big apple books (sort of): abe's peanut

This week's Big Apple Books is slightly different, as I'm highlighting a kid's book club with NYC roots. Based in Brooklyn, Abe's Peanut was created by sisters Anna and Tess Knoebel in June of last year, and the premise is so fun and clever I had to share it with all of you.

As a child, do you remember how excited you got when you received a card in the mailbox with YOUR name on it?! I definitely do. When you sign up for Abe's Peanut, your kiddo receives an illustrated story on a postcard.  The story is broken up into 4 parts and mailed out once a week. Not only does it get your child excited about reading again, but it reminds them that there's more to the mailbox than bills and straight-to-the-recycle-bin junk mail.

Who knew snail mail could be so much fun? In an era of technology overload (I'll be the first person to admit I've succumbed to it), it's nice to discover an old-fashioned way of getting your kids to appreciate reading again... and the good ol' US Postal Service.

Abe's Peanut stories are geared towards ages 4-8, though they apparently have subscribers of all age ranges!


a mini getaway to cape may, nj

Wait, let me think a second...

Yep, still relaxed.

Not sure how much longer this will last, but I'm still clinging to the last bits of a very relaxing couple of days in Cape May, New Jersey. I was invited to experience the beach enclave, billed as "America's 1st seaside town," by Cape Resorts Group and The Motherhood. Needless to say, there was not much arm twisting necessary when the invitation arrived in my mailbox.

I have lived in New York City for almost eleven years, and though I have heard about Cape May every now and again over the years, I've never had a chance to visit. Now that I've made the 3 hour drive to the historic New Jersey town, my only question is... when are we going back?!  For those reading from outside the Northeast, let me point out that this stretch of the Jersey Shore is not Snookie territory. It's a shame, really, that she and her bronzed posse have tainted what is really a beautiful part of the state.

Upon reaching Cape May on Thursday afternoon, my blogging compadres and I checked in at the gorgeous Congress Hall. The hotel, originally built as a boarding house in 1816, has managed to remain strong over the years, despite weathering a fire in 1878 and owner disputes in the 1920s. It has housed Presidents (from Ulysses S. Grant to James Buchanan) and composers, and was the site of Cape May's first post-Prohibition cocktail bar. An impressive history literally seeps from the walls, and it's impossible not to feel like you're a small part of the story here, simply by being a guest.

Congress Hall
Photo courtesy of The Culture Mom
We gathered for dinner the first evening at another of the Cape's dining spots, The Rusty Nail, a semi-outdoor bar which is part of The Beach Shack, a more low-key accomodation. By coincidence, we discovered while enjoying dinner that The Rusty Nail was just named one of the best beach bars in the country (see article here) by Travel and Leisure. I can see why. The restaurant has such a relaxing vibe, and feels like the perfect place in which to stop on your way home from the beach.  Live music plays throughout the summer, and chairs circle a bonfire, just waiting for someone to come grab a seat. My salmon entree was yummy and let me say I was close to drooling after surveying their frozen drink menu. One cute thing for kids: children's entrees are served on a frisbee, which is theirs to keep and play with after they finish dinner... such a great idea!

Dinner at the Rusty Nail
Photo courtesy of Musings of a Housewife
We spent Friday morning listening to Curtis Bashaw, whose family has owned and operated Congress Hall since he was a toddler. I found him to be warm and generous, and it is abundantly clear that the ground underneath Cape May is as dear to him as anything else in this world. As the result of his talk, I learned more about Congress Hall and its beginnings, and where it sees itself now in the current hospitality marketplace -- namely a great place to spend with your family on vacation.  Activities for children (of all ages) run the gamut, from movies on the lawn, arts and crafts classes and karaoke to Dance Dance Revolution (no parents allowed!). Congress Hall celebrates every holiday on the calendar -- from an old-fashioned July 4th picnic and fireworks to Easter Egg hunts and Christmas concerts. As mentioned during my stay, Congress Hall is a place to "make memories" with your family.

