Magic Moments with The Amazing Zhus

I've got a bit of a not-so-secret secret to divulge: I live with a bunch of wanna-be magicians. To be specific, Husband enjoys a magic trick or two, and as a result, he's gotten the little ones interested in it, too. A few card tricks, a light up thumb, that sort of thing... and they just laugh and laugh when he entertains them (which he loves, of course). I like to just sit back and watch, as I'm not about to volunteer to be the lady who gets sawed in half. Ha!

As a result, I signed up for a promotion with MomSelect when I heard they needed volunteers to test out The Amazing Zhus Magician Pets. Talk about a win-win: not only do my children love animals, but they ask us on a daily basis when we are going to get a pet... and in a small NYC apartment, you can imagine the answer. Combine the idea of a "pet" with one that does "magic" and it seemed like a complete no brainer!

Recommended for ages 4+ (though Vivian at age 3, with her sister's assistance, has had a lot of fun with it), the Amazing Zhus are available exclusively at Walmart stores nationwide. With the assistance of Madame Zhu herself, the gals have had so much fun practicing "magic" and playing with these toys, which also included the High Dive and Magician Shell Game. From a parent's perspective, I can tell you it's nice when the batteries come included AND when the toy is easy to put together (referring to the High Dive... took me 5 minutes to build). Fun times with The Amazing Zhus!

On the High Dive, Madame Zhu is attached to wheels and zips quickly down from a "diving board" into a bucket.
They love how fast she moves!  

In the Magician Shell Game, Madame Zhu magically finds the nut underneath the correct shell...
I'm still not quite sure how she does it! She also comes with a wand and special cards that will make her sing, dance, etc...
She's almost ready to go zooming down the High Dive!

Disclaimer: This post is part of a sponsored campaign with Cepia LLC and MomSelect. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


Fall Means Apple & Pumpkin Picking

I really think one of the best things about having kids is establishing traditions with them. I love that when they think of fall, along with their birthdays (of course!) and Halloween, they also look forward to pumpkin and apple picking. It's one of my favorite day trips of the year by far, and the colors of fall never fail to disappoint (if you're still looking for an orchard or pumpkin patch to visit, check out my roundup on The Savvy Source).

This year, we headed out to Stuart's Fruit Farm in Granite Springs, NY. About an hour north of NYC, the location is perfect for a day trip out of the city, and the apple and pumpkin selection is still plentiful. The little gals had even more fun this year than last, and we came home with a massive pumpkin and a big bag of apples to show for it (not to mention the best apple cider donuts of my life).

Happy fall, friends!

The Phoebe top from Alexander & Sophia - love the classic stripe w/ contrasting color on the sleeve!
Material is soft & a bit thicker than your average long-sleeved t-shirt, so perfect for fall weather.
My sweatshirt is from the new Liz Claiborne for JCPenney's line. Unfortunately, I can no longer find it online, but I do love this alternative
Small aside: Loving Liz Claiborne for JCPenney's new cross-body bag...
the perfect purse for being hands-free with kids! 

Disclaimer: While the products mentioned were sent to me for review, all opinions expressed herein are my own.


New Favorite App: Jesse the Jack's ABC Zoo (& a giveaway!)

I gotta say, I'm having a lot of fun watching Millie develop a real love of learning through kindergarten this year. She is just so excited about everything happening at school, and I can only hope that enthusiasm will continue as the years go by. I love sitting back as she gets a grasp of the way a letter sounds, or the way to write the number five. She told me the other day that she loves the optional homework sent home each week... that made me laugh, of course, and I told her I'd remind of that when she's twelve!

Fortunately, there are plenty of apps out there that can be a helpful accompaniment to everything children are learning at school. Jesse the Jack's ABC Zoo, a new educational app featuring an adorable Jack Russell Terrier named Jesse, is a great example. Perhaps you know Jesse already? He has a popular Youtube channel (no, seriously) where you see him doing all sorts of crazy tricks and proving that he's quite the special pup.

