How to Train Your Dragon 2 Arrives in Theaters Today + Giveaway

The wait is finally over:  everyone’s favorite Vikings and Dragons are back in theaters today!  Hiccup and Toothless are back for more in the second chapter of Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2.

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It’s been five years after Hiccup and Toothless have united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk, something that seemed unthinkable many years back. As Astrid, Snoutlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races, Hiccup and Toothless are exploring new worlds.  

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The pair stumble upon a secret cave which is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and reveals a mysterious Dragon Rider.  Hiccup and Toothless are thrust into another battle to protect peace, and ultimately stand up for what they believe, while reinforcing that together as a team, they influence the future of both men and dragons.

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How to Train Your Dragon 2, so far, has received excellent reviews,  In fact, it was also positively reviewed by Common Sense Media, which awarded HTTYD2 its first five-star rating of the year.  

It sounds like HTTYD2 is full of action, stellar graphics and strong bonds between people and animal companions—the making of a fun family flick.

We have a date to watch the movie as a family tomorrow and can’t wait!  In honor of the release of Dreamwork’s How to Train Your Dragon 2, I’m giving away a fun prize pack for you and your family to watch the movie, too!

 Giveaway

  • $25 Visa gift card to see the film
  • HTTYD2 pencil topper set and drawstring bag
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 To enter: tell me your family’s favorite character from HTTYD!  Please comment below.

 

For extra entries:

Tweet about the giveaway: I want to win the #HTTYD2 Prize Pack from @jenrab

Like the Next Kid Thing on FB

or share on any other social media site 

Want to get even more excited about HTTYD2?  Check out these fun activities, including coloring pagescolor by number, connect the dots and word search.  Be sure to check out the first five minutes of the movie here:
 

Prizing and samples courtesy of DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox

Open to US mailing addresses only

This giveaway ends at 11:59 pm June  20.  Random winner will be notified via email.

Update:  Congrats to comment #58, julimi

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Gardening with Miracle-Gro

Just a few weeks ago, we were all uncertain if spring and summer would ever get here.  Now that the warm weather is here to stay, it’s finally time to fix up the yard and prep the garden.  Here in North Jersey, expert gardeners and lawn connoisseurs suggest that it’s best to get things going outdoors in between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.  With that start window having just passed, we’ve been busy prepping our garden.

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Or should I say, we’ve been busy “trying” to get our garden started!  My green thumb is as brown as it gets…which is why I can use all the help I can get.

Miracle Gro recently came out with Groables seed pods, which are perfect for starting a garden for beginners.  Since we have all kinds of animals that like to eat my garden, I thought I’d give container gardening a whirl this year.  

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For easier gardening, each seed pod contains:

  • non-GMO seed at just the right depth
  • growing materials to protect the seed and keep it moist
  • plant food to help it grow and build strong roots.

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Because of the late start to spring we’ve been having, I naturally, started my garden much later than I had hoped.  That said, thank goodness for Groables since they are guaranteed to grow.  

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After filling several planters with soil, I planted my Groables, as well as a few seeds.  I made sure to give each pod room to grow in the planters, as well as water.  I placed the planters in full sunlight and in just a few weeks, I started to see my growables, well, grow!  

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As mentioned, if you’re a beginner gardner or just need to take a shortcut or two, Groables are a perfect solution.  Groables come in 17 varieties, ranging from cherry tomatoes to watermelons.  You can find them at Home Depot and Amazon at $3-4 a pod or about $12 for a kit. Since I can actually grow spinach (!) I am so buying this one next:  Gro-ables Salad and Herb Garden Kit with 18 Seed Pods   I’m looking forward to creating an even bigger container garden by supplementing the pods with other seeds and starter plants.

 

 

In the Midst of Crazy, Tommee Tippee Streamlines Parenting

My littlest was diagnosed with epilepsy at just four months old.  Freshly out of the newborn phase, he was just starting to smile regularly and babble, but he couldn’t roll over on his own.  

It was late at night, after a fun and full day, when Littles’ tiny body shook with uncontrollable tremors and convulsions.  After his first seizure, many more would follow, and then we spent an unforgettable week in the hospital.  Our lives were forever changed two summers ago when Littles was diagnosed with pediatric and generalized epilepsy.  But over the course of the two years, we’ve learned to cope, grow and work to overcome these challenges.

