An Afternoon of K-Mart Shopping for St. Jude

The girls and I had a really special afternoon this week -- one that is particularly meaningful during the season of giving. I was invited to participate in a holiday shopping spree for the children of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, and I seized the chance, both to put a smile on a child's face in Tennessee and as an opportunity to teach my children first-hand about giving back.

Joining a group of bloggers and Marlo Thomas, (actress, producer, social activist AND St. Jude National Outreach Director), the girls and I hit the aisles of K-Mart's toy section with a cart ready to be filled to the brim. The girls pointed out all of their favorite toys of the season (Paw Patrol, Barbie and Disney characters were well-represented), and with each gift, it was an opportunity to spread the joy of the holiday season. And I must say, we did a pretty good job. The group's shopping spree resulted in more than $10,000 worth of toys that are currently on their way to St. Jude. What a thrill!

Santa's Elves
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is a unique and vital facility in that it provides free treatment for children facing cancer and life-threatening diseases. Additionally, thousands more are saved worldwide thanks to the cutting edge research and discoveries being made there. Last year, K-Mart "Shop Your Way" members and customers donated a record $21.9 million to St. Jude; the single largest corporate partner donation ever to the St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign. And this year, K-Mart has already raised $13 million during the holiday season.

I'm so happy I got to share this experience with my children. If you'd like to make a donation, or for more ways to help, check out Kmart.com/stjude or stjude.org.

Marlo shopping with a patient from St. Jude
Photo credit: Astrid Stawiarz for Getty Images

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by K-Mart, but as always, all opinions herein are my own.


A New Tradition: Christmas Tea at The Peninsula

There really is no place like NYC at Christmas. And while sometimes it pains me that my babies are growing up (!!), I also love that we're to the point of making memories with them around the holidays. We kicked off the season with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and spent this past weekend checking out the sights on Fifth Avenue (with a gazillion other people). And even though I've lived here for over 14 years, the buzz of excitement in the air this time of year still gets me. Considering the look on their faces, I'm pretty sure the little gals could feel it, too.

After meeting up with a good friend, we first checked out Saks Fifth Avenue's gorgeous window display (the "Enchanted Experience" theme was kind of perfect considering my company). Apparently there's a team of people that spend all year working on these displays for the holidays, and it really shows. Just beautiful, with such an obvious attention to detail. Check out the video at the end of this post - the light & music that Saks is putting on each night on the store's facade is pretty magical!

Afterwards, we headed to The Peninsula Hotel for afternoon tea. One of NYC's oldest and grandest hotels, the setting couldn't have been more perfect for celebrating a festive day with the gals. Their decorations were so beautiful, and the tea itself (located in The Gotham Lounge) was really lovely. 

While the girls dined on mini cupcakes, cookies, petite sandwiches, fruit and veggies, my friend and I shared some lovely little bites ourselves. And while the girls opted for water, my friend and I dined on champagne and Mandarin Lotus tea. Divine! As a special momento, adults go home with a gorgeous glass Peninsula Hotel ornament.

So how cute are these snowmen? The Peninsula has a fun charitable campaign happening now through December 31st. Pop into their lobby and take a photo with their snowmen display, then post it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with hashtag #SnowPage. The Peninsula will make a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for every photo tagged!

I have to take a moment to share Pippa & Julie with you, too, as they're behind these perfect tea party dresses. I knew right off the bat that they would be a hit for two reasons: the pockets, and of course, their "twirl-ability." Those bows are a pretty nice addition, too! Such gorgeous designs on this site, and really precious every-day outfits as well.

Afterwards, we headed home via the tree at Rockefeller Center and took in the ice skaters below... the perfect winter scene, wouldn't you say? 


'Tis the season to be merry!

Disclosure: While our tea at The Peninsula Hotel was complimentary, all opinions expressed herein are my own.


The Great December "Old Toys & Clothes Clean Out"

This post is sponsored by Seventh Generation.

