of “independence” each week.

After the fall soccer season, Ava felt like she was missing out on being involved in “stuff” and asked if she could dance with Isla. Again, a kiddo promised to give it her all and catch up with the routines. Thanks to a discount at the dance studio, Mama willingly said sure and the twinnies were officially all in.

Our dancers loved their Danskin Now leotards for rehearsals. Their ballet shoes were extremely cheap and wore throughout the season but at $9 a pair, they felt like a steal! Tap shoes were another must have and while we had a tough time matching their shoe sizes, the twins ended up with these shoes for jazz. We did give these ones from Amazon a try, but they literally fell apart at Isla’s first rehearsal!

Spring Recital Day

The twins kept their tiny dancer moves a secret until recital day – not even letting anyone “spy” on them when classes had to go virtual for a few weeks. Even on photo day they weren’t so happy to show us their outfits, but did pause for a cute photo for Dad before hamming it up with their dance team.

Recital day was one of the most exciting days for these two. They had three songs to perform and were all about it. Ava was a little nervous but Mama and the Bigs assured her that it would be all good. We teased her that if all else failed just “shake ya booty” but she said everyone would be watching and laugh. We tried to tell her that was the point, to make it fun, but she said NO WAY and kept the booty shaking to bouts at home (ha!).

Due to the pandemic restrictions, their recital was outdoors and nicely done by the dance studio. The twins stayed in place under their group tent and danced their hearts out when the music came on. Their smiles were HUGE and they have been talking about the evening for days.

Our family is so grateful that we gave these girlies a shot at finding something they love. Looking forward to fall classes already.

Mommmmmm! The sun!
Hamming it up with Bubby after getting their dance on
Big Big is crazy proud of them!

While Mama gave dance a few seasons as a kid, these two just might be dancers for life like their Daddy. Bring on the glitters and feathers everywhere, right?

Tell us: What is your favorite way to keep your body moving?

Pure Cleaning with Essentials

The past week has been a tough one in our house. Mom tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday and we’ve been trying to keep things cleaner than ever so everyone stays safe. The use of disinfecting wipes has always been essential in our home, but we really ramped that up. And the timing, if possible, was perfect because our latest shipment ARM & HAMMER™ Essentials™ Disinfecting Wipes had been delivered. We are a brand ambassador with Arm & Hammer in 2021 and receive product and compensation as part of our partnership.

Now is a time that we not only need to keep the house clean on our regular schedule, but it is also a time we’ve been really thinking about how we can do some pure cleaning. We’ve always known that chemicals can be harsh and toxic, and who hasn’t scrunched their noise at the smell of strong cleaners? Yet at the same time, we want the confidence that what we’re cleaning our homes with is safe.

Arm & Hammer has taken some of that guess work out for us. While it isn’t 100% natural like a cloth + water + elbow grease, the products in this line are safer and kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria. That sure makes mom feel a bit better with the germs around and is the way we’ll be cleaning here for awhile.

Essentials Disinfecting Wipes

With two fresh scents (Lemon Orchard and Renewing Rain), these disinfecting wipes also come in 40 or 80 wipe containers. Our go to has been Renewing Rain because it is a (good) unique smell that makes us think spring.

Also, for those of you with sensitive skin it is good to note that you do not need to wear gloves when using these wipes – with no harsh chemicals or Quats (Quaternary Ammonium Compounds). If you have any concerns about the ingredients, check out the product’s ingredients list.

How We Use the Essentials

Mom went through four wipes cleaning down the surfaces of her office as she prepared to go back to work. This was the place she was most often before getting sick, so it made sense to wipe everything in there down extra carefully. And yes, you can use these wipes on electronics – just be sure to wring the wipe out before using on screens and keyboards.

disinfecting-wipes

In addition to the office, these wipes can be used on doorknobs, in the car, and in the bathroom. They’re great for classrooms (psst, Teacher Appreciation Week is coming up) and gyms, too! We got the whole family, including the twins, in on the fun of cleaning with confidence as we went around the house wiping everything down.

(And yes, everything included the kitchen. Food contact surfaces do need to be rinsed with water after using these wipes.)

