Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ho Ho Ho! Santa Was Generous!

Hi too-long-neglected friends! I hope that you all had a happy holiday and that Santa (or your gift-giver of choice) was extra nice to you this year. We had a really nice Christmas celebration surrounded by friends and family--and the gifts weren't too shabby either!

Here's a quick rundown of some of our favorites received by Andrew this year. In-depth reviews of most of these are to come once they have been played with and trampled on to Andrew's liking. There's really no better product tester than a bruiser of an almost-two-year-old! 

We got this My First RC Construction Bucket Lift for $25 off of Amazon. Its pretty cool due to its ease of operation and I find myself playing with it more than I should! (Now that I'm looking at the picture of it again, though, I think that I threw the little man out with all the post-gift-unwrapping trash. Oh no!)

My mom and dad got Andrew this Step2 Lifestyle Custom Kitchen from Toys R Us ($99.99 at TRU, but you can get it for $79.99 with free shipping on Amazon if you are a Prime member). It is so darn cute I want to play with it myself. Andrew loves it too, although he wouldn't let us mount the microwave or oven control panels because he thinks they are cell phones!

My older brother went all out and got Andrew this awesome Ford F-150 Power Wheels from Amazon ($149; Free Prime Shipping). All I can say is that the awesomeness is so great that I do try to ride this myself and it is pretty hilarious--just imagine a 5+-months me straddling this mini truck and pushing the pedal with my hand.

Andrew loves his "vroom vroom truck"--with or without me on it--and I can't wait to take him outside in it. The only problem I foresee--it has no brakes!! I better get my running shoes.

As I mentioned, full reviews are (eventually/hopefully) to come of these and some of the many other awesome things Andrew was gifted this Christmas. He is truly blessed to have so many family and friends who shower him with love (and toys). Seriously, some toys still remain in their boxes for rainy/cranky day bribery purposes!

Happy holidays to you and best wishes for a wonderful New Year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa Success! (At the Palisades Mall in West Nyack, NY)

Andrew was not yet a year old last Christmas, so we didn't really do much regarding explaining Santa Clause to him or taking him for a visit. So we didn't know what to expect when we took him for a visit and photos at the Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack this weekend.

I was really expecting a meltdown--after all, I was placing him in a stranger's lap and walking a few feet away--but he actually started clapping as soon as we neared Santa and smiled for such a sweet Christmas photo!

The Santa at the Palisades Center is really amazing, which definitely helped. He spoke with the children as if he'd known them ("My you've grown so big since I saw you last year, Andrew!") and had a real and impressively long white beard. He gave Andrew a little kiss for being so good and a peppermint bark chocolate, which every child receives as a present.
If you're headed to the Palisades Center to meet Santa, he'll be sitting right outside H&M on the first floor, next to a gigantic Christmas tree. The line for photos can be long, but it moved quickly even on a busy Sunday, and there is a large open swath of carpet for kids to run around on if one parent will man the line while the other watches the child.

Photos are a bit pricey--the lowest being $24.99 for one sheet of photos featuring one pose and a variety of sizes of photos (we picked a one 5x7 and four wallets configuration). But, you can pick up a CD of all your poses for $30, which makes sense if parents want to jump in for a photo too and/or if you plan on printing duplicates (the one photo sheet then becomes $12 with the purchase of a CD.) There are also a bunch of frames, bears, and other accoutrements to buy at the photo kiosk.

So, we had a great experience with Santa! I was left wondering where all the money made went to though! I hope the company that provides the Santa experience, Noerr, donates at least some of the proceeds to charity--its Christmas, after all!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Baby to yogurt: Get in my belly!

Thank you, Jezebel, for posting this hilarious video of a boy's love for his yogurt yesterday. I just love the gusto with which this child eats--I think Andrew may feel the same way about bananas or mini marshmallows...


Great Idea! Milkies Milk-Saver for Breastfeeding Moms

What a great idea! Milkies Milk-Saver is a contraption that collects the precious breastmilk that leaks while you're feeding on the opposite side. I had no idea that such a thing existed when I was breastfeeding my son a year ago! Milkies Milk-Saver is BPA free and holds up to 2 ounces of milk--or you can attach it to any milk storage bag. Sure, you could hold a bottle in one hand and try to catch the leaking milk, but this hands-free gizmo seems like a much more awesome solution.

But, here's my question: does it work well? You'll have to help me out mommy friends--have any of you tried the Milk-Saver and loved it?

I was really bad about pumping with Andrew since it was easier just to breastfeed as a stay-at-home mom, but with this next baby I'd like to build up a better supply. I'll definitely be spending the $26.50 to get a Milk-Saver from Amazon just to give it a go. And of course I'll let you know how it works out come next spring!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Get the wee ones their own nativity and they'll leave yours alone!

I'm a sucker for a beautiful nativity, but you can't really put a fancy one under the tree with a curious toddler running around. That's why my husband and I were so excited to stumble across Fisher-Price's Little People Christmas Story Nativity Playset when we were at Walmart on Long Island. The set was so stinking cute and really well-priced ($36 for an originally $79 deluxe set) that we had to get it.

The quality of the set is great. Little People figures and toys are always top-notch in my experience--unless you have the older, recalled choking-hazard-sized toys. And, while some folks might be a little squeamish about their children playing with a toy of baby Jesus, I like teaching Andrew the story of Christmas and teaching him to be gentle with the baby. He even gives the baby a bottle and kisses him (hopefully he'll act the same with his little brother or sister!)

