The Big 5-0-0

25 Feb
Thanks for stopping by! See you again very soon.

Thanks for stopping by! See you again very soon.

Five hundred.

500.

Today is my 500th blog post.

That means that 500 times I have sat at my computer and shared a part of me with you, my readers.

It’s hard to wrap my head around that.

I’m proud of my blog, but more than that, I am thankful. I’m thankful to all of you who have stopped, read, commented, and even thanked me in person in a parking lot or store, or wherever we happen to bump into each other, for some tidbit or other they found.

I remember a day when someone first said to me, “You should start a blog,” and I remember thinking “There are SO MANY bloggers out there. What could I possibly share that hasn’t been shared already?”

But, I started a crafter’s blog, then a newspaper blog, and a recipe blog. Before I knew it, I was a blogger. So I revamped them all into one blog: The Whole Bag of Chips in September 2011, and my “mom blog” was born; a place where I could write about all those things and more. I could write about whatever I wanted, and I did. I shared recipes, parenting tips and woes, success stories and failures. I wrote stories that ended up being read on stage. I shared photos that ended up being shared thousands of times. I shared my experiences in life and people shared theirs with me.

I love my blog for how it helps others, but I love it more for helping me. I love that it gives me a place where I can sit and write, and I love that it gives me a place to store my stories and recipes for my children to always have for themselves and their children going forward.

I love that there’s a little morsel for everyone: a little piece of lots of people in my blog, whether they’re people I’ve worked with, people from stories I’ve covered, family members I love, people I’ve met in life. There’s recipes, articles, crafts, product reviews, happy stories and sad stories. This blog has it all and I love what it’s become over the past four years.

Thank you all for visiting and I’ll see you again very soon, for the 501st blog post and beyond.

My new obsession with money-saving apps: Savings Catcher and Shopkick

23 Feb
A penny saved is a penny earned!

A penny saved is a penny earned!

Many years ago, when I changed careers in order to focus the bulk of my time on my kids, and after that when I changed careers again to be able to continue that focus, my income was cut down significantly. I’d say it was cut in half, but that would be generous. As a freelance writer and photographer, my benefits are phenomenal and unable to be matched by any full-time career I could’ve had, but being well-off financially from my income isn’t necessarily one of them. Thankfully, my husband carries our medical benefits, and he and I both agree the most important benefits we could reap would be the ones that we’ve chosen to focus on; that alone was worth the sacrifices we have both chosen to make all along the way.

However, having made these choices along the way doesn’t mean we don’t need ANY money at all, and every little bit more helps us. Therefore, I work pretty hard to be frugal and to save however and wherever I can. I try to also pass along those types of life lessons to my kids as we go along. A few years ago I added couponing to my arsenal of money-saving ways and I’ve seen huge benefits from the time that I’ve put into it, which varies depending on how busy I am at work.

Recently though, I’ve added two new apps to that arsenal as well: Walmart’s Savings Catcher app and the Shopkick app. I’d heard of them both a while back, but sometimes I just can’t add another thing to my head to have to think about, and leading up to the holidays, which is my busiest time at work, is one of those times. After the holidays though, I have more time to think, and when I saw those apps mentioned again, I had the time to ask my nine year-old to help me figure out how they worked, and she did, so now thanks to her, I can save us even more money than before. All of that money saved goes towards providing the kids with the opportunities we are lucky to be able to provide them with because of my freelance schedule, so I feel even better about my work, my focus and my money-saving ways.

As an added benefit, I also feel great that I’m providing my kids with hands-on learning when it comes to teaching them financial literacy. As kids who have to pay their own way for a lot of the “extras” that they want (we fully cover their needs and extra-curricular activities), it’s great to see them thinking frugally as well, finding ways to cut costs and stretch their dollars to the fullest, thanks to what we’re teaching them. My oldest daughter decided a little over a year ago that she “needed” a good camera, as in a really good, expensive camera, the kind I dream of myself. We determined that this was a want, not a need and that if she wanted it, she would have to save for it. Nothing made us more proud of her than the day after Christmas this year when she used her almost two years of savings of hundreds of dollars to purchase a camera worth almost $1000, at a savings of more than half the original price, utilizing a sale, a price-matching policy, and a store rewards card in order to make it happen. The employee in the camera department was stunned when she reached her final price. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said.

