I'd been dying to go to a BYOB paint party for ages now, but with 5 straight years of either being pregnant or breastfeeding, the timing just wasn't right... until now! I decided to organize my own event for two reasons: 1) so I could choose the best day, time, and design for myself, and 2) so I could make it private for my local Bay Ridge Mamas!!
There are a few art studios within the Greater Bay Ridge area, but I chose Art Fun Studio at 5th Ave and 92nd Street because the owner, Alla, had recently reached out with interest in advertising with my other brand, Bay Ridge Families. So I thought, hey, two birds one stone - how perfect! And spoiler alert, the studio, the event, and the staff were all ah-may-zing!! We had the best time!!! But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start from the beginning - I'll walk you through the Art Fun Studio Sip and Paint Party experience!!
You can choose from one of their upcoming Sip and Paint events (the day/time/painting are pre-set) or organize your own as I did (choose day, time, and design from her gallery of paintings). The price is usually around $35 and includes all materials for painting (canvas, acrylics, apron), a great selection of music via Spotify, and even glasses if you need (they'll uncork for you, as well!!). You just bring yourself, and any booze or finger foods you like. Just know you won't have a whole lot of space at your disposal with the canvas, paint brushes, and palette taking up most space in front of you. Most of us kept our wine bottles at our feet with a glass up behind our easels.
I chose a very abstract Brooklyn Bridge painting, which apparently was one of her most difficult (oops!!). We were pleased to arrive and see the bridge and buildings had already been outlined in ink for us, though were overwhelmed seeing the original and couldn't comprehend how we were actually going to accomplish that! But no matter how daunting the task, Alla was simply remarkable at breaking it down, step by step, going over in detail what to paint in what color, which brush to use, when to clean and dry brushes, how to mix colors to create new ones, direction and thickness of strokes, etc etc. When they say "no experience necessary" it's completely true!! When she caught wary faces, she reassured us that we were doing an amazing job. She was so sweet and energetic, we all fell quickly in love with her!!! They do children's events as well, and I get the feeling that the kids must love her, too!
While Alla walked us through and demonstrated step by step, Eugene walked around (very carefully, never knocking into a painting, an arm, or bottle of wine - I'll never know how!!) re-stocking paint on palettes and taking TONS of pictures. That's right, they snap photos throughout the event and have them up on their Facebook page for you the next day!! It's a great bonus!!
Our event ran a whopping 4 hours! Ha! We all gathered for a group shot before parting ways with our beautiful pieces of art - all similar but each unique with our own individual touches, mistakes, and expressions! It was such a cool experience, I really can't wait to do it again!!
Art Fun Studio hosts classes and events for all ages, from toddler birthday parties ($160 for 6 kids) to school field trips (they're on the NYC DOE bidders list), to walk-in art projects of plaster, ceramic, or pre-traced canvas (from $15 with no sitting fee). The owner, Alla, is truly amazing, and they'll work with you to customize any event!! Contact her via email or telephone (718-680-0508) with any questions and tell her I sent ya!
Have you done a BYOB Paint Party or or another art-based party before?? Share your experience below!!!
This review was sponsored by Art Fun Studio, however all thoughts and opinions are my own.
With summer kicking off soon (or already) for most children, the premier of American Girls' latest Amazon Original Special this week couldn't be more timely! An American Girl Story: Summer Camp, Friends for Life launches on Amazon Prime Video this Friday, June 9 in the US, UK, Germany, and Austria! I'm excited to be working with KidzVuz and Amazon again to review their latest AG special (in case you missed my review of their last one, check it out - American Girl Story: Ivy & Julie).
In Summer Camp, best friends Z and Paz are having trouble adjusting to life without their banned phones and computers at a S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art, & math) sleep away camp. But through the help of a mysterious new friend, they quickly learn to embrace time away from their devices, learning the importance of friendship and the need to experience and understand nature, since it is at the root of everything.
Explains one character to the girls, "Without observing the Burdock plants' hooks and loops, you can't invent that Velcro on your wristband. Without observing birds in flight, you can't invent an airplane. Without observing water lilies and starry nights, you can't paint some of the world's most beautiful paintings! Nature is one big laboratory and artist studio rolled into one!" In this short but sweet 30 minute video, you'll see girls making films, studying bugs, and even utilizing the scientific method to stay calm when scared of a possible ghost. It's not just entertaining, but promises to inspire girls and boys alike to get outside and explore, to build and experiment, and most importantly, to have fun while doing it!