So, what did I get in our nativity? As I mentioned, we were lucky and got the deluxe set at Walmart. It came with the musical manger (the star lights up and plays "Away in a Manger"), a grassy knoll for the sheep, and a palm tree scene for the Wise Men.

Character-wise we have: Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, an angel, a shepherd, two sheep, a sheep-herding dog, three Wise Men, a camel, a pig, a donkey with a detachable cart, a basket of food to go in the cart, and a hay bale with a top that opens. That's a lot of Little People! And, if I can keep all the pieces together and remember to put it away at the end of the season, we'll be able to use it for many Christmases to come.

I haven't been able to find such a good deal as in-store at Walmart for this set online, but there is another version of the Little People nativity available for around $40 on Amazon. If I am correct, the green deluxe set involves all the above, but the $40 white box set does not include the shepherd, the knoll or palm tree, and other additional pieces.

You CAN find the deluxe set (green box) at Amazon for $70 HERE, but I recommend getting to your nearest Walmart and seeing if you can snag a deal. As far as toys go, this is on the expensive side, but if you view it as an addition to your Christmas traditions that you'll bring out every year, it may be worth it to you too!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Be thankful every day - and you won't punch somebody!

Happy Thanksgiving! Whether you're celebrating the food- and family-centric American holiday today or not, it doesn't hurt to give a moment's thanks each and every day (or at least when you remember to!) Being a super-hormonal pregnant woman these days, stopping to breathe and think about what I'm truly thankful for has been the best help when I simply feel like punching something or someone. I think about my son, or the baby in my belly, or my amazing family and I remember that, while some things/people may be super annoying or disappointing at the moment, I always have so much love to fall back on.

And it definitely helps to have pictures like this that remind me of my two little miracles whenever I'm in the midst of pregnancy rage!

Here's wishing you a wonderful day of thanks-giving today and every day. Things are only sure to get more stressful as we near the December holidays, but if you put down those fists and find a cutie (human, animal, stuffed) to hug, you'and I will surely feel much better. (Let's just hope pregnant monster is listening!) 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Adorable Book Alert: The Potty Book (for boys and girls)

The Potty Book for BoysAndrew will be two in January so, with baby number two on the way, that means its time to introduce the potty! We  have had a musical potty hanging out in our bathroom since this summer, but he didn't do much with it but "flush" it. But, since we've had The Potty Book for Boys by Alyssa Satin Cupcilli, we have had one successful potty attempt! (I'm not kidding myself, though, that he won't be in diapers for a while longer. Two in diapers--yikes!)
The Potty Book for Boys--and its sister book The Potty Book for Girls--is adorable and features a toddler boy or girl as he/she learns to use the potty along with his/her beloved teddy bear. The story is just perfect, covering both the accidents and successes along the way to being potty trained. And the illustrations are so sweet, but do show a lot of bare baby butt--just in case you're opposed to that! 

For $5.95, I was also really impressed with the length of the book (32 pages) and the quality of the hardcover and its thick glossy pages.

And, of course, I do love that the children in each of the books have red hair!  

The Potty Book actually reminded me a lot of one of our other favorite children's books featuring a redhead and his teddy bear: I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rosetti Shustak. Both books are winners for kids with or without red hair--and great gifts too!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday, Rocking the PJ and Snow Boots Look

Friday, November 11, 2011

To spank or not to spank?

Andrew has hit an interesting new stage which involves lots of whining, falling to the floor, and hitting when he doesn't get what he wants. He's a pretty strong 30+ pound 22-month-old, so some of the slaps he lands are painful. But, even if he wasn't strong, hitting is just unacceptable.

But how to get him to stop doing it? We speak to him in a firm voice and tell him that hitting is absolutely not allowed and put him in time out for a minute or so. But, that doesn't always work; he goes right back to the unacceptable behavior. So, I must admit that after some of his more deliberate and painful slaps to my face, I have tapped him on the hand or backside. And I really feel so horrible each time.

I really planned not to use hitting back as discipline, since I think that gets confusing for a child ("Why can mama hit but I can't?"), so I think I've got to give time out a bit more time to really work. I'm also going to take a friends advice and YouTube a few of the videos on hitting from his favorite shows ("Ni Hao Kai Lan," "Yo Gabba Gabba," etc.) and watch them each day for a while going forward.

Does/did your toddler hit and did you decide to spank or not to spank? What worked for you in curbing this behavior? I'm looking forward to your responses!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Finally a King! Bed, that is.

It is a momentous day in the Rockland Mother household. We have finally upgraded from a full bed to a king! I know, I know--you're wondering how two adults and a bed-crashing toddler survived squished into such a small space for so long. But, money-wise and apartment-wise its always been wiser for us to have the full. But we've got another little one on the way and my ever-expanding stomach is going to make our bedtime situation a bit more uncomfortable--so a king-size bed is in the very immediate future!

We decided to go the route for the bed purchase and I hope we will not be disappointed. Once we have the bed assembled and we're settled in for a few days, I'll be sure to review the Swiss Lux 10-inch King Memory Foam Mattress ($470) and Scandinavia King Platform Bed ($225) that we bought. We also purchased the $50 10-year mattress service and $48 5-year accidental furniture damage plan just to be safe, so I'll report back on that too if we have need of it.