Teaching our kids how to save their money and stretch their savings is an important life lesson.

Teaching our kids how to save their money and stretch their savings is an important life lesson.

She’s only 15. That’s good financial literacy and a great life lesson taught, in my book.

Now, I have my kids hooked on my two new apps, and I’m completely obsessed with the apps myself. The Walmart Savings Catcher app is one in which you do your shopping at Walmart as you normally would. Now I know there are two schools of thought on Walmart: those who shop there and those who refuse to. We shop there, but if you don’t, then you can skip this portion of the post and move on to the Shopkick portion.

To use the Savings Catcher app is very simple. You do your shopping, use whatever coupons you normally would, and then when you are handed your receipt you use your phone to scan the little square at the bottom by using the Savings Catcher app. You have about a week’s time to scan but I try to do mine right away or I’ll forget. Once I get to my car, oftentimes what’s been in my head in the store is now gone and I’m on to the next thing. Once you’ve scanned your receipt, your work is done. You’ll get an email that it’s been received on their end and in a few days’ time you’ll receive another email which will tell you whether or not they’ve found any of the items you purchased at Walmart anywhere else near you for less. If so, you’ll receive that money back in the form of an e-Gift card. In a few days’ time I had accrued almost $10 in money back. So I could shop, use my coupons, not have to run from store to store to get one thing here and one thing there just to get a cheaper price. To use the e-Gift card that has been emailed to you once you say you’re ready to redeem your points, you just have the cashier scan it at the register and it’s applied to your purchases. Or, you can redeem the e-Gift card as an online purchase as well. Easy peasy.

Shopkick is a different sort of app than Walmart, in that you need not purchase anything at all to earn money. You just need to walk into a store. Sometimes you need only drive by the entrance of the store. And if you’d like to take it one step further you can use your phone to scan some UPC codes on some items they’re asking you to scan. If you’d really like to bulk up your points, you can make your usual purchases and if that store gives points for purchases, you’ve earned them.

Let me explain further: Last week was our school vacation week. We had no significant plans. Everyone had a sleepover somewhere. Everyone had a dentist appointment. We did a day of community service. It snowed. Again. That was it. Nothing huge going on here. So I downloaded the Shopkick app. It said that if I went to my local mall there were four or five stores there that gave “walk in” points. And points for scanning. Some gave points for purchases but I wasn’t buying anything. But, we had no big plans so we took our phones, walked around the mall, in and out of stores and earned points. We scanned a few things here and there for extra points. In two days’ time I had over 1000 points. I bought my kids a donut one day and we ate out at the food court another day. Big deals for us, since I usually say “no” to both those things, but it was vacation week and if that was the extent of our day, I could handle it.

What do you do with your points? It’s up to you. You can redeem them for hundreds of items. I found a great blog post that lists all the things you can redeem your points for and how many points you need. I’m up to 2400 points and I haven’t had the app a week yet. I had my daughter download the app on her phone and told her she could spend her points however she wanted. She’s set a goal to earn a gift card at American Eagle since she’s always wanted to shop there and we never have. I had my husband drive me through the parking lot of the mall on our way out this weekend, just so he and I could earn the points at one of the stores where the app reaches out into the parking lot (and into the food court, we discovered as well) so I actually didn’t even have to walk in to get the walk in points. We went to Best Buy to pick something up we’d ordered and earned 80 points each just for walking in. The stores we utilize regularly are on the app. As we did our payday shopping this week at places like BJ’s, Walmart and Target, we got points just for walking through the door. If we chose to scan (which we did), we earned more.

Teaching our kids constructive uses for their phones is important to me.

Teaching our kids constructive uses for their phones is important to me.

