Meal Planning: A Three Month Menu

If you’d like to skip to the menu, just scroll to the bottom of the page. If you’d like to read about the process of making this plan, just keep on reading.  Either way, thanks for stopping by 🙂

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Back to school. Back to the busy-ness and chaos. Extra curriculars (one of which we drive an hour each way to attend every week…) Fall festivals right around the corner…life is hectic!

And then, my family has the audacity to want to eat!  Food!  Ugh!

I’ve never been good at meal planning.  I know.  It should be simple.  Pick a meat or main dish, pick a vegetable, pick a starch, and there you go.  But alas.  I normally don’t even like to think about food unless I’m starving.  And then, I’m a moody eater which means that I have to be in the mood for something in particular before I’ll actually want to choose it, take the time and effort to prepare it, and eat it.  Then there’s the chopping (ie, torture.  Chopping.  So.  Boring.)  And the thawing of food if it’s been in the freezer.  (Thawing raw chicken in the microwave…gross!)  Needless to say, I think I can see why meal planning has proven to be such a challenge to me.

I’ve tried a few things over the years to help lessen this bane of my existence.  I tried signing up for pay services that did all the meal planning for you.  All you had to do was take the shopping list, buy the groceries, bring them home and cook them.  That didn’t work for numerous reasons:  I couldn’t find many of the exotic ingredients in our small-town grocery store, life got in the way so that we didn’t cook every meal which meant we were wasting a lot of food, we didn’t like everything that was on the menus, and I just don’t enjoy cooking and some of those recipes were more than I wanted to do.  I tried making a one month menu plan of my own, but that didn’t work because there wasn’t enough of a variety in the rotation and we quickly got burned out on eating the same things so often.  But I knew that this year I was going to need a plan in place to help me take care of my family when things got too busy for me to think (or not) about that age-old question:  What’s for dinner?

That’s when someone mentioned, why not make a 3 month menu plan?

So that’s what I did.  It took some work, but with the help of Pinterest and my best friend, we did it!  Here’s how.

First, I sat down with 3 completely blank calendar pages like you’d find for free at DonnaYoung.org.  I filled in any days that I knew I wouldn’t have to actually have a plan for, like Friday.  That’s always date night for us, so I don’t have to cook.  Saturday is leftovers and fend for yourself day, and Sunday we usually go out with family after church or the P will take his turn cooking.  (He likes to cook more than I do and is more willing to do something messy…I mean elaborate. 😀 )  So that left me needing to fill in only 4 days a week, for 12 weeks (a total of 36 meal ideas).

I then thought about our weekly schedule.  Which nights do we have commitments that would cause us to have to get food in a hurry, and which nights could we relax a bit on?  After thinking about that, I could label the general categories that I’d then go back and fill in when I had all of the menu ideas and recipes ready.  My categories:  1) crock pot meals, 2) left-overs or…, 3) casseroles, bakes, or one pot meals, and 4) pasta & misc.  (Btw, if it ain’t quick and/or  simple, it ain’t gonna be on my list…)

All that was left to do was to fill in the recipes under the appropriate night in a way that wouldn’t have us eating too many similar things each week.  Here’s how it turned out.

