Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bad Idea: Crayola TaDoodles Markers for Toddlers

Crayola 3ct. Washable First Marks Red, Green, Brown
$6.64 @ Amazon
You know when you think something is a good idea but all it does is makes a big ole mess of things? Well, that's how I'd describe Crayola's TaDoodles First Marks for toddlers 18m+. These little egg-shaped animal markers are adorable and they seem like such an ingenious product--no marker caps to lose or have your little one choke on. Plus, they never dry out. But what seems to be a positive turns out to be a big negative.

These markers never dry out because the ink is the consistency of runny wet paint. It will get EVERYWHERE and is not really as easy as you would think to wash off skin. My little guy even tries to DRINK from these markers, which turns his mouth red, green or brown until I can scrub hard at him with a washcloth. But they're so darn cute that he screams when I take them away or when he glimpses them from afar (darn you little egg animals!) 

My solution? These babies are going in the trash so their cuteness won't fool me or my baby again! I plan to stick to good ole crayons until Andrew understands the concept of markers a bit better. I'll let you know when/if I find a set of crayons that he can't stick up his nose!   

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mmmmmmm.... Strawberry Daiquiri Italian Ices

Sorry I've been stingy with posting this week. We have a wonderful and hilarious cousin visiting from Switzerland--by way of Sicily--and I've been spending some quality time with her. Not to mention that our summer is filled up with hundreds (ok, tens) of BBQs. My Swiss/Italian cousin actually commented that BBQs are the true American pastime, and I think she's got a point there!

Speaking of BBQs, I've got one coming up tomorrow and I volunteered to make Strawberry Daiquiri Italian ices. What are these magical-sounding ices you ask? Just ask Martha Stewart (its her recipe--and such a simple and delicious recipe it is!)

1 pound strawberries (4 cups), rinsed and hulled
2/3 cup light rum (*Rockland Mother used Captain Morgan Spice Rum!) 
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)
Pinch of coarse salt
Garnish: strawberries

Puree strawberries, rum, water, sugar, lime juice, and salt in a blender until smooth. Divide among 14 3-ounce paper cups ( Freeze on a rimmed baking sheet for at least 5 hours. Garnish with strawberries.

I forgot to buy small cups for the ices, so I simply poured the whole mixture into a metal bowl and let it chill in the freezer overnight. I was sure to stir it a couple times too just to make sure the alcohol didn't all sink to the bottom. I also made 1 1/2 times the recipe and cut back on the sugar because my strawberries were sweet and I wanted a tarter ice. End result: very (berry?) delicious. (I'm not certain why the commenter on says her ices came out tasting like chemicals... unless maybe it was her water or the strawberries she used? Be sure to taste your fresh ingredients folks!)

Martha also has recipes for Mojito Ices and Margarita Ices--yum! Make them the next time you're feeling American and firing up the BBQ!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mary Poppins Made Me Cry (In a good way!)

Today I saw Mary Poppins on Broadway and it was simply amazing! If you have young children--or simply have fond memories of Mary Poppins from when you were a child--you must see this stunning Disney musical.

The musical features all the beloved songs from the movie ("A Spoonful of Sugar," "Jolly Holliday," "Chim Chim Cher-ee," a tear-inducing rendition of "Feed the Birds," etc.) and some new numbers that are really outstanding. Mrs. Banks has a beautiful number that is so touching ("Being Mrs. Banks") And I just loved one of the new finale songs called "Anything Can Happen." A line from the song goes: If you reach for the heavens, you get the stars thrown in. Simply beautiful. 
Some of the songs missing from the musical are songs that I didn't really care for in the first place: "Sister Suffragette," "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank," etc. I did miss "I Love to Laugh," though, but it was refreshing to see a new spin on Mary Poppins rather than simply watching the movie word for word on the stage.
The cast was amazing--especially Ashley Brown as Mary Poppins, Gavin Lee as Bert, and Megan Osterhaus as Mrs. Banks. Ashley and Megan have gorgeous voices and portrayed their characters perfectly, and I can't rave enough about Gavin Lee. His Bert was hilarious and full of energy--a respectful nod to Dick Van Dyke's portrayal of the character in the movie, but also a character all of his own. His dancing even reminded me of Gene Kelly's (a favorite of mine.) 
The set was as beautiful as all Disney musical sets are, and the special effects had young and old alike gasping with pleasure. Aside from Mary Poppins' flying, Bert dances on the ceiling and marble statues come to life. And there's just so much, much more. 
The only part of the show that had me saying "huh" was during a song called "Temper, Temper (Playing the Game)" when the children's toys grow to adult size and start singing and dancing around. I thought is was a bit scary and noticed children in the audience cringing a bit too. You might want to give small children fair warning that this song is in the first act. 
Mary Poppins is playing at the New Amsterdam Theater (2 hr 40 min run time) and tickets range from $70 to $130 . For $100 a ticket, my cousin and I had wonderful seats in the front right balcony. I found them to be expensive, like most tickets are, but totally worth it. Mary Poppins actually flew right up in front of us during the finale so we were in perfect position to enjoy that!)

