Shopping Local: Town Shop on the Upper West Side

I cannot tell a lie: I love Target. I do a fair amount of shopping on Amazon, and other online stores, too. But there is something about shopping local -- about actually going into a neighborhood's small, locally-owned business, that makes me happy in a way that picking up a box in the lobby of my building will never do. When so many small businesses are forced to close due to lack of customers and exorbitant rents, I must admit it makes me feel slightly guilty as a consumer.

Perhaps that's why visiting a store like Town Shop is so refreshing. One of NYC's oldest lingerie stores is a staple on the Upper West Side. Having recently changed locations (across the street!) so they could expand their space, the store now offers a maternity section which includes nursing bras, swimsuits and loungewear (featuring brands like Bravado Designs & Ingrid and Isabel). A smart move, considering women have been flocking to the store for years for professional bra fittings and personalized service, and have likely been pregnant at some point along the way. 

While I'm 99% sure I'm done having children (I like to keep that 1% open just for kicks), it's good to know there's another option for maternity bras and intimates in the city. Not to mention a few bras post-breastfeeding, as we all know "the girls" are never quite the same again. Here's to shopping local on Small Business Saturday and all year round!

Disclosure: I received compensation from the Quality Blue Community for this campaign. All opinions expressed herein are my own.


A NYC Holiday Season Must-Do: The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Visitors to NYC usually have a "bucket list" of places and activities they want to experience while here. And if you visit during the holiday season, there's no doubt about it: The Radio City Christmas Spectacular should be on that list. I saw the show about 12 years ago (eesh!) and remember loving it, but it's quite another thing to make a return visit with your children in tow.

Simply put, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular embodies everything to love about the holiday season: there's music, dancing, ice skaters, Santa Claus, snowflakes (!), a message of "it's better to give than to receive" and a Nativity scene (with live camels to boot). The Rockettes and their high kicks are just as energetic and glamorous as ever, and I have to admit, I'm STILL wondering how they pulled off the toy soldier routine without falling down all over the place (see it and you'll know what I mean!)

Experience Christmas through the eyes of children and you'll have a brand new appreciation for this time of year. The wonder, excitement and joy that has filled Millie & Vivian before, during and after the show (and will no doubt last till New Years) makes me feel like a kid again, too. We were SO entertained, and it was the perfect - if not essential - way to kick off the holiday season.

Have a happy one, friends! If you're interested in checking out the show, tickets for The Radio City Christmas Spectacular can be found here

Disclaimer: While our tickets to the show were complimentary, all opinions expressed therein are my own.


Find the Bean. Win a Bundle: A Holiday #Giveaway with Bumblebean


Hello friends! This year I'm participating in an ENORMOUS Holiday Giveaway with Bumblebean, one of the best sites around for unique brands for moms and kids (and where I have a curated collection of goodies). In this giveaway and scavenger hunt, you'll have a chance to win one of three Bumblebean bundles with up to 35 prizes in each prize pack... over $5,000 worth of top baby and kids items, to be exact. Not too shabby, right? 

Here are the details:
  • Giveaway will run from November 20th - December 20th.
  • Entering is easy, just click the button below to go to the entry page with full instructions.
  • 3 lucky winners will receive a bundle prize pack with 35+ hand-selected items!
  • You may also enter the "find the bean" scavenger hunt to earn extra chances to win! 3x a week we will hide the Holiday bean on Bumblebean.com. Visit this entry page on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the new CLUE to find the hidden Holiday bean! When you find the bean, make sure to enter your answer (the link to the web page you found the bean on) in the form below to earn your extra chances to win. Clues will also be posted on Facebook so make sure to like Bumblebean.
  • Open to U.S. residents only.
  • Click on the button below to enter and see all the cool prizes! Check them out!

REMEMBER, the more points you earn the better chance you have to win! The entry page link is below. LIKE Bumblebean on Facebook to see updates and who wins! 

sign up blue-2


Hopping Along with Your ABC's & 123's

It's an exciting time to be five years old. Millie is learning SO much in kindergarten, and the best part is she's loving every minute of it. Homework comes home each week, and though it's optional, she can't wait to see her assignments (I told her this excitement may fade over the years; she disagrees). I realize we're experiencing a special time in her development... as questions fly left and right and her mind expands by the day.

It's a good time to be five.

As a result, I like to throw in educational games amidst everything else she's into these days... dressing up, coloring, playing with her doll house, etc., and I've found School Specialty to be a great resource. Do you know the site? Though primarily geared towards teachers and schools, anyone can purchase their educational products... AND note to self; they have a fantastic selection of games and toys for all ages!

