Feeling Festive in 2018 with Zazzle

If you're anything like me, the month of December has you running through a long list of To Do's that never seem to end - you mark one thing off the list and add another simultaneously. While I did feel like I was able to enjoy the essence of the Christmas season, I can't say that I ever felt all that relaxed. And ultimately, there are things that just don't get done - a la sending out a festive greeting. If we're being honest, this year I didn't even attempt it, as I knew I'd have more time on my hands in early January, and who wants all their fun mail at the same time, amIright?

We opted to send out a "Happy New Year" card to friends and family, and used Zazzle to make it as seamless as possible. I even ordered stamps from them as well! I personally love a photo card, and Zazzle has a million different options, with a customization process that's straightforward and easy. We had a few great pictures from our vacation to California over the summer, so finding the photo was easy -- picking the design was the hard part! See some of my favorites below:

A classic, multi-photo layout:

Love the polka dots:

And the colors are fantastic in this HNY card:

Now, here's another fun idea. Try skipping holiday cards altogether and wait until February to send a Valentine's Day greeting! It'll be a fun surprise for your friends & family, and once again, Zazzle has some adorable options. Here are a few: 

So if you've been waiting around to get those cards, here's a little push in the right direction! Zazzle is currently offering a 15% off discount site-wide with code NYESSENTIALS.

Happy 2018 (and while we're on the subject, an early Happy Valentine's Day as well)!

Disclosure: I was provided with store credit in exchange for this review. All opinions herein are my own.


Holiday Gift Giving with World Vision

Give back while you shop for loved ones this holiday season with World Vision, a global humanitarian organization that aims to combat poverty and injustice around the world (take a look at their mission here). World Vision is present in nearly 100 countries, helping wherever there is need, from emergency relief in disaster situations, through their sponsored child program to bringing clean water to communities living without. They are also incredibly transparent with how every dollar is spent, which I really appreciate.

By buying handcrafted gifts from all over the world, you can help further the work of World Vision. See below for some of their gorgeous offerings -- in this case, perfect for a special lady in your life!

This bracelet was designed by actress Patricia Heaton and handcrafted by artisans in India who are thriving in fair trade business ($100 donation).

This stylish Vietnamese tote bag is hand-embroidered by mostly disabled women who are gaining independence and overcoming poverty through their crafts ($100 donation).

With a donation of $85, you can receive this gorgeous infinity scarf, handmade by weavers in Tamil Nadu, South India, who earn sustainable income from these scarves.

This necklace is so my style, and I love the colors. Made by Delhi artisans in a fair trade producer group, you can receive this with a donation of $100.

I'm really crushing on this wraparound ring, handmade by fair trade artisans in India. Yours to gift (or keep!) for a $65 donation.

Incredibly special is this African soapstone box, which was hand-carved and etched by local artisans in Kenya. Using this sustainable resource, artisans are lifting themselves and their families out of poverty ($85 donation).

Happy to spread the mission of World Vision and encourage a different way of gift giving this holiday season!

Disclosure: I was provided with a sampling of products in order to complete this review. All opinions herein are my own.


prAna -- Effortless Style; Ethically Made

The older I get, the more careful I am about which brands I support on social media as well as purchase for myself and my family. Companies who are invested in the care of our environment automatically get top billing in my book, from the way they source materials to their treatment of employees and everywhere in between. prAna is one of those brands (read more about their mission to create thoughtfully & give back here). I recently partnered with them to review sweaters from this year's collection, and I'm giving a hearty thumbs up in terms of style, warmth & sustainability. Free shipping until December 15th (as well as a 15% off discount code- see bottom of post!) make it easy to try them out for yourself.

First up, the Deedra Sweater Tunic, which kept me warm as I waited 2 hours (EESH) for the Yayoi Kusama Festival of Life exhibit in Chelsea last week.

Full disclosure, there's another significant reason why I love this sweater -- its tunic style covers my rear when I wear leggings! And that is really crucial when you wear leggings say, 4 days a week. Maybe 5? That's not the point. Comfort is key in my "active mom" lifestyle, but so is not showing off my booty.