And it won't be long before I post that review because, even though I ordered the bed the late evening of November 6th, the mattress arrived yesterday, November 8th and the bed frame is being delivered today. That's some ridiculously fast shipping for a rate of $2.95!

Just please wish me luck that these products aren't lemons. I've used Overstock before to great results, but not on furniture!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Venture Photography - Worth it (if you're rich)

Venture Photography is a family portrait franchise that started in the UK and made its way over to the US in 2007 (CT, NJ, and MN at the moment). Photos are taken in a studio against a completely white background and floor and photo subjects are encouraged to bring along props, costumes, pets, whatever, to enhance their shoot. Once the photos are shot, the pictures can be further enhanced with editing, color effects, graphics, etc., are sent to the UK to be mounted and framed, and are ready for display in your home--if you pay a high price, that is.

We got sold on a shoot with Venture in Ridgewood, NJ when attending a local Irish Feis (A feis! Look how Irish I am by marriage!) For $50, we got a voucher entitling us to a photo session and an 8x10 framed photo or $350 credit towards another piece of photo art. It sounded like a good deal--especially since you have the option to just take the free 8x10 and run! I really wish we weren't so clueless about the actual prices of the photos from the get-go though--but there aren't any prices on the Venture website and the folks who sold us the Venture voucher kept pretty mum about that.

(Important: We needed to book our photo session within 3 weeks of buying the voucher or the free gift was downgraded into a 5x7 instead of an 8x10). 

Our photo shoot was actually great, even though Andrew had a nap-deprived meltdown midway through. Our photographer Alex worked wonderfully with him and we got quite a few pictures in before my husband and I decided to call it a day. And the studio itself is lovely. The lobby and photo studios are fitted with comfy leather couches and filled with examples of Venture's pricier wall art products. You are offered refreshments of all types. You do really feel like a valued customer, even though you've purchased a discounted voucher.

They sent us home with a flyer full of their prices and I must admit I was a bit surprised. The lowest price was $150 for a framed and mounted 5x7 desk photo (photos are sent to the UK for this part) and the highest was around $6000 for a fancier and bigger piece of wall art. You can not purchase single prints--every photo you order is mounted to a foamy piece of paper on the low price end or other type of medium. They do have the option to buy prints in a photo album (starting at $1600) or as an animated digital slide show ($1500), but it is clearly stated that you may in no way reproduce the images.

We decided we'd give ourselves $300 dollars to spend--on two 5x7s and the free 8x10. And about three weeks later, we went back to the studio for our design consultation--boy do they pull all the stops out for that! You are encouraged to do the design consult without your children in attendance so that you can be fully immersed in the experience. After sinking into a luxurious leather couch, our design consultant--a Carmela Soprano lookalike in a short skirt with stunning legs--asked us if we'd like a drink. Perhaps some coffee? She came back promptly with a french coffee press and the whole nine--we were very impressed indeed.

"Carmela" then began our consultation. She dimmed the lights and an animated slideshow of our best photos flickered across a small movie screen in time to well-chosen music. We oohed and aahed over our adorable child--and I began thinking that maybe we should take out a payment plan to purchase some fancy wall art.

We went through the slideshow again, slowly so that we could pick out our favorite photos. And Carmela used a program that allowed us to build a mock piece of wall art featuring four smallish framed photos. It was so beautiful--but it cost around $2500. Boy how I wanted it though--I wanted each and every good photo actually.

We asked Carmela to leave the room so that my husband could talk me back into reality. We could not afford to spend $2500 for just four photos, no matter how lovely the photo mounting and framing process was. Venture does have a stunning array of photo mounting and framing processes--they are guaranteed not to fade and some even come on a special glassless mounting that can be wiped clean! But we are not millionaires, and we couldn't justify the expense.

So, we left the consultation ordering the free 8x10 and the two 5x7 for $300. And, at the time of picking up our photos 8 weeks later, I ordered another 5x7 for $150 because my mother offered to pitch in for another. The finished product is definitely great, even though they did put the back of my 8x10 on upside down and I had to do a bit of work to flip it (the frame is taped closed AND the photo is taped to the glass to prevent dust getting in and to prevent you from scanning the photo I reckon. I mentioned above that you are prohibited from making reproductions even after you pay all that money. But, I bet a really resourceful person would find a way to scan the photos anyway--even though I'm not sure what the foamy photo mounting material would do to the print quality).

So, yes, Venture gave us a beautiful photography experience and four nice photos for $500, but I could have gotten a ton more nice photos for less money and had some to share with my friends and family if I had just gone to a local photographer or a nearby JC Penny, even. I think I paid $3300 for my entire wedding photography with Julia Pai and I got two photographers for a whole day, a photo album AND a CD with thousands of photos. I just feel like there are better deals out there, you know?

The bottom line: 
Venture Photography can give you a beautiful photo-taking experience and great photos, but I think they should expose their prices up front so that folks booking photo sessions can make a more informed decision before getting emotionally involved. Once you're in that screening room viewing gorgeous photos of your family, it is so hard not to let your guard down and lay out a bunch of money you may or may not have. I'm not saying that their prices aren't warranted when you consider the time and talent of the photographer, the cost of the photo editing, printing and mounting process, and the money it takes to upkeep the fancy studio. But, I think Venture would have a much better reputation and get more repeat customers here and in the UK if they were much more open with their prices. I also think they should come up with an inexpensive way to let photo subjects buy regular prints to reproduce and share with friends and family.