Combining all kinds of rewards you can earn money and points literally coming and going. I earn money back at Walmart with their app when I leave, and I used my coupons at the register to save $9.00 right away, and I used Shopkick going in. Same thing at Best Buy. I receive their store’s loyalty points for my purchases and I earned points for going in on Shopkick also. If my purchases meet the Shopkick app requirements (I think it had to be $50 or more which it wasn’t) I’d earn more points on that app too.

I’m going to wait and see just how long I can stand to let my points add up before I turn them in on Shopkick, and I’m starting fresh again with my Savings Catcher app points now that I used my gift card last week, but I’m pleased with the savings I’ve seen already and I’m pleased with the lessons I’m instilling in my kids early on. If there’s free money to be had out there, it’s important to teach them to find it and to use their resources wisely. It’s a good habit to start them on at a young age. I know my daughters are always proud when they’ve bought something they had to save for, but I know they’re even more proud when they know they saved a good amount of money using a coupon or a sale. Using a money-saving app when they’re old enough to have a phone of their own will feel good also.

 

 

Book review: Smile & Succeed for Teens

16 Feb
A perfect book for our generation of teenagers!

A perfect book for our generation of teenagers!

Put that device down.

Put your device away.

No technology at the dinner table.

Is that on? Shut it off, please.

Sound familiar? We live in a very technological world. Texting and driving recently surpassed drinking and driving as the cause for fatal driving incidents, proving that people are more connected, more wired in than ever.

It’s a whole new world, and it’s not going anywhere.

Thankfully, author Kirt Manecke realizes that rather than trying to pretend that our wired world doesn’t exist, it’s much better to teach teens how to succeed in such an environment.

Manecke’s book, “Smile & Succeed for Teens” has received the “Mom’s Choice Award,” which is something I often look for when I’m considering a product for my kids. The book, geared for kids ages 12 and up is a spinoff from Manecke’s adult book, “Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service.” It is a handbook of sorts, helping kids to make the best possible first impression when they’re out in the world. It’s designed to be read in any order, either chapter by chapter or topic by topic, and the first chapter alone, “The Top Ten People Skills,” is invaluable in itself, teaching kids how to do the most basic of skills: making good eye contact, putting away their devices, using manners, and all of the things we sometimes forget that kids aren’t born knowing how to do. We teach them other basic life skills, but these types of skills also must be taught. We also need to remember that technology is good sometimes, but not all of the time, and we as adults must model good people skills too, putting our devices away, using good body language and eye contact as well. You can read a section of it here.

Upon reading the book myself, I told my 15 year old daughter that I was insisting that she read it too, and my 12 year old is on deck as well. I firmly believe that every teen should read “Smile & Succeed for Teens.” The language and drawings are humorous and kid-friendly, and sometimes, hearing the things mentioned in this book from someone other than your parents sounds better, and so much more enlightening than when you hear it from your parents. Again. And again.

The other thing that I loved about this book was the title and topics featured in Chapter Seven: Use Your Expertise and People Skills to Change the World. This is something that we have tried to instill in our children from a very young age: making a difference, changing the world, rocking the world. I read that Kirt Manecke volunteers his own time, working with DECA to help teens be successful, and also helping with environmental causes and working to end cruelty. He’s leading by example and he talks about how to make a difference in the world in Chapter Seven, and I love that. In fact, a percentage of every book sold goes to animal welfare.

The book can be ordered online and I strongly encourage everyone- parents, teachers and teens- to check it out. It’s a great book to teach all teens the most basic social skills needed for a lifetime of success in any world, but especially in today’s wired world.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Chicken, Broccoli, Cauliflower Casserole

11 Feb
This.was.so.good.

This.was.so.good.

On Saturday, January 24 my husband and I ran to the store to pick up “a few things” to get us through “a few days” until we could get out to do a bigger shopping. It was the day after pay day, and when we’d normally be doing a big shopping, but we hadn’t had a chance to sit down and do our normal two week menu, or to make a shopping list.

We went through the store, picking things up here and there that we knew for sure we were out of and that we knew we could use to put together several meals with. Meats, fresh fruits and veggies; things of that nature all went into the cart.