Month One

Week One

Monday Chili & Grilled Cheese

Tuesday Leftovers or Hot Dogs

Wednesday Honey baked Chicken Tenders, Mashed Potatoes, and Veggies

Thursday Alfredo Pasta & Veggies

Week Two

Monday Chicken Noodle Soup & Rolls

Tuesday Leftovers or Eggs, toast, & fruit

Wednesday Tater Tot Casserole, Veggies

Thursday Spaghetti, Garlic Bread, Salad

Week Three

Monday Hot Roast Beef Sandwich, Mashed Potatoes & gravy, Veggies

Tuesday Pigs in a blanket, Baked beans, Veggies

Wednesday Chicken Strip Salad

Thursday Lemon Chicken Pasta

Week Four

Monday Crock Pot Apples & Pork Chops, Mashed potatoes, Veggies

Tuesday Leftovers or Subs

Wednesday Bar-b-cue chicken, Corn on the Cob, Mashed Potatoes

Thursday Taco salad

Month Two

Week One

Monday Slow cooker chicken & gravy, rice, & veggies

Tuesday Leftovers or Fish & Chips

Wednesday The World’s Best Chicken

Thursday Baked Penne Rigate, Salad, Garlic bread

Week Two

Monday Vegetable Soup, Rolls

Tuesday Leftovers or Ham

Wednesday Crock pot fried rice & baked teriyaki chicken

Thursday Hamburger Casserole

Week Three

Monday Beans & Corn bread

Tuesday Leftovers or Pizza & salad

Wednesday Soft shell chicken tacos

Thursday Parmesan garlic noodles & salad or veggies

Week Four

Monday Creamy potatoes & chicken

Tuesday Leftovers or French toast & fruit

Wednesday Boneless Pork Chops

Thursday Sloppy Joes

 

Month Three

Week One

Monday Pot Roast & Rolls

Tuesday Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese

Wednesday Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli, & Rice Casserole

Thursday Chicken Wraps

Week Two

Monday Broccoli & Cheddar Soup

Tuesday Crab Cakes

Wednesday Chicken & Mushroom Soup, Rice, & Veggies

Thursday Rigatoni, Salad, & Garlic Bread

Week Three

Monday Pork & Sauerkraut, rolls

Tuesday Homemade wedgies

Wednesday Potato Soup

Thursday Fantastic Taco Casserole

Week Four

Monday Crockpot Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti

Tuesday Hamburgers

Wednesday Potatoes, Chicken, & Green Beans

Thursday Sausage, Egg, & Biscuit Casserole

And that’s it!  I hope this is helpful to someone else out there who might have difficulty in the meal planning area of life.  So far this has worked very well for us, and I am beyond thankful that I no longer have to struggle each day to figure out what to fix for dinner.  It has definitely made life around here much more of the happily ever after we’re striving for 🙂

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A Quick Hello

It’s been a few weeks…

I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to update and post more.  Between school and a few other things I’ve just been extremely busy.  I do have a few things I’d like to share as soon as I get the chance!  Hope everyone is doing well!

Until next time… 😀

Disappearing Pictures???

Today, I logged in to find a post that I had written and share it with someone.  What I found was that once again, many of my photos are no longer showing in my blog posts.  (No changing my blog url this time, so it can’t be blamed on that.)  Is this a regular occurrence with WordPress?  Is this happening to anyone else?  It surely is frustrating :/

Kiwi Crate, August 2015

Kiwi Crate, August 2015

Kiwi Crate, August 2015

I hadn’t planned on trying out Kiwi Crate so soon. However. I came across a deal that was too good to pass up, so I thought, why not?!?!! (Half price is hard to beat, and if you’d like, I’ll share my discount with you! I’ll put a link at the end of this post 🙂 )

We did not open the box up as soon as it arrived.  (The Princess might be a princess, but she doesn’t need to be *too* spoiled, lol.)  So I waited to give it to her.  I’m so glad that I did, because as it turned out, we used it as a fun activity break during school on a few different days.  And let me tell you, it was a big hit!

When the Princess opened the box, this is the first thing that we saw:

011How cute is this?!!  Printed on the inside lid of the box.  (Btw, that’s Steve, the Kiwi, mascot of Kiwi Crate.)  Here’s a first look at the opened box:

 

The opened box!

The opened box!

Since this was our first Kiwi Crate, they included a little poster for the Princess to color and add a monthly sticker to, as well as a nice pair of scissors to help with all of the fun crafts she’ll be receiving in her boxes.

 

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The theme of this box was “A Day at the Lake”.

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Kiwi Crate’s website says that inside each box you’ll receive materials to complete 2-3 projects. (You may have to provide some materials of your own from time to time…I guess either things you should already have on hand or things that they can’t really easily or reasonably ship to you, like the tub full of water we needed to enjoy one of the projects this month 😉 ) What I didn’t realize was just how much more you receive, over and beyond the projects. I have to say, I was really impressed!  We received:

 

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* Little paper cut-out puppets (and the little sticker to put on the sticker chart)

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* A booklet/magazine filled with even more activities, science experiments, puzzles, games, and stories to continue the fun.  There’s really a lot of stuff packed into this little book!  I wasn’t expecting this at all, and it was really a nice surprise.

