Monday, March 31, 2008
If you live in NYC, or plan to visit any time soon- I recommend you see this 8-disk series by Ric Burns. Ric is the brother of Ken (creator of the PBS Civil War series which is also phenomenal.)
Eight disks is a big time commitment, I know. It took us over 3 months to get through the whole series. The first four disks were my favorite. Disks 5-7 waxed political at times (which I have little tolerance for in historical documentaries) but in all, were still very informative. The eighth disk involved the circumstances surrounding the creation of the World Trade Center, and the events surrounding 9/11. This brought back some very raw emotions from that day, but I did not feel that it was over done.
In all, a very informative series. Many local libraries carry this collection so check there first. Then try Netflix or Blockbuster.com.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Soap-Box aside, some cute finds are available that you won't flip-out over when summertime watermelon drippings make an appearance.
Shipping is $5 on any order.
Congratulations to Marliese R., the winner of the Sensible Foods Give-Away!
Friday, March 28, 2008
Every winter my face feels the effects of dry, recycled, indoor air. Right around January my skin begins "molting season" which finishes sometime mid-May. I have always shied away from moisturizers because my skin is still acne prone (no one told me I would still get acne at 30!) but this year I had no choice but to submit to the call of the moisturizer. I decided my flaky face ultimately looked worse than my acne:). In my hunt to find a moisturizer that was both hydrating but not pimple producing, I found Origins "A Perfect World" antioxidant moisturizer with white tea.I really love everything about this moisturizer....except for it's steep price. It smells wonderful, doesn't clog my pores, and keeps my skin hydrated. Supposedly it will also firm, brighten, and even out the tone of my skin- along with protecting my skin from smoke and pollution (which I need here in NYC!). I cannot really vouch for all of these miracles, but I will say that it is a great moisturizer that does not give you anymore acne than you started with- and it smells awesome in the process.
You can find Origins "A Perfect World" antioxidant moisturizer at Origins.com, Bloomingdale's, and most department stores (including Macy's). A 1.7 oz bottle will run about $35. FYI-I purchased mine in a gift set that included a bunch of Perfect World products (skin guardian, body moisturizer, facial moisturizer, and a facial brush for $55-a self-gifted birthday present:) - which if you are fan of the products is a better deal than buying separately. I have only seen this gift set at Macy's and Bloomingdales.
Just a reminder to enter the Sensible Foods Give-Away! (two posts down)
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Just in case you still have some jelly beans hanging around your house......here is one last Easter-themed activity idea. My girls and I were inspired by this craft idea in Family Fun magazine to create these edible accessories.
This is what you will need:
- Button Thread (you can use normal sewing thread but button thread is easier)
- Jelly Beans
The inclusion of the needle in this craft makes it really only appropriate for older children. With that said, my 4-year-old still helped out considerably in the creation of her necklace. She picked the colors, the pattern, and helped to string the jelly beans- after I had pushed them past the needle.
My six-year-old loved putting together her necklace- and she is probably the ideal age to do this activity. Be forewarned that this is kind of a sticky activity. You need to have some water nearby to wash the needle off periodically when it gets really goopy from jelly bean "insides." The end product is very cute-much more appealing than the traditional fruit loop jewelery.
If you have not already entered the Sensible Foods give-away, read the following post and do it!
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I am always on the hunt for portable and nutritious snacks for my kids. Having something stashed away in my stroller or bag to stave off my children's hunger pains until mealtime, often keeps us away from the hot-dog stands that seemingly adorn every street corner here in NYC.
Our family recently tried out the Variety Pack of "crunch-dried" (essentially freeze-dried) fruit from Sensible Foods. My children have had freeze-dried fruit before, but this was the first time I had been able to find it packaged individually according to serving size. Previously, I had only been able to find it in larger containers that I had to portion out.
Hands-down my children's favorites from the variety pack were the Apple Harvest and the Sweet Corn. They quickly gobbled these varieties up. The Sweet Corn flavor is very good, and actually tastes like a crunchy corn on the cob. Very fresh tasting. They also really liked the Cherry Berry Mix, and the Orchard Blend.
