Four Little Monsters Blog
The adventures of a Mom and her monsters.
Four Little Monsters is your source for family friendly event, product  and travel reviews in Mid-Atlantic USA. We find fun wherever we go, even right here at home.
Philly, Baltimore, Wilmington, DC, In Between and beyond. 
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KIDZ BOP Make Some Noise Tour 2015 Comes to Wilmington, DE, Ticket Giveaway

by EJ on 07/01/15

The KIDZ BOP Make Some Noise tour stops in Wilmington, Delaware this July 12th, 2015. The talented KIDZ BOP kids, named Billboard Magazine's "#1 Kids' Artists" for the fifth year in a row, will take the stage to perform family-friendly versions of today's biggest musical hits. The KIDS BOP concert is an engaging, interactive experience for the entire family.

















Where:           Grand Opera House
                        818 North Market Street
                        Wilmington, DE 19801
When:             Sunday, July 12th, 2015
                        4:30 PM - doors
                        5:00 PM - show
Who:          The KIDZ BOP Kids: Ashlynn Chong, Bredia Santoro, Grant Knoche and Matt Martinez
         
KIDS BOP Amazing Stats:

  • Over 15 million albums sold
  • 21 Top Ten Albums on the Billboard 200 Chart. Only 5 artists in history, including Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra have more.
  • In 2014, KIDZ BOP outsold Pharell Williams, Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea.
  • KIDZ BOP named Billboard Magazine's "#1 Kids' Artist" from 2010 through 2014.
  • Talented performers Ashlynn, Bredia, Grant and Matt host KIDZ BOP radio on Sirius XM Channel 77. 
  • KIDZ BOP 29 was released this past March 2015.

WIN a set of FOUR Tickets to KIDZ BOP Make Some Noise in Wilmington, Delaware.

One lucky reader will win a set of four tickets to see KIDZ BOP in Wilmington, Delaware on July 12th, 2015. Enter below and good luck!

Disclaimer: Four Little Monsters Blog received products in exchange for promotion. All opinions belong to the blogger.
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Backyard Chalk and Bubble Station, On a Dollar Store Budget

by EJ on 06/17/15

This summer, I've vowed to do one Dollar Store Kids Project each week, to keep the kids busy all season long. Inspired by a Buzzfeed Dollar Store Kids post, I'm on a mission to keep my five gremlins happy and occupied while staying on a budget. This week, we created a very simple Backyard Chalk and Bubble Station on the back deck.

We headed out to our local Dollar General and picked up two mini chalkboards, a pack of giant chalk, some bubble wands and other assorted bubbles and two small baskets. Using small picture nails and a hammer, I attached the baskets to the side of our deck. Using Velcro, I attached the chalkboards above each basket and labeled them with the chalk I bought. The kids swarmed the Chalk and Bubble station and had a total blast. I had to wrangle our five year old off the bubbles, as his version of playing with them includes dumping bubble soap all over the deck until there's nothing left. Other than that, our first Backyard Dollar Store Kids Project has been a success.

Total Cost for Backyard Chalk and Bubble Station: $15

 

Jurassic World Movie Pre-Screen Event with Comcast Freedom PA

by EJ on 06/05/15


Comcast Freedom of PA sent us out to the city this week for a Jurassic World dinner party and pre-screening of the much anticipated 4th installment of the dinosaur disaster movie franchise. Fans of the original Jurassic Park, which redefined the movie world when I was nine years old, this review is for you. I will keep my comments brief to avoid giving anything away but know this... if you loved the original Jurassic Park, then you will want to see this damn movie. 

Jurassic World was everything the previous sequels should have been. They opened the flipping park to the public. I mean... really!? What could go wrong? 

While each sequel was fun (I guess...) in their own way, Jurassic World really nailed it - and I mean, FRIGGEN' NAILED IT. There was action. There was charm. There were dinosaurs chowing down on you know what. The actors were perfect. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard were a great combination, despite the fact that Howard's heels were still intact after running from all those damn dinosaurs (...really? Fine. Whatever.). The story was pretty solid. There were a good number of appreciated references to the original. The dinosaurs ROCKED. I want to see it again. <--- this hasn't happened since The Lord of the Rings. It was almost like being back in my seat as a nine year old, watching the original with my Mom in the theater, mouth agape.

My husband and I high fived over our daughter's head like ten times during the movie. Our dinosaur-obsessed, future paleontologist ten year old (and I wouldn't recommend bringing anyone younger) was enraptured and super pleased with all the new dinosaurs previously not featured in any Jurassic Park movies. Of course, they couldn't leave out our favorites from the original, so Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor fans can rejoice. The last fifteen minutes of the movie took my breath away. I want that screen shot as a poster. No, that one. No, this one. No, that one.