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*The materials and instructions for this month’s crafts.

When we took everything out of the box, we found this surprise:

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Remember those cut-outs above? Kiwi Crate provided a neat little beach scene for the Princess to color and use as a background for a little puppet play! Yet another nice little touch that made the box extra special 🙂

Overall, it was a really great box.  We’ve already had a lot of fun making and playing with the crafts, and we haven’t even gotten to the booklet yet!  The Princess has really enjoyed it a lot so far 🙂

All the stuff.

All the stuff.

 

Here are our finished projects:

 

My Fish Lantern

My Fish Lantern

 

My Paddle Boats

My Paddle Boats

 

I should say that Kiwi Crate is specifically geared towards children age 4-8.  This company offers similar boxes for multiple ages of children under different names:

* Koala Crate (ages 3-4)
* Kiwi Crate (ages 4-8)
* Tinker Crate (hands on experiments for kids ages 9-16+)
*Doodle Crate (hands on creativity for kids ages 9-16+)

As with many subscription boxes, they offer you multiple options for your subscription length (and therefore price).  The prices for Kiwi Crate are:

* Monthly ($19.95/month)
* 6 Months ($18.50/month)
* 12 Months ($16.95/month)

They also offer subscriptions for:

* 3 Months (19.95/month)
* 24 Months ($14.95/month)
* 36 Months ($12.95/month)

There is also a store to purchase further activities, but if you don’t want to do that, they also send ideas by email as well as have an area on the website for DIY ideas.

I purchased the first month’s box just to give Kiwi Crate a try because it was such a good deal.  The Princess has truly enjoyed the projects, both completing them, and playing with them since.  (She uses the lantern every night as a reading lamp and the boats are her newest addition to her tubby toy collection, lol.)  Needless to say, I think we’ll get at least a few more!

As I mentioned above, I got my first box for half price.  That’s because someone was kind enough to share a $10 off coupon with me!  If you’d like to give Kiwi Crate a try (or any of their other crates, it’ll work on any of them!), then please feel free to use my referral code:  http://www.kiwicrate.com/Refer?i=TracyB43 .  If you do, you’ll receive $10 off your purchase (which makes your first box half off!).  I’ll also receive $10 towards my next purchase.  Win, win!  🙂  And thank you, if you do 🙂  I hope that you’ll enjoy it as much as we have!

 

 

 

 

Homeschool Planning: How I Plan Out Our Homeschool Year

We’re 3 days into our first grade year!  So far, so good!

(The Princess even surprised us by losing her first tooth today 🙂  We almost thought she’d eaten it, but thankfully I found it next to her hamburger, lol.)

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you how I go about planning out our homeschool year….

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Everyone plans differently.  Some prefer paper, while others prefer to plan electronically.  Me?  I do both!

I start with my computer and make an overview of our entire year.  (Yes, even technology-challenged me can do this!)  Here’s how:

  • Open an Excel document.
  • Down the left-hand side I enter all of the subjects we want to cover for the year.  Across the top, I fill in the week #.  Next line down goes the day of the week.  Next line down is for the actual date.  Finally, one more line down, is the number of the day of school we’re on (in our state it’s mandatory to attend 180 days of school so I like to keep track of that.)  Oh, and below that, I highlight a row to fill in any holidays.
  • Between each week, I leave a column where I repeat the subjects, and fill it in with a color so that I can easily see the break for each week.

It looks like this:

 

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*Just a note, the pink highlight is the break between weeks.  The yellow is only there because school has already started for us now and that’s how I keep track of what we’ve done, filling it in with color to mark it as completed.

 

All I have to do then is fill in an overview of what we’ll be doing each day for the entire year. Yes, really!  Hear me out; it’s not as difficult as it sounds.  Now, this isn’t the time to look and see that on Friday, January 8th we’ll be building a model of the Eiffel Tower made completely from cheese. No. Rather, it’s just a very general overview. For example, our geography book this year just happens to have 36 weeks worth of lessons, so, in my computer overview schedule I just write that we’re covering week one’s lessons in the week one spots.

Some things don’t work out so nicely like that and you have to do a little bit of math to figure out how to schedule them. Most everything I’ve used, though, has been 36 weeks or thereabouts, so it hasn’t been too much of a pain.

