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Book Review – Bookmobile Cat Mystery Series by Laurie Cass

Who knew riding in a bookmobile could be so exciting?! Apparently Laurie Cass did because she’s based an entire mystery series around a bookmobile and a short librarian who drives it named Minnie. Minnie also lives on a house boat, which is not something I’ve come across in any mystery series so far. I love finding unique aspects to a book series that help it to stand out!

In the first book of the series, Lending a Paw, we meet Minnie and Eddie. Minnie is a librarian and she is just getting the library’s new bookmobile ready to go out. What Minnie doesn’t know is that her lovely new bookmobile is about to be entangled in a murder mystery! I enjoyed this book because it’s the first bookmobile mystery I’ve read. I think the idea of a bookmobile offering access to books for those not near a library is itself a fantastic idea! To see such an amazing resource involved in a good mystery is just extra fun!

 

Tailing a Tabby is the second book in the series and also the most recent to be released. Sadly this means another whole year before we get to read another one. In this mystery Minnie and Eddie are enjoying their success with the bookmobile. Things seem to be going very well for this interesting pair – until they are entangled in another murder mystery! Minnie has another mystery on her hands as well as some personal issues she has to worry about.

Minnie and Eddie make an interesting a loveable team. Minnie has determination and stubbornness that help, and sometimes hurt her, in her quest for justice. She has a strong sense of right and wrong and she is always willing to help others. She’s the kind of character you can depend on and see the best in. The other characters in the book always add an interesting flair of the unusual and the complicated. And Eddie? Well he’s just as Eddie as usual!

This is another good cozy mystery series that keeps you entertained and interested without all the graphic violence and gore I find so unnecessary. I’m looking forward to the third installment so I can see what new adventure the bookmobile takes Minnie and Eddie on!

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Book Review – A Novel Idea Mystery Series by Lucy Arlington

Buried in a Book

I am a big mystery novel fan. I don’t like my mysteries gory, super violent, graphic, or too far out that the concept hurts my brain. I like mysteries with good character exploration and a complicated enough plot that it not only leaves me guessing till the end, but it also hold my interest so much so that I cannot put the book down. I’ve found that most definitely in A Novel Idea Mystery series by Lucy Arlington!

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I first started off with Buried in a Book, which is the first in the series. Here we meet our main character Lila Wilkins, who has a teenage son and a quirky mother all causing ups and downs in her life. Lila is about to embark on a new path in life and it ends in a fantastic mystery.

I really enjoyed this book! I love discovering a new series that is immensely enjoyable to read, it’s like discovering a rare new species of animal! I wasn’t feeling well when I started reading it but boy it sure took my attention off how I felt in no time! I won’t be giving anything away because I want you to read her book! I immediately went online to get the next 2 books in the series so I could read them as soon as possible.

Every Trick in the Book

The second book in this series is Every Trick in the Book (A Novel Idea Mystery). Here we are following up on Lila Wilkins and her latest life event – a book and author festival. Unfortunately for Lila and company, this event turns deadly. I settled down with this little gem for the long haul, knowing it wouldn’t get put down until finished. The second mystery had me just as enraptured as the first, and it was great to follow up with characters I was beginning to know so well!

Books, Cooks, and Crooks Amazon

The third book in this series is also the latest one out, which left me groaning because I hate waiting to read the next book a whole year later! In Books, Cooks, and Crooks (A Novel Idea Mystery), Lila Wilkins is now involved in a cookbook fair to end all – in a most deadly way! Poor Lila, it seems like death and mayhem just follow her. Understandably so though, since this is a mystery series after all. Here we know Lila and her family pretty well, and we understand the things going on in their lives and commiserate with them over the choices to make. Again, I couldn’t put this one down!

I am very hooked on this series. I love a good mystery but they aren’t as easy to find, despite how many books are put out these days. I like a specific style of writing and plot ideas. Lucy Arlington continues to keep the series interesting and addicting so you want to get the next book that comes out. I like the way she writes because she holds my attention, she goes into just the right amount of detail of characters, surroundings, and happenings, without going into waaaaay too much detail. I don’t want to spend the first 30 minutes of a book meeting two characters and reading how they are described over meaningless conversation. And yes, that has happened in books I’ve tried before!