I hope you'll have a jolly holiday with Mary!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Freebie Flyby: Free Sample of Jif To-Go Peanut Butter

Jif To Go Creamy Peanut Butter, 8 single 1.5 oz. cups (Pack of 6)
Target has a free sample of Jif To-Go Peanut Butter! Sign up for a free sample now before supplies run out (it will arrive in 4-6 weeks). 
I never knew that to-go peanut butter existed, so I'm excited to try this one out. Thanks to Surviving the Stores for the heads up about this awesome freebie!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day to all the world's wonderful fathers! I hope you have plans to spend this day with your loved ones. This lucky mama is off to a barbecue in a couple hours. What a welcome occasion to shirk the housework in favor of celebrating my many blessings.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Free Food for Dad on Father's Day!!

Ok, ok. I totally slacked on Father's Day. I provided you guys with a million Mother's Day gift ideas but, for Father's Day, not a one. And--yikes--we've only got two more shopping days to go! What to do?

If your husband or father is an outdoors-enthusiast like mine is, make a beeline to a sporting goods shop (like Matt's Sporting Goods at 244 Rte 9W in West Haverstraw) and pick up a gift certificate. DO NOT try to pick out a gift from the shop. Part of the beauty of this gift is that you're giving him permission wander around the store glaze-eyed for a good hour or two.

Next, check out the list of free food deals below provided by Surviving the Stores and treat that special dad to a delicious treat:

Beef O BradyBeef O Brady’s – Free Meal for Dad on Father’s Day WYB 1 Entree
BJBJ’s – Free Commemorative BJ’s Pint Glass for Dad’s on Father’s Day Weekend (6/18 -16/19)
Culvers CouponsCulver’s – Free 1 Scoop Sundae for Dad on Father’s Day
First Watch CouponsFirst Watch – Free Golf Ball for Dad WYB Breakfast, Brunch or Lunch on Father’s Day
IKEA RestaurantIKEA Restaurant – Free Breakfast for Dad Before 11AM on Father’s Day
Pat and Oscars CouponsPat & Oscars – 20% Off Any Purchase on Father’s Day
Souper Salad CouponsSouper Salad – for Buy 1 Adult Buffet and 1 Drink Get 1 Buffet Free Father’s Day Only
Spaghetti Warehouse CouponsSpaghetti Warehouse – Free Lasagne or Spaghetti Entree for Dad on Father’s Day
TCBY CouponsTCBY – Free Small Cup of Yogurt for Dad on Father’s Day
The Pasta House CouponsThe Pasta House – Free Spaghetti with Meatsauce and Piece of Cheesecakeon for Dad on Father’s Day

Now that's a gift for you and him! Hope you have a great Father's Day weekend!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Freebie Flyby: Free Romance Novels for Kindle!

I learned of this great deal from Three Boys and a Dog: Amazon has a selection of romance novels for Kindle on-sale today for FREE. Um, wow! Some of the titles do seem kind of silly, but quite a few actually sound like good reads, With a price like $0, though, how can you go wrong? Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Surprisingly Effective - Babies R Us Brand Stove Guard

There are some child safety products that people think are unnecessary, and some may say a stove guard is one of them. Even so, I still wanted one to help prevent Andrew's sneaky little hands from reaching the hot stove top. And I must say--good decision, Lisa!