Memorable things overhead in the Jurassic World pre-screening theater: 

"Never trust a raptor."

"Will the dinosaurs have feathers in this one?"

Jurassic World, directed by Colin Trevorrow, executive producer Steven Speilberg, opens in standard, 3D theaters and IMAX theaters, June 12, 2015.

Disclaimer: Comcast Freedom of PA sponsored this event. All opinions belong to the blogger.


Exploring Disney Pixar's Inside Out with Director Peter Docter and Producer Jonas Rivera, Interview & Review

by EJ on 06/01/15

The Four Little Monsters Crew Meets Director Peter Docter
Disney Pixar's newest movie, Inside Out premiered less than two weeks ago at the Cannes Film Festival and met with rapturous applause and rave reviews. In true Pixar form, Inside Out takes audiences on another unique, beautiful adventure: inside the head of twelve year old girl, Riley. This movie really makes you feel all the feels and rightly so since Riley's inner voices' are the story's main protagonists. Joy, the leading emotion inside Riley's head, is a glowing, blue-haired, fairy-like character voiced by Amy Poehler. Her companions inside 'headquarters' (Riley's brain) are Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Mindy Kaling (Disgust) and Anger (Lewis Black).

James P. Sullivan Attends the Pre-Screening of Disney Pixar's Inside Out
Four Little Monsters touched base with Academy Award winning director Peter Docter and Producer Jonas Rivera for a pre-screening of Inside Out, a question and answer session and some very cool one-on-one time between these real-life Disney Pixar heroes and our own little monsters. Of course, we brought Sully and Mike Wazoski along for the adventure; Sully was more than thrilled to meet his maker. Both Docter and Rivera were generous with their time and patient with our silly kids, who couldn't wait to hug the creators of some of their most beloved animated friends.

The Four Little Monsters Crew Meets Producer Jonas Rivera
Explaining how Riley's inner voices were developed, Jonas Rivera said, "We decided early on that it [the brain] should be more abstract, not cells and DNA... more metaphorical." Therefore, the inner workings of the brain became the protagonists, memorable characters who exist inside Riley. Riley is a pre-teen when her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, setting the stage for a whirlwind of emotions and changes inside her brain as she reacts to her new environment. "As a parent, the most heartbreaking thing is they [your kids] begin to give up these things you know they loved," said Docter. At this pivotal age in Riley's life, she has to leave her childhood home, best friends and a beloved sports team - life changes and as a result, Riley changes. Riley's brain houses structures like Family Island, Hockey Island, Goof Ball Island and others, which are powered by her happy core memories. When the core memories are threatened, Goof Ball Island and the other islands begin to break apart, sending Joy and Sadness on a mission to preserve the memories and Joy, herself. Along the way, they encounter forgotten memories and 'lands' like the subconscious and imagination. Docter explained, "Of course, Riley is not aware of Joy or any of them, or any of what Joy goes through for her."

As a writer and artist, I'm familiar with the tough decisions that must be made when sculpting out the final version of a creative work. We asked the Pixar duo if there was a scene or character edited out of the film that they wished remained in the final version. The final version of Inside Out, one of at least nine versions of the film, included five main emotions while previous versions had several more. For instance, Pride, cut from the story, would walk into a scene and declare, I noticed no one applauded when I walked in. Writers decided that five emotions was quite enough. A music cognition scene was also cut from the film, which both Docter and Rivera thought was pretty cool "for five minutes".

We asked Docter what the future might hold for animated movies, to which he replied, "Technology keeps advancing... but there will always be a necessity for character driven stories, like Inside Out... whether they'll be 3-D, virtual reality, or a pill you have to swallow, we'll find out. Yes, you heard it here. That's what going to happen."

Pre-Screening of Disney Pixar's Inside Out in 3-D
We made sure to thank Docter and Rivera for creating movies that express such strong messages of family, friendship, compassion and determination. One of our monsters declared, "Thank you for Cars and make me a Monster Truck movie!" Rivera agreed that was a good idea and assured our little guy that he'd work on it, so everyone can thank our five year old if that ever comes to fruition.

Disney Pixar movies are not only beautiful and artful, but extremely relevant for our family and to humanity, we think. "We're making these films as parents ourselves," explained Docter, "It's really important to us that we make films that are real, that are legit." 