I also enjoy the fresh ideas in her books. With any tamer mystery, or cozy style mystery, there will be some similarities. It’s a pleasure to find creativity and uniqueness in a book series because it helps them to stand out. I have a good 15-20 series I really like so it’s important to me to find the stand out points in them. I find A Novel Idea books to offer that and more. I really felt like I could connect and relate to the character, something else I value in a book. While I may not be in the same age bracket just yet, I can relate to a lot of what she goes through as a woman and a mother. I like characters that seem realistic and have traits you can see in real life people.

All in all, I definitely recommend this series! If you read them, tell me what you thought in the comments below! :)

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Hotel Cascada Waterpark and Living Social Review Part 2

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We had an interesting experience with Hotel Cascada in Albuquerque, New Mexico and with the deal site Living Social. I will be doing this review in 2 parts so it’s not as long. This portion covers our experience with Living Social and Part 2 covers our experience with Hotel Cascada. You can find Part 2 about our problematic Living Social experience here: Hotel Cascada Waterpark and Living Social Review Part 1.

That Thursday we had set up to go to the Waterpark. Their hours for that day were from 4pm-9pm. We arrived before 4pm and could not figure out where to park. Their signs for the Waterpark were pointing to an area where people staying in the hotel park, and their was no entrance for the Waterpark on that side. We ended up driving around until I finally went back out front and parked in their front lot. We didn’t know how to get to the Waterpark so when I called I was told just to go in the front of the hotel and ask for help. The woman at the front desk, blonde with a slightly foreign accent, told us to go straight, turn, go to the second floor, and go across the walkway. She was not very friendly or helpful. We missed where we were supposed to turn, went back, and did end up finding it. There are no signs posted as to where you go to pay for passes or pick things up. We ended up going downstairs and asking at the lifeguard station, only to be told to go back upstairs to the snack bar to pay. I think that should have been clearly displayed on a sign.

We had to wait in a long line, and when we finally got our turn, the girl said there were no passes for us! They said they would try to track down Patrick and in the mean time we got to stand around even more. I finally got tired of waiting and called the front desk. Luck would have it that I got the SAME unpleasant front desk woman who talked to me like I was an idiot. While trying to explain to her who I was trying to locate and why, a man walking by turned around and said he was the one who was going to help us. I hung up on our front desk friend, and he told me that Patrick had told him to arrange the passes and he forgot. He got our passes for us without us having to stand in line again thankfully! He also gave us a few locker tokens as well, which was very nice since we didn’t ask for him to do so. He gave us a small tour since I told him we had never been before, and showed us where things were. He wasn’t my idea of super outgoing but he was nice enough and accommodating.

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The Waterpark is all indoors except for half of the hot tub which is indoors and outdoors. The activities are limited to a few things: a kiddie area with playground type of equipment and two slides,  a pool type area with two basketball hoops and a climbing area, a large lazy river, a hot tub, and two tall water slides. This may seem like a lot until you’re there for more than an hour and have already done everything. For me, it didn’t offer a lot but my daughter really loved it and had a great time! Kids seem to be entertained with a lot less than us adults which is really nice sometimes.

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They provide life jackets for kids who can’t swim which was a great thing to offer. When I had called I was told not to bring anything, that they provide everything. However, we saw many people who had brought their own floaties and inner tubes. The life jackets were too big for my daughter and floated up under her chin rubbing it raw even when we changed to a smaller size. Their inner tubes are HUGE and fit an adult well, but small kids not so much. If we ever go back, we will be taking her floaties and small inner tube.

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They have two types of water slides: one you go down on your own and one you go down in an inner tube. Since my daughter is so small I wanted us to go down together in the double inner tube with two tubes attached. We got to do that only once because they only had two of the double tubes available. I think they need to have a lot more of them for guests because the place was full of people and I’m sure many wanted to ride together. We had to go down the rest of the times in separate tubes, but my kiddo still enjoyed it. The water slides go through the outside of the building and then shoot you back into a pool inside of the building that is connected to the lazy river. When you go through the parts outside the tubes are super hot and humid! We skipped the slide you go down without a tube because my daughter couldn’t take a life jacket and she can’t swim well enough to be without one.

