Wednesday, December 30, 2015

More Christmas Lights and If that Dog Could Talk

A few towns over is an amazing Christmas light display that was donated by the Camuso family after the patriarch of the group passed away, who had decorated his house for many years.

We didn't leave in New Jersey to get to see the original Camuso family home in all it's splendiferous Christmas glory, but we've been regulars every year to the display in Livingston.

In part we go every year to visit him:

His story is a good one, and one definitely worth telling, but as the saying goes, it is a story for a other time. Also, despite the antlers, that is so a dog's face.

The Camuso decorations are incredibly intricate and handmade, and most of them are animontronic, the dog/reindeer above plays his violin; in another display there are skaters skating.

Several displays show Santa's Workshop, where toys are built and wrapped for delivery.


Not sure if this is an addition from the town of Livingston or part of the original display, but there's a nice spinning dreidel and a large menorah, right next to the Grinch peeking out of a chimney.


There's also a tall Christmas tree with a train running around the base. The tree spins making it by far and most definitely my favorite of all the trees I've seen this season.



The story of the dog reindeer coming soon, or at least, soon-ish.

Monday, December 28, 2015

On the first day of winter break...

... a policeman paid a visit:



... Sharpie the Pig's sty finally got evicted, ironically, when we finally got around to cleaning the owner's pig sty room:


... we found three marbles deeply hidden in the aforementioned sty, leftover from the days when these were the most prized possession in all the realm. Today? The tween declared with a sigh, "get rid of them."



... and last, a night time visit with friends to Zoo Lights, to see sea lions, sparkly creations, roast marshmallows and eat s'mores, before making a quick exit when an unexpected, and heavy, freezing rain began to fall. Pictured here, cute gibbons:


All in all, not a bad first day, especially for a Monday.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Best Christmas Cookies

We are a family that is always on the search for the best of... just about anything. Best socks. Best burger. Best pillows. You get the idea.

Last year at the holidays, it was a quest for the best stollen. We tried many - award-winning, classic, new-styled, fusion. The verdict was unanimous: we don't really care for stollen, no matter how good a version of it we get.

Two years ago, we vetted all the Italian Christmas cookies we could find.

A clear winning bakery emerged from all the ones we tried, but no consensus on which of these amazing cookies was the absolute best. If you're local in Jersey, the winner was Conca D'Oro Italian Pastry Shop in Union. Totes worth the trip.

Personally, I'm partial to the rainbow cookies. (Not pictured because I ate them all.)

This year, we're having an egg nog-off.

I'll be back with the winner after all the votes are in!


Sunday, December 20, 2015

AC Lens Has Great Ski Googles for Teens and Tweens

My oldest, Magpie, started skiing last winter, and loves it. This year she plans to ski a lot -- that is if it ever becomes winter weather here on the East Coast.

One piece of equipment I wanted to make sure she had was a good pair of ski goggles. We were able to review a pair of ski goggles from AC Lens, which Magpie says are really comfortable, and we both agree look great. These goggles are designed for smaller faces, so they are a great choice for tweens and teens.



The Smith Optics Cadence Ski Goggles retail for $79.99 at AC Lens, and come with free shipping.

To see the goggles in action, check out this great video Mapgie made.
video


In addition to a wide variety of ski goggles, AC Lens also has eyeglasses, sunglasses, swimming goggles and a lot more. Check them out at ACLens.com.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Big G Cereal Celebrates 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' with Limited Edition Cereal Boxes


The Star Wars movies have a special meaning to just about everyone my age, I think because we remember seeing the originals in the movie theater when they first came out. And of course, back in those olden days movies meant something they just don't mean today in our world of media everything, everywhere all the time.

I personally have vivid memories of going to see the first Star Wars film. (Full disclosure: it is of being totally bored. In my defense, I was only five.) I also remember seeing the second and third films, in 1980 and 1983, when my older self had a greater appreciate for them.

