Monday, December 29, 2014

My Five Best Travel Tips for Families

Taking a trip with the kids? While I have no tips on making them be perfectly behaved on the airplane flight, or adventurous diners in new locales, I do have a few travel tips from our family trips:

1. Pack Downey Wrinkle Releaser. This stuff actually works, and is great to de-wrinkle clothes after they've been packed in your suitcase. You can get Downey Wrinkle Releaser in three sizes, including one that's small and perfect for travel. It also helps eliminate odors which is a feature that can come in handy on a trip, too.

2. Bring something fun for the kids to play with that's new to them. Even if your kids usually pass the time while traveling with screens and books, it's always fun to bring along something unexpected to capture their amusement for awhile. A friend told me about surprise balls, and they are the perfect addition to a trip. Surprise balls are filled with trinkets and candy, and kids have to peel away the layers of streamers to reveal the treats. My kids, ages 5 to 11, loved unwrapping their surprise balls. We got our from Reveries & Fancies on Etsy, and they were perfect ($8 - $18 depending on size, lots of fun designs available).

Another great pick for a travel to is the Tegu Pocket Pouch Prism ($25), which is a set of six magnetic blocks with a carrying case that is just the right size for on-the-go fun and is good for all ages.

3. Make sure your kids carry a bag. Depending on their age, this may be more for their own amusement, but as they get older you'l find that even a small bag shouldered by a kid is one less bag being shouldered by you. There are so many cute options for kids from backpacks to tiny duffel bags, to rolling suitcases. One innovative option is Trunki ($40) which is a ride on suitcase made just for kids.

4. Make sure you can find your stuff. Tie a ribbon on the suitcase handle, add a stripe of colorful Duck Tape to the side of the bag, but nothing is worse than arriving at your destination and having to hunt for your luggage. I love these whimsical luggage tags from Miamica ($5).

5. Look for discounts on museums and other attractions ahead of time. I had no idea there were so many deals if you buy tickets before you go, not to mention that a ticket in hand often means you can avoid entrance lines. CityPASS is a great deal, offering significant discounts when you purchase a book with entrance to multiple places within a single city. You can buy CityPASS online for various cities including Manhattan, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta and Philadelphia. The price and number of attractions varies in each city, but all offer big savings as well as the ability to bypass most lines.

I received a free sample of Downey Wrinkle Releaser and a Manhattan CityPASS. All other items our personal picks from years of traveling with my kids.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How the Sony Hack Changed My (Email) Life

Before the giant hack of Sony employees' email, which made thousands of personal emails open for public consumption (and enjoyment), I never thought of anyone besides the intended recipient reading my email.

Now, I'm completely re-thinking my correspondence. Even a simple email to my husband requires second-guessing. For instance, this morning I needed to remind him to call and make sure someone was coming to fix the heat before the arctic chill predicted for next week got here.

Usually, I would write this email:

Hey asshole,
Can you finally call someone to fix the fucking heat in the basement today? Like actually today, not tomorrow. Seriously, it's only sorta cold right now but it's going to be way too cold next week and I'm going to tell the kids it's all your fault and it's because daddy doesn't love them AT ALL so make the goddamn call.  
Also I need you to call the dry cleaner, because I was just looking and there's still a stain on my shirt. So annoying. How can you send something to be dry cleaned and it still comes back dirty? So pissed, does no one do a good job at anything anymore? We should find a new dry cleaner. I would call myself, but that is going to be a totally awkward conversation because her English isn't that good, and as you know you're way better at that kind of thing. So call today.


But since the hack, I can't write that email! Because who knows who might read it and judge me:
1. For calling my husband an asshole, and
2. For being an entitled housewife complaining about the heat not working in the basement and about the dry cleaning not being right.

I sound like a horrendous person!

In addition to the prying eyes of the general public, what about my husband's boss? Is he going to get in trouble for doing personal things at work? I can't risk that!