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The lazy river was my daughter’s favorite part. We went through many, many times, so many that I lost count! She even made a couple friends there and had fun going through with them over and over. We went through so many times that we knew exactly how to go through without getting as soaked! They have areas with water spraying at you from different directions, areas where water drops on you like rain and feels a bit like hail when it hits you, areas where water dumps on you from the top, and areas where you get pushed through the water by what feels like small waves. I recommend going through with an inner tube to make it easier to navigate and easier to hide from falling and spraying water.

The hot tub was nice for me during the times I got cold. I’d sit in the 2 foot deep kiddie pool/play area while my daughter played for a while, and then we’d make a stop at the hot tub to warm me up. It’s nice that it has an opening to go outside so you can sit in the hot water and feel the sun on your skin. My daughter got a mouthful of their water several times in several areas, which is not surprising. but she said it tasted a lot better than the pool water at our complex, so that’s a plus! The climbing area connected to the basketball hoops consisted of large foam shapes that my daughter said looked like jewels, and a net above. The foam jewels are connected to the bottom of the pool by a rope so it’s hard to keep your balance on them even holding onto the net. It was fun for her to try to go across without falling off and she did it quite a few times!

They closed the water slides down about 8:30-8:40. They closed the whole Waterpark down at 8:50. If the hours say till 9pm, they shouldn’t close anything until then. They do provide towels there as well which is handy so you don’t have to lug around your own. They don’t allow outside food or drinks though, which is a hassle, but we took a water bottle with us anyway. Mostly we had a good time and enjoyed it. There were a few problems and things I felt they could have done better, and I did get tired with the limited activities there, but for my little girl it was an awesome time – and in the end that’s what really matters! She told me she had a fantastic time and she didn’t want to leave. She loved being there and only left the play area once in the 4/12 hours of playing… but only to go to the bathroom!. I am disappointed they wouldn’t work with our vouchers and that we had to endure weeks of hassle just to get to go, but it was a fun night for her and that was my goal!

If you are staying in Albuquerque, New Mexico (and I’m not sure why you would want to…) this would be a fun place to stay so the kids can get a Waterpark trip in as well. I don’t know their hotel prices as we were just there for the Waterpark, but you can check them out and see if it’s worth it. Do beware of possible lacking customer service though! If you do have problems with them make sure you contact someone in charge and skip the non-in charge staff.

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Hotel Cascada Waterpark and Living Social Review Part 1

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We had an interesting experience with Hotel Cascada in Albuquerque, New Mexico and with the deal site Living Social. I will be doing this review in 2 parts so it’s not as long. This portion covers our experience with Living Social and Part 2 covers our experience with Hotel Cascada. You can find Part 2 here: Hotel Cascada and Living Social Review Part 2.

We love using Groupon to find great deals on local events, activities, restaurants, and on goods! I have had mostly good experiences with them so I figured I’d give the site Living Social a try since they seemed to have different deals. I happened to see a deal for the Hotel Cascada Waterpark listed a while back. I purchased 2 tickets – one for myself and one for my little girl. With Groupon we always get reminders when our deals are getting close to expiring so I expected the same with Living Social. I came to find out that they do not send reminders, or if they do I didn’t get mine for the Waterpark deal.

By chance I went on to Living Social to look for something and realized our Waterpark vouchers were expiring that same week. I had been working A LOT and rarely had a day off, but I did have a Wednesday off that week. I checked the Hotel Cascada Waterpark website only to find that they are open really random times and days. And of course, they were not open on Wednesdays. That was the last day we could use our vouchers. I called and spoke to a customer service woman and explained the situation. I asked if we could come in on Thursday, just one day after they expired, and use them. I was told no, and that we would have to pay full price. Now with other companies, they will often accept your voucher if it has just expired recently. The reason is because they are awesome companies who really care about the customers and want them to enjoy their experience. Hotel Cascada seemed to only care about the money.