Ever since Toy Story's release in 1995, I've grown up with Disney Pixar movies and they continue to play a huge role in my life and our children's lives today. Our house is full of all things Woody, Buzz, Sully, Mike Wazowski, Lightning McQueen, Mater, Nemo, Dori and the list goes on. These movies take you on incredible, memorable journeys that have shaped us and stay with us, always. In our own brains' headquarters all life long, we are encouraged to embrace childhood, to understand our babies and watch them grow, to just keep swimming, to seek adventure, to cherish friendship and to choose joy.

Inside Out hits theaters this June 19th. Be sure to catch Pixar's latest short "Lava" before the film.

Visit Four Little Monsters on Facebook for video and additional material from our visit with Director Peter Docter and Producer Jonas Rivera.

Disclaimer: Four Little Monsters attended a pre-screening of Disney Pixar's Inside Out, a Q & A with Director Peter Docter and Jonas Rivera for the purpose of this review and promotion. All opinions belong to the writer.

Motion Sensor Light Pro Super Bright LED Battery Operated Night Light Promo Codes, Review & Giveaway

by EJ on 05/11/15

We're a camping family and with five kids to chase after, we are always on the look-out for cool, useful products that will make the camping lifestyle easier on our outdoor adventures. Over the past few months, we've been fixing up a pop-up camper to take on the road this summer. Rather than rely on electric sites, which consume energy and are often not available in many of the campgrounds we like, we are trying out the Motion Sensor Light Pro Super Bright LED Battery Operated Cordless Night Light.

The Motion Sensor Light Pro Super Bright LED Battery Operated Cordless Night Light is the perfect addition to our family pop-up camper, providing sufficient overhead light only when needed. We're using the included Command Strips to attach the light fixtures where we want them. The brightness is an awesome bright, neutral white, providing light for all five kids to roam the camper at night before climbing into their beds. The light is portable so we can move it if necessary. Since the AUTO mode is motion activated, the OFF mode comes in handy when the kids are wiggling and giggling in the camper when they're supposed to be sleeping. On the other hand, when left in AUTO mode, the light comes on when someone needs to get up to use the bathroom and stays on until there's no further movement.

The Motion Sensor Light Pro is compact, portable and energy efficient.

The light fixture itself measures a nice compact 4 inches in diameter and two inches thick and includes 15 high energy efficient, ultra bright SMD LEDs. It's super durable and simple. The fixture is encased in an easily gripped matte ABS plastic. It provides about twenty-five seconds of light on AUTO mode and continuous light when in CONT mode. The AUTO mode does not work in daylight and only functions in darkness. There is also an OFF mode. You do need to unlock and remove the back panel to access the mode switch so don't place the light out of reach if you will want to change the modes. There are three options for easy hanging: 3M command strips (included in packaging), magnets (included in light fixture backing) and a hook (included in light fixture backing). The light requires 3AA batteries (not included) to work.

Other useful locations for the Motion Sensor Light Pro Super Bright LED Battery Operated Cordless Night Light include sheds, basement stairwells, hallways, baby's room, garages, car trunks, emergency kits, storage rooms, closets, bathrooms, camping, under cabinet lighting, pantries, attics and more. Purchase of the Motion Sensor Light Pro includes a 1 year manufacturer's warranty. The light can be purchased on Amazon and is eligible for Prime shipping.

Promo Codes for Motion Sensor Light Pro Super Bright LED Battery Operated Cordless Night Light, Save Up to 25% OFF Motion Sensor Light

Purchase 1 Motion Sensor Light Pro at 5% OFF with Promo Code SENSORX5
Purchase 2 Motion Sensor Light Pro at 10% OFF with Promo Code SENSOR1T
Purchase 3 Motion Sensor Light Pro at 15% OFF with Promo Code SENSOR15
Purchase 4 Motion Sensor Light Pro at 20% OFF with Promo Code SENSOR2T
Purchase 5 Motion Sensor Light Pro at 25% OFF with Promo Code SENSOR25

*These promo codes will run through May 17th 2015. Enter promo codes at checkout for discount to be applied.

Enter to WIN a Set of Motion Sensor Light Pro Night Lights

Five lucky readers will each win a set of two Motion Sensor Light Pro Super Bright LED Battery Operated Cordless Night Lights. Enter below and good luck!

Disclaimer: Four Little Monsters received products for the purpose of this review. All opinions belong to the blogger.
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A Very Squeaky Mystery Children's Book, Review and Giveaway

by EJ on 05/09/15


The kids and I enjoyed a fresh, new children's book this week called A Very Squeaky Mystery by Laura Angelina and Randy Williamson. It's the second book released by RainbowLeaf Books, a company founded by authors Williamson Angelina. 

