A couple of years ago, my friend Jenny Rose over at Princess Turned Mom shared an idea for Valentine's Day that really stuck with me. As an alternative to giving out chocolates and stuffed animals for Valentine's Day, why not give books? They last longer, and they won't give you or your kids cavities! Ever since I read that idea of hers, I decided I would implement it for my own kids for Valentine's Day.
With one week to go until Valentine's Day, I decided to compile a list of books we have enjoyed in our home and that I thought would be cute to give as Valentine's Day gifts.
In compiling the list, I reached out to the amazing people over at Books & Books. If you're in Miami and have never been, get yourself there ASAP. Books & Books is my favorite bookstore. It's local and it has a couple of locations in South Florida, but it has such an incredible variety of material. Plus, the staff there are true bibliophiles - they absolutely love books. I actually love this place so much that we had Caleb's baby shower at the Coral Gables location - it has the cutest cafe and courtyard space!
They sent me list of some of the books they currently have on their shelves, and there is something here for everyone. As a matter of fact, I may swing by there this weekend and pick up a couple of these (including a new read for myself!). If you're into this idea and have the spare time this weekend, head to your nearest Books & Books and pick up a copy of one of these, totally perfect for Valentine's Day!
Love You More
By: Gary Urda
Publisher: Little Bee Books
A Hug Is for Holding Me
By: Lisa Wheeler
Publisher: Abrams Appleseed
The Littlest Things Give the Loveliest Hugs
By: Mark Sperring
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
French Love Poems
Publisher: New Directions Publishing
Dumplin’ (of Netflix fame)
By: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
99 Percent Mine
By: Sally Thorne
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Don't have time to stop by and pick one of these up? Head to my Amazon List to see some other options that you can get via Prime, with more than enough time for Valentine's Day!
Love is a Tutu and Goodnight Miami are also available from Books & Books.
I'd love to hear if you do this for your children or loved ones and how it goes - so if you do it, use the hashtag, #chaptersnotchocolates so I can see your posts!
Is it really the Christmas season if you haven't had your kids' photos taken with Santa? I like to think of photos with Santa as a way to kick off the Christmas season. This year, thanks to Dolphin Mall, we got our photos done really early!
Instead of going to see Santa and having to wait in a boring line while your kids ask, "Is it our turn to see Santa yet?" 75 times, head over to Santa's Flight Academy at Dolphin Mall and experience a fun, interactive setup. Kids get an official badge with their photo on it and get "fitted" for their virtual flight suit.
Caleb loved dancing in front of the "Flight Suit Visualizer," and we had a really great time watching him.
They also map out Santa's route and help collect cheer to power the sleigh. The sleigh is enormous and filled with all kinds of cool details.
And then they get to dance and play in the falling snow. Once they've done all of that, they get to see Santa and have their photo taken with him.
Santa's Flight Academy runs from noon through 10 pm daily until December 24th, on the Second Floor Ramblas, near the entrance of Cinebistro.
If you're looking for a fun way to kick off the Christmas season, look no further! Head over to Dolphin Mall and get your Santa photos done!
*The Read to Learn Book Club does not give away book bags with the monthly books & activity guides;
these were only gifts to bloggers as a thank you for sharing the information about the Book Club.
I’ve talked before about how important reading is. One of my favorite gifts to give is a book - because there is a book for every occasion out there. And while books aren’t always the most exciting gift, they can be incredibly meaningful, and the right book at the right moment in someone’s life can be powerful and life-changing.
I also love to gift books because it can get expensive to purchase books constantly - as an avid (well, avid pre-kids) reader, I can tell you just how pricey books can get. Of course, there is always the library, but sometimes it's nice to have books you can call your own.
The Children’s Trust knows how important reading is, and how essential it is for there to be books in the home. This summer, I participated in their #Read30 Movement. But did you know that if you have a three year old and you live in Miami-Dade County, your child can receive a free book every month for a year while they are three? The Children's Trust Read to Learn Book Club encourages parents with children three years or younger to sign up to receive free books.
This is a totally free, monthly book club, and it is open to all three-year-olds in Miami-Dade County. On their third birthday, all children are eligible to receive a free book every month, delivered right to their home.
Children may be registered for The Children's Trust Read to Learn Book Club up to six months before they turn three, and on the month of their third birthday, their year of fun and learning begins. What if your child already turned three, you ask? You can still register them up until one month before a child's fourth birthday - I actually just did Caleb’s! And, you can actually register your child to receive books in English or in Spanish.
The Book Club supports The Children's Trust Read to Learn initiative. This initiative was formed in response to research which shows that early reading experiences, along with opportunities to build vocabulary, and literacy-rich environments are the most effective ways to support the development of pre-reading and cognitive skills, so children are reading at or above grade level by third grade.