The Soy Nuts were a hit with my 18 month-old son and my 4-year-old-daughter, but my six -year-old was not a fan. My personal favorite was the Tropical Mix, although I will say that none of my kids were too excited about it- claiming it was "too sour." Oh well, more for me:).
I really prefer to give my children freeze-dried fruit over the conventional "dried" fruit options. Dried fruit (with the exception of raisins and cranberries) tends to be preserved with Sulfur Dioxide-unless you buy organic. I am really not a fan of this preservative, which is one you really should especially stay away from if your child has asthma.
Another bonus is the fact that the shelf-life for freeze-dried fruit is longer than dried fruit. This makes it preferable for food storage, or for Emergency 72-hour-kits. Also, it is considerably more light weight than the dried fruit option- and every ounce counts in that diaper bag I am toting around town. Also, my children tend to like the texture of freeze-dried food more than "dried" fruit because the dried fruit can tend to be rubbery. Freeze dried fruit has a crispy chip-like texture which is easier for little ones to chew.
Every packet of the Sensible Foods line is all-natural (most are organic), Non-GMO, preservative free, and is equal to one serving of fruit/vegetable. I would recommend trying out the variety pack, to see what flavors your family prefers. Sensible Foods products are available at SensibleFoods.com and at Amazon.com
Who wants to tried some Sensible Foods Products? The folks at Sensible Foods are giving away a variety pack (16-pack) of their products to one lucky reader. Enter by Friday 3/28/08 at midnight by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the SENSIBLEFOODS in the Subject line. In the body of the email answer this question : "what four fruits can be found in the Cherry Berry packets?"
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Now that all of your Easter Eggs are all decorated and probably still in the fridge waiting to be eaten, here is an activity to remember that colorful experience with.
We saved all of the shells from our dyed easter eggs to make an "Easter Mosaic." Essentially this just involved spreading some Elmer's glue tinted with a small amount of yellow paint (thanks for the tinted glue idea, Jillian!) on scrapbook paper, and then letting the girls add some shells.
You have to be careful to clean all of the hard boiled egg and egg membrane off of the shell before gluing it on- otherwise it will make for one smelly craft after a few days. Also, watch out quick-cleaning husbands. My husband threw away our "green" and "yellow" pile of shells as we were peeling them off, not recognizing the masterpiece creation that was underway :)
Monday, March 24, 2008
I came across this idea for "Bunny Bread" at a bakery in Chelsea Market. "Amy's Bread" had the rear-facing version of the bread bunny for sale for the Easter Season. I loved the little "cottontail" that they created with a sprinkling of flour. Our family decided to make a forward facing bunny as well- with whole cloves for eyes (you could use raisins) and two flour powdered rabbit cheeks. I could not come up with anything for the teeth. Any suggestions for next year's bunny teeth? I just used our regular whole-wheat bread dough for this. Parchment paper works well to keep the bunnies from sticking to the pan.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
This Easter activity is great if your home has more Peep Marshmallow Bunnies than you want your children to eat. Peep bunnies make great little paint stampers. Here are some instructions to making a paper Easter Basket stamped with Peeps.
scrapbook card stock into 12 squares with a pencil. Cut out all but the inside line of the two middle side squares (one square on each side of the paper). Then flip the paper over, and let your child stamp some peeps on the top of the page (try to get the peeps near the middle of the top, as this will be the front of your basket.
scrapbook paper and fold it, and tape it, to make a 1" wide handle for the top of the basket.
Congratulations to Justina S. and Heidi V. - winners of the Nix socks give-away!! Thank you Nix!
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Here is another easter basket "candy-alternative" idea. I saw some jelly bean "carrots" for sale at a local grocery store here in NYC, and thought I could create something just as cute- but easier on my wallet, and my children's blood sugar :).
To make these you will need:
- Annie's Organic Cheddar Bunnies (or you could use Goldfish if you don't have an organic market nearby, definitely not as festive though:)
- Disposable Frosting Bags -you can buy these at most craft stores
- Green Ribbon - for your carrot "foliage"
If you haven't already entered in the Nix Socks give-away, make sure that you do! Read the following post and enter by Midnight on Friday.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Also, Nix socks make a great addition to my son's spring/fall wardrobe. These socks are so high that he can wear them with his shorts (even with slightly cool spring breezes) and still stay warm.