A Very Squeaky Mystery follows the adventures of two energetic twins on vacation in a mountain cabin. Having just returned from a mountain cabin trip ourselves, my kids easily related to the setting of the story. The first page, which begins "Two playful twins, Kevin and Scott, are always together and looking for fun. They are now up in the mountains on vacation with their mom and dad..." depicts the twins in a vibrant outdoor scene with a mountain backdrop. The story follows the twins through several days, after a squeaky sound catches their attention. Over the course of those days, the brothers think of creative ways to solve the mystery of the sound. I really enjoyed the contrast of the bright, colorful pages that took place during the day versus the shadowy, mysterious muted colors in the nighttime scenes.

The twins themselves are yellow-headed, bright-eyed, playful and enjoy each others company.  The positive, quick-thinking personalities of these two main characters set a great example, encouraging siblings to appreciate one another and work together to solve problems. The insides of the front and back cover are super cute, showing the twins together on many different occasions, showing the importance of the togetherness of siblings. The illustrations are precious, fun, vibrant and crisp, all attractive qualities in a great children's book.

With summer vacations quickly approaching, A Very Squeaky Mystery will get siblings in the mood for new places, new adventures and surprises - while being together.

RainbowLeaf Books has two children's books available for purchase, A Little Girl's Wish and A Very Squeaky Mystery. A Very Squeaky Mystery sells for $17.99 (US).

One lucky Four Little Monsters reader will WIN a copy of A Very Squeaky Mystery. Enter below!

Disclaimer: Four Little Monsters Blog received one copy of A Very Squeaky Mystery for the purpose of this review. All opinions belong to the blogger.

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Luray Caverns of Virginia Getaway Guide

by EJ on 04/30/15

It's time to start planning those summer family getaways. If you're in search of a trip that combines earth-friendly experiences, learning and fun, then Luray, Virginia is the destination for you. Luray, Virginia is home to Luray Caverns, a world renowned U.S. national landmark and one of the largest cavern systems in the country. Walking through the Luray Caverns' tunnels is an amazing experience for kids and families, introducing them to a whole new world underground. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, historic Luray is also minutes away from Shenandoah National Park, treetop adventures and ropes' courses, history and museums, camping, hiking and the breathtaking views of Skyline Drive. 

Families will find excellent camping opportunities in Luray, Virginia.

Our preferred base camp in Luray is Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park, which offers tent and RV camping as well as furnished cabins and endless activities for kids. We avoid the hotels and definitely the motels - camping or cabin rentals are the way to go if you want your family happy and comfortable. Whether you prefer tent camping or fully furnished cabins (or something in between), the mountain views and the campfires alone will bring so much joy to your trip. Stay a few days or more.

Takes kids on an underground adventure with a tour of Luray Caverns.

Luray Caverns is accessed only by tour and tour groups depart every twenty minutes. If you get there early, you'll avoid the potentially long lines. Tours include historical information, the geology of the caves (... what's the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite?) and beautiful underground views. There are no super tight spots so if you're the claustrophobic kind, you should have no problem.

The walkway through the caves are paved but due to the continuing process of cave formation, seeping water sometimes creates slippery spots. Rails are available to keep you upright and safe. Strollers are permitted BUT there are a lot of steps at the entrance and exit so small strollers are recommended. The entire tour is 1.25 miles long with repeated stops to discover natural formations, take pictures and descriptions by the tour guide. The cave is open year-round.

FUN TRIP IDEA: When we visited Luray Caverns, we'd just finished up a Lord of the Rings movie marathon. We themed sections of our trip around different Middle Earth environments, from The Shire (our campground) to the Dwarf Caves (Luray Caverns) and the forests and mountains were the perfect backdrop for this themed trip.

Fascinating Luray Caverns Facts:

1.  Luray Caverns formed when rainwater picked up diluted carbonic acid as it sunk through decaying vegetation in soil. The hollow spaces
formed as the acidic water traveled through the limestone, dissolving layers of rock. As the water filled the empty spaces, the hollow areas grew bigger and continued downward creating the huge chambers seen today. The process continues and Luray Caverns grows one cubic inch per 120 years.

2. The National Park Service and the Department of the Interior named Luray Caverns a Register National Landmark.

3. The largest body of water inside the cave, known as Dream Lake, has only a maximum depth of 18 to 20 inches. The lake's perfect surface creates a mirror image of the ceiling, tricking the eyes. 

