Ruby Rocket’s Shares Healthy Snacking Options with Philip’s Academy in Newark, NJ

It may be frigid and gray outside, but things at Philip’s Academy are quite vibrant and full of energy.  Last week, I had the unique opportunity to visit Philip’s Academy, a charter school in Newark, to cover an assembly on nutrition and healthy snacking presented by Ruby Rockets.

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Ruby Rockets, a frozen snack brand known for its naturally sweet, non-GMO veggie and fruit pops, presented an informational presentation to eager students. The brand, who aligns with making nutritional choices, suggested to the grade schoolers that making healthier snack options has many benefits.  The brand, which boasts snacks that don’t contain any extras such as added sweeteners, artificial coloring or chemicals, presented a slideshow with healthy snacking guidelines. 

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For healthier options, Ruby Rockets suggests that snacks should:
  • be low in sugar, contain sugar from fruit and veggies only
  • have a 2:1 ratio between carbs and protein
  • high in dietary fiber
  • have around 200 calories
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After the informational presentation, the children at Philip’s Academy were treated to Ruby Rockets as a dessert following their lunch. Many of the children were excited about tasting Ruby Rockets for the first time. Representatives from Ruby Rockets presented the kids with the naturally colorful frozen treats and were greeted with elation from all corners of the cafeteria.

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The students at Philip’s Academy are no stranger to making healthy choices. The school has a curriculum-based initiative that follows many environmental and sustainable concepts with its innovative EcoSpaces program. As part of EcoSpaces, the school has its own rooftop garden and maintains an AeroFarm, which is a hydroponic garden that doesn’t require sun or soil.

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As part of the program, the students’ lessons about sustainability, urban farming and their healthy lunch program is reinforced with hands-on exposure in their teaching kitchen. The students’ salad bar is a unique feature of the cafeteria. It was quite inspiring to see so many children enjoy a spectrum of vegetables and fruits.

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Ruby Rockets wanted to partner with Philip’s Academy because they felt that they were a good fit since their EcoSpaces program reinforced what they were doing.  

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When Frank Mentesana, EcoSpaces Director at Philip’s Academy, saw Ruby Rockets’ ingredients and understood their mission, he agreed that they were in line with what they were trying to do.  In fact, “we make smoothies all the time—almost all the time.  I looked at their ingredients and they sound like our ingredients,” Mentesana said. “I saw they had beets in one of their pops. We do a beet and berry smoothie. We do a spinach and kale smoothie. This was a great opportunity for the kids to see snacks alternatively. We also do tastings and those ingredients are on our menu and appear in different forms. For example, they’ll try beets six different ways. So, they may not like beets one way, but they may like it another way.”

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And because the dining room is also used as a classroom for the students at Phillip’s Academy, the conversation that started at the assembly with Ruby Rockets was a topic of discussion during and after lunch.

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As an outsider looking in, I admired the way things were run at the school. Not only was the EcoSpaces program mind-blowing, but I thought the interaction between students and educators was inspiring. Overall, the school exuded such positivity and seemed like a model for a cohesive learning and teaching environment. I think I came away learning more about urban farming and the EcoSpaces curriculum, considering how the students were so well-versed with healthy eating. 

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When asked what their favorite part about Ruby Rocket’s frozen snacks one intuitive student told me: “I love that these pops have natural colors and sugars from the fruits and vegetables.”


What grade schooler says that?  Super smart ones who are a reflection of their learning environment.

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Well, there you have it: this, my friends, was a prime example of students schooling adults. After spending a day with these students, I feel the need to boost my beet intake! 


A big thank you to Philip’s Academy for welcoming me to cover this assembly and event, and to Ruby Rockets for letting me be a part of this conversation on healthy snacking.


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Ruby Rockets come in Rock-it Red, Orbit Orange and Galaxy Green. The frozen snacks can be found at retailers such as Wegmans and Stop and Shop.


Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post and I was compensated for my time and efforts. Opinions on NKT are my own, just as healthy snacking is always encouraged.

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, 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


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.

7 Reasons That Make Disney’s Pirate Fairy Magical

By combining mystical fairies and scheming pirates, Disney has created yet another enchanting tale with their latest release, The Pirate Fairy.  The Pirate Fairy follows a beleaguered dust-keeper fairy, Zarina, whose curiosity lands her in a tough predicament.  When Zarina finds herself in trouble after disobeying rules, she flees Pixie Hollow and joins forces with the pirates of Skull Rock. 