We received the Crocodile Hop Floor Mat Game recently, and Millie's been having a lot of fun with it. Vivian, too! In the vein of hop scotch, players must hop along the mat in an attempt to get to the finish line without being "eaten" by a crocodile. One option is to hop on numbers in the correct numerical order, another is to only step on colors... and another on shapes. Geared towards ages 3 and up (and retailing at $33.99), I love that with one game, there are actually a handful of different ways to play! Not only does that keep your child interested, but it also makes the price very reasonable.

Crocodile Hop also comes with playing cards and two inflatable dice for even more ways to play. When it's packed back in the box it came in, I can store easily, and I've already decided that when the girls are older I can do one very exciting thing with the game - donate it to their school!

If you're looking for educational resources and games this holiday season, keep School Specialty in mind. In the meantime, we're going to try and avoid getting eaten by this crocodile.

Disclaimer: Compensation for this sponsored review was provided by KidzVuz. All opinions expressed herein are my own.


Have You Heard the News? The Holidays are Coming.

... and every year, I'm still taken by surprise, even though Christmas carols are playing at Rite Aid before Halloween. I have to admit, though, the impending holiday season is MUCH easier to embrace when the temperature is already 30 degrees outside. Brrrr... (though to be clear, that does not mean I'm the least bit happy about the cold).

Despite my inner voice shouting, "Not ready! Not ready!", the days will continue to pass, inching us towards December. In an effort to try and be prepared early and actually enjoy the Christmas season, I've started to pinpoint gift ideas for the little ladies in my life, who are particularly interested in anything having to do with arts-n-crafts and dress up these days -- some of which you'll see below.

There will be lots of gift, holiday card & activities inspiration flowing on the blog in the next few weeks. Let's all embrace it together, shall we?!

A Few of My Favorite Things for Little Imaginative Artistes:

I've always known Uncommon Goods had a great selection of gifts for adults (I've bought several wedding gifts there in the past), but I'd kind of forgotten about their children's selection. Geared towards the small creative ones among us, the curated collection is thoughtful and artistic with an emphasis on environmentally-friendly products. This finger printing set combines classic stamping with drawing and fairies. I'd say that's a win win! 

Do you have piles of your children's art work stacked up around the house like we do? If so, Plum Print is a welcome resource! They will send you a box and all you have to do is pile your child's artwork inside, answer a few questions pertaining to the name of your child's book and an introduction, and they will do the rest. Your child's art work will be returned in addition to a professionally bound coffee table book of your child's masterpieces. Seriously amazing.
My daughters love to paint, but I'm always left wondering where that paint is coming from as it gets smeared all over their hands (and clothes, usually). I love the idea of these all natural paints available at Uncommon Goods. Plant-based and non-toxic, you simply shake out the colored powder and add water in the cups provided. 

This art dolls kit available at Bumblebean (where I have a curated collection of goodies) is like an updated version of the paper dolls that I used to play with as a kid. The kit comes with beads, felt, string, fabric... everything to unleash your little one's creative imagination as these little dolls come to life. So fun!

What do little girls like more than watching Frozen? Dressing up as Elsa! Little Gloriana, a children's boutique specializing in beautiful clothes for girls and their dolls, clued in to this rather quickly with their Elsa dress (and optional "mini" dress for your doll). The quality of their clothes is rather exceptional, with this heart-shaped sequin dress with beaded train an excellent example. For little girls who love their dolls (and who love dress up or getting dressed up!) look no further than Little Gloriana.

Disclaimer: While a few of these products were given to me for review, all opinions expressed herein are my own.


Dear Potty Training: You're the Most Un-fun Thing Ever

By the way, I am aware "un-fun" doesn't make the most grammatical sense (or any), but when you're sort of burnt out on something that you've obsessed over for months, well, "un-fun" kind of sounds okay.

So here's the good news: we're almost out of the woods! Interestingly, Vivian did most things earlier than Millie (walking, putting on shoes, pulling up pants, etc) but when it came to potty training her around the same time that we began with Millie -- early this summer, to be exact -- she simply wasn't having it. Like, not at all. As in running around the house naked, peeing on the floor, thinking it was the most hilarious thing ever.


A couple weeks in, I realized something silly and blatantly obvious: why on earth was I forcing her into this when she clearly wasn't interested. Viv was not yet ready to call things off with her diaper. Taking into account that all kids are different, I really do feel that you can't push your child into potty training. You will only stress yourself out and spend a lot of time buying paper towels and cleaning supplies. They will embrace the bathroom on their own, at their own time. 

Sure enough, she spent the rest of the summer happily wearing a diaper, until mid-August when she began to show renewed interest. Slow but sure, with plenty of accidents in between, she got used to doing her business on the potty. Hurrah!