American Girl is heralded for encouraging children to learn about history on a personal level, to explore other cultures, to test the limits and follow their hearts. Summer Camp is no exception and will be a fun and inspiring watch for girls, boys, and parents! There are also plans to bring character Z, short for Suzie, to life as an 18" American Girl doll!! You can shop the American Girl collection on Amazon (affiliate link).
An American Girl Story: Summer Camp, Friends for Life will be available for Amazon Prime members to stream on Amazon Video starting Friday, June 9. If you don't already have Amazon Prime, you can get a free 30-day Prime trial here!! And check out the trailer below!!
This post was sponsored by KidzVuz for Amazon Studios, however all opinions are my own.
I recently attended my FIFTH New York Baby Show in a row (courtesy of MomTrends / #MTBloggerLounge - thank you!!), and as usual, I was blown away. They changed the location this year, which gave it a slightly different feel, but it was as amazing as ever!! It's the biggest expo of its kind (with over 200 brands and 5000 families in attendance), and always a fabulous way to check out the best baby products as well as great gear for maternity, toddlers, and families! It's fun to see the products first hand, try them out, and get your questions answered quickly by their friendly reps. Keep reading to see which products I was most impressed with this year, and don't miss my video at the bottom! I'll also include links at the bottom of the post to my recaps from past years, since the products highlighted in those old posts are definitely still worth checking out!!
#1 Pick : RideSafer Travel Vest
~ Best for Taxis & Travel ~
The RideSafer Travel Vest is an alternative to the traditional car seat (go here for my full review) and I gotta say, it's awesome. While it's not necessarily meant to be your go-to car seat for daily use, it is extremely convenient for a number of situations such as taking along on vacation for use in taxis or rental cars, using for car pool, and for city families such as mine who don't have a car nor have the space to store a few car seats for use a few times a year! They're for kids ages 3 and up, 30 - 80 pounds, and run for about $139 - $169 on their website and Amazon (affiliate link), though it can be confusing on Amazon since there are 4 generations and various vest types, the biggest difference being that the newest generation vest can be used in a lap belt only seat (with a tether).
#2 Pick : Lascal BuggyBoard Maxi+
~ Best for Big Sibling ~
Lascal's BuggyBoard has been an uber popular universal stroller board for some time, but the newly released Maxi+ gives your child the option to stand or sit!! We got one a couple of months ago (check out my review here) and are using it every day and absolutely loving it. I push our toddler twins in our double stroller 4 miles a day to drop off and pick up my 4 year old from preschool. The board latches up and out of my way when he's not with us or chooses to walk, drops down quickly for him to ride standing, and I keep the little saddle board under the stroller and snap in easily if he needs to sit. In my honest opinion, it's the best toddler board on the market!! You can find one for about $150 on Regal Lager's website or Amazon (affiliate link).
# 3 Pick : Bento Box by Stuck on You
~ Best for School (Day Care & Travel) ~
Not only are these bento box style lunch boxes super cute and customizable, they are amazingly practicle. The removeable plastic tray divides each section so your various foods don't mix, and when the top comes down, each section is sealed tight. Completely sealed!! See that circular area in the middle? You can even put a liquid sauce in there and it won't leak!! The large personalized bento box runs for about $35 on their website, but they have tons of other great products as well, all personalized, from backpacks to pencil cases and clothes!! I was totally blown away by the bento boxes and will be reaching out to Stuck on You to review one soon (my son will be starting Kindergarten in September) and hopefully get an assortment of their goods in my Back to School Giveaway at the end of July!!
Rain Cover & Console by Guzzie & Guss
~ Best Stroller Accessories ~
Guzzie & Guss had a number of amazing products at the show and there were two that especially piqued my interest. Their 3-in-1 Rain Cover is the only cover I've ever seen that is 100% see through, fitted, AND has a zip open front (meaning you don't have to take the whole thing off to get your child in and out. What's more? It fits car seat, bassinet, and pod-style stroller seat (the kind of seat that clicks in and out and reverses). How amazingly versatile!! The other cool stroller accessory they had was the Stroller Media Console, which is probably a bit controversial - screen time and all that - so take it or leave it, but it's got a slot for your child to watch or play with a tablet, and on the reverse side a spot for your smart phone. Also insulated cup holders and magnetic pocket. I mean, come on, they thought of everything here!! You can check out these and other Guzzie & Guss products on their website and Amazon (affiliate link).