What do you call "spring cleaning" if it happens in December? I'm thinking "old, broken toys and worn, too-small clothes massive throw out." Although that doesn't have QUITE the same ring to it... And yet, this is what I find myself doing in the weeks leading up to Christmas, as I know the girls are going to be receiving lots of new gifts (Santa is generous) in addition to the loot from grandparents and relatives. And when you live in a small apartment, you simply can't keep EVERYTHING (actually, this should be a general rule for everyone, I think, regardless of how large your home).

It's all too easy to let things pile up, to stuff broken toys in the toy box and forget about them, to let the art work stack grow larger and larger, to keep shifting unworn clothes to the bottom of the closet. Believe me, I know. The approaching holidays are the perfect time to get rid of all the excess, in preparation for the gift-giving bonanza ahead.

After throwing out some junk in my girls "play area" (a corner of our living room... when you live in an apartment, that's your "play room"), I quickly discovered dust bunnies had multiplied quickly in all corners and were lurking underneath bookshelves, too. One early Christmas gift has arrived already, and I wanted to get the floor really clean before we set it up. In addition to organizing and dusting off bookshelves, etc.

Loving the arrival of a new teepee!
Luckily Seventh Generation, a brand I've been proud to work with this year, came to the rescue. Here are a few of my favorite safe, eco-friendly products used during my "winter cleaning":

Baby Natural Nursery & Toy Cleaner:
Disinfecting Multi-Surface Wipes:

Wood Cleaner:

This is the perfect time of year to get your home really clean, to clear out and make room for the fresh and new!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Seventh Generation and I received compensation. All opinions expressed herein are my own.


Diapers.com Launches "Baby's First Ride Home" Program in NYC

While parenting in NYC has its joys, city living also comes with plenty of challenges. One pops up right from the get go.... as in, how do we get baby home from the hospital! With our first child, I actually thought I'd be up to walking her home in a car seat/stroller attachment (I also didn't know I'd have such a difficult delivery, but that's a story for another time). A taxi was out of the question because, well, NYC TAXI DRIVERS ARE NUTS. We didn't own a car at the time, so renting a Zip Car seemed like the best option.

Err... not really. It was the slowest ride of my life due to a stressful mix of rain + NYC traffic + nervous Husband driving precious cargo + did I mention NYC traffic? By the time we finally made it into our apartment, we were exhausted (baby Millie, meanwhile, slept peacefully throughout the experience). 

Within the first few weeks of bringing her home, we were like any new parents: excited, scared and sleep-deprived. Also quite forgetful...  and along the way we made several repeat visits to the drug store because of things we either forgot to buy or kept running out of (diapers, wipes, wash cloths, diaper cream... that sort of thing). Sigh. It all seems like such a blur now. I wish I could have just stepped back, taken a moment to breathe and realize that everything was going to be okay (and if you're reading this while pregnant or you're home with an infant now, it really WILL be okay, I promise!

On that note, I'm VERY excited to share the news of Diapers.com "Baby's First Ride Home" program! Starting today, 12/10, and running until Christmas Day, 12/25, New York City families that welcome newborns this month can receive a free ride home from all Manhattan hospitals (up to $50), compliments of Diapers.com. 

Parents interested in this program can contact the Diapers.com 24/7 customer care team (1-800-DIAPERS) on their day of discharge to receive a $50 Lyft credit to use towards baby's first ride home from the hospital, available through the Lyft app. Program details and specific instructions can be found HERE. And, when you run out of diapers (which will inevitably happen), Diapers.com offers new customers $10 off their first case of diapers and all customers can get $5 off cases through March 31, 2015 with code GIMMEFIVE at checkout.

I'm thrilled to help promote this endeavor by Diapers.com. Please spread the word!

Disclosure: While I was compensated as part of this campaign by Diapers.com, all opinions expressed are my own.