We have these white socks (above) in the blue and black stripes. I love the extra padding that the Nix company adds to the foot of the socks, which makes walking on the hardwood floor of our apartment a little more cushy, and the sock altogether more resilient. My husband loves the circa 1970's basketball player look that my son sports around town when he wears these cute little socks.
Nix socks come in a variety of colors for baby boys and girls. You can currently purchase them at Nixbaby.com or at several baby boutiques nationwide. A 2-pack of Nix socks is $16. The socks are "one-size-fits all" which should fit shoe sizes 2-7.
So who wants to win some NIX socks? Visit the Nixbaby.com website and answer the following question, "who was the inspiration for the name of Nix socks?". Email me at email@example.com with the answer, and with NIX in the subject line. Nix has generously agreed to give away a 2-pk of socks to two winners! Enter by Midnight on Friday 3/21/08. To enter, you must live in the US or Canada.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
For me, purchasing perfume is a difficult process. Often, a fragrance that I think smells great in the store, will end up giving me a headache after only a few hours of wear. A few months ago I purchased some makeup from Nordstrom and received a complimentary bag of cosmetic samples with my purchase. Among these samples was a bottle of Verbena lotion from L’Occitane. If you have any affinity for lemon scent, you have to try the Verbena line of products- it is heavenly! I finally have found some perfume that I can wear without consequence. The fragrance is described on the L’Occitane website as “Extroverted notes of Mediterranean verbena mingled with a rosy base of geranium and lemon tree"- which I think sums the scent up quite nicely.
There are all sorts of products available in the Verbena scent. If you end up falling in love with the smell of Verbena, I will warn you- visiting the L’Occitane store can be dangerous. There is a whole line of lemon-scented products that I did not even know I needed (like the Verbena Cooling Leg Gel- what is that?!? :). Verbena 3.4 oz Eau de Toilette runs around $44.00. You can also purchase the travel size (.5 oz) version of this scent for $9.00. Available at L’Occitane, and Nordstrom.
Monday, March 17, 2008
If you have really adventurous children- who will eat green peppers- you can try this idea. My 4-year-old loves green peppers, so I will be making these cute little shamrocks for dinner.
If you live here in NYC, St. Patrick's Cathedral would be a fun place to visit today. The architecture is stunning, and your little ones can hunt for shamrocks- which are carved into everything in this beautiful building.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
To create some stamps of your own:
1. Cut a Potato in half, and trace out your desired pattern with a sharpened pencil. Press the pencil firmly into the potato to make an outline that you will eventually cut out with a knife. Note: you can also use a cookie cutter for this step)
2. Cut the pattern out of your potato, using a paring knife. You will want your stamp to be at least 1/4" deep.
3. Using a paint brush, evenly paint the desired color onto the stamp. We used crayola washable paint for this.
4. Hold (or tape) down the paper as your child stamps, because painted potatoes like to stick to paper:).
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Sarabeth is an actual person, not just a pretty name for preserves. She is a fellow New Yorker who actually whipped up her first batches of this deliciousness in her Manhattan apartment. In the 1980's Sarabeth and her husband opened bakeries and restaurants on the East and West sides of Manhattan. Since then, Sarabeth's has grown to include a bakery/cafe in Chelsea and another restaurant at Central Park South.
I came across Sarabeth's for the first time while shopping for jam on FreshDirect (online grocers). I was impressed by the ingredients labels of this line of jam. For the most part, her jams are made of just fruit and cane sugar- nothing else, which is probably why they taste so amazing. Sarabeth's offers a wide variety of flavors, many of which are quite unique. I am very partial to the plum-cherry and the pineapple-mango flavors, both of which are also very good warmed up and served on ice cream.
For those of you outside of NYC, there is hope....if you are willing to pay the price. You can order Sarabeth's jam online for about 10$ a jar + shipping, or you can just wait for a restaurant to open near you- supposedly there are more restaurants in the making, locations TBA.
Sarabeth's jam here in NYC will run you about $7.50 for an 18 oz jar. You can purchase the jam at pretty much any NYC grocery store, FreshDirect, or at the restaurant locations themselves.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Congratulations to Zabel C. for winning the Mom & Child Muffatee set! Thank you Go Baby!