Related article: Review of Manito Double & Single Stroller Covers
My Size Potty by Summer Infant
~ Best in Potty Training ~
With potty training our 2nd and 3rd kids on the near horizon, this potty stopped me in my tracks. It's SO. DARN. CUTE!!! Not only is it more aesthetically pleasing for the parents, it's cool for the kids cuz they can feel grown up using a potty that looks like the one mom and dad use, but it's their size. It's also practical - there's a built-in wipes dispenser, the handle makes a flushing sound, the seat lifts like a real potty, there's a clip-on extra splash guard for boys, and of course the bowl removes for easy cleaning! I gotta get me a couple of these ASAP (we're about to be FIVE people sharing ONE toilet - yikes!!). It runs for $35 on Summer Infant's website and Amazon (affiliate link).
Evolution Pro 2 XL by Kiddy
~ Most Innovative Infant Car Seat ~
I don't know about you, but seeing my baby fall asleep in the car seat with their head hanging forward, it just doesn't feel right. Not only does it look uncomfortable, it seems unsafe. I guess I'm not alone having these concerns - Kiddy has come out with the only infant car seat with a lie flat function that operates both in and out of the car!! Simply by pushing the handle back, it goes from upright to lie flat, and can be used in the car as well as in the Kiddy stroller!! Ah-may-zing!! These are scheduled to be on the market in July/August 2017, so stay tuned (they're listed for around $470 at BuyBuyBaby but not in stock yet).
B-Sensible Waterproof Fitted Sheets
~ Best in Bedding ~
Gone are the days that you have to use a hot and crinkly waterproof mattress pad. Say hello to B-Sensible waterproof fitted sheets!! Looking and feeling like regular sheets, they feature Tencel fabric (I'm told it's from the eucalyptus plant), which is naturally waterproof, hypoallergenic, breathable, and easy to care for. Check out the above images - they're filled with water and not even damp on the outside!! B-Sensible fitted sheets come in all sizes, we're talking play yard, crib, twin, full, queen, and king, and they make waterproof pillow cases, as well! Check 'em out on their website and Amazon (affiliate link).
MonBaby Smart Baby Monitor
~ Top in Tech ~
For parents who don't find enough comfort in a run of the mill baby monitor, or perhaps have an infant with higher risks, MonBaby is a wearable device that keeps track of baby's breathing and movement and even sends you alerts on your phone and other devices, for example, if your baby ends up flipping onto his or her tummy or isn't breathing steadily. It can also help you keep better track of their sleep cycles and other helpful stats. Not just for newborns either, it can also alert you when your crawling or climbing little one has left the designated area or has had a fall. It goes for about $100 on their website and Amazon (affiliate link).
~ Best for Preemies & Eczema ~
Goumikids makes great infant wear - sleepers with built in mitts and footies that can fold on or off, booties that will resist being pulled off, hats, and more! But what really caught my eye were their velcro secured mitts - great to keep newborns from accidentally scratching themselves but get this - they consulted with NICU specialists and apparently it's a huge problem that preemies and newborns accidentally pull out their tubing. So, Goumikids came out with preemie size mitts as a solution! You can find their products on their website and Amazon (affiliate link). They also partner with some amazing charities, gotta love that!
~ Best Swaddle ~
It's not a brand new swaddle, we actually were gifted a pair from our baby registry and used them on our twins over a year ago (pictured above)! They've since redesigned with improvements and come out with a ton more designs and materials! But the stand out features remain - embé swaddles are so unique because you can swaddle with legs in or out (with the latter being great in the summer, and also for babies wearing braces for hip dysplasia)!! They also zip closed under the velcro swaddle, so they're Houdini proof. They go for about $30 a piece on their website and Amazon (affiliate link).
ergoPouch Sleep Suit Bags
~ Best Wearable Blanket ~
A wearable blanket that converts from sleep sack to legs with grippy feet, I mean, wow ergoPouch, well done!! Not only are they great for babies and early walkers, but they also make it possible to move child from the crib to stroller without having to take off the sleep sack!! They've got short sleeve and long sleeve versions, with Tog ranging from 1 to 3.5. They go for about $60 on their website and Amazon (affiliate link).