4. All formations in Luray Caverns are made of calcite. Pure calcite is white. 

5. When a stalactite and a stalagmite come together, they form a column. The tallest column in Luray Caverns is 47 feet tall.

6. Luray Caverns is home to the Stalacpipe Organ, the largest musical instrument in the world.

7. A cave kiss gives you good luck for one year! (... so I'm told. And we got lots and lots of kisses).

Admission to Luray Caverns includes admission to the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum and the Luray Valley Museum. The Garden Maze and Rope Adventure Park are additional fees.

Luray Caverns General Admission Rates

Seniors (62 & up): $22
Adults: $24
Children (6-12): $12
Includes guided Luray Caverns Tour and self-guided tours of the Car & Carriage Caravan, Toy Town Junction and Luray Valley Museum.
Children ages 5 & under are free when accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Disclaimer: Four Little Monsters Blog received admission to Luray Caverns in exchange for promotion and review. All opinions belong to the blogger.

 

Spinosaurus, Lost Giant of the Cretaceous, National Geographic Museum Exhibit Review

by EJ on 03/30/15

After snow storms kept us from visiting the National Geographic Museum in Washington DC two separate times over the winter, we finally made it to the Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous exhibit on a chilly but brilliantly sunny day this March. Our dinosaur-obsessed ten year old and future paleontologist was more than thrilled to explore an exhibit devoted solely to her most favorite creature to have ever lived. Trust me, I've been hearing about this dinosaur for quite a while and I'm bombarded by Spinosaurus facts several times a day. According to my daughter, he's been underrated for some time (especially when compared to everyone's favorite Tyrannosaurus Rex) and his stats are quite more impressive. She was delighted to find that National Geographic appreciated her dinosaur so immensely as well. 

Spinosaurus is a story of discovery, adventure, loss and rediscovery.

The exhibit began with the first discovery of Spinosaurus fossils more than 100 years ago, by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer, whose story was full of discovery and loss. His partial skeleton of Spinosaurus was the first find of its kind. Living within dangerous Nazi Germany, Stromer was an outspoken critic of Hitler's regime. The Munich museum that housed Stromer's life work, research and fossil finds was bombed and destroyed in 1944. All of his work, including his beloved Spinosaurus fossils were completely gone. His loss did not end there and as a lover of science and as a mother, his story had me in tears. 

The adventure continued over a century later, with National Geographic explorer and paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim who was not about to let Spinosaurus disappear forever. On a mission to bring Spinosaurus back to light, he embarked on a journey of rediscovery, with the help of fellow explorers and records kept by Stromer. The results of this incredible trek across Northern Africa are documented throughout the exhibit, with an interactive Moroccan fossil market as well as accompanying sound and video.

The exhibit featured far more than only the history of the Spinosaurus fossils; it presented the entire ecosystem of northern Africa during the Cretaceous period, which consisted of a variety of predators in a tropical landscape. How did so many predators thrive in such a place without herbivores for a food source? Researchers have come to the conclusion that Spinosaurus was an aquatic dinosaur, adapted to life on land and in water, with aquatic creatures as its primary food source. 

Our daughter was definitely in the dinosaur zone throughout the exhibit, barely breathing a word to us as she noted in her journal and took photographs with her own camera. Unlike some other dinosaur exhibits we've been to, this one really drew you in and created a sense of adventure for the visitor. From the moment you step into the exhibit, you're taken on a journey. In fact, the whole thing - from Stromer to Ibrahim - it's all just begging to be made into a major motion picture. My daughter is also a budding filmmaker (all her movies are about dinosaurs, of course), so maybe she'll have to take care of that, too.

In the museum courtyard stands a true-to-life sized Spinosaurus, which thrilled the kids to no end. The musuem asks visitors to hashtag #SpinoDino when posting their photos with the magnificent dinosaur. Here's one of ours!

Don't miss your chance to see Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous. The exhibit runs through April 12th of 2015.

About the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC

The National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC brings past and current expeditions, adventures and scientific research to life for visitors of all ages. While tours are offered in the museum, they are not offered for offices and the National Geographic headquarters. To read about the museum, plan your visit and read about current and upcoming exhibitions, visit their website, located HERE.

You can also access information about lectures, live events and speakers for special events HERE.

Disclaimer: Four Little Monsters Blog received admission to National Geographic Museum in exchange for promotional and review purposes. All opinions belong to the blogger.