Review: Cirque Ziva at The New Victory

Yesterday we got a chance to check out The Golden Dragon Acrobats performance of "Cirque Ziva" at The New Victory Theater. In a word: WOWZA!

Hailing from Hebei Province, China (and performing at The New Victory until January 4th, 2015), each stunt truly took our breath away. The girls sat transfixed (actually, so did we) while acrobats balanced champagne flutes on their heads, jumped through hoops, climbed on a tower of chairs, juggled basketballs, tables and performed an endless amount of jumps and flips, all while keeping a smile on their face. Remarkable show! It was a great fit for our entire family (sometimes it's hard to find something everyone will enjoy watching... ie, the parents) and a fun alternative to holiday-themed outings this month.

These cups were full of water, by the way!
A good reminder that the human body is capable of so many things (well, not my body...) 
More than any other stunt, this one just looked really fun to me... like I could actually attempt it (HA!)
Since 1995, The New Victory has been a destination for some of the most innovative and artistic performances from around the world... a "cultural home" for NYC children. The theater itself is quite beautiful, yet feels more intimate than other Broadway destinations, making it the perfect place for children to experience live theater. I love that there is locker space downstairs to store coats, etc. during the show, AND the fact that you can pre-order intermission snacks, thus avoiding a long line. As a side note, I was impressed by the super affordable snack menu.

My little acrobats had a great time at Cirque Ziva (they performed two "circus shows" after we got home, in fact). Your family will, too -- highly recommend!

Disclosure: Tickets to the show were complimentary. All opinions expressed herein are my own.


Handmade Holiday: Gifts for $30 & Under on Great.ly

I started curating a boutique on Great.ly a few months ago, and I've just fallen in love with the site. Handmade products by independent makers from all over the world are carefully selected for Great.ly, and the result is a collection of the most amazing products, from wall art to jewelry and linens... and everything in between.

Check out some of my favorite finds for an affordably-priced $30 or less:

"Dear New York, I Love You" Recycled Tote Bag ($26):

Desk Calendar ($30):

Gold Heart Stud Earrings ($29):

Soft bucket ($12):

Tea Towel ($18):

Black Leather & Gold Card Case ($24):

Cleopatra Ring ($29.50):

Icon Tee ($30):

Geometric Air Plant Vessel ($27):

Wall print ($25):

Happy shopping!

Dirty House = Happy Kids?

This post is sponsored by Seventh Generation.

I've seen the quote "Good moms have sticky floors, dirty ovens and happy kids" many times. And while I understand the bigger picture and want my children to be happy, obviously, I have a hard time with this one. Can't we have both? Isn't it really about managing your time wisely and cleaning up when your child is napping, at school or otherwise entertained? I certainly feel better when our apt is reasonably clean (notice I said "reasonably"... I'm no perfectionist), which brings to mind another quote: "When mama's happy, everyone's happy." Or maybe I just made that up.

In any case, here's my takeaway:

Being present when you're with your kids is a gift to both of you -- especially this time of year. Don't decide to clean the floors when your child asks to do a puzzle with you or read a book together (though if a particular task must be done at that exact moment, it's a great lesson in patience for your child).

Let go of perfection; it's overrated (and stressful).

I find the weight of that mom who "does it all while wearing heels" to be suffocating. First of all, she's not. Comparing yourself to others who seemingly have it all -- with a clean house to boot -- will get you nowhere... I think I'm finally grasping this at the ripe old age of 36.

Manage your time wisely. Find those moments when the kids are engaged in something, as I said above. When cleaning, I find if I think about what needs doing in the whole apartment (all 1000 feet of it) I get overwhelmed. Take it one room -- or countertop -- at a time.

Embrace the little things. Enjoy the moment. Use your time wisely. Free yourself from Instagram image perfection. Your happy kids will be living in a home with a happy mom who does it all the best way she can (though this mom prefers sneakers).


For some of my favorite eco-friendly cleaning products by Seventh Generation, check out my Pinterest board.

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