Dream Belt by Babymoov
~ Best for Bump ~
It doesn't seem to be on the market in the States just yet, at least not on Amazon or on Babymoov's US website, but will likely be soon. I found sleeping in my third trimester (with 1 baby and even more so with the twins) really difficult and painful. Dream Belt offers support as well as memory foam padding for your hips. I'm really intrigued to see if this actually works well, alas I will not be able to test it out myself as I'm donezo with pregnancy... knock on wood...
Here's my YouTube version of this blog post, me and my girls go over the above products and demo a few!
So, what do you think!? Are you blown away by any of the above products? Do you have some? Are you planning to buy any? Leave a comment below and don't forget to check out my favorite product lists from the past 2 years here:
2016 New York Baby Show Highlights
2015 New York Baby Show Highlights
Also, don't miss out - enter to win my $360 value jackpot Summer Goodies for the Kiddies Giveaway running through May 31!!! One winner will take it all - the best in summer gear for kids and families - from swim suits and water sandals to beach tent and sunblock!! Enter to win here!!
Disclaimer: Although I was compensated to attend and write about my favorite products from the show, all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased!
**UPDATED 8/17/2017: Worldtots has been approved for FREE HALF-DAY UPK (8am - noon), and will be offering full day Pre-K (8am-4pm) for $350 / month.
When it comes time to get your child enrolled in an amazing preschool program, it seems there are just never enough seats available. We all rejoice when a new one opens up and are eager to learn about what it will offer our youngsters, so I'm thrilled to introduce you to a brand new one opening its doors soon here in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn: Worldtots!
Worldtots will be hosting a free seminar on New York City Kindergarten Admissions and Gifted & Talented Program on May 20 from 3-5pm, with a special presentation on NYC admissions process by Pamela Wheaton, Co-Founder of Insideschools. Register here, space is filling up fast!
Located at 6813 8th Avenue, Worldtots is a dual-language (Mandarin & English) preschool for ages 2-5 years old, aiming to develop global thinkers and prepare students for kindergarten and NYC's Gifted & Talented program. Encouraging play-based learning by utilizing carefully designed centers and activities, the curriculum is tailored to each age group and will cover academic areas of literacy, mathematics, social studies, science and technology, and the arts. Curious about the many benefits of an early bilingual education? Check this out!
Their Two's, Three's, and Four's classes will have a ratio of 4-6 students per teacher, all passionate and qualified experts in early childhood development!
Worldtots will open its doors in July for their "Little Traveler Summer Camp", offering full or half day, a length of 3 or 6 weeks (July 10 - August 18), with the options of early drop-off and extended day.
Want to learn more?? They have a series of Open Houses coming up (May 13, 20 & 21) - be sure to RSVP here to learn more and check out their facilities (which includes an organic garden in the backyard)!!
Disclaimer: I'm no sellout guys! Though I was compensated to write this post, thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased.
Tired of holding the bottle when feeding your baby? Want to free that hand to better interact with baby, read them a book, tend to another child? Have twins and want to tandem bottle feed them while holding your babies? Or perhaps you or another care giver would like bottle feeding to feel a bit more like breastfeeding? If any of these sound like you, I have got an awesome product to introduce you to: The Beebo!! Touted as "a better way to bottle feed", I couldn't agree more (neither could The Shark Tank, Ashton Kutcher and Lori Greiner backed them with $200K for a 30% stake!!)
I was recently sent a Beebo to try out and I'm in love! Now, keep in mind we have never done regular bottle feeding. I had to supplement one of my twins with a bottle of pumped milk once a day between 2-4 weeks, but other than that, they've probably only gotten 10 bottles in their 19 months (my oldest got even fewer). So, I'm not a pro, and you can see in my demo video below, I totally got the angle wrong, haha, but you can get the idea of how it works and how helpful it can be), but it really seems like they've thought of everything with this product!
It's made of a rubber-like BPA-free, lead-free, PVC-free and phthalates-free material. The it has a counterweight in the back and the underside is grippy, so it doesn't slide off. The holder is made of a squishy foam so it's pretty much universal - you can see it holds our fairly wide sippy bottles without a problem, as well as my thinner hard cider bottle LOL (seriously, watch the below video to the end, it's hilarious)!
