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The little book with BIG resources!

Saving Mr. Banks Movie Review

Saving Mr. Banks Release Date: Friday December 20, 2013

Run Time: 125 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images.

Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti

As a longtime fan of Disney’s “Mary Poppins”, I was very excited to see “Saving Mr. Banks” and learn more about how the tale of everyone’s favorite singing nanny came to life on the big screen.  “Saving Mr. Banks” details the acquisition of the “Mary Poppins” story by Walt Disney from the author P.L. Travers.  It is an entertaining, sweet, well acted, and heart-warming story. Of course, as “Mary Poppins” was a simplified and somewhat cartoony version of Travers’ original work, so is the story of “Saving Mr. Banks”. I often wonder how much truth there is to movies that are inspired by actual events and so, after seeing “Saving Mr. Banks”, I decided to find out. I was disappointed to learn that it is far from an accurate depiction of the events it covers.

“Saving Mr. Banks” wins you over with its performances. Tom Hanks portrays Walt Disney as a down to earth, energetic, amiable people pleaser.  Hanks as Walt Disney really wanted you to like him, and you did.  Conversely, I liked Emma Thompson as P.L. Traver’s because her character didn’t care if you liked her.  Thompson does surly well and she was in fine form.

The movie also does a good job of exploring the meaning and motivation behind “Mary Poppins” as she existed in Travers’ original work.  It was clearly a very personal book, and one understands why she was so hesitant to relinquish control over it.  After seeing this movie, I plan to read “Mary Poppins” and re-watch the Disney movie.

It is ironic that this film about the Disneyfication of her treasured work has been so Disneyfied itself.  This is a sweet film about a not so sweet story. In real life, Travers held onto decades of resentment for how she perceived she was treated during the making and subsequent release of “Mary Poppins”.  She steadfastly refused to collaborate on any future Mary Poppins projects.  Even though “Saving Mr. Banks” is undeniably entertaining, it has to be noted that P.L. Travers would have hated this movie as much as she hated Disney’s “Mary Poppins”. I enjoyed it, but it all seems a little too disingenuous when put in context of the real life story.

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the worst, 5 being the best and 10 being the worst again, I give “Saving Mr. Banks” a 3.25 with an emoticon based sub ranking of: Conflicted

Connect with Holli Ann anytime by visiting It’s An Ordinary Blog. You can stay up to date with all of Holli’s posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Legoland Noon Year’s Eve Celebration!

What a FUN way for the whole family to celebrate bringing in 2014!  The New Year’s Eve celebration starts early at LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City with a party that lets kids ring in 2014 without staying up until midnight. The Noon Year’s Eve celebration begins at noon on December 31, where kids can count down to 2014 with a LEGO balloon drop.

Guests will meet in the LEGO Café to begin the countdown festivities at 11:45 a.m. Kids will be provided with hats and horns to help ring in the New Year while enjoying sparkling juice. Kids will receive a New Year’s gift and will have the opportunity to participate in a raffle for a chance to win LEGO sets. All items are available while supplies last.

In addition, all Annual Pass holders are invited to bring a friend for $10 plus tax on December 31.

“Noon Year’s Eve will be a fun party for kids to ring in 2014,” says Jeremiah Boehr, Master Model Builder of LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City.

It is encouraged that guests purchase their tickets online in advance at http://www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com/kansascity/.Guests who purchase their tickets in advance will receive a discount and priority entry into the attraction.

About LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Kansas City opened in Crown Center on April 29th, 2012. This is the fourth LEGOLAND Discovery Center in the United States. Described as stepping into the biggest box of LEGO bricks in the world, the $15 million, 30,000-square-foot interactive attraction features hands-on play areas, a 4D Cinema, master classes from the LEGO® Master Model Builder, LEGO-themed rides, and special party rooms for birthdays and other celebrations. This highly interactive and educational 2-3 hour indoor experience is ideal for families with children. 

Easy, Healthy, No Bake, Yummy, Festive and Fun Christmas ideas!

Cheese stick Snowmen Anyone!

