big apple books: home grown books in brooklyn

Veering off in a slightly different direction this week -- instead of featuring a NYC-themed children's book, how about one MADE in NYC? I'm excited to help spread the word about Home Grown Books, a Brooklyn-based children's publishing company. Founded by reading specialist Kyla Ryman, Home Grown Books was conceived after Ryman spent years struggling to find high quality early reader books, and the result is a pretty special new company. Home Grown Books is dedicated to creating early reading content that is visually stimulating for the child while still engaging for mom and dad (and believe me when I say we thank you for that).

Home Grown's early reader books are perfect for us these days as Millie takes her first steps towards reading. The "City and Country" set, which we received, couldn't have been more perfect for us. I love that they were written by Kyla Ryman herself, and the illustrations, by artist Sara Woster, are so bright and vivid (I'm reminded of A SNOWY DAY, by Ezra Jack Keats, every time I pick one up). Lastly, I love the packaging. As you undo the box set, there are helpful hints and tips for early readers inside. 

Home Grown Books makes a special effort to  keep their eco-footprint as small as possible. Their entire printing process is green, meaning they use wind power, recycled paper and no-VOC vegetable inks in production, which are made in Brooklyn. I'm a big fan of shopping local, aren't you? When visiting their site, be sure to check out their resource page, which shares videos geared at guiding your child through the reading process. 

In addition to the early reading series and two new board books, their shop also offers a line of adorable stuffed animals (made of 100% Alpaca knit by a fair trade women's collective in Bolivia) and a wooden block and puzzle set, made in Vermont.

Stay tuned for my Back-to-School giveaway coming up soon -- I'll be giving one of Home Grown Books' early reader sets away to one lucky winner. Woohoo!

Disclaimer: While I received one complimentary early reading set to review, all opinions expressed are my own. 

potions & planting tea party at the mckittrick hotel

The last time I visited The McKittrick Hotel, Husband and I were on a date night to see "Sleep No More." This morning's visit was a decidedly different, but just as entertaining, visit with the girls. We attended a "Potions and Planting" tea party at the hotel's rooftop garden, the Gallow Green.

First off, like with Sleep No More, the attention to detail is just amazing. We were met by a doorman downstairs who very sweetly introduced himself to the girls' stuffed puppies, Rudy and Helmet (yes the names are for real) that they were encouraged to bring along with them. We took off in an elevator upstairs as the bellhop, carrying a large stuffed teddy himself, recited a poem about the magical time awaiting us.

It truly was; the rooftop itself is just gorgeous, and the tea party food was delicious (girls drank lemonade; mommy had prosecco). Along the way, Millie and Vivian got to help plant "beanstalk" seeds, listen to a magical story and make a special wishing potion that we brought home with us. If you have a child who is in to magic, fairies, princesses/knights and special potions (and aren't all little kiddies?) then they will have a ball. And yes, I had just as much fun as they did. We left with special embroidered bibs for their stuffed puppies and our own pot with magic seeds to plant at home. We'll see what grows... 

You have 2 more chances to attend a Potions and Planting tea party at the McKittrick Hotel (August 23rd & 30th) and advance reservations are required: #212.564.1662. I highly recommend it!

Disclaimer: While I was given press tickets to attend this event, all opinions expressed are my own. 

farm fresh with farmigo

I've written about this before, and it remains true. It wasn't until I became pregnant and had children that I started to think twice about a lot of things, and what kind of food I bought was at the top of the list. I try to buy organic as much as possible (without completely breaking the bank) and I now read labels religiously. And here's a little known fact about me: wilted lettuce at the grocery store can really put me in a foul mood.

Thankfully, though, living in a large city like NYC gives one a special gift: OPTIONS. And of those options for the health conscious consumer, there's one I was recently given a chance to try out: Farmigo. Have you heard of it? Their website puts it best:

"Farmigo is a small startup with a big mission: To empower people to create a better way to eat, by creating farm-to-neighborhood access to fresh food, benefiting local farms and bypassing supermarkets."

Aside from the fact that the ordering process was simple and the options were much more plentiful than I was expecting, I love that Farmigo believes in community and supporting the independent farmer and small business. 

Here are a few of the items that made it on to my grocery list (because I know you were wondering!):

- Sweet corn & beefsteak tomatoes from Kernan Farms in Bridgeton, NJ
- Cranberry Cashew Granola from Granola Lab in Brooklyn
- Raw Local Honey from Hudson Valley Harvest in the Hudson Valley
- Butterhead lettuce from Gotham Greens
- Sweet cherries from Fingerlakes Farms

Hungry yet? 

Please note: there is no door-to-door delivery with Farmigo. That's a deliberate move in order to keep costs down and encourage interaction with neighbors and community. As an example, on the day of my pickup, I actually forgot one of my bags, and didn't realize it till I was on the subway home (totally blaming the children for this one). I texted with the lady who was handing out the food, and we arranged to meet up the next day at her home to pick up our missing bag. Not only did she invite us in, but we ended up staying a while just chatting in her charming brownstone. 

I believe it is those little connections with people that are as fundamental to Farmigo's success as their product offerings, and I'm pretty certain their "small startup" won't be small for long.

