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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.

 

 

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

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?

 

Fun Friday: A surprising teachable moment

16 Jan
Freaky, yes. Educational? Who knew?

Freaky, yes. Educational? Who knew?

Have you seen them? Have you seen the Monster High dolls yet?

They are bizarre-looking, zombie-like dolls, about the size and shape of a Barbie doll, but clearly *not* a Barbie.

My younger kids love them. They have lots of them. The Monster High dolls room with their Ever After High dolls downstairs in the Barbie Dreamhouse, lounging by the pool together. The Monster High dolls have grey, green or blue skin colors (there might even be other skin colors, but these are the ones we have) and some really monster-ish features to them. They’re unique for sure, and we don’t discriminate on skin color at our house, no matter what color it is. That in itself is a good lesson.

But whatever, not everything can be a stellar STEM/STEAM learning toy, right?

Or can it?

Surprisingly, it can, and no one was more shocked by this fact than I was, believe me.

Now clearly, we don’t have any kind of toy rule or anything, where every toy we buy has to be educational in nature, or STEM/STEAM related. A toy can just be a toy, too, so I was shocked when it turned out that my daughter’s recent purchase of a Freaky Fusion Monster High doll, the newest in the Monster High collection, was found at Barnes and Noble Bookstore. Usually the bookstore sells, well…books. And devices, and learning toys. But a Monster High Freaky Fusion doll? That must’ve been a mistake.

We do have a toy rule with our kids that leading up to the holidays they are not to use their own money to make any frivolous purchases. They need to wait until after the holidays, see what they’ve received, see what old toys need to be given to someone who will make good use of them, and only then can they take their money they’ve saved as well as any money they received as a gift for Christmas and then they can make some spending choices.

Oh my goodness....

Oh my goodness….

The day after Christmas, my youngest wanted to purchase one of the things that was not brought by Santa, and not given to her from anyone else: a Freaky Fusion doll and a Recharge Chamber. This is when we say, “It’s your money, you saved it and if this is how you want to spend it, that’s up to you.” Sometimes we hope they’ll reconsider and think that it’s a silly way to blow twenty bucks, or in this case almost $50, but it doesn’t always happen that way. To me though, the true-er lesson is a week or two later when they have nothing left in their spending money and they see something they like, but now can’t buy because they own whatever it was they so desperately “needed” two weeks prior.  Financial responsibility…it’s a work in progress. They earn their money, they save it, they spend it, sometimes they’re happy they did, sometimes they wish they didn’t. It’s an on-going thing.

Anyway, I digress….

On December 27 we happened to be in Barnes and Noble looking for a different toy that was supposed to be educational for another daughter who desperately wanted it (and you’ll see that one on here next week). They didn’t have it, but lo and behold, there on the shelf was Frankie Stein and her Recharge Chamber. I just happened to have daughter #3’s money envelope in my pocketbook. We counted, we checked the price, and she had enough money. She didn’t want to shop around for a cheaper price or a better deal. She had the money, she wanted the doll, wanted the chamber and she got it.

Well now....wait a minute, what's that say?

Well now….wait a minute, what’s that say?

Imagine my surprise when I see the note on the box that talks about the fact that this toy employs the use of static electricity and then gives a spot on their website where the kids can go and watch some videos to learn more about static electricity! Well now…that’s kind of cool.

Did I make her go home and immediately find the link, watch it and learn about static?

No. By the time we got to the car, I was already on to the next thing, and I really didn’t care if this was a learning toy or not. That wasn’t my objective this time.

Did she do it on her own, unbeknownst to me?

Got Static?

Got Static?

Yes, and she actually learned something.

I know this because later on, on a different day when she was playing with the toy at the dining room table, holding her hand up to the doll’s hair as it flew out all over the place from the static, she told me about the Recharge Chamber, and how it worked and what static was, and why.

I must say, I was impressed, and surprised.

Shocked, you might say.

Get it? It’s a static electricity pun!

So…although this was not our goal, to buy a STEM doll of the Monster High Freaky Fusion sort, it turns out that we did. I say “we,” but really it was my daughter. She saved her money, chose what she wanted to buy, and chose an educational, unique toy and she was pretty happy with her choice.

Who knew?!

 

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals and the importance of eating together

14 Jan
Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Ready for another two weeks of dinners?

Now that we’re back into our regular routines, we’re back to meal planning for the weeks ahead.

Over the holiday and vacation weeks we were eating out of the house so often, either at other people’s houses or at restaurants, that we had absolutely no meal plan at all, and practically nothing to even make a meal with. Once we got back into the routine, we had to sit down and start our preparations again.