Snowman String Cheese

You don’t have to be an artist for these snowmen to turn out perfect!  What a great winter treat that can easily be made ahead time for any classroom snack or lunchbox!    http://www.nobiggie.net/string-cheese-snowmen/


Mozzarella String Cheese


Orange and Black Sharpie Marker

Ribbon for scarf

Black Card Stock

Hot glue gun


Simply dot eyes, nose, mouth and buttons with marker. Tie a scarf around neck and glue on hat!

Grinch Fruit Kabobs!

Grinch Fruit Kabobs

These are not only adorable and easy but super healthy as well.  The kids can help put these fruit kabobs together and they will look perfect!


Green grapes

Banana’s sliced and tossed in lemon juice

Strawberry with tip and hull sliced off

Mini Marshmallow



Thread the toothpick with the grape at the bottom, a banana slice, strawberry and mini marshmallow on top.  Too cute and too easy!

 Cheese and Grape Tomato Christmas Tree!Cheese and Tomato Christmas Tree

Make your next cheese platter festive and fun for the holidays! Simply alternate ingredients in the form of a triangle shape for a beautiful and tasty Christmas tree display!

This is a yummy idea for any Christmas gathering this year or any year!  Another idea would be to substitute the tomatoes for grapes and make it a cheese and fruit platter!  Picture courtesy of http://www.cabotcheese.coop/index.php


Varieties of cheese cubes or a all of a favorite!!

Grape Tomato

One mushroom on top

Rosemary or Thyme sprigs


Make a triangular Christmas tree shape on a serving platter and then alternate rows of cheese and grape tomatoes adding a line of green sprigs after each.  Begin and end with the cheese cubes.  Adorable and artistic and anyone can do it!


Fun Christmas Ideas Submitted by Shari Jacobs

Fast, Easy, and Yummy Holiday Treats! Only 3 Ingredients Each!

Peppermint Bark

Easy to prepare, no bake time and only three ingredients! The kids will enjoy crushing the candy canes in a gallon size baggie.  We love making this with any remaining candy canes from our tree before we take it down!  We get the traditional peppermint candy canes…but this might be good with other flavors as well.



1 package white chocolate chips

¼ teaspoon peppermint extract (optional)

6 candy canes (slightly crushed)

microwave the chocolate chips in a glass bowl until just about melted (about 1 ½ minutes) stir with spoon until silky.  Add crushed candy cane and peppermint extract! Spread on cookie sheet lined with wax paper and let harden (about 15 minutes in freezer)  then break apart and eat.  These freeze well.

Rolo Pretzel Delights!

These are easy and always a hit with both big and little kids! if you like the turtle chocolates, you will love these! There are only three ingredients, and the kids will love putting the pecan on top!


Rolo candies

Small pretzels


Lay the pretzels out on a cookie sheet and top each with a Rolo candy.  Put in oven for 3 to 5 minutes.  Take out and lay a pecan on top of Rolo and press down.  That’s it!

Donut Snowmen

These guys are extra cute and extra easy!  No cook time and three ingredients!  Let the kiddos help out with this one, they will be so proud of their finished snowman!  Great treats to take to the school holiday party! Found this on Sandy Duffy’s Pinterest site under Holiday foods!  There is also a reindeer version using chocolate donuts, gumdrops and pretzels!



Mini Powdered donuts

Candy corns

Mini chocolate chips

Simply lay donuts on serving platter and place the candy corn bottom side down into the hole then make eyes and mouth with chocolate chips by pressing slightly into donut!

  Fast, Easy and Yummy Holiday Treats the Kids will Love to Eat and Help Prepare!
Submitted by Shari Jacobs


Making Room for All Those New Toys

Christmas is just around the corner and I am getting a little worried about what is going to happen to all these new toys. My kids have about 100+ stuffed animals and so many toys that their room is already busting at the seams. The new collection that is on its way from the North Pole just doesn’t have anywhere to go. Now, I have tried to invade my children’s rooms while they were at school and weed out the things they didn’t need and what I was sure they would never miss. Unfortunately, I still have not lived down that idea since, evidently; I got rid of an irreplaceable “Super Hero” Frog.