I also wore it recently to a holiday party with my friend Michelle. We've been friends since college, and apparently enjoy showing up to parties wearing similar gray sweaters. Not planned, but funny just the same! The Deedra Sweater Tunic is perfect for any occasion.

Next up is Aya, a gorgeous sweatshirt/sweater combo. I'm in love with auburn, the color I chose, as I think it's the perfect color palette to take me from fall to winter. Also, this sweater is warm, as in, recycled wool blend sweaters don't come to mess around. Keep that in mind, but I am relieved knowing this sweater is going to keep me cozy all winter long. 

Also, this is what happens when your photographer is your child:

I do think it shows off the sweater pretty nicely, and I'm in love with the buttons! Such a fun extra touch. Thanks, Millie!

So, ready to give sustainable, ethically-made clothing a try? On the prAna website, use code CMBM17 for 15% off through December 20th -- and there's free shipping until 12/15! Proud and happy to support this brand with a conscious.

Disclosure: While I was given product for review, all opinions herein are my own.


Learning to Ride with Woom Bikes

Timing is everything, they say. After lots of practice with her dad, Millie took her first official ride on her own on Father's Day earlier this year. A pretty special moment for the two of them, on the perfect day, no less. But as she'd been using training wheels for a while, we quickly realized she had outgrown her bike and would need a new one.

The search began, and it didn't take long to discover woom bikes (probably because they're on countless "best kids' bike" lists, including Bicycling & Outside Online). This family-owned company first began in Europe, and its US branch was formed when one of the family members moved to Austin, Texas. So take European style and innovation blended with bikes shipped out of the good ol' USA, and that's a pretty awesome combination.

There's a lot to love about Millie's new bike, and I'll start with a few of her favorites: first, she loves the gears! As someone who didn't figure out how to use gears until adulthood (EEK), I fully understand this makes for an added bonus, as she can really take ownership of her ride based on the terrain. Millie also likes the ability to break with her hands, as she feels more in control of the bike that way. The handlebars are ergonomically designed, cushion-y while also being easy to grip.

Aesthetically speaking, Millie loves the bright green color (woom sticks to basic primary colors, which I love - you'll have to search for Elsa elsewhere), and the fact that she can easily pick it up if need be -- it's so lightweight! This makes getting it in and out of an apartment building, over street curbs, etc. a smooth & stress-free process.

Based on her height, Millie is using the woom 5 for ages 7-11 (woom bikes are made for one year olds through teenagers!) with an adjustable seat that we'll move up as she grows.

When purchasing a woom bike, customers in the U.S. can consider an UpCycle membership ($59), which makes a lot of sense if your children are growing like weeds (that'd be all kids, right?). Membership guarantees that when your child is ready for their next bike, you send in the used bike (thus "upcycling") and receive 40% of the returned bikes cost good toward your purchase of the next size up (includes free shipping). UpCycled bikes are donated to nonprofits around the country that focus on youth bike riding. Love!

Helmets by MELON are also offered on woom's site. So pleased with this one, and having tried a few already, it's easy to compare and contrast. First, the helmet is sturdy but lightweight (having heard lots of complaints about heavy helmets, this was a relief). It comes with several adjustable cushion attachments to make a perfect, secure and safe fit, which is most important. I've also been really happy with the magnetic closure, which makes it so easy to take on and off (if you've ever accidentally caught a piece of your child's chin while securing a helmet, you know what a relief this is!) Two thumbs up, MELON, and love all the fun colors and designs, too!

I love the confidence this bike has given Millie. She took to riding right away, and it's been so much fun seeing her improve and become more self-assured each time we take it out. On that topic, I love that woom offers an expert tips page on bike riding on their site. We'll definitely be consulting it as Vivian heads down the same road.

Keep woom in mind if a new bike is on your child's Christmas or Hanukkah list!

Disclosure: I was provided with a bike and helmet for purposes of this review. All opinions herein are my own.


Kick Off the Holidays with Kris Kringle, the Musical!

There's just something special about NYC during the holidays, pure and simple. For me, the season officially begins the day AFTER Thanksgiving (though I know some advertisers who would disagree). But no matter where you fall on the holiday start date debate, one thing's for certain: Santa and his elves are already deep into Christmas 2017 planning (list-making, checking it twice, that sort of thing).

