Loving Lego

November 12, 2010 at 2:49 pm , by

SophialegoI was lucky enough to be invited on an amazing press trip to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas last January. The best part? I got to bring my 5 year old daughter, Sophia. (Read more about our trip here.) One of the sponsors was Lego but to be completely honest, she wasn’t much of a Lego fan at the time so we weren’t really excited about that part. I looked at Lego as something my 10-year-old nephew was into, not something that a little girl could really enjoy. How wrong I was.

On one night of the trip, the Lego folks gave us a small bag with several yellow and orange pieces and they asked the kids to make a duck. Without any directions. I was not pleased by this because I was sure that Sophia would have a fit when she couldn’t figure out how to do it. Again, I was totally wrong! She got creative and made a little thing that looked more like a moose than a duck – and here’s the crazy part – she loved her little “moose-duck”. By the end of the trip, I had completely changed my opinion. (See the pic of her handiwork on the way home!)

Now, several months later, she continues to wow me with her Lego skills. We’ve bought her a few tiny sets and I’m thrilled to see my little girl follow all of the directions (by herself!) and put together a helicopter or sea plane. But the creativity really starts when she puts a few different sets together and makes her own little structure that only she understands.

This year, Santa can bring the Princess toys she’s asking for, but I’ll be giving her a Lego set. It did take me awhile on the Lego website to find something that wasn’t totally boyish but I think I’m going to go for the Apple Tree House or the Winter Village Bakery. Perhaps she’ll need some help putting them together but I certainly don’t mind helping! If you’re looking for something a little smaller, there are lots of inexpensive sets to get your kid started. I like the Santa with Sleigh or the Snowman Building Set each for only $4.99. Happy Lego building!

Full disclosure: Yes, we did receive some free Lego pieces on the press trip (which was also gratis) but as you know, I would never write about or promote a product simply because I got a freebie. I will only ever blog about it if I REALLY like it and I REALLY believe in it.

Halloween: Is It OK for a Boy to Dress Like a Girl?

November 4, 2010 at 1:06 pm , by

I just read the most amazing blog post, written by a midwestern momdsc_0007-e1288401371463, a cop’s wife, whose 5-year-old-boy wanted to dress up for Halloween as Daphne, from Scooby Doo, just like his best friend, who’s a girl. That’s him in the picture. Now, if you can’t wear something silly and fun on Halloween, when you’re five, when can you? But as Cop’s Wife discovered, you can’t, not ever, no sir, not if you’re a boy. She and her son ran into schoolyard bullies, bent on enforcing sex-stereotypical costume choices. Only it wasn’t her son’s classmates who were the bullies, not yet–it was the other moms, whose faces twisted  in disgust at seeing a preschooler wear the “wrong” Halloween costume. And we wonder why we have such bad bullying problems in our middle schools and high schools, where any kid who’s different–too fat, too skinny, too smart, too slow, too effeminate, not the dominant race, too poor, not dressed in the right labels–gets harassed and pounded? Where do those mean kids get their ideas from? Hello, mirror!

75122_450677623182_736913182_5417784_1624315_nMy little boy, age 4, loves to dress up, too, especially in his tutu-like black tulle skirt. Like Cop’s Wife’s kid, he happens to have some close friends who are girls, and they’re into the princess thing, and really, what is not fun about a tutu? He’s also obsessed with our good friend Nelson, aka “Cherry L,” who lives in the neighborhood and happens to be an amazing reggae/dancehall/hiphop singer. My boy currently refuses to wear anything but jeans, because that’s what Nelson wears. But sometimes he likes to mix it up: Here’s my main man in dinosaur pjs and the tulle skirt, doing his rendition of one of Nelson’s rap songs, “You Check  It.” Pretty hardcore/masculine, don’t you think, swaying tulle aside?

For Halloween, though, no tutus–he wanted to be a cop. I was relieved, frankly. And I got to crossdress, as an escaped convict, complete with beard. Since I’m a girl, no one cared. But what if my son had really, really wanted to be a princess? What should I have done? Read Cop’s Wife’s blog and then post your comments/thoughts below.

