Sunday, July 30, 2017

Stuck On You {product review}

Growing up with the name Kelsie (spelled "ie" instead of the more common "ey") I struggled to find any sort of product with my name on it.  Anything from touristy vacation junk to fancy jewelry... if my name was available you can bet it was with an "ey".  This is course made me want it even more badly, so I eventually became obsessed settled for monogrammed items with a simple "K".  The older I got I found some companies that did personalized details on the spot but they were hit and miss on the quality of the products.  Needless to say- I appreciate a good custom name product.

[Disclaimer: I have received free product from Stuck On You in exchange for an honest review of the products.  All opinions are my own and I only review products that I have personally tried and approve of.]

That's why I was tickled to see this company made up entirely of personalized name products!  #ohmyheart.  Even better- they have a TON of different products to choose from.  I even found that they have a slew of products that actually help me stay organized.  Boy, do I need that.  Because I wanted to try out a range of items so I got something for myself, for my toddler and for my baby.    Here's what I found:

A few things about the company:
- It was founded by Carrie Felton more than 20 years ago when she needed to label her first child's belongings for daycare...Stuck on You has since grown and expanded to offer personalized backpacks, water bottles, lunch bags, bento boxes, bag tags, hats, stationery, gifts, puzzles, onesies, bibs and so much more.
You read that right. 20 years.  Apparently it was around when I was searching for some cool Kelsie with an "ie" stuff!

- They have an amazing Back to School section of products.  Everything from bags to lunch boxes, labels, apparel, stationary & more. They even have pre-made value packs that are divided by need (camp, pre-school, 5+ age school, baby, etc), design and theme (like "emoji" or "year of the rooster")

- Their purpose is to:
   > Celebrate the individuality of every name (whoot whoot.  Kelsie with an "ie")
   > Bring joy to new parents with unique, timeless products for every child.
   > Save families time, energy and money.
   > Prevent lost property and arguments over children's belongings.
   > Help families kickstart a more organized life with clearly labeled kitchen, linen, cupboards and wardrobes. (I plan to take advantage of this once I figure out how I want to even begin!)

Personalized Wooden Name Puzzle
Let's start with the baby.  My son has a name puzzle so I thought my daughter might like to have one someday as well.  They have different options available in this style depending on the length of your name.  Although she is only 6 months old, she seems to like it already!

Why I love it: - The knobs stick up and are really easy to grab (she can easily grab them herself).
- The colors are very pretty. I only wish the white was a little easier to read.
- The wood is surprisingly sturdy and it feels like it could withstand play despite being thinner.
- I love that it comes with a felt cover (which can also be personalized!) and that once it's in the cover, you can stand it upright and the pieces don't fall to the bottom.

{Bright, crisp colors and smooth edges!  Note:  Many of the letters are too small for unsupervised play though- especially with a 6 month old.  It does include a sticker warning about chocking hazards so please parent responsibly!}

{Felt case keeps everything together and easy to transport and store}

How it could be better:
- I wish the white letters were a little easier to read. With the light wood behind it and the knob in the middle, some letters are harder to read. Close up though, this isn't a problem at all!

Mini Book Bag
Okay, my son isn't in school yet but he loves the idea of going to school.  Plus- who doesn't love having their own personalized backpack to carry all your goodies in?

Why I love it: - They allow you several ways to personalize it. You pick the size (I chose the mini), color, design, personalization and even the font that the name appears in!
- It has plenty of space for several items to fit inside it.
- The zippers are easy for little fingers to grab.
- It comes with adjustable straps to fit your child perfectly.

Check out this short video of me giving a closer look at all the awesome details in this bag!  
(links safely to the blog's facebook page. I could not for the life of me get the video to load on this post! Sorry!)

How it could be better:
- I would love to see more color options in the future! I chose the Seafoam Green (which I love) but it was the only non "blue or pink" option available.  Maybe also more "big boy" designs, although I do really love that tee-pee.

