Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day Set for August 23 + Giveaway

In less than a week, on August 23, the 19th Annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day Presented by Hess is set to take center court at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens. 

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As in years past, the day promises a lineup of the hottest up and coming musicians including Hunter Hayes, Shawn Mendes, MKTO, McClain, The Vamps and Madison Beer & DJ Salerno. 

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Last year, we enjoyed the likes of Ariana Grande and Austin Mahone, not to mention an awesome intro from none other than the First Lady, Michelle Obama.  

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And because it’s a family-centric prelude to a grand slam event, tennis greats Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are expected to help kick off the 2014 US Open.  

According to reports, defending champ, Rafael Nadal, pulled out of this year’s US Open due to a wrist injury, but here’s hoping that last year’s defending champ will be onhand this Saturday for festivities.

 

Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day is not only an entertaining day with musical acts, but it’s also a fun day for families with plenty of free interactive activities. Starting at 9:30, throughout the grounds at the USTA Billie Jean National Tennis Center, there will be free face painting, juggling workshops, 10 and under tennis, hair beading and braiding, balloon artists, Nickelodeon characters and The US Open Express Fan Experience. In addition to watching the tennis pros practice, our favorite activities include the tennis and skills activity course sponsored by Nike and Tennis education clinic.

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Because I grew up watching my dad and brother play tennis and watch the sport on tv religiously, tennis runs deep in our family.  Both of my boys have started practicing with my dad, so it’s even more special that my dad will be joining us this year for Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day.  

 

This is absolutely one of my favorite events to cover all year, so I’m even more excited to be giving away a set of four tickets to this year’s Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day! Enter below for a chance to win tickets to this fun family event in Flushing, NY on 8/23!

 

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Westin Introduces SuperChefs Program and Eat Well Menu for Kids

This summer, we’ve had quite a few travel adventures so far.  Just as awesome though, we’ve had some cool kid-centric culinary experiences.  I’m still working on my reviews on my travel pieces, but I wanted to share some information on a recent event we attended.

 

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Westin Hotels & Resorts announced the next stage of its year-long Westin Well-Being Movement and we were on hand to experience it ourselves.  As part of their ongoing initiative to harness wellness within their properties, Westin unveiled two new nutrition-focused partnerships with SuperChefs and The Juicery and the newest member of their Well-Being Council, dietician Ashley Koff RD.

 

In a time where childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years per the CDC, educating and engaging kids with food and healthier habits is so integral.  With programs like the SuperChefs that emphasize the educating kids on eating smart, I truly believe our paradigm is shifting in the right directions.  

 

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Westin’s partnership with SuperChefs underscores the brand’s dedication to well being.  They now offer a menu fully dedicated to healthy options for kids at hotels globally.  The Westin Eat Well Menu for Kids engages children through a playful menu placemat filled with dishes like Build Your Own Fruit Crepes.  Kids get to play with their food, which gives them a chance to discover what they’re eating but still offers the value of healthy eating.  Among some other dishes on the new kids’ menu includes Build Your Own Salmon Nicoise Salad and Baby Spinach & Omelet.

 

A few weeks ago, we had the chance to experience the SuperChefs program firsthand, and super was quite the understatement.  My six year old learned not just what a crepe is, but also how to flip it!  I absolutely loved his surprised look when he learned to snap his wrist and flip! 

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As if smearing Nutella on his very own crepe wasn’t delicious enough, Biggie also learned how to make his own pasta.  I’m not talking opening a box and boiling, we’re talking creating our own dough and cranking out our own noodles with love.  J loved learning how to use the pasta machine and cranking out his very own noodles—so much so, he begged to make noodles at home so we’d have enough for everyone.  You know an event is that good when your kid wants to continue the activity at home and further in life.

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SuperChefs is a wonderful, engaging way for kids to learn about the food they eat.  I appreciate how Westin’s Well-Being Movement continues to make strides to offer their guests with an overall well-rounded approach and includes kids with their recent collaboration with SuperChefs.

 

 

 

 

Review: Disney Boys’ Book of Fun and Boy Stuff-Paper Planes

In between road trips and time at the beach, we’ve been reading quite a bit this summer.  My soon-to-be first grader absolutely enjoys reading everything in sight, so it’s been quite fitting to be a part of Parragon’s Book Buddies program.

 

 

Last month’s Book Buddy titles included Disney Boys’ Book of Fun and Boy Stuff- Paper Planes.  Both books were perfect for my six year old to bring along on our road trip to Va to my high school reunion.  The books kept him entertained for most of the seven hour trip.  He loved flipping through the different planes and learning how to perfect his craft.

 

Disney Boys’ Book of Fun is a beautiful hardcover book filled with colorful pages of beloved boy-centric characters.  From Mickey and pals to Lightning McQueen to Buzz, this deluxe activity book is geared to boys who appreciate reading, doing mazes, drawing and doing puzzles.  

IMG 5679IMG 5681Each page is a different activity that keeps kids engaged and unplugged.  My son, who has recently discovered the joy of comic books, loves the different comic-style pages included in the book.  I love how comics teach kids the importance of story sequence, something that’s of importance for young, eager readers.  Another feature that I absolutely loved is the different games that can be played just like a board game.  Again, so perfect for traveling or simply unplugging at home.

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Boy Stuff-Paper Planes is yet another relevant title for my young reader.  This book helps kids to make cool paper airplanes with simplified templates.  This kit includes a book with instructions on how to fold 25 different airplanes, a pad of pre-printed templates and a variety of stickers to decorate the planes.   IMG 5684IMG 5687IMG 5690 The planes range from standard rockets to Birds of Prey to Robots—you name it, this book covers it.  My son loved how practically everything is included for handcrafting a fleet of super cool paper planes.  The only thing we were missing were scissors for several of the templates.  This kit is absolutely perfect for any kit who appreciates the art of making and flying paper planes.

 

Full disclosure:  These books were provided to facilitate this review.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.  Affiliate links are included above.

Marvel Universe Live Combines Superheroes, Technology and Live Entertainment

As a boy mom who also happens to write about trending kid products, shows and beyond, it’s safe to say, I’ve become well-versed in the realm of superheroes. It’s superheroes 24/7 up in here.

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A live action superhero show featuring our favorite characters piqued our interest when we first heard about it earlier this year; we’ve been anticipating Marvel Universe Live ever since.

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Feld Entertainment’s Marvel Universe Live, currently in East Rutherford, NJ’s Izod Center, commanded an arena of superhero-adoring children and equally bright-eyed parents.  The hour and a half live show featured choreographed stunts, motocross and non-stop action on a high-tech set, complemented by various aerial props and stunts.  Amidst an audience waving twinkling swords and slurping Spiderman Snocones, the actors/stunt people fulfilled heroic endeavors as they traveled across the globe.

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Feld Entertainment has a penchant for live shows and engaging their audiences with original story lines, and Marvel Universe Live was no exception. This show brought 25 iconic Marvel characters together in one performance as they banded together (and against) for the quest of the Cosmic Cube. Because of the Cosmic Cube’s inherent power, it is a coveted treasure that was shattered by Thor to prevent it getting into the wrong hands.  Since all the pieces were scattered around the globe, Thor’s evil brother, Loki, cooked up a plan to clone its powers that would destroy our planet and crush the Universe.  Naturally, it was up to the superheroes to save the Universe.

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With the magic of 3-D projection and the incredible set design, the storyline was fluid as it hopped around the globe. Geographically, we watched superheroes scale snow-covered mountains, battle on top of the Statue of Liberty and conquer evil all on one stage.  The transitions from scene to scene were seamless and unobtrusive. The pyrotechnics, light effects and musical score complemented the set design, and of course the talent of the stars.

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Our superhero-loving family was engaged from start to finish—we didn’t want it to end!  We loved seeing all of the superheroes together defeating the evil forces, live and in person. Some of the superheroes featured included: Iron Man, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor and Wolverine who faced evil forces such as Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Red Skull, Madame Hydra, Aldrich Killian, Electro and more. I was sort of expecting to see Stan Lee show up somewhere on the set!  The excitement of watching a movie in a theater is always thrilling, but to experience a live show with so much detail and fanfare is extraordinary. 

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As guests of The Moms, we were treated to a lovely VIP reception and pre-show activities.  My kids got to sharpen their archery skills, perfect their jabs and uppercuts and earn their own superhero badge at the end.  A big thank you to The Moms for organizing such a fun experience.

 

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Now for the fine print:  this show is NOT for everyone.  If you have kids who can’t sit and focus for an hour and half show, I’d absolutely avoid this, and any show until they could sit still.  In my opinion, it’s hard for not only the parent and kid who can’t sit still, but also for those around them.  My two year old could not and would not sit still.  He likes superheroes, but he doesn’t understand the concept of sitting still.  After letting him run around for a few minutes in the food area, one of the seating attendants let our family sit in a vacant row. If you’re on the fence about your little one who may not sit for the show or be scared by the noise/lights, my recommendation would be to wait until they’re old enough to truly appreciate the show than to force them to sit through something they might hate.

This is a show where it’s dark almost the entire time and lights were constantly being projected.  Sometimes, light effects were strobing, sometimes they flashed more intermittently.  Laser-like lights were evident throughout, as well.  Coupled with loud music and pyrotechnics, I would not recommend the show for sensory sensitive audience members.

Overall, Marvel Universe Live truly did not disappoint with its non-stop action, original story and mesmerizing set design.  This is a concept show that utilizes well-loved characters, harnesses technology and talent to tell an original story before a live audience and a fickle fan base!  This was one of those shows that we can’t stop talking about and will tell anyone who will listen all about it—it was that good!

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Marvel Universe Live will be at Izod Center in NJ until August 10th and will then be at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn from August 13-17 and then LI later in August.  Not in the tri-state area?  Check to see if Marvel Universe Live will be in your town.

Full disclosure: We received complimentary tickets and a parking pass to facilitate this review.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own. 

Rocking Out with the Julius Jr. Rock ‘n Playhouse

When it comes to music, we love to rock out every chance we get.  We recently had the chance to check out one of Fisher Price’s latest toys, Julius Jr.’s Rock ‘n Playhouse.

 

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When Julius Jr. uses his imagination and creativity to create a playhouse with a cardboard box, awesome things happen.  Though our kids can create their own awesome on their own with regular ol’ boxes, this Julius Jr. Rock ’n Playhouse is a great playset for toddlers and preschoolers.  The Playhouse is a recreation of what can be seen on Julius Jr., including a spaceship, skateramp, disco ball and slide.  What makes the Rock ’n Playhouse so great is the catchy music and Julius Jr. figures and accessories.

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My little guy absolutely loves pushing the dance floor and watching it light up and play music.  He loves to sing and dance, so the musical dance floor is, perhaps, our favorite feature.  The cool skate ramp though?  That comes in close second.  You can’t go wrong with a playset that has a dance floor, skateramp and monkey that rocks out!

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The Julius Jr. Rock ’n Playhouse is available at major retailers and retails for $49.99.  Julius Jr. is on Nick Jr. at 5pm Monday-Friday and Sundays from 10-11am!

Full disclosure:  A sample was provided to facilitate this review and as a part of the Saban Brandbassador program.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Tommee Tippee Fiesta Fun Time Collection Now Available on Amazon

Leave it to Tommee Tippee to change it up and add some vibrant colors to the otherwise pastel-hued baby gear aisles.  Tommee Tippee has introduced the Fiesta Fun Time collection, which is now available on Amazon.  This limited edition collection features Tommee Tippee’s Closer to Nature bottles in six jewel-toned colors including Green Glory, Turquoise Treat, Party Purple, Rascal Red, Grass Green and Sea Breeze Blue.  The Fiesta Fun Time Collections comes packaged with all the aforementioned colors in the 9 oz. Closer to Nature TT bottles.

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These BPA-free bottles feature the Easi-Vent valve which aims to eliminate excessive air flow. Breastfeeding mamas on the go will appreciate the breast-like nipples that mimic bfing.  As an exclusive bfing mama, TT bottles were among the only bottles that worked for us.  There was never nipple confusion, and TT bottles just made sense for us.  And as someone who LOVES color, I absolutely love this variety pack of the Fiesta Fun Time TT bottles.  My personal favorite color in the collection is the Party Purple, not just because we love to party, but purple for epilepsy awareness.

The Tommee Tippee Fiesta Fun Time Collection includes six boldly colored 9 ounce bottles and is available now at Amazon.com

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post, but as always, all opinions on NKT are my own.  Affiliate links are included in this post.  

Review: Little Kids TMNT Splash Out Ball

During the summer, we can’t get enough of outdoor play.  Some days, we’re outside and in the water from the minute we wake up to the minute we go to bed.

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On that end, outdoor toys get much play time.  We love sports, bubbles, biking and truly, anything that has to do with water.  I loved learning that Little Kids’ has a fun selection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys, but I was immediately drawn to their cool water toy, the Splash Out Ball.

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Just as it sounds, the Splash Out Ball is a ball that can be used with water play.  Just fill the ball with water, either manually or by submerging, and then close the cap.  Toss the ball back and forth, like you would in a game of hot potato.  When time runs out, someone gets splashed when the chamber pops open.  

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The Splash Out Ball is so easy and perfect for the pool or beach.  It’s like playing with a water balloon without the mess of balloon remnants.  A caveat of this game is that it can be hard for the younger ones to fill so that it’s full enough to pop open…and of course, when it pops open too early and all over you!

Parragon Books Makes Summer Reading Fun

It’s an exciting time in our house these days.  Not only are we having fun being outdoors all day, but we’re enjoying our downtime with reading.  My older son is reading fluently now, in time for First Grade in a few weeks.  He’s at that cool/funny phase where he’s spelling everything—his answers to questions, all the signs he reads and even the things he’s thinking about out loud.  It’s both hilarious and borderline a-n-n-o-y-i-n-g.

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Just in time for this special time of further cultivating my book lovers, we were asked to join a fun program with Parragon Books.  Parragon Books has a cool Book Buddies program where a select group of bloggers read and review their titles. 

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For June, we had a great time checking out Stickersaurus and Discovery Kids 1000 Strange but True Animal Facts.

Stickersaurus is a quirky novelty book that has hundreds of dinosaur stickers and pullout pages. With the stickers and word bubbles, it has a comic book feel.  I especially love the thick pages, which makes the application and re-application of stickers easy and fun.  Stickersaurus not only encourages imagination and creativity, but it reinforces story creation and story sequence.  It’s ideal for ages five and up.

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Discovery Kids 1000 Strange but True Animal Facts is perfect for curious animal lovers.  As a kid, I loved books with lists and fragmented thoughts, so books like these would keep me occupied for hours.  I love how the book is full of education and eye-catching lists. Most of the facts are weird facts that I never knew, but ones the big kid and I enjoyed poring over on a rainy day.

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We loved checking out these great books and can’t wait to read even more fun titles from Parragon!

Cost Plus World Market Opens in Livingston, NJ

The day has finally arrived:  New Jersey just got a little more stylish and a bit more delicious—and it has absolutely nothing to do with a RHoNJ or a Jersey Shore “star.”

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North Jersey is shining a bit brighter today with a store grand opening of a beloved home furnishing retail chain.  The grand opening of Cost Plus World Market in Livingston, NJ marks the first store in the Northeast for the chain that got its start on the west coast.  With 259 stores, World Market is well known for their collection of bold and eclectic home decor, as well as their gourmet and international food selection.

Our family took a spin around the Livingston location several weeks ago during the store’s soft opening for employees and others.  Having heard the praises of Cost Plus World Market’s statement pieces, my expectations were quite high.  

As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by several employees who were anxious to help us and show off the new store.  I was too distracted by all the beautiful, shiny kitchen gadgets to have a conversation with anyone, never mind see straight.  

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On the eternal hunt for a statement chair for our living room, I was enamored by the selection of the upholstered chairs up front. I still see that turquoise chair in my dreams; it was love at first sight.

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From gorgeous window treatments to sleek dining tables to quirky cooking accouterments to copious flavors of cookie spreads: Cost Plus World Market is a foodie and design enthusiast’s dream store.  I could walk around for hours just checking out all the unique accessories and extensive gourmet food section, alone.

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After my first in-person visit, World Market truly exceeded my expectations.  I’ve perused the website many times over the years, but the brick and mortar experience didn’t disappoint.  There’s much to be said of the vivid colors and gorgeous displays throughout the store.  In terms of the customer service, I had a question about a flavored olive oil, and one of the employees who worked in a different department directed me to the exact location where I could find what I was looking for.

As with everything, there’s always a caveat.  While I love that the first Northeast location is in North Jersey, I’m curious as to why Livingston was the chosen town.  I would certainly shop World Market more often if it was closer to one of my favorite high traffic malls in my personal shopping circuit. But that’s just my opinion!

On the coupon front, be sure to join the World Market Explorer program, which gives you access to rewards and coupons!  And speaking of coupons, of course there are printable coupons available online.

As a kid product blogger, though, I absolutely loved the retro toys and gadget section in the middle of the store.  This section had all the nostalgic toys from our youth, including a pretty sweet Little Golden Books display.  My kid personally loved the candy, oh and that cushy papasan chair, too!

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And since it’s the store’s grand opening TODAY, they have quite a few fun events to celebrate.  Per Cost Plus World Market:

The first 100 shoppers through the door on Thursday, July 10 will receive a $10 Cost Plus World Market gift card. The store opens at 9:00am today. From Thursday, July 10 through Sunday, July 13, 2014, the first 100 customers will receive a free reusable World Market tote bag and will be able to enjoy live entertainment, food and beverage sampling and more.

To help celebrate the grand opening, World Market welcomes Jonathan and Drew Scott, hosts of HGTV’s “Property Brothers,” to the store on Saturday, July 12 from 1:00 – 3:00 pm. The first 200 shoppers to bring five non-perishable food items to donate to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey will have a chance to meet Jonathan and Drew and receive a signed photo.

  

Full disclosure:  this is NOT a sponsored post.  I was not individually compensated in any way.  However, because of my family’s affiliation with the parent company and my love for BBB, my thoughts are pretty biased, though my enthusiasm is truly genuine.

 

Wild Kratts on HuffPo Live Today

Any swamp animal and/or HuffPo fans out there? Today, some of our PBS Kids friends and animal experts, Chris and Martin Kratt of Wild Kratt fame, will be interviewed on HuffPo Live today.  

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They’ll be discussing their upcoming special on swamp animals, as well as sharing an upcoming clip. There will be a some kids video conferencing in for the interview, too!  If you tune in, be on the look out for my big guy, who will be asking a question or two!  Tune into HuffPo Live at 2 for the interview!

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The segment will be a quick one, so don’t blink!  If and when the video becomes available, I’ll be sure to share here!

 

You can catch Wild Kratts weekdays on PBS Kids or anytime on Apple Tv!  The PBS Kids Video App is now available on Android and Chromecast