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With so many factors going against us with our little guy during his infancy stage, I was all about using products and gear that simplified our life.  From Tommee Tippee bottles when I couldn’t nurse, to the Digital Video Monitor and sensor: these products made an extremely trivial time much easier.  I remember coming home from the hospital after his epilepsy diagnosis.  

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Watching your infant almost flatline several times from seizure activity changes everything.  I could no longer relax and parenting as I knew it went out the window.  Having spent a week with caring nurses and aides who tended to my boy’s every needs 24/7, it was, quite literally, a wake up call for us.  My sweet baby had no idea what was going on, but he was happy and content in his crib, untethered and at home.  I  slept next to his crib, watched every breath, and was even more assured with our Tommee Tippee monitor that sensed inaccurate breathing patterns.  For any new parent this device is helpful, but for someone like me, who could no longer sleep out of fear and anxiety, the monitor was a lifesaver. Literally.

 

I’ve been a fan of TT for a few years now, but I just read that the monitor is no longer sold in the US. I hope this changes because it’s a great monitor!

 

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Well into toddlerhood, Tommee Tippee still doesn’t disappoint.  My boy is stable and healthier, and continues to make strides with thanks to his team of therapists and doctors.  

 

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Though picky, he sometimes eats like a beast, especially when it involves yogurt.  He’s perfected the yogurt “beard” and has a penchant for sleep-eating.  With this typically peculiar toddler eating habits, our TT Easi-Roll bibs are so handy.  

 

After an extremely messy breakfast, lunch or dinner, (and if there isn’t anything worth snacking on in the trap {gross}) I LOVE being able to rinse and then throw these bibs in the dishwasher.  That, my friends, is one small way how I tame the crazy in this house.

 

I could go on and on about how TT makes parenting easier, but you get it: these products just work.  They’re well designed for everyday use and they help to streamline the parenting process and all the growing pains that go along with it!

 

Full disclosure:  this is a sponsored post part of the Tommee Mommee blogger initiative, but as always, all opinions, including crazy parenting experiences, are my own.  Samples were provided to facilitate reviews.

 

Art is Everywhere: Zio Ziegler for PB Teen

Art is everywhere.  That’s the main message that I learned last week after attending a really cool event at PS 289 in NYC.  

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Artist Zio Ziegler has collaborated with PB Teen to release a rad line of gear, including bedding, book and lunch bags, among other things.

In conjunction with his collaboration, Bay area artist, Ziegler, who typically works with spray paint, was commissioned to do a mural for PS 289.  I was onhand for the unveiling, which captured the artist’s essence and passion for influencing art for our youth.

Ziegler’s mural was unveiled to reveal two figures intertwined, which he said symbolized his duality and relationship with school.  It’s a modern and thought-provoking piece, and one that’s perfectly positioned to influence aspiring artists for years to come.

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While working on the piece, Ziegler also had a chance to engage with a select group of students within their art classes.  He gave them pointers and even drew fun pictures for keepsakes.  One forward-thinking student had white Converse sneakers and had Ziegler draw a custom graphic.

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At the unveiling, PB Teen had a selection of pieces from the ZZ line out on display.  As a Pottery Barn fan in general, naturally, I fell in love with everything.  From the hot pink laptop sleeve adorned with ZZ’s signature art to the skate deck shelves, I’d officially like one of everything from this funky collaboration.

 

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Zio Ziegler for PB Teen will be available soon, so enjoy these photos as a sneak peek for what’s to come!  Be on the look out for these bright statement pieces that are perfectly suited for teens and beyond.

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Review: Nerd Block Jr. Subscription Box

Subscription boxes continue to be a hot trend these days.  There are boxes for all walks of life; you name it, there’s probably a subscription box for it.  In this digital age when snail mail continues to lose its luster, there’s nothing better than getting a cool package of stuff that you love…which is why I adore subscription boxes!

Dubbed as Comic Con in a box, Nerd Block has been around for awhile.  Nerd Block’s little brother and sister recently made their debut and they’re aptly called: Nerd Block Jr. Boys and Nerd Block Jr. Girls.

