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This web site is a culmination of things I have learned during various experiences in my life. I hope some of this information will be useful to you. There are a broad range of topics I have written about here. I have also included some things I made or found that I would like to share. Enjoy!


STEAM Gifts Blog

Klutz LEGO Make Your Own Movie Kit

1/11/2018
written by my daughter of 8

One of the Christmas presents I got was the Klutz LEGO Make Your Own Movie kit. I really like this gift because I enjoy building LEGOs and creating my own movies.

This kit allows you to make your own stop-motion animation with LEGO minifigures. It comes with an instruction book, scene cards, backgrounds, and some LEGOs to create the animation. You can quickly learn how to do stop-motion animation using the step by step instructions provided in the book. Stop-motion animation is a technique used to make a stationary object appear to move on a screen. This technique has been around for a long time. Now, with the help of this kit, you can learn to do it yourself.

In addition to the instruction book, this kit has tips and tricks to help you create your animation. It teaches you how to do lighting and sound effects. It also explains how to position the minifigures for each frame to make their movement look more natural. You’ll learn movie lingo, trouble shooting skills, and even how to create some cool credits.

I use my tablet to take the pictures, but you can use your phone or any digital camera. You will need an animation app or software to put your pictures together to create the movie. This Klutz kit doesn’t come with an app, so you will have to find one to download. I use Stop-Motion Studio by Cateater. This app is great because you take pictures and then the program animates the pictures you took. It strings the pictures together to make it look like the characters are moving. You can also change how many frames per second you want it to be, to make your animation faster or slower.

There are many good editing capabilities in the Stop Motion Studio app. You can add sound effects and voices to it. The app comes with a few free backgrounds you can use for your scenes. Or you can buy additional ones within the app. It also allows you to insert and delete scenes.

I would recommend this Klutz LEGO Make Your Own Movie kit to anyone who is interested in learning how to do stop-motion animation. This kit teaches you animation with LEGOs. However, you can use the skills you learn in this kit to animate any toy, object, or drawing.


Here is my second stop-motion animation movie I made using the LEGO Friends Heartlake Pizzeria set (I also got for Christmas):

More STEAM Gifts articles

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Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating TintI've been loving the Maybelline Dream Velvet Matte foundation for a couple of years now. It has been the only foundation I could use that wouldn't cause me to break out or dry out my skin. But I've always been on the lookout for something better. The Dream Velvet hasn't been hydrating enough in the winter months, and it didn't go on well if I used one of my moisturizers. So I've been spritzing water on my face just to keep it hydrated.

The Dream Velvet also gives a very ethereal look to the face. Very smoothing, yet very luminous. I kind of wanted something that I could use for that "no makeup" look. On days that I didn't want to glam up but I didn't want to look like a total zombie either. Something that looked more natural. Maybe something less heavy that allowed some of my skin to show through. I also wanted something that played well with my face creams so that my face doesn't feel so dry and tight.

Neutrogena recently came out with a new "foundation" to go along with their Hydro Boost line of skin care. It is called Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint. I took a look at the ingredients for it. Much like the Maybelline foundation I love, there weren't too many ingredients, and nothing bad that jumped out at me. So I thought it might have a chance at working for me.

It has an applicator wand, much like the Clinique Beyond Perfecting foundation. Not the best way to get foundation out of a bottle. I smeared a bunch of the "tint" on my face and spread it around with the Urban Decay Optical Blurring brush. It seemed to blend nicely and easily. And it definitely looked more "natural" than the Maybelline Dream Velvet. Throughout the day, my face felt comfortable and hydrated. It doesn't cover flaws as well as the Dream Velvet. But I guess that's why they call it a "tint" instead of  a foundation. It is fairly light coverage. Although, I suppose I could apply more if needed. I usually spritz my foundation brush with a little water to get the foundation to spread better. But if I didn't do that, I might get a little thicker coverage.

It is perfect for a "no-makeup" look. I find myself just blending this on, applying concealer, quickly doing brows, and then a quick nude lip. Sometimes I swipe a little mascara on and maybe a little blush. And there's my no-makeup look. Why would anyone want a no-makeup look? Isn't the point of makeup to look like you have it on? I do the no-makeup look mostly to add some layer of UV protection on my face (since I'm allergic to most sunscreens) and to cover up some dark circles and blemishes. I sometimes use a small amount of blush to give my face a little color. And a little mascara to give my eyes some lift. My natural lip color is a dull almost greyish color. So I like to use a little lip color so my lips don't look like a dead person's lips.

The Hydro Boost Tint also works well with the only two face creams that I know don't break me out. That's definitely an improvement from Maybelline's Dream Velvet. I still spritz my face with water, mostly out of habit. But I may not have to do that if I can use moisturizer under my makeup!