When my yearly overview is done, I wait. Yep. I wait until it’s nearly time for school to start, and then I fill in my first week’s lesson plan. This is the time that I take a closer look at what we’ll need for each lesson and what it is we’ll be covering. I fill it all into my handy-dandy planner:

A Simple Plan Homeschool Planner, by Mardel

A Simple Plan Homeschool Planner, by Mardel

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I only plan one week at a time this way.  My yearly overview has made this so simple to do now.  I just check the computer to see what I need to fill in for each day.  Then, I look at each subject individually to see if I need to gather any extras and also to make sure I understand what it is I’ll be teaching!  (So far for kindergarten and now first grade this hasn’t been too difficult–thankfully, lol.)  Any extras and any appointments we have that week are written down in the margin on the right-hand side of the page, and I also make a special note at the bottom of that day’s date.

As we go through the day and complete items, I color-fill the blocks on my computer and mark them off in my paper planner.  (Yes, I do both…I’m a better-safe-than-sorry kinda girl and I do it *just in case* something awful would happen to my laptop.  Just in case.)

And that’s pretty much it!  Pretty simple, and other than a little bit of time to figure out the yearly overview, it makes our homeschool planning a breeze!

Hopefully it will be helpful to someone else out there 🙂  If you have any questions or would like to share how you do your homeschool planning, please comment below!  I’d love to hear from you!

Homeschool Curriculum for First Grade…Our Choices!

The countdown is on and preparation is nearly complete (…and I have surprisingly been able to somewhat maintain a level of sanity!) so I thought I’d share with you our homeschool curriculum choices for first grade 🙂

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Last year (for Kindergarten), we chose to use Timberdoodle Company’s curriculum kit with a few additional add-ons to both meet our state requirements and introduce things that we personally wanted to implement into our homeschool. This year we are planning on doing something similar, but not exactly…

In researching this year I came across the name of a lady: Charlotte Mason. The more I learn about her educational methods, the more I know that this is the way I want to educate my daughter. Some things will be easier for me to implement than others; reading comes naturally and easy, but getting myself motivated to go outside for a while everyday may be a challenge. (I don’t know why, though, I love being outside once I get there!)

All of that to say that our homeschool this year will be mostly Timberdoodle with a distinct Charlotte Mason slant. If you’d like to see the specifics, keep reading 🙂

Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

Bible Study & Morning Routine

Bible Study & Morning Routine

Bible Study & Morning Routine

I’ve decided to continue using the Bible Study Guide for All Ages as our morning Bible study.  The Princess and I have both learned so much from this study (for me, it has been a wonderful way to memorize those lists that you always wanted to and knew you should but just didn’t because, well, you have to memorize it!)  To keep costs down, though, we’re going to continue on through the beginner level.  (Grades 1-2 cost significantly more because you have to purchase a separate teacher’s guide for each lesson packet.)  We’ll re-evaluate when we complete all 416 lessons and decide if we need to use the primary level or if we can just jump into the intermediate level lessons.

To help us with scripture memorization, we’ll be using a CD called Sing the Word:  A new Commandment.

*Part of our morning routine will also focus on learning a new hymn and a new folksong each month.  We’ll be using the lists so kindly put together for us by the lovely ladies at Ambleside Online!

Math

Math

Math

Math is where we will stray the most from the items provided in the Timberdoodle curriculum.  Last year, we used what came with our kit (Mathematical Reasoning A by the Critical Thinking Co).  While the Princess did learn from the book, it just wasn’t the best fit for her.  There was little in the way of explanation, and we ended up supplementing with lots of games (both online and off) as well as with the first two books in the Life of Fred series.  By the time summer came, I knew that we needed to try something different.  Thankfully, I found just what we were looking for!

*Making Math Meaningful by David Quine has really seemed to click with the Princess.  She is learning and enjoying math now!  I like that it tells you exactly what to say and do (although you don’t have to follow the script if you don’t want to).  I also like that it is so inexpensive.  I purchased the counting chips and links separately, and unifix cubes are also on the way.  Everything else you need to use this book you’ll probably already have in your home.  We started going through level 1 for review this summer, so when school begins, we’ll finish the book and move on to level 2.  (And the Mathematical Reasoning B book that we got from Timberdoodle will become the review book next summer 😉 )

*Life of Fred.  The Princess enjoyed her Life of Fred books, so we’ll be continuing on with both Cats and Dogs.  We’ll do it once a week and have a “Fred Friday”.