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Appealing to the new generation of geeks, Nerd Block Jr. is a monthly subscription box that includes collectibles and trinkets that appeal to the 6-12 age range.  From Marvel to Hot Wheels to Star Wars, we absolutely loved everything included in the boys’ box.  The girls’ box was just as cool, featuring My Little Pony, Smurfs and Playmobil.  

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Nerd Block Jr. has all well known licenses and items that kids are known to collect.  Each individual item was worth just a few dollars, but the entirety of the box added up to around $20.  A monthly box costs about $13, so Nerd Block Jr. is a good deal.

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Nerd Block Jr. is my new go-to box for the tween who has everything.  The element of surprise when opening up a Nerd Block Jr. box is just as enjoyable as the goodies inside.

Check out our unboxing video to see the fun goodies that can be found in Nerd Block Jr.

Top Tommee Tippee Favorites

If you’re anything like us, when we find a brand we love and trust, we stick with them…and that, of course, includes baby gear.  After having two babes, and reviewing hundreds of products through the years, I’m more brand-loyal than ever.

One brand, in particular, that I love and trust for my two guys is Tommee Tippee. Tommee Tippee, known for their baby gear and toddler feeding accessories, have a wide range of products that grow with your family.  In fact, we were quite smitten with this UK brand from the very start!  In 2009 when Tommee Tippee launched in the US, I attended a very cool blogger event, where I was intimately introduced to every single product that was going to be available stateside.

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Five years later, the brand has solidified their name as a baby gear staple in American homes.  As a mama who has used this brand loyally over the years, I’m thrilled to be a part of their Tommee Mommee blogger initiative. 

In honor of this, I thought I’d share just some of my favorite Tommee Tippee favorites, many of which we use daily.

 

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 1.  Explora Truly Spill-Proof Drinking Cups in 3-Ring Circus

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This limited edition design of Tommee Tippee’s drinking cup features whimsical graphics of animals doing their thing in the circus.  The modern flair of these graphics give these convenient cups a fresh appeal for parents and toddlers.  These are definitely my favorite sippy cups because they’re easy to clean, spill proof, but especially because they don’t utilize that spout that so many cups have.  These cups are a great transition for kids who are almost ready for open cups.  These cups are exclusive to BRU.

 

 

 

2.  Easi-Roll Bibs

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When it comes to eating, these bibs are my best friends.  Of all the silicone bibs out there, these suit our needs the best.  They’re colorful, soft and rollable, which makes them easy to transport in a diaper bag.  After my wanna-be independent toddler feeds himself yogurt for lunch, I love throwing these in the dishwasher.  If you’ve seen my Vine or Instagram stream of Small’s sleep-eating videos, perhaps you’ve spotted cameos of the Tommee Tippee Easi-Roll Bibs!

 

 

 

 3. Easy Scoop Feeding Bowls with Lids and Spoons

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Bowls with attachable spoons: seriously, Tommee Tippee thinks of everything.  What makes these bowls so great is that if you start a meal and need to dash ff to big brother’s practice, you can literally eat on the go.  I appreciate the convenience of this set and how you can keep things compartmentalized and hygienic, all while transporting.  Genius!

 

 

 4.  Travel Bottle and Food Warmer

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For a family that takes frequent road trips, the Travel Bottle and Food Warmer was our saving grace during the infancy stage. When the Smalls was nursing, it was so convenient being able to warm a bottle with the warmer and not having to plug anything in.  The stainless steel container kept hot water hot, taking a page out of the old school Thermos method.  Even better, I was able to thaw frozen breast milk on the road with this warmer, too.  This is certainly something that’s an excess in terms of baby gear, but definitely a necessity for traveling families who need to keep liquids warm or thaw food/milk on the go.

 

 

5.  Section Plates

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For toddlers, the feeding frenzy doesn’t get any better than having the convenience of Section Plates.  TT’s Section Plates are perfect for allotting portion sizes and for presenting foods for tots who are quite visual at this stage.  The Section Plates are perfect for finger foods and work for self-feeding meals, too.  