While the North Pole revs into action, how about kick off your own holiday season with tickets to Kris Kringle The Musical? Starring Cathy Rigby and Andrew Keenan-Bolger, among many other talented performers, this one day only show will take place this Friday, November 24th (the day AFTER Thanksgiving- yes!) with just two performances (3pm & 8pm) at Town Hall. Detailing the untold story of a young Kris Kringle, proceeds from the musical will benefit the Singing Angels, a Cleveland, Ohio-based non-profit dedicated to providing youth from every community a performing arts education that teaches teamwork, builds confidence and provides a foundation for life.

We're excited to attend this show, followed by a little holiday store window viewing and hot chocolate sipping. With tickets starting as low as $35/person, it's the perfect way to kick off the holidays and give back at the same time! See their website for more information and to purchase tickets, and have a wonderful weekend!

Disclosure: I am being provided with tickets to this show in exchange for promotion. All opinions herein are my own.


Filling in the gaps with Kidpass

On the occasional weekend & school holiday (or non-camp days over the summer), when we have nothing official planned, I find myself sometimes paralyzed by choice on what to do with the girls. This is New York City, after all. If we're not checking out a museum or a new playground in a different part of town, we might just be hanging out at home or in our neighborhood (which is perfectly fine, I'm not in to over-scheduling kids).  

Sometimes, though, I'd like for the girls to try a new activity and/or pursue something they have an interest in, without having to commit to a semester or block of classes. I want them to be able to have that freedom to explore and try new things first, while also filling our free days with a fun new activity. I've recently found a platform that fits those needs perfectly: Kidpass

Trying out an art class at The Paint Place

Have you heard of this site? For a monthly fee (there are 3 membership plan options), you'll receive a certain number of credits to access hundreds of classes and activities around the city. With plenty of search options, you can easily find classes to fit every child's interests (from infants through teenagers)! This summer, the girls attended a painting day camp at The Paint Place, we checked out the animal "zoo" at Art Farm in the City and on Election Day, we made chocolate "flags" at Chocolate Works. And honestly that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of classes and experiences for kids. 

Saying hi to the bunnies at Art Farm in the City
Right now, you can try your first month of Kidpass for $19, and I highly recommend it! In addition to filling the gaps in your schedule with fun activities that you might not normally try, it can also be a way for your child to discover a new talent or interest. Ever wanted to try fencing? Gymnastics? Learn to DJ? With Kidpass, the possibilities are endless.

Creating chocolate "flags" at Chocolate Works UWS

I'm thrilled to share Kidpass with all of you -- check out this excellent new resource for parents and let me know what you think!

Disclosure: I was given a temporary membership in order to review Kidpass and its offerings. All opinions herein are my own.


The Big Apple Circus is Back!

After a year-long hiatus, the Big Apple Circus is back at Lincoln Center, celebrating its 40th anniversary. We were lucky enough to attend one of their first performances, and WOW, all I can say is this show never disappoints -- each artist, from jugglers to roller skaters, trapeze artists and tight rope walkers (and more!) are just SO amazing. With a live orchestra to boot!

We first saw the Big Apple Circus a couple years ago, and while a few of the acts are the same (though do you ever tire of seeing a poodle jumping through a hoop?), there were plenty of new performances, too. A duo from South America BLEW ME AWAY with their roller skating act (V loved that one especially since she got roller skates for her birthday) and Nick Wallenda, known for incredible feats on the high wire, closes out the show along with his family. The circus guarantees plenty of "pearl-clutching," crazy fun moments in a space that's intimate enough to allow everyone a great view of the action.

performance photos by Maike Schulz
Catch the Big Apple Circus daily between now and January 7th. In an effort to make sure everyone has a chance to experience the circus, there are also autism-friendly and "Circus of the Senses" performances for those who are hearing and visually impaired. I also wanted to mention that after the show, we ran into a friend of Millie's from school who uses a wheelchair, and his mother said she was very impressed with the access & ease she was able to enter/exit & get around the space. Kudos!

Fun day at the circus with friends!

Disclosure: I was provided with press passes to attend a performance of the Big Apple Circus. All opinions are my own.
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