One thing I had done over the vacation weeks however, was to keep a running list of the things the kids were asking for during the two weeks. When someone said, “Can we have Shepherd’s Pie for dinner tonight?” during those two weeks, for example, even though I’d have to say no because we were scheduled to eat wherever for whatever event, I’d go and write it down. Making our meal plan is tough because we have to come up with two full weeks of meals. Having a list of favorite requests made it that much easier the next week when we sat down. And, it was kind of nice that first week back to school (which felt as long as five weeks in a row, rather than just one), to announce at dinnertime whose special request produced that night’s dinner.

It’s also been nice to see the kids checking out the menu we post in the kitchen each week, looking forward to the dinner of choice for that night or a future night, especially when it’s something they requested. It makes me feel good to know that they like the routine of knowing what’s for dinner, and that even better, they look forward to certain nights of the week, just because it’s their favorite meal of the week. Our menus are nothing fancy, our meals are straightforward and our lists are posted on whatever piece of paper we have handy, and we cross off as we go, but it’s a routine we’ve established and it makes us all feel good….less stress, somewhat excited for dinner, and looking forward to eating together each night. That’s all good, and I’m glad we’re continuing to stay true to this routine of ours. I hope that in doing so, we ‘re creating good, healthy eating habits and family foundations for our family as we go so that once our kids are on their own, raising their own families,they’ve got a great foundation so that they can eat well and eat together.

I recently saw an article in the Washington Post about the importance of eating together as a family, and its many benefits. It definitely confirmed for us all that we already knew and believed about eating together as a family. If you’d like to read it, click here. We work incredibly hard to keep our schedules and meals consistent so that we can eat together as often as humanly possible, and although we’ve always seen the benefits, which far outweigh the effort it takes to pull it off, it’s nice to have our efforts validated every once in a while too! The article is well worth the read.

In the meantime, here’s two weeks of meals for you to get you started. I’ve even linked to a few of the recipes for you so that you don’t have to search the blog for them:

Sunday: Roasted Chicken Dinner

Monday: Shepherd’s Pie

Tuesday: Pulled pork sandwiches (crock pot meal)

Wednesday: Spaghetti tacos with meat sauce (could be eaten without taco shells or with)

Thursday: Paninis (we used the bbq pork leftovers in the paninis, SO delicious)

Friday: Homemade pizzas (we made three different kinds but here’s just one kind we’ve made before)

Saturday: leftovers

Sunday: Chili

Monday: Ravioli (some of us had butternut squash ravioli given to us by a friend, others of us had cheese ravioli)

Tuesday: Garlic chicken and wine

Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie

Thursday: Fish Tacos

Friday: Breakfast for dinner

Saturday: Hamburgers and hot dogs

Sunday: Lasagna

 

 

Post-holiday review: 6 in 1 Solar Robotikits

12 Jan
There's nothing more rewarding than working on something mechanical and seeing it do what it's supposed to do!

There’s nothing more rewarding than working on something mechanical and seeing it do what it’s supposed to do!

As I’ve been mentioning over the past week or so during my post-holiday reviews, our over-arching theme for gifts this year was definitely a STEAM theme: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. Today’s review is for the Robotikits 6 in 1 Educational Solar Kit. I know that  we’ve often seen this kit in catalogs, especially the Mindwares catalog, and my kids have always thought it looked like a cool toy, but the kit we received from Santa this year was a less expensive kit, kind of an overstocks type of deal such as this one where you get the barebones supplies for a very low cost and your item is shipped to you just in a clear plastic bag with the supplies and directions enclosed. Not pretty in the packaging, but it’s very budget-friendly and you still have everything you need. I believe that this particular kit cost Santa less than $5.00.

This kit allows you to use one gear box and one solar panel and 21 plastic pieces to create six different solar powered machines: a windmill, a dog, a revolving plane, an airboat, a car and a plane. You can also use the pieces enclosed to try creating your own inventions.

The kit is for ages 10 and up, and our 9 year old was on the receiving end. It was definitely not something that she could do on her own yet, and we had to end up calling Dad to the rescue due to some initial confusion on my part. But, they worked on the project she chose to be her first one, a windmill, and then took it outside in the sunshine to give it a try. Seeing her face light up when it began spinning was priceless. You can catch a quick glimpse of it spinning in this short YouTube video. Even I was amazed, watching it go. It was fascinating watching it stop as you moved it out of the direct sunlight and then go again when you moved it back into the direct sunlight. You can hear my amazement and a little bit of our discussion about direct sunlight vs. indirect sunlight in this short video.