And, I have a particularly happy memory of going with my mom to see The Phantom Menace, the fourth movie (really the first) on opening day when it was released in 1999. We didn't even go to see it in our local theater in suburban Virginia. Instead, I had us go see it on the giant screen at The Uptown Theater in Washington, DC.

There was a huge line to get in and I recall my mom chiding me "This is crazy! We can just go tomorrow!" And I remember saying back, "No, it's not the same, it has to be today! We'll always be able to say we saw it opening day!"

Sadly, I haven't been able to work this nugget of information into too many conversations over these years, but still, I believe I was on to something. The Star Wars movies are a thing, and it's great to be a part of the phenomenon.

Small children and other excuses meant I didn't see the Star Wars films that were released in 2002 and 2005 until recently when I watched them with my kids (ages 6, 10 and 12) in preparation for seeing the latest film, which we will go to see (symbolically, and memorably, of course) on Christmas Day.

Lots of people, us included, are celebrating the latest film's release with parties and treats and my friend's kids even celebrated Star Wars Day today at their school.

As for my kids, they got to enjoy Star Wars cereal, which was a huge, gigantic mega hit. But don't take my word for it, watch this amazing video by my daughter, Magpie that shows us unboxing the huge care package from General Mills Big G cereals. All of these cereals are special edition, and come with very cool droid viewers, so be sure to try them before it's  too late.

video


Now tell me, are you going to see The Force Awakens?

I rarely review products these days here at Random Handprints, so a special shout-out to the Public Relations people on this campaign who made it incredibly awesome to be a part of this, from the initial email addressed to "Jedi Anna" to the box filled with surprised that arrived at our doorstep. As Yoda would say, "Impressed am I. Well-done this is."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sunday Mornings: Teaching to the Test

On Sunday mornings, the kids take swim lessons.

First, it was just the youngest, Ziggy, learning to swim. He was beginning at the beginning, so it was slow going for awhile but he is now a pretty good swimmer.

Now, the older two, Magpie and Kay take swimming lessons, too. They took lessons a few years ago, a splendidly splendiferous experience which is mainly now just remembered as the reason we now still call Kay "baby fish," because instead of trying to learn to swim she would pretend to be a baby fish. Ah, good times.

But last summer, at sleepaway camp, indignities of indignities, Kay was forced to take "instructional swim" while her friends splashed about carefree as well, baby fish, in "free swim."

Making the goal between now, and the time the camp bus pulls out of Times Square at the end of June, for the girls to swim just well enough to pass their test.

The instructor is aware, as the girls have told them in no uncertain tween speak, "we don't care AT ALL about swimming. Like, AT ALL. We just need to pass the camp swim test, so we need to make sure our breast stroke in in synch, that was what they said I failed for last time." "Yeah, and I have to learn something called... the sideways stroke."

So, Sunday mornings we swim. Not for safety. Not for exercise. Not for the joy of the moment.

That's right, it is entirely for the camp swim test.

I just hope they pass.






Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Back to Blogging: Holiday Edition

I've decided to start writing on my blog again. I know, it's like with these words your life has gone from black and white to color.

You're welcome.

This photo is from this time last year at Rockerfeller Center. I want to say we stopped here first and then went to see the world-famous tree, but it was so crowded this is as close to the festivities as we got.

Also, we were mostly sorta-kinda-totally only in the city in the first place because the kids had to go to the dentist.

This year I went to SantaCon. It's my favorite. This photo is from a few years ago when I first learned of SantaCon and said, this - this, I gotta be a part of.

SantaCon is, I will admit, better viewed in the big picture.

Tonight my husband Mike and I were at the mall and oh-my-gawd the line to see Santa was soooo long.

As we passed by the line we looked at each other and said, "I'm so glad we're Jewish."

And that my friends is how you celebrate the holiday season: almost seeing the tree in Rockerfeller Center, dental appointments, Santa Con, and Santa-line skipping.

Happy Holidays however and whatever you celebrate!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Looking to Get Organized? Ridgewood Closets is Giving Away a Custom Closet!

