Back to School Shopping Tips at The Mills at Jersey Gardens

I take my shopping very seriously, and that goes for our back-to-school shopping! So, imagine the elation when I learned that one of my blogging pals was going to be a featured speaker at a back-to-school luncheon hosted by my absolute favorite outlet mall in NJ. 10915046 10153528552209972 238288810995648385 o
Last week, The Mills at Jersey Gardens hosted a power lunch and featured lifestyle blogger and fashion trendspotter, Corine Ingrassia of Complicated Mama, and consumer and money-saving expert, Andrea Woroch. Together with several fellow NJ influencers, I got a guided tour and some Insider tips from The Mills at Jersey Gardens, as well as some great fashion and savings tips from the experts. 

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Since we’re all about spotting the hottest trends while saving some money, I thought I’d share some great insight from the experts.

 

 

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Back to School style tips from Corine Ingrassia:

 

Plan to layer- Think: cardigans paired with swing dresses, hoodies peeking through denim or leather moto jackets, crop tops over chambray button downs

Layering allows you to mix, match and stretch some of your kid’s favorite summer styles long into fall.

 

Choose quality over quantity

While we all love a good bargain—ultimately—with all the wear and tear kids give their clothes, we need them to last. Look for sales on brands you know will last the long haul.

 

Know your kid’s personal style

When kids are little we have more to say in what they wear, but as they reach the tween years, they develop their own sense of style (for better or for worse).

 

Top trends for 2015 BTS:

Mix and match prints

Jogger pants 

flannel, florals, moto/chunky ankle boots, just like the 90s!

Neon is still holding strong

Textures and prints

Slip-ons are top picks for kids: ballet flats, vans, Nike Roshe Runs, Bobs, ankle boots and moto boots

 

According to NRF’s Back-to-School Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend $630.36 on electronics, apparel and other school needs, down from $669.28 last year. As for where consumers will finish their shopping, discount stores will see the most traffic (53.4%), while 46.8 percent will shop at department stores.

 

Money Saving Tips for BTS Shopping from Andrea Woroch

Andrea Woroch had some excellent tips on saving money while back to school shopping at The Mills at Jersey Gardens.

 

List and plan: always devise a plan when heading to any outlet mall. 

Research deals in advance

Hold out for Holidays: While outlet centers offer discounts of 30-40% on clothing throughout the year, the best time to shop for serious savings is over holiday weekends like upcoming Labor Day when you can expect deals to be as big as 70% off.

Look for coupons, including the coupon book that you can buy at the mall.
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Pay with cash

Buy off-season

Review the return policy

 

Tips for Shopping at The Mills at Jersey Gardens from an experienced (obsessed) shopper

Having been a loyal shopper of The Mills at Jersey Gardens even before I became a parent—or a blogger for that matter—I was quite thrilled to learn several things that I didn’t know about this mall. (I had no idea about the coupon book!) I do my major shopping trips here, such as back to school and my Christmas shopping because I get the best bang for my buck. Here in the northern NJ and the NYC area where retails stores are plentiful AND top dollar, maximizing your money on name brands is a big deal, and to me, so worth the few extra miles.

 

 

When shoe shopping goes awry. #4hrsofcrazy

A photo posted by Jen Rabulan-Bertram (@jenrab) onAug 29, 2013 at 11:41am PDT

 

Timing: Get there early on a weekday if you can swing it. Weekends can be crowded and overwhelming, even moreso at an outlet mall for BTS time. If possible plan to spend a long time at the mall. Bargain hunting takes time! Definitely don’t shop at this mall if you’re on a time crunch because you will be late! (speaking from experience!)

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Parking: I never park at a mall’s main entrance. I always park at larger store’s entrance and walk into the mall that way. I always park at Bed Bath and Beyond along the right side of The Mills. Parking doesn’t fill up as fast and it’s centrally located. I’ve been known to drop off bags to my car often because I buy so much here, so closer parking can be key!

Coupons: Like Andrea’s tips above state, be sure to look for coupons before shopping. Since I shop at this mall so often, I’m on mailing lists for most of my favorite stores. In addition to printing out coupons from online, make sure to grab those coupons from the mail. Also, check out your memberships for extra discounts. In my AAA newspaper, I found a coupon for 40% off at Reebok! Also, be sure to mark your digital coupons as favorites on your phone so you can pull it up when you check out. The mall has free wi-fi, so if you find yourself in a long line, Google “current coupons” for that store.

