united states toys

We’re signing off for the week a little early to celebrate the 4th with our families! We’re so grateful to live in this wonderful country that affords us and our boys so many freedoms! To celebrate we wanted to share some of our favorite state-themed toys and decor!

We’ve talked about the Wanderlust Play Mat by Ella Lou (New York shown below, they also have San Francisco!) It is not only a beautiful activity mat but it looks amazing hung on the wall like a mural! Find them here.

Deuz Play Mat Deuz Play Mat

United States Toys

(1.) We’ve shared these a million times now, but no patriotic collection of toys would be complete without Uncle Goose! These state blocks are super educational just like their (2.) Presidential Blocks Version!

(3.) Miroslav Sasek knows how capture the essence of a city! These books so beautifully done and a great way to learn about each wonderful United States.

(4.) We love this Americana helmet, it’s equal parts patriotic and dare-devil. Perfect as usual Nutcase!

(5.) This pop-up skyline of San Francisco via Petit Collage is so incredible, it’s perfectly bright yet still gender neutral for any nursery. Petit Collage also has wood prints of loads of cities all over the world for a more space-efficient version!

(6.) Here’s that San Francisco play mat – we love the colors of this one!

(7.) There aren’t many things more American than a yellow cab. Wonderworld has a whole line of darling rubberwood vehicles that would make for an amazing collection.

(8.) More Miroslav Sasek for you Texans!

(9.) This bag of New York blocks is another reasons we can’t get enough of the MoMA store online. They curate the best toys, books and gifts!

(10.) How great is it that Target sells every state’s flag?! You know we love to decorate with them (see here!) they’re such a bold statement for the wall. Find them all here.

Party Confetti

You Cricut Explorers are so lucky, two projects for you in one week! Today we’re sharing another project from our Design Space, this one was so fun to conceptualize and has about one million uses: Party Confetti!

Party Confetti | Cricut Explore

The best part about this confetti is you can cut it on any color and medium you want. Glitter paper, patterned paper, leather, metal even! So you can customize this Party Confetti Suite so many different ways for every celebration. Party Confetti | Cricut Explore

Once you have the confetti printed in your desired color scheme and material, there is so much these happy pieces can do! Decorate a table, fill a party bag, and so much more. We love the idea of glueing them to a drink stirrer, or a toothpick for cupcake toppers, or little hors d’oeuvres skewers. String them on a piece of twine and make a tiny garland cake topper!

Party Confetti | Cricut Explore

You can download and print this suite right here, it’s sized and ready to print for your next soiree!

Not yet a Cricut Explore™ owner? Take the plunge and see the difference!

tiny tour: Stockholm, Sweden

Hi!  My name is Ashley Mae and I am delighted to be here sharing a bit about my time in Sweden.  We are here as part of my husband’s PhD studies for five months. You can see more photos of our adventure on Instagram @birdsofashmae.
Tiny Tour : Stockholm | Family Friendly Stops around the World

Stockholm, Sweden was never a place I’d imagined would be dear to me, but here we are, nearly five months in this country and I already know that I’ll be nostalgic for the fabric on the bus seats, the magical light of sunset that lasts for hours and hours, the way we can walk in almost any direction and end up in a forest and yes, that incredible sense of Swedish design that permeates every part of life here.  Our family, me (ashmae), my husband, Carl and our two kids, Remy and Thea are here for what we are told is the part of the year that every Swede looks forward to; a Swedish spring and summer.  The days are long and lush and green.

Tiny Tour : Stockholm | Family Friendly Stops around the World

I love Stockholm because it’s become a place that is not only endearing to me, but a place that is full of magical spaces for children.  We’ve done a lot of exploring, almost all without a car.  Just us, a good stroller (an absolute must if you are here), a backpack full of snacks and a metro pass. I do have to say that someone else coming to Stockholm may have a totally different tour they would give you, but for us, these are a few of the places that have become dear.
1. The outside.  I think perhaps the greatest friend I’ve come to know during my time here in Sweden is mother nature.  Being away from family, friends and the familiar can be overwhelming at times.  It is most in those moments when I take my babies outside and mother nature takes good care of us all.  We spend a good portion of everyday outside exploring because while going into the city, to museums, etc. is fun, it is also exhausting with for both parents and kids.  Sweden is an incredible and magical fairyland of outside-ness that is so worth getting to know.  From almost anywhere, even right inside the city, you can venture down a path and find yourself in an unmarked forest, and because Stockholm is a series of islands, you will almost always come to a beautiful water view at some point along your adventure.  Some of our favorite outdoor spots are: Tyresta National Park, The Lake at Handen Train Stop, the island of Lidingo, and really anywhere you find a path and start walking. 

Tiny Tour : Stockholm | Family Friendly Stops around the World
2. Skansen. Please go to Skansen.  If for nothing else than to die laughing while your children cruise around on spectacularly fast, miniature bumper cars (really maybe the funniest 2 minutes of my life).  Skansen is a cross between a zoo, a museum, a place of delicious hotdogs and a market.  We have a pass and we have yet to tire of it, or even see all of the park.  There are peacocks wandering around, people in traditional Swedish clothes in houses from 1850 making bread, soap, ceramics and blowing glass.  There are pigs and buffalo in the same pen and you can spread a blanket out anywhere and picnic. There’s a carnival section and one day we went and it was drop-in-and-be-married-day.  The snake slide though, that has seemed to trump all else for Remy.  It’s sort of like the Swedish Disneyland, except there are no lines and the grass is overgrown.