Beach Plum Farm
Speaking of which, the rest of my day in Cape May is starting to feel like a hazy memory. We took a short drive out to Beach Plum Farm, the certified organic farmland which supplies the Cape Resorts Group's restaurants with nearly 50% of their seasonal produce. I witnessed the "farm to table" philosophy firsthand when we were served lunch underneath sweeping oaks (okay, I'm actually guessing it was an oak tree- remember this is city yuppie writing here) after walking the grounds of the property.  Honestly, Martha Stewart could not have topped this lunch, brought to us by the Blue Pig, Congress Hall's in house restaurant. The attention to detail was just perfect, from the fresh flowers and strawberry lemonade served in mason jars, to the beautiful quote which was wrapped with a ribbon on each of our plates. I can't even tell you how many courses there were because I lost count (perhaps distracted by rather good looking Argentine head chef Lucas Manteca... I can't be sure).

Strawberry rhubarb pie was served for dessert at the sleek and gorgeous Virginia Hotel in town, and my afternoon was spent lounging by the pool with the one and only Glamamom and Philly Burb Mom. Dinner was served at The Blue Pig, which was followed by a food coma and a hot bath for this Prego. I am honestly so thankful to The Motherhood and Cape Resports Group for this 2 day break from reality... mind you, I'm incredibly blessed with an awesome reality, but let's face it, as moms, we all need a break sometimes. So on that note, I'd say that not only is Congress Hall and Cape May in general a perfect place for families, I can vouch it's a great place for a girls or couple's weekend, too (Husband, are you reading this?)

Relaxed Mama

Joining me on this beach adventure were fellow bloggers pictured above (check them out when you have a chance!):

Amy Oztan - Selfish Mom
Carol Cain - NYCity Mama
Ellen Seidman - Love That Max
Gayle Weiswasser - Discovery Communications
Holly Rosen Fink - The Culture Mom
Jill Seiman - Glamamom
Joey Fortman - Real Mom in the Media
Jo-Lynne Shane - Musings of a Housewife
Judy Antell - Veggie Mom
Kimberly Coleman - Mom in the City
Liz Thompson - This Full House
Monica Storch - Macaroni Kid
Melissa Anger - Girlymama
Shannon Ott - Philly Burb Moms

Thanks once again to Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann of TheMotherhood for helping make this weekend possible!

Follow Congress Hall on Facebook to get the latest on all news and events happening at the resort. A $100 resort credit can be generously applied to your online booking by using the code MOMBLOG at checkout. The reservation must be booked by July 31st, 2011 and is valid for the rest of the year (please note: this offer cannot be combined with any other offers). 

Disclosure: My trip was sponsored by Cape Resorts Group and The Motherhood. I was provided with meals and accomodation to achieve the full Congress Hall experience. All opinions expressed herein are my own.


review: cube dog

Thank you to Cube Dog for sponsoring this review. For more information about Cube Dog please visit the Facebook page (watch for a fun contest running June 13-17!) or download it on iTunes.

We (particularly) Husband love dogs. And whether it's just innate, because of our fondness, or because of the sheer number of dogs on the street, (normally right at the level of her stroller) Toddler S loves them, too.  "Dog" was even her first word... & no, I try not to take that personally. Unfortunately, given our apartment lifestyle in NYC, having a dog just doesn't make sense right now.  We simply don't have the space and feel like it would be unfair to have a furry friend cooped up all day.

Needless to say, I kind of jumped at the chance to review the new app Cube Dog, a virtual puppy that you create online. So much fun! You have control of everything from Cube Dog's color to eyes and ears shape.  We named our dog Roscoe (I must admit I think Roscoe the Bedbug dog was subconsciously running through my head at the time...) and enjoyed playing with him -- he makes a number of 3D moves when you touch the screen, or there's a menu of other options for playing with him, including him picking up a cell phone and giving you a ring.  You can also take a photo of Cube Dog using your iPhone or iPad's camera.  Oh, and I should mention Toddler S got a kick out of him, too... hee hee.

Our Roscoe is just the cutest little thing, and he's the perfect pet for our current living arrangement!  Oh, and he's free, too (really pretty cheap when you figure we aren't spending $$ on vet bills or dog food, either)! While we limit her "screen" time to about 10-15 minutes daily, Toddler S has her favorite apps already, and Cube Dog is quickly becoming one of them.