 

 

6.  Insulated Bottle Bag

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Another one of my favorite travel essentials is the TT Insulated Bottle Bag.  Even though I’ve always carried a diaper bag that has ample pockets for bottles, I often found that it was much more convenient to use these insulated Bottle Bags.  The velcro strap made it easy to attach to bag handles on the outside of my bag, lowering the chance of spilling bottles IN my bag and increasing the convenience factor of finding the bottle amidst the depths of my bottomless bag.  Another item of baby gear excess, I absolutely loved having this bottle bag for those fleeting baby days.

 

 

Full disclosure:  This is a sponsored post.  Samples were provided to facilitate reviews; however, as always, all opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

Spring Fun with Paul Frank Kids Apparel

Paul Frank is brightening our spring days with a fun selection of graphic tees for the kids.  This line embraces Paul Frank’s emphasis on fun and being carefree.  Ideal for spring and summer days, the tees feature Paul Frank’s eclectic graphics and friendly faces, like our pal Julius! 

Biggie is trying to be a ninja here.  Don’t be afraid. 

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I checked out the girls’ tees online, and as expected, they’re super cute.  I always love though, how Paul Frank caters to both boys and girls. Tees like the ones my guys are enjoying can be found at retailers such as Nordstrom.com, Macys.com, Amazon.com, Lord & Taylor, Bon Ton and Belk.com.

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In addition to fun kids apparel, you can share your Paul Frank love on your iPhone case.  On GetUncommon.com, you can customize a variety of iPhone cases with pics complemented with Paul Frank graphics.  With the Dot Julius, Happy Julius or I Love Julius styles to choose from, not only can you share the Paul Frank love, but you can also show off your loved ones’ faces too. 

 

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I ordered the Dot Julius case, and I can’t wait to see how it turned out! I love these cases!

 

Full disclosure:  As a Saban Brand-bassador, I received samples to facilitate this review.  As always, opinions on NKT are my own.

  

 

Meeting Cookie Monster and other highlights from the 2014 PBS Annual Meeting

Once again, I’m attending the PBS Annual Meeting as part of the PBS Kids VIP ambassadorship program.  This time, the meeting is in beautiful San Francisco, where we’re getting a chance to enjoy the local restaurants after sessions, as well as take in a few sights.

 

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The agenda for the PBS Annual Meeting serves as a preview for the upcoming year for the channel’s various shows and specials.  It’s a chance for the executives at stations across the US to engage with PBS execs, show creators and others involved in creating content for PBS’ platforms.  

Lots of great independent programs, Martha Stewart, How We Get To Now with Steven Johnson are among the highlights so far.

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Because so many of us embrace PBS for their stellar programming, it’s safe to say that we can relate to one—or all—of their current and upcoming  shows.  Like many of you, I grew up watching Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow and the Electric Company.  In a home where English was my first language, yet my parents spoke a different language, these educational shows served as a supplement to my immersion to American culture, and ultimately, my version of preschool.  

 

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Of course, this was *ahem* 30 something years ago, nevertheless, this sentiment rings true today for many families of different socio-economic backgrounds.

My fellow PBS Kids VIP @urbanmama tweeted this today during an earlier session:

@PBSKids is the leader in school readiness.  For families who don’t have access to preschool education #PBSKids DOES teach #PBSam

 

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After a long day of traveling (ignore my crazy hair and loco face), yesterday we had the pleasure of meeting THE Cookie Monster and his muppeteer, Emmy nominated David Rudman.  Cookie and the man who brings him to life were so lovely in making us laugh.  But really, as if meeting Cookie wasn’t amazing enough, he answered questions for us and did personalized videos too.  I mean, really?

 

Here’s the quick chat I had with the Muppet of the hour, Cookie Monster.

A big push on the PBSKIds pipeline is Oddsquad.  It’s a little bit Men in Black, Airplane and SpyKids.  Like other PBS Kids’ shows, this new live action show embraces math concepts to solve problems.  It looks like they hope to tap into the school age demo, perhaps that 5-10 category.  Including the snappy humor and strong female leads, I personally appreciated the pronounced diversity among the characters. 

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One of the lead boys looks just like my older boy—this is huge for mixed kids who have often wondered why other shows don’t have characters that look like them.  In a few hours, we’ll be meeting Tim McKeon and Adam Peltzman, the witty creators of OddSquad.  I can’t wait for this one!