Tiny Tour : Stockholm

 

3. The Playgrounds.   The playgrounds here are incredible because they are filled with the things that we grew up with in the 80’s and 90’s, but have since been deemed ‘too dangerous’.  Sweden hasn’t gotten that memo yet, or more importantly, they seem to value kids discovering things on their own, and so there are still merry-go-rounds, giant tire zip-lines, teeter-totters, and sorts of whirly contraptions and crazy slides.  In a lot of parks they even have little go-karts that just belong to the park that people leave there.  They also have awesome sandboxes full of toys that stay there.  One of my favorite things is the way that the rocks are part of the landscape everywhere, even in the playgrounds.  Some of our favorites are: the park at Hornstull stop at the bottom of the big church and the playground just off the main plaza in Sodra, but start walking in almost any direction and you’re sure to come upon a good park and playground here.

Tiny Tour : Stockholm | Family Friendly Stops around the World

4. Open School! In almost any neighborhood in Sweden they have something called open school (oppna forskolan). It is mainly meant for children under the age of 2 (before they start daycare/preschool) whose parents are on maternity/paternity leave. There are teachers who lead singing time–and boy, do Swedes love to sing! Lots of immaculate toys and crafts and the parents all stay and hang out together. It really is so lovely, especially for a newcomer in a foreign place. One of my favorite parts is that often a good portion of the parents in attendance are dads. Sweden has gender equality as a top priority and it is wonderful to see it in action. It does take a while for the Swedes to open up and it can easily be mistaken for unfriendliness, but once they open up, they are so warm and kind. We made some of our dearest friends at the open schools. If you are visiting Sweden short or long term, the open schools are worth the experience and you can look one up in your area quite easily on the internet or just ask around.

Tiny Tour : Stockholm | Family Friendly Stops around the World

5. The Archipelago. Take a day boat trip to one of the 30,000 small islands of the Archipelago. It’s just beautiful and delicious for every sense. You can get tickets for fairly cheap the morning of and most boats leave right from the downtown waterfront.

Tiny Tour : Stockholm | Family Friendly Stops around the World

Tiny Tour : Stockholm | Family Friendly Stops around the World

Foreign travel and living can be lonely and quiet at times, but it has also been a time to learn to rely on and really love each other. It’s been a joy to watch Remy and Thea laugh at each other and discover the world together. Stockholm has been an ideal place for us to be these past 5 months and we are so glad to share a little part. Visit ashmae.com for more on our adventures!

Ice Cream Cone Garland

We have an awesome craft idea from the world’s biggest sweetheart, Kelly of Cloudy Day Gray! We first told you about Kelly and the story of her Mighty Matilda here. So when she asked us to contribute a simple craft idea to brighten the rooms of families with children in pediatric intensive care, we jumped at the idea.

These ice cream banners were brought to NYC this month along with totes, stencils, and window clings. Kelly was also able to sell the banners in an effort to raise money and awareness during the 2014 NYC Life Liver Walk. Go Kelly!

“Forget about National Doughnut Day, July is National Ice Cream Cone Month! There is nothing more cheerful and classic than an ice cream cone. And who said ice cream was just for eating? Make this DIY bunting with your kids and call it a day!Ice Cream Garland

This banner was made with the Cricut Explore™ to design, draw, and cut these cute little cones, but if you don’t have one, you could just as easily print and cut your cones by hand.

Ice Cream Garland

First, find this ice cream cone image in the Cricut Design Space (search #M41344). Then, snap in a Cricut pen (we used the “wine” colored one, but any would do), place the paper onto the mat, and press Go. Yep, the Cricut Explore not only cut the cones, but it drew on the lines as well!

Ice Cream Garland

Now they are ready to either bundle and give away as party favors, mail as a small gift to a friend, or make for yourself. Use a glue stick to attach the ice cream to the cone, and decorate with scraps of paper, glitter, or stickers. Then string it up and hang it!”

Ice Cream Garland

 

See more of Kelly’s good heart and bright ideas at Cloudy Day Gray!

Fryday: Jenna

frydayWe’ve been spending the summer in Virginia for my husband’s job. It’s a temporary move but it’s been adjustment for sure! I have spent more one on one time with my kids than EVER before. They have hardly any interaction with little friends, I have hardly any interaction with adult friends and their Dad works 60 hour weeks. They haven’t had so much as a babysitter in two months. This time has been such a blessing for me as I’ve learned SO MUCH about my kids and even more about myself.

I’ve realized every Mom, well at least that I know, has two kinds of people in them:

Mom A: She’s OBSESSED with her kids and does not want to let them out of her sight. She does not want to hire babysitters or leave them on a vacation because she doesn’t want to miss one second of their growth. She plans activities, dances in the kitchen, makes the children every meal & every moment is a party.  She loves her kids.

Mom B: She’s damn tired. Instead of getting pumped on the kids cherub faces coming in at 6 am she’s annoyed and hands them an iPad. She’s scrolling through her phone by 8 am to see who can baby sit for her that night. She cries when she walks in on an enormous mess & feels alone & isolated in her role at times. She loves her kids.

So you’re looking at this, as I am, and thinking ugh Mom B is a real drag of COURSE Mom A is better. And while I desperately wish I could be Mom A all the time, I’m realizing I really wouldn’t ever be that person with a little bit of Mom B rising up every so often. I don’t know WHY I ever started fighting myself on the fact that this is a tough phase of life and when I started getting down on myself when Mom B has a moment. EVERY one of us feels it, struggles with it, powers through it and it does not mean for a second that you or I do not cherish our children & are deeply grateful for the gift of being their parent.

I read an article once that talked about a study that showed that parents aren’t actually the happiest people on the earth, but they are the most fulfilled. When I look up the word fulfilled it says this: satisfied or happy because of fully developing one’s abilities or character. YES. I LOVE THIS. I am fulfilled. Every day. And it’s not because my children are easy or because my life is roses. It’s because my character is refined, challenged and striving to be fully developed through the hardships & trials of motherhood. xo- J

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