So I am forced to revise the email, in case it is ever leaked, and write this:
Hey honey,
I love you! Hope you are having a great day at work! Is it okay that I'm emailing you there? I know you have rules about personal emails and I want to stay safely within those parameters.  
Quick question, do you think we should fix the heat in the basement? Totally up to you, whatever you think is best. The kids were just asking me about it and I was like, sure it's going to be fixed, but then one of them was asking if it wasn't fixed because you didn't love them, and I was like of course not! But then I worried they might think that, so just wanted to let you know in case you thought maybe we should get the heat fixed. Up to you, totally. I am great either way! I know we are beyond blessed to have heat in the rest of the house, and I am so grateful for that. And for you!
Also, if you had just like a tiny, quick second to call the dry cleaner during your lunch break I would really appreciate it. There's a small stain on my shirt, and given you and Mrs. Kwong's rapport I thought she might be more receptive to my request to have her take a second look at the shirt f it came from you. Even if she can't fix the stain, they are the best dry cleaners in town! So lucky to have them!
Thanks so much, love you tons and tons! 

And then, right as I'm about to finally push send, I think to myself, is it really enough to have re-written my email so that I appear to be a decent human being to the outside world, and so that my husband looks like a model employee? Is that all I need to do? Don't I also want to come across a a good writer? As someone possessing both a sense of humor and wisdom beyond my years, yet totally chill and relaxed?

Don't answer that: of course I do.

So I edit the email again:
What's up? It's getting like penguin-friendly down in the basement, and I don't know if you have a Mr. Popper thing going on purposely or not, but if not, maybe we should get the heat fixed? Or just get some penguins? LOL the kids would love that! (j/k)
Also, crazy story, but right after viewing nature's spectacular light show which was this morning's sunrise, I motored back from my jaunt into town to pick-up the dry cleaning, and I totes noticed a stain on my shirt. I'm pretty sure Mrs. Kwong left it there purposely as a commentary on modern life and its imperfections, but thought maybe we should check with her and make sure that was her intention. As you know, I'm all about living the mindful life.
Peace. xo

Argh! This person may be a better version of myself, but I don't care because I'm pretty sure the peace-and-love person who wrote that email isn't the same person who is getting the basement heat and the dry cleaning fixed by her husband. Today.

So I sent this email:
Calling you right now. Make sure you answer the phone. xo

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How to make your kid a special Hanukkah school lunch

I admit that I am one of *those* moms always making completely ridiculous over-done lunches for my kids to bring to school.

And what better occasion for a super special lunch than Hanukkah? I especially like to make my kids a lunch for the days they are at school on Hanukkah as I feel this time of year can be hard on kids who aren't celebrating Christmas. So don't worry kids, this Hanukkah lunch is totally as good as, possibly even better, than this whole Santa thing your friends keep tormenting mentioning to you!

So if you want to make an amazing school lunch for your kids on Hanukkah this year (which starts Tuesday night, December 16 and ends Wednesday, December 24), here are some ideas!

The Hanukkah lunch in a PlanetBox lunchbox:

I have a dreidel cookie cutter, which I used to cut out a dreidel shape from the sandwich and a piece of cheese, which I put on top of the dreidel bread from the sandwich.  I also added a fun Hanukkah coloring book, some gelt, and a little bag of apple crisps.

I also made a similar lunch in a traditional lunchbox, where every item was wrapped like a present, even the juice pouch. I even added a Hanukkah gift tag.

Really anything will work from adding a few decorative dreidels to throwing in a few pieces of gelt. If you have some blue and silver ribbon, add that too and your Hanukkah lunch is ready to go!

Happy Hanukkah!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Enter to win on-the-go power from myCharge!

If you're like me, the only thing more annoying than someone leaving you a voicemail is not being able to listen to that voicemail because your phone isn't charged.

Now there's a solution -- myCharge! These portable extended battery accessories are designed to make sure your devices are always fully charged and ready to go.

This holiday season myCharge is spreading the cheer - and portable power - by offering to send one of their awesome portable charging devices to anyone who follows them on Twitter (@myChargePower), who retweets this tweet from their #myChargeCheer campaign. No strings attached!