The bottle holder spins 360 degrees (when you turn it, not willy nilly) so you can get it at the perfect angle (best for baby to be relatively upright). Also, the bottle holder removes quickly for easy cleaning (shown in my demo video).
Check out my video below - I show you what it looks like, how it works for feeding a baby, and a really fun way you can use it for yourself LOL!!!)
Here you can see my hubby in action wearing The Beebo. I love how you can get more of a breastfeeding experience wearing this, freeing your hand to play with the feeding baby, read them a book, play with another child, etc!
And cuz I like to get silly and creative with ways to use baby products after you're babies aren't babies anymore... What do you think??? Hands free drinking (with a straw) - HA!!!
You can buy The Beebo for $29.99 on their website and Amazon (affiliate link), coming in charcoal, teal, and raspberry.
So, what do you think about The Beebo?? Do you wish you'd had one? Do you want one?? Leave a comment below!!!
Disclaimer: I'm no sellout guys! Though I was compensated to create this post, thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased.
Ever been browsing through baby products, looking for baby shower gift or birthday present ideas, and felt kinda, blah? I mean, yes, wipes and bottles are incredibly useful, but they don't feel very personal. If this is something you've struggled with, I have a really exciting website to introduce you to: IncrediBundles.com - Extraordinary Baby Gifts! Keep reading to learn more about their incredible gifts, and enter to win a $50 gift certificate to their website at the bottom of this post (US residents only)!!!
IncrediBundles curates bundles of small gifts with various themes, kind of a modern twist on the traditional baby basket. Their adorable and reusable containers are filled with award-winning items selected by child development experts and approved by parents! Here are a few pre-packaged bundles (including a reusable gift container) that I think any parent would be thrilled to receive:
You can also create your own bundle - the reusable container costs $9.99 and then you add as many items as you'd like to it! Most of the products available in the pre-packed bundles are available for create-your-own bundles. You simply search by category: books, toys, diapers, bath, sleep, organics, Sesame Street, and gift cards!
Another gift option they offer is the "one-year supply" gift, quite pricey but an amazing gift from a grandparent or a group of friends!! They have 3 great choices:
If you have a baby shower, meet the baby party, or first birthday party coming up, I highly recommend heading over to IncrediBundles.com for your gift!! If you happen to be the one with the baby on the way, you can even create an IncrediBundles gift registry!!
And if you're looking for the perfect Mother's Day gift, something the mother can enjoy along with her child(ren), this is it!! Just also make sure she gets to sleep in and escape for some alone time as well!!
THE GIFT THAT GIVES BACK:
One thing that makes IncrediBundles even more amazing is that they make a donation to a children's charity for every bundle purchased!! I LOVE THAT SO MUCH!!! You can read more about their charity network here!
OK, now it's giveaway time!!!! Enter in the Rafflecopter box below for your chance to win $50 credit to IncrediBundles.com!!! Open to US residents ages 18 and over.
Disclaimer: I'm no sellout guys! Though I was compensated to create this post, thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased.
Many of us have heard of the 529 College Savings Plan, some of you may have actually set it up for your child(ren) already (good job!!!), but if you're like me you never really gave it much thought. I've always been of the mind frame that we'll save as much as we can in the bank, stock market, and real estate, and not allocate funds for anything specific. I want it all accessible at any moment for whatever it's needed for, whether it's illness, job loss, vacation, college, or retirement! However, I was recently compensated to attend and report on a seminar about NY's 529 College Savings Plan and I gotta tell you, guys, I think I may have been wrong! YIKES!!!
Organized by Mom Trends, our seminar's speakers included Vanugard's Mary Ryan - Director of the NY 529 College Savings Program, and Michael Turner of NY State Higher Education Services. Below are the key points I gleamed from the seminar that surprised me and really got me thinking about things. I hope you find them helpful, too!!
What's a 529?
The 529 is a type of investment plan used for higher-education, usually sponsored by states. Your money grows federally tax-deferred and qualified withdrawals are tax-free. If you live OR work in New York, you're lucky, because ours is one of the best!!
is your best friend!! It's basically earning money on your investment, and earning money on those earnings!! It's the idea behind any investment plan, 529 just has the added benefit of all of the tax breaks. Here's a great visual on how compound interest works from NYSaves.org (using a $100 monthly contribution and 5% interest rate for their example):
529 isn't just for college tuition!
