Sunday, August 28, 2011

Au Natural

I had a playdate with a friend today who has two sons (3 yrs & 5 yrs) that E adores. When we first met we talked a lot about food. Kids food. I think that's just a natural thing because either you have a kid that is picky about what goes in their mouth or they eat too much/too little. Since what they like today they may hate tomorrow, it's a hot topic to find other things to try to give your child(ren) some variety.

My friend J told me she didn't know much about nutritional food and wanted some help making better choices for her sons. I'm no health food nut, especially for me (I do have that Jelly Belly addiction), but I do make sure what I feed E is on the healthier side. I read labels & I also limit sugar and artificial ingredients. Since I grew up thinking Entenmann's was a relative, I want E to think differently and have a good foundation of knowing good, healthy food as his majority. My feeling is what he's never had, he won't miss. While Mommy still makes the rules and buying decisions, he eats what I give him and doesn't know any different.

J asked me for a list of things for her to go out and buy so I spent a little time compiling one of stuff E will eat. I have a SUPER picky eater. Up until about three weeks ago, he wouldn't eat the kid standards of pizza, hamburger, or even chicken nuggets. Lately though, for some reason, he's been open to trying stuff.  He ate pizza out with my husband once, he tried some frozen nuggets I found, and he ate a slider at BUCU in Paramus. 

I hate that I am a brand shopper and have to go to numerous different markets to get what I need so some weeks I just try to find one that has just *most* of what I'm looking for. The winner of that is Shop Rite. In the area, as far as having a large organic or more "natural" section, I think I'd pick Rochelle Park, Oakland, Englewood, then Paramus. But, they're all sort of catching up to each other. Just know if you go to Englewood, they have that stupid cart tethering/locking system. You have to put a quarter in to get a cart and you get your quarter back if you return the cart to be tethered together with another cart. I couldn't seem to connect the carts back together having E with me in a busy parking lot, so I just left my quarter.

I do have to go to Whole Foods sometimes (I love their seasoned, seasonal, chicken/meats that I just have to throw in the oven), and usually Stop & Shop has really competitive prices to Shop Rite. Sometimes I go to Kings (I know, I know- it kills me to pay $1+ more for pretty much everything), because it's closer to me than Shop Rite and they're the only ones that carry my jelly (Dickinson's) aside from Shop Rite & Pathmark (I hate Pathmark- their bagging system sucks). Anyway- below are the things my son eats these days-

Breakfast: Trader Joe's has a box of frozen organic whole wheat silver dollar pancakes for $1.99/box. I think there's like 48 in there. E eats six at a time. It's a very good deal. They also carry a bag of frozen Ebelskivers (Danish Pancakes) for like $3.49 and they're fab. I started buying these both because it was just getting more for my money. I used to just buy Earth's Best Organic mini blueberry waffles or their french toast sticks. They're "plain" not flavored like Eggo or other brands. Sometimes Van's Waffles. I still buy them all- just depends where I am. Can't always get to TJ's- totally out of my way. He also has raisins and some Bear Naked Fit granola or dry Kashi Heart to Heart cereal. Sometimes Cascadian Farms Honey O's. There is also an organic pancake batter that comes in a canister like whipped cream - they sell it in Shop Rite.

Lunch: Thomas's whole wheat bagel thin or Arnolds Deli Flats (sometimes Pepperidge Farm). Or just any whole grain/whole wheat regular bread. Organic Valley Neufchatel cheese for the bagels or deli flat. Or MaraNatha creamy peanut butter (they also make all kinds of nut butters- Soy, Almond, etc). And now, other "regular" brands are making more "natural" options- lower sugar, lower fat, no HFCS in it- Skippy, JIF, etc) & Polaner All Fruit jelly or Crofter superfruit spread.

Dinner: There are actually choices!

-Horizon organic American cheese melted on whole wheat bread. I just look for any whole wheat that says no high fructose corn syrup.

-Happy Baby makes frozen organic chicken nuggets, salmon stix, mac & cheese, and veggie bites.

-Earth's Best has Elmo frozen mac & cheese with carrots & broccoli or pasta in marinara with those same veggies. They also make a frozen pizza on whole wheat. It has Elmo on the box so we call it "Elmo Pizza".

-Dakota Organic frozen beef patties. In Shop Rite they are in the meat section in the freezer. They're $7.99 for 4 patties, and I made them in the toaster oven on broil. Came out great and he loved them.

-Amy's makes a veggie pizza that is pretty good. They make other stuff, but he will only eat the organic frozen toaster pastries (filled with either apple or strawberry).

-Applegate Farms: organic chicken, turkey and beef hot dogs. Cheese. They also make organic turkey & chicken cold cuts but E won't eat cold cuts. He is LOVING their frozen chicken fingers. Not the "nuggets", which they also have, but the chicken fingers are bigger and flatter. For some reason, he likes those better and he doesn't give me a hard time at all when those are on his plate. They also make frozen turkey & beef burgers he'll eat.

-Coleman: Organic chicken nuggets. Shop Rite has them. They're smaller than Applegate but they're good and he ate them. Works for me. They've been $3.99 so far.

-Trader Joe's Frozen Turkey or beef meatballs. *I* like to eat them myself. Three in a little dish in the microwave for 1 min, 40 sec, and they're done. I LOVE them.

Everything above are my "standy-bys". I know he'll eat any of them at any time. I also make an Italian style turkey meatloaf with Jenny O ground turkey meat. It literally takes me 10 min of prep and 45 min in the oven.


E LOVES Kefir. It's cheaper than yogurt, the plain has very little sugar, it comes in organic and non and it's great to drink in a cup for part of a lunch, a snack or instead of milk on occasion. It's in just about every supermarket and I love that it's like drinkable yogurt in a $2.99-$4.99 bottle. The most common one I find is Lifeway but there is also Evolve and some other brands. I almost always mix half plain and a flavor and serve in a in a straw cup.

I also bought this Bolthouse Farms "smoothie" bottle. It has a lot of protein. It's not a juice, it's thicker. I call it a "Groovy Smoothie", like from Fresh Beat Band and once I gave it to E, he's asked for it every day since. I usually give it to him with his waffles for breakfast because I have to assume it's filling- it's 190 calories per serving. He gets up early so I feel like he won't be hungry when he finally gets to school if he drinks that instead of skim milk with his waffles. I bought the Protein Mango flavor which is a hit. But, in addition to mangos, it also has carrot, apple, banana, and orange in the "Mango" flavor. That particular one is hard to find though. I seem to only be able to get it at Target. There is another Mango one but it's not nearly as protein packed.

They make a lot of different smoothies and other beverages for different things. More vitamins, more protein, etc. I picked the Mango on a whim but I'd try others.

-Happy Baby, Earth's Best, Ella's Kitchen, Plum Tot, Peter Rabbit and Revolution Foods all make fruit/veggie puree combination pouches. HE LOVES THESE since he was first able to hold them himself. He doesn't like to touch wet fruit or veggies, these are combos I'd never think of, and have veggiesin them I'd never buy or know how to prepare. Carrots/parsnips/apples, sweet potato/apricot, mango/spinach/pear, blueberry/purple carrot/pear, pumpkin/banana, so on and so forth. I can't rave enough about them.

Plum Tot- - they tend to have more calories/be more filling. Usually between 70-100 cal. Could probably use as a meal.

Ella's Kitchen- - they are less caloric- like 35-60 cal, and have less in the pouch. More interesting combinations though. Better used as a snack.

Revolution Foods- - theirs are called "mash-ups" and are fruit/veggie combo. They also have Jammy Sammys which are great on the go.

Happy Baby- - These are usually the least expensive, they're filling, and you can get most of them under $1 at Shop Rite.

Earth's Best just more recently came out. They're a fruit/yogurt combo. They're on the more expensive side though- $1.49-$1.99.

Peter Rabbit- These are good but they're usually $1.99/each which is the most expensive of the bunch.

Any/all the pouches are my best easy snack/meal. They're awesome on the go, I know they're good for him, he loves them, and they're re-closeable.