It's that easy. Just visit the @myChargePower Twitter page and retweet this tweet:
You can also win a myCharge portable battery right here! I'm giving away the RazorPlus, a rechargeable 3000 mAh battery that delivers an additional 13 hours of talk time for your smartphone. Crafted from anodized aluminum, the ultra-thin RazorPlus comes in four colors: red, pink, blue and silver.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you for spreading the #myChargeCheer this holiday season!

PS Buy a portable charger at and use the code JOLLY for 25% off your purchase.

This post is sponsored by myCharge, but all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Craft Failing...Online *and* in Print!

It's a double craft fail day here at Random Handprints!

First, my advent calendar gone wrong was featured on Monday on! Check it out in all its imperfect glory in Unattractive Advent Calendar Adventure.

Also, just when you thought my craft failing couldn't get any better (or would that be worse?) I'm featured in the newly released Craft Fail book! Check out CraftFail: When Homemade Goes Horribly Wrong.

It's nice to know I'm not the only one who has crafts that don't turn out exactly as planned.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving with Kids: Two Great Holiday Books

It's almost Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. I also like to think of it as a holiday with a feminist bent, even if that seems a bit of a stretch. However, it's not that far-fetched.

In fact, it was thanks to Sarah Hale that Thanksgiving ever became a national holiday to begin with. It took her 38 years to make this happen, with the first "official" Thanksgiving taking place in 1863. To share this fascinating story with your kids, read Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving written by Laurie Halse Anderson and illustrated by Matt Faulkner (Simon & Schuster, 2002). The book is $17.99 hardcover and $6.00 paperback, and is recommended for ages 5 to 10.

I'm also a big fan of  the classic Thanksgiving children's book Over the River and Through the Wood: The New England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day.

It's a great read for kids ages 4-9 who will enjoy seeing how things once were - they're taking a horse and carriage ride to Thanksgiving dinner, that's so cool!  Even better given for our feminist theme, there are historical notes at the end of the book that tell more about the author's commitment to issues surrounding women's rights. You can also read a biography of Lydia Maria Child here, which goes into more detail about her life, and her activism on issues related both to women and Native Americans.

For even more about the fascinating connection between the suffragette movement and Thanksgiving, read this post from last year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Photos from the Archives

I came across these oldies but goodies.

When my daughters still were willing to wear matching outfits - not to mention dresses and tights.

And when dinner on the table instead of at the table was all the rage.

Oh yeah, and we still lived in Manhattan.

Dad - still #1, some things never change.

Another favorite pic, when the girls were still doing dress-up, and little bro was just a tiny little thing.

Laundry on the sofa - yeah, that part of daily life hasn't changed much at all.

And last but not least, video from a time when I was a mom to three-under-five. Good times, I tell you. Not quiet times, but good times.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Seen in NYC

How cool is this?

Spotted at Metropolitan Locksmiths, 165 7th Ave in the West Village.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tons of Fun: Review of the Wubble Bubble Ball

wubble bubble fun

Thanks to Georgette Gilmore for sharing this review of the Wubble Bubble Ball!

Chances are your kids have seen the Wubble Bubble Ball on TV. The commercial says it "looks like a bubble, plays like a ball" and is made of “top-secret super-thermo-stretch-tacular stuff that makes it squishy, squashy, super soft and lightweight and allows it to be inflated to a gigantic THREE FEET TALL." It also says it's tons of fun. After receiving one to review, I can say the hype is true.

Wubble Bubble Ball has won numerous toy awards, including an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Toy Award, a National Parenting Center Seal of Approval, a Family Fun Magazine Toy Of The Year Award Winner, and was selected as a 2014 Top Toy for the Holiday Season by Target.

The minute our Wubble Bubble Ball arrived, my girls (ages 10 and 7) were bouncing up and down excited to inflate it and get to, well...bouncing.  After a quick trip to the store to buy the required 4 D batteries (not included) for the pump (included), we followed the simple directions and had a huge bubble-like ball in minutes.

The girls took their new toy outside and it didn't take long for the other kids in the neighborhood to come out to play. For the next hour, 7 kids had some good old fashioned fun making up various games to play using the Wubble Bubble Ball. That thing was bounced, thrown, and pounced on! The best part? It didn't break — at least not yet.