Stove Guard - Prince LionHeart  - Babies"R"UsI chose the Babies R Us brand stove guard  ($19.99) and I am really pleasantly surprised at the quality and effectiveness of the product. The three-panel guard expands to fit most any stove and it does a great job of blocking both curious little hands and oil splatters. And its simple to assemble--just thoroughly clean the area where you will stick the included adhesive tabs, attach the black panel clips to the stove with the adhesive, and slide in the plastic panels (slide them in from the side for an easier go of it). 

A big problem with many stove guards is that the adhesive included is often not strong enough. And, after three months of use, the adhesive on two of our clips is rock solid. The third clip, however, is starting to peel away from the stove a bit because I often forget the stove guard is there and knock into it with my arm while cooking/cleaning. But its such an easy fix: I plan to just replace the adhesive with a store-bought heavy duty adhesive tab when needed.

If you have a little one who is constantly pulling on the guard, however, you might have a problem with this product--the adhesive is eventually going to give way under the stress. Andrew hasn't realized he can pull on the guard at all, though, and, since I always monitor him when he's in the kitchen, I don't foresee this being a problem. Of course, toddlers do have a way of surprising us... ! 

That said, I really do feel this stove guard is a quality product and it has been totally worth the $20 we spent on it. Now if only we could find oven knob covers that worked! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Are you living rich with coupons?

I've been up to a lot lately--taking on new freelance clients, desperately trying to finish some long-overdue unpacking (sad, I know) and, also, COUPONING!

I know, I know. You think I'm going to turn into one of those crazy extreme couponers. But, really, don't you think its pretty cool how they pay almost nothing for groceries? Though, they really don't have much time for anything else but clipping and shopping...

But "everything in moderation" is what they say and, if you hop on over to Living Rich with Coupons, you can "moderately" get into the couponing game and save some serious bucks without sacrificing too much time and effort. Site owner Cindy Livesey does all the heavy work for you--matching up coupons with deals store by store so that you can get items for free or at a seriously discounted rate. She provides links to store coupon policies, online coupon sites, and tells you what coupon flyers hold the key coupons for great deals. You can even print out a shopping list from the site. (Don't forget to check out the wonderful little how-to called Extreme Couponing 101 which will help you get started.)

And, seriously, that's just scratching the surface of what Living Rich with Coupons has to offer.

Now, I'm not going to say that it doesn't take time to get into couponing. You need to locate the coupons online/in flyers and cut them out and organize them, and it takes time to build up your coupon stash so that you'll be ready for a future store deal. Shopping with coupons (and a baby, in my case) also takes a bit more time and effort too. And, you really can't become an extreme couponer unless you have some miraculous access to a ton of coupon flyers (do you know a mailman? a newspaper publisher?) Once you put in the small effort and reap even a little bit of the benefits, though, you'll be hooked!

By taking just a few minutes out of my day today I bought:

2 Nestle Nesquick 7-serving Chocolate Milk Powder Pouches
2 Packages of Reynolds Wrap 50-count Foil Squares
2 Tubes of Colgate Toothpaste
2 Bestlife Buttery Sprays
1 Package Wacky Mac Veggie Spirals

Cost: $1.19
Everything but the Reynolds Wrap Foil ($.50 each) and the Wacky Mac ($.19) was free!

That. Is. Ridiculous. And awesome. So why not hop on over to Living Rich with Coupons and give it a try yourself? Just remember to leave some free items for me on my next shopping trip!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dear Trash Can, I hate you.

simplehuman Step Trash Can, Round, Fingerprint-Proof, 8 Gallons, Stainless Steel
The offender:
8-gallon round
Dear Simplehuman Round Trash Can

I hate you. You do not make my life simple at all. Why do I have to spend time I don't have tucking my garbage bag into some weird wire contraption just to hold it inside of you (who cares if the garbage bag shows outside of the can?) And why, oh why, oh why, can I not get the fill garbage bag out of you in one piece? I pull and I pull and the bag slowly inches out, ripping in a million spots. Then, I need to put the ripped trash bag into another bag and change my soiled clothes and wash the floor. Did I mention that I hate you yet? 