Weeknight Cooking with ‘High Flavor, Low Labor’

August 24, 2010 at 2:54 pm , by

It’s the end of the summer, and it feels like back-to-school time for ALL of High Flavor Low Laborus, especially in terms of re-adopting our weeknight routines.  Weeknight cooking can be a stressful addition to the schedule after 3 months of laid-back grilling and seasonal salad-making, but help is on the way! From the National Food Editor for the Associated Press, J.M. Hirsch, comes High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking, a great cookbook for anyone trying to get food on the table quickly after a long workday – it not only helps you cut corners to save time, but it also helps you avoid the ruts we all fall into (ahem, that means you, boring grilled chicken!). J.M.’s eclectic recipes are largely driven by seasonings and bold ingredients in order to pack the most punch into minimal prep time. “I never have the luxury of planning dinner on weeknights,” says J.M. “so I end up using what I have in the pantry or refrigerator – that’s how real people cook.”


J.M.’s Tip Sheet:

1. Bold ‘Go-To’ Ingredients: prosciutto, parmesan, jalapeño, and balsamic vinegar.  By adding just one of these items, your dish has already taken a bolder direction (away from boring!)

2. Incorporate Your Kids Into Shopping and Cooking: my son mixes seasonings based on what looks and smells good together which is how we should all approach seasoning (don’t over-think it!). Plus it keeps kids occupied…

3. Re-Purpose Your Spice Rack: One of my favorite African-influenced techniques is using cinnamon as a savory ingredient rather than in a dessert.  Just a simple switch can lead you to a brand new dish.

4. Broaden Your Grocery Shopping Horizons: Next time you are at the grocery store, stroll down the international aisle – you’ll find a surprising amount of extremely affordable and very flavorful foods that you might not ordinarily cook with.

5. Build from the Pan Up: When experimenting with a new dish, start with some olive oil and chopped onion in a pan. Add your seasonings and let them start combining, or “blooming” which means drawing out their essential oils.  Toss in a “blank canvas” ingredient like pasta, protein, or vegetables and see where the meal takes you…

High Flavor, Low Labor is on pre-sale now and will hit stores September 7th.

A Shoppable Video Storybook from Ralph Lauren

August 19, 2010 at 3:47 pm , by

I love children’s books. Who doesn’t, right? Luckily my daughter, Sophia, and I tend to like some of the same themes: a little fashion (like Birdie’s Big Girl Shoes), great art (like Abuela), and imaginative kids (like Olivia). So, when I saw The RL Gang, A Fantastically Amazing School Adventure, I know she’d be as smitten as I was.

But The RL Gang is no ordinary book, it’s a completely shoppable video storybook featuring Ralph Lauren childrenswear. It’s a treat for the eyes (thanks to live action kids—adorably dressed, of course—against an animated background) and the ears (it’s narrated by Harry Connick, Jr. who my singing, piano-playing family just loves). It begins: “This is the story of a not so ordinary group of children who came to school and had a not so ordinary day.” The children go on an adventure thanks to “an incredibly incredible book” brought by their teacher, Professor Randolph Lattimer.

And here’s the bonus, after you enjoy the great fantasy story (and I’m sure you will), you can click to buy any of the kids’ clothing featured in the book. (I’m thinking about Zoe’s purple dress for my girls.) Love it so much you want a hard copy? No problem. You can order one here. Enjoy the story!

Shopping For Boys’ Clothes

July 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm , by

As you know by now, I am mom to two of the most fashionable little ladies on the east coast. And I love shopping for them! Pairing together silk bubble skirts with ruffly tops and necklaces makes me so happy to have girls. But sometimes I see a little boy’s elbow-patch sweater in the Mini Boden catalog and I long for a little dude to dress up to my heart’s content. OK Moms-of-boys: I know, I know—boys’ clothes are nowhere near as fun as girls.’ Not fair, I know. That said, there are lots of cute boy clothes to be had. (Why else would I dress Sophia in a unisex Peter Beaton tee and Vans like in this picture? I could get away with the androgynous look when she was 3. Now it’s all pink tutus and gold wedge sandals and “don’t I look glamorous?”)