Enter for a chance to win a closet worth $5,000!
Are you looking to get organized? Then go visit the Ridgewood Closets Facebook page for ideas and inspiration, AND they're giving away a custom designed closet worth $5,000! Storage, organization, hectic morning issues solved!
Entering is easy. Leave a comment on this Facebook post telling why you need extra storage or a new closet.
On October 31, 2015, Ridgewood Closets will pick one lucky winner at random from all closet give-away comments.
For design inspiration, visit Ridgewood Closets on PINTEREST.
Conditions: The winning entrant must be based in the following New Jersey counties: Bergen, Essex, Union, Passaic and Morris or in New York City or Brooklyn.
For full promotional details plus terms and conditions, see www.ridgewoodclosets.com/fbpromo.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Six Essential Strategies for Gaining Clarity in Your Career from Certified Life Coach, Nadine Bernard




Thank you to Nadine Bernard for this guest post! Nadine is a Board Certified Life Coach, a published playwright and an acting teacher located in Montclair, NJ. You can learn more at her website, Personal Plays Life Coaching.

How is your job satisfaction? Are you frustrated, down in the dumps, or feeling stuck? You're not alone.

As time goes by, sometimes roles morph into something we didn't sign up for. For others, responsibilities don’t keep up with skill sets. When complacency, annoyance, or anger sets in, not only does it make the days drag on, but sometimes we change into a person we never wanted to be. If you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone. Women of all ages face situations like these throughout their careers.

Career or job confusion can be draining. It can distract you from other areas of your life. Women often talk to their friends about it and then they find they stop for fear of sounding like a broken record and pushing away their social support. With the ever-changing responsibilities and priorities in their lives, women are especially susceptible to becoming confused about their careers.

Some common causes of career confusion are:


  1. You choose a career path based on what your parents or people in your life thought you “should” do or what gave you security, but you find that you aren’t really being true to the purpose or passion within you.
  2. The career you have has been fulfilling, but you find yourself in your 30s questioning whether your situation will be fulfilling for the years to come. You may actually hear your “biological clock” ticking and wonder if your male colleagues are feeling the confusion and pressure you are experiencing.
  3. You like what you do, but you find the politics of your work environment draining, and you’re not sure it makes your job worthwhile. Also, you might not be compensated fairly or given the job title you deserve, and this is making you doubt your line of work.
  4. You are returning to work after time home with a baby or young children, and you don’t think your previous career will offer enough work/life balance for you to attend to your new priorities at home.
  5. You are reentering the workforce as your kids leave for college, and you worry that your job skills won’t measure up in the current job market. You’re considering classes but you don’t know which direction to go.

When discussing these issues with clients, here are some things I urge them to consider:


  1. Become very clear about what your mission is, what type of work gives you a sense of purpose. Write about it, talk to friends, or work with a coach or counselor. Don’t jump to a new path without first making sure that it fits you well. Once you become clear, it will help you evaluate your current job so you can see if it actually does fall under these parameters, or it will help direct you in a new way.
  2. Look at your life holistically. It is okay to admit that what served you in the past no longer serves your needs. You may be called upon to take care of people in your life, so try to find work that energizes rather than exhausts you.
  3. Before deciding on a new career, do your research and test the waters! This will reduce some of the fear associated with the new areas and possible dream jobs.
  4. Don’t let the need for training scare you away. There are often ways to get the skills or training you need without going back to school full time.
  5. Assert yourself! If it turns out you are in the right setting, but your needs just aren’t being met by your boss or colleagues, make sure your voice is heard. You won’t know if this is the right job for you until your needs or demands are clearly articulated.
  6. If your current job isn’t offering the flexibility you need for the best work/life balance, consider looking for a new company with more flexibility or opportunities to work from home. Or consider working for yourself.


The most important thing I can emphasize to clients is to value yourself and the gifts you have to offer. If you find yourself confused about your career and you feel stuck or discouraged, this is an ideal time to work with a coach who can support you in defining and addressing the underlying issues.