Were you created to make life simple or is it that very simple humans created you? For $40ish dollars (at Target), I expected more! Now I just have agita and the need to buy another can.  

I am not a fan,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The best fish and chips in the (Rock)land! Harbour House in Piermont

The parking lot exterior of the Harbour House doesn't necessarily scream "good eats." Located at the abrupt end of Piermont Avenue in the quaint riverside village of Piermont, NY, the restaurant doesn't have prime riverfront real estate like other area eateries do or a spot on either side of well-shopped Piermont Ave. But don't you judge this book by its cover! The food at this little pub is outstanding!

I ordered the fish and chips with steak fries for lunch on a recent visit and my husband and I agreed that these were the best fish and chips we have ever had--and he lived for years in Ireland! The batter was so light and crispy and the fish perfectly moist and flaky. Served with tartar sauce and a huge side of tasty steak fries, it made for a sinfully delicious lunch, but one that didn't leave me overfull. 

Matt had a yummy bowl of cream of potato soup and mussels in white wine sauce that were out of this world. I am actually a bit afraid to eat mussels because of how they look, but I gobbled these right up. They were so, so flavorful and not a bit gummy or gritty (or scary). Needless to say, Matt was over the moon about his meal. And he made it a point to find out if the chef was from Ireland since the food really brought him back to when he lived there (the chef was not Irish; the owner is). 

And all this deliciousness only cost around $35!! Seriously, we get close to spending that much at McDonald's sometimes. 

The atmosphere at Harbour House is great too. Its not stuffy, but not too divey either. And you can definitely bring kids there (they have highchairs.) Our only complaint--we were there on a Saturday afternoon and it seemed like there was only one waiter servicing the whole restaurant. Our delicious meal came out really quickly, but, after that, it was hard to track down the waiter again for drink refills and malt vinegar for our chips. 

We finally flagged him down, though, and we'll definitely be back for more Harbour House fare soon. If you're interested in trying it out, check out their website or just swing by: 

Harbour House
457 Piermont Ave
Piermont, NY 10968

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Snort! Giveaway & Review of A Pug's Tale!

I'm braving through one tyrant of a summer cold today because I have to tell you about A PUG'S TALE by Alison Pace (released today from Berkley!). I LOVE this book and have actually been working with Alison to get the word out to other bloggers about its release today. And I've gotta tell you--all the bloggers who have read A PUG'S TALE just adore it!

**About the book:

Metropolitan Museum of Art paintings restorer Hope McNeill feels like she finally has it all. Aside from the dream job, she has an amazing boyfriend who has left his adorable black pug Max in her care while he's overseas on a humanitarian mission. That she’s able to sneak Max into work with her is just the icing on the cake--that is, until an art heist on her watch brings everything tumbling down.

When Hope discovers that a priceless oil painting is missing, her boss and the museum’s development head keep it quiet in hopes that they can retrieve the painting themselves. But Hope is certain that she is their top suspect and secretly takes things into her own hands. Following anonymous clues on a scavenger hunt throughout the museum--and letting guidance from a wealthy museum benefactress and even Max help her along the way--Hope inches closer and closer to a truth that will change her life forever.** 

What I loved most about this book are the things that everybody seems to be raving about too. First, the descriptions of pugs in A PUG'S TALE are just spot-on perfect! If you have ever met (and loved) a snorting pug, you will be laughing aloud at the pug antics in this book. Also, I was just riveted by the behind the scenes museum details in the book, and the scavenger hunt throughout the museum left me thirsting for more (really, I would like to go on my own scavenger hunt through the Met!) 

Also, A PUG'S TALE is actually a standalone to another great book, PUG HILL, and I was so happy to be "reunited" with Hope again. I really fell in love with the character and her lovable, so-New-York neurose in the first novel, and I was just so glad to see her get what she wanted in life (but I won't tell you anymore or that would be spoiling the fun!) And, Alison's writing is just so much fun and so witty that, with both books, I found myself laughing out loud or marking down passages to share with friends. Now that's the hallmark of a good book--the want to share it with others!

Ok, enough of my blathering. Check out the first chapter of the book for yourself HERE, visit Alison's website for more info, and then enter below to win your very own copy of A PUG'S TALE courtesy of Berkley. All you have to do is follow Rockland Mother and comment below before 11:59pm on June 12, 2011.