 

Discount stores: These stores have the best selection for name brands! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scored deals upon deals for brands that we love at this Marshalls or Saks off Fifth Avenue. We’re big into surf and skate brands; considering the demographic and popularity of these items in northern Jersey, we tend to score them on clearance racks because they’re just not that popular here.

And speaking of deals, since I finished most of my boys’ schools shopping earlier this summer, I splurged on a few items for myself for our trip to Va!
 

 

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The Mills at Jersey Gardens is located at 651 Kapkowski Rd., Elizabeth, NJ 07201, a few minutes from Newark airport and right by the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.

Full disclosure: I received a generous gift card and gift bag as part of my partnership with The Mills at Jersey Gardens. As always, all opinions are my own. 

 

 

 

Enjoy Summer Memories at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk + #JenksMemory Giveaway

As far as summer fun goes, we’ve been pretty lucky this year. Between hanging out with friends at our lake all day, playing baseball, rugby, running a triathlon and riding bikes in the neighborhood, we’re so fortunate to have so much to do this summer.

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However, with all the fun activities and sports, that’s not to say we don’t love a good road trip. Our summer isn’t complete with a few trips to the beach. When heading down the shore, to Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant is our go-to beach.IMG 0691
At just a little over an hour away, Jenkinson’s is a family-friendly beach that has an attraction for everyone in the whole family. From games to rides to fun food to mini golf to relaxing on the sandy beaches, for us northerners, Jenkinson’s is the quintessential summer at the shore.

This week, we took our friends to their first ever jaunt down the shore. First stop per the kids’ request: Jenkinson’s Aquariaum to say hello to the penguins, Luseal and Seaquin.

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The aquarium, always a hit for rainy days, is super fun to visit mid-day to get a reprieve from the weather and crowds. We enjoyed the aquarium and didn’t have to fight too many crowds on the sunny day when we visited. The sharks, penguins, touch tank and seals are our absolute favorites, but I have to say, the clownfish up front is a runner up.

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Weekday visits to Jenkinson’s Boardwalk is such a treat because, not only do you get to enjoy the beach, depending on the time of summer, you get a reprieve from the crowds.

Since we visited later in the summer, vacationer traffic seemed to be dwindling, so we had the restaurants to ourselves. We had lunch at the Pavillion, one of our favorites. What makes this spot so great is that it’s close to the Aquarium and it has a variety of food for everyone. Even better? It’s an enclosed area to beat the heat. As with any destination type of place, food can be pricey for an entire family. The kids always love the lunches served in buckets that double as beach toys. Portions are big here, which is always a plus.

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Roof Top Mini Golf is another must-do for our family. Last summer, my husband was toting my toddler around as we played, this year, it was fun to see my little dude go all Happy Gilmore on the putting green. Because this Mini Golf area is on a rooftop, there isn’t much shade.
IMG 0642So if you don’t mind the heat, there aren’t too many other people playing in the middle of the day. It’s a fun and clean course, perfect for friends and family to take on a friendly game of mini golf. Do yourself a favor though, watch out for the slippery puddles after it rains! We had a little accident when we missed a puddle and fell hard onto the concrete. Nevertheless, Roof Top Mini Golf is a blast for everyone.

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Perhaps, one of the things that sets Jersey Shore boardwalks aside from other beach towns is the fun amusements! Having grown up in Virginia Beach, we had several amusement rides, but nothing quite as expansive as what you can find at Jenkinson’s.

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The kiddie rides are always in great condition with minimal lines during the week. The big kid rides are fast and can’t be missed. I love that my bigger guy and littler guy could still ride rides together. And hey, I enjoyed hopping on a kiddie ride for good measure, too!

The Flitzer, though, is still our absolute favorite ride. For a mini roller coaster, you can’t miss this super fun attraction.
At a little over an hour away, Jenkinson’s is a fantastic option for a day trip, whether it’s on one of these last summer weekends or on a weekday with the kids. With the very cool aquarium, beach access, plenty of restaurants and treats, mini golf, games and rides, Jenkinson’s is fun for the whole family!