Inspiralize the Spring by Tuttorosso and Ali Maffuci, Great Prizes and Recipes

by EJ on 03/19/15

Tuttorosso has teamed with Ali Maffucci, who blogs at Inspiralized for an "Inspiralize the Spring" promotion that runs from March 25th through April 15th. This promotion, which will run on Facebook, will give fans the chance to win great prizes, perfect for the springtime cooking season. Prizes include 750 Tuttorosso aprons, 15 copies of Ali's cookbook Inspiralized, a signed copy of Inspiralized as well as fun kitchen gadgets packed in a picnic basket. The promotion will also host a Virtual Dinner Party to exchange Spiralizer ideas and recipes. 

The Inspiralizer Tri-Blade vegetable spiral slicer is a fun way to get more fresh veggies and fruits into
your meals. Using firm fruits and vegetables, the spiral slicer can turn apples, onions, carrots, zucchinis, cucumbers, beets, turnips, rutabagas, cucumbers and more into spiral slices or "pasta" strands. 

Head over to Tuttorosso on Facebook for details on chatting with Ali Maffucci and to stay up to date on the Inspiralize the Spring promotion!

Disclaimer: Four Little Monsters received Tuttorosso products in exchange for this promotion. All opinions belong to the blogger. 

 

Harlem Globetrotters Coming Back to Philly, #WIN tickets Family 4 Pack, GIVEAWAY

by EJ on 02/26/15

The Harlem Globetrotters visit the greater Philadelphia area from March 5 - 8th, ending at Wells Fargo Center on March 8th. The world-famous Harlem Globetrotters will bring back some of the greatest athletes on the planet to show off their innovative ball handling wizardry, amazing rim-rattling dunks, trick shots and side-splitting comedy when they visit the Greater Philadelphia region for five games, including stops at The Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University on Friday, March 6 at 7 p.m., Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, NJ, on Saturday, March 7 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday, March 8 at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Use our Harlem Globetrotters Ticket Discount Code

Use our exclusive discount code "HGBLOG" to save money on these events. Get your tickets HERE.

Win tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters at Wells Fargo Center

Four Little Monsters is giving away two sets of 4-pack tickets to the Wells Fargo Center performance on March 8th at 12 pm. Yes, TWO winners will win FOUR tickets! Enter below and good luck! 

Disclaimer: Four Little Monsters is hosting this giveaway in partnership with Comcast Spectacor. All opinions belong to the blogger.
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Kids and Theater Sets the Stage for Strong Life Skills, Empathy, Compassion & All Kinds of Good Stuff

by EJ on 02/18/15

Live theater is one of those things that makes me me. So much of who I am and what I believe in, goes back to something I saw on stage. When I attend a live theatrical production, my whole being feels moved, like I've had a spiritual connection to the stage and everything that happens on it. Maybe that's because I dreamed of being onstage myself as a child, but was too shy to push myself to be involved. I was first inspired to love and appreciate live theater when my father took me to see Cathy Rigby starring as Peter Pan when I was six years old. My whole life since, I've been drawn to the art of live theater. Whether it's the musically and visually beautiful Beauty & the Beast or the complicated and amazing puppetry of War Horse, I find something completely real and meaningful in every show.

I've had my children involved in a local live theater group for the last three years for these reasons. I'm not pushing theater as a career goal on any one of them (most of them want to be scientists), but I do think that the act of being on stage and being involved in theater teaches them so much about themselves and life. When kids play make-believe at home, it's so important. Theater is a great place to hone a ton of skills while kids find meaning in playing make-believe.

Theater Rocks For Kids and Here's Why:

1. Theater improves children's ability to listen, communicate and engage in dialogue and understanding with other people. Everyone must do this in life and theater is a great place to nurture this skill from a young age. Lauren Gunderson writes in her article, How Theater for Young People Could Save the World, "...so much of the toxicity in this world comes from a collective draining of empathy. We don't understand each other, and we don't want to. But theater invites us -- no, forces us -- to empathize."

2. Theater allows kids a place to practice public speaking. It teaches courage! I was still mortified about giving a speech in front of a class in high school. My kids are so comfortable on stage that I know with continued participation in theater, that likely won't be an issue for them.

3. Theater encourages literacy and education. In many cases, it teaches history. Kids have to pay attention, read and remember scripts, make quick decisions and movements and learn and practice language skills. Why does a character say this? What does this line mean? Then, when did this character live and what did they go through? Theater encourages the asking and answering of all kinds of questions.

4. Theater encourages practice, which is important if you're to get better at anything in life.

5. Theater brings children together to accomplish a task. Play dates are okay but it sure is amazing when kids come together to create something as a group. Every individual involved brings something to the table.