Your savings can be used toward any qualified higher-education expense in or out of your state, even abroad! These can include tuition, books, room & board, study abroad, college / university, graduate school, vocational & technical school, computer & software, etc! Even if they get a large scholarship, there is often a significant gap between what is covered and remaining expenses, which usually include room and board, books, and more. This is something the 529 plan can help with tremendously!
Our kids got to do some cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education while us mom bloggers learned about NY's 529 Plan... what if one of these kids doesn't want to go to college and wants to be a chef instead? They can use their 529 savings to attend a certified culinary school!!
529 savings can be transferred to various family members!
Let's say your child is a genius or star athlete and gets a full ride (room and board - everything is covered) - you can hold their savings for their graduate school (which is much harder to fund with financial aid and scholarships), or you can transfer it free of charge to a sibling, yourself or your partner (maybe you've always dreamed of getting your Master's - why not now!?), a cousin, or even a grand child.
529 donations instead of birthday / holiday / graduation gifts!
Do you have friends or family members who send your child checks for their birthday? How about providing them a link to contribute that money into your child's 529 plan instead (you can set this up through UGift)! If it's a grandparent who would like the tax benefits, they can open up another account for your child themselves in whatever state they work in (only the account owner is eligible for the state income tax deduction)! There's no limit to how many accounts can be opened per child/beneficiary, and there's no age limit.
How does this impact financial aid and the new Excelsior Scholarship?
The Excelsior Scholarship (brand new in 2018 - students in households earning under $125,000 a year can go to any CUNY/SUNY school for free) and many other scholarships and grants look only at salary, not savings. In these situations, how much parents have saved in 529 plans, Roth IRA, or in the bank wouldn't have any impact on aid offered to the student!
When assets are considered, savings and Roth IRA plans owned by the parents are looked at but only a small percent is calculated to be available to cover a child's higher education expenses (because they realize you need that money for your home, regular expenses, retirement, etc). Custodial accounts, where your child is the account owner, however, WILL greatly impact eligibility for financial aid. Every penny will be expected to go toward their cost of education. So, keep this in mind when deciding to open up a regular savings account for your child! Definitely something to discuss with a financial planner!
If you don't have a good financial planner, a dear local mama friend of mine is a GREAT one and I highly recommend her, you can reach out to her here with all of your questions!
Amber Flanagan of NY Life Securities
TEL (347) 574-6615
Penalties for non-qualified withdrawals
If your kids don't use the money and you don't want to transfer it to another family member, or if you find yourselves in desperate need of the money, you can withdraw it for other use, however it'll be subject to all the taxes that had previously been deferred (federal, state, local) as well as a 10% federal penalty tax and other possible penalties.
What if we move?
To transfer your 529 from one state's plan to another, according to the NY 529 Disclosure Booklet, you'd be "subject to New York State income taxes on the earnings portion, as well as the recapture of any previous New York State tax deductions taken for contributions to the Account". Potentially, NY could view moving your plan to another state as a non-qualified withdrawal!! So, it may be in your best interest to let the account stay in NY, continuing to accrue interest. You can continue to contribute to it from your new home, though you won't receive the NY state tax benefits on new contributions at that point. If your new state has a great 529 plan with tax benefits, you can open a new one there and start contributing to that one, pulling from both accounts when your child gets to college age.
So, what do you think?? Are you going to look into the 529 plan more and set one up?? Leave a comment below with your thoughts - I'd love to hear more personal experiences - why you have or haven't set one up, what your accountants or financial planners have advised you, etc!!!
Disclaimer: Though I was compensated to attend this seminar and provide a blog post about it, thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased. I did my best to summarize my understanding from the seminar, but some information could be inaccurate. Please consult a professional financial advisor to discuss any questions or concerns!! As mentioned above, my friend Amber is a great one!
My children are still very young, so I haven't introduced them to the American Girl franchise quite yet, but I simply love what the brand has done to bring together dolls, history, and culture. Learning through play, always a win!!
I didn't know about American Girls when I was young, so I'm especially excited by the prospect of discovering them with my own kids soon! I got a jump start on that today through a sponsored campaign with KidzVuz and Amazon Studios to screen and promote the 3rd American Girl Story Amazon Original Special, premiering this week!