If you are planning an event, and were considering "Evite" to get the word out, you may want to check out a new internet invitation option available at pingg.com.
I personally am a fan of their invitation selection, which is not as cheesy as the Evite line. Also, what really sets them apart, is the fact that you can upload your own picture to go in the background of your invitation, for a more personalized touch
Their traditional card options are free, but if you would like a very specific image that is not in their basic database, you can pay an extra $10 to pull one out of their extended picture files.
Very cute designs are throughout the basic database, so you should not have a hard time at all creating a free card that you are very happy with. So, next time you are planning that party and considering Evite as the mode of party communication, you may want to Pingg it instead.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
I have become a lot more picky about the toys I purchase for my kids ever since the major "lead paint" recalls that have occurred over this past year. My son loves to put everything in his mouth, and because of this, I have done a lot more research on toy manufacturers before I make a purchase decision.
Plan Toys also has an environmental focus. All of their toys are packaged in recycled materials, and the company even uses solar panels to power their kilns.
Plan toys has an expansive product line, and I am excited about seeing more of them in the future.
If you have not entered the Muffatee give away, read the following post, and do it! You have until midnight tonight.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
It is hard for my kids to keep their gloves on when the weather starts to show signs of spring. Gloves get in the way of hanging on monkey bars, riding scooters, and exploring everything around them with their favorite "sense" of touch. It is not uncommon for them to rip off their gloves when we get to the park and insist they "can't play" with them on. That is not exactly what a mom wants to hear when it is 40 degrees out.
Muffatees by gobaby.com are the compromise I come to with them in the spring. Muffatees are fingerless mittens, which still keep little hands warm, but allow fingers to run free and explore. They are great for those spring months when it is still cold enough to warrant gloves, but just warm enough that you are going to be spending a while outside playing. I think the perfect temperature for these (worn alone) is between 40-60 degrees, so that makes them great for the spring and fall months here in NYC.
The good news is you can also get some use out of these when it is frigidly cold out. They are great to layer with larger traditional mittens, to help keep the wrists warm. Muffatees are quite long, so they help to fill in that gap between where the coat ends, and the mitten begins.
Muffatees are hand-knit from 100% soft baby alpaca wool. This means you need to hand wash them, but it also means they will be much warmer and softer than any glove you could buy made of other material.
I am a big fan of the Adult-Size Muffatees. Here in NYC I feel like I am always pulling on and off my gloves as I reach into my bag for my metro card, credit cards, loose change, snacks for the kids etc. When I wear my Muffatees, I can do all of these tasks without having to pull them off, because my fingers are free.
My family has both the cable and the striped style. I will say, I like the striped style a little better. I think it has a snugger fit, and overall better appearance. You can purchase Muffatees from gobaby.com or from several baby/child boutiques here in NYC, and throughout the US.
They run between $16-20 a pair.
Who wants to win a matching mother & child set of Muffatees? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org before midnight on Thursday (3/13/08). In the subject line of your email include the word MUFFATEE. In the body of the email answer this question: "What 3 sizes are Muffatees currently available in?"
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Martha Stewart.com to melt all of these down and make them into something more artistically inspiring. In MS she makes large hearts out of the crayons. I did not have heart shaped pans, so I decided that a few plastic eggs from last year could serve as a good "mold" to pour the liquid crayon into, to make a festive drawing utensil for the easter season.
Here is what you need:
- Plastic Easter Eggs that separate in half (cover any air holes they may have with tape applied to the outside of the egg)
- Misfit crayons- separated out into color groups
- Empty food cans (one for every egg color you wish to make) which have been cleaned out. You could really use any size can.
Heat your oven to 170 degrees. This should be your "warm" setting on your oven. Peel off all of the paper wrappers- enlist your children to help you with this. Next, separate your crayons into piles of similar colors. As you can see from the first picture (that was our pile to make orange eggs with) you can really have a wide variety of colors. Anything yellow, peach, orange or red went into the "orange" pile. My kids really enjoyed sorting out all of the colors.