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In her new domain with the pirates, Zarina becomes Captain of the ship.  Her adventure as Captain lead her back to Pixie Hollow, as she goes tete à tete with the fairies.  But when schemes go awry, pirates will be pirates, but will fairies come through in the end?


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Just before the Pirate Fairy’s release, together with a number of bloggers, I was invited to an intimate lunch with producer, Jenni Magee-Cook, where I learned so many fun facts about the new movie.


7 Reasons That Make Disney’s Pirate Fairy Magical


1. Pixie Dust

It’s all about the pixie dust.  Any glorious tale about fairies must include gratuitous amounts of pixie dust.  And in true Disney form, Pirate Fairy does not disappoint with plenty of pixie dust.  The Pirate Fairy follows the main character, Zarina’s, curiosity and fervor for pixie dust.  Ultimately, the dust keeps the pixies afloat—literally!


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2.  Pirates

Who doesn’t love a hearty band of pirates?  In Pirate Fairy, we meet a colorful cast, but it’s one pirate in particular that made us smile. 


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The sly cabin boy, James, caught our eye, but most importantly, he gave us a glimpse of the young Captain Hook.  It was big boss John Lasseter who influenced this latest Fairy Tale.  In a meeting as described by the producer Jenni Magee-Cook, all the creative storytellers were in a meeting discussing the latest story for Pixie Hollow, when Lasseter joined.  Minutes before having to leave for another meeting, in a quiet room, Lasseter yells  out “Pirates!!”  And from there, Pirate Fairy was born.




3.  Stars Aligned

Speaking of James, The Avengers’ Tom Hiddleston voiced our now-infamous cabin boy.  From Mae Whitman’s Tinker Bell to Christina Hendrick’s Zarina to Carlos Ponce’s Bonito, the voice talent was plentiful in The Pirate Fairy.  Not only were the celebs voicing the magical characters, they were also dressing them too.  



4.  Fashion 

Christian Siriano of Project Runway fame and known for his whimsical and show-stopping designs, consulted with the filmmakers at Disneytoon Studios on Zarina’s pirate fairy costume.  It was all about those boots!  They were fierce, to say the least!  According to producer Jenni Magee-Cook, said Siriano was tapped to incorporate high fashion, rather than a regular costume.  Zarina’s eye-catching ensemble certainly shows for the Project Runway influence.




5.  Crocky

Disney is so great at creating fluid storylines, and that goes for Pirate Fairy and familiar faces.  Because there are several overlapping themes and characters from Neverland, it’s no surprise we get to see a baby Tick Tock Crock, Captain Hook’s nemesis from Peter Pan and also seen in Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  In Pirate Fairy, a baby Crocky can be seen dawdling as cute baby crocs do.


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6.  Neverland

Neverland is known as a mystical place where no one ever grows up.  As the backdrop to Pixie Hollow AND Peter Pan and friends, it’s interesting to see how the landscape aids in the storyline.  Not only has Neverland captivated generations past, it continues to engage wonder with kids now in Jake’s stories, as well as Disney’s latest, The Pirate Fairy.

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7. True Friends Triumph

The storyline follows Zarina’s quest from dust keeper to pirate, and her struggle with authority.  Will Zarina’s  stubborn ways lead or astray forever? or will true friendship and forgiveness triumph.  In Disney fashion, I think you know the answer to that question.


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Stocking up on Staycation Goodies and Gear with

As everyone is anticipating the upcoming holiday weekend, I’m finally getting back into the groove of things after last week’s travel and then a bout with sickness.  I hope you guys have fun weekends planned.

At our house, summer is definitely in full swing, and we’ve got the bug bites and sunkissed faces to prove it.  It’s our first summer in the suburbs, and by the smiles the kid gives us, I think we made the right choice in neighborhood.

Our new neighborhood, though just 30 miles from NYC, is in a wooded area that surrounds a lake.  Families swarm to the lake for daily swimming and evening outings; it might not be the chaos of the city that I love so much, but this corner of the world is truly more than I could have ever envisioned for our family.