As a Board Certified Coach, I help my clients steer their ship toward fulfillment. Together, we can determine the most rewarding career choices for your unique situation and devise a plan to reach goals.

Nadine Bernard is a Board Certified Life Coach, a published playwright, and acting teacher located in Montclair, NJ. She holds a BA in English and Psychology and an MA in Clinical Psychology. She meets with clients over the phone, on Skype, or in the Montclair area. You can reach her at Nadine@personalplays.com or visit her website, Personal Plays Life Coaching.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I love the Earth but I Don't Love Earth Day

This originally ran on In the Powder Room in 2013. I'm re-running it here because two years later and I'm still in favor of more tree-hugging, less green-washing.

While the origins of Earth Day are admirable and pure – a day dedicated to environmental awareness and education  – Earth Day in 2015 is no longer really about those founding values. I suggest we all do Mother Nature a favor and not celebrate Earth Day.

While hippies and wannabe hippies everywhere have been busy adjusting their solar panels and building rain barrels in an ongoing pursuit of an eco-fabulous lifestyle, it seems just about every big company has re-branded Earth Day as its own totally amazing marketing opportunity.

There are tons of Earth Day-themed children’s shows, because if encouraging kids to sit on the couch and waste electricity watching TV doesn’t honor the earth, I don’t know what does. Disney gives us a new episode of Handy MannyThe Earth Day Challenge, and PBS and Scholastic present the video WordGirl: Earth Day Girl ($14.99). Yay for sedentary indoor lifestyles! Totes eco-friendly!

Scholastic further earns my ire by having its Earth Day school unit sponsored by Keep America Beautiful, an organization that can appear as eco-friendly on the outside as it wants, but can’t change the fact that it’s funded largely by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle Waters. Oh, and by Altria – which despite the benign sounding name owns Philip Morris, and even the most skilled advertiser can't convince me cigarettes keep America even a little bit beautiful. These corporations are Mother Nature’s frenemies at best, and yet somehow they’re the ones throwing her party.

My earth-loving heart also holds a special place of scorn for Oriental Trading Company. While I do not begrudge their right to sell mass-produced items of questionable quality that have a pretty straight trajectory from birthday party goodie bag to landfill, I do condemn them for selling that same crap in the name of Earth Day.

A few items from Oriental Trading’s Earth Day offerings include “I love the earth” stickers ($2.50 per 100 sticker roll) and latex balloons ($4.50 per dozen), which are described as “a fun way to start your Earth Day activities.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually start save-the-earth activities by destroying the planet. But maybe that’s just me.  

Corporations aren’t the only ones dissing Mama Earth on her big day. Government agencies are getting in on the Earth Day “celebrating” too. In fact, the State of Utah’s Oil, Gas & Mining Agency is hosting an Earth Day poster contest that asks kids to answer this environmental conundrum: “Where would WE be without oil, gas & mining?” That’s right, an ode to the destruction of the planet was created not just for any holiday, but specifically in honor of EarthDay.

This year, let's celebrate Earth Day on Wednesday, April 22, the way the original Earth Day organizers intended -- by encouraging conservation through awareness and education, not consumption. Let’s tell the companies we’re literally not buying any of their Earth Day crap.

You won't find me in line at the Disney store’s Earth Day celebration waiting for a cast member to give me my 327th “eco-friendly” tote bag, but I will take a hike with my kids. And while we’re in the woods, we just might hug a tree and whisper, “Happy Earth Day.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Passover: The Endurance Event of the Jewish Holidays


This post originally ran last year on In the Powder Room.


I remember Jon Stewart joking back in the late 1990s (does that make me old?) that Judaism was the best religion because you could wipe out all of your sins in just one day:
Yom Kippur. Greatest Jewish holiday ever. The Jewish day of atonement. You don’t eat for one day, all your sins for the year are wiped clean. Beat that with your little “Lent.” What is Lent? Forty days of absolution. Forty days to one day. Even in sin you’re paying retail.
This one magical day of Yom Kippur occurs in the fall, and with my clean slate firmly intact, I was able to waltz through the tinsel-garlanded end of December without self-pity, knowing that my religion was pretty great, too. What it might lack in jolly ho-ho-hos it certainly made up for in quick-n-easy absolution of sin.