Amazon Original Special An American Girl Story - Ivy & Julie 1976: A Happy Balance is set to launch on Amazon Video this Friday, March 24 in the US, UK, Germany, and Austria!
In this 43 minute long video, we follow 10 year old Ivy in San Francisco as she struggles to understand and embrace her Chinese roots: feeling ashamed when her mother speaks Chinese to her in public, not wanting to spend her Saturdays in Chinese school, wanting to eat pizza instead of Chinese food, wondering why no one in her magazines looks like her... Her struggle comes to a head when her big gymnastics meet is on the same night as a huge Chinese New Year dinner her family will be hosting.
At the same time, Ivy's best friend Julie is also struggling - her parents have recently divorced and she is faced with the turmoil of going back and forth between homes every few days, and having a sibling angry at her for spending weekends with their father.
While this story takes place in 1976, the issues brought up are timeless and certainly present in many homes these days. Ivy's story especially hit home for me - my husband is Japanese and we're trying to raise our children to embrace both of our languages and cultures, however our 4 year old is already starting to push back against going to Japanese school and speaking Japanese. Watching this video, I caught a glimpse of the struggle our family has in store. However, I was able to gain valuable insight into the child's perspective, as well as the parents', and it was truly enlightening.
Even if your family cannot personally relate to the struggles of Ivy or Julie, certainly your children have friends and classmates who can. In Happy Balance you can learn a lot of fascinating things about Chinese and Chinese-American culture, including various traditions surrounding Chinese New Year. But on a grander scale, you can start to understand the struggles immigrants in America often face - leaving everything behind to start a new (hopefully better) life, often feeling like a "foreigner" rather than being accepted as American, and struggling to find the balance between preserving their old culture and embracing the new one. It's certainly a good reminder for me of things my own husband is silently dealing with!
I honestly recommend watching this together with your children and having an open conversation during and afterward. It's a great way to help them understand both your own family and the community you are a part of!
(Spoiler alert: Ivy and Julie both find ways to resolve their problems and there is a happy ending, without parents having to force an opinion or decision on them, yay!!!)
An American Girl Story - Ivy & Julie 1976: A Happy Balance will be available for Amazon Prime members to stream on Amazon Video starting Friday, March 24. If you don't already have Amazon Prime, you can get a free 30-day Prime trial here!! And check out the trailer below!!
This post was sponsored by KidzVuz for Amazon Studios, however all opinions are my own.
There are a plethora of sleepsacks on the market today. From lightweight to ready for the Arctic and for infants through toddlers. Some will simply keep your child warm without the danger of having a loose blanket in bed, while others boast nifty features such as adjustable comforting swaddles, "quiet" velcro, houdini-proof zippers, cut outs for the feet of young walkers, and straps to keep the sack from getting twisted up during a restless night's sleep.
I was recently introduced to a sleepsack with one specific feature I myself find to be extremely useful. The Antipodes Merino sleeping bag features an open slot on the front and back for the crotch strap of a seat belt, making it stroller-friendly!! How cool is that??
After receiving one from a brand rep to test out, I can tell you the seat-belt slot isn't the only thing we're loving about this sleepsack!
Fabulous Features of Antipodes Merino Sleeping Bag:
Below you can see one of my 15 month old (19 pound) girls modeling the sleeping bag. It appears snug across the chest because I chose to snap under her arm pits - you would need to do this for an infant, and would usually unsnap for an older baby or toddler to allow for better air flow especially in warmer weather, however it's nice to have the option until they outgrow that enclosure.
I do want to add one sneaky way we are using this sleep sack, in case anyone else is facing the same issue! One of my girls will NOT stay in her BundleMe in the stroller. She kicks her way out immediately, then proceeds to pull off her socks and shoes. AGH!!! But the Antipodes Merino is a great solution for this... Load on the layers - tights, pants, socks, shoes etc, and then put the sleepsack on top and strap her into the stroller. BAMN! #MicDrop hahahaha!!
So, pretty amazing sleepsack, am I right!?? You can purchase one on their website or Amazon (affiliate link) for around $80-100. And you can also win one in a HUGE 15-product jackpot giveaway right now by Mommy Scene!!
Enter to win here!!
Disclaimer: Although I did receive this product free of charge and was compensated for my honest review, all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased.
Disclosure: This article was sponsored by Bed Bath & Beyond, but all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased.