After this past year of being in and out of quarantine / stay-home-orders, the bottom line is we parents want to keep our kids safe from not only germs but from chemicals. These wipes give us that simple balance without having to worry about the protection we know we need. Arm & Hammer is a brand name that has been in this family for a long time (anyone else have the box of their baking soda in the fridge growing up) and a name we can trust.

Aside from cleaning products, what is something that has been essential to your daily live in the pandemic? Comment below and be sure to follow us on social media for more fun.

21 Ways to Say Thanks to Teachers

The 2020-2021 school year is quickly coming to an end. Whether your kiddos are virtual, hybrid, or in-school, one thing is for sure. This is a year to say THANK YOU to teachers in a big way. Don’t let Teacher Appreciation Week slip by. This is a week celebrated in the United States from May 3-7, 2021. Here are 21 ways to say thanks to the teachers in your life during this week.

thanks-to-teachers

21 Ways to Say Thanks to Teachers

As a former teacher, I can tell you that even the little gestures for teachers go a big distance, and that comes from someone who never had to teach in a global pandemic. Because (kids) I’m always forgetting about this week, I decided to not only get ahead of this week but to share some ideas that I would have loved as a teacher so you aren’t falling in the last minute trap.

NOTE: Some teachers may not be accepting physical gifts because of the pandemic. Consider some of the virtual items listed and be ready to be flexible. Their safety = your child’s safety, too!

Personalized Gifts

If you’re reading this in mid-April, there is still time to get something personalized as a way to say thanks to teachers. Consider:

  1. A tote they can carry to the pool this summer and with papers in the fall. Personalize it with the teacher’s last name or a big initial to make it mean more!
  2. Etsy has some adorable skinny tumblers for your teacher’s favorite morning or evening drinks. This chalkboard looking one is super adorable and affordable.
  3. Speaking of Etsy, there are lots of options for door hangers with the teacher’s last name. I couldn’t pick a favorite, so here is a whole list of options!
  4. If you have a Cricut, check out what is on sale on their supply site or in your craft stash and make a shirt or sign for teacher right at home.
  5. Pass down some of the books your kids have moved up from and at the top of the stack put a personalized stamp for the teacher to use when adding to their classroom library.

Shop Local – Gift Double!

When you shop locally, you’re not only gifting your teacher but you are helping a local business keep growing. Here are five our our favorite local spots to shop for unique/Pittsburgh themed gifts that are sure to please. If you are not local to Pittsburgh, consider these shops (most of which do have shipping) or shops local to you.

6. Kittanning’s Appalachian Outpost is constantly stocked with 100% local groceries, wall hangings, and (mom’s favorite – ) wooden crafts.

7. Find something pretty and unique at Sarver’s Emma + Jane Shoppe. Can’t pick just one thing? Ask about gift cards so they can either order online or stop in to the shop themselves – everyone needs a visit to this adorable store at some point!

8. Armstrong teachers will soon be able to grab a cup of coffee or a scrumptious bakery treat while enjoying their (much deserved) summer break. Kittanning offers two amazing places to do this – Ispirare Coffee and Curly Tail Coffee. Not from K-Town? These alone are worth the trip to our part of the state!

9. Oakmont Candle Works is the place to get a handpoured candle in the Pittsburgh region. If you’re too tempted by Oakmont Bakery being basically right around the corner (totally a bonus reason to go here), consider shopping online. Some favorites from this house are “Frog Hollow”, “Pillow Talk”, and “Clean Cotton”.

10. Male and female teachers can benefit from some pampering at a salon. Rae of Color in Ford City offers gift cards for services that include a barber, hair cuts and colors, and nail services. This is our family’s go to place for cuts these days!

The Sentimental Gifts

These gifts would work for any student anywhere to give to their teachers. Full of heart, they will be sure to bring a smile (or even a tear) to their face. Of these ways to say thanks to teachers, these might just be our favorite.

11. Ask your child 5 questions about why they are thankful for their teacher and send them the answers via email each day of the week.

12. Have your child write or draw their favorite thing they learned this year.

13. Record a video of your child thanking their teacher and email it to them on National Teacher Day (May 4, 2021).

14. Here is a whole collection of printables as a way to say thanks to teachers – all things you can make or recreate at home!