I called back and ask to speak to someone in charge. I was transferred to his line and got his voicemail. I left a message that was never returned… His name is Josh. I then went on their Facebook page and left a review in a post. I received a reply comment from them asking me to message them. I did that the Friday of that week. I didn’t hear back from them for days until I left another comment stating that I hadn’t gotten a reply. I was told they were “trying to figure it out with their staff” and that they would get back to me. They never did… I called back again and finally got someone who seemed to care named Patrick. He told me my vouchers could not be used but he would let us come in free. We set up a day, he apologized repeatedly, and he told me our passes would be available when we went in. I thought things would go more smoothly now! Wrong.

I called Living Social to ask for a refund. I paid my hard earned money for the vouchers and if I couldn’t use them I wanted a refund. The first woman I talked to was awful. She kept telling me there was nothing she could do. She called and talked to Patrick who repeated what he and I discussed, and she told me that because he and I worked something out that I didn’t need a refund. Really?! After all I went through with them and the fact that Living Social failed to notify me of the vouchers coming close to expiring were good enough reasons for me. These sites give “Satisfaction Guarantees” and yet she didn’t want to honor that. At one point she put me on hold and then hung up on me! I called back again and got a much nicer woman, who told me money back to my card was impossible, but getting Deal Bucks (like credit to use on future deals) was possible. I was put on hold while she got approval, and then she took care of it. I was refunded the full amount in Deal Bucks which wasn’t my first choice, but it was still a better resolution than getting nothing!

I now have $25 in Living Social Deal Bucks to use in the next year. The experience definitely left a bitter taste in my mouth about this company. I plan to use their site only if I can’t find the deal somewhere else and it’s an EXTREMELY good bargain. Once my $25 is spent, I am unsure if we will continue using them. They do have benefits, such as knocking a couple bucks off of deals randomly. But the customer service I experienced and the hassle they put me through was a big turn off. If they start to get their act together and treat customers better, maybe I’ll see them in a better light.

Don’t forget to read the second part of this review on the Hotel Cascada Waterpark!

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Rio Kids Movie $2.99 + Free Shipping On Amazon Today!

Today on Amazon you can get Rio the kids movie for only $2.99 plus free shipping! The prices on Amazon can change so get it fast! :-)

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Saving Space When Drying Dishes

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I live in an apartment so space is not something that we have a ton of. Normally that doesn’t bother me much, but in my kitchen it has created a bit of an annoyance in the past because I just don’t have much space for preparing meals and baking. I’ve been one to hand wash my dishes for at least the last 8 years. I have never understood why I would want to pre-wash dishes just to put them in the dishwasher to be washed again. I might as well just wash them myself since that’s basically what I’m doing anyway!

The only down side to washing dishes by hand is the space a drying rack takes up on the counter. I had one that was medium sized and yet I still felt like much of my counter space was full. On top of that, I couldn’t wash big loads of dishes at a time because I had a limited amount of space in my dish drying rack. When I made big batches of food or baked a large amount of something, it left me with a lot of dishes and not enough room to dry them all in after being washed.

A few nights ago, the idea came to me to use my dishwasher as a really large drying rack. This may not be a new idea to everyone, but to me it was like a wonderful light bulb turned on. I often get really good ideas before bed so I usually make notes on my phone with my Note Pad app. I knew this one was one that could really be beneficial! When I got up I immediately got started. My daughter, who is almost 8  now, usually doesn’t help with dishes because there hasn’t been a need for any assistance. That morning she actually got to help me with them for the first time, which she loved, and it was fun to do together. I washed and she loaded the dishwasher with the dishes. She loves helping out so this is another way she can now participate in a home care activity.

I freed up a lot of counter space by doing this! I made more room to prepare meals and it gave my counters a more spacious look. I am not a big fan of clutter so anything I can do to avoid clutter makes me happy! So far this is working out very well for us and maybe it will help out one of you too! :)

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How I Make Scented Wax Cubes Last Longer

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I am big on saving money and I like the fun scents I get using a wax warmer. I have a really neat one that glows well enough to be a bit like a night light and I love it’s design. Scented wax bars and cubes can get a bit pricey though! Through Scentsy folks pay $5 a bar, and for me that’s just too much. I find mine in Walmart, and I try to get ones on clearance. This past January I LOADED up on bars for only .50 cents a pack!! I found my favorite scent, Country Fall Festival, along with a few others that I really enjoy. I bought a lot of them to make sure I had plenty until the next clearance sale.