Wubble Balls are not indestructible and they come with a warning that many things can tear or pop it, things like branches, pets, or any sharp object it comes into contact with. However, the company says they do have a lifetime replacement guarantee, which will cost you $6.99 for processing and handling.

Wubble Ball is available at Target, Toys R Us and online at for $19.99.  Stay connected with Wubble Ball on both Twitter and Facebook!

Georgette received a Wubble Bubble Ball in exchange for an honest review, which this is.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mystery Walks - Anything Could Happen!

I've had the link to an event listing on my list of Things to Write About since I read it last spring, and figured if there was ever going to be a time to share it, Halloween week was that time.

It was an event listing in the local calendar, with the headline: Mystery Walk.

Then this text:

Take a risk and come learn something new! Each walk will be different and will focus on either horticulture, agro-ecology, wildlife ecology, sustainability, or cultural legacy, but you won’t know until you get to the farm!

Wow. I don't know about you, but I'm not sure those are the kinds of risks I'd be willing to take, or frankly, to let my kids take. What if I promised them they were going to be learning about agro-ecology but instead (gasp!) the guide was like, "sorry honey, no agro-ecology for you! You are on the wildlife ecology walk! What's that? You want to switch to a different walk? NO! No trading! It's a mystery walk. You knew the risks when you came here today."

For me, life has enough uncertainty. I'm not going to add to it by not even knowing which of these exactly the same sounding walks I might be going on until I got there. 

Now tell me, what choices would you have if you created mystery walks?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

METAMORPHOSIS from the Big Apple Circus is a Great Show for Kids of All Ages

Last weekend my family and I saw the all-new show from Big Apple CircusMETAMORPHOSIS, at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park. We all loved it and it truly is a perfect performance for the whole family, with plenty to keep adults entertained as well as older kids and tweens. My three kids, ages 10, 9 and 5, all loved the show , which is especially meaningful coming from my five-year-old son who can be a little picky about what holds his attention when it comes to live performances. The performance runs a little under 2 hours with one 15 minute intermission.

Some of the big hits with my kids were the trapeze act, the animal tricks, including an unbelievable one that had dogs riding on horses, and the Quick Change, which was a series of costume changes performed in a blink of an eye. (I still have no idea how the performers did it!)

We were seated about 10 rows from the stage, and could see everything perfectly. Even if we had been further back there really are no bad seats under the big top as no seat is more than 50 feet from ringside.

I highly recommend the show for a super-fun and memorable outing for the whole family. The Big Apple Circus is in New York City from now through January 11, so make sure you get there before it's too late. You can see the full New York City performance schedule here, and to find out where the circus is traveling to next, click here.

There are some fantastic deals you can take advantage of when booking your tickets to select shows.

This Friday, October 31 the 6:30 performance will be a special Halloween Show with goody bags, photo ops with performance, and free cotton candy for kids in costume. Save up to $25 per ticket by using the promo code SPOOOKY.

There are also special deals for midweek performances on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

When you Purchase tickets use the Promo Code BIGAPPLE and save up to $25 per ticket! Please note: this offer has limited availability and is only good on select seats and shows. Other conditions apply. Children under 3 are free when on the lap of a paid adults, one child per lap.

Thank you to the Big Apple Circus for providing tickets for my family to see the show. We all enjoyed it and opinions here are my own. No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Five Halloween Hacks for Parents

I've been celebrating Halloween with kids for about a decade now, and as a result, I've got a few Halloween hacks to share.

1. Go to the pumpkin patch early. Some might take this advice a step further and skip heading out to the farm entirely, but not me. Those fall pumpkin pics with the kids are just too amazing to miss. But go early. Most farms are pretty empty the first weekend in October, but not so much as you get closer to Halloween.

Pro tip: Hitting the pumpkin patch early in the day also helps to avoid crowds.

That's right, no one else but us here!
2. You don't have to give out candy to the trick or treaters. My husband disagrees strongly with me about this one, but I'm a committed no-fun, no-candy parent. After a few misses over the years with the non-candy alternatives, I've finally found something the kids will not complain about: glow sticks. Trust me, give these out and no one will ask you where the candy is.