Disclaimer: I was given a credit to try out Farmigo. All opinions expressed herein are my own.

summer means a trip to coney island

A loooooong subway ride out to Coney Island is on the agenda for our family every summer, and this weekend, despite overcast and cloudy weather, we decided to make the trip. The gray skies turned out to be a blessing in disguise as this quintessential NYC destination wasn't as crowded as it might normally be on a sunny day. After taking in a bit of the boardwalk (always entertaining...), we headed to Luna Park so the girls could ride a few rides and to the New York Aquarium (our first trip, believe it or not) to check out some fishies. We capped off the day with tickets to a Brooklyn Cyclones game (Star Wars night... Husband was more excited than he should have been) and my yearly injection of cotton candy. I mean, how do you not love Coney Island?

A few pics of our day, according to my iPhone:


In all the oodles of spare time I have (HA!), one of my favorite things to do is to discover new websites and artists creating original and exciting products. And if they're making it locally, all the better. Sure, I love Target as much as the next person, but there's something wonderful and important about supporting small businesses and independent makers. I truly believe that.

If you're a little bit like me, and after the kids are long in bed for the night, you might stay up later than you should surfing the net aimlessly, happening on wonderful little crafters or finding them via Instagram. A bit like going on a treasure hunt, I suppose, and it's tons o' fun for me.

In one of my late night hunts, I came across the website, and after falling in love with what I saw, I decided to set up a boutique of my favorite makers' products. Essentially, is a one-stop shop for independent makers, and whether they're making purses, shoes, art, furniture, toys or jewelry -- you name it, has it all in one place. And they're only continuing to grow every day.

 In an effort to spread the love, I wanted to share some of my favorite new discoveries on the site. I hope you like what you see, and perhaps you'll consider their makers the next time you need a special gift for someone (or for yourself)!

Colour Moon
Kiev, Ukraine
Sea and Asters
Tampa, FL
Colour Moon
Kiev, Ukraine
Araya Jensen
Wind and Willow Home
Minneapolis, MN
Epiphanie Bags
San Antonio, TX
Son of a Sailor
Austin, TX
Epiphanie Bags
San Antonio, TX

juicy fruit twitter party happening tomorrow!

Oh, how I love the summertime... especially after the winter we had here in NYC. Let’s make the remaining warm weather days of summer count! I'm hosting One2One Network's #JuicyFruitFunSide Twitter Party tomorrow (Thursday, July 31) from 1-2pm ET and you're invited to be there. We’ll be talking about childhood nostalgia, fun with family, and how to sweeten up the summer with Juicy Fruit. Also joining as my co-host is Heather Smith of Our Kids Mom.

Product Info: Chew on this: Juicy Fruit® recently expanded the family circle. It’s now available as Juicy Fruit® Fruity Chews and Juicy Fruit® Bubble Gum, and both kids and “kids at heart” will love it!

Prizing: Throughout the hour, @One2OneNetwork will be randomly drawing 15 winners to receive two (2) Six Flags Great Adventure park passes for the 2014 season (US residents only). Whether you’re a rollercoasting daredevil or perfectly happy cruising down the Lazy River, there’s guaranteed fun for everyone. If you don’t reside within 60 miles of a U.S. Six Flags Great Adventure theme park, you’ll have the option to receive a $50 VISA gift card instead. Everyone who RSVPs and participates is eligible to win!

Date: Thursday, July 31
Party Time: 1-2pm ET
Where#JuicyFruitFunSide on Twitter
Who@BabyMeetsCity@OurKidsMom, and @JuicyFruit
Prizes: Fifteen winners will receive two (2) Six Flags Great Adventure theme park tickets for the 2014 season. ARV: $137. (If you don’t reside within 60 miles of a U.S. Six Flags Great Adventure theme park, you’ll have the option to receive a $50 VISA gift card instead). Must be US resident to win.

madeline in new york: the art of ludwig bemelmans

The little gals and I made a special trip to the New York Historical Society last week to check out their new exhibit, Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans. We loved it! I've always felt that one of the more fun aspects of being a parent is getting to read aloud some of my favorite books from childhood... in a way, re-living my early years in the process. Madeline definitely tops the list of my favorite all-time characters. Such a spunky girl (who else could say "pooh, pooh" to a tiger?!)

The exhibit delves into Bemelmans' life as a young immigrant working in the hotel industry in NYC, the inspiration for Madeline, as well as his life as an author, artist, restaurateur, fabric designer and comic book illustrator.

A few fun facts for you: During Ludwig's time living at the famous Upper East Side Carlyle Hotel, he painted murals on the walls of their bar while he and his family lived rent-free (Bemelmans Bar was later named in his honor and the murals are still there for you to see). On view you'll find correspondence between he and Jacqueline Kennedy, whom he was collaborating with on Madeline at The White House until his death in 1962 (his grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, later finished the book). Also, I had no idea Bemelmans sketched out the outline of Madeline on a menu at Pete's Tavern in Gramercy Park (side note: I once went on a disastrous blind date there).

What a treat to learn so much about a truly fascinating man! I highly recommend visiting if you're a Madeline fan, children's book buff and absolutely if you're a lover of all things NYC.

While there, we also checked out the DiMenna Children's History Museum, which is located downstairs. Their children's story and craft time during the week is Madeline-themed while the exhibit is on view, and the gals had so much fun listening to a story and making charm bracelets! I must admit this was our first visit to DiMenna, and it's a bit of a hidden gem. We'll definitely be coming back.

Check their calendar for exact times and dates for story and craft time.

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