In the back of our minds, we knew that a big snow storm was coming and just the night before, we’d seen the report that it could be “historic,” whatever that meant.

Well who knew we’d be snowed in for days and days? By the time a week had gone by, we were already expecting another storm, and we were getting a little low on groceries, but really not doing too badly. It didn’t really seem necessary to do a bigger shopping at this point, we were so close to the end of the pay cycle, another check would soon be coming.

And besides, as true New Englanders, we had enough milk and bread to sink a boat. A cruise ship, actually. At the very least, we could have sandwiches galore until the cows came home.

As the second week wound down, I was really being creative with our meals. I had a few things left to work with and I hopped onto Pinterest to do a search. I typed in Chicken, Broccoli, and Cauliflower into the search button and waited to see what came up. I had fresh broccoli crowns and a whole head of cauliflower in my fridge still, as well as a bag of chicken tenderloins in the freezer. You can do a lot with those three ingredients, as it turns out. I scrolled and pinned, scrolled and pinned until I saw a recipe that jumped out at me, simply because it hand Panko bread crumbs on top.

I love Panko bread crumbs.

I found this recipe on a site called Stacey Snacks , and it was listed as being a good idea for using leftover chicken. I didn’t actually have leftover chicken, but I could cook up my tenderloins in bite-sized pieces and just pretend that I did.

The recipe was such that I had to make a few minor modifications, and I’ve listed them below. I had to double it because there are a lot of us who love chicken, broccoli and cauliflower here, and because I wanted to use up the entire head of cauliflower and both of my broccoli crowns.  I had an entire block of cheddar cheese in stock and although I was out of half and half, I had 1% milk, which I could make work with the sauce, which I more than doubled.

Stacey’s recipe was unbelievably good. Our family loved it. We had one sick child that day, so she didn’t eat, but the rest: all thumbs up. I ate this for lunch every day for the following days until it was gone. I’d most definitely make it again. I can’t *wait* to make it again.

Here is her recipe and my modifications along with it. Thanks to Stacey for sharing such deliciousness with us all!

INGREDIENTS

1 cup of small fresh broccoli florets (about 1/2 of a small head) **I used two broccoli crowns**
1 cup of small fresh cauliflower florets (about 1/2 of a small head) **I used a whole head of cauliflower**
1 cup of leftover roast chicken, shredded **I cooked up ten chicken tenderloins in bite-sized pieces**
Japanese panko crumbs for the top
olive oil
kosher salt & pepper

For the Sauce:

3 tbsp of REAL mayonnaise **I used 5 Tbsp.**
1/4 cup of half & half **I used 1 cup of 1 % milk**
1 tsp curry powder (you can substitute dry mustard if you don’t like curry) **I used 1/2 Tbsp. yellow mustard**
a pinch of kosher salt & black pepper
1/4 cup of chicken stock  **I used 1 cup chicken broth**
1/2 cup of grated sharp cheddar (I like white cheddar) **I used an 8 oz. block**

DIRECTIONS

Brush an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with some olive oil.  **My dish was 9×12**
Steam the broccoli and cauliflower florets for 2 minutes until bright and still firm.
Lay the vegetables on the bottom of the casserole.
Place the shredded cooked chicken on top of the veggies.
Whisk together the sauce ingredients, including the grated cheese & curry. Season with salt & pepper. (I really didn’t measure here, but what you are going for is a nice thick, cheesy white sauce, sort of like for macaroni and cheese, so use your best cooking sense!).  **I did add a bit of flour just to thicken mine a little since my milk was thinner than half and half would have been.**
Pour over the chicken and vegetables in the dish and press down with a spatula to absorb the liquid. If it seems dry, then add some more chicken stock to the dish.
Optional (but makes it even better!): Spoon some panko crumbs over the top to cover and drizzle with olive oil. **Instead of drizzling with olive oil, I lightly sprayed the bread crumbs with a canola oil spray before baking.**
You can make this a day ahead and keep covered in the fridge until ready to bake.