Disclosure: I work with Alison Pace and was provided a copy of A PUG'S TALE to give away by Berkley. The opinions above are my honest opinions and were in no way paid for. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Gnomeo & Juliet - Fun for Mom & Dad Too!

Gnomeo & Juliet is out on DVD! We never got around to seeing it in the theater--you know, because bringing a one-year-old into a packed movie theater doesn't always turn out well--so I was thrilled to see the DVD for sale ($16) at our local Toys R Us.

I really, really enjoyed this movie! It is an adorable take on the star-crossed lovers storyline, with two lawn gnomes in England, from feuding yards, falling in love. Elton John worked on the movie and the entire film is set to a dance-inducing soundtrack of his classics. Plus, he wrote and sings one amazing, tear-jerking new song in the movie called "Love Builds a Garden."

The graphics are colorful and attention-grabbing for the little ones, and the array of lawn characters are hilarious--a gnome wearing a Borat-like bathing suit, a plastic flamingo with an adorable latin accent, a fisherman gnome who is excited to keep catching the one fish perpetually attached to his hook, etc. And, as I said earlier, the music and dancing will get them onto their feet!

Adults will definitely get some of the jokes more than their kids do ("There was a squirrel... and he dropped his nuts!") and there are also very sad moments that might need explaining and might cause older kids and parents to shed a few tears (a family breaks up, Featherstone the flamingo loses his mate, Gnomeo is presumed dead at one point, just like in Romeo & Juliet). Also, as the whole movie is based around a feud between the blue and the red lawn gnomes, there is a ton of animated lawn warfare! Gnomes get smashed and lawns defaced--this movie is rated G, but sensitive kids might be frightened by the battles.

All that said, Gnomeo & Juliet really has the makings of a film that the entire family can enjoy and I wholeheartedly recommend that you check it out. You should also check out "Love Builds a Garden" on YouTube or elsewhere. With bittersweet lyrics like the following, you'll be inspired to give your own little flowers extra kisses to ensure a frost never touches your own garden:

We'd get a little rain
Then the sun came out again
But a frost it's hard to fight
Once it takes hold flowers die
There's only so much you can do
To keep some things alive

And love builds a garden
Grew it from the ground up
Each one of us knowing
Every inch of it was us
We pulled it all together
Hoping and believing
That love built this garden
For the two of us to dream in

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mickey Mouse Flip Open Sofa Bed Review (My 200th Post!)

Disney Mickey Mouse Flip Open Slumber Sofa
Hot dog!
This is officially my 200th post! It would have come sooner if my poor little one wasn't so sick with a cough and cold this week, Please send some healing vibes his way!

Last week, we finally went ahead and got our little guy a little flip open sofa bed (ok, my mom went out and got it for him.) They are kind of expensive ($45 at BRU; $35-$50 at Walmart), so I tried for awhile to resist or find alternatives to buying it. But he is just too small to get into any of the kids chairs that were handed down to us--and his grandma couldn't resist making him smile with this toddler-friendly Mickey Mouse couch.

Honestly, this sofa makes all of us smile! Andrew loves to just chill out in it with a drink and a snack. He's even been napping in it while he's sick so I can be close by when he chokes on flegm (poor baby!) Last week his friend used it as an impromptu napping spot as well and he and said friend then sat in it together for some best buddy time in front of the TV today. Very. Fricken. Cute.

When folded up like a seat, the sofa is about 6 inches from the ground and easy for a small munchkin like Andrew to get in and out of. The low height and soft foam chair material also prevent any high altitude chair tip overs (and resulting tears).

Flipped out, it has enough napping space for him to spare--and it comes complete with a Mickey blanket that zips to the foot of the bed creating a sleeping bag effect. Thankfully, the blanket and the entire sofa cover zip off for machine washing, so don't flip out (sorry, a pun) if your little one spills juice all over it.

The only drawbacks? The fabric on the underside of the blanket is a bit scratchy, so you won't necessarily want to drape it over baby's bare legs. Also, while the manufacture states that the couch will seat 2 children up to age 6, I'm not certain they will actually fit--although I've laid down with Andrew in the bed and felt just fine and cozy!