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Headed to Jenkinson’s later this summer? Be sure to check out Hot Halloween which runs August 25-27th. In September, don’t miss Labor Day Fireworks on the 7th, Grandparent’s Day at the Aquarium, Behind the Scenes Tour at the Aquarium on the 19th and Tea by the Sea at the Aquarium on the 24th. For a full line up of activities, head to Jenkinson’s Events.

In conjunction with NKT, and as part of my participation in the Jenkinson’s Memory Maker program, I’m thrilled to be able to giveaway a weekday VIP voucher to Jenkinson’s Boardwalk that includes wristbands for up to 5 people.
Head to Rafflecopter below or on our Facebook Page to enter. Good luck!

The wristbands include unlimited rides in the amusement area, Rooftop Mini Golf, admission to Jenkinson’s Aquarium, admission to the Fun House, beach access and Jenkinson’s bath house. Not valid for parking. This voucher is valid Monday-Friday only, no weekends or holidays, and expires 12/31/15. This giveaway ends on 8/16/15 at 11:59pm! A random winner will be announced on Monday, 8/17.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Full disclosure: as a Jenkinson’s Memory Maker, I have been provided with a voucher for my visit. All opinions expressed are my own.

An Ode to Music and Relationships: Ricki and the Flash Review

This one isn’t for the kids, but definitely for the parents who love music and for those that can relate to chasing dreams.

Rock dramas could easily populate a genre of its own. The new film, Ricki and the Flash starring Meryl Streep, is a unique story that seems to transcend genres and your typical rockstar story.

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Directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Diablo Cody, Ricki and the Flash is a story about a musician who set out to chase dreams at the expense of her family and traditional path in life. Ricki Randazzo, the veteran rocker, played by Streep, is at her best on stage, alongside of her multi-faceted band, the Flash. When her adult daughter is facing a crisis back home in Indiana, she has a chance to redeem her role as mother and come to the rescue, when she, herself, could use a dose of the same support and rescuing.

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In Ricki and he Flash, Meryl’s starring role has the potential to upstage this heartwarming story. Ricki’s relationship with her daughter, Julie, played by Mamie Gummer, is a modern mother-daughter relationship heightened by dysfunction and healing.  Mamie and Meryl’s onscreen relationship catapulted their real-life mother-daughter chemistry, and further solidified Mamie’s rising star status. Man, does she play the angsty, bitchy victim well!

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Ricki’s boyfriend, Greg, played by the ruggedly charming, Rick Springfield, lifts the love storyline at the best possible moments. Kevin Kline played a conservative secondary character as Ricki’s ex-husband. The talented Andra McDonald was nice to see in the film, but I thought her character was underutilized. 

The strengths of this film are the relationships, the live music and the raw emotion. When all three catalysts are in full force, expect all the feelings. All of them.

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As Ricki, we see Meryl as we’ve never seen her before. She’s passionate about her music and doesn’t apologize for chasing her dream to be a rockstar. At one point of the film, while on stage, she starts a diatribe about why women are punished for putting careers first. We knew she was talented, but she takes her musical chops to the next level. She learned to play the guitar for the film and shows her rockstar status in various scenes. Of all the songs played, “Cold One” is undoubtedly the most unforgettable. This song catapults different meanings with every time it’s played, with the last scene making it all come full circle.

If you’ve ever chased a dream, wanted to chase a dream or had a dysfunctional relationship, Ricki and the Flash will resonate with you. The relationships portrayed by Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer and Rick Springfield make this film worth seeing and believing in second chances.

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On that note, I had a cool opportunity to sit in on a blogger junket with three of the main characters of Ricki and the Flash. As expected, Meryl was gracious, Mamie was cool and reflective, but quite honestly, Rick stole the show for many of us who grew up listening to him.

 

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I have a short video to share of his impromptu serenade! Several people asked the predictable questions about Meryl working with Mamie, and what it was like for Meryl to play live for the movie. (It was great to work together; and it was fun to rock out with Rick and the band!)

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The one question I asked had to do with music for the film and how music affects them. 

 “The music and lyrics throughout Ricki and the Flash complemented the storyline and evoked so much emotion between Ricki and Julie and Ricki and Greg. Do any of you have songs or lyrics that could be a part of your life’s soundtrack?