Bake uncovered in a 375F oven for about 30 minutes until top is golden brown and casserole is bubbly.
Serve with rice or salad.  **We served with rice pilaf.**

Thanks Stacey!

http://www.staceysnacksonline.com/2012/02/good-ideas-leftover-chicken-w-broccoli.html

GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine

9 Feb
Stuck inside again? Make your own animation with the GoldiBlox Movie Maker kit!

Stuck inside again? Make your own animation with the GoldieBlox Movie Maker kit!

Is it snowing where you are? Since I heard a crazy statistic last night that something like 42 million people across the country were expecting snow, I’m going to guess that there is a good chance that you, like me, are watching snowflakes fall right at this very moment.

Again.

It’s snowing here this morning, and I’ve begun to get very used to all these days out of school and work. Too used to them actually, and I worry for the next full week of school, which isn’t for two more weeks still. It’s going to be a harsh, harsh reality for all of us when it happens though, of that I am sure.

In the meantime, this weekend we brought back all our unused batteries and unused hand, foot and body warmers from the January 25 blizzard, and instead, we bought new sleds to replace our broken ones. A good purchase, in my opinion, given that by the end of this week’s storm we will have something like 50 inches of snow in total since the middle of January.

We’ve been doing fine on the days off. We haven’t been stuck inside too many days in a row, so we’re not even really going stir crazy. We’ve had enough work to do to keep us busy part of the time and enough other things to do inside to keep everyone relaxed and occupied. I work from home oftentimes no matter what the weather, so I’ve been able to basically maintain my schedule for the most part. I can’t say I’m not enjoying the less stressful weeks either. A cancellation here and there is one less thing on my crazy list of things to do, and I can’t say I hate that. It’s been a nice break.

This was the GoldieBlox kit that had my daughter the most intrigued when she first heard about Goldie and all she had to offer.

This was the GoldieBlox kit that had my daughter the most intrigued when she first heard about Goldie and all she had to offer.

If you’re looking for something to occupy your kids during the days at home, especially if you have daughters like we do, I have the perfect answer for you. I recently reviewed a GoldieBlox Zipline toy and when I did, I mentioned that I had one more GoldieBlox toy to review at a later date. Welcome to my later date.

When my daughter first discovered the GoldieBlox product line, she researched them all and she was very interested in several of them, one of them being the Zipline kit, and one of them being the Movie Machine kit, pictured here. It was this kit that she used her Christmas money to buy just a few days after Christmas had passed. She was so excited to have it in hand, that the very first night we had it, she put almost the whole thing together while still wearing her winter coat. She came in the door and just got started right away.

This kit combines many things my kids love: hands on STEAM activities, history, and literacy. It teaches them the history of the zoetrope, which is the very first type of animation, and teaches them step-by-step how to make their own animated movies in their own zoetrope.

It’s amazing. Truly. When you watch our YouTube video showing one of the animations my daughter made that day, you might actually hear me gasp out loud. It.was.so.cool.  Of course, you might also hear my youngest daughter at the end, telling me that the dog just walked through the room during the video, but that’s okay too, that’s real life.

Making the video of her step-by-step animation actually shows her movie as an animated video, taking the zoetrope project even one step further, which we really enjoyed doing each time she created her animation.

Our very own zoetrope! How cool is that?!?!

Our very own zoetrope! How cool is that?!?!

The kit comes with everything you need to make your own zoetrope and lots of opportunities to make various animated movies, some that are provided and some ideas for creating your own. Each one is more fabulous than the next.

I love that there’s “an app for that” for everything, but I also love when our kids can find out the history and the workings behind the originals for things just like this. My girls love making “Video Star” movies using an app, but I really enjoyed watching them learn about the very first type of animation and see for themselves just how to make images move. One of my favorite animations that came with the kit is the jumping animation shown in our YouTube video link, but one of my favorites that she did on her own was a clock. She made the exact same clock twelve times, moving one hour ahead each time.

So. Amazing.