But when springtime comes, my Jewish pride sometimes has a momentary pause. Whereas Hanukkah can literally hold a candle to Christmas, Passover offers cardboard-like food and a story of despair in the desert while Easter happily flaunts pastel baskets filled with jelly beans and chocolate bunnies.

Not only that, but Passover is the marathon of Jewish holidays, with eight days and eight nights of observance - carb-free, beer-free observance.

But first, let me begin at the beginning.


Before the Passover holiday even starts the entire house needs to be cleaned from top to bottom. If you are more pious, this cleaning must be done by feather and candlelight. And if you're lucky like me, with three small children helpfully screaming, "MOM!!!!! YOU MISSED A SPOT!!!!!"

Once the deep clean is over, all food with leavening of any kind must be located and thrown away. Sure, you might be able to live without bagels and pasta for a week, but this isn't just a holiday about eight days of carb-free living, this holiday encompasses so many more things on its list of Do Not Eat. So goodbye yummy processed foods laden with corn syrup. Goodbye Cheetos and Doritos. Goodbye mommy's hidden stash of gummy bears, see ya next week!

The first two nights of Passover are seders, which include the re-telling of the holiday story and a large festive meal. The seder can't even begin until sundown, which this year was around 7:00 pm. Then the kids have to listen semi-quietly to a very loooong story that includes boils, locusts, pestilence, and even the slaying of children. It's a lot, even for the most well-behaved kids.

As a treat for the children, and our only way of keeping them going through each and every story and song, is the promise that a special piece of matzoh, called the Afikoman, has been hidden, and that once they find the Afikoman and return it to the table, they'll receive money or a small gift.

And then - I kid you not - that matzoh is served for dessert. Afikoman literally means "that which comes after," aka dessert. Okay, I kid a little, there are other desserts, but not the kind that scream special occasion. There are fruit compotes and sponge cakes made from potato starch. There are cookies that aren't quite right which have been fashioned from chopped nuts and shredded coconut. And don't even get me started on the attempts to liven up matzoh with various coatings from carob to caramel.

Even after forty-eight hours of late nights and mornings that greet you with Kosher-for-Passover cereal and boiled eggs instead of bagels and muffins, the fun is just beginning. There are still six more days of the Passover holiday. And this is where the real endurance test kicks in big time. Here you are living carb-free and junk food-free, still tired from your pre-holiday cleaning, when the final endurance test is upon you: the kids are home from school. And not just for a few days, but for the entirety of the holiday.

Just you and the kids, and the joy of reminding them 683 times an hour that no, there's no cake, no cookies, not even a graham cracker in the house. But look kids, there's matzoh pizza! Matzoh mac 'n cheese! Matzoh chicken nuggets!

And did I mention that there is also no beer in the house? Or doughnuts. Or cookie dough ice cream. Nor will there be anytime soon.

But thank G-d, there's wine. It may be Kosher-for-Passover wine, but at least it pairs well with matzoh.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Nutty Night in NYC with #PeanutPower and the National Peanut Board!

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to a sneak preview of the Perfectly Powerful Peanut Pop-Up space, which is open today (Tuesday, March 31) and tomorrow (Wednesday, April 1) at the corner of 47th Street and Lexington Ave. from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm, and then from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

If you're in the area, definitely stop by for some free, delicious (and healthy!) peanut samples and to meet the peanut farmers who are up visiting and happy to talk with you about life on a peanut farm. It is truly a great experience.


I honestly had no idea that the story behind peanut farming was so fascinating, or that the people telling it would be so absolutely charming. If I wasn't so thoroughly incapable of growing even a single Jersey tomato in my suburban garden I would seriously consider moving down south and starting a second career as a peanut farmer.