15. Fill a paper Scandanavian Woven Heart Basket with some candies and goodies. Mom made these with Grammie one year for Valentine’s Day and they were a hit!

Other Ways to Say Thanks

16. Gift cards to places like the Apple Store, Amazon, or Target aren’t taking the easy route. You’re letting the teacher decide what they want.

17. This bracelet is a sweet sentiment – maybe pair it with a perennial flower.

18. Make a basket of items from Dollar Tree’s Crafter’s Square – supplies they can use to prep their classroom for next year, perhaps.

19. If you have photos from the classroom, consider making a photo collage or book using Shutterfly’s current specials. There is always something sweet to gift at a great price!

20. Gifting for multiple teachers? Put together some teacher survival kits with some of these ideas.

Keep it Simple

21. Just say thanks – in a card, an email, or a phone call. Letting your child’s teacher know you are grateful for them will mean the world.

Other Ways to Say Thanks

This list is definitely not every idea out there for saying thanks. Comment with your favorites that you have either given or received.

Consider sharing on social media with #ThankATeacher during the week and tag your child’s teacher(s). How will you say thanks in 2021?

5 Things You MUST Spring Clean in 2021

Out with the old, in with the new. Spring is here and it is time to rid our homes of the stale, stagnant funk that the winter of 2020 has left behind. I know it isn’t just our house – the past twelve months have left so many things feeling “ick”, right? Listen, you’re a busy parent juggling virtual school, working from home, keeping up online social connections. We get it! But there are 5 things you must spring clean to start this new season off sparkling. And even better, what we’re suggesting is a list of chores perfect for your ‘tweens and teens!

Spring Cleaning with Enzyme Cleaners

Before that list, it is important that we address the need to safely clean your home. In this house, we are fans of trying to be as non-reliant on chemicals as we can be, but let’s be honest – with 6 humans, 2 fur babies, and the occassional frogs, cave crickets, and snails inhabiting our rooms, sometimes we do need to clean with more than water and our elbow grease.

That’s why our family is spring cleaning with enzyme cleaners this year. These cleaners break down stains that come from proteins and bacteria – like human and pet bodies. We are not ashamed to say that we live in our home and that involves some funk, bloody noses, sweat, grass stains, and more.

5 Things We MUST Spring Clean

Hand me downs!

Not only do we need to wash the size 5/6 six bins of summer clothes we’ve saved for seven years to hand down to the twins, we need to organize them! Anyone else struggle with their kids keeping the rainbow-organization that you fell in love with while binge watching pandemic Netflix? Sigh.

The twins’ hand me down summer clothes will simply go in our HE washer with 1/2 a scoop of Biz powder. Even though the clothes have been in totes in our attic, the blend of enzymes will help to dissolve those odors and even stains.

Sports Gear

With three kids in soccer and one in softball, the grass stains are real. Before our seasons begin next week we will be putting together a solution of some Biz powder and water to scrub the mud and grass from the fall season (hey, it was a busy time for us) and get ready to sparkle on the field.

The Entry Carpets

Pittsburgh winters bring salt, water stains, and mud onto our entryway carpets. It took the days of abundant sunshine recently for us to realize just how stained these areas have gotten. We’ll be spraying the foot and paw prints with KidsNPets Stain & Odor remover!

Beach Towels

We are more than ready to plan a getaway to the beach. Our beach towels will need a good run through the washing machine to freshen up – they are stored in our kids’ bathroom and have been known to smell a little mildewey at the start of the season.

Bath Towels

It seems redundant, but with the spring weather, we are washing towels far more often…and with more sun we have more sweaty days. Adding Biz to every few loads of towels helps keep that fresh feeling in our active lives.

Our Tools of Nature

We need cleaners ready to tackle these messes, so we’re armed with two stain fighters (Biz and KidsNPets) that help speed up the stain fighting process. These products are natural and non-toxic (making them safe for our humans and pets). They are part of a family of household products that consumers know and trust. Both are part of how we’re tackling the things we must spring clean this year.

Our blog has partnered with them in order to bring you this information, but as always we are open to hear your best cleaning hacks. Make sure to comment below with one thing you will be spring clearning this season.