This kit was affordable enough that my daughter could use her own money to buy it, and it was challenging yet not at all frustrating, so she could create the zoetrope, learn about it, learn how it works and why, and create her animations and enjoy every minute. The kit comes with a box in which you can store all your parts and pieces when not in use, and the zoetrope rolls right back up for easy storage in that same box, which is great for organizational purposes.

If you’re looking for something new and exciting to do on your kids’ next snow day, I’d say definitely check out the GoldieBlox product line and give their kits a try! It’ll be a nice change from being stuck inside with nothing to do but watch TV or play video games. And I guarantee, your kids won’t look at the next animated movie they see, quite the same way ever again.

 

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Light lunches

4 Feb
A perfect light lunch for those days you just can't eat another sandwich.

A perfect light lunch for those days you just can’t eat another sandwich.

Ever have that feeling where you wake up in the morning, still full from the night before? Well, we woke up in January still full from December. Stuffed.

When it came time to go back to school, I was looking for some lighter lunch ideas to pack in my family’s lunch bags and other than the usual salads and sandwiches, I was stumped. Over the past year, I’ve really revamped what goes into the lunchbags, and I’ve been so pleased with what they now eat for lunch versus in years prior, but I was still looking for something new and different.

One weekend afternoon however, we were watching some sort of cooking show and my daughter saw a recipe that she said looked delicious, and when I saw it, I knew it’d make a perfect lunchbag lunch. Even better, it wasn’t a salad and it wasn’t a sandwich. The recipe was for a lettuce wrap that contained hummus and diced peppers. The peppers they showed were red, but here at home we happened to have some green peppers on hand, and that works just as well. I had everything we needed, so the very next time I was packing up all the lunches, those who like hummus got a lettuce

Another light, refreshing change for lunches.

Another light, refreshing change for lunches.

wrap, some pita chips for dipping or for crushing on top, and a plastic fork and knife, just in case the wrap was too heavy to eat by hand (which it turned out it was.)

It was a success; a nice, light change from our usual lunches, and I got a thumbs up at the end of the day. With such success, I did another type of lettuce wrap later that week, using some quinoa tabouleh that my husband had made with leftover quinoa from a previous meal. We didn’t have chick peas to throw in, but we had everything else.

Another great, light lunch. One of the days my husband even combined the hummus and the tabouleh into one in order to make a loaded salad, loving all this eating from his Lebanese heritage.

These lunches were quick, healthy, affordable and easy to do in the mornings and I was so pleased with the positive reviews, I’d definitely do them again. They were a nice, light change to start off the new year.

I think you can practically make a lettuce wrap out of anything, or put anything on top of a salad, so tell me, what kinds of things do you put into a lettuce wrap or on top of your salad?

 

Got a future engineer? Try the Young Architect kit!

2 Feb

This project takes some time to complete, which is something I like about it. It shows just how much time and thought is involved in creating house plans.

I spent much of last month discussing many of the STEAM-focused gifts my girls received for Christmas, but there was one that I held off reviewing because although we’d opened it and played with it, it’s not a one-and-done type of project. It’s something that takes some time, and as my nine year-old daughter worked on it, I watched her and took pictures, but I wanted the project to be more complete than not, when I shared it in a blog post. We’re finally getting to that point where she’s almost done, not 100%, but enough where I can share it and you can get the whole picture.

After watching her do some pretty complex house plans on the old Etch-a-Sketch toy, it was clear she was ready for the next step.

After watching our nine year-old do some pretty complex house plans on the old Etch-a-Sketch toy, it was clear she was ready for the next step.

At our house we watch a lot of house hunting/renovating/designing types of shows. We’re big fans of “Love It or List It” and other shows like that. Our youngest daughter in particular has been quite inspired by the house planning and design portions of those types of shows. She’s on the edge of her seat, watching the blueprints take shape and it’s really influenced how she plays and the thing she likes to do in her spare time. She started off this fall, playing with our old Etch-a-Sketch, creating blueprints of imaginary houses, and announced that she’d like to be an engineer when she grows up (she’s also wanted to be a real estate agent, a dog groomer, and a veterinarian in the past, so things could change at any moment, and we get that.)