Next up is their pack of 11 brightly colored markers.  I got these for my toddler who loves to draw! Verdict:  They are a hit.

Why I love it: - The markers are GREAT quality.  Sometimes drawing products that aren't the "well known brands" aren't great quality but these markers are amazing.  The color is so vibrant and they draw smoothly.  I was so pleasantly surprised by this.
- Each marker has 2 ends: a "fine point" and a broader point.  Twice as much fun!
- The caps on the 2 different ends are the same. Why does this matter? Because my toddler can put the caps back on whichever end without creating a meltdown from it just being a little off. Thank You Stuck On You. Seriously.
- They allow you a ton of space to write your name.  I only had "Russell" written on it but they allow for enough characters that I could have done his first, middle and last name (which is not short!) with room to spare!
- They come with their own plastic bag/case that can be re-closed and used for tidy storage. I.E. no loose markers everywhere.

{Colors are vibrant and great quality!}

{Skinny design makes it easy for little hands to hold}

{Each marker has a fine point and a thicker point for double the fun!}

How it could be better:
- Nothing.  Literally nothing. These are amazing.  Maybe if it came with some magic that transformed my toddler into a person who remembered to put the caps back on when he was finished.  No?  Okay then nothing.

Weekly Desk Planner
I'll be honest, I apparently didn't read the title because I thought this was a monthly planner and was surprised at how small it was.  Then I realized that it was a weekly planner and thought "oh, that gives me lots of room to write my plans!" So... in reality it's not what I expected but it's actually better (and apparently I need more sleep because I missed the word "weekly" right in the title!) #momlife

Why I love it: - It's a weekly planner. I love that it's size fits right on your desk and this layout gives you SIX squares to use for each day!  I like to fill in my specific plans (like appointments) in black, things that need to be done anytime that day in pink and "get it done as soon as you can fit it in" stuff in blue.

- It has a space at the top for you to write what dates that calendar page spans.
- The design is super cute. When you order you can pick your personalization (and like the markers it allows for many characters), the font and the design.  The calendar also comes in your chosen design in 2-3 different color schemes so that it's different from the week before.

How it could be better:
- I wish it came with an option to hang or stand up on it's own. Even one of those little pop out tabs on the back would be great.  I do so much moving around on my desk that laying it flat will either result in it being covered up or torn.  It is sturdy enough to be propped up against the wall on it's own though!
- I also wish that it ran Sunday-Saturday (It's Monday-Sunday).  That almost gets me every time I go to fill out a new week!  Although this setup is nice for easily filling out whole weekend plans as one note.

Here are some products I didn't try but am totally in love with:
Lunchboxes when my kids are in school I'm coming back for these.
- Allergy Tags & Stickers [as far as I know] my kids don't have any common food allergies (only kiwi... weird huh?) but boy would these be amazing for kids that do! They include the child's name, allergy and even a picture in bright, clear images that are easy to spot and read.
Reward Charts Cute design- check. Child's name right on the chart- check.  Stickers to apply that track the child's progress- check. 
Diaries Private journals are so important to growing youth and having one with your name on it seems so special and personal.  I would have LOVED this as a kid (aaaand okay, I love it now).
Wooden Baby Blocks These are absolutely beautiful.  You receive the blocks that spell out your child's name but I would love to see them just sell a full alphabet set (with the option for duplicates so you can spell your child's name with repeating letters)

Overall, I'm very impressed with this company and all that they have to offer.  I think I've only begun to scratch the surface of the organizational possibilities and once I quit being a hot mess get better at being organized, I think I could really get into the labeling side of this as well! Which is your favorite product?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

DIY Dry Erase Table [educational: shapes, letters, numbers & story telling]

Confession time:  I am *obsessed* with dry erase products.  I have a several foot wide dry erase board in my craft room (which I used daily in college), I've purchased 5 dry erase learning to write books for my son, I've created dry erase reminder boards and dry erase party decor.  I would love to paint a portion of my wall dry erase to use as a large calendar but I'm still getting the details worked out in my head.  It goes without saying that I love this stuff.

[Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.  I have received free product from Rustoleum upon my request in exchange for a DIY and honest review of the product.  All opinions are my own and are entirely my personal experience with the product. I do not endorse any product that I do not personally use and believe in. )

Why do I love it?
For starters, it's much better for you than chalk.  Whether you have respiratory problems (like asthma) or not- it's never fun breathing in all that chalk dust.  Yuck.  It's also cleaner.  Chalk boards always have leftover residue after being wiped down, the eraser gets dusty and the chalk itself is a mess - especially when you accidentally step on it. Yes, there are chalk markers but I haven't found one that I like yet.  Dry erase boards are clean, give a much crisper appearance and since they use markers, there is no accidental mess (unless your kid takes the lid off!)  Plus, coloring with all the bright colors of dry erase markers is just fun.   It's like those adult coloring books but re-usable!

That's why I am SO EXCITED to share today's craft project with you.  I've been meaning to get this done for a very long time and life kept getting in the way.  Now that it's done I wish I wouldn't have waited so long.  It's everything I imagined and more and my son is absolutely crazy about it.

Here's what you'll need:
- children's table & chairs (we got ours from a yard sale!)
- colored paint (for the non-dry erase parts)
- white paint
Rustoleum CLEAR dry erase paint
- basic sanding and painting tools
- vinyl, transfer tape and a cutting machine (Silhouette) or stencils

Let's get started:
First clean off your table and chairs and prep them for paint as needed.  If you are using a dark color of paint, don't worry about small marks because they will get covered.  Our table and chairs had some pen marks from the previous owners:

Now paint, paint, paint!  You'll want to cover all surfaces in your colored paint- even the top which appears white when finished.  This is because your "stenciled" area shows through and you'll want it to match the rest of the set.

If your little one is interested- get him or her in on the action!  Paint can always wash off (well... maybe wear old clothes...) and they will have a blast being involved with this project.

{He is proudly showing off the paint on his hands to both me and his mamaw}

Let dry and repeat with as many coats as you feel necessary.  We only painted one coat and it looks great but we also used a pretty dark color.

Sand and Stencil!
After your paint is all dried, lightly sand the top of the table to prep it for the next layer of paint.  Be careful not to take off the colored paint that you just applied!  This just gives it a little more texture to help the paint stick better since it's going on top of other paint.

{Such a good little helper}

Creating the stencil is the hardest part (and it's not so bad!)  Decide what you want your design to be.  I chose to have the letters of the alphabet plus numbers 0-9 going around the edge of the table with shapes scattered around the middle.  In Silhouette Studio I created a circle shape with my letters and numbers evenly spaced (trial and error) and then expanded the size until the bottoms of the letters fit just around the outside of the table (measure your table).

Next, duplicate your circle multiple times and rotate it so that you can get every letter/number on the cutting mat.  If this is easier to do cutting one row at a time that's fine- this just saves you some vinyl and time!  YOU MUST make it a circle first or else your letters will not curve around the table correctly.

After everything is cut, weed out your vinyl pieces.

Before attaching the vinyl, lay out your pieces where you would like them to be.  This will save you from any surprises at the end (like finding out that you don't have enough room for X,Y, and Z!)

If everything looks good, use transfer tape to put the vinyl onto your table.

Continue all around your table until all pieces are on.  Go back through and press down the vinyl as tightly as you can so that your next layer of paint doesn't bleed.

Next up: White Paint!
Once all your vinyl is attached (don't leave any transfer paper on!) get your white paint ready.  Paint over the entire top of the table (including vinyl).  For a little extra "something" tape off the legs of the table and chairs and dip them into the paint for a bit of contrast color.  I also chose to paint the back of their chairs white (and later, dry erase) so that the kids could write their names on the them.

Dipping the legs gives a sharper, cleaner look and takes much less effort than painting!