Other snacks- I just found at Shop Rite snack sized bags of organic (Organic Valley) cut apple slices. Horizon Colby cheese sticks (like string cheese). Shop Rite no-surface salt mini pretzels, Nature's Promise (Stop & Shop) organic animal crackers, Revolution Foods Jammy/Grammy Sammys, Nature's Path organic toaster pastries- frosted and unfrosted (we use the unfrosted), Barbara's animal cookies, Cascadian Farms Simply O's/Honey Nut O's, Happy Baby organic fruit/veggie puffs, Plum Tot organic puffs, Kashi cereal bars, Barbara's whole wheat fig newtons.

I've actually also been shopping at Target for food because the one in Bergen Town Center in Paramus opened a fresh market in there. They have a lot of stuff, a decent amount of organics and if you're missing anything in there you can go across the mall to Whole Foods. It's a pretty good combo. They have THE best prices on organic milk. A gallon of Horizon organic milk is $5.99. I've gotten a HALF gallon in Kings for $6.99. Totally worth the trip to Target just for milk. But, their fresh fruit and veggie section is great too. They also have seasoned meats/chicken that's ready to go on the grill for really good prices. I've gotten bacon wrapped steaks for approximately $9. Chicken kabobs were less. They also have these Mickey Mouse shaped snack sets that have either sweet apple slices, grapes and cheddar cheese or green apple slices, pretzels and cheese. They are great for take-along. They're not organic, but sometimes you can't get organic and convenient in the same package so we just don't worry too much about it.

Food sites:

Amy's Kitchen-
Applegate Farms:
Barbara's Bakery:
Bear Naked:
Cascadian Farms:
Nature's Path:
Nature's Promise:
Van's Waffles:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

When life gives you fine lines and wrinkles

Everyone knows I tan. I grew up in a "tan family". It's in my genes. When I was a kid, my parents took us to the temple of their religion- Tanism.  We spent a lot of time playing in the lobby of Tanique in Oradell, thinking all kids did this. At that time tanning salons had no regulations, your nose could touch actual sun lamps & the dials went up to 45 minutes. When there was sun out, there were my parents, practically with those old-school reflector things. Obviously I was never taught much about skin care, sunscreen or wrinkle prevention.

Sheepishly I admit to still tanning. Indoor and out. It's MUCH less than before. Hey- I spent much of my adult life working in tanning salons, there is a tanning bed in my brother's old room in my childhood home, and I worked for an indoor tanning lotion company for 3 years. I used to have to go like once a week. I'm now down to maybe once a month. Progress. Small-slow-baby-steps-progress.

In 2001 I had a shore house in Belmar and we used to take a lot of pictures in the bar with those take & toss cameras. At the end of that summer, I was looking at my last photos from Labor Day Weekend and I noticed crows feet. I hated them! It looked awful. But, I didn't seriously think about doing something that involved a plastic surgeon. It was just something I didn't like to see.

In 2005, I got engaged. I knew I didn't want crows feet making an appearance in my wedding photos. If I was going to pay thousands of dollars for pictures, I didn't want wrinkles airbrushed out, I wanted to come to the party wrinkle-free.

Before the wedding I decided to go see an old Jdate-turned-friend, Dr Elan Singer, for Botox. He assured me he wouldn't freeze my face, although, I didn't think that actually sounded so bad. They numbed my face for 15 minutes prior to treatment. He did very few injections- 12 units, into my crows feet area. Like magic, crows feet be GONE! It was amazing.

It wasn't like a HUGE change. But, I looked less tired, more refreshed, and best ever- no crows feet. I could smile a giant smile and....NOTHING. Same smile, same eyes, just no wrinkles. I started going every six months. Dr Singer's office works with the Brilliant Distinctions program by Allergan. Allergan makes Botox (and other fillers). When you go to the doc and get injections, based on how much you get, you get points deposited in your BD account. Points translate into coupons.  I usually get 200 points every time so I always end up having a coupon for $25 off. My bill is usually around $220 so with my coupon it ends up being UNDER $200 to be rid of crows feet for half a year! Most people I know spend more on their HAIR and more frequently.

One time I did my forehead and between my eyebrows. They were having a 20% off special for bringing a new client. I brought "N" (until she reads this and allows me use of her name in association with fillers, I'm not outing her) with me for that special. I think she got 20% off and I got 30% off for bringing her so I figured I'd go for the extra injections. It still cost me only somewhere between $200-$300. It was great and I loved the effects, but I just can't go above my usual cost right now to do all of that again without a special. I don't remember the amount of units I used that time.

"N" has a scar between her eyebrows and did Juvederm there and I can honestly say it took 5-10 years off her age combined with the botox she got on her forehead. She looked amazing. I compared pics of her before and after and I thought she looked fab.

Since 2006, I've been going to see Dr Singer and in all those injections I've only been slightly bruised twice. He doesn't overdue it, he's way easy on the eyes which is comforting anytime you have to have any cosmetic work done, and he's painless (as painless as any injection can be). I've never actually FELT a Botox injection. I've been told fillers are more painful because their consistency is thicker than Botox.

I've sent numerous friends and family to Dr Singer and their only concern after they've gone to him is whether he is single or not. **For the record, I do not know his dating status these days**

Dr Singer is part of the Plastic Surgery Group in Montclair and also has his own practice in NYC. I go to Montlair because it takes me 20 minutes to get there and parking is free and easy behind their building.

His NYC practice-

Friday, August 26, 2011

Gaga over Bags

I have a friend, Shari G., in the bag biz who is looking for people to join her team. Figured I'd pass it on in case anyone was looking for work. I know a lot of people do all kinds of home parties- this is one I haven't seen yet so it's not the same old/same old kind of thing.

FREE Ramsey Event to learn a Business Opportunity:
Local Ramsey Resident and others around U.S. find success in a tough economy.

Think success can’t be found in this economy? Think again and look no further than! This company is based on a program that supports women in earning a significant income working from home. Those who are interested in learning about how to earn a living in this tough economy – working part-time from home – should attend a FREE EVENT AT THE RAMSEY VFW at 48 Mechanic Street in Ramsey on Wednesday September 21 from 7-8:30 pm (Mechanic St. is off of Main Street by Lettuce Inn restaurant). Attendees should RSVP to 917-626-7071. Come to the event and ask for Shari Germershausen of Ramsey at and receive a free give-away. It is encouraged to bring a friend.

www. is based on a direct selling concept that offers personalized handbags, totes and gifts. The twist? All items are customer designed and personalization is FREE! Though they are growing at an incredible rate, doubling in size since 2010, this company is not celebrating alone, but rather with the thousands of consultants nationwide who are reaping the rewards of a profitable and fun business. Initials, Inc. is emerging as a top opportunity for women who are seeking MORE; for themselves and their families.

The company recently announced close to 100 Ignite events that will occur all across the country on September 17th to 24th. These events are designed to introduce others to the success that is available at

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hair today, $$$$ gone tomorrow...

I had my own unspoken rule that I wasn't going to cut E's hair until his first birthday. At 11 months I was still in denial thinking he had "Rob Thomas" hair. He looked totally rockstar to me. But between that 11th and 12th month, it started looking really raggedy. I still didn't think it was that bad until I got his 1 yr pictures taken and he just looked silly. We went to get a haircut the next day.

I heard there was kids place on Rt 4W. It's David Alan for Kids.  Well, I went to David Alan as a middle-schooler for my perms. I figured it ought to be good. They have some of those cool kiddie chairs that are shaped like an airplane or car or whatever. But, she didn't put E in one of those. She put him in a regular chair with what looked like a booster box on it. He was fine actually, but if he hadn't that chair would've been a disaster. Anyway, the stylist talked a lot and mentioned that she works at the regular David Alan salon most of the time, but they rotate to the kids place. And that she'd been working there since the 80's. She knew my hairdresser from my tween years (and I'm 37). She didn't specialize in dealing with kids and it showed.

At the end I was given a snip of his hair and a certificate. Then I got the bill.

