Who Says You Can't Go Home Again?

Thomas Wolfe, that's who. And while I understand his sentiment, I have to say it was really good for me to go home this summer. First and foremost, the girls and I were able to reconnect with my family (and extended family), whom I don't see often enough. But a week spent at the beach was particularly perfect, and here's why -- I've been gone a long time. And while I didn't feel like I needed to relive any "youthful memories," as Wolfe wrote, I hoped I would remember what it was (if anything) that still connected me to my birthplace.

The South often gets a bad rap (and there are plenty of valid reasons, which I don't need to get into). I felt strongly about leaving and moving to New York City since I was old enough to understand it was a place filled with bright lights and excitement. A place where people from all over the world descended and blended together. Simply put, it was somewhere different, where I couldn't see my life perfectly planned out ahead of me, and that was exciting. As hard as it was to move away from family and friends after college (and boy did I cry at the airport), I always knew that I was making the right decision.

Our week at Edisto Beach (very close to where I grew up; my parents now live in GA) brought me full circle. So much of the "good stuff" came back: the smell of the salt air from the screened-in porch, the feel of the sand between my toes (not so much the jellyfish that stung my niece), the food -- oh, the food! -- seafood casserole, flounder sandwiches, potato salad, etc. Just ask my waistline. The laughter of my parents' friends, gathered around the table. The same friends who carted me to basketball games and chaperoned those awful middle school dances. The mystery of Spanish Moss (is there something romantic about it or is it just plain strange?). Old friends who I know I'll know and love for a lifetime, even if our lives aren't so intertwined as they once were. The sunsets, no filter needed.

Memories/accents/tastes/smells kept rolling in each day, as reliable as the afternoon tide in front of our house. And while I'm not sure relief at my renewed sense of place is the correct phrase, I do feel content. You CAN go home again. And I would encourage anyone to find out what it is that binds you to a place, whether it's where you were raised, where you live now or somewhere you visited once that you've never quite been able to shake. Because while NYC fits me like an old (yet shiny) glove, there will always be a little piece of me that belongs to where my journey first began.

Enjoy these last few days of summer, friends!


Making Summer Reading Fun with Zenni Optical

I loved reading as a child (and still do, when I can find 5 minutes...), so it makes me really happy that Millie, as a blossoming young reader, seems to enjoy it as much as I do. Her reading comprehension came a long way this past year, and I'm excited to see those skills continue to develop as she begins 2nd grade. How do I have a 2nd grader, anyway?! Agh. But I digress... 

With just a month left of summer vacation, and many busy days behind and ahead of us, I do realize it can sometimes be a challenge to squeeze in time for reading. The key? Finding ways to make it fun, engaging and "thematic." Zenni Optical, which provides on-trend eyewear for the whole family (their kids' styles are really cute!) sponsored this post, and they wholeheartedly agree and support our earliest readers for a lifetime of reading.

Here are a few of the things we love to read and have done to help make the process "come alive," while still enjoying that important time of reading to our children, too (Vivi at 4 will be our next reader!) --

Step outside the box and check out what children's magazines are available and appropriate for your child. I recently discovered Kazoo Magazine (specifically for girls ages 5-10), and Millie has not been able to put it down. We love that the magazine celebrates how awesome girls are, and features, amongst other cool topics, stories about remarkable women in history. Plus, it's just fun to have something arrive in the mail with your name on it, right?

While the girls have specific series that they like (I'll get to that in a minute), I also think it's good to keep themed books around according to the season, upcoming holidays, etc. For example, here are a few of our favorite summer/beach reads over the years:

Harry by the Sea (by Gene Zion)
Time of Wonder (by Robert McCloskey)
The Summer Visitors (by Karel Hayes)
The Berenstain Bears and the Week at Grandma's (by Stan Berenstain)

As with many little girls, I have two major Fancy Nancy fans in my home. Ooh la la! We're visiting my parents right now, and one of the first things we did when we arrived was visit their local library. And right on top of the pile of books we brought home was, of course, Fancy Nancy: Fancy Day in Room 1-A.

The girls decided to play dress up like the characters in the book, which turned out to be a lot of fun when you're staying at Grandma's house. What a fun way to bring the story alive, and I highly recommend it!

I hope some of these tips and photos will serve as inspiration to make summer reading an engaging experience and not something your child dreads. Fostering a love of reading early on will only serve to enhance your child's life as they grow. In the meantime, I can't wait to introduce Millie to some of my childhood favorites, like Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie.