While Cube Dog provided me with the app to review, the opinions I've expressed here are solely my own and represent my honest viewpoint. Cube Dog, Clever Girls Collective and I promote Blog With Integrity.


biggest baby shower... ever!

I am thrilled to be attending tomorrow evening's "Biggest Baby Shower Ever," hosted by Big City Moms and thebump.com. Held at the Intercontinental Barclay Hotel, this event, sufficed to say, is not your average baby shower. Perhaps it's better to visualize:

Over 65 of the best baby companies present to demonstrate their products
Giveaway opportunities galore
Seminar speakers from Ali Wing to Dr. Bill Sears
A roomful of pregnant women sipping mocktinis
One would assume food, given the hunger level of ladies in attendance
A gift bag worthy of happy tears, including an Aprica stroller

What you have, my friends, is about as close to sheer excitement as any pregnant woman gets these days (I'm speaking from experience). The event is currently sold out, however you can be put on a wait list for a standard pass.  See more information on that here.  Stay tuned for an after-party synopsis -- no doubt the only time in 9 months that a pregnant woman utters the words after-party.

A few photos from last year's Biggest Baby Shower Ever, courtesy of Big City Moms:


review: bitsy bug

I will be the first to admit it: I love online shopping. Thanks in part to spending the bulk of each day behind a computer, the rise of the "deal" website is to me like virtual eye candy. My wallet, well, we have some things to work out. Thank goodness for Suzy Orman.

I was recently introduced to a new deal site called Bitsy Bug, which launched 3 months ago by two families with small children. Unlike some of the other sites out there, Bitsy Bug finds markdowns across the country via e-commerce sites, a lot of which are small businesses themselves. I have to say I like the idea of supporting the small business owner when I can (don't even get me started on my Etsy addiction). Past deals featured companies like Huggy Bunny and Bebe Bella Designs. Honestly, the amount of cute stuff out there for little kiddos is just staggering, and I love that Bitsy Bug is doing my internet searching for me!

Occasionally, the businesses that Bitsy Bug features also have storefronts. For any locals reading, tomorrow they are showcasing Bundle, a Soho children’s boutique and website that provides chic clothing and great gifts for baby and mom alike. The deal is a pretty good one, too -- $30 for a $50 credit, which can be used in store or on their website. I've been in to Bundle a few times as my office is nearby, and let me say this is a pretty tempting offer now that Baby S 2.0 is on her way...

Sign up for Bitsy Bug's newsletter so you can stay informed on deals, or "like" their Facebook page. Let the shopping begin!   

Disclaimer: I was generously given a credit to use on Bitsy Bug's website. All opinions expressed herein are my own.


onward & upward...

Well, something like that.

With a July moving date looming ahead of us, we've started spending our weekends looking at apartments.  We've pinpointed Washington Hudson Heights as our neighborhood of choice... primarily because you can get more bang for your buck when it comes to apartments, and it's family-friendly with access to gorgeous Ft. Tryon Park.  There is a distinct neighborhood feel -- almost small town-ish -- yet you're still on the island of Manhattan, which we both like.  We still dream of brownstone Brooklyn, but the fact is, the neighborhoods we like in the outer borough are Manhattan prices without much additional space.  Soooo.... uptown it is! 

Apartment searching was kind of fun at first... sure, we found a pigeon in one living room (note to self & others: don't leave your windows open) and cracked countertops in another, but hey, that's charming, right?  Sigh.  Is it too much to ask for crown moldings, wooden floors and a modern kitchen?  That's my dream and yet I'm not sure it exists (in our price range, anyway).  We'll see... there's still time... all I can say is, wish us luck!  I am confident that we'll find someplace great, because really, what other choice do we have?!  Let's hope the power of positive thinking applies to Manhattan real estate.  Mommy needs her nesting phase to kick in soon, as Baby S 2.0 will be arriving at the end of September, whether we're prepared or not!

We managed to jam a bit of fun into the long Memorial Day weekend (thank goodness!), hanging out in Ft. Tryon Park with friends who were celebrating their son's 2nd birthday.  On Monday, we strolled over to Chelsea Waterside Park so Toddler S could splash around in some cold water.  Summer has arrived (what happened to Spring, by the way?!), and watching her running through sprays of water was the perfect way to cool us all down.  Wet toddler = wet parents!

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