Mamie Gummer answered that she spent many years listening to powerful female musicians such as Sarah McClaughlan, Fiona Apple and attending Lillith Fair—the type of music that speaks to your emotions.

 

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As a college kid of the 90s, I can totally relate to this language and music choice!

Ricki and the Flash is now in theaters and is rated PG-13. 

 

Summer Reading Fun with PBS Kids

Like so many of you, our summer has been an endless list of outdoor fun. Between summer sports and fun at the lake, we’ve rarely had time to sit in and veg in front of the tv. Before we start our day, however, I tend to do some work and let Biggie enjoy some unstructured play and reading time. Before any screen time, he has to read or create something for at least 30 minutes. So far, we’ve read a Ronald Dahl book and worked on the latest Wimpy Kid book.

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Our friends at PBS Kids are always encouraging educational fun. In fact, for this summer’s reading initiative, they sent us a kit to have a little reading party with friends. Since we’re all about integrating reading in our day, we happily obliged, and had some friends over for a dessert reading party!

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In addition to our desserts, we all hung out and shared our love of books. The older kids had fun reading to the younger kids and the younger kids loved telling fun stories to the older kids. We chatted about what makes reading so fun, and also what kinds of books catch our eyes.

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In honor of the reading party, PBS Kids sent us fun goodies to share with our guests. We loved sharing bookmarks, reading charts, badges, booklets, and yes, even books! Harper Collins sent over a selection of I Can Read books, which were perfect for my soon-to-be 2nd grader and our young reading friends. I loved that so many favorite books were included, such as Fancy Nancy and Amelia Bedelia!

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Beyond the party, our friends have been loving keeping track of their reading time and sharing what books they’ve loved. We’re well on our way to finishing our new I Can Read favorites and reading aloud to little bro!

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A big thank you to PBS Kids for sending us supplies to host our Summer Reading Party. We loved sharing the reading fun with our friends! For more information about PBS Reading programs, be sure to check them out online.

 

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Full disclosure: As a PBS Kids VIP, I was sent supplies to host a summer reading party.  As always, all opinions on NKT are our own.

Highlights from the Kidz Vuz Back to School Bash

Our friends at Kidz Vuz always know how to throw a party. And luck us, we had the chance to participate in their really cool Back to School Bash.

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Held at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, the Kidz Vuz Back to School Bash was a great mix of fun family and tween brands, many of which we already know and love. We did, however, have a chat to chat with brands or products that were definitely the epitome of The Next Kid Thing! I’ll have to do several posts about the Kidz Vuz Back to School Bash, but for now, I wanted to share some of our favorite new and upcoming things in the kid realm. 

MetKids, one of my personal favorite concepts at the BTS Bash is a digital aspect made for kids, with and by kids. I was shown a cool app that kids can use in collaboration with the Met. There’s a cool app that kids can use while at the Met, as well as on its own. The features will launch soon, but I loved learning about MetKids. What a fun way to get the kids more engaged while at my favorite NYC cultural institutions! 

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LegoDimensions seemed to be Jack’s absolute favorite booth, considering we spent most of our afternoon there! Lego Dimensions is a new game that merges physical LEGO brick building with digital gameplay. 
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It will feature some of your family’s favorite brands including DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings, Scooby-Doo and The Simpsons…all in the Starter Pack!  Players begin the LEGO Dimensions experience by building the LEGO minifigure heroes, LEGO Batman, LEGO Gandalf and Wyldstyle from The LEGO Movie, and fire-up the game.  

 

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Following the in-game build instructions to assemble the loose bricks, creating the LEGO Gateway and placing onto the LEGO Toy Pad to transport the characters into the game.  It will be available for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation4, PlayStation3 and the Wii U system from Nintendo.  On the heels of the popularity of Skylanders and Disney Infinity, we’re absolutely loving this concept and can’t wait for it to be released on September 27, which just happens to be Biggie’s birthday! 

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Biggie had a great time checking out Wonder Workshop. He had a chance to play around with robots, Dash and Dot and get a glimpse of the fun of coding and engage in STEM! I loved seeing all the kids control these cool robots. I even had to jump and raise my feet a few times when the robots went rogue! So fun! 
 