Anyway, here are my picks for best boys’ clothes with a little help from my good friend, fashion writer and mom-of-a-stylish-boy, Selene Milano Angel.

Crewcuts – You know I’m obsessed with all things J.Crew and their boys clothes are no exception. All of the clothes are perfection but my favorite item is the MacAlister boot—but don’t forget the neon laces. (Those laces make me crazy. They almost make me want to try for a third…)

Mini Boden – The aforementioned elbow-patch sweaters, supersoft graphic tees (with the best designs), and a little bit of kooky fun stuff like this shaggy lined hoody make this one of the best boys’ resources.

77Kids – The store that made boyfriend jeans for my little girl has equally cool skater-type stuff for your little man. And coming soon near you, they’re opening free standing stores that’ll have lots of fun kid activities to keep ‘em happy while you shop.

Egg Baby – Selene swears by this brand for cool button downs, cute little trousers and shorts for her hip two-year-old.

Cool sneakers – From pink Converse high-tops to checkerboard Vans, my girls have always had cool kicks. Selene recommends black and white Adidas Sambas as a boy’s must-have but she also likes Puma. These tiny suede ones are adorable for the little guys. And I especially love Converse’s Dr Seuss collection and Vans’ Crayola collection for boys and girls.

See moms-of-boys? It’s not that bad out there. And just think about how much you’ll be saving in the teenage years when my girls are busy putting me in the poorhouse!

So tell me…where do you get clothes for your little man?

How To Throw A Dora Birthday Party

June 24, 2010 at 5:54 pm , by

lilybackpackMy little baby, Lily,  just turned 2 (I know, I can’t believe it either!) so we celebrated with a Dora-themed birthday party at our local zoo. Where else should little Explorers celebrate, right?

Each kid was given a Backpack—you’ll notice that’s capitalized—as in Backpack, Dora’s animated friend she wears on her back. I bought cheap purple nylon backpacks from Oriental Trading and drew Backpack’s face on them with glossy fabric paints that I bought at Michael’s. Each backpack was filled with a compass, binoculars, Dora gummy snacks, a Map (just a color copy of Dora’s friend that I made from one of Lily’s toys) and some Dora stickerslilyzooThroughout their trip around the zoo, the kids got to ride the carousel, saw bears and jaguars and even got to feed the sheep and birds.

It was a much simpler party than Sophia’s fashion show bash birthday but it was totally Lily’s speed. And I was so proud of myself for pulling off an economical birthday party that was still totally fun.

So even though half our guests couldn’t come (blame the June birthday!) and it rained for most of the party, Lily really loved it—especially looking for animals with her binoculars. Does it get any cuter than that?

So, tell me, do you have any tips for throwing a kids birthday party on a budget?

A Peanut Butter Sandwich Worth $25K

March 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm , by

$25K PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHPeanut butter and mayo isn’t a combination I’d normally try, but it sure is creative—so creative that it earned one 10-year-old a $25,000 scholarship from Jif and four other kids a $2,500 scholarship. The kids were competing to come up with the most creative peanut butter sandwich in Jif‘s 8th annual Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest.

Grand prize winner Rachel G.’s “PB & Fruity Say “’Let Us Rap,’” (complete with mother and daughter posing back-to-back after serving the wrap), impressed the judges the most—but she had tough competition from other creations like Stephanie H.’s “Chickenchita” and Lauren W.’s, “Peanut Butter and Banana Quesadilla with Fresh Fruit Salsa.”

During the competition, the sous-chefs (aka parents!) said that cooking together was a good way to encourage their kids to explore their creativity and help parents and children communicate better. After all, how else could Maria M. come up with a “Peanutty Cristo Breakfast Sandwich” if she didn’t have the opportunity to prepare and test different recipes alongside her mom in their kitchen?

Kids often get attached to wacky food combos—what kind of unique recipes have you and your kids come up with?