A couple more thoughts, along with some of my favorite potty training accessories (that may be the oddest word choice ever):

I suggest if the timing works out, potty train in the summer. You're wearing less clothes anyway, so it makes frequent trips to the potty easier for getting undressed and dressed.

Be prepared for a relapse: for whatever reason, Vivi did take a couple steps back recently. For about a week she had an accident almost every day. I'm not sure why, but she got past it and has been fine ever since. 

Buy your kid the most exciting underpants ever, be it Minnie Mouse or Thomas the Tank Engine. They will be excited to wear them and they won't want to mess them up by having an accident.

Now, a few "helpers" that got me through this process with sanity still intact:
As mentioned above, I learned my lesson pushing Viv before she was ready, so at this moment she is still wearing a diaper at bedtime. I'm a big fan of Seventh Generation, and these overnight diapers put me at ease (i.e. I know I'm not going to be changing the sheets the next day!) I also love Seventh Generation's commitment to our planet and keeping their products toxin-free. Thanks for keeping my baby's tushy safe! 

When you live in NYC and you have a kid, your stroller is like your car (or at least the car's trunk). And when you're walking down the sidewalk and your kid has to go to the bathroom, well, you pull out a portable potty. I can assure you it helps the child's reservations about plopping down on the sidewalk if it's a cute little lady bug they're sitting on. We love the My Carry Potty

A friend of mine passed along Big Girls Use The Potty when her daughter finished potty training, and I have to say both my girls loved it. Definitely invest in a few potty training books to get you through the process! 
I have mixed feelings about stand alone potties, as I think it's just easier to plunk them down on a regular potty from the get go, which makes the eventual transition to sitting on the potty unassisted a bit easier. For this reason, we've had great success with Oxo's Sit Right Potty Seat. I love that it's sturdy, the handles are there for support, and I can sit it up and out of the way when we're not using it. Done and done! True, I still have to be there to plop her down each time as she's not quite tall enough to sit down unassisted, but I think it'll be worth it in the long run. Oh, and I don't have a bunch of plastic cluttering up my bathroom.

I suppose that's it... potty training is a milestone, there's no question about it. Best of luck!

Disclaimer: I partnered with Seventh Generation this year to spread the word about their products. Additionally, the My Carry Potty and Sit Right Potty Seat were sent to me for review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.


Mama Needs a Date Night

Truth be told, Husband and I don't get out much. And by "don't get out much" I mean hardly ever. Actually that may be stretching it a bit. The reasons are not a-typical. Finding the time when Husband works long hours is one. Not having a regular babysitter or anyone that I really know well enough or trust with my kids is also a big factor. We used to ask generous friends to babysit, but it was one thing when we lived in Chelsea with a baby who slept a lot... quite another with two active toddlers and a trip uptown to Washington Heights. Our friends are amazing, but that's asking a lot. When we had a nanny, I would occasionally ask her to stay late, but always felt guilty about that when she'd already worked a full day.

Things need to change, of course. We need to get out every once in a while -- just the two of us. And not only for our own relationship, but for our relationship with NYC -- this can be a hard city to live in; it'd be nice to remember why we continue to live and love in Manhattan.

One one of our first dates at Bear Mt State Park... and again, 11+ years later with kiddies in tow!

In perhaps a small step in the right direction, I recently helped organize a "Speed Sitting" event with Urban Sitter. Have you heard of it? This online resource, which operates in major cities across the country, allows parents to find and book babysitters that are recommended by people already in their social circles (mother's group, the child's school, sports team, Facebook friends, etc). I love this concept because vetting someone on my own makes me a little nervous, honestly. Knowing that a friend of mine can personally recommend a babysitter adds a whole new level of comfort and trust in my decision. Not to mention the fact that Urban Sitter conducts background checks and you can find babysitters based on the amount of repeat visits they have with families. I also love that Urban Sitter allows you to book your babysitter and even pay he/she online (coming from the person who rarely has more than $20 on her, this is genius).

But I digress... the morning meet and greet took place at Kidville's bright and cheery new space on the Upper West Side. Over coffee and muffins (guests also took home Kidfresh coupons for their little ones), moms and babysitters got to do a series of mini interviews with each other. There's no question about it, friend referrals combined with your gut reaction after meeting someone for the first time mean a lot. I feel especially fortunate as I happened to meet a young girl who I think will be a perfect fit for the girls, and she already comes recommended by one of my connections on the site.

Now to book the date... 

If you'd like to learn more about Urban Sitter's membership levels and offerings, click here. Because we all deserve to get out every now and again!

Disclaimer: I received compensation for my work with Urban Sitter. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

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