The Pittsburgh Potty (That Wasn’t)

This is the tale of the Pittsburgh Potty that wasn’t. It is a story I keep meaning to write because it is memorable, but I keep thinking no one would want to hear about our plumbing issues. But the thing is, we all have toilets and I’m sure stories about them, this being one of the more tame ones. So on we go, with the story of our Kittanning home and the potty that helped me get the bathroom of my dreams. 

What is a Pittsburgh Potty? 

Let’s just say any home repairs or remodels involving plumbing in Pittsburgh takes innovative solutions to handle our uniquely set up, historical homes! For those of you who are not ‘Burghers, it would be best to start out with telling you what a Pittsburgh Potty is and how they came about. 

Pittsburgh Potty

Many Pittsburgh area homes have basements…unfinished ones at that. In those basements, many homes have a toilet. Many times that toilet is standing all alone in an odd spot. In my grandparents’ home in Wilmerding, I remember that it was right in the middle of the floor, but at some point my Pap had put walls up and a shower curtain (I think, or at least that is what I want to remember). In our home in Tarentum, it sat on a pedestal of cement, a true gem of a throne where if you used it (we did not because it was disgusting), you were wide in the open to the hair salon station that also graced that basement (not a Pittsburgh thing). And nearby to our current home, my parents’ Ford City house had one along one of the basement walls – right out in the open, too. 

Oh, and often there was no sink nearby to wash your hands. If you were lucky, there might be a laundry tub (or hair washing sink), but more often than not, it was do your business and go about life…I guess. Ah, the days before hand sanitizer?!?! 

Plumbing in Pittsburgh, THERE?

Now that we know the what, why were they built? I can’t imagine that anyone would really want to do their business all out in the open like these toilets made possible. (Though funny enough, I recently stayed in a timeshare room where the toilet was wide open to the soaking tub, so there’s that.) 

There are several stories – and I’m sure your Pittsburgh area Realtors can share some really fun ones – but the most logical one I have heard about why they are found in the basement is that it was to avoid having to clean up backed up sewage lines on the main living floors. These are often homes that were built pre-World War II, so you can only imagine where plumbing techniques have changed since then. Oh, do we get this

Our Closet Potty

The home we live in was built in the 1940s and without a basement, but with a Pittsburgh-ish Potty. I’d imagine the “room” it was in was at one point a large, open utility room that eventually was closed off for a little bit of privacy and to hide the boiler and such. In the case of our experience, the toilet was in a closet. Not unlike the Pittsburgh tradition, there is no sink to be found. 

When we first moved in, this was the sole toilet on our downstairs level, so the kids were potty training in it, the grands would use it, and it was right next to what used to be my office. Needless to say, that toilet got traffic. 

In the summer of 2019, we found out that that toilet of ours never should have been. We literally flushed money down it in getting plumbers to help us solve the problem to find out that it was backed up with at least five years of “solid waste” that had started leaking into our laundry room. (Sorry to those of you who visited at this time and may have experienced the stench that was…at the same time our 20+ year old HVAC blew.) Awful. Just awful. 

The reason being, it was just a toilet sitting on a normal old drain pipe, which means that pipe expected things like toothbrush spit and laundry gray water to be flushed down it. Not our 10-year-old’s favorite emoji. You get it. 

Not our toilet and not a Pittsburgh Potty but one with some privacy.

The Happy Ending for our Pittsburgh Potty

Thankfully, plumbing in Pittsburgh has come a long way and we were able to cement up that nasty situation and get the bathroom of my dreams, but you’ll have to keep an eye out on my lifestyle blog to find out exactly how that ended up. 

In short, we do have a toilet on our main floor once again, but this time it is a grinder and not in a closet but in a spa-like third bathroom. Thank goodness that things have come a long way since then and our only struggle is how to get the new roll of toilet paper when it runs out. At least for now. 

My only regret? I think the closet toilet is the only “before” photo we’re missing from our recent home renovations!

Tell us something unique about your house – we love houses with character and hearing the stories behind them!

Life is Messy

With four kids and two dogs (and let me be real, two adults), I’m really not sure why we have so many soft surfaces in our home that are white or light gray. Life is messy in a house like ours – mud, chocolate, spaghetti sauce, and aging dog accidents have left several spots in our home showing it. That is why this year I’ll be giving a few new-to-me products a try: Biz and Kids ‘n’ Pets. Both come from the Scott’s Liquid Gold family…and are now part of ours!