6. Theater allows a huge amount of self-expression. It's art on stage! Kids learn to create art through language, song, movements, tone and the list goes on.

7. Theater doesn't have to be a career goal for a child to enjoy it and find usefulness in it. A friend once assumed, "You must want your kids to grow up and be actors." Well, no, that's not the point. It's an activity that will serve them their whole life long, just like sports. I push my children to have a sport to participate in and they also need to be involved in theater. I believe it's that important.

8. Kids can participate in live theater as audience members, too. While I never made it onstage as a kid, I did find myself in a lot of audiences and I'm pretty sure that did me a ton of good. I take my kids to as many live performances as I can. I'll never ever forget taking my then six year old to see Cathy Rigby as Peter Pan over twenty years later from when I'd seen her when I was six.

9. Kids can do all kinds of stuff backstage. There's more to live theater than who's on stage. There are sets to be built and changed, as well as lighting and sound to be organized and managed.

Delaware Theater & Acting Programs for Kids

Here in Delaware, families have a great selection of theater centers to choose from. Delaware is a great state for families and kids who want access to theatrical programs and workshops and here are a few of our favorites:

Premier Center for the Arts with locations in Middletown and Milton, Delaware.

Delaware Children's Theater in Wilmington, Delaware.

Rehoboth Children's Theater in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Do you know of a great theater program for kids in the Mid-Atlantic area? Please share info and links in the comments below.


Winter Wonderland Frozen Queen Elsa Themed Birthday Party Ideas

by EJ on 02/17/15


With Disney's Frozen the birthday theme of the season (and every season, it seems), our Elsa-obsessed youngest monster would settle for nothing less than a house turned winter wonderland for her second birthday.

Every Snow Queen must have a royal gown on her birthday.

First on the list: our Snow Queen's royal birthday gown. I found a handmade, flowing tutu dress from Lavish Too. There are a ton of handmade Snow Queen inspired gowns available on Etsy to fit every personality and size. The one we chose featured little fabric snowflakes over blue tulle and soft, white feathers along the bottom hem. The accompanying cape also featured snowflakes in the embroidery and was an instant hit for our little lady.
 

Paper snowflakes can turn any room into a winter kingdom.

With the gown's blue and white colors in mind, I pulled in the same white and blue using paper snowflakes I picked up from the teacher's section of the Dollar Store. One dollar bought me a huge pack of these snowflakes so I stocked up on these and plastered them all over the main level of our home. They were also great  accents when hung from the ceiling. I doubled up the hanging snowflakes so they would appear on both sides when they twirled.

Balloons are a great way to display bursts of color.

I then brought in some purple and pink using Disney's Frozen Latex 12" printed balloons. I placed clusters of balloons, featuring Olaf cut-outs over the base of each cluster.

Free Frozen Printable Banners can be used as photo backdrops.

We found a great site, PoshTartParties.com, with free Frozen banners and other party printables. I put together a "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" and "LET IT GO" banner, one for the main party area and the other for a backdrop where photos would be taken. Our little queen loved getting photographed while sitting on a cozy, white comforter in front of her backdrop of snowflakes and decorations.

Dress up your winter wonderland guests with printable crowns and antlers.

I found several free printable Frozen crowns and games when searching online. The crown and antler headbands were a huge hit as well as a printable Pin the Nose on Olaf game. 

Do you have a great idea or link for a Winter Wonderland Frozen party? Share in the comments!

Philadelphia Flyers and Chaddsford Winery Valentine's Date Pack

by EJ on 02/10/15

Photo Courtesy of Chaddsford Winery
It's the week before Valentine's Day and if you're looking for an awesome experience to share with your Valentine, then check this out. The Philadelphia Flyers have teamed up with Chaddsford Winery to offer the ultimate Valentine's Date Package. Package includes two tickets to a Flyers home game plus a wine tasting at any Chaddsford Winery. Starting at $99, the Valentine's Pack includes one pair of tickets to select Flyers home games in February and March, plus a bottle of Chaddsford's Flyers Wine (red or white), a Flyers chiller bag and wine opener accessories, specialty hockey puck choclates and a free wine tasting at any Chaddsford Winery location. 

Valentine's Date Packs include a pair of hockey tickets, a wine tasting, a bottle of wine and accessories. 

Valentine's Packs can be purchased at PhiladelphiaFlyers.com or by calling 215-218-PUCK. 