Pro tip: Save a glow stick to put in your own Jack O'Lantern, it will give off a perfectly eerie light, and you won't have to worry about the live candle flame causing burns or house fires.

Best Trick or Treat offering ever.
3. A fabulous Jack O'Lantern does not have to be carved. After years of trying to cut pumpkins with youngsters, I've given it up in favor of other decorative ways to create a Halloween pumpkin that is a work of art. Googly eyes. A little paint. Maybe a sticky mustache. Really, anything goes.

Pro tip: Cover the pumpkin with hairspray before setting it outdoors so that no little critters take a bite out of your masterpiece.

Sperm ghosts make the completed pumpkin extra fun!
4. Your home decoration can be minimal as long as you visit the neighbors with the good ones. I used to succumb to my kids' pressure to decorate our home all out for Halloween. But now, I put up a ghost or two, take them on a fun drive to see the over-the-top decorations of the neighbors, and it's all good.

Pro tip: Get some cider and donuts for the ride and make a big deal out of the car tour of the neighborhood decorations.

These neighbors put up a pirate ship so you don't have to.
5. The best homemade costume is the one you bought. Homemade costumes are over-rated, trust me. I used to try and put the DIY in do-it-yourself costumes, but now I leave that to the professionals. Whether they are mass producing in China or hand-sewing in New England, my children's costumes are made by someone else. Unless you are very talented, or really enjoy spending hours creating something your kids will say is not what they wanted at all, the costume creation really needs to be outsourced.

Pro tip: Purchased costumes can easily be re-purposed for use multiple years. Last year's vampire can become this year's witch with just a few adjustments.

Even better than a store-bought costume is one you get two Halloweens out of!
So there you have it, my five Halloween hacks for parents. What are yours?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Big Apple Circus is coming to New York City - Enter to Win a Pair of Tickets to See The New METAMORPHOSIS Show! {Giveaway Closed}

The Big Apple Circus will be returning to its hometown of New York City from October 17 to January 11 for it's annual engagement at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park. This year will feature the all-new show, METAMORPHOSIS.

My kids and I love attending the Big Apple Circus, and it really is a performance that is perfect for all ages. The Big Tent is designed so that no seat is more than 50 feet from ringside, so you never have to worry about getting a bad seat. The show runs about 2 hours, including intermission. Favorite parts of the show in our family are the flying trapeze and the animal acts, especially the amazing horse and dog performances. I can't wait to see what new and exciting surprises are in store with the new METAMORPHOSIS show!

See the show!
Purchase tickets using the Promo Code BIGAPPLE and save up to $25 per ticket! Please note: this offer has limited availability and is only good on select seats and shows. Other conditions apply. Children under 3 are free when on the lap of a paid adults, one child per lap.

Enter to win tickets!
The Big Apple Circus is generously offering one lucky winner a pair of tickets to the 12:30 pm Saturday, October 18 performance of METAMORPHOSIS.

Giveaway is now closed.

Enter here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 29, 2014

Seven Ideas for Awsome No-Carve Halloween Jack O'Lanterns

Every year I go on the hunt (and by "hunt" I mean "surf Pinterest") to find cool ideas I can use to make the most awesome Halloween Jack O'Lanterns EVER. 

But there's always just one catch - I don't want to have to actually carve the pumpkin because kids and knives are not my thing, and honestly, pumpkin guts are not my thing so much either.

So if you are also looking for ways to make a Pinterest-worthy pumpkin within a blade, here are seven ideas for awesome no-carve Jack O'Lanterns:
1. Create a Book Page Pumpkin - Creations by Kara's tutorial explains how to turn an old book into a fantastical pumpkin. Sooo amazing.
2. Make Glow-in-the-Dark Funkins - Martha Stewart tells how to make these cool creations using a funkin (foam pumpkin) and glow-in-the-dark powder. I also had success using Glow in the Dark Duck Tape. 
3. Decorate a Cute as a Button Pumpkin (pictured above) Real Simple has instructions for making this easy polka dot pumpkin from re-purposed buttons. You can buy over 100 black buttons from Amazon for under six dollars, making this an easy and inexpensive way to decorate a pumpkin.