Even though I spent my childhood in a peanut growing state, Virginia, I realized I had never even seen a peanut plant, and really didn't know anything about how peanuts are grown and harvested. For example, peanuts need to be planted every single year, and they need a very specific and warm growing season, which is why almost all U.S. peanuts are grown in just ten states, with fifteen states in all growing peanuts. 




The peanut farmers were very clear when they explained to me there was no way I could grow a peanut plant like this one in New Jersey.





In addition to seeing a peanut plant for the first time, I learned a little about how peanuts are farmed (they must always be harvested on a sunny day) and how a hurricane or other natural disaster can wipe out a whole season's crop. One farmer was nice enough to show me photos of his farm, and when I admired the neatly planted rows he explained it's done by GPS now, which makes planting more efficient and environmentally friendly. The GPS comes in handy again when it's time to harvest the peanuts, as the GPS makes it easier to "find" the plants and take the peanuts out of the ground.


I also got to meet Carla Hall of The Chew along with other bloggers:




Another huge treat was trying peanut inspired recipes from Chef Joe "JJ" Johnson, like delicious peanut butter gazpacho and an amazing chocolate peanut tart. You can find all the recipes here, as well as learn more about why peanuts are a healthy and nutritious choice.


The Peanut Board was also there to talk about #PeanutEnvy, an important initiative to help feed those in need. Make a donation of $20 or more to Peanut Butter for the Hungry and receive a limited edition Peanut Envy t-shirt.


If you're in NYC today or tomorrow definitely stop by The National Peanut Board's Perfectly Powerful Peanut Pop-Up on the corner of 47th Street and Lexington Ave. to see the exhibits, try free peanut samples, and to meet the peanut farmers and their families, who are honestly the friendliest people you will find in NYC. Once you do, you're going to want to be a peanut farmer, too.




Thank you to the National Peanut Board for including me in this wonderful special event. I received an event gift bag, which included my all-time favorite peanut butter, White Chocolate Wonderful from Peanut Butter & Co. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Monday, March 30, 2015

NYC Gets Nutty with the Perfectly Powerful Peanut Pop-Up! #PeanutPower



I'm checking out a special preview of the Perfectly Powerful Peanut Pop-Up space tonight in New York City, which will be open (and free!) on Tuesday, March 31, and Wednesday, April 1, from 7:30 am to 1:30 pm and then from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm both days at The Corner at the Roger Smith Hotel (47th and Lexington).

Stop by to enjoy free peanut powered breakfast and snack samples as well as to visit exhibits and learn about how America's peanuts grow and are feeding the world. You can even get your photo taken with a peanut farmer!

I'll be back tomorrow sharing photos of the Pop Up space as well as recipes from Chef JJ Johnson of The Cecil restaurant in Harlem.



To learn more, visit the Perfectly Powerful Peanut website.

The Perfectly Powerful Peanut Pop-Up is sponsored by The National Peanut Board, which represents America's more than 7,000 peanut farming families.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Have a Great Family Day at the Liberty Science Center! {Ticket Giveaway} #SpringBreakLSC


My family recently spent a fun-filled day at the Liberty Science Center as part of #SpringBreakLSC with Jersey Moms Media. The Liberty Science Center is one of our favorite places in New Jersey to spend a day. It's a great place for a family outing because there are exhibits and activities for kids of all ages, not to mention plenty of interest for adults, too. 

There were several new exhibits to check out at the Liberty Science Center since our last visit:

Sesame Street Presents: The Body -- open now through May 3, 2015, this is a wonderful exhibit for kids ages 2-8, filled and lots of Sesame Street fun and lots of hands-on opportunities for learning, with 17 different activities throughout the exhibit that has three areas that cover Your Outsides, Your Insides and Staying Healthy

Highlights for my kids included Oscar's Sneeze Machine (pull the lever to make a giant sneeze) and meeting the furry red monster:


You can find a full list of dates when you can Meet Elmo here.