I do love the scents, but boy are some of them strong! This led me to the idea of breaking them up into smaller pieces. This way I don’t have a really strong and intense smell, but a softer scent that lasts a shorter time. I’m okay with replenishing them as needed, and I usually only use them a couple days a week. I watch kids from home, and I like to avoid the dirty diaper smell permeating through the air by having yummy scented wax in the warmer. On top of keeping the scent from being so overpowering, I save even more money because they last me even longer this way. I use one piece a day, and I use them only on the days I feel like having one in.

Cutting them is pretty simple. I chose to cut mine on a glass plate because I really didn’t want scented wax embedded in my bamboo cutting board. I have a Forever Sharp knife that cuts through just about anything, so I line it up down the middle of the cube and press hard for a quick clean cut. Sometimes it cuts the block into 3 pieces or I have crumbles left over. I take the smaller pieces for our bathroom, which also has a warmer in it, because it is a smaller space and doesn’t need much wax to fill up with the scent. Crumbles and small broken pieces are fine to go in either warmer with a bigger piece.

As you can see in the picture above, I store my cut up wax cubes in glass jars. I have a plethora of jars so it’s a good use for some of them. You can remove the label with the name of the scent from the plastic package and tape it to the jar you’re putting that scent in if you like. I used to do that will all my jars, but I’ve found that the names don’t matter much to me. I open the jars up and choose one by what scent appeals to me that day. :)

Wax warmers are a reasonably safe way to provide a yummy smell in your home. I try to avoid candles since I care for little ones and I really don’t want to burn my home down because I forgot to blow one out. As long as you keep it where kids can’t get into the warm wax or spill it, you should be fine. And keep an eye out at Walmart for clearance scents! They go on sale around each season and I’ve noticed that after bigger holidays they tend to be marked down even more.

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Homemade Pomander Air Freshener – DIY Project

Pomander graphic blog

I’m always looking for natural ways to scent my home. I had automatic spraying air fresheners in every room of my home last year. At the time I didn’t realize how many bad chemicals are in them, I just loved my home smelling pretty and that was the easiest way to do it. But I was getting really bad headaches almost daily, and I didn’t know why. I was browsing some information online one day, and found that many people are intolerant to air fresheners. Headaches are not uncommon, which explained why I was getting them so frequently at home. Then I found that the chemicals in them are not good, and having mine spray all day long was definitely not a good idea. I removed them all and began researching homemade air fresheners and found a lot of good ideas!

When I first heard the word “pomander” I thought maybe it was a trouble fruit I hadn’t heard of. Turns out it’s a fun way to create a natural fragrance in your home. Pomanders are oranges with cloves pushed into their skin. That’s it! They create a nice spicy smell that is great for the fall and winter. You can put as many or as little cloves in your orange as you like. You can put them in a fun pattern or just randomly. You can hang them with ribbons for a fun decoration like in the picture below.

 

You’ll need oranges and/or lemons and whole cloves for this project, plus ribbon or any extra decorations you want for them. Make sure you get enough cloves for the design you want. And remember, the more cloves you add, the stronger the scent. This is something kids can make as well but they may not enjoy the smell. My daughter told me the cloves smelled too strong. Make sure that the scent is something you will all enjoy.

You can see how nice these can look in a bowl or hanging. Use your creativity to make these however you like! You can even experiment to see what different citrus fruits you enjoy the most. You can even add little bows and bells to make it festive for the winter holidays.

How do you enjoy giving your home a nice holiday scent naturally?

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Weekly Links

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Are Reusable Shopping Bags Really a Hazard to Your Health?

The One in Which We Admit It’s Possible to Be a Worse-r Mom

SNAP Cuts Hit Today—And Food Banks Can’t Make Up the Difference – There are a lot of families who will need food so please donate a few items to your local food bank or food pantry. No one should go hungry!

For the Love of Mac & Cheese

Top five regrets of the dying

10 Ways To Make Money As A Kid In The Fall

Love Your Life: Tangible rewards are good for everyone.