*The addition and subtraction wrap-ups and the Cuisenaire rods are extras from our Timberdoodle curriculum.  I’m sure we’ll use them at some point.

History

History

Timeline

Timeline

History

  • The Story of the World Vol. 1 by Susan Wise Bauer
  • Famous Figures of Ancient Times
  • A Timeline for All Time by Vickie Froehlich

Both The Story of the World and the Famous Figures are from our Timberdoodle kit.  The timeline I purchased separately and we’ll work on together as a family.  I really enjoy all of the beautiful historic figures that are included, and for the price, it is a great deal!

Geography

Geography

Geography

  • Daily Geography (Evan-Moor)
  • Scrunch Map

Again, both items are from our Timberdoodle kit.

Science

Science

Science

  • Exploring Creation with Astronomy by Jeannie Fulbright, and the Junior Notebook Journal
  • Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock

The astronomy book is from our Timberdoodle curriculum.  The handbook and sketch diaries will hopefully help us to get outside at least once a week for class!  I’m not sure how the two will work together, but we’ll see.

Handwriting

Handwriting

Handwriting

  • A Reason for Handwriting
  • The Usborne Very Big Maze Book

We used A Reason for Handwriting last year and saw a tremendous improvement in the Princess’ handwriting ability, so we’re sticking with it this year.  The teacher’s guide was purchased separately and was actually a very big help for the kindergarten year.  (When you buy it, you can use it for grades k-6, so it’s a good investment if you think you’ll use it.)  The Usborne Maze Book will just be a little added fun (and it’s a sneaky way to get her to practice!)

Language Arts

Language Arts

Language Arts

  • Language Smarts B (The Critical Thinking Co)
  • Daily 6-Trait Writing Grade 1

Again, both from our Timberdoodle kit.  They look like they will be a fun introduction to language arts and writing.

Reading

The majority of our reading material this year will come from Ambleside Online‘s Year 1.  We’ll be following their reading schedule and begin practicing our narration skills!  I’ll post these pics a little bigger so that you can see the titles.

These will be the readers the Princess will read to me (some from Timberdoodle, some from AO, and we’ll probably be making bi-weekly trips to the library):

Age-Appropriate Readers

Age-Appropriate Readers

Here are our daily read-alouds:

Read-Alouds

Read-Alouds

On the top is my Kindle.  Some of our AO books are on it.

And here are our free reads.  They’ll probably end up being our bedtime stories:

Free-Reads

Free-Reads

Health

Health

Health

  • A Beka Health, Safety, & Manners 1

Our state requires that we teach health.  We used Horizons Health last year for Kindergarten (there just aren’t that many health curriculums for kindergarten) and I wasn’t a fan for most of the year.  So this year we’re going to give A Beka a try.

Art

Art

Art

Rather than use what Timberdoodle sends as our main art curriculum, we’ll be using Meet the Masters.  I like that it incorporates artist study along with making art.  We used it a little bit last year, so we’ve already got our portfolios made and pictured above.  I actually found a great deal on it last year at the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.

Music

Music

Music

Last year’s music curriculum (Pfeiffer House Music) was just not a good fit for us.  I’m hoping that this program will be more enjoyable!  It looks like lots of fun, and like we’ll actually be learning, so we’ll see.

Spanish

Sorry I don’t have a picture for it.  But it’s only online!  We’ll be watching one episode per week.

P.E.  The Princess has been in dance class for almost as long as she’s been alive (we started with Mommy & Me classes) and she’s continuing on this year with a first year of gymnastics.

And last but not least…

Fun!

Fun!

Fun!

Yep, fun 🙂  Not that the other stuff won’t be fun, but this will be miscellaneous fun and games, art, handicrafts, go outside and run around like crazy, take a break from the more difficult subjects kind of time.  A lot of the stuff in the picture above is from Timberdoodle–the extras that came with our kit last year that we didn’t quite finish (or that you can play again and again), and the extras in the kit this year, too.  We’ll see how it changes as the year progresses.  But we all need some fun in our everyday 🙂

And I think that’s it.  If it’s like last year, there will be continual tweaking and change to meet the needs of my student.  So this is our starting point.  Here’s to a happy, fun, and successful year for us all!