Oh! And Venture just created a smartphone application that is supposed to allow customers to see all their photos online and share them. But here's the rub--you have to be a VIP customer who has spent money on wall art. I'm not sure how much money you have to spend to be a VIP, but I definitely will be calling the studio to request VIP access and will report back about it here. (I have a sneaky suspicion, though, that my $500 will not be enough to warrant VIP access.)

Please email me if you have any questions (maybe you booked a Venture session like we did) or if you want to see our photos. I can't reproduce them per se, but I might be able to send you a photo of my media center with the photos displayed on them. Also, please let me know if you would like to see the price catalog that I have. I can definitely scan it and forward it to you. 

So sorry for the super long review, but I've noticed there aren't many Venture reviews out there--I hope this will be helpful!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Snow is Gone: :) or :(?

The foot or so of snow from last Saturday has melted, but it left behind some pretty awesome memories. This is the first time that Andrew has really gotten to play in the snow since last winter we were still backyard-less in Queens.  And, wow, did he have fun! He "shoveled" the driveway and ran through the snow laughing. He even got to wear his dragon costume in the snow the next day. He liked the snow so much, it made me a little sad that it wasn't really indeed winter when the snow started to melt--but then I snapped back to reality! We can wait a bit longer for that.  (See more adorable photos below!)

Speaking of adorable photos, I have my review of Venture Photography to post tomorrow! We got some awesome photos from this slick photo franchise, but I'm really not pleased with their ridiculous prices and photo hostage-taking. (Be prepared for some ranting tomorrow!)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Its Snowing!

As soon as Andrew wakes up from his nap and we can get outside, I'll post adorable baby-in-snowsuit photos. See you soon!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Get your holiday shopping on now! My fave discount gift finds.

Where oh where does the time fly to? It just two months now until Christmas--and 3 months until Andrew's 2nd birthday! It might seem a bit early to some, but I'm already in holiday shopping mode pre-Halloween. Too many last-minute mall shopping trips have definitely scarred me!

This year, like last, I really have to set a Christmas present budget and stick to it. So, its homemade gifts when possible and on-sale items for the rest. Luckily, there are so many discount stores and online shops with great, budget-friendly gift collections. BUT, you must make sure you get in there early so that a) your gifts arrive in time with the cheapest shipping option and b) you miss any holiday price jacking madness!

In an early spirit of giving--because I always feel like giving to you all!--here is a list of my favorite budget gift-buying locales of the moment.

1) The Christmas Tree Shops: Run, run, run now to your local Christmas Tree Shop (Rocklanders, there is one in the Spring Valley Marketplace). Despite its holiday name, this chain of stores is a year-round mecca for low-cost, good quality home goods and toys--meaning GIFTS! I particularly adore the seasonally decorated bakeware and tableware for as low as $1, which would be perfect for an adult friend or relative (and me!)

2) and Both of these websites offers great products at nicely-discounted prices from babies/children, women, men, and the home. I really like to order fancy kids clothes, accessories, maternity clothes, and toys that I could not otherwise afford from these stores--but you must order early due to their 2-4+ week shipping time! Of course, it is hit or miss with how good the discount is--but sometime you'll find a really great deal that begs buying (see $20/originally $54 dress  from Zulily at right).

swan ring holder3)'s Sale Section: Red Envelope has a great selection of memorable gifts for the whole family and their sale selection is so nice! Right now their cute 4.5-inch swan ring holder (right) is only $14.99 (ceramic or metal). They've also got beautiful .057ctw sterling silver hoop diamond earrings available for $29.95 (originally $49.95). Check it out!

4)'s Clearance Section: Ditto the above for the Lenox online clearance section--but this time, you'll be giving the prized Lenox name! Lenox has jewelry, flatware, tableware, glassware, figurines, ornaments and more on sale. There's destined to be something budget-friendly which would make a great gift for friends, moms, moms-in-law, or coworkers. How about a $20 set of 4 3-inch 24-karat-gold-accented fine china mini angel ornaments (originally $43)? Or a $5.00 lidded Dansk sugar bowl and its matching creamer (each originally $19)? I know I wouldn't mind receiving the $6.95 24-karat-gold-accented square Hope dish (below; originally $20)!

Holiday Square Hope Dish

So, what are you waiting for, Christmas Eve? Start hand-crafting and sale-shopping with me sooner rather than later so we won't have to pull our hair out come December. And please send me your favorite bargain-shopping locales too--I can always use more!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

We love Lawrence Farms!

My pumpkin hanging with some pumpkins
behind the Lawrence Farms store
Ok, ok, I'll stop sleeping and eating for a second to post a promised review! Seriously, I do miss posting here more often and keeping up with all my wonderful blog friends, but I didn't remember how rough the first trimester was. And, it sure does makes a huge difference having an energetic boy to watch over this time around!