Until then, readers!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored on behalf of Zenni Optical via One2One Network. All opinions stated are my own.


Review: Schleich Horse Club

I have to admit I cringe a little bit each time my kids catch a commercial when they're watching a children's show on TV. Inevitably, they want whatever it is being displayed, and whatever it is, is usually junk. It's truth time around here! I feel like Husband and I can pat ourselves on the back, though, because I think/hope we've done a good job of discovering and buying well-made toys for our children. Classic items that perhaps we had as kids (cue nostalgia).

Schleich is one of those companies. One of Germany's largest toy manufacturers, it's been around for the last 80 years. That tells me they're doing something right! The little Schleich doggie I had as a little girl was a favorite of mine until he was tragically lost, but that's a sad story for another time (sniffle sniffle). In happier news, my girls have discovered Schleich, too. Their first figurine came from a friend, and we've slowly added to their collection over time.

So naturally, I said yes when I was invited to a campaign promoting their toys. My girls received a Horse Club set, which includes a Riding Arena, Horse Wash Area and Arabian Mare with Blanket. Like the majority of little girls, they love everything that has to do with horses, so this collection has been a huge hit! Everything was very simple to put together, and the attention to detail is truly impressive.

I've so enjoyed watching them play with their new horses and accessories. One of the many joys of parenting is watching your children's imagination grow, so I love seeing how they create individual stories for their horses (one day they're sisters, one day it's a mama and her children, one day the horses can fly!) and of course, learning to take care of something by making sure they are underneath the riding ring at night and have gotten a good bath. Too cute! And at a price range of $12.99-$34.99, it's an affordable product, too.

Check out this video to see more of what Schleich has to offer:


Geared towards ages 5-12, Schleich's Horse Set is perfect for kids who love animals, and as I've seen, really encourages imaginative play and taking care of something other than oneself. I just hope the girls are luckier than me and will be able to pass down their horses to their own kids one day!

Disclosure: I am a Schleich Blogger Ambassador. This post is part of a sponsored campaign. I received compensation for my participation, but my review and opinions are my own.


A Catskills Getaway (Part II)

I'm so happy we could get away for a few days last week. We drove up to the Catskills (basically two hours north of the city), and honestly I could feel the stress peel away as we first encountered those gorgeous hills and fresh mountain air. Is it possible to be both a city and country girl at the same time? Discussion for later date.

We spent our first two nights at The Emerson Resort followed by a night of camping at Mongaup Pond in Livingston Manor. On Thursday, we visited friends renting a house on Lake Dutchess before heading home. Short. Sweet. Perfection. Oh and we saw a bear crossing the highway one afternoon. That was maybe not my favorite part, but sure spiced things up a bit. Here are a few pics of our time away... enjoy!

Phoenicia Diner is a must-do if you're in the neighborhood. Excellent food & atmosphere!
With my southern roots, I had to try the shrimp and grits special. Did. not. disappoint.

Despite not being the sight of the ACTUAL Woodstock in 1969, Woodstock, NY has embraced its name and is a fun little town to walk around. Great restaurants, shops and street art. We went to Landau Grill (it seemed to have the best kids menu) and Taoo Juan's for ice cream afterwards. Fun day!

Mongaup Pond... we love this campground so much. After setting up our tent, we walked down to the "beach" for swimming with ducks and canoeing. We went in to Livingston Manor for an early dinner (don't miss Main Street Farm) and came back to our site in time to roast 'smores over the campfire. While I can't say I LOVE sleeping on the ground, the girls had a blast and I will happily do it again (although next time with a better mattress underneath me!)

This moment was near perfection. Sigh. I hope they'll still want to go camping with us when they're teenagers.
Serene and lovely Lake Dutchess in Holmes, NY.

Because when you're passing the Red Rooster Drive-In on your way home, you stop.


A NYC Getaway with The Emerson Resort

Last week, we escaped for a few days to upstate New York and the Catskills Mountains. I love this area so much! In two short hours from Manhattan, we found ourselves among the rolling countryside of Mount Tremper at The Emerson Resort and Spa. Its convenient location off Route 28 makes it a easy getaway for a girls weekend (their spa is currently under renovation and is going to be gorgeous when finished!), a romantic babymoon getaway, or as we discovered, a relaxing family vacation.

The girls settled in quickly to our Royal Suite room, complete with private balcony and a gorgeous bathroom with whirlpool bath and rain shower. Our room felt luxurious yet totally comfortable at the same time: the perfect combo.