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We had such a great time at Kidz Vuz Back to school bash and will be sure to share more of my favorites!
 
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Pixels is Out-of-This-World Funny

If I had a quarter for every game I played at the arcade with my brothers and friends at our beloved Aladdin’s Castle, I could most certainly be a wealthy world leader by now. Instead, I’m more than happy to write about the new movie, Pixels, where a group of guys (including the fictitious leader of the free world) relive their childhoods and join forces with the government to conquer aliens and secure hero status for gamers everywhere.

 

 

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Having grown up with video games at our fingertips, the latest buddy comedy, Pixels, is a hilarious nod to the classic arcade so as this genre of entertainment has evolved from our childhoods. In the film, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler,) Will Cooper (Kevin James,) Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad,) and Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage) are kid video game phenoms who battle it out in the 80s. Fast forward to real time, Will Cooper is the President and his best friend, Sam, is an electronics installer who partner together to figure out how to save the world with their video game skills. Lamonsoff, a theory conspirist, and The Fire Blaster round out the gaming gurus with their over-the-top characters who exudes ridiculousness throughout Pixels. Michelle Monahan’s Lt. Violet Van Patten is fierce as the female lead who keeps the guys in check, especially Sandler’s Sam Brenner.

 

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When the aliens feel threatened and proposition Earth to several “real-life” video game duels, Sam and company must join forces to save the world with their gaming skills. The movie’s premise is as hilarious as it sounds, and truly lived up to the same Sandler-esque comedy our generation knows and loves. Like most of Sandler’s films, this one had its fair share of significant one-liners that kids of the 80s can appreciate.

As expected, Pixels is a riot, filled with gratuitous video game references, action and nostalgia, ideal for this generation’s parents who were arcade enthusiasts. Older kids would get a kick out of Pixels, but if they’re not up to their 80s pop culture, expect to whisper explanations throughout the film.

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Last week, I had the chance to sit in on the blogger junket with the esteemed director, Chris Columbus, Adam Sandler, Josh Gad, Michelle Monahan and Kevin James. The ensemble was “on” and kept us on our toes and fed into the kid interviewers in the crowd.

Sandler made us chuckle with his experience and thoughts of the way we grew up playing at the arcade. In fact, the arcade he went to as a kid was really called the Electric Game Factory, just like in the movie. We learned that Michelle enjoyed exuding girl power as her turn as Lt. Van Patten. Josh Gad’s ability to charm the room was no surprise. And, quite frankly, it was an honor to listen to Chris Columbus speak, considering many of us have grown up with his artistry on the screen.

But it was Kevin James, who is typically, the awkward secondary character who kept his cool during our interview…until I asked my fellow Mets fan what he’d do if he was really president to ensure the Mets made it to the World Series.

Without hesitation, the funny guy says, he’d institute mandatory siesta every day.  Considering the upswing that the Mets are on right now and my personal appreciation for siestas, I’m totally down with that!

 

 

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Tracking City Steps with the Omron Alvita Activity Tracker

As a former urbanite, I had such a great time reliving my single city life last week for Blogger Bash NYC and the festivities surrounding it. I stayed at  Yotel on the west side and traipsed around town in cabs, Uber, trains and clocked lots of steps in between. During the several days I had in the city and at the conference, I had a chance to test out the new Omron Health Alvita Activity Tracker.

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This small pedometer can be connected to a smart phone via Blue Tooth, and is able to record steps, aerobic steps, distance and calories burned, which can help with your fitness and day-to-day regiment. Being in the city for a few days for a blogging conference was the perfect chance to test out this cool new device. From morning to night, I tracked my steps and distance from my hotel to the expo hall and then to cocktail parties and outings with friends. 

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I really like how the Alvita Activity Tracker is so intuitive and is able to be connected to my phone. All of my information and data is sent to my phone, which I can then analyze for the week or month. The app is pretty straight-forward. And the device, itself, is simple to use and non-intrusive. I had a few issues getting the app and device to sync a few times, but after a few times, I was all set.