5 Cool Ideas for Halloween Candy

Free November Desktop Wallpaper 2013

Don’t Boast When You Post (Choosing Humility Over Self-Promotion)

the happiest day of your life

How to Live on $1.50 a Day

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Why We Don’t Have Barbie Dolls In Our House

Barbie vs Real Barbie

Photo courtesy of takepart.com

In my home, Barbie is not allowed. Barbie dolls given as gifts will be exchanged or sold for other more suitable toys. I don’t find Barbie to be a healthy example, and with the thousands of toy choices we now have, I don’t see a reason to settle for a toy with a bad message. And Barbie has a dirty history, but more on that later in this post. For now, let’s focus on Barbie herself.

Barbie is marketed as the Every Day Woman/Girl. She is a teacher, doctor, cheerleader and vet. She has sisters, horses, cars, campers, houses and boats. And yet, she looks nothing like a real woman. I read a great article on TakePart.com about how a Barbie based on a REAL woman would look. The differences are very apparent. Take a look at the photo above. The REAL woman version looks a lot more normal. You can find the article, as well as other great picture comparisons here: Barbie in Real World Measurements. I loved that someone took the time to make a better version. If only we could get Mattel to sell it!

Barbie is an example of unattainable fake beauty. She would have to walk on all fours if she were a real woman. How attractive would that be? She is anorexic and has had some ribs removed. She must also have worn a corset every single day of her life to achieve that waist. So if Barbie looks nothing like a real woman, and doesn’t even look healthy, why are we giving her to our little girls as an example??

I keep reading articles and books about the images put in front of our daughters and how it is deeply affecting them. As a mother to a 7 year old little girl, I do not want to find my daughter in the bathtub sobbing about how fat her thighs are and how she needs to go on a diet…. And yes, that was a real life example in an article. This is REALLY happening to our girls. I don’t want my daughter to starve herself or throw up her food because she thinks she isn’t skinny enough. I have to contend with enough of that garbage being posted on magazines and on TV, I don’t need to have a plastic example in my home, sending that message every day.

I am really blessed, I have a little girl who is just that – a little girl. She doesn’t like boy bands, wear mini skirts, put on make up or wear bikinis. She doesn’t care about the latest trends, celebrity gossip, or watch meant for older kids but marketed to little ones. She is a normal little girl who isn’t motivated by what the TV and society tells her to do. She loves horses, animals, pretending to be a vet, reading books and playing outside. And she loves her body. She doesn’t see any flaws on her body, with the exception of wondering if we would all look better without eyebrows! :) And I want to keep it that way as long as I can.

I didn’t grow up in the healthy environment she had, and yes it did affect me negatively. As a parent my job is to take my negative experiences and work to provide better ones for my child. If I know something wasn’t good for me, I need to make sure I keep it away from her. It’s not rocket science, it’s good parenting. And for this reason, I don’t want Barbie dolls in my house. I grew up with body image issues and I am a woman with a thinner body type. So even the skinny girls can have body issues. I know what I went through and I don’t want my daughter to go through it if possible.

Oh, and did I mention that the Barbie doll is a rip off of a Lilli doll made in Germany FOR MEN and sold in SEX SHOPS. Yep, everyone’s favorite toy sweetheart is not only a rip off, but the doll is modeled after a character who wore tiny clothes and slept with men for things… How is that a good example for little girls?? And why would I feel comfortable having a doll based on a sex toy for men in my home?! Eww. You can find out the dirty history behind Barbie here: Barbie Who?.

I want healthy examples in our home that help my daughter love who she is and have confidence in who she is. I don’t want her focus to be on outer beauty that isn’t even realistic. And I surely do not want her playing with a doll that was modeled after a woman who thought sleeping with men to get things was a good way to spend her life. No, I want her time spent playing with animals and dreaming of being a veterinarian. I want her to spend time in creative play with all shapes and sizes of dolls and toys. I want to encourage her creative and healthy play so she grows to be a creative and healthy woman.

I’m sure some will see fault with my choice, I ALWAYS hear the, “I played with Barbie dolls and I turned out just fine!” argument from the naysayers. Most of them don’t know her history I’m sure. However, if that’s the case, good for you! I personally won’t even take the risk that m y daughter will get negatively impacted and that it will hinder her confidence in herself. We live in a day and age with a massive amount of toy choices, so for me I can find an alternative that doesn’t have the risk. There are so many options, I don’t feel the need to limit myself to just one. :)

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