I don't know if I will ever need to use the Dream Velvet again. If I want more coverage, I think I could just build up the Hydro Boost Tint. And for luminosity, I just use a highlighter.

If you do decide to try this Tint, it may help you to know that the color of the foundation in the bottle may appear lighter in the bottle than it appears on your face. I originally purchased the Tint in the color Honey, which seemed to match my skin color, judging from the way it looked inside the bottle. However, it definitely shows up darker on my face. So I sent out an got one color lighter, the Natural Beige. This color looked really pale from inside the bottle. But when I applied it to my face, it seemed to match perfectly. My skin color is a golden medium in the winter, and a peachy-tan in the summer. The Natural Beige works perfectly for me, now that it's winter. But I will keep the Honey one for the summer.

For now, I have found my new HG foundation. It is considerably more expensive than the Maybelline one that I've been using. But if it works better for me, then it's worth it.

Health Blog (21 more articles.)
Vacation-Inspired Dieting
Recently, I started to lose my drive to get fit. What is the point? My husband will still love me if I'm covered with flab. And of course, my kids will still love me. And of course, I'm willing to accept my imperfect self. So why bother? Well, yes, it's healthier to be fit. But at what cost? At the cost of waking up before dawn every morning, and therefore being a zombie all day?

I try to tell myself that if I "let myself go", I will have to spend money getting "big" clothes. And then bigger and bigger clothes the more I gain. So when would I stop gaining? At what point will enough be enough? It obviously has to stop somewhere. As much as I love to buy new clothes, we don't have a budget for a new wardrobe every few months. But still, saving money was not convincing enough for me to say no to the left over Christmas candy.

Then what could be good motivation for a stay-at-home mom to stay fit?

Daisy Ridley at DisneylandWe recently watched the new Star Wars (The Last Jedi). I noticed that Daisy Ridley, the character who plays Rey, had gained a few pounds since the previous Star Wars film (The Force Awakens). That makes some sense, since she is no longer a starving girl on Jakku, eating a quarter ration after a long day of physical exertion. Then I saw some posts online with pictures of her at Disneyland showing her in shorts. Some people were bashing her a little about the extra weight.

A couple weeks ago, my husband decided to take us all to Disneyland next month. That's when I found my inspiration to get fit. Not that I'm a movie star or that anyone would even notice me, but thinking of Daisy and the comments of her at Disneyland had reached me somehow. As far-fetched as this motivation was, I would take it. I wanted to get fit for our trip to Disneyland. Am I so worried about what people would say about me and my cellulitic thighs? Does anyone really even care? No, not really. But I needed a "reason" to get fit that was more than just to stay healthy or save money. I don't know if this reason is strong enough to really carry me through, but for now, I'll take it.

However far-fetched this reason may be, it really isn't. I remember long ago, a coworker of mine was always struggling to lose weight. He would go off and on diets constantly. Finally, he pulled through. He gave it his all and got in shape. His motivation was for their trip to the Bahamas. No, I get that. That's way more than Disneyland. Hanging around the poolside with nothing but your swimsuit on, you want to look decent.

But for me in Disneyland, I picture myself with shorts on. Shorts are really hard for me to wear these days. It seems most of my fat settles in my thighs. Last summer, I circumvented the problem by wearing dresses all the time. I don't know if I can get on and off rides with a dress on, so I really wanted to wear shorts at Disneyland. What about Bermuda shorts? I don't know, I used to be all about Bermuda shorts when I had to do a mommy-and-me gym class with my toddlers. But now, I really don't feel cute in them at all. I feel like they make me look short and stubby. They seem to visually cut the legs in two, making them seem shorter.

For the time being, Disneyland is my motivation to get fit. I'll keep that until a better and stronger reason comes along. Maybe planning a vacation is a sure fire way to motivate yourself to get fit! 
Preschool Blog (11 more articles.)
Colorful 12 Piece Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle Sets

Melissa and Doug 4-in-1 Wooden Jigsaw PuzzlesThese puzzle sets are perfect for little preschool hands and minds. We got a Pet set as well as a Vehicles set for our little boy. Each set comes with 4 different 12-piece puzzles. The puzzle pieces are made of wood, so they are sturdy and easy for little hands to pick up and work with. The pictures are simple, bright and colorful, which really appeals to young preschoolers.

When we first got these Melissa and Doug 4-in-1 wooden jigsaw puzzles, he needed our help to put them together. But after some practice, he is able to do them himself.  Since there are only 12 pieces for each puzzle, a preschooler can feel successful putting these together. Our son enjoys putting together each puzzle one by one, until they are all done.

Puzzles are a great way for a child to play while also building their spatial awareness and problem solving skills. It challenges them, and with an age appropriate puzzle, it can help them feel a sense of accomplishment when they complete the puzzle. Our son likes to line up the puzzles we can admire them all together.