Who told people it was acceptable to charge upwards of $20 to snip some hairs off a toddler??

TWENTY-THREE dollars. Yup. That's what it cost to give a toddler a haircut. I don't think it costs that much in most places for a grown man to get cut and styled. It's not even like E got a blow-out.

That was the end of that.

I was told about Rita's Snips for Pips in Ridgewood so I figured I'd try there. Same racket. I will say that Ricky does a beautiful job & he's great with the kids. But, he pays very close attention to detail and I've been there 30 minutes for E's cut. It doesn't need to be a half hour's worth of perfect. Rita the owner is a sour lady. Every time I've been in there she's been in a mood/funk whatever. Let's just say she isn't Miss Personality. It IS a clean, kid-friendly environment though. Rita's has the special seats, the dvds/dvd player at each station so 4 kids could be watching 4 different things at one time. They also sell barrettes, some toys, and various other chatchkes. But the cost! I just couldn't pay that plus tip any longer when E is getting a haircut like once every 6 weeks.

Finally, the last of the kids places I knew of was Charlie's Kids Salon on Rt 4E just before the Garden State Plaza exit.  It's literally ON the exit ramp. It's that white building next to a vacant lot. I believe this place charged me $25. I got it done by Charles himself. He was nice enough, E got a great cut & they had a tv/dvr for distraction, but I'm still not paying over twenty dollars for a toddler do.

Update: We've gone to Salon Salon in Glen Rock. I think the girl who was cutting E's hair is Jodi.  I believe it was $16. Better than the typical "kid" salons. Pretty quick & definitely painless. It's on Rock Rd on the side of the street where Francesca's pizza is, so you can your kid a haircut and a slice.

While participating in Stroller Strides in Garden State Plaza, I noticed there is a walk-in hair salon on the first floor between Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor called Plaza Salon  Apparently they have one in Willowbrook Mall too. They have a price board right out in front that told me kids cuts are $14! Jack-pot! Been there a bunch of times so far and all the cuts have been good and the price felt normal to me. There are no dvds and no special chairs but I don't need all that crap for a 10 min haircut. Granted, if your kid freaks when he or she gets their haircut or it's the first one, I can totally see going to the expensive place to make sure they don't get a scissor to the eye or look like Jim Carey in Dumb & Dumber. But for E's Pauly D-esque style it's a 10 min buzz and, some gel and I'm fine having no bells & whistles. We use Jeff.

I'm sure you can go to a local barber or wherever too. I just haven't investigated any further once I found Plaza Salon.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's the color of T&C?! BLUE! BLUE! BLUE!

"The sky is blue! The water's blue! We're gonna make the gold team blue! What's the color of T&C?! BLUE! BLUE! BLUE!"

Who didn't love Color War?!! Best part of camp. Unless, of course, you were separated from your BFF(s).

It's not even September and what am I thinking about? Autumn, apple picking & light knit sweaters? No. Well, I am, but I'll get to that in another post. But right now I'm thinking about camp for E for next summer. Why? Because you have to sign up for that stuff before the first snow flurry even hits your front steps. They use scare tactics of having to spend endless days entertaining your own child if you don't sign them up soon enough. Yeah, I get scared when I think about that. And I only have one. So I've been doing a little investigating on day camps in the area for Summer 2012.

Granted, it seems the Jews are the main ones who have really embraced the idea of camp and fully embrace the benefits for all involved. When I mention camp to many of my non-Jewish friends it has elicited gasps of horror and exclamations of "You want to send your child AWAY?!". Well, yes. For at least part of the day. I mean, he's two. He's not quite ready for Sleepaway camp but I'm fairly certain it will be with excitement for us both when it comes time to pack up that trusty trunk when the time comes. Even spouses sometimes benefit from missing each other a little here and there. Besides, we send our kids to school and I know plenty of parents yearning for the start of the new school year sometime mid-summer.

E went to day camp this summer. He is 2.5. When I signed him up in December 2010 for this summer, I admit I was nervous. He's like my sidekick. He's extremely friendly, social & outgoing but he'd never taken a class without me & his only babysitters have still only been friends or family. He wasn't always so keen on that either. But this camp had an interesting set-up. It's the 2's camp at the Glen Rock Jewish Center.  They go for three days a week, Monday-Wednesday-Friday, they don't have to be potty trained (E is not), they don't go in any large body of water, and the best part- the main camp "counselor" is the 2's school teacher for pre-school there. I couldn't ask for a better transition.

I won't lie. The first week was a little rough on the drop-off. I took him the first day. He cried when I left him a little. They usher you out quickly because at that age any lingering messes them all up. I didn't call during the day to see how he was doing. Not because I didn't care but because I figured it was pointless. We both needed to adapt and what good was it to hear he was crying for an hour (they said he stopped after five minutes & I choose to believe that)? It's not like I was going to come & get him. B took him the rest of the days that week & I think they both cried. B texted me (yeah thanks) that he could hear E crying from outside.

But after that, it was smooth sailing. I'd go to pick him up, he'd come out with me, I'd put him in the car and he'd say- "I go to camp again?!". He loved it. He started singing all these new songs, he was answering "yes" vs. "yeah", he was bringing home "projects", and he made new friends. Now he can't wait to go to school because he's excited to see Miss Jill & all his crew of friends (most of the summer group plus more are in his class come September). So, instead of crying and peeling him off me like velcro in September, we jumped that hurdle in July. My only complaint was that it was only 6 weeks instead of the camp standard of eight.

On to next summer. I could send him back to the GRJC. I love Hilarie the director- she's a no nonsense kind of woman with a heart. She knows how to deal well with nervous parents but she's not calling you to come there if your kid is crying. They just work it out. Plus the price is right. It's very reasonable. Probably the most reasonable of every camp I've looked at for what you get.

My issue is that with the 3's group, they go off-site by bus to swim at the Glen Rock Municipal Pool. I'm not sure how keen I am on that. I have a few reasons. If I'm going to send him somewhere on a bus, I'm wondering if I want to send him somewhere with it's own pool on-site. The GR pool is great. But it's used by at least two camps, maybe three, throughout each day, plus regular members. That kiddie pool gets very crowded and it's hard for me to keep an eye on him and I'm only watching him. Also, when he's in camp, *I* go there to relax. Not necessarily in the kiddie pool but I don't want to be in the vicinity of where he is during camp hours. If he sees me, he might want to be with me, I don't want to have to hide or not go, and I'd be tempted to spy which just isn't good or the objective of him going to camp.

If I had a unlimited funds, he'd be on the first bus to Ramapo Day Camp. & Pick Six.

I also wouldn't mind checking out Spring Lake on Conklintown Rd. in Ringwood.  I actually worked there when I was going into college. It has a nice campus, similar to the one I went to as a kid (Shout out to the now defunct Town & Country, Old Tappan). I have a feeling though, that too, is out of my price range.

I certainly don't think at three years old it's imperative to go to an expensive and/or "private" camp. Hell, some kids never get to go to camp or just go to the town recreation camp & I'm sure they have fun. I remember before I went to private camp, I went to "rec camp" and I remember it being fun- I didn't know any different. I think you just hope you can provide the best experiences for your children that you can. I remember loving camp as a kid and just want E to be able to have that too. And if we can't give it to him now, I'd like to be able to do it in the future.

More realistically, I looked at Barnert Temple's day camp online.  I see a few acquaintances send their children there (thanks to Facebook). The facility looks great, the pictures I've seen of these kids whose parents I know seem happy there and those parents have raved about camp there on their FB pages. It's more expensive than GRJC but the facility looks really great from the photos I've seen. Upon looking at their fees though, I have to say, I will have to get passed the BS factor I'm feeling from them. $100 "registration fee"?! What- for ME & the pediatrician to fill out paperwork, hand it in & for them to cash our check or process our credit card? Come on now. On top of that there was a fee for not being a member of the temple AND another fee for not being enrolled in their pre-school. I think the total for JUST the "fees" are up around $250! That's a lot of ridiculous fees in my opinion when$250 at GRJC is over 1/3 the TOTAL cost for the 6 weeks of 2's camp. To make it more palatable it seems like it would be better to give a full price, including that stuff and make it more attractive to members & those signing up for pre-school to get some kind of price break. It's all in the marketing. I help market for our store- it's simple stuff- Let people feel they're really getting a deal, not screwed. But as usual, I digress.