Once you have your piles created, place your crayons into the tin cans and set them all on a cookie sheet and place them in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Okay, now for the part where you will hear your children give you 101 reasons as to why they are old enough to handle molten crayon. Do not give into their pleas, the remainder of this activity should be completed by a competent adult.
Take the cans out of the oven after 30 minutes and stir up the crayon mixture with a disposable plastic spoon. If the crayons have not completely melted, put them back into the oven for a little more time, and try again in about 10 minutes.
When the crayons have officially liquefied, it is time to pour them into the "molds." Now, you can either choose to make "half eggs," by using plastic eggs that split lengthwise (like a deviled egg), or you can make whole eggs, by using the traditional plastic eggs. I will say the "half eggs" are definitely easier to make, but that particular type of plastic egg is also more difficult to find in the stores.
If you use the "half egg" molds, just pour the melted crayon in and allow it to set up slightly on the counter top, then when you can see it firming up, place it on a tray in the freezer to continue the solidification process.
If you would like to make a "whole egg" the process is a little trickier. Place the egg halves into an egg carton for steadying. Pour the wax into both halves of the egg, filling it almost to the edge of the mold. Wait for it to slightly solidify, and then quickly press the halves together- holding firmly until they are attached. A little melted crayon will ooze out the sides, but you can shave that off later. These go in the freezer as well.
Freeze the eggs for about 15 minutes. By that time, you can just apply a little pressure to the sides of the shells, and the "egg crayon" will just pop out. If you are making "whole eggs" you can just twist the sides apart and the egg will slide out.
My kids loved helping me with this. I will say though, you could also do this after the kids have gone to bed, and these resuscitated crayons would make a great easter baskets "surprise" at your house.
Monday, March 10, 2008
There are a few charts on the internet that you can download and use to teach you children the ASL alphabet. However, each chart I would print off ended up drawn on, or chewed up by baby brother- so I set out to find something a little sturdier to help us in our sign language studies.
I came across this set of Sign Language Flash Cards in Pottery Barn the other day. It includes 26 cards (all of the letters of the alphabet) and their corresponding sign. It is made of very sturdy material. Usually when I think of "flashcards" I think of something pretty flimsy and relatively small. That is not the case with these cards; they are each very thick, durable, and measure about 9"x 4". I did not hesitate to purchase these, knowing they would be sturdy enough to survive to the day my child #3 wants to learn to sign the alphabet, plus- I knew my 6 year-old would love this set in her easter basket (and it is sugar free!;).
My one-and-only qualm with the set is the packaging. It comes in a very cute box, but it is nearly impossible to put all of the cards back inside (they are supposed to slide in). If it is a hard task for me to accomplish, I know it will be impossible for my kids. So, the original box will end up in the garbage room, and the flashcard set will have to find a new home- probably in a zippered pencil case or something.
In all, a great educational teaching tool that will survive a lot of "love" from young kids. It retails normally at PotteryBarnKids for $14.00 a set, but is currently on sale "in- store" for $9.00. My guess is that the website will reflect the discount price soon.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
I have been on the hunt to find some "Sugar-Free Stand-ins" for the Easter baskets this year. No, I am not going to deprive my children of the traditional chocolate bunny and jelly beans, but, I will say we are cutting back considerably. We still have a "sugar hangover" from Valentines Day when my children got oodles of candy from classmates.
This year these cute little Japanese imports will take the place of some of the old sugary mainstays. These are called Egglings. They arrive in a cute little box (they came yesterday) and when you are ready to "hatch" your egg, you (or your child) takes a spoon, and cracks the top of the egg open. Place the Eggling in the terracotta dish (provided), add water, find a sunny spot indoors, and watch nature run its course.
The plant options are varied: cactus, mint, basil, parsley, chrysanthemum, phlox, petunia, lavender, red pepper, and wild strawberry. You watch the plant grow for 5 months, and then it is time to transport the Eggling to a bigger pot, or greener pastures outdoors. I am partial to cooking with fresh herbs, so I will admit that this gift is somewhat strategic- but hey, who says mom can't give a gift that gives right back, right?
Okay, they also have these cute little Nyyoki. Adorable. Cuter than any Chia Pet I ever met. They grow rye grass, which is essentially your front lawn (if you have one:) growing in one of these festive little easter-themed pots. The rye grass grows to full height in less than two weeks, which is great news for any of us who have kids with patience deficiency.