A patch of grass to call our own

Having spent the past few summers at public parks, running through water sprinklers to cool off, I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to have our a patch of grass to call our own.  As much as I miss city living, one thing I don’t miss is the lack of space.  Once upon a time, we’d have to question ownership of one or two ride-on toys and where we’d put them, and now, we sort of have a fleet of them, next to the baseball bats, footballs, water balloons, water guns, floats…

Boredom is not an option

Outdoor play is a big part of our day-to-day routine, and making sure we have the goodies and gear onhand is crucial.  Boredom is not an option.  Because of our former space restraints, we didn’t have too many big outdoor toys to begin with and besides our usual brick and mortar shopping locales, I love knowing that my go-to online shop for all things baby/kid,, sells toys and other outdoor play paraphernalia. fangirl

I’m a long-time fan of and their sister site,  In fact, I went to the launch event for and regularly sing their praises on Twitter.  When I was asked to participate in this BabyCenter Blog Network campaign, I giddily obliged knowing that I’d get to write about, yet another service that I already love.  And because the suggested topic idea had to do with a staycation, I actually waited to write about this campaign so it would coincide with our actual staycation, which begins this weekend.

On this recent shopping trip on, I made a point to stock up on even more outdoor toys and gear for the boy to enjoy over the holiday weekend.

The staycation  goodies and the gear

So, for this staycation,  I spent right around $100 and I made sure to stock up goodies and gear that would get good use on our staycation.  For starters, we have enough sunblock in our arsenal, but we’re low on bug ointment that actually works and is safe for the kid.  Badger Balm, which gets great reviews on, was first on my list.  Can’t play outside if the bugs have their way with you!  And as for the good stuff, of course I ordered toys..lots of outdoor toys!  I ordered a kiddie pool for the back yard, a float for the lake and various other toys to play with in the yard or when we go to the beach.  So, here’s the main goodies I ended up buying:

I’m so impressed by how many great toy brands there are on, including brands that I’ve only seen at specialty boutiques.  I especially LOVE Spielstabil‘s beach and outdoor toys.  Spielstabil is a beloved German toy company that’s also under the Haba umbrella.  Their products, which are extremely durable, are bpa, pthalate and pvc-free.  I just love that puts a lot of thought into the products they sell. (Trust me, I’ve seen the buying team in action at Toy Fair.)  I ordered the sand and water mill from Spielstabil and can’t wait to see it in action!

Amidst the hundreds and hundreds of choices of toys, gear and baby and kid products, I finally made my purchase and the first shipment should be arriving tomorrow.  The main caveats of this shopping trip were my indecision and that the order is coming in three separate shipments, with one of them not coming until next week.  Nevertheless, I  can’t wait to share more AND to reveal a pretty fun giveaway to boot!  Stay tuned.

Full disclosure:  This post is sponsored by BabyCenter in conjunction with the BabyCenter Blog Network.

Gift ideas for 3 Year Old Girl

Friend and NKT reader, Sarah, posted a really great question on the NKT FB page last week.  With her daughter turning three soon, she asked if I had any gift ideas.  On the heels of last month’s Toy Fair, I have stacks of ideas, actually.  As a mama to a three year old boy, I was excited to research some answers to Sarah’s question.

Three year olds are known for continuing to express their individuality and independence. They are honing their gross motor skills, and for most, attention spans are still quite limited. Role playing and group play is a growing trend at this stage, too.  And as much as I’d like to ignore the whole gender toy issue, like many of you, I’ve seen firsthand just how different play patterns are of boys and girls at this age.

Sarah said her three year old is into girly toys, pets, bubbles and jumping.  And since I haven’t had a chance to talk about many of the fun toys I saw at Toy Fair, this is a great topic to discuss since I saw so many great products that embrace these exact themes.


Princesses, long-loved favorites to toddlers, preschoolers and beyond, still have a strong presence on the toy front, especially with the success of last year’s Rapunzel.  Even though Disney has hinted at no more new princesses in the near future, toy makers still have a strong grip on this multi-million dollar license.

Squinkies, the tiny bubblegum machine-inspired trinkets that the kids love (and moms not so much), are now available in Disney Princess themes.

Word of caution: these toys are rated 4+ for safety purposes.

With the upcoming release of Tangled on DVD and Blu-Ray, there are quite a few cute dolls that focus on Rapunzel’s hair.

My favorite Tangled-inspired toy is the Toddler Tangled Rapunzel Doll from the Disney Store.  Only caveat with this adorable doll? She’