That said, amid all my eating and sleeping we did make it out to Lawrence Farms Orchards in Newburgh, NY for some apple and veggie picking at the end of last month. And we had a blast! The place is huge and though there were a lot of other folks there, at times it felt like we were wandering through the farm alone (which was so lovely and peaceful). Even somewhat late in the season, there was a good variety of veggies, pears and apples to choose from. And I really loved that everything was labeled so nicely so that you could pick and choose what to gather. Also, most everything could be picked while standing on the ground, which meant no need to wield huge picking poles while wrangling children!

In the cabbage patch
We didn't think ahead to bring a wagons or apple bags, but both are available for a small rental fee on-site. Also on-site were the most delicious apple cider donuts ever, an adorable farm store, a food stand for lunch and picnic tables (quickly-filled), some horses, two huge friendly dogs, and other animals to admire, a hay maze, and a play area filled with adorable kid-sized playhouses--a horse stable, firehouse, church and more!

We will definitely be returning to Lawrence next year--probably in the summer as well to pick more vegetables. The whole experience was definitely worth the ride upstate--and the naps we all needed to take afterward!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Baby #2 Due May 2! (A baby pool & giveaway too!)

We're having another baby this spring, due on May 2nd (a couple days after my 30th birthday no less) and we're super excited! So, pretty please forgive me for not posting frequently this past month or two--the first trimester is kicking my butt this second time around. Nausea, aversion to most smells, aches and pains, exhaustion, you name it. But, really, who wouldn't suffer through it all gladly when the outcome is an adorable, miracle of a baby?

I can't wait for Andrew to have a sibling, and, at the same time, I'm certainly scared of how things will change when there are two babies in the household. But, there are so many others before me who have done it before and survived (Heeellooooo, 19 Kids and Counting! No, seriously, I will not have 19 kids...)

Be on the lookout for reviews of new baby products (I'm gonna get me a Mamaroo!), Rockland OB/GYNs, and more, and also for my search for awesome double stroller (wow, a double stroller.) Its gonna be fun! 

Also, to make things fun, enter my baby gender and birthday pool! The person closest to the correct answer this Spring will win a set of 3 handmade soap bars from my favorite Ukrainian mall kiosk and online store Craft-o-Land. I am obsessed with their soap bars and even my super-sensitive nose still loves them. Hooray! 

Monday, September 26, 2011

You will love The Whole Package! Book Review & Giveaway

I devoured Cynthia Ellingsen's The Whole Package in about three nights--staying up way too late because the novel was such a great read! Cynthia stopped by Rockland Mother as a guest blogger last month and I have done you such a disservice in not reviewing the book until now. You are going to want to run out and read it immediately!

Berkley; Aug 2011
The story: Doris, Cheryl and Jackie are three almost-40-somethings who have been best friends since high school. Life hasn't turned out as expected for any of them: Doris, once a wild and talented soccer player, is now a prim wife, living with a unhappy husband and an ungrateful teenager daughter. Cheryl, who is divorced from her husband after she cheated on him, flits from guy to guy and works her ass off at a male-dominated marketing firm where sexual harassment is the in thing. And, Jackie, once a very promising artist who happened to married a rich older gentleman, has fled to Paris after his death to process her loss.

After Jackie receives a call from her lawyer informing her that her husband's money has run out during her time in Paris, she returns to Illinois to find her friends both in the middle of their own catastrophes: Doris' husband has left her to "find himself" on the seat of a motorcycle and Cheryl is fired from the company she helped build after her boss snoops through her files.

Drowning their sorrows at a local male strip club, the girls have a great idea--why not open a Hooter-inspired restaurant for women called The Whole Package? Why should men have all the fun? Bring on the Adonises in thongs serving goat cheese and apple salads!

Before I get carried away and give away the entire story, let's just say that the rest of the book has to do with the women trying to succeed at opening their restaurant and trying to put their lives back together. And, man, did I have a fun time following these three girls around. They fight and make up, make mistakes and figure things out, just like real girlfriends do. And Cynthia has a way with flirting/sex scenes--I really felt giddy reading them. Nothing too raunchy, but just so so sweet and sexy.

I also loved the pair of gay characters in the book, and one gorgeous man, especially, who helps Doris out or her style doldrums (and doldrums of the heart too). And, there were more than a few scenes that made me laugh out loud--like a geriatric woman dancing suggestively on a chair.

My only tiny problems: the final line of the book seems out of character for a few of the men and something happens to Cheryl at the end of the book that really is more of a big deal than it is made out to be (you will recognize it when you read it, especially if you are a mom).

Thank you Cynthia Ellingsen for such a fun read and thanks to Penguin for providing me with the book to review! I really hope there is more to come from this author soon. Until then, I will remember the characters in The Whole Package fondly, take some of their lessons learned to heart (mainly, you must take care of yourself first before you can love those around you fully), and remember certain scenes in front of a fireplace with a smile.

Leave a comment below by October 3rd to win a copy of the book!! Winner must be in USA or Canada.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Its Apple Picking Time!

I love love love apple-picking, but last year was the first time I had gone in many years. We had a great time at  the Orchards of Concklin in Pomona, NY, which are about a 10-minute drive from my parents' house. We went in late September, and there were plenty of delicious apples to pick. It wasn't crowded at all either, which was a nice bonus, and they didn't mind if you bit into an apple or two while picking (awesome!) And, of course, the orchard has its own country store which sells pies, ciders, and apple cider donuts among other things. 

It really shaped up to be a great apple-picking experience right in our own backyard. Check out their website for their apple & pumpkin picking schedules, events schedule, and more.