(Millie often wears princess dresses to work on an app)
In this app, the viewer helps Jesse through the zoo, and together they meet all sorts of animals while learning their ABCs at the same time. There's plenty of time for Jesse to do tricks and be given treats, too! It's quite unique and fun to have a real dog mixed in with animation and live narration, and it couldn't be a better combination for us: not only do the girls love animals of all sorts, but they're obsessed with dogs. This app is a win win for Millie and Vivian, and a win win for me as it's educational, too (and perhaps it will quell their daily questions of "When are we getting a dog?")

Geared at ages 2 through 6, the app is available on iTunes for iPhone and iPad and will be coming to Android in early 2015. While the app is technically free, buying the full edition for $1.99 is well worth the money. You can also buy the corresponding iBook for .99.

Happy to have added "Jesse" to our app repertoire! Would you like to try it as well? I'm giving away 5 discount codes to get this app for FREE. Super simple, too - be one of the first 5 people to comment on this post (be sure to leave your email address!) and I'll send you the code. Thanks so much!

Dislcaimer: While I was provided with compensation for this review, all opinions herein are my own.


A Fairy-Themed Combo Birthday Celebration

Having two children close in age (with birthdays eight days apart) has its pluses and minuses. The first two weeks of October are birthday central around here, and while it's nice to have all the celebrating happen at once, my oven is about as tired as I am. Turning 3 and 5 this year, I definitely hyped the joint birthday party idea to Millie and Vivian. Luckily, they were duped easily convinced. I am curious at how many years I'll be able to get away with this, though... I was talking to someone the other day who revealed he hated sharing his birthday with his little brother while they were growing up, so I'll definitely keep that in mind as the years go by.

How do you feel about the combo birthday party?

Luckily, the girls settled on a fairy theme pretty quickly, as it's all about fairies and magic at our house (we're still holding on to a dying plant that Millie is convinced is a beanstalk that's going to grow out our window). I worked with the amazing Chasing Fireflies, who sent me some adorable supplies from their Flower Fairies collection to compliment the party. I love this collection, which lends more towards woodland creature than Disney Tinkerbell (sorry Tink). One look and you can tell that the quality is a touch above... the cups/plates/napkins are super sturdy and strong, and we came home and hung up the garland in the girls room (such a fun memory from the party). They're still playing with the fairy centerpiece, too. 

I found wings for all the kids on Ebay, and headed to Michael's for "fairy houses" and painting supplies. Recipes and unicorn cake inspiration came from Pinterest (of course!), and music and face painting was provided by our neighborhood's party entertainer extraordinaire. Such a fun morning celebrating our little gals! Here are just a few pictures from the day:

Disclaimer: Chasing Fireflies provided me with product for the purposes of this review. All opinions expressed herein are my own. 


A Varsity Jacket for the Littles Set

Oh fall, how I love thee. The leaves, the cooling temperatures, the days and days of good, un-frizzy hair. And outerwear, of course. Fall is my favorite season clothes-wise, and while I love to see my girls in light summer dresses, fall layering suits them pretty well, too. Take these personalized hooded varsity jackets from Chasing Fireflies. Love! And I must report: while Husband doesn't weigh in with his opinion of the girls' clothing very often, he's a big fan of them, too. I suspect it has something to do with reminiscing on his old high school football days... 

In any case, they're a total hit. This mid-weight jacket is perfect for the changing of seasons (I'll be bringing them back out in the spring, too) and I like this spin on personalized clothing. Is it just me or is there something nostalgic about a letter jacket? As Husband travels down memory lane, I'm taking it one step further. To me these jackets have a vintage, "going to a sock hop" feel, and I kind of love that about them. Whatever the era, my gals will be comfy, stylish (and warm!) this fall.

Dislcaimer: While Chasing Fireflies sent me these jackets for review, all opinions expressed herein are my own.