I do know at least one person in town who sent her three year old to Kids Clubhouse  for their summer camp this year. They seemed happy with it. She said her son did the 2's camp at GRJC & they were happy with it but she had the same reservations about the pool thing as I do. I don't know what the program is at KC but I will definitely check it out too.

Next summer though I'm definitely doing a five day program. My child has enough energy for six parents and he thrived wonderfully in camp this year. It was so cute to see him get excited for camp the night before and how he would run up to me at pick up holding his artwork, so proud to show it off. I loved watching him recognize one of his camp friend's a the pool, walk up to her and just say a casual, "Hey, Gabby". Like he was twelve. It gave him some better discipline too which is a total bonus. Though, unfortunately, he seems to have lost some of that already....This morning, I asked if he wanted waffles for breakfast and he said, "Yeah.".

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Food Fight!

Sundays is the only day B is home from work, so Sundays is when we go out to breakfast. We have put a lot of time and effort into eating our way around the area so of course I thought I'd share...

There are three places we frequent but the winner is Strawberry Place, 72 S. Broadway, Nyack NY. It's like a 20-30 min ride from Glen Rock. They don't have their own website. I'm not surprised- they don't need one. The place has a 30+ minute wait at any given time. I actually found out about it on a jdate with guy who spent a lot of time in that area. Who knows, maybe it was his Jdate "place" to take 1st dates. However he came to find it and share it with me, thanks Jared. Best. Place. Ever.

There is no place that surpasses the quality of the food- EVERY. TIME. The portions are super-sized and the price is right on. They have a huge, fun, menu, and there is something for everyone. I always get the same thing- the Red, White & Blue Waffle. It's a Belgian waffle with fresh bananas, strawberries, blueberries and topped with whipped cream. B usually gets some kind of pancakes that have nuts or fall-esque ingredients like pumpkin, cinnamon, cranberry, etc. All the fruit is always extremely fresh. I've never been disappointed with their food.

It's also in downtown Nyack and what is cooler than walking around there if you have to wait for your table?  Sometimes you're lucky to get there on a street fair day. Eat then shop. It's a nice place to spend a few hours.

They change the menu seasonally so I think that's why you can't seem to find a menu online for them.

Cons: Don't try to get a stroller in there except maybe a Snap N Go. There is NO room for it. It's not a big place and the tables are very close together. They do have high chairs. The waiting area is TINY so if it's cold/rainy, be prepared if you have to wait outside. They are also CASH ONLY.

Number two for us is Cafe Angelique in Tenafly.  We've only been here maybe three times, but it never disappoints. Many know I am a creature of habit so of course, I always get the same thing. They have these mini pancakes that ROCK. Oh. My. God. They are these fluffy little quarter-sized "pancakes" that have confectioner's sugar sprinkled on them. The rest of the plate is liberally covered in fresh strawberries and bananas. I also, of course, get the dollop of fresh whipped cream.

B gets their yogurt/granola/fruit dish. He loves that kind of stuff so it's right up his alley. It's a good portion and he's always happy with his meal.

There are a few of them, which I didn't know- but the one we go to is in the old train station in downtown Tenafly. It's a very cool place to sit outside, people-watch, and there is a decent amount of parking on a Sunday because the retail stores are closed. We've sat outside all three times we were there. They also have high chairs. You can also walk around downtown Tenafly which is nice. Not as cool as Nyack because the Blue Laws in Bergen prevent the retail stores from being open, but there is window shopping and it's a nice place to walk on a nice day. Sometimes you catch a street fair there too.

Cons: It is $$$. I think breakfast for B, E & I was like $45 or something like that. The mini pancake dish with the whipped cream is $10-$11. The portions at Strawberry Place are larger and less expensive.

Lastly, we've been going to Stacks in Paramus. I have a mixed review on this one. Obviously the website says Hoboken because I guess that's where the original one is, but one opened on Rt 17 in Paramus in May. The first time we went was shortly after they first opened and we had a long wait around 10:30a-ish on a Sunday morning. They want the turnover to be quick so they really kind of rush you. That day I got a pancake meal sort of like my Strawberry Place standby. It was just ok. I felt the pancakes were a little dry. Totally edible, but a little dry. I also got a side of bacon and I felt like it had a bit of a funky taste. Not in a good way.

BUT, the 2nd and 3rd times we went I felt it got better. B and E both had whole grain pancakes with raisins and apples and both really enjoyed them. I really like that they do have "healthier" options. Mine isn't the the most healthy, but I try to give E something I don't have to feel guilty feeding him.

I've found that if we go earlier, like more in the 9a-10a time frame, it's a little faster to get a seat.

Cons: It's on 17. There is nowhere to go after. It's not the quaint area of Nyack to walk around after inducing your food coma. They do kind of rush you and if you aren't an early riser, expect to wait and entertain your child(ren) in the small waiting vestibule. It's also on the expensive side. Closer to Cafe Angelique prices than Strawberry Place.

Honorable mentions:

Classic Diner on Railroad Ave in Tenafly. We used to eat there a lot when we lived in Englewood. Good food, inexpensive. Unfortunately, you have to look a lot of JUICY-clad child butts, sometimes with accompanying Uggs (real ones), and little Kate Spade purses. On kindergarteners. But, if you put blinders on and just eat, you get a good meal.

Gotham Diner on Broadway in Fair Lawn. Great portions, friendly staff & great food. I've never had a bad meal there. They have the best chopped salad menu ever. It's one of those "design your own" kind of thing I used to get when I worked in the city. There are literally like 50+ items on that salad menu. Of course, the con is that you can end up with a $12 salad, and I have. Trust me. But, it was worth it. It's huge. If you don't cover it in dressing, you could conceivably take half home. It's also not hard on the wallet either. But, expect a wait at peak times.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tennis Anyone?

Suburban Momma deal:

There is only a little time left to buy!

I wasn't going to do sports for E yet. But, tennis, I think I could get down with, and now we have something to do on Sunday morning for/with E. And it's also not something I have to get a cold numb ass for outside somewhere. That's always a plus. I'm not really into sitting on a soccer field until I have to. IF I have to. Maybe he'll LOVE tennis. Or something else he can play indoors. But, I digress.

Anyway- this sounded kind of cool-

Teddy Tennis is an international program that uses a fantastically fun new method to encourage kids from age 3 through age 5 to play tennis and to get active. Let Teddy Tennis teach your little cubs to have a ball with today’s deal: get an 11 Week Session of Fall Tennis Classes for $260 ($400 value). Or one trial class for 51% off ($37 value). Love!

Teddy Tennis’ innovative tennis education program incorporates music, pictures, and teddy bear characters into a light-hearted learning adventure that your children will love. In addition to teaching listening skills, rhythm, and tennis skills, Teddy Tennis will boost your kiddo’s self esteem, physical activity and happiness. Each lesson is 45 minutes long, and your certificate is good for all 11 weeks, meeting once a week starting September 6th-November 21st. Choose which day and time you want when you click the Buy button.

The following classes are available for fall: Tuesday 2:30-3:15 for 3 & 4 year olds (mature 2 1/2 year olds also welcome), Wednesday 4:30-5:15 for older 3 year olds to 5 year olds, Fridays from 4:30-5:15 for older 3 year olds to 5 year olds, Saturday from 9-9:45 for 3-4 year olds or Sunday from 9:30 to 10:30 for 3-4 year olds welcome. Not sure you're ready to commit to 11 weeks of classes? Bring your wee one in for a trial class at 51% off. Your trial class can be used one time during the fall semester. Just call and make sure there is a spot available when you're ready to come out and take a swing. Read more about Teddy Tennis in the Parent's Guide. Teddy Tennis is sweeping the globe; Teddy Tennis was originally developed in the U.K. Wimbledon, here we come!