Beyond Rubik's Cube - open just until Sunday, April 19, 2015, so catch it while you can! This exhibit is the first museum  exhibition about the Rubik's Cube, and is 7,000 square feet of games, puzzles and more devoted solely to the history, art and engineering of this amazing cube.
From the LSC.org site - I have no idea how they did the animation.

Infinity Climber - this relatively new addition to the museum described as "one structure, infinite possibilities" is an incredible play space high above the atrium floor. Made from curved steel pipes and individual platforms to step on, it is the first suspended climbing play space of its kind. Don't worry - the whole area is coverd with protective mesh wire so there's no fear of falling climbers. Please note if you are going with younger kids there is a 42 inch height requirement.




Other favorites from our day at the Liberty Science Center included the Touch Tunnel (the most popular exhibit there) and Our Hudson Home (don't miss seeing the Harbor Tank with live fish!).

** Experience a family day of fun and learning at the Liberty Science Center **

Enter to win a Family Four Pack of tickets to the Liberty Science Center!

Thanks to the generosity of Liberty Science Center, one lucky winner will win four passes to visit the Liberty Science Center. Enter here. Entries close Monday, March 30, 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I received admission for my family and me as well as promotional items and a travel stipend. All opinions are my own.

For more photos and coverage, look for #SpringBreakLSC on Twitter and Instagram!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I love St. Patrick's Day in all its drunken revelry as much as I love the hoards of inebriated Santas roaming the streets during the annual delightful day drinking event, SantaCon.

I know now based on the Facebook updates of my peers, my opinion is not the one that is widely held.

Apparently most if not all of my middle aged friends want to avoid the trains, the streets and everywhere else that the youth of America might be puking while celebrating. I get it. I hear you. But still. There's something to me completely endearing about young people who might otherwise have nothing in common finding just that in these celebrations of questionable merit.

And for that reason, I'll always love St. Patrick's Day and SantaCon. Even if no one else does.

As for me, I was home making Leprechaun pudding for my children, because that's how I roll these days. As may or may not come as a surprise, it did not turn out as planned.

You can find out all about how (not) to make Leprechaun pudding at my home-away-from-home, CraftFail.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My Seven Favorite Finds from New York Toy Fair #NYTF #TF15

I recently made my annual visit to the spectacle of all things kid and beyond at the New York Toy Fair. This gigantic trade show is held at the Javits Center and is literally miles of toys, stuffed animals, wooden blocks, Christmas kitsch, dainty dolls and anything else you can imagine.

I always love seeing the latest and greatest in toys, dolls, stuffed animals, and kids products and this year was no exception. Surprisingly, or not surprisingly, over half of my favorites are not even traditional toys, but instead, innovative products geared towards kids. Also, again maybe not a surprise, of the products that made my favorites list, I had only heard of three of them before attending Toy Fair

In no particular order, here are my seven favorite finds from the New York Toy Fair:

1. Shwings - I had just seen these awesome shoe accessories a few weeks earlier at Bank Street Books on the Upper West Side, and had immediately thought my son would like a pair of wings for his sneakers.

 

In addition to wings for shoes, Shwings also has rhinestone decorating kits, and other cool accessories for decorating shoes.


For the young, or the young at heart, I honestly think everyone should have at least one pair of shoes adorned with Shwings. Available online at Shwingsonline.com.

2. Zorbz Self-Seal Water Balloons - That's right, these water balloons self-seal instantly, no tying required! The only self sealing water balloons on the market, they seem like a must-have for summer. Available in packs of 50 and 100; purchase and learn more at ZorbzWaterBalloons.com.

3. I am elemental action figures - Created by a New York City mom in 2013 who was disappointed with the choices in female action figures, these action figures are powerful, and specifically created to provide healthy female action figures for girls. Based on the Periodic Table of Elements, each Element action figure represents a unique power. Purchase single action figures (which come with shields and inter-changeable accessories) or get the lunchbox carry case with all seven. Ages 4+, available online at IAmElemental.com.