4. Paint a Chalkboard Pumpkin - Zakka Life's directions for this clever DIY project explains just how to do it, and I love that you can change it as often you like with the swipe of an eraser.

5. Add a hat and mask for a quick Pumpkin Disguise - I found this idea from Better Homes and GardensIt's also turned out cute with tiny outgrown baby Halloween costumes, if you want to dress up the pumpkin entirely.
6.  Apply tickers for an Instant Goofy Pumpkin - it's as easy, peasy as it sounds. Just add stickers, you can even purchase special Halloween Jack O'Lantern Face Stickers (12 sheets for $6.99) on Amazon.

7. Use push-in sets to create Pumpkin Characters - these recently have become really popular, so you can find just about all the kid-favorite characters. Pictured here, Darth Pumpkin. You, too can have a Star Wars Darth Vadar Pumpkin for the low price of $21. It seems a little pricey, but I still sorta want to get one for my Star Wars loving son.

Also available: Mr. Potato Head ($12.00) and Mrs. Potato Head ($19.99) and a whole bunch more.

Happy Halloween pumpkin decorating!

Need any more ideas? Here are the no-carve pumpkins I shared last year.

Whatever you create, have fun and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How to make a perfect brisket

Tonight is Rosh Hashanah, so of course I'm cooking. I keep seeing a bunch of brisket baking questions in my Facebook feed, so for anyone searching for how to make a perfect brisket, here's how.

Of course, there's no one way to make a perfect brisket so I should qualify this as my personal favorite way to make a perfect brisket. The recipe I use I think is the one often called Southern Brisket or Jewish Brisket, but to be honest this recipe didn't come from my family, so I really don't know how traditional, or non-traditional, Jewish, or southern, it is. The recipe actually comes from my brother's friend's grandma, who I think was Jewish, and also southern, but I'm not entirely positive.

Anyway, southern, Jewish, or not, this is a recipe for how to cook a perfect brisket every time.

Beef Brisket

1 beef brisket, 6-8 pounds - get the best quality one you possibly can. I get mine from a specialty butcher.
1 jar Heinz chili sauce, 12 oz
1 packet Lipton onion soup mix
1 can of Coca Cola, 12 oz

Serves 8 to 10 people

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Put the brisket in a strong cooking dish, approx. 13 x 9 inches. A disposable aluminum one will not work. Don't risk it and learn the hard way like I did, just trust me you need a real baking dish. I use a stoneware Le Creuset Baking Dish and love it, but any sturdy pan will work.
3. The brisket should be placed in the pan fat side up. Score the fat all over with a sharp knife.
4. In a bowl, whisk together the chili sauce, onion soup mix and can of coke. Pour over the brisket.

5. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, and put it the 325 degree oven.
6. Leave the brisket alone. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Do not turn, poke, prod or even open the aluminum foil. Again, I repeat, leave the brisket alone. I know this can be difficult, but trust me, you can't open it even once or you risk having all the heat escape and letting your lovely brisket dry out. I repeat one more time, leave the brisket alone. Cook for 3 to 4 hours; general rule is 30 minutes per pound.
7. Take the brisket out of the oven, cut off and discard the top layer of fat.
8.Slice the meat diagonally against the grain. Then, put the entire sliced brisket back in the pan with all the sauce, an make sure there is plenty of sauce covering the brisket slices. Let it rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, then serve. If it isn't quite done, you can re-cover the pan, and put it back in the oven to cook a little while longer, then remove and let rest at room temperature before serving.

That's it! Serve the brisket sliced with plenty of sauce covering each piece, and if you choose, you can serve additional sauce on the side as well.

Brisket is just as good - many argue better - the next day, so be happy if you have leftovers, of if you like to cook ahead, make the brisket the night before and just reheat in a 200 degree oven before serving.

For all those celebrating, L'Shana Tovah!

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