The way that I have found this to work best is to let the kids go through their own toys. I told them that we need to start making room for new ones and that the thrift stores need some good toys that we could donate for other people to shop for their children. See my girls are convinced that a stuffed bear has a heart. So they are afraid the bear will be sad if it’s put into a trash can or sits on a shelf too long. Therefore, the only time of the year I can convince them to get rid of some is Christmas for the kids who can’t afford new toys.

I told them they could keep 15 stuffed animals each. We also took the opportunity to go through old clothes and shoes. We included the kids as we picked out which store to donate the toys to and then we took the clothes to a Planet Aide bin. Going through stuff was difficult, but in the end, the girls really felt like they had done a great thing and helped another child. They were very proud of themselves. I was super happy about their temporarily uncluttered, nice and neat room. And we are now ready to find homes for all the new stuff Santa has coming this month.

2013 List of Children’s Holiday Book Must Haves

New Rendition of The Night Before Christmas


The Night Before Christmas

by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Charles Santore (Applesauce Press, 2011). Moore’s classic poem about Saint Nick reappears in multiple editions each season, but Santore’s illustrated version is this year’s winner, full of big pictures that bring kids face-to-face with Santa, and, most powerfully, his reindeer.

The Third Gift Holiday Book


The Third Gift

by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatouline (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011). Park, a Newbery medalist, finds a new tale to tell between the lines of the Nativity story, about a boy in the Arab desert learning his father’s trade, cultivating myrrh, and preparing an order for three wise men who tell him it will be one of three gifts for a baby.

The Snowy Day 50th Anniversary Edition


The Snowy Day

by Ezra Jack Keats, 50th Anniversary Edition (Viking, 2011). What many critics consider one of the greatest picture books of all time, Keats’ Snowy Day is being honored with a deluxe 50th-anniversary edition this season. If your grandchildren have never experienced a bedtime reading of this simple story’s combination of perfect cadence and cheerful images, you owe them a copy.

Some New Releases this November 2013

The Bakers Dozen: A Saint Nicholas Tale by Aaron Shephard

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Frosty the Snowman by Steven Nelson

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore

Resources for the 2013 List of Children’s Holiday Book Must Haves:


Homemade Ornaments

There is something that is just extra special about making Christmas tree homemade ornaments yourself. You can include your children or just do them yourself. You can make them for your personal tree or give them as a gift. Making them is just half the fun. The other half…..the memories of the time you spent making them.

Natural Ornament

Natural Ornament

Look to your own backyard to add nature-inspired elements to your tree. Michelle Edwards of Sweet Something Designs harvested acorns during fall and used the caps to create acorn ball ornaments. “Paint a Styrofoam ball brown and push the caps in with a dab of hot glue,” she says. Add some glue to the caps, embellish them with any color glitter to match your tree and top them off with ribbon and twine for hanging. Add glittered pinecones and greenery for a truly nature-inspired Christmas tree. Reuse the ornaments by placing them in a clear bowl for the perfect fall centerpiece. Courtesy of HGTV.com

Lighted Tree Ornament

Homemade Lighted Tree Ornament

Trace a cookie cutter onto felt, then punch multiple holes. Glue plastic beads over holes and hang in a window. Courtesy of Parent.com

O’ Christmas Tree Topper

O' Christmas Tree Topper Homemade Ornament

Marian Parsons of Mustard Seed Interiors gives new purpose to sheet music by transforming it into an unconventional tree topper. She simply twisted sheet music into cone shapes and hot-glued them to a cardboard circle backing. Glue the cone-shaped pieces to a doughnut-shaped cardboard backing for a matching wreath to welcome guests.  Courtesy of HGTV.com

Chime Ornament

Chime Ornament Homemade

  • Paper or plastic cup
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors
  • Jingle bell (available at tohoshoji-ny.com)
  • Paintbrush
  • White glue
  • Tinsel garland

1. Poke a small hole in the bottom of the cup.

2. Cut ribbon to a length that is about four times the height of the cup. Thread a jingle bell halfway onto the ribbon and double it. Knot the doubled ribbon together about halfway, making sure that the bell will hang just below the opening of the cup.

3. Push the ends of the ribbon through the hole in the cup and tie at the top to hang.

4. Spread glue on the outside of the cup and wrap tinsel garland around until covered completely; let dry.

Courtesy of Parent.com and Originally published in the December 2009 issue of Parents magazine.