So if you are a resident of Miami-Dade and your child is about to turn three or is three now, register them! Give them the gift of reading, of a literacy-rich environment, and teach them to love books.
The Read to Learn Book Club is funded and administered by The Children's Trust, Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership and Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe.
For some more tips and facts about early literacy, visit here.
What are you waiting for??? It's FREEEEEEEE! Go sign up!
Growing up, I never had a pool in my backyard. It was something I always wished for, but a pool just wasn't in the plans for my parents. The closest we got was having a jacuzzi that we used to play in. When Eddie and I got married, we lived in a condo and there was a pool in our building. I swore I would use it all the time, but the truth is, I might have used it three times in the two years we lived there.
Whenever Eddie mentioned a pool, I kind of brushed it off and thought, "Eh, maybe one day." But one day came, and Eddie had Hiroki fromKiso Group come out and look at the backyard and draw up some plans for a pool. Honestly, until they started digging, I didn't really believe it was going to happen!
Our backyard is not huge by any means. But we hadn't really done much to it since we moved in. We had a gazebo, some furniture, rocks, and pavers. We put down new sod several times, but the backyard always became a muddy mess so we rarely used it. As a matter of fact, I always played in the front yard with Caleb.
Going in, we knew we couldn't have a huge pool. We wanted something we could cool off and lounge around in, and that the kids would be able to play in on the weekends and in the afternoons. We also wanted a table where we could entertain.
Eddie took care of the designing and I just gave my input on a few things I really wanted. Because I've had several people ask, the dimensions of the pool are 11' x 16' and the deepest part of the pool is 4 feet deep. We wanted a larger first step area for sitting and the kids to play and that is 1 foot deep. If you follow along on my Instagram and watch my stories, you got to see the whole process of this being built. But these pictures really show off just how nice everything turned out.
As far as the patio furniture we found some we loved at Target! I linked similar items below because they are sold out. When it came to the grass, we knew grass wouldn't survive back there because it had always been a mess in the past. To help with keeping the pool dirt and grass free and to keep the backyard looking nice all the time, we decided to go with turf. It has been one of my favorite decisions! We also planted a hedge of podocarpus around the pool equipment and around the perimeter of the backyard.
We have spent a lot of time in our backyard this summer, and a couple of days ago, we were all hanging out in there, there was some lounge music playing, and I really felt like I was on vacation at a trendy boutique hotel. It has become a great space for entertaining (and will be even nicer for entertaining when the weather improves!). And because of the turf, it's almost an extension of the house and we can be out there barefoot (which I loveeeee!).
Also, you know water safety is important to me, so we have several safeguards in place. First, our alarm goes off every time any door is opened, and we hear it all over the house. Second, there is a latch on the doors leading to the backyard that we make sure to keep in place when we aren't going in and out. We also have a pool fence that goes up when the pool is not in use!
Have a great weekend everyone! If you need me, I'll be sipping on some Rose by the pool. ;)
Shop the Look
This is a sponsored post. I was hosted by Dolphin Mall in exchange for this post.
When you think of Dolphin Mall, you probably think of Johnny Rockets and outlet shops. And while it is Miami-Dade County's largest outlet shopping center, there is a lot to do at Dolphin Mall. Especially in the summer months, when you need to beat the heat, Dolphin Mall has it covered for you, your kids, and everyone else in the family - from shopping, to dining, to entertainment, and then some.
A couple of weeks ago, the mall hosted me and a few other mommy bloggers who are from Miami. I attended with Chloe, so there were a few things we didn't really get to enjoy as much as if I had had Caleb with me, but Caleb went to camp because I wasn't ready to brave the mall with both of them at the same time, especially when Caleb is hit or miss in situations like that.
We started off the morning at Dave & Busters, with some breakfast and game time. Kids really love Dave & Buster's because of all the games. I know the last time Caleb was there he had a blast!
After Dave & Buster's we hit Forever 21, where the older kids got to do some crafts and activities, while us moms browsed all the cute merchandise. This Forever 21 is enormous, so you are bound to find something to fit your needs!
Then we were off to Cinebistro for lunch and a movie. Cinebistro is a movie dining experience. The way it works is you book your seats in advance when you purchase your tickets. They suggest arriving 30 minutes prior to the movie start time so you can place your orders for food and drink (they have a full service bar), and you can order anything up until 5 minutes before the movie starts. The waitstaff brings you your food and drinks, and you never have to get up out of the big, comfy seats. It is kid friendly for any showings before 6 pm. Any showings after 6 pm, and guests must be 21 and over. The food was good, the dessert was even better!
After the movie, I hit a couple of shops, including H&M (they have a pretty big location here with a kid's section, too). Then Chloe had a diaper blowout and I had to pick Caleb up, so we headed out. But Dolphin Mall really has so much to offer. Below I'm listing their summer promotions. If you need something to entertain your kids (or yourself) this summer, and beat the sweltering South Florida weather and the afternoon thunderstorms, Dolphin Mall definitely is the place to go!