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On the day that I did the Expo all day and then went to several parities at night, I walked all over town, but didn’t over do it. I found on those days, I clocked the most steps. After returning home this weekend, I found myself getting into the car more more, and my steps significantly diminished back in the burbs. This could also have to do with the fact that I was resting a bit after a busy busy weekend. I expect my steps to skyrocket again when it comes to chasing after the kids.

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One of the main caveats of the device, I thought, was the small size and clip; I constantly felt like I was going to lose the tracker. In fact, it fell off of my shirt a few times, but I was able to find it.If there was a way to secure this small device, it would make this technology that much better!  I can now see the value of wearable devices and the popularity of activity trackers. Overall, I enjoyed testing out the Alvita Activity Tracker and plan to continue to use it, especially to amp up my physical activity and fitness goals. I love that it shows distance and calories burned and the information can be found on my phone.

The Omron Health Alvita Activity Tracker can be found at various retailers for less than $50.

 

Full disclosure: I was provided a device and compensation to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Day Out With Thomas to Pull into The Delaware River Railroad Excursions in Phillipsburg, NJ + Giveaway

There’s never a shortage of fun summer things to do around here. And since we’re always up for a family day trip, what better way to go out and see things than by train—Thomas the Train, that is!

Thomas the Train is pulling into The Delaware River Railroad Excursions on July 10-12 and 17-19 for Day Out with Thomas: The Celebration Tour 2015. In honor of Thomas & Friends celebrating 70 years of friendship, this fun day is expected to be as exciting as ever.

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At this event, little engineers can take a 25-minute ride with everyone’s favorite blue train, Thomas the Tank Engine, and enjoy the day on the grounds doing arts and crafts, meeting Sir Topham Hatt, enjoying storytelling and other fun Thomas-themed events. The rides operate hourly July 10-12, 17-19. Now in its 20th year, will make 42 stops across the U.S. and Canada and is expected to welcome nearly one million passengers in 2015, including Phillipsburg, NJ overlooking the Delaware River.

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And what’s a celebration without a fun giveaway! In conjunction with Nextkidthing.com, we’re giving a 4-pack of tickets away for the Sunday, July 19 3:00 Day Out with Thomas event. Winners will be picked at random after entering below. We will notify winners on Friday, June 10. Winners’ tickets can picked up by will call. It is advised to arrive an hour ahead of departure time to park, pick up tickets and board Thomas The Tank. Of course, feel to arrive earlier and stay later to enjoy all the Day out with Thomas activities. Enter to win tickets below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tickets for Day Out with Thomas: The Celebration Tour 2015 at The Delaware River Railroad Excursions for July 10-12, 17-19 are on sale now and available by calling Ticketweb toll-free 866-468-7630, or by visiting 877trainride.com  Ticket prices are $21.00 plus tax for ages 2 and up (service charges and fee may apply). Not in NJ? Check and see if Thomas and Friends are visiting a railroad near you!

For more information and directions, contact the Delaware River Railroad Excursions, 877trainride.com.

For information on Thomas & Friends, visit www.thomasandfriends.com or follow along here: @ThomasFriends #DOWT #ThomasObsessed

Kevin, Stuart and Bob are Hilarious in Minions Movie

Everyone’s favorite hilarious little yellow characters are front and center in Universal Pictures’ Minions. As the leads in their namesake animated feature, the Minions are up to some shenanigans and life before Gru. 

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Minions explores life for the yellow fellows and their hunt for their leader. When collaborations with leaders like Napoleon, Dracula and dinosaurs ultimately fail, the Minions decide to tap some of their best, er, most willing guys—Kevin, Stuart and Bob—set off on a hunt for their true leader. 

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Several series of events lead the trio to their chance encounter with an evil family who help them get down to the Villain Con in Orlando.

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Their search leads them to Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock) and then becoming her evil henchmen. Kevin, Stuart and Bob are tasked with taking the British crown, which then leads to them becoming royalty and making Scarlett feel threatened. Because the Minions are loyal, they grant Scarlet the monarchy and things get a little crazy to say the least. Kevin, Stuart and Bob beckon the rest of their crew to England and must save the World in the process.