It snuck in and opened up quietly under the radar of most, but Industry City has a brand new shopping mecca that is, in a word, AMAZING!!! The modern, sparkling clean, and oh so impressive Beyond at Liberty View Industrial Plaza in Brooklyn's up-and-coming Industry City (the developing area between Sunset Park and Park Slope, set to become the next DUMBO) is a must visit for Brooklynites and dare I say it worth a trip to the borough for residents of Manhattan and Queens as well? Yeah, it's THAT good!!
It had a large and open feel - don't worry about bringing along your double stroller - no problem! You'll find escelators and elevators, changing tables in the bathrooms, high chairs in the dining area, and free parking (though public transport is easy, too, we took the 3rd Ave B37 from Bay Ridge)! Customer service in Liberty View and each of the shops was top notch. I got asked many times if I needed any help, but in a welcoming way rather than the nagging get-off-my-back kinda way. That, together with the fact that the place is brand new and so super duper swanky, lended to the feeling of an extremely luxurious high end shopping experience, thankfully without prices reflecting that!
Read on to get a taste of what you can expect, how to get there, and a list of nearby attractions to help you make a full day out of it!
Bed Bath & Beyond - From kitchen to bathroom to bedroom and gadgets and gifts galore, NYC's newest "Beyond" goes beyond expectations! One cool surprise is their "Made in Brooklyn" area, featuring locally produced products, a very very nice and unexpected find in by such a large nationwide "big box store"!! While wandering through and browsing the store, I was delighted to get a full cup "sample" from their Nespresso rep (the machine's were on a huge sale!). I'm told by a Beyond rep they will have interactive beverage and vacuum shopping tools for your shopping convenience, pretty nifty!!
buybuy BABY - Whether you're pregnant, have a baby or toddler, or need a gift for a baby shower, this is your one stop shop. They have large and beautiful displays to test out all of the essentials, from strollers to cribs, gliders, pack 'n plays, clothes, etc! Ask for help or just wander around and browse all the goods. You can even set up your baby registry here (which will get you a nice coupon code to buy anything you registered for that isn't gifted to you!). I hear they will also have interactive tools for selecting a stroller or car seat - sounds helpful and kinda fun! I'm not sure if this is something that will be continued, but when we went they had a little play area set up with ride on cars, a kids' house, and a mini trampoline!! It's little touches like these that really make for an outstanding shopping experience, especially with children in tow!
Cost Plus World Market - The name says it all - you'll find home goods and decor from all around the world, a great place to find a fun and unique accent piece for a room or great gift for the person who has it all! You can also find goods from closer to home in their "Locally-Made Brooklyn" section! Personally, I was excited to see their Asian food section, featuring lots of Japanese items we love, such as my son's favorites, Pocky and Panda!
Liberty View also houses Harmon Face Values (discount health & beauty supply store) and Saks OFF 5TH (designer brands at up to 70% off; their only location in Brooklyn!). I'm not sure if any other retailers are planning to jump in, but a girl can dream!!
Eating & Drinking:
The main dining option, Bay Market Kitchen, a "21st Century Food Square", serves up casual American cuisine, and locally brewed draft beer, wine and growlers. Order up front and everything will be brought to your table. High chairs are available, however there is no children's menu (maybe if enough of us whine about it they'll add one?). My 4-year-old devoured their hot dog, which was split open and grilled - much nicer presentation (and more delicious, of course I stole a bite) than your average wiener! I got their mac 'n cheese, after a customer service rep recommended it about 5 times to me LOL. It didn't disappoint!
There are several other snack options in the mall, featuring Brooklyn-based Toby’s Estate Coffee espresso drinks, drip and pour-over coffee and locally-sourced treats and snacks - from soft pretzels to "birthday cake" waffles, paninis, and more!
How to get there:
Located at 850 3rd Avenue (at 31st Street in Brooklyn), Liberty View is a cynch to reach via 3rd Ave's B37 bus, the subway's R line (8 minute walk from 36th St. Station), and by car - they have free parking! The nabe still has a very gritty industrial vibe going on, with the BQE overhead and not many pedestrians or street shops, but you're totally transported once inside the building!
About Me ^_^
I'm a NYC mom blogger, Influencer, YouTuber, & Entrepreneur living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1)! My blog is chock full of humor, honesty, family travel, product reviews & giveaways, galore!