Toddler Blog (82 more articles.)
Painted Horsey Craft Project

We tried this particular arts and crafts about 3 months ago with no interest on baby J's part. But this time, he did it from start to finish. It was his third attempt in the past 3 months, and I guess the third time's the charm.

From Michaels craft store, I just got an unfinished wooden horse shape (they had many different shapes like butterflies, flowers, etc.), some kids washable paint, foam star stickers, and craft gems.

He painted it all by himself. And when it dried, he stuck the stickers on (he chose only green stars, his favorite color) and told me where to put glue drops so he could stick the gems on.

I was so proud of this accomplishment that I had to document it! I guess I will put magnetic tape on it and stick it to the refrigerator.

Baby Blog II (21 more articles.)
Rockin' in the Moses Basket
Baby Sleeping in Moses BasketBaby J spent a lot of his first few months in this cozy little moses basket in our living room. He was so tiny and fit in it pretty well. It was nice to have such a pretty little bed for him right there with our family in our living room. This one was really special. It had beddings made of silk. We set the moses basket on a really nice wooden rocking moses basket stand. We found a stand made of wood that matched the trim in our living room. It was a nice little additional piece of furniture in our living room. If we needed to, we could just bring the basket in the bedroom if it got too loud or crazy in the living room.
Baby Blog (63 more articles.)
Last Baby Blog

This is my last baby blog, and I thought I would list all the unexpected little surprises that I encountered in the first year of raising a baby. I will continue to add more of these as comments as I think of them.

I have also started a Toddler Blog to continue tracking baby's milestones and my ramblings about her. So you can read more about her there.

EASILY DISTRACTED
You can often distract a crying baby with a toy or talking to them to get them to stop crying. I always thought there wasn't much you can do about a crying baby other than feed them or rock them.

HATING DIAPER CHANGES
I didn't know they hated getting their diaper changed. The newborn and 1yo age seem to be especially so. I didn't realize that they wriggle so much during the change. I heard that newborns hate it because they get cold. But maybe the 1 yo hates it because they don't want to lie there.

LOVE MIRRORS
They are fascinated by seeing themselves and their loved ones in the mirror. This trick can be a great distraction from crying, too.

Baby Gear Blog (12 more articles.)
Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny Cradle 'n Swing
Baby J has slept in the Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny Cradle 'n Swing since he was a newborn. I try not to rely too much on the swing, but its been a really good tool for getting him to sleep sometimes. We started out putting him in the bassinet, but it resulted in lots of spitting up. This cradle swing puts him at a little incline to combat the reflux that many babies often have. Plus it has nice music and white noise and a cute mobile.
Pregnancy Blog (14 more articles.)
Baby J is Born!

Turns out I didn't have time to make many posts here. I found myself involved in so many other activities such as entertaining the toddler, getting things ready for the new baby, doing Christmas shopping, etc. I was going to post lots of other pics of his 3D ultrasound and my growing belly. But alas, time flew by, and at 37 weeks, Baby J arrived, yes, 3 weeks early. But he is healthy and doing well. A little jaundice, but nothing that required the home installation of the blue lights.  

His birth story was goes like this:

It was about 10pm on a Wednesday night, and I had just put Bel down for the night. I got up and walked into the kitchen and got a really bad cramp. I walked into the bedroom to go down for bed myself and got a couple more breath-taking cramps. I could barely get onto the bed. When I finally did get on the bed, I started to feel fluid flowing out. My hubby called the doctor, and we went to the hospital, still leaking fluid.

The fluid was quite bloody, so they weren't sure if my water broke or if I was just bleeding. So they admitted me. Oh, and I was having contractions 2 minutes apart. At that time, I was still 36 weeks and a few days along. He would have been considered premature.

We spent that night at the hospital and waited the whole next day for something more to happen. My contractions had slowed to about 5 minutes apart, and they became less intense. But, the doctor didn't want to induce me until we were past the premature stage, which was just one more day away at that point.

So late that night, they induced me with pitocyn. That sped things along, and I got an epidural. They finally could feel that my bag of water had not yet broken, so they took care of that. That sped things up quite a bit (same as last time but even faster). In less than an hour, I was ready to push.

Pushing lasted about 2 contractions and he was out. It didn't take much, especially since his head was already visible by the time I started to push. Wow, what a difference from my first baby. It took at least an hour trying to get her past my pelvic bone, let alone crowning. But being more than 2 pounds lighter than his sister, he effortlessly slid right out. They plopped him on my belly and it was done.

It was love at first sight, of course. My sweet little boy. I love him so much. I am so happy to have him here. I can't imagine life without him. I feel so much more mommy-like having two children now. Sometimes I have one in each arm, and I don't feel myself anymore. I feel like somebody else. I feel more like a family. I feel like there is so much more love circulating around me.

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