The Emerson has taken great care to appeal to families-- their activity field has lots of outdoor games (frisbee, volleyball, corn hole, horse shoes, badminton, etc.) and we visited the pool to cool off each afternoon. They also hold bonfires every weekend, with 'smores kits available at the front desk. Yum! If you're looking for more activity, bike rentals are available and guided hikes can be arranged.

We had breakfast each morning at The Woodnotes Grill, which serves locally grown food in their beautiful dining room and outdoor deck. The first morning, I went with granola and Greek yogurt as I was taking a yoga class afterwards. Delicious! We have two little girls obsessed with chocolate chip pancakes, so the kitchen was able to specially add chocolate chips to their pancakes for them each day. The yoga class, by the way, was such a great way to start the day... why don't I do that more often again?? 

The Emerson is also home to the World's Largest Kaleidoscope. No, really! It was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records. Built inside a silo on the property, hotel guests can view a beautiful display of moving images and mirrors designed by a kaleidoscope expert. Several themed shows set to music and narration are available to view; the one we saw was about the solar system. Quite stunning! After the show, there are several smaller kaleidoscopes to check out. Love the photo of Vivian... obviously we all had to have our picture taken in that one!

During our stay, we had an opportunity to check out nearby Woodstock and Phoenicia (more photos coming in my next post). What a gorgeous area... it's amazing how fast the stress falls away when you leave the city!

On our last night, we had fun with the Family Game Night basket, which included popcorn, games, puzzles and candy. Another added touch that makes The Emerson really stand out! Themed baskets for families, friends and couples are available for $30-$100, depending on what you choose.

The Emerson really struck the perfect balance between being peaceful and relaxing, yet offering enough activities to keep our kids busy both at the resort and in the surrounding area. I look forward to going back in the future!

Disclosure: We were guests of The Emerson in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are my


Summer in the City with Kids in the Game

My girls recently completed a week of day camp with Kids in the Game, which operates summer day camps on the Upper West Side, Inwood and Riverdale (in addition to after school, recess and athletic programs for kids throughout the year). They had such a blast!

Walking to camp

The week was packed full of games, sports instruction, field trips (Millie's group went to The Intrepid), water play, face painting and making new friends. I loved hearing about their day when I would pick them up each afternoon, and we also loved how easily they fell asleep each night after a day full of fun. Hurrah!

Super Hero face painting

I asked Millie to come up with a list of games they played during the week, and boy did she deliver... among them, Capture the Flag, Freeze Dance, Musical Chairs, Caterpillar Tag and soccer. She also received instruction in tennis twice during the week, which was great as she had a few tennis lessons last summer. There was also time for yoga and arts-n-crafts... it was truly a week packed full of engaging activities.

Field trip to The Intrepid

Need to fill a couple more weeks of summer for your child? Kids in the Game camps run through August 19th, and while prices vary depending on which location you choose, I can tell you from doing the research, Kids in the Game is a very affordable option.

Flag football in Inwood Hill Park

Here's to keeping our kids active & having fun during the summer!

Disclosure: I was provided with a week of camp for my daughters in exchange for this promotion. All opinions are my own.


Be Gone Flip Flops: SOAK Slides to the Rescue (& a giveaway!)

Confession: I used to be a chronic flip flop-wearer in the summer, and not like, in a cute "strolling on the beach" kind of way. In like a, "switch my work shoes for my flip flops and wear them all the way home on the gritty streets of New York City" kind of way. And sad but true, I wasn't alone. I've seen many a flip flop flopping down the street in my day.

At the ripe ol' age of 38, I've realized a thing or two, and one of those things is flip flops are not for city streets. The eww factor is just way too high. Fortunately, I've discovered SOAK slides, and I'm loving everything about this company. First, it's mom-owned & made in the USA (Maine) & the shoes themselves are made out of vegan, recyclable materials. How cool is that? And oh yeah, they're super comfy and come in a whole bunch of cool colors. The look goes easily from the playground or laundry room to out for the evening... finally, a shoe that gets it.

Be gone, flip flops, be gone! Unless I am in some way near a body of water, in which case, perfectly acceptable.

And now for the fun news! I'm excited to partner with SOAK on a giveaway of their fabulous shoes. Go HERE to enter a super duper easy contest to win a pair for yourself. Good luck!! SOAK will be in touch in 2 weeks if you're the winner.

Disclosure: I was given a pair of SOAK slides for review. All opinions are my own.
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