This year we're heading a bit farther away to pick apples because we've been invited by family friends and we like to try new things! At the end of this week we're heading up to Lawrence Farms Orchards in Newburgh, NY to pick apples, pears, sweet corn, and lots of other fresh produce. I am told that there are animals on the farm to pet (but not the horse--he bites!) and adorable wooden play houses for the kids to run through. I really can't wait for our visit, and I'll be sure to post about it soon after.

In early October, we'll be heading to the Applewood Orchards & Winery in Warwick, NY. Not only does this location offer apple-picking and home-brewed ciders (alcoholic and non), but they have hayrides and live music and puppet shows on the weekends (check ahead for schedules). I'm looking forward to our visit there as well and will definitely report back...with pictures!

So, where do you do your apple-picking? And, do you have amazing apple recipes to send me? I'm going to have bags full and I promised my dad a delicious apple pie (don't let him down!)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Pickle at the Renaissance Fair Edition

Doesn't he look a bit like a red-headed Al Pacino with a pickle cigar and a sword? Fun props courtesy of the NY Renaissance Fair (ends on Sept 25th!) 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Personal Trimmer Fail at The Adult Toy Shoppe

I think that all bloggers feel pretty much the same when it comes to receiving products for review: we're really so grateful for the opportunity and we really hope we'll like the product so that we can write a positive review. No one is happy to write a bad review when folks have been so generous as to send them a product, but we must write the truth. 
The folks at Adult Toy Shoppe have been generous to send me a couple products to review over the past few months--and this is one of those occasions where I feel bad about writing a bad review. They recently sent me their His and Her Personal Trimmer to try out, and, sadly it was a dud. 
Personal TrimmerI was really hoping it would work. I don't have much time to go to a salon for a wax and, after a few incidents, I'm getting more and more afraid of getting anywhere close to my lady bits with a razor. But, this trimmer is not anywhere near a solution for me. Both of its two shaving heads didn't work properly for me--the large shaving head (pictured) didn't shave at all and the smaller shaving head (small like a nose trimmer) worked when pushed directly onto one hair, but didn't shave close to the skin. And, really, who wants razor sharp stubble down there?  
So, I'm back to looking for an at-home solution that does not involve dangerous blade-wielding or 2nd-degree-burn-inducing hot wax. Any suggestions? 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Best Bath Crayon You'll Ever Want to Steal from Your Kid

Star Crayon in the Tub
$6.99 - Alex Rub a Dub Star Crayon
We've only got a shower and in the pursuit of expediency and not stinking, I bring the little guy in with me each morning. At first, the novelty of the shower was enough to keep him occupied, but then he started getting bored and trying to escape. Once he discovered the door opened, nothing--not duckies, not foam letters, not toy trucks--was going to keep him in. Until I remembered they made bath crayons!

We've tried a bunch of bath crayons and the Alex Star Crayon is hands-down our favorite. Its palm-size star shape is super easy for Andrew (20 months old now) to hold and saves me from having to pick up a million tiny bath crayons. It writes wonderfully and brightly on our smooth tile walls and textured shower floor. And clean up is a breeze with a sponge or washcloth. (Skip Alex's traditional Draw In The Tub Crayons--they don't write as well and aren't good for smaller children.)

We have so much fun drawing with this crayon in the shower that Andrew wants to stay in longer--and I get to actually wash my hair! I also like to leave my husband notes on the shower wall like "I love your" or "I'll kill you the next time you leave the toilet seat up."

My only gripes: the crayon heads can wear down quickly when you have a toddler grinding them into a textured shower floor and the $6.99 replacements can burn a hole in your pocket quickly. Regardless, we'll be keeping these crayons in stock at the Rockland Mother residence--how else will I get to shave my legs??

Sunday, September 11, 2011

God Bless America - September 11, 2011

I was in downtown Manhattan on September 11th, a sophomore at NYU. I was so lucky to be a safe distance away from the World Trade Center and to have not lost anyone close to me, but the fear and pain of that day still resonates within me 10 years later. All I can do is pray for those who were lost, pray for those of us who are still in and live under the threat of terrorism, and pray for those fighting for our freedom each and every day.

God bless us all and God bless America.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Make'em Jealous of your Address Labels (plus 10% discount code)

Lacey Personalized Round Stickers
Lacey; 50 for $21
I am seriously coveting the circular personalized address labels over at Fun and Sassy Designs. How cute would they look slapped on the back of your next birthday invitation, thank you note, or Christmas /holiday card? I stumbled upon the Fun and Sassy website because Mama Bargains has a selection of their circular Halloween labels priced at 50% off today ($4.25 for 20). But, I'm really more in the market for everyday labels and Christmas labels, like these here beauties.

Pinkwheel Personalized Round Stickers
Pinkwheel; 50 for $21
Fun and Sassy also has a slew of other items if you're not into the circular, from traditional labels, to cards and gift tags too. There's free shipping on orders over $50 and you can currently get a 10% discount with code 2KL4SKL. Also, for a limited time, all orders of over 60 address labels will be doubled for free. Awesome.