We know that engineering, like many other math, science and technology jobs, is a career in which women are a minority, and we’ve talked about that with her, but that doesn’t seem to scare her off, at least not so far, which is great. We work hard to keep our kids’ love for these subjects going as they approach their teenage years because we know that it’s often at that time where they get scared away and lose their confidence as compared to males in that same age bracket. We talk a lot about future careers and programs, even at a young age. We’ve already taken her to see the Computer Aided Design department at our local high school’s Career and Technical Center to check out what’s available for her in a few more years. Her mouth dropped when she saw the drafting tables and computer technology available to her there. She was amazed by the 3D houses on display that the students had created. Had she been able to enroll that day at age nine, I think she would’ve signed right up; she was in her glory during that visit. She looked up at the sign that said, “Architectural Engineering” and she said, “That’s me. That’s what I want to be.”

This kit includes everything you need to go from a paper design to a 3D design.

This kit includes everything you need to go from a paper design to a 3D design.

In November last year, as the girls were making their Santa lists, our daughter found a similar kit in a magazine catalog to the Alex brand Scientific Explorer Young Architects kit pictured here, and she put it on her list. At the time, it could be found for $55 on the Walmart website, and ran about $75 in the other catalog where she first saw it.

Watching and listening to the thought process and problem solving that goes into these house plans was amazing.

Watching and listening to the thought process and problem solving that goes into these house plans was amazing.

The kit came with everything she’d need to create a blueprint house design on paper, fill it with furniture and then add walls, windows and doors using plexiglass fixtures, creating an entire 3D house plan. It was very exciting when she opened it on Christmas morning. She was so thrilled and could not wait to get started.

Over the vacation weeks she began

It was fascinating to watch the project go from its beginning stages of using stencils to outline the rooms to the more complex stages.

It was fascinating to watch the project go from its beginning stages of using stencils to outline the rooms to the more complex stages.

working, using the stencils to lay out her walls and determine what spaces would be which kinds of rooms. That alone, took some time. It was fascinating for me to be a fly on the wall, watching her figure things out, thinking out loud and problem solving as she went along. She worked for hours at a time, several nights in a row, until she had all the rooms drawn out. She asked me for little post it-notes to label each room so she wouldn’t forget what was what when it came time to add in furniture. Picturing the doors for each room as a little half circle was a little confusing for her, so we went into our bedrooms and I showed her how the doors made the half circle marks on the rugs, which on paper would indicate where an actual door would be, and then she got it, adding them in and figuring out in which direction they opened and closed in or out of a room.

The kit has absolutely everything she needs to create a very comprehensive house plan.

The kit has absolutely everything she needs to create a very comprehensive house plan.

The kit included a plexiglass table-top board, extra-large pieces of tracing paper, stencils for outlining the rooms, diagrams for tracing all kinds of furniture, doors and appliances into the rooms, colored pencils for coloring the furniture (we added in a bigger variety of colored pencils), and plexiglass walls of all sizes, along with the cubes to connect them and keep them standing upright, which creates the 3D effect, as is seen at the top of the blog post.

When we had our blizzard last week, she took out her kit and finished up coloring in her furniture and began placing the cubes in the corners of each room so that she could put up her walls. Her house plan currently looks just as the photo shows it at the top of this blog post. I couldn’t be more proud, and more amazed at her work, at the level of the complexity of her thinking, and at her talent. The only step she really has left is to use the included removable decals to add in windows and doors on the walls of her rooms. We can’t wait to see the finished product, and I think she’s already looking forward to having it on display for a little while and then taking it all apart in order to start all over again. Thankfully there are six pieces of tracing paper in the kit so that she can do up to six different house designs before I have to find more paper for her.

I’d highly recommend this Alex Young Architect design kit for all your aspiring young architects and engineers whether they are boys are girls. The kit is moderately priced, and is well stocked with everything they need for hours and hours of creating and designing. It’s been a perfect, perfect STEAM gift for our aspiring female architectural engineer, and I can’t wait to see what she creates next.

Young Architect Kit 7

 

 

 

 

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