Biz: Saving our Clothes from Stains

biz-laundry-boost

Biz is a stain-fighting laundry detergent booster that comes in a powder or liquid formula. What drew me in to give it a try had nothing to do with our kids or pets…but a few white shirts I bought in the fall. Along with battling some continued pains, I’ve been sweating like crazy and at the same time moved to an aluminum free deodorant. Basically, I stunk and my shirt armpits suffered. Laundry detergent alone wasn’t working to rid the yellow.

When adding Biz to the tough to clean laundry loads like my white shirts, I add this booster along with my regular detergent. For tough stains like Greg’s yard work jeans or Evan’s soccer shorts, we straight up replace the detergent with this booster. There is also an option to pre soak these clothes to add to the stain fighting.

As we approach the warmer days of spring and summer, stay tuned to see how we are using Biz on the regular.

Spray for Oops: Kids ‘n’ Pets

kids-n-pets-steps

All the foot and paw traffic in our house has led to some fairly interesting stains. Spaghetti sauce on brand new shirts. Grass on canvas shoes. Hot sauce on our white couch. Coffee and doggy dribbles on the white living room carpet. All pretty normal in our house but they leave me wishing for a quick fix that doesn’t involve professional cleaning tactics.

Kids ‘n’ Pets is what I’ve been calling the “spray for oops”. It is great at fighting stains on clothing, but we’ve also found it helps attack the occasional dog urine or coffee drips that attack our carpet. It can even help in getting gum or putty off of clothes (I think every kid has done this). 

Wonder what ways our family will challenge the stain fighting power of these products in 2021? What stains are you interested in fighting? We will be continuing to share our experience with Biz and Kids ‘n’ Pets throughout the year.

Powerful Message: “I Am Somebody”

2020 continues to teach our family important lessons. Recently, I was asked to feature a book that will be launching on Friday, November 20 and of course just hearing the press blurb had me saying yes. What I didn’t expect was how powerful the message was to me as a mother and what we parents instill in our children. May this message bless you and your family today, too.

In “Little Bremar: I Am Somebody”, Pittsburgh Public School teacher, Tracy Johns shares an affirmation that resounded with me as a mother through the experience of first grader Bremar. This book will be the “first book in a series of “Little Bremar” books, and is inspired by the belief that each child has unlimited potential and deserves to see their beauty reflected in literature. The book series is dedicated to children of color all around the world, and their parents, as this group does not always get to see themselves represented in an accurate or affirming light.” (Source: Findlay House Media)

Through the story, Bremar expresses fears of speaking in front of his class and their families, but in the end remembers his confidence is deep down inside him, regardless of the fears that he may face in the world around him.

For families of color, this book hopes to allow for connection to characters often misrepresented in literacy. Tracy Johns gives a beautiful gift to children and families through the characters in this book and the message of hope and inspiration.

You can find “Little Bremar: I Am Somebody” on Amazon and at Tracy John’s website, melanatedvoicesllc.com.

Make the Season Sparkle the ZURU SPARKLE GIRLZ Way!

The twins just unboxed a whole lot of sparkle and are super excited to show you what they got a sneak peek at! This gifting season, ZURU is launching their Sparkle Girlz line – super affordable (starting at $4.99) dolls that bring your little ones fun, fantasy, and fashion!

Isn’t this basket full of dolls super fun?

So many sparkling options!

Ava and Isla were wowed by all of the options in their box of Sparkle Girls from Zuru. Truth be told, they didn’t even know where to begin. Thankfully I narrowed down the choices for them and got the first glance at the box we were sent. Yinz. These girls were spoiled with the sparkle! We put a few back to go to some of our Christmas giving endeavours to pass the blessing on, but you can check out their initial reactions here.

Zuru Sparkle Girls line has so many sparkling options to bring fun, fashion, and fantasy to your home this holiday season. Check out the information on the line that our pals at Zuru shared with us, each with a tidbit of love from the twins following.