I think that projects that cause you to go outside of your comfort zone, that allow parents and kids to problem-solve together, and that produce a tangible result are great. This is one of those gifts. For now, our daughter’s windmill is proudly displayed in her bedroom, but she’ll eventually change it up and choose another solar powered machine to create. She may need some help with it, but she’s learning great hands-on lessons about the mechanics of solar power, and I think she’s really loving her gift.

I would definitely recommend this gift, and whether you choose to go with pretty packaging or bare bones, I think you’ll be pleased with the product itself. It’s been a great learning experience for all of our daughters.

Post-holiday review: Crayola Virtual Design Pro Fashion Collection

9 Jan
Art, technology and affordability all in one. More STEAM gifts for my kids this Christmas.

Art, technology and affordability all in one. More STEAM gifts for my kids this Christmas.

In my first holiday review post on Wednesday, I talked a bit about how my kids love both science and art, and how this year their Christmas gifts were a great combination of STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, ART and Math, not just the STEM area alone. Today’s product is a gift that is quite artistic and creative in nature, and yet uses technology as well.

The Crayola Virtual Design Pro Fashion Collection is something the kids saw on TV in a commercial prior to Christmas. It appealed to them immensely because for two years now, they have all three been students at Jerilyn’s Sewing School here in our city. It’s a sewing school primarily for kids, although it’s expanding now to include adults as well, since moving from Jerilyn’s basement out into an actual storefront facility, and it’s the only one in our state licensed to teach the Kids Can Sew and Fashion Design curriculum, which is a kid-friendly, step-by-step sewing curriculum. It’s a school I stumbled upon as part of my job when I was asked to cover their 2013 fashion show at the end of the school year. It’s an annual event that allows the kids to walk the runway, modeling all of the items they made during that school year. I was astounded as I saw dozens of kids of all ages from first grade through high school showing off items as simple as funky pillow cases, to as complicated as floor-length prom gowns for a senior prom. My kids had been asking to sew for years, but I don’t know how and I had no idea this even existed. I signed them all up the next month and it’s been an amazing experience, opening up a whole new creative avenue for them as well as a whole new option for a future career path in the fashion design and merchandising world, if they so desire.

As it is, sewing is a technical and mathematical skill but it’s also a creative, artistic skill. My most favorite thing of all, besides seeing their finished products, is watching them the day we go to the fabric store to pick out the fabrics for whatever their next project will be. I love watching their creative thought process play out in front of me as the compare fabrics and choose something that’s either “so me” or something that’s so unusual and out-of-the-box, that I can’t wait to see it come together in their next piece.

Designing on paper is only the first half of the fun!

Designing on paper is only the first half of the fun!

The Crayola Virtual Design Fashion Collection (which also has a car collection for boys) is a complete art set in a hard carrying case, which allows you to download an app so that once you have completed your designs on paper, you can see them on a model on the runway, virtually. We allowed the kids to download the app on one of our phones, since the younger ones don’t have their own phones until middle school. That piece is the technology piece and is consistent with real life. There’s an “app for that” for everything, including room design and fashion design, so seeing the virtual models walk the runway in the clothes they’ve designed is a great parallel to a real life experience in a career like fashion design.

Priced at less than $30, and with frequent coupons and sales dropping the price even lower leading up to the holidays, I think this makes a great, affordable gift for kids who are into design. With the advent of shows such as Threads and Project Runway, which make sewing “cool” and “trendy,” this gives kids a chance to do a little bit of what they see on some of the television shows, especially my own kids who not only can draw it on paper, and see it on the virtual runway, but also now have the skills to go in their room and create it for real, and even model it in a real fashion show through Jerilyn’s.

Virtual Design Pro 2

There’s an app for that!! See your designs walk down the runway, turning around to show both front and back, once your designs are complete!

As an added bonus at our house, our television has a Chromecast set up with it, allowing you to “cast” what’s on your phone screen (or other device such as a Nook for example) onto the big screen television. So not only do they see the virtual fashion show of model after model walking down the runway in all of their own designs, but they can see it here on the big screen. It was beyond exciting the first time we did it and saw it come to life on television.

Initially upon opening up the art portfolio, we thought that you could only use the types of media that were found in the case. However, my friend Gina, whose daughter also received this for Christmas, let me know that she tried glitter pens and metallic markers and those worked as well. The model shown here is modeling a dress which used a silver metallic marker and red glitter glue pens in the design, a perfect dress for the holidays!

The more designs you create, the more models that participate in your fashion show, encouraging kids to keep up the great work.

I’ve been so pleased with this gift, another A+ for Santa! I highly recommend it for girls interested in the world of fashion and design. It goes perfectly with our mission of keeping girls moving forward in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math!

 

 

 

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