3 Years Old and Waffles to Boot!

We celebrated Vivian's third birthday last weekend at Petite Abeille, one of our favorite brunch spots in the city. It seemed fitting, as the birthday girl is a huge fan of waffles and theirs are some of the best around. But before I get to that -- and make myself hungry at the same time -- a few words on Miss Vivian Ella.

Like every other parent who waxes nostalgic on their child's birthday, I have to fall in line... I really don't know how Vivian is three years old! Maybe it's because she's my baby (okay, that's exactly why), but I have to admit I'm struggling a bit here. And now that Vivian is in preschool four days a week, she seems to be growing daily before my eyes. Some of it is quite wonderful (the curiosity! the giggles! the kisses!) and some, well, not so much (three really is the new two, you know). Either way, we treasure the little nut. Here's to my gal who would rather make funny faces with her mother than brush her teeth at night... we love you more than words can say!

Now, on to the birthday celebration. We go out to eat on Fridays as a family, but heading to Petite Abeille last weekend made me realize how much I miss BRUNCH. Though we still eat our fair share of eggs benedict, it's not a weekend event like it used to be before we had kids. And I must admit, I miss it. Petite Abeille was bustling and crowded, and for good reason. The food is delish (don't miss the pumpkin waffles this fall). I felt like clinking my mimosa flute with the person next to me, I was so happy to be there. And the birthday girl with her waffle topped with a candle, homemade whipped cream and strawberry sauce? She stuffed herself silly.

photo credit: nycgo.com

Here's to birthdays and many more brunches with this babe. Afterwards, we watched Millie & Viv run off their meals on the terraced grassy space at Lincoln Center while we soaked in the last bit of warm-ish weather of the season. A pretty great day, my friends.

Disclaimer: Our brunch at Petite Abeille was complimentary, but I can assure you, all opinions expressed are my own.


Play Time with Kiwi Crate

You know those days when you're stuck inside because it's raining or because someone's sick or because it's freezing cold outside (those days are coming…) and you've already watched Paw Patrol three times and mama's going a little bit crazy?

Yeah, me too.

We had one of those afternoons a couple weeks ago, but thankfully, Kiwi Crate came to the rescue. This award-winning, monthly subscription service provides all the hands-on materials to inspire creative, educational fun. With themes like Music, Color, Robots and Safari, the crates deliver everything needed for a unique activity that won't have your child screaming for Dora (hurrah!)

And by the way, when they say everything is included, they mean it. I love the fact that I don't have to go running around looking for scissors and tape that I've quite possibly misplaced… (um, is that just me?) and the girls absolutely loved checking out the contents inside and were so curious about what they'd be making.

Each Kiwi Crate comes with 2-3 hands-on projects, in addition to a magazine with more activities around that month's theme. Ours was "Fun with Flight," so the girls made kites and rockets. A lot of fun! The instructions are easy to follow and it definitely felt like a collaborative effort, not a "Here Mommy, make this for me" project. Millie was obviously a bit more engaged as she's the older of the two, but Vivian had fun, too.

I just love that Kiwi Crate is an option for my kids when I don't want to turn on the TV and yet I'm not feeling motivated to get them involved in a project of my creation, or scouring the internet for games and art ideas (mama truth). While the monthly subscription is something fun to look forward to (we all know kids love getting mail!), I also like that you can buy a single box every once in a while, too.

This video of Vivian running with her completed kite on top of our apartment building just cracks me up.

       And the fun's not over yet! I've got an exclusive promo code so you can try out Kiwi Crate with your kids. Use BABYMC25 at checkout (Kiwi Crate ships to Canada as well!) and you'll receive 25% off your first month's subscription. New subscribers also receive free shipping plus a bonus welcome kit.

Here's to embracing creativity and saving your sanity at the same time, my friends!

Disclaimer: While I was sent a Kiwi Crate for the purposes of this review, all opinions expressed herein are my own.
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