The music used in all Teddy Tennis lessons provides the rhythm that is key to playing tennis successfully. This helps speed up the learning process, increases your child’s attention span, and above all, it makes Teddy Tennis lessons fun. The words to the songs relate directly to the exercises or games being played and tell the children what to do. In addition, adorable illustrations and characters help guide children visually through each lesson, and as the cubs progress, they move to different levels represented by lovable friendly bears. Your little teddies will love the reward system and be motivated to practice, work hard, and improve their skills while having tons of tennis fun.

Here is the regular website with all their info if you miss the deal:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fro-yo or yo-yo

Like all good trends, everything comes back in style. With a twist. I remember in the 80's, frozen yogurt became the thing to get and TCBY's, Columbo's and Everything Yogurt were everywhere you turned. Then, one by one, they all seemed to go out of business. I don't know if it was the diet crazes or what, but yogurt wasn't cool anymore.

Now, it's like Super Fro-Yo's are popping up everywhere. Red Mango, 16 Handles, TCBY is BACK but supersized with crazy toppings. They're cooler, hipper, self-serve, and you now pay by the weight. So, basically, you go to get a "cup" of yogurt, and come out like $10 lighter in your wallet.

I've never been to Red Mango. But, I have been to the 16 Handles in Garden State Plaza and the new TCBY by the restrooms on the first floor of Paramus Park. I'm sure there are more, but I'm not driving around Bergen looking for frozen yogurt- I just happen to be in the mall approximately 4-5x a week and there they are.

16 Handles, GSP: They're more of a kiosk in the center. They're not in the food court or sit-in kind of place. They do have some small tables behind it, but I don't know if people notice you can sit there. Or the people sitting there are probably mostly California Pizza Kitchen people waiting to get in there.

When they first opened, they were NEVER opened on time. They didn't even open at 10a when the mall opened, they opened at 11a, but never actually AT 11a. And if they were open sometime NEAR 11a, they were missing at least 2 flavors. I wrote a letter to corporate, they apologized, gave me a $10 gift card, and promised to open on time. They started opening at 10a, having all flavors going by 10:30. They've been more punctual as of late.

But, then I had a RIDICULOUS experience there on Saturday. They had a Groupon for $16 worth of yogurt for $8. I bought it. I should have read the fine print, my own fault, but you had to use all $16 at once. Well, who the hell is buying $16 of yogurt at one time??? I guess if you had a family of 4 or something and you ate a large size, you'd have no problem, but my average serving costs about $3.

My Groupon was about to expire so I brought a "Pack-It" cooler bag to the mall and starting filling cups. I filled one with a flavor I knew and handed it to the kid behind the counter so he could put it in a bag. I wanted to try "Euro Tart" before getting a whole cup of it. I asked if I could taste it. He said, put some on the rim of a cup and if you don't like it, throw the cup out. I found this odd, being that most places like that have those little white tasting cups, but whatever. I couldn't maneuver the yogurt on to the rim so it got IN the cup. I asked for a spoon. With a straight face, the kid told me, "It's our policy not to give out spoons". Of course I was like, "huh"? He said it again. I said, BUT I'M ALREADY PURCHASING THE ONE IN YOUR HAND. So, could I possibly get a spoon for that one. "No.". But, not just "No", but "No....:::attitude:::, It tastes like greek yogurt.". Um, ok. Thanks for being a taste describer, but there are many kinds of Greek yogurt, and I'd like to try it out. I had to just stick my finger in it. (oh yum.) It was fine enough- I had to get out of there. So I got it.

I will say, the last one I got was Pina Colada "Tart" and it was good. I ate it on the way home because it wouldn't fit in my cooler bag.

They have a decent amount of toppings. Mostly fruit, but some other sweet stuff, and the Blackberry was really good. I also really like the Birthday Cake and Red Velvet Cake. My standby is just the regular vanilla blueberries and strawberries. I get the small cup and it costs between $2.50-$3.50. I'd say it's kind of on the pricey side because I really don't get that much. A few swirls. It's always kind of a shock when you pay by weight because you just have to eyeball it and hope for the best.

TCBY, Paramus Park: Now THIS is a self-serve that dreams are made of. Not mine because I can give or take ice-cream and/or fro-yo for the most part. It's one of those things that I don't think about but then once I'm eating, I'm like, hey, I should eat this more. Anyway- we went there with friends two weekends in a row and B (husband) had it and so did all of them. They had so many toppings, many candy-type things, brownies, chocolate things, nuts, gummies, cookies, etc.

They have a few little table but it's also more of a grab and go type of place. It's also right by the door, so I guess you could do your shopping, grab some TCBY and walk out. It's big, it's bright, there are usually tons of tweens & teens hanging around.

My friend Nicole said she could start coming there all the time. Suffice to say she liked it.

Red Mango:

***Sept 14, 2011*** Just saw that Frozen Peaks is opening sometime before the end of the year in Bergen Town Center. I don't think it's a chain because it has no website yet- it just says "coming soon", but here's the link and watch for it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

It's not My Super Sweet 16, but it ain't just a backyard BBQ anymore.

E's birthday is in January. He's going to be 3 yrs old. It's August. And I have to start planning his birthday party. Every kid place is sending out emails and blasts telling me I better get on it or they'll all be booked. So, of course, as even a non-planner by nature, I've gotten in a panic. What to do...

Last year we did the Little Gym for his party. It was great- an hour and a half and they did EVERYTHING.  All I did was get a cake from Shop Rite (because I prefer their cakes), got some food from Costco for the adults, and made some goody-bags. They do an hour of play and a half hour to eat/do cake. They even got the pizza for the kids (and they'll order more for the adults if you like). You come five minutes before the party and leave when it's done. They do the set-up and the clean-up. The kids loved it, I had no mess in my house like I did for the 1st birthday, and it was over by naptime. But, I can't do the same party again, especially because I'm 99% sure I'm not signing back up there for classes. You can do a party as a non-member, but I'm over it right now.

Here's where I've been and what I think:

Kids U, Paramus: Not a huge fan. One, if you are by yourself & have more than one child and one of them is an infant and one is 16m-2.5 yrs you're kind of screwed. They start the party out in the main area where there is a HUGE climbing thing. Huge. My son is 2.5 & quite adventurous but he cannot do this jungle gym thing by himself. What does one do with their infant in this situation? Or if they can't climb for some medical reason? They do have a smaller toddler/baby area too but I don't see how a parent of two really little ones would be able to do it. Also, it's not enclosed with any kind of gate from where you put your shoes or where you go down the hall to the party rooms. If you have a runner of a kid, you're in trouble. My kid just took off in both directions whenever he had the chance. Lucky for me, I brought my Mother's Helper who is 11 yrs old, likes to climb, and is faster on foot than I am.

They move to an inner area that I do like. But, like anywhere, it depends on who (staff) is running the party. We went to one party and the guy who was running it, TJ, was really good with the kids. He was able to keep them interested, engaged, and the party had some structure. But, we went to a party a few months later, a different guy was running the party, and he seemed way more into getting attention from one of the female assistants than dealing with the kids or keeping any structure. They have a cool long trampoline thing that the kids really seem to like. E loves to jump so that was perfect for him. One parent could definitely handle two or more kids in there. It's a totally enclosed space where no one can get hurt.

Bounce U, Paramus: I recently went to a party there for a 5 yr old. E has a decent amount of older friends. Well, that's who it's for- older kids. Like 5+. 2.5 is too young to do a lot of the bouncing without someone. That's fine if you're into bouncing with your kid, but if you're not, or you can't- again, if you don't know what the place is like you're in for a surprise.

It was fun for Ethan, mostly. But, again, I had to bring Sydney, my Mother's Helper. She bounced on everything with E. He ended up crying like three times because he fell or whatever. He's a tough kid but for his age, to me, it's just a recipe for disaster. I know lots of people love this place for a three year old on up, and maybe there is a big difference in the next six months, I don't know. But, I would not have a 3 yr old party there.