Great Christmas Gifts Older Children Can Make

Charming Magnet Necklaces

What you’ll need:

  • 20-inch length of 1/8-inch braided elastic
  • 1-inch metal washer
  • Strong nontoxic glue such as Weldbond Universal
  • Small strong craft magnet ($3 at craft stores)
  • Clear packing tape
  • Artwork or photos on card stock
  • 1-inch-circle hole punch (or a quarter, a pencil, and scissors)
  • Metal bottle caps
  • Mod Podge Dimensional Magic glaze ($6 at craft stores or plaidonline.com)
  • Fine glitter (optional)

How to make it:

  1. Make the necklace base by looping the elastic cord around the washer as shown, then gluing the magnet to the washer.
  2. To prevent bleeding or fading, apply a layer of packing tape to the front and back of your artwork or photos. Next, cut the images into circles with the hole punch (or trace a quarter over the image, then trim along the line with scissors).

Squeeze a thin layer of glaze into a bottle cap and press one of the cutout images into it. Let it dry, then fill the cap the rest of the way with glaze (adding a sprinkle of glitter first, if you like). Repeat to create a set, then let them dry overnight.

Courtesy of  www.Spoonful.com and Family Fun Magazine


Bowling Boys

What you’ll need:

  • Grosgrain ribbon
  • 10 wooden “boy” game pieces (available at craft stores or caseyswood.com)
  • Double-sided carpet tape
  • Ultra-fine permanent marker
  • Small rubber ball
  • Small plastic bag
  • Paper

How to make it:

  1. For each bowling boy, wrap the ribbon around the body and trim it to fit. Trim a length of tape to the same size as the ribbon, then use it to secure the ribbon to the game piece. Repeat with the remaining game pieces.
  2. With the marker, draw a face and hair on each piece. Package the boys with the ball in the small plastic bag. Staple on a paper tag with instructions to set the pieces on a tabletop, then use the ball to bowl them over.                  Courtesy of  www.Spoonful.com and Family Fun Magazine

Family Story Comic Book

What you’ll need:

  • 3 to 5 sheets of 8 1/2- by 11-inch white
  • card stock
  • 9 1/2- by 6-inch piece of colored card stock
  • 3- by 2-inch piece of cardboard
  • Ruler
  • Colored pencils

How to make it:

  1. Fold a sheet of white card stock in half lengthwise, then fold it in half again, short side to short side, and cut along this fold. Repeat with the other sheets to make as many pages as you like.
  2. For the cover, fold the colored card stock in half, short side to short side. Insert the white pages between the covers and staple them along the spine.
  3. Use the cardboard to trace 2 illustration panels per page. Have your child draw in the panels, then title and decorate the front of the book.

Courtesy of  www.Spoonful.com and Family Fun Magazine

Great Christmas Gifts Older Children Can Make
Submitted by Keri Nichol


Great Christmas Gifts Preschoolers Can Make

No-Sew Sachet

What you’ll need:

  • Fabric scraps
  • Fabric glue
  • Potpourri, such as lavender flowers or balsam fir needles

How to make it:

  1. For each sachet, place 2 matching 5-inch fabric squares back-to-back and glue the edges together on 3 sides. Spread the glue close to the edges to prevent fraying.
  2. Once the glue is dry, fill the sachet with about 1/2 cup of potpourri. Then glue together the open edges and again let the glue dry.
  3. Arrange the finished sachets in multicolored stacks and tie them together with a festive ribbon or yarn.

Courtesy of  www.Spoonful.com and Family Fun Magazine


Baking Soda Christmas Ornaments

Items You  Need:

  • Newspaper
  • Apron
  • 2 c baking soda
  • 1 c cornstarch
  • 1 ¼ c water
  • Sauce pan
  • Food coloring
  • Rolling pan
  • Cookie cutters
  • Straw
  • Yarn or string

How to make it:

  1. Lay several sheets of newspaper over your workspace area.
  2. Pass out one apron for each child who is making an ornament. If you don’t have extra aprons, use some old T-shirts.
  3. Instruct the kids to measure and pour 2 cups of baking soda, 1 cup of cornstarch and 1 1/4 cups of water in a saucepan.
  4. Heat the ingredients over medium heat on the stove until they become the consistency of dough, stirring continuously. This is your job, Mom.
  5. Remove the dough from the heat and set it aside to cool
  6. Separate the dough so that each child has his own ball of dough to work with. Allow the children to choose a vile of food coloring to color their ball of dough. Drip five drops of food coloring into each ball and gently fold into the dough until the dough is one solid color.
  7. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin to a thickness of 1/2 an inch.
  8. Cut out the ornaments with cookie cutters, pressing each one firmly into the dough.
  9. Stick a straw through the center tip of the ornament. Remove the dough from the straw. Set the ornaments aside to dry out. This may take several days.
  10. Thread an 8-inch piece of yarn or string through the hole you created in the ornament. Tie a knot at the end. Hang your ornament around the house, or wrap it up as a gift.

Courtesy of  www.TheBump.com


Cookie Cutter Candles

What you’ll need:

  • Cookie cutters (choose shapes that can stand up)
  • Honeycomb wax sheets in various colors (available at craft stores or at candlewic.com; an 8- by 16-inch sheet will make 1 or 2 candles)
  • Wicks
  • Scissors

How to make it:

  1. For each candle, use a cookie cutter to make 10 identical shapes from the wax sheets. Divide the shapes into two stacks of 5.
  2. Sandwich a wick between the two stacks, starting at the bottom and extending it beyond the top by at least an inch. Press the sheets together gently. If they don’t stick together, take the wax layers apart and use a hair dryer to gently warm each one before restacking them, adding the wick as instructed above.
  3. Trim the wick to about a half-inch. Stand your candle up, shaping the base as needed to make it sit securely.

Courtesy of  www.Spoonful.com and Family Fun Magazine


Beautiful Bottle Prints

What you’ll need:

  • Acrylic or fabric paint
  • Disposable plates
  • Paintbrush
  • Small plastic bottles (we like Aquapods and 1-liter Polar Seltzer bottles), partially filled with water, and the caps on
  • Scrap paper
  • Item to be stamped (see suggestions below)

Helpful Tip:

For easier dipping and more defined prints, use a brush to smooth the paint on the plate after every few stamps.

How to make it:

  1. To start, pour a thin layer of paint onto a plate; use a separate plate for each color. Smooth the paint with the paintbrush, then have your child press the bottom of a bottle into the paint and practice printing on a piece of scrap paper. You may need to help him press the bottle down to get a defined print.
  2. Once he gets the hang of it, have him print designs on the object he wants to decorate (put a piece of cardboard or thick paper inside anything made of cloth to prevent the paint from bleeding through). Then with his fingertip or the top of a bottle cap, he can make the flower centers. Let the paint dry completely.

Courtesy of  www.Spoonful.com and Family Fun Magazine

Great  Christmas Gifts Preschoolers Can Make
Submitted by Keri Nichol

Our Photography Session with Jo Snaps! (Plus A Gift For You!)

I am the kind of mother who is obsessed enjoys documenting those wonderful moments in my child’s life. That’s probably what I find so appealing about being a writer…the idea of documenting events to be remembered by future generations. As much as I enjoy taking pictures to go along with what I write, I’m more of a fauxtographer (read: I do it as a hobby and I’m really not that good) so imagine my excitement when I discovered an affordable family photography service right here in Kansas City.

Jolene, who is the face behind the camera over at Jo Snaps, has a simple, no nonsense approach when it comes to running her business. As the mother of two sweet little ones, she understands the importance of affordable, quality photography for families across the metro. We recently had the privilege of having a mini holiday session with Jolene. Take a look at some of the pictures she captured:

Jolene was so easy to work with and gave my toddler (who is almost three) clear directions in a way that she could understand. I definitely plan to work with her again in the Spring to capture more pictures as my own child continues to grow. If you’re looking for a new photography service in the metro area, I encourage you to check out Jo Snaps. Her one hour session fee (which is just $50) includes a CD with all of the edited images and rights to print as many as you’d like.

Find Jo Snaps on Facebook and Online!

Mention this blog post and Jolene will give you a free 5×7 photograph with your session!