The five available game dates for the Valentine Packs are February 17 vs. the Blue Jackets, February 19th vs the Sabres and Flyers Hall of Fame Induction of Eric Desjardins, March 3 vs. the Flames, March 5 vs. the Blues, and March 10 vs. the Stars. All games begin at 7 p.m. 

Wine and accessories are redeemable at any Chaddsford Winery location in Chadds Ford, PA or Peddler's Village in Lahaska, PA now through April 30th, 2015. Reservations are required. Instructions are included on your tickets when mailed. 

Disclaimer: Four Little Monsters received a Valentine's Pack in exchange for promotion and review. All opinions belong to the blogger.

Be A Dino's Valentine at Paleopalooza! The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

by EJ on 01/30/15

Do your kids love dinosaurs? Then head over to The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University this Valentine's Day weekend for Paleopalooza. This event features dinosaur fossils, paleo-illustration classes, live animal shows and more. Academy scientists will be available to show off fossils collected in central Pennsylvania. Dig for real fossils to take home and interact with a paleo-artist. 

More Paleopalooza activities include:

·         See a real duckbill dinosaur fresh from the field as it is prepared in the Fossil Prep Lab.
·         Dance to hip tunes by the Diggity Dudes band. Noon and 2 p.m.
·         Take a guided tour of Dinosaur Hall.10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m., and 4 p.m.
·         Watch paleo-illustrator Jason Poole bring dinosaurs to life and try drawing your own dinosaur.
·         Make a dinosaur food chain and other paleo-perfect crafts to take home.
·         Enjoy four different live shows: “So you want to be a paleontologist?” at 11 a.m.; “Snakes Alive!” at 1 p.m.; “Old Bones, New Technologies,” with Drexel University Professor Kenneth Lacovara, who discovered Dreadnoughtus, at 2:30 p.m.; and “Birds of a Feather” at 3:30 p.m.

Paleopalooza is free with museum admission and runs from February 14th through 15th. 

Replacing Ground Beef With Ground Turkey using Five Star Home Foods Super Lean Ground Turkey

by EJ on 01/22/15

Now that the holidays have passed, we're all looking for ways to lower the amount of fat in our diet. A great way to do this without sacrificing flavor, is to replace ground beef with ground turkey in some of your recipes. When replacing ground beef with ground turkey, however, you should consider the fat content in both. Look for ground turkey in the 90% lean range. We've been using Five Star Home Foods' super lean, chemical and hormone free, 100% ground breast turkey. Here are two of the ground turkey dishes we've made over the past several months that we absolutely love. 

Ground Turkey Tacos

Ever since we had taco seasoned ground turkey at a friend's house last year, we made the switch and never went back. With proper seasoning, the kids never realized that we weren't using beef anymore and they've gobbled up their dinner on Taco night without fail.

Ingredients:

1 lb. Super Lean Ground Turkey Five Star Home Foods
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. onions, chopped
1 1/2 c. tomato sauce
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, pressed
4 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
Taco shells or flour tortillas
 
Heat the oil in a skillet. Add ground turkey and chopped onion. Saute until meat loses raw color. Add tomato sauce, garlic and the seasonings. Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes or more to allow flavors to blend. Serve in heated taco shells, sprinkled with cheese or wrap in flour tortillas, sprinkle cheese over and warm in the oven or about 5 to 10 minutes. We also use shredded lettuce, fresh chopped tomatoes, low-fat sour cream and guacamole.

Ground Turkey Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:


Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 2 tbsp
Garlic, 4 cloves  
Green Peppers, 1 cup, chopped
Onions, raw, 1 cup, chopped  
Turkey, Ground turkey, Super Lean Five Star Home Foods, 1 lb.  

Oregano, ground, 3 tbsp  
Basil, 2 tbsp 
Parsley, dried, 1 tbsp  
Hunt's Tomato Sauce, 2 - 3 cup 
Garlic Salt, to taste

Heat onion, peppers and minced garlic in oil in a skillet until onions soften. Add ground turkey and cook until it loses its raw color. Add seasonings and continue to brown. Add tomato sauce and stir. Simmer for 10 minutes and add garlic salt to taste. 

If you're in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Maryland, you can try Five Star Home Home Foods Super Lean Ground Turkey, too! In fact, request your free food sample to get started. With over three hundred food products to choose from, you can have healthy, organic meat and poultry products delivered right to your door, allowing you to skip the grocery store and make the most of your time and cooking!

Disclaimer: Five Star Home Foods provided us with food samples for the purpose of review and promotion. All opinions belong to the blogger.


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Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_popocorn'>popocorn / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_popocorn'>popocorn / 123RF Stock Photo</a>