I will say that the staff are VERY consciencious. They moved from room to room three times before the pizza/cake room and a manager checked in with the party host in every room to ask how things were going and if they were happy with everything. I thought it was very professional. They also had workers at the bounce stations to make sure the kids were ok, following directions, being careful, etc.

In the Swing (Waldwick): E went to a 4 yr old's birthday party there in June. There were about 25 kids which was WAY too many in my opinion. If there were less kids it might have been ok, or if they were all the same age, that too may have made a difference. But, another one of those stupid climbing things and in this place, an adult can't even go in. If someone didn't go in with E, he wouldn't have been able to go in because he would have been trampled. Thank god for Sydney AGAIN. See a pattern here of needing another set of hands? And eyes, for that matter. Sydney went in with him and he was fine here and there and also ended up crying numerous times. Had I not had Sydney I would've had to turn around and go home. Wish these were things I knew beforehand. They should have this info on the invites. They give you invites from them or send them out for you with some info- they might want to include what will be going on there so you can plan accordingly for those who have never been there.

They do other stuff with the kids in an open area but I was not impressed and will not be doing any parties there, at least for the foreseeable future. Maybe it's better for older kids.

I've never been to a party at My Gym (Glen Rock or anywhere else) or Screaming Parties (Paramus) but I've heard raves about both. I'm going to investigate My Gym because it's in town and Screaming Parties because I've been curious in general about it. I need a place where energy can be expended, it's minimal work for me, and the price is right. I will add other places I'm looking at as they come up.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Deal Time! My Gym, Glen Rock

I got an email from My Gym in Glen Rock saying they were going to be at Bergen Mall the other day offering a deal. I thought it was just going to be them, but it was a complete zoo and for other activities/deals. I could barely get through the people to get to the My Gym table so once I did, I got my info and ran out.

But, this is the deal- if you sign up before they open and have their actual open house (shooting for Sept 24), you get Free Lifetime Membership and and half off your first payment. I actually have no idea what that means money-wise, except that it's a pretty good deal- (they say you save $121). I know this coming from Little Gym where it cost me over $400 a semester. The cool thing, I think, about My Gym is that it's billed like a regular adult gym. It's a monthly fee, you can stop anytime you want- you just have to pay one more payment from when you quit. And it runs ALL YEAR. Anyone with a child knows there is nothing worse than all your kids activities ending at the same time with nothing else to do. Or maybe it's just me. They also do camps, birthday parties and all that stuff.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Can your baby read? Should your baby read?

Who cares. Yes, I've heard all the arguments against Your Baby Can Read. There's a class action suit- blah, blah.

If you are one of those people who doesn't think kids under two yrs old should be watching tv, ok, fine, YBCR falls under "tv watching" so don't use it.

But, in my opinion, I don't see any difference in letting your child watch Sesame Street and watching YBCR. I think it's the people, stupid people, who think they're just going to plop Junior down in front of the tv with YBCR all day and then miraculously the kid is going to start reading. That's not how it's supposed to work. It's explicitly said in the "directions" anyway. You still have to interact with your child. You still have to read to your child.

We got it as a gift. It looked interesting. At some point during that first year, I needed to shower. Alone. With no bouncy seat on the bathroom floor and without singing, "they all rolled over and one fell out, there was 5 in the bed...". I put YBCR on for E and he seemed to like it. The first discs were 22 min long and that was the perfect amount of time to shower and put some clothes on. We were both hooked.

We never did the flashcards that came with it until much later. We just had him watch the discs twice a day (hey- there are other things Mama needs to do besides shower). At the time, it was just something to watch. I didn't know anything about children's television shows but I had these discs so we figured we'd give them a whirl.

Well, guess what? He eventually saw the flashcards and by two, he knew all 40 of them or however many there were. No, we're not home drilling him. He says, "Let's play the words", so we say ok, and he likes to go through them.

Is he a genius because of YBCR? I doubt it. He might be a genius naturally, because..well...look at his parents. But. I certainly don't see the harm in viewing the discs or "playing the words". He is a whiz with logos- he knows a TD Bank, Harley Davidson, and a Macy's from miles away. I sort of think YBCR helped with this knowledge. I don't know for sure and I don't care.

I just don't get the hate. E has a ginormous vocabulary and was speaking early on. Again, is he a genius- well, only time will tell. But, I know YBCR didn't do him any harm and it might have done him some good. If you don't want to shell out $99-$199, I get it, but don't be a hater.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Shall we dance?

E had his trial at Wyckoff School of Dance. It went well. It was the last class of this summer session so it was like their "recital" and E had to just jump right in. Believe it or not, he did. And he liked it. He listened (mostly) and followed directions (mostly) and even donned both a sequin "skirt" and a hula skirt for the different dances.

They have no issue taking a little boy of 2.5-3 yrs old and told me that once he is enrolled in the class they will tailor the dances to having a boy. No more skirt- unless he wants.

It was so cute and we're going to do it. They have a lot of different classes and I think it's a little more "laid back" than some other schools that have outrageous fees and expensive recital clothing.

Their fee is around $600 and change for the year- Sept-May.  You can pay in one lump sum or half at the registration and then the rest by Oct 31 to finish the year. I think the first half takes him until January.

The parents are not allowed in the dance room- you can watch the class from the two way mirrored window in the lobby.  There are seats there. Class is 45 min long.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Do-over baby

I only have one child, who is 2.5 (right now in summer 2011) and that's all there is going to be. So, I don't get a "do-over" as far as a shower or a sprinkle or whatever, and obviously, I won't be needing it. But, even though I used the Nest as a guide for what I would need, and it was a great resource, there are still things I didn't know about or found out about "late". Later than I would've liked.

So, I thought I'd compile a list of things that were super helpful or important for me. Things that made life easier.

First- get the Baby Bargains book. It has a lot of good info in it. I don't agree with all of the reviews, but it has everything in there for reference.

Boppy AND My Brest Friend: Why both? Because the boppy sucks for breastfeeding but is AWESOME for propping up your baby & putting them on a bed or on the couch where they can't roll off.  It has no clip in the back so for me, for BF, it was just a pain. It would slide all over the place. My Brest Friend does have a clip and was invaluable to me for BF. I did rely on it a lot so it was difficult for me to BF without it, but whatever- it was awesome for sitting on the couch, laying E on there, and being able to type on my laptop (which was on a snack tray) over his head. Or for him to lay there while I was able to eat. So what if he ended up with rice in his hair? Boppy: 
My Brest Friend:

Nap Nanny: This thing wasn't out when I had E, but I think I would've loved it. Seems self explanatory

Mother Love Nipple Cream: No one wants to talk nipple cream but all BF'ing moms need it. At least I did. This stuff was great.

Bebe Pod vs Bumbo: I prefer the Bebe Pod. Immensely.

All I heard was that I needed the "Bumbo". But, I saw it and thought, those leg holes are so small. Lo and behold, the biggest complain about it was that infants outgrew it so quickly because their legs were too chunky for it and got stuck. The Bebe Pod has much wider leg holes so your baby can use it MUCH longer. We used it for a LONG time. I used it as a booster, I used it to feed him in at other people's homes who didn't have a high chair- I used it everywhere. Definitely worth getting.

Miracle Blanket: Those other swaddle blankets sucked. He broke out of those almost immediately and would startle awake all night. It SUCKED. He was awake like every hour. Then I got the miracle blanket and all was alright with the world. It's like an infant straight jacket. My mom saw him in it and thought I was the meanest mommy on the planet. Well, if mean mommy translates into sleeping mommy, then so be it. He loved it. Most babies LIKE being swaddled- it's like being in the womb. He loved it. I thought it was going to college with him. I was going to cut leg holes in it when he finally was ready to give it up.

Breathable Bumpers: I didn't use bumpers per my own research. But, I didn't want to leave the crib slats bare because he's a restless sleeper and arms and legs would regularly come through. So I got these and they did the trick. Still have them on. You can get them at BRU or Buy Buy Baby.