When the Nyyoki "hair" reaches its full height, you can cut it, style it, and watch it grow back. This is good news for all your budding child stylists out there. Nyyokis will be in the baskets at our house, in hopes that hair cutting "needs" will be filled by this plant, and that my four-year-old will start leaving her own hair alone. Plus, living in NYC, my children have forgotten what grass is, so I thought it was high time for a re-introduction.
My only disclaimer to this is post is that these little guys just came in the mail yesterday, and we have not actually begun the "hatching". Both the Eggling and the Nyokki have great reviews on every website I have seen, so I am optimistic it will work out great. I am spotlighting them now, because you have to mail-order them (or hunt for them here in NYC- they do exist is a few stores out here) and if you want them in time for Easter you should get "cracking" now to leave time for shipment. I will be officially reviewing them at the end of April, with pic's of how our little guys turned out, if you want to wait for the official word.
So, if you want your Easter to have a few less candy sprinkles, and still maintain some excited faces, Eggling or Nyokki may be the answer. They are available at Amazon and Brooklyn5and10.com , and run about $10 each. Right now you can purchase a set of three Easter Nyokki at Brooklyn5and10.com for $20.
If you have any other sugar-free Easter ideas, leave a comment and share! I am going to throw a few more easter ideas your way over the next little while-so stay tuned.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Wonderful idea, dishwasher safe, cute variety of colors, and only $4.99 at Dwink or Babycenter.com. Dwink it up!
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
My kids are recovering juice addicts. This “unhealthy relationship” with juice started after I stopped nursing them as infants, and continued well into their childhood years. My two daughters could together consume an entire 64 oz bottle of apple juice in one day – which became a very expensive habit to support. As we prepared to move out here to NYC, I imagined myself trying to carry all of these jugs of beloved apple juice back to my apartment from the local grocery store, and that thought put an end to it all- cold turkey.
Of course, this new family rule was not met without protest. My favorite memory from “juice-rehab” was my (then) 5-year-old saying in her voice of dramatic desperation, “Mom, I am L-O-N-G-I-N-G for apple juice.” Her requests for her beverage of choice were definitely entertaining, but not effective- I stood firm in my "no-juice" resolve.....for about 9 months.
When I came across Froose, it made me rethink my "beverage" ban. I discovered Froose on the internet, and it is marketed as a new juice concept for kids. Froose contains juice (of course) but it also contains organic brown rice, which helps to boost nutritional content and provides the product with 3 grams of fiber per 4 oz box. There are no preservatives and no artificial colors in Froose. This made the part of me that spent four years in college studying Nutrition very intrigued.
I was excited about this product- so I purchased it for my kids knowing that there was a high chance that that it would be rejected, due to their keen ability to detect (and reject) all things nutritious- especially whole grains.
Froose can currently only be purchased online at Froose.com. They are currently in the works with several major grocery store chains (including Whole Foods) to bring this product to a supermarket near you. I will say that the current price (.75 cents a box) is a little steep, but when you consider that less-than-half-eaten apple out on the countertop left by "you-know-who" was the same price, it seems more reasonable.
The true test came when my children tried Froose for the first time. There was silence in the room for about 2 minutes while they focused solely on drinking and breathing :). The silence was only broken by the gurgle of their straws sucking air out of the bottom of their empty juice boxes. The "drought" was over, and they were ecstatic to have juice in the house again. They now lovingly call it “Moose Juice” in honor of the moose on the package.
We are definitely never going back to the “good old days” of juice drinking, but I will say I will be keeping Froose around the house for a possible “once-a-day” treat, and for those times in life that really warrant a portable beverage (picnics, road-trips, field trips, etc.)
Okay, so who wants to try some Froose?? The folks at Froose have offered to give away a variety case (that means 40 juice boxes) to a lucky reader of my blog. Email me at email@example.com and put FROOSE in the Subject line. In the body of the email answer this question: Froose is currently available in what three flavors? At the end of the contest, I will randomly select a winner from those who answered correctly. Contest will end on Thursday (3/6/08) at midnight so get typing!