Shop on, friends!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Birthday Parties at The Playroom in Nyack

I've already told you guys how much I love The Playroom in Nyack and how we're planning to have Andrew's 2nd birthday party there this winter. Well, we had another great visit to the Playroom this week--Andrew made a great new friend in Playroom staff member Sunshine who so sweetly indulged him dragging her around by the hand to play!--and I picked up their birthday party details flyer to share with you all!

For $250 for a minimum of 10 children ($15 per additional child) the Playroom provides:

  • Use of their beautiful party room for 2 hours. What's great is that the party room is not actually a sealed in room but a private area separated from the main play area by a small stair case and banister. (See this gallery of photos for a better idea.) This means that kids can go back and forth between the play area and the party area and parents can keep an eye on them from the party area as well. Also, after your 2 hours in the party room are up, kids are still welcome to hang out and play. 
  • 10 party invitations ($1.00 for each additional invitation). And these are no ordinary invites--they are beautiful Dr. Seuss-themed invites. The invitation graphics are beautiful and the text is actually a Dr. Seuss-esque rhyme based on "Oh The Places You'll Go." Extremely adorable and truly special! 
  • Pizza, a snack pack of guest's choice, and water or juice for each invited child. Food for adults is not included in the party package but there are a number of local eateries from which you can order.

Taxes are included in the prices above and a $125 non refundable deposit is required to hold your date.

Playroom owner and Party Co-Coordinator, Lauren, is also available to help you customize your party in a variety of ways. From hiring a clown and procuring party paper goods, to booking live music or a photographer, she's got you covered. Just contact her at 845-512-8265 or for more info.

I hope you will check out The Playroom soon and maybe book a party there as well! My family loves this local play place and we want to have it around for a good long while! It is such a bright and cheerful venue, and one that I feel much more comfortable in with my 20-month-old than those with enormous (dangerous) inflatable toys or crowded arcades. I know you'll be just as smitten!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Irene & Me: A love/hate story

Well, hi! I've missed you, blog friends! Irene kicked our (electrical) butts which meant no lights and internet for a good 4 days. Then, since our basement-level abode was dark as a dungeon and I didn't have Dora the Explorer to help me occupy Andrew, it looked like the INSIDE of our place was hit by a hurricane too. All of this goes to explain my blog silence -- not that my feeling the need to nap every day didn't hurt as well.

The worst part about not having internet, though, was that I wasn't able to thank wonderful author Susan McCorkindale (see previous post about 500 Acres and No Place to Hide) for her generous offer of a signed bookplate to the winner of her book giveaway. A huge thank you to Susan for not only being hilarious and awesome (read her books!), but very kind.

Cloud b Twilight Constellation Night Light, TurtleBut while not having electricity/internet was a pain in the butt because of the above and we lost basically all of our refrigerated food, there were some wonderful things that came out of Irene's wrath. First, we spent a lot more time playing outside than usual and we made like pioneers at night and went to sleep with the sun at 8 (sooo refreshing!) Andrew slept in bed with us each night and it was so nice to have family cuddle time. And we actually got a lot of good use out of the Twilight Turtle we just bought (right). Going to bed with stars and the moon projected on the ceiling was so peaceful and the turtle was a lifesaver when I needed to see Andrew in the pitch-black.

That said, after the earthquake and hurricane in one week, I'm wishing for a milder fall and winter. Let's cross our fingers. Until next time!  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Review & Giveaway! 500 Acres and No Place to Hide: More Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl

500 Acres and No Place to Hide: More Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm GirlThe great folks at Penguin sent me Susan McCorkindale's hilarious memoir, 500 Acres and No Place to Hide: More Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl (NAL; August 2011). It is the follow-up novel to her first memoir Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl and, like the first, it is really a lot of fun!

Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm GirlBorn and bred Jersey Girl, Susan McCorkindale, was a high-powered Marketing Exec at Family Circle until her husband convinced her and their two young sons to move to a 500-acre beef cattle farm in Virginia. Life down South is verrry different than life in Ridgewood, NJ (how can a girl survive without a Starbucks or Bloomies for miles??) and Susan's memoirs chronicle the family's acclimation to their new rural habitat in side-splitting detail.

I really enjoyed both of Susan's memoirs--she is self-deprecating like the majority of us and the jams she gets herself into are hilarious and strangely familiar (Getting chased by a herd of cattle on her morning run? Check. Dropping a ham on the floor, washing it and serving it anyway? Why not?) And while some may be turned off that Susan is a bit of a moneyed princess who does farm work in her Jimmy Choos, I just found her unwillingness to give up the Jersey in her made me laugh even more.

My only beef (haha--beef, farm, you get it?) are the million footnotes. I'm a lover of the footnote and comments in parentheses as you can tell, but even I felt some of Susan's were superfluous. So, a little editing of the footnotes would have been nice, but the books are enjoyable anyway.

The giveaway!
Penguin is generously offering a copy of 500 Acres and No Place to Hide to a lucky Rockland Mother reader in the United States! If you're interested in winning a copy of the book, please comment below before 11:59 on August 31st.

Good luck!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Author Guest Post! Cynthia Ellingson author of The Whole Package

The Whole PackageHave I've got a treat for you today! Cynthia Ellingsen, author of the newly released and perfectly named novel THE WHOLE PACKAGE is here as a guest blogger. You're definitely going to want to hear more about Cynthia and her book--which is about a restaurant where scantily clad men do the serving. Yes! 