Cobb Theaters: Tuesday June 12 - Thursday August 2, Cobb theaters will offer free admission to kids for screenings of kid friendly movies every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 10 am. [305.591.9380]
Dave & Buster's: All games half price on Wednesdays. [305.468.1555]
Buffalo Wild Wings: All summer, kids eat free every Wednesday from 5 to 11 pm. [305.513.2660]
Monday Mayhem: $14.19 Unlimited bowling with shoe rental. Food & drink specials starting at 8 pm.
Wednesdays: Unlimited Laser Tag Missions - $15 per person starting at 6 pm.
Mondays: BOGO 50% admissions.
Tuesdays: $5 off admission
Wednesdays: Kids eat free
Fridays: BOGO 50% off on select appetizers
When I was teaching, I so looked forward to summer, because that meant long days, sleeping in, and most importantly, not going in to work (even though I did spend a lot of time working at home, preparing for the following school year).
Now, I don't have the same things to look forward to, but summer still means longer days, vacation, and carefree styles. Summer means a tan (always practice safe sun and wear SPF correctly)! And tans are best shown off by whites and brights, right?
So a little white dress is just the ticket for your summer wardrobe. I love this one. It's lined, so it isn't see-through. It's light and airy, and of course, totally on trend with the off the shoulder and embroidery details. I love that I can wear this dress with sandals for something more casual, or wedges like I did here. It's the perfect addition to your summer wardrobe rotation.
Kathy and I had lunch at the Cabana Club at the Nautilus Hotel (which was amazing). Then we got ready to take some shots for each of us. As soon as we were starting to shoot, a major downpour started. Hence why I look a little like a wet dog. But we changed gears, shot under the covered terrace, and then moved to the walkway when the rain had stopped.
Dress: Habit Boutique, Shoes: Steve Madden (old), Necklace: Taudrey, Bracelet: New York & Company
A couple of months ago, my friend and I were chatting about things we wished existed that would be a great service for moms. One of the things we talked about was a nail salon that somehow had a playground incorporated into it, where you could take your kids when you have nobody to leave them with while you go get your mani/pedi.
Lo and behold, about a week later, an ad for Pod22 showed up on my Instagram feed. It was exactly what we had been talking about. Pod22 calls itself an urban break room. It's an indoor playground facility with lots of kid friendly play structures and padded flooring. It also has a lounge area, wifi, and a nail salon. One of the things that called my attention about Pod22 is that they have supervised play. Your kids aren't just running around - they are being watched by someone else so you really can relax!
The first thing I noticed when I stepped in is how modern and open the space is. From anywhere in the space, you can see almost the entire playground area. You enter, sign a waiver, and hand your little one over to the play supervisor. In Caleb's case, he was one-on-one with her the whole time I was getting my mani/pedi. The playground area is very clean and well kept, and is visually appealing for kids and adults alike.
Once he was entertained, they led me to the nail salon, an enclosed area with a glass wall where you can see your child in the playground area. The glass is tinted from the outside, so it's not very easy for your child to notice you in there, and the attendants do a great job of keeping them away from the windows.
My manicure was lovely. My manicurist was friendly and did a really great job on my manicure and pedicure. As a matter of fact, a week later, and my manicure is still perfectly intact aside from new nail growth. The fact that I could see Caleb the whole time I was getting my manicure and pedicure was comforting, but since I could tell he was having fun, I was really able to relax. At one point I looked out the window and saw him dancing to the "Hot Dog Song" from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, which made me crack up.
As a matter of fact, he had so much fun that as soon as we sat in the car, he knocked out for his nap and slept for nearly 2 hours! That's a successful playtime to me!
Another great thing about Pod22 is that you don't necessarily have to go and get a mani/pedi while you are there. You can use supervised play and sit in the lounge area. They have great wifi, so if you have work you need to get done, like oh - say - a blog post that needs to get posted, you can take your kids to supervised play and get some work done.
They also have memberships available, which include supervised play and give discounts on services. And they offer birthday party packages, which is definitely a super option, especially if your child's birthday is in the warmer months when doing something outside is really difficult. Another plus is dedicated parking in the back of the building, which can be hard to come by for some places.
For me, the one drawback is the location - it's a little over 13 miles from home for me. That being said, there is nothing else like this in Miami, which makes it worth it for me to make my way there, even considering the distance.
I really can't begin to say enough wonderful things about this place, and I guarantee Caleb and I will be back again soon! I only wish I had come up with this idea myself! lol
So if you are in the Miami area, check them out, and let them know I sent you!
*I received free services at Pod22 in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. They also provided me with photos to include in the blog post.
About this Mom
A Miami wife and mom documenting her days with her toddler and all that comes along with it.