4. earZings are pierce-free earrings, especially geared towards girls who don't have pierced ears. These earrings have a unique coil design that makes it possible to easily put on the earnings as well as (according to the founder, I didn't try them) makes them less painful than the usual clip-on or magnetic earrings. Tons of cute designs to choose from, and sure to be a big hit with tweens! Available online at EarZings.com.


5. Plus-Plus - I had spotted these cool building blocks at Sunshine Sam, a battery-free toy store in Bloomfield, NJ previously, so I was already familiar with this great product. This toy from Denmark can be used by kids of just about any age, with older kids building more complex projects and younger kids enjoying the fun of putting the plus-shapes together while developing motor skills. Plus-plus is available in a variety of quantities, as well as building sets.


6. Frogglez - A new innovation in swim goggles, these goggles have a thick neoprene strap that makes them easier to adjust and more comfortable to wear and remove, less hair pulling is one of the features. With a five-year-old son who just started swim lessons, and who cannot seem to get his goggles comfy, this product definitely seems one that will be welcomed by many parents. Available online at FrogglezGoggles.com.


7. Squishables - My tween daughters are obsessed with these adorable stuffed animals, so even though I was pretty sure there was nothing new I could learn, stopping by their booth was a must. I kinda thought it was impossible to top the current adorable creations, like this narwhal, a family favorite,


but one look at new release Hedgehog in Tutu and I knew, there are plenty more lovable creatures coming from Squishables.


Others to be released soon include chocolate milk cow and fortune cat, so really the cuteness is endless. If you don't already have a Squishables habit, now is the time to start one. Available online at Squishable.com, but beware, they rotate styles often, and the tutu hedgehog has not yet been released.

I received press admission to the Toy Fair, and the kind folks at Schwings made sure I didn't arrive home empty handed. My kids loved everything from the butterfly wings to the rhinestone stickcons.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Great Giveaway from myCharge! Easy Entry!

Did you know that on average smartphone users check their phones 110 times per day and that 2.7 hours of that is just for fun?

Did you also know that without an available power source 77% of phone users will have a dead battery by 4 pm?

Whether at work or play, all of these things can be a huge strain on your phone's battery, and this is where myCharge comes in!

myCharge is a leader in portable charging solutions, and the first to offer the most advanced solutions for a wide range of charging needs. myCharge devices boast built–in charging cords that emphasize portability and versatility, and powerful lithium polymer batteries that allow you to quickly charge your smartphone, tablet, eReader and other devices so that they’re ready when you need them!

Ditch your dependency on cables and wall outlets – and let myCharge make your life a bit easier!

For the month of February myCharge is offering the Limited Edition RazorPlus Bundle for $49.99 - in it you receive a RazorPlus with the imprint: We can charge right here right now. The RazorPlus is an ultra-thin rechargeable 3000 mAh battery crafted from anodized aluminum that delivers an extra 13 hours talk time for your smartphone.

You'll also receive a shirt and a 22 oz. reusable/dishwasher safe stadium cup that changes colors! The frosted cups turn green when filled with your favorite (possibly adult) beverage. Green is the new red after all!

myCharge is giving away 20 of these Bundles FREE, so enter for your chance to win below!

Limited Edition RazorPlus Bundle Prize from myCharge

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more fun contests, promotions and product info visit mycharge.com!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Toy Fair 2015

I'm hitting up Toy Fair 2015 in New York City today if snow and winds and blizzards and (please, no) power outages don't keep me away.

I always try and find the unique and off-beat at the Toy Fair, like this favorite from last year the Heart of Gold.

Not pictured: the thyroid, rectum or mammary.

I always like seeing the latest from Ty, a favorite of my stuffed animal loving daughter, Kay.

I'll definitely be looking for the Squishable Booth, the new favorite at our house. I'll be interested to see what's new this year, though the Narwhal will be hard to beat.


I always like to see what the latest trends are (last year eco-friendly was one of the most popular) as well as what's new and innovative both in design and toy technology. Not to mention toy storage and organization.

I'll be back with a full report on Monday!


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