It took a few coats of white paint to cover the grey.  Use your judgement to decide what works best with your chosen color.  Once the paint is dry enough that it wont bleed, carefully pull up your pieces of vinyl.  I suggest using a pin or needle if you can't get a hold of the small pieces without scratching the paint.  I would try this before the paint is entirely dried though to also reduce the risk of it pulling off more than the stencil.  

Here's what it looks like after all the vinyl is removed:

Dry-Erase Paint:
Now is the part that makes this table extra special.  Grab your Rustoleum dry erase paint (make sure you bought CLEAR.  If you bought white it will cover all the stenciling you just did).  Read the instructions and follow carefully.  It's simple but you don't want to waste time once it is mixed.

I love that they made the can for Part B large enough to mix both parts together without getting another container.  It made this job much easier and cleaner!  When your white paint is entirely dried, simply pour, mix and roll the dry erase paint over the top of your table and on the chair backs.

I was worried about working with a 2-Part paint but it was so easy! Literally pour, mix and roll.  I also didn't come close to using all of it (and it sets up in 90 minutes so if you don't use it you lose it).  Next time I work with this product I am going to have several projects lined up so that I get the most use out of it.

Note: DO listen when they say that you can paint again after 60 minutes and no more than 90.  I tried to paint another layer in just over 90 minutes and the mixture was no longer smooth and creamy but thicker and tacky.  One layer works great on the table but I wish I would have paid better attention and done an extra one for good measure.  

Although it is clear, you will be able to see a shiny texture on the top of your painted surface.

Final Step: Enjoy!
Per the instructions, allow 3 days before marking on the dry-erase paint.  It's hard to be patient but do it!  I didn't even move the table into the playroom until day 4 just to be safe.  The verdict: WE LOVE IT. 

Here's a breakdown of the types of designs I included on the table and how it targets different areas of learning:

1. Letters
2. Numbers
3. Shapes for tracing & expanding upon
4. Shapes & Free space for storytelling and making connections

I included both uppercase and lowercase letters so that my kids could practice tracing their letters.  This also lends itself to learning sounds (see point #4)

Similarly to #1, children can practice tracing their numbers and counting in order.

Shapes for Tracing and Expanding Upon
Include a variety of shapes (some basic some more fun like flowers and clouds) so that your child can learn by tracing.  They also can use their imagination to create different objects from the shapes.  For example: A triangle could be an ice-cream cone, a piece of pizza or a tee-pee.  A circle can be a baseball or part of a snowman. etc.  The possibilities are endless and I love that. I want my children to see something and think "what can I do with this today"?

{okay, I actually drew the robot but he was giving me instructions! This table is fun for moms too!}

Storytelling and Making Connections
Similarly to #3, encourage your child to use the shapes to build a story. For example: I started drawing raindrops coming from the cloud.  My son told me to put an umbrella, then created a story about the man under the umbrella.  As he spoke, I drew along.  They can draw along too.

There is also plenty of free space for children to draw whatever they want.  Use this to help them make connections.  My son wanted me to draw a ladder as I was doodling.  After drawing it we talked about the letter "L" and the sound it made.  Then I had him find the letter "L".  After doing so, I drew a circle around it and connected the two.  This creates a visual and gets him involved in the learning process.

He has fun and I like watching him use his imagination and learn more about his letters.  It's a win-win.

Here's what the table and chairs look like from afar.  You can also see how I painted the backs of the chairs with the white paint and dry erase paint.

One final note: For long life of your table and chairs, try to erase the drawings at the end of the session.  I have found that it comes off easily with a paper towel or tissue but if left on for longer does leave a faint line.  I have also found that red/pink/purple leaves marks more than black.  I have not used a dry-erase cleaner on it yet. Only a dry paper towel.

That's it!
Thanks for sticking with me. I love tutorial posts but I wanted to be thorough which means long (aaaand I'm probably a little chatter box too).  I can't wait to see your finished projects so please share them with me on our facebook page

Happy Imagining and as always,