Sparkle Girlz Set of 7 Princess Collection

Featuring seven unique and individual dolls, the  ZURU Sparkle Girlz Set of 7 Princess Collection is the perfect gift!   Touting a message of kindness and courage, and encouraging others to believe in themselves and the magic of dreams, Sparkle Girlz inspires magic, imagination and sparkle!   Featuring long soft hair complete with a magical sparkle highlight, each articulated Sparkle Girlz Princess doll is dressed in beautiful, sparkle and colorful outfits that can be swapped with one another down to the shoes!  Ages 3+, SRP $29.99. Available at Walmart.

source: Zuru
sparkle-girls-princesses

Isla’s first reaction to this set was that the princesses were in a “rainbow of skin colors” and that there were girls with skin like hers and like Ava’s and likely any girl would find a doll that looked like them. “Mommy! The red head looks like your friend Amber!” – Ava was quite excited to point that out ad she’s not wrong!

Sparkle Girlz Unicorn and Unicorn Set

ZURU Sparkle Girlz Baby Unicorn are the perfect pocket-sized friend for magical adventures.  The bedazzled unicorn loves sunshine, rainbows and all things sparkly!  Brush her tail, twirl a bun, and take note of the beautiful sparkle detailing on each unicorn’s horn, adding  an extra magical look. There are 4 different baby unicorns to collect. Sparkle all day at an amazing value too! Ages 3+, SRP $1.99, available at Walmart.

ZURU Sparkle Girlz Unicorn are a set of 3 brightly colored unicorns with beautiful hair! Each unicorn embraces its unique style and their horns have glitter highlights along with gorgeous details on their hooves as well! Boy they really sparkle! Each unicorn has a moveable head for endless poses and you can pose the medium-sized unicorn’s legs as she can stand up or lie down! Build your sparkle kingdom with the addition of these magical creatures. Sparkle every day at an amazing value too! Ages 3+, SRP $9.99 – Available at Walmart.

Both the girls loved the ponies/unicorns. Ava wears her hair with a little unicorn swirl, so of course she loved styling these (Mama’s) pocket sized friends’ hair with a twist like her’s! The baby unicorns are the perfect size for stocking stuffers and what a great price point!

ZURU Sparkle Girlz Unicorn Princess Doll

ZURU Sparkle Girlz Unicorn Princess Doll is ready to ride towards a magical adventure. In the sparkle kingdom, Unicorn Princesses are guardians of magic and they love to play and explore new places. Each doll’s outfit is beautifully detailed with sparkle and color and are easily removable to swap with other Sparkle Girlz. Brush and style the doll’s beautiful long soft hair and let that magical sparkle highlight shine! With moveable arms, legs and head, there’s so many ways to have extra imagination fun! There are 4 Unicorn Princess dolls to collect.  Sparkle every day at an amazing value! Ages 3+, SRP $4.99. Available at Walmart, and there are also fairies and individual princess dolls to choose from!

The girls just LOVE unicorns if they hadn’t told you that already. They love the swappable outfits and how much these dolls sparkle!

ZURU Sparkle Girlz Mini Cone

ZURU Sparkle Girlz Mini Cone collectible dolls are the perfect pocket toys to create your very own fantasy world! Each doll comes with a beautiful removable skirt and features articulated arms and legs and bright colored hair! There are princesses, ballerinas, superheroes and fairies to collect! Build your very own fairytale store. Perfectly packaged in a convenient cone, these gorgeous mini’s make the ultimate party favors and gifts for friends too! Sparkle every day at an amazing value! Ages 3+, SRP $1.99. Available at Walmart.

Another great stocking stuffer option! The twins recommend these minis for playing in the car or giving to friends.

We didn’t get a chance to review the following, but they are also in the line:

ZURU Sparkle Girlz Doll Carry Case Wardrobe

ZURU Sparkle Girlz Doll Carry Case Wardrobe is a reversible sequins carry case and the ultimate accessory for every sparkle girl! This beautiful doll comes with a fully removable trendy outfit and brushable long her to style. The carry case also comes with reversible sequins on the outside for you to flip back and forward to reveal the different colors! Inside is a sparkle wardrobe where you can store and carry your Sparkle Girlz and all her accessories wherever you go! Collect Sparkle Girlz accessories (sold seperately) so that your whole wardrobe is ready to go and step out in style with this amazing Sparkle Girlz Set. Styles may vary. Sparkle every day at an amazing value too! Ages 3+, SRP $10.99. Available at Walmart.