A full Rockland Mother review and giveaway of the book are just a couple weeks down the line too, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for that. In the meanwhile, sit back and enjoy today's guest post! 


Hi Rockland Mother! Thank you so much for having me to guest blog.

The Whole Package was released on August 2 and it’s been a delight to hear from readers. I’m going to share with you some of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked since the launch of the book.

What is The Whole Package about?

The Whole Package is about three women, friends for life, who open a restaurant staffed by scantily clad men. Very attractive, scantily clad men.

Seriously, what’s the book about?

Even though there are some very attractive, scantily clad men, the story is actually about friendship. The three main characters, Jackie, Cheryl and Doris, are best friends who have lost touch. The book is about the three of them coming back together.

How long did it take you to write it?

It took about six months to write the rough draft of The Whole Package and about a year to polish. I love to drink coffee while I write (wine doesn’t work when I’m writing - I’d nod off over the computer!) so that probably equals about 1,620 cups of coffee.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, yes and yes. In third grade, the teacher designated Friday as story writing day. He would create these blank books with wallpaper covers and we were expected to write a book every Friday. While most of the class would feign illness, I would happily scribble away.

How did you pursue a writing career?

Unfortunately, I didn’t. Not for years. I went through that thing in middle school that a lot of girls fall victim to - the ol’, “boys will only like me if I’m dumb”. So, I didn’t pursue writing as a career until I was older, wiser and... okay, fine. Smarter.

What do you hope readers will get from reading The Whole Package?

I just got a wonderful email from a reader that can help me answer this question. In her email, she talked about the various themes in the book. One message she settled upon was the importance of staying true to who you are. (One of the main characters, Jackie, is a painter who has long since given up the desire to paint. It’s only a tiny part of who she is but it’s very significant in terms of what makes her happy.) The reader pointed out that, in life, we often lose sight of what it is as women that truly makes us happy. The Whole Package reminded her the importance of staying true to who she is and to set aside time and enthusiasm for those things that bring her joy.

I hope that all readers can find a similar message as they read The Whole Package.

Thanks for reading! I hope to hear from you, too, at

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Cat Named Finn

I haven't mentioned yet that we adopted a little kitten a couple weeks ago from Hi-Tor Animal Care Center. We named our 4-month-old ball of terror Finbar (Finn for short) and he is causing quite the stir in our little family. He is ridiculously energetic which means Andrew and he are perfectly matched for play--except that Andrew has the strength of a million babies and often threatens to whack, suffocate or crush Finn and Finn has razor sharp teeth and claws that he bares indiscriminately.

Aww, look at Finn in this picture! He is so stinking adorable. We just didn't realize how much work a tiny kitten would be! We thought that cats pretty much take care of themselves, and we were wrong--small kittens want your constant attention just like human babies, and will trip, scratch and bite the hell out of you if you don't keep a spray bottle ready.

That said, we are smitten with Finn and Andrew is often brought to hysterics by his antics so this "kitten-period" is well worth it (we just hope its just a very short period...) I will be sure to post pet-related product review now that I need to learn by trial and error the best ways to tame the beast and his poop.

If you're interested in adopting a kitten from Hi-Tor, they've got an adopt one kitten get one free promotion going on this summer. The adoption fee is a hefty $145 but it includes spay/neuter, shots, and a free local vet visit. They didn't require an interview or any references when we went, so we were able to walk out the same day with a cat, but I'm not sure if that is a good thing! (Although in NYC they almost require a urine sample for you to adopt!)

They've also got dogs, small animals, adult cats, and the occasional barn animal (rooster, anyone?) to love. Check them out!

Monday, August 15, 2011

That's More Like It! Hefty 55 Qt D Style Touch Lid Wastebasket

You'll probably recall my hate letter to my Simple Human Round Trashcan. While sleek looking and metal, it was so small as to be useless and was constantly leaving me with ripped trash bags and garbage on the kitchen floor (yuck!) Well, we finally got our asses in gear and bought another--albeit plastic--wastebasket and it is a winner!

We bought Hefty's 55 Quart "D" Style Touch Lid Wastebasket at a local Target (Spring Valley, NY) for about $17.00. The trash can is large enough for all of our kitchen trash and not once has my garbage bag become lodged within it or shred into a million  pieces. It looks great in the black color we purchased--because white gets dirty so easily--and the touch lid is wonderful. This is a push button lid which needs to be manually closed, which I actually prefer over the step trashcans because you can leave the lid open for big jobs.

The cons are that, if your husband is like mine and shoves garbage in the can until it is brimming, you will need stretchy trash bags such as the ForceFlex bags so that the bags do not slip down into the wastebasket. Also, as mentioned, this is a plastic wastebasket so it will retain some odors from particularly stinky garbage. I've found that the odors actually dissipate fairly quickly, but I still like to spray inside the can with Lysol between the stinky bag changes.

Hefty 13.5-gal Touch Lid Wastebasket WhiteOh, and I can't seem to find the "D' Style Wastebasket anywhere online anymore except at Walmart ($16 in White HERE). It seems that the similar Hefty 13.5-gal Touch Lid Wastebasket has taken its place ($14.97 at Walmart in black and white HERE.)

I'm really floored that these inexpensive trash cans have the stupidly expensive Simple Human models beat. Serves me right to get all fancy when all we had to do was visit a local store and trust a brand who really knows their garbage (er, stuff)!