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Despite the evil brouhahas and constant scheming, Minions is a story about friendship, loyalty and courage. In their first foray as the lead, the Minions are able to endure their brand of comedy and nonsensical scenarios, without uttering a complete intelligible sentence, thanks to the supporting cast and silly storyline. Sandra Bullock’s Scarlett Overkill added a feisty flavor to the mix, as did Jon Hamm as Her Overkill. We learn to love the Minions’ imperfections even more than we already do, and Kevin, Stuart and Bob 

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My Minion-obsessed 3-year-old sat through the entirety of the 1 hour 44 min runtime, and could’ve watched it several times over. I thought it could’ve been a little shorter, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Overall, Minions is a fun family flick, and one that’s sure to be a hit with the littlest guys, as well as the adults. 

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Minions hits theaters on July 10th.

Baking with #Pyrex100: Chiffon Cake with Strawberries and Nutella Ganache #ad

Summer bbqs and get-togethers among our circle of friends tend to yield a lot of delicious foods. I’ve been noticing, however, that the desserts are often the afterthought. So, for desserts for parties we attend, I try to whip up creative baked treats that are attainable. And since it’s summer, I’m all about including locally sourced or in-season ingredients.

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Since early spring, I’ve been dreaming of a delicious strawberry shortcake. Problem is, I don’t always love strawberries and I don’t always love angel food cake. I need a good cake to pair with my strawberries.

For this recipe, I wanted to combine a chiffon cake with some ripe strawberries and squeeze some Nutella ganache for good measure.

 

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Chiffon cake wasn’t always my favorite kind of cake. In fact, I loathed this cake because I think it was the only kind of cake my mom used to make. We didn’t do boxed cakes or much prepared food, for that matter. For baked goods, my grandmother was the pro in this department. She baked almost every kind of Filipino pastry; and man, they were better than the bakeries’ pastries. Her food was, ostensibly, baked with love.

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So, my mom’s chiffon cake is a special kind of cake because it conjures up fond memories in the kitchen. I can still envision my mom’s jet-black hair, coifed much like an 80s mom-do. Since chiffon cakes was her signature (and only) baked good, she made it look so effortless to bake. The classic Sunbeam mixer mixed the ingredients; and I can still smell the motor on that classic mixer, mixing the cake like so. 

The ingredients are quite basic, and can be measured with a Pyrex mixing cup, as well as in the mixing bowl. I have always used Pyrex for baking because of the convenience and durability and it feels right. I like being able to look into the bowl from the sides to ensure balanced mixing. I also need to be able to measure liquids without having to second-guess those measurements. With a swipe or two of a rubber spatula, I love being able to clean my cups and bowls effortlessly.

I loved the addition of the Nutella ganache because it adds more depth and texture to this cake. It’s already rich, but it adds just a little more flavor to complement the berries and cake. And because I’m all about letting the kids help in the kitchen whenever possible, I let Biggie cut all 2 lbs of strawberries that were needed for this recipe.

 

This is a multi-step cake, but it’s not too hard. I adapted my grandmother’s recipe and separated the eggs to hopefully make it more spongy. So, this is how it goes:

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Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and egg yolks.

 

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Beat egg whites until there’s soft peaks. Gently fold egg whites into cake batter. I used a 9×13 pan so I can take it on the go, but chiffon cakes are typically baked in tube pans.

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While the cake is baking, you can work on the ganache. Bring heavy cream to a boil and then add to the nutella. Mix until it’s even.

 

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Strawberries can be cut beforehand and set aside.

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Before assembling cake, beat cream and confectioner’s sugar to make the whipped topping.

 

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After cake has completely cooled, cut in half. Place bottom half back into pan. Spread ganache onto first layer. Add half of strawberry mix. Add whipped topping and then place second layer of cake on top. For top layer, add whipped topping and then arrange strawberries into a fun design.

 

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Thank you to Pyrex for sponsoring this post and helping me to share such fond memories with my family in the kitchen.

The Pyrex® 100 Days of Giveaways is sponsored by World Kitchen, LLC. There is no purchase necessary to enter. In order to participate, you must be a legal resident of the fifty United States or the District of Columbia and must be at least 18 years old at the time of entry. Entries will be accepted from March 22, 2015 at 10:00:00 a.m. ET until June 30, 2015 at 9:59:59 a.m. ET.

Disclosure: I have happily partnered with World Kitchen LLC to share the wonderful Pyrex® 100th Anniversary product line. All opinions are my own.

 



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