ZURU Sparkle Girlz Cupcake Princess

ZURU Sparkle Girlz Cupcake Princess is an adorable toy for girls on the go! Waltz into the sparkle kingdom where this cupcake princess rules with kindness and compassion. She loves to spend time with her friends in her royal estate and her mini size makes it perfect to carry and have playtime just about anywhere! In the world of Sparkle Heart, princesses are strong, brave and make the perfect fashion companion. Each princess comes with colorful, sparkly outfits that can be interchangeable with other Sparkle Girlz Cupcake doll outfits and other fitting doll clothes (sold separately). There are 4 royal cupcake princesses to collect. Sparkle every day at an amazing value too! Ages 3+, SRP $2.99. Available at Walmart.

Alright, now tell us which of these are your favorites that you’d love to see under the tree!

You’re Pulling My Leg

Covid-19 sure has made this a year to remember. In our house, we’re playing more games and using video calls more than ever. The kids seem to be very resilient to these changes and are learning some skills that we probably wouldn’t have thought to teach without being “stuck” home all these months. This week, we’re joining a blogging book tour for the release of two books geared to exactly that. In his “You’re Pulling My Leg” series, author Allen Wolf gives adults and families a way to play a unique storytelling game together – no matter where they live.

youre-pulling-my-leg
source: Morning Star Games

Since we’re a family blog, we checked out Wolf’s adaptation of You’re Pulling My Leg! game with the Junior version. It came at a great time – right before a road trip. In this book turned game, you and your loved ones will be presented with [age appropriate] questions to answer and then the other players vote if the story was true or made up.

Educational Benefits of You’re Pulling My Leg

Not only does a game like this pass time and help to build relationships, there are some educational benefits that your kids will pick up:

  • Promotes interaction
  • Develops interpersonal skills
  • Develops positive relationships
  • Develops storytelling skills
  • Promotes positive self-esteem
  • Motivates players
  • Encourages higher-level thinking

How to Play

First, you’ll need to decide which version of the book to pickup. If you’re going to play online, don’t worry you only need one person with a copy of the book. The adult version is for ages 13+ and Junior is for ages 9+ (but from our experience littles can answer these questions too).

You’ll also need a coin (or a coin-flipping phone app) and a way to keep score (there are also score pages at the back of the book).

Each player gets 7 points for voting (is the storyteller pulling my leg or telling the truth) and then the questions begin. The storyteller picks from three questions to answer then flips a coin and based on heads or tails tells a true story or makes one up.

Let’s Give it a Try

Here is Card 42 from the “You’re Pulling My Leg Junior” book:

TELL ME ABOUT…

a time when you were afraid of something in your closet or under your bed.

OR

a pet you wanted but didn’t get.

OR

a time when you did something that was difficult.

We’ll pretend I am the storyteller and I’ve flipped a coin to tell me if I tell the truth or a made up story. The question I’ll answer today is: “a pet you wanted but didn’t get”.

One time my parents were so frustrated about the pets my brother and I wanted – we already had a dog, cat, bird, and turtle and had been asking about a bunny. Mom said no more pets…but she said it like “No more 2 legged, 3 legged, 4 legged, 6 legged, 8 legged pets in this house!”

We started to scheme. I thought a snake would be a great idea but my little brother didn’t want to get in trouble with mom and he thought the snake might eat my bird so he changed my mind.

Now, you’ll go to the comments section and vote if you think I was telling the truth in this story or pulling your leg!

Each book contains over 600 questions and can be played over and over with the different people in your life. Spin up a video call with the grands who live far away and start asking questions. If you’re on a road trip or headed to a coffee shop, bring it along. This is a great in person or virtual game that helps challenge players and is guaranteed to make you laugh.

About You’re Pulling My Leg!

You can find out more about both versions of this book game through their publisher, Morning Star Games. Follow along with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for exclusive information on this and other games. You can purchase either book on Amazon (adult, junior) with MSRP at $12.99.