My Pretend Place, Summer Quarter 2015

Ok.  So I have recently fallen in love with monthly subscription boxes.  I’m really trying to not go too overboard with them.  (Not *too* overboard…*L*)  But I am subscribing to a few now, one of which is a quarterly (or monthly depending on your purchase) box from My Pretend Place.

My Pretend Place, Summer 2015

My Pretend Place, Summer 2015

My Pretend Place is a subscription box for kids starting at 3 yrs old. It offers 2 different types of subscriptions depending on what you’re looking for: either a dress-up box that includes a costume and other fun stuff (for kids age 3-6, $50/quarter), or a DIY project box (for kids age 3-8, $15/month). When you order, you can specify if you would like a box for a boy, a girl, or one that isn’t gender specific.

The Princess has always liked to play dress-up and pretend, so I ordered the quarterly dress-up box for her. So far, we’ve only received the box I’m going to tell you about today, but I want to note that their website says: “Once a quarter, your child will receive a shipment of theme specific pretend play items (including a dress-up costume), and the rest of the months, you’ll receive smaller shipments via mail that may include sticker activity sets, recipe ideas, crafts, games, etc. all focused on the main theme for that quarter. We supply everything your child will need for tons of fun, laughter and learning.” You can also check out their website for extra freebies like activity ideas and recipes for your boxes theme, or splurge and purchase extra items for the theme as well.

But enough of that. Let’s look at this box!

Opening the box...

Opening the box…

The Princess couldn’t wait to get into this box! (Ok, maybe I was a little excited to see what was inside, too…)

First look

First look…

The first thing I opened was the envelope. Here’s what was inside:

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A cute magnet (the thing with the astronaut), little fairy stickers and a handle to decorate the outside of your box so you can use it as a storage trunk for your dress-up clothes, and a little note thanking us for our purchase. Nice little extra touches. Next, we found this:

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How cute is this??? I think it’s a nice invitation and jumping off point for a child to start playing pretend and coming up with imaginative stories of their own. Of course, most kids probably won’t need this, but it’s a nice touch, anyway.

Other things in our box included:

A fairy house to paint and decorate

A fairy house to paint and decorate

The Princess really liked this. She wanted to do it right away! Anything painting or drawing or art, she’s there.

Blendy Pens

Blendy Pens and pictures to color

So far, the Princess has only colored one picture from this. As much as she loves artsy things, she’s not so big on coloring pages. But she does think blending the colors together in the markers is pretty cool.

A story book: Alice the Fairy

A story book: Alice the Fairy

The Princess read this to me the afternoon she received it. I asked her what she thought of it. “Pretty cool.”

And of course, the fairy costume!

And of course, the fairy costume!

Of course she loved the costume!

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I’d share a pic of the Princess in her costume so you can see how it fits, but I can’t seem to figure out how to crop a photo. (It shouldn’t be this difficult…and it’s probably not, lol) Anyway, the costume fits an in-between size 5 & 6 very well.

Overall, this box is a hit at our house!  I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of extra goodies they send us in the in-between months!

In summary…

Who this box is for:  Girls, age 3-6 (although there is the option of the DIY craft box for ages 3-8 yrs., and you can specify whether you want a box for a girl, a boy, or gender neutral.)

What you get:  1 box every 3 months filled with things like crafts, activities, and a dress-up costume, and smaller shipments each month in-between that complement the quarterly theme.  (Or, you can opt for the DIY box and receive 1 box each month that contains projects to add to your dress-up wardrobe.  They include material for two finished projects–but they might be two of the same in case there is a sibling, I’m not sure.)

The cost:  $50/quarter and ships free (which works out to $16.67/month.  If you opt for the DIY box, the price is $15/month with free shipping.)  Also, right now they are running a special to save 30% on your first box if you use the code “pretend”.

If you’d like more information, check out their website:  http://mypretendplace.com/

Happy pretending!

Happy pretending!