Angel Care Monitor- It gets an F in Baby Bargains- I forget why, but I don't care. I loved this thing. It monitors baby movement and an alarm sounds if your baby stops breathing. It went off a few times and I never jumped out of my bed faster, but all in all, it was a huge piece of mind thing for me in being able to go to sleep myself. It also has a thermometer on it so you know the room temp. That was really helpful for us because our house is old and even with central air and heat the temp can be unpredictable. I still use it- I just disconnected the sensor pad. It works fine for sound and for the thermometer.

Video monitor- mine sucks and I don't think it's even made anymore. But, I needed SOME kind of video monitor. Every kid is different. Mine has been screaming out bloody murder since he's an infant. Sometimes he's fully awake and sometimes he isn't. If he's laying, I don't have to go in there. He'll go back to sleep. But, if he's standing I need to go up there and soothe him back to sleep. I needed to see if he was standing or not without going up/in there every time. Pick any of the monitors that look good- these days they practically cook dinner for you and look like iphones.

Snap N Go stroller:  Or some variation of it. I didn't get my "real" stroller until E was like 4 months old. I didn't need it. The Snap N Go is SO light- who needs to carry a heavy baby seat and then have a huge, heavy stroller on top of that? I get that the big, Cadillac strollers sell attachments to put the baby seat on but you don't NEED it. I waited to see what my needs would be. The Snap N Go has a HUGE basket which is always a plus for me and can open and close with one hand. The only negative is it's tiny wheels which are not great if you want to go over any terrain that isn't flat.

Also, the longer you wait to get the good stroller, the longer you have the warranty. I got my Uppa Baby Vista and then was able to get parts under warranty when I really needed them- when he was TWO. Which brings me to my favorite purchase....

Uppa Baby Vista:  I love this stroller. Yes, it's expensive. But, when everyone was set on the Bugaboo which is more expensive, this is the one I was checking out. It's great and I still use it. The one drawback is that it's heavy. Other than that, I have no complaints. Their customer service is impeccable. And QUICK. You get someone right away and they actually assist you without a hassle. I got it when E was four months. He was almost out of the Snap N Go. The Vista comes with a bassinet which I used at the pool all summer. He slept in it like a champ for two hours at a time. The basket is huge underneath and I could fit everything I could possibly need in there. The tires are big and can be used on pretty much any terrain. We've brought it on the beach and it went over sand just fine.

Graco SnugRide infant seat- I liked this carseat the best. It's the lightest I tried, it fits in the Graco or Baby Trend stroller (Snap N Go) frame, and it was easy to use. There isn't much to say. It's a good seat. Carrying that thing aroud as your baby is getting heavier and heavier sucks and you want the lightest one possible. The Peg Perego is the heaviest and I can't even imagine carrying that thing around.

Primo bath tub: E still uses this and he's 2.5. We prefer him in the smaller tub than the regular tub because it keeps him contained. It's huge. He still fits in it just fine and he's not a small kid. It's much better than any other tub because like I said, he hasn't grown out of it. I had a smaller Fisher Price tub but he outgrew that very quickly. If you don't feel like putting your kid in the regular tub, this is a great option.

Fisher Price Jumperoo: He LOVED this thing. Kept him entertained every day for hours.

Exersaucer: The Baby Einstein one I have I got from a garage sale. He loved it- we used in our store when I would leave him there. I had an Evenflo one in my house. It was also great. I definitely "needed" it to keep him stationary and entertained while I did other things in the house.

Honey Bear straw cup: On the Nest I was told over and over not to use a traditional "sippy" cup with a spout. That it was just a glorified bottle and not good for speech. I don't know how true or not that is but I wasn't taking any chances. So, at 6-7 mo I taught him how to use a straw with this. It was recommended by an SLP on my local Nest board. It took a little while at that age for him to "get it" but he did and has been drinking from a straw ever since. It was easier than a regular straw cup because it is squeezable and the water or milk comes up easier than a straw cup for an older child.

Beaba Baby Cook: I was all gung-ho about making my own baby food. So, I bought this and it was extremely helpful for someone who doesn't really "cook". It was easy to use, easy to clean, etc. I really liked it. I got it at Buy Buy Baby with the 20% off coupon.

Branching off the Beaba Baby Cook, I do NOT recommend ANY of the food storage plastic things used for freezer storage from any brand. The best thing I found was to freeze the food in ice trays, then pop them out into freezer bags. Takes up WAY less room. Those stupid plastic things fell out of my freezer and broke all the time. I threw them ALL in the garbage.

Graco 4-in-1 highchair: Another thing he's still using. I love this highchair. Might not be ideal if you have very little space, but I've been really happy with it. He hasn't outgrown it and I don't see him outgrowing it anytime soon.

Fisher Price Booster Seat: No, you're not going to need it till later but I wish I'd put stuff like this on my registry. Newborn outfits are obsolete like 5 minutes after the kid is born. There are other things that are more useful to have for later. I like this booster seat. It has a removeable tray and it's easily portable. I keep it in the trunk of my car and use it often at other people's homes.

Slimline hangers: Forget those plastic hangers. Little clothes are a lot bulkier than you think. Just as they make more room in your adult closet, these are a must have for a baby closet. Makes total difference in the amount of room you have to fit all the outfits people are going to give you. And if you don't hang them, you'll forget they're there and they'll be outgrown before you even get to them.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I love Candy

Specifically, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. B bought me this candy dispense from Brookstone last November for Chanukah. Ever since then it's been sitting on my nightstand. Filled with Jelly Belly. I'm sure he wishes he never bought it because he "hears the clicking of the beans" every night.

Why does this warrant a blog post? Well, because I'm addicted. I must have spent hundreds of dollars at the Candy Store (that's the name) on the first floor of Garden State Plaza. It's across from Johnny Rockets and next to Cold Stone Creamery. They have pretty much EVERY flavor, even those hard-to-find ones that I like.

I have a candy store in town, Heavenly Treats, but they don't have a big enough selection of jelly beans. There is a candy kiosk in Paramus Park too but they also have a very small selection. So, if you're into Jelly Beans, specifically Jelly Belly, GSP is the place to go. They have all other candy too, which is great, because if you decide to go to the AMC movie theatre upstairs, you don't have to pay for their overpriced stuff- you can do a smorgasbord in the candy store downstairs.

Paramus Park has a small candy kiosk on the opposite side from where Old Navy is located. It's right next to the new TCBY. They do have some Jelly Belly, but not the same selection that Candy Store in GSP has in stock.

My favorites at the moment are Bubble Gum, Pomegrante, and Island Punch.

Happy sugar high!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Knotties, Nesties & Bumpies- Oh My!

I don't understand how more people don't use message board to their full advantage. I get people have to work, can't always get on during work, or if you have kids, you're obviously taking care of your kids. But, when you're getting married, buying a house, having kids, looking for somewhere to live, so on and so forth, I don't know where else people find anything out. Why wouldn't you look to a board of your peers who can give you instant gratification when it comes to research?? I don't get it. It's like the cliff notes of research. In a minute you can post a question and have 2-25 responses in like an hour's time. Many times, you have answers in minutes. In this day and age of hurry-hurry, who wouldn't want that?

I first got involved in message boards when I first discovered the internet in 1996. It was either '96 or '97 when I found the message board for the clothing store Express. It was sort of a free for all with a simple format and a bunch of strangers from all over the globe to talk to about whatever. I was hooked. It had absolutely nothing to do with Express clothing, except one girl did happen to work for an Express retail store. We talked about everything and anything and by the time 2000 rolled around and I had a terrible heartbreak, they were the people I looked to for support. And I got it in droves.

Fast forward to 2005 when I got engaged. I found Somehow, again, I found the message boards there and I was hooked. I first started on the NEY (Not Engaged Yet) board because I was intrigued that there even was such a place. I also found my "local" board, NJ, which became invaluable when planning my wedding.  DJ's, flowers, wedding planners, caterers, cakes, etc- it's all in one place. It's a real sense of community and many of us moved over to the Nest within 6 months of getting married.

The nest is more married-oriented stuff. But there are so many sub-boards that it's really for anyone. Decorating, health and fitness, starting over, single parenting, same-sex households, cooking, and so on- I can't imagine where you would find all this info, especially in one place. Of course I spend most of my time on my local, but there IS something for everyone.

There is also the bump- which obviously is about pregnancy and kids. I don't use those boards because my local on the nest is enough for me. But, when I was thinking, then trying to get pregnant, I did check in there a few times for info. So it's worth a look.

At any rate, all these message boards have a STRONG sense of community. Everyone rallies when someone needs it. These women support each other hardcore. There are heartfelt congrats for births, condolences and hugs for death, support of "Nestie" businesses, special get-togethers, happy/sad/fun stuff, and more. Without my local board I would have no idea what a miracle blanket or a boppy is, what else to put on a baby or even a bridal registry.

Most of the "regulars" I have been posting with since 2005-2006. It's now 2011 and we're all still going strong. We've gained new people, lost some oldies, but all in all, it's been a great place to vent, confess, laugh, get ideas, support, and make friends. Even if you're new and not a regular, everyone is accepted. Some people are more comfortable just "lurking" (reading but not posting) and that's fine too.

NJ Knot-
NJ Nest-

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Toddler Time

Toddler activities are a huge part of my life. My son is 2.5 and is full of energy. I don't think "average" amount of energy- I think much higher. Or I'm just really tired, which is a huge possibility. He's in music, gym, starting dance, has done swim lessons, and has been a part of two indoor open-play place memberships. I've tried places out and not liked them and there are some I can't live without.

Stroller Strides- : I've been doing Stroller Strides with E since he was six months old. We're still going strong. It's 9a-10a, Mon-Sat. Mon-Wed-Fri it's at Riverside Square (meeting on the concierge desk) & Tue-Thur-Sat it's at Garden State Plaza (meeting in front of Lord & Taylor on the first floor). It's a great work-out, it's social and you're in the mall right when it opens! I can't say enough about it- it's been awesome. Sometimes I've been fitter than other times, sometimes it's more social for me, but I've met great people and had a lot of laughs. I'll continue doing it as long as my schedule allows.!/strollerstridesofnorthernnj

Music for Aardvarks- : E has been doing this since he is 8 mo old. He LOVES this. For us, I feel it all has to do with the teachers. E has been in Sean & Pat's class the entire time and he loves them. I think, especially for boys, it's cool to have male teachers whenever they can. Most likely, they won't have too many going further in school so it's a nice thing to have when you can. Sean and Pat also make it a "cool" class. It's not a typical kids music environment. The music itself comes from NYC so it's a little more "hip" than regular kids music. Not as folksy, kind of funny, a little sarcastic, and many NYC references.  There are three locations for Bergen- Ridgewood, Waldwick and the JCC in Washington Township. I prefer the room in Waldwick, but the class time in Ridgewood works better for me.

Little Gym (Waldwick)- : E started here around 1 yr old. His teacher is Melissa. If you're looking for a real "gymnastics" class, this isn't it. But, if you want your child to socialize, burn off some energy, and learn some gymnastic skill, it's great. I think all the staff are good. We did his 2nd birthday party there and it was AWESOME. One hour of play, then a half hour to eat. Then it was OVER. They set up, clean up and you do NOTHING. I would highly recommend. Their party times are really convenient too (weekend)- 11a, 1p and 3p. We did the 11-12:30. Perfect timing for lunch then everyone gets to go home to nap or do other stuff for the day.

I did not sign up again for the fall because My Gym is opening in Glen Rock so I want to try that out.

JCC Bergen (Washington Township)- Swim Lessons - : E did this from 1 yr old-2 yrs old. We did the lessons there because they are the only place that does lessons on Sundays, that I am aware. Also, there was no crazy registration process like I hear there is at the YMCA in Wyckoff. It was easy to get in to the class and the instructor, Alex, was good for E's age group. The classes run from 9-12 or somewhere in that time on Sundays. I'm not sure about during the week. We stopped doing it because B was taking him and just needed a break. In hindsight, we should've stopped in the fall and picked it up for winter and spring. We stopped in February and by summer E was scared of the pool. It took a few tries before he would be comfortable in the pool again and he's never been afraid.

The only issues we had were that they are a bit unorganized. Sometimes the pool heater was broken and we were not notified with enough time prior to know not to come to class. The locker rooms are not designed for children and can be hard to get a squirmy toddler clean and changed. Sometimes there was a sub teacher and it seemed like a waste of a class.

The New Park & Play (Ramsey)- : I LOVED this place all winter. It was my saving grace for something to do to tire E out from around 10:30/11a till around 1p. They're only open from November to the end of April, Mon-Thurs, 9a-5p. It's approx $225 for the "season" membership. To me, it was 100% worth it. I went three days a week on average. In the season E went he was 1 turning 2 and he learned SO much about sharing, playing with older and younger children in a "free play" atmosphere. It's a non-profit so it's in the basement of a church, it's cold in there- so bundle up, and it's mostly gently used toys. But, since the toys are "community property", it's easier to learn to share since no one is emotionally attached to "their" toy(s).

Cutie Patootie (Englewood)- : I bought the groupon for this place in June. It's been a great place to go when it's too hot to be outside or raining. It's more upscale than Park & Play because obviously it's not a non-profit. They sell some toys there. They have a big open space to run, climb, etc. There is room to do arts & crafts and you have use of any of their materials. E always enjoys going there. It's comfortable for the adults too. There is plenty of room to sit on the floor and there are pillows to sit on if you so desire.

The cons of CP that I saw are that there a lot of nannies that don't always pay attention/watch the kids they're in charge of really well. Even the parents who do come don't seem to watch their kids that well. I'm 100% on E all of the time while I'm there because E can get overexcited/hyper, but he isn't a "mean" kid. There have been a few instances where I had to reprimand the same kids over and over and no one seemed to do anything. I feel like because of where it is, how much $$$ it is, etc, the kids are more entitled than the kids at Park & Play so they can be brattier. That's just my observation.

JW Tumbles (Park Ridge)- : I did a trial class there. We did not like it. I felt all the people who worked there were really young, some were smoking outside before coming in, and in the open house, they didn't seem to have a lot of supervision going on. Even in an open house, they should have times divided by age. At the time my friends children and mine were only a little over 1 yrs old and there were too many bigger children there with them.

Wyckoff School of Dance- : The ONLY school who is willing to take a boy in class in E's age group. Most likely, as long as the trial class goes well, I will be signing him up for the year. I called numerous schools in the area, including In the Spotlight in Waldwick and they all refused.

Monday, August 1, 2011

An idea is born...

I'm always being asked for recommendations. For everything. From baby stuff, toddler activities, pre-schools, shopping deals, to places to live, food (for kids and restaurants for adults), books I'm reading...whatever.

I feel like everyday, I'm compiling lists and internet links and emailing them to a million different people. Everytime I do it, I think to myself I should have just one central place where I keep all my "picks". But, I never do because I'm lazy and forgetful by nature. And a procrastinator. So, I have a "draft" folder in MS Office with tons of files of links with no headings. So, for anyone that's interested, I'm going to start figuring out what those links are, what I like and don't, and then I'm going to post them for YOU.

It's everything- my target audience is really anyone. Anyone in NJ. Mostly women and moms, but could be single, married, kids, no kids, etc. I'm a "mommy" but I'm not a "mommy blogger". I'm a Know-It-All who spends the majority of my time finding stuff for my kid to do and on the internet just finding "stuff".  So, for all my internet geekiness, you reap the rewards of my findings.

My disclaimer- I get no kickbacks or anything cool for my recommendations. I'm planning on asking people I know for testimonials for things/places/stuff I post that I like so it's not just "my" opinions. *Although, I usually think mine are the only ones that count*

Shoutout to Tadd & Christine Yearing who kind of pushed me over the edge to finally doing this. And of course, my husband, Bryan Kule, who would like to think all the time I spend online is actually worth something...