 

Stay tuned for more PBS Kids updates on here or catch me on Twitter or Instagram for live updates at #PBSam

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TTPM Highlights Top Trends and Best in Play at Spring and Summer Showcase

It may feel like we were just unwrapping Christmas gifts, but thankfully, after the longest winter ever, we can finally focus on spring and summer.  And with a new season comes more new toys!

 

 Last week, TTPM highlighted the key top trends and best in play at their annual spring and summer showcase. Time to Play Mag, which has expanded and officially rebranded to TTPM, is the same juggernaut and resource for reviews on playthings and beyond.  

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The TTPM editors pinpointed three trends that will contribute to the popularity of toys this summer, including: bigger blockbuster movie lineup, innovative outdoor toys and breakout hits.  

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The movies that are expected amp up toy sales include Transformers: Age of Extinction, Disney Planes: Fire and Rescue, Godzilla, and The Amazing Spider- Man 2.  We’re hardcore Spider-Man fans, so our house alone may contribute to this increase in sales.  Untitled

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Innovative outdoor toys such as automated bubble blowers, our favorite: the bike bubbler and Grab n’ Go Chalk Games are just a few of the many toys that are sure to keep the kids entertained for hours.  There are so many fantastic breakout hits, but Paw Patrol, Lego Movie, The Happy’s and not surprisingly, Frozen take top honors in this category.

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There were quite a few standouts for spring and summer toys in the showcase.  Ride-on toys such as Razor’s Power Ride 360 and the Kawasaki TMNT 4-wheelers made it on to the hot list.  Personally, Hasbro’s Spider-Man toys and TMNT Combat-a-Bubbles are on our current list of must-haves.

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I have tons of photos to share from the event which I’ll include within this post.  I also did a gifting suite haul, something I had fun doing with my older son. 

Attending the TTPT showcases is always a highlight of the season for me, but getting to test out the toys via the gifting suite is a true highlight for the whole family.  So, many thanks to the companies who participate in the gifting suite. 

 

Best Baby and Kid Foods: All about Avocados

Happy Cinco de Mayo! In a different lifetime, I spent many years working in a Mexican restaurant slinging margaritas and chips and salsa! These days, we enjoy a kid-friendly Mexican dishes close to home.

In the name of Mexican pride and heritage, I thought I’d share some information we learned about one of our favorite fruits, the avocado. Native to Mexico and Central America, the avocado is often called one of nature’s perfect foods.

Naturally, this fruit makes one of the best first foods for babies because of its creamy texture and good fats. According to Avocado.org, avocados have 3.5 grams of unsaturated fats, which are known to be important for normal growth and development of the central nervous system and brain.

Since we’re on the topic of avocados, I learned a lot about avocados recently. I had the chance to ask Chef Pati Jinich, host of Pati’s Mexican Table, about avocados and here are just some questions I asked. She kindly answered my questions in a video, so be sure to check it out. Btw, that’s not my voice asking the questions but you already knew that.

1.  What are your tips on choosing avocados at the grocery store?  

2.  How do you suggest on properly cutting and storing avocados?  

3.  What are your favorite avocado recipes for babies and kids?

4.  How do you serve avocados to your family for breakfast or brunch?

5.  Do you have any thoughts on the recent news that avocados crops may be affected by the west coast droughts?  

6.  Can you tell us about the different types of avocados and which is your favorite kind for certain recipes?

7.  Can you share your favorite recipe for guacamole, which is one of my family’s most-consumed food.

And here’s a fun recipe from of Pati’s Mexican Table for you fellow guac-loving families. 

Mango Guacamole with Grilled Tortilla Wedges Guacamole de Mango

Serves: 6

Ingredients

2 ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted, meat scooped out and roughly mashed or diced
1 cup diced, fresh, ripe, peeled mango
3 tablespoons chopped white onion
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeño or serrano chile, seeded optional, or to taste
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
Corn or flour tortillas, cut into wedges and grilled

To Prepare
Gently mix the avocado, mango, onion, cilantro, chile, lime juice and salt in a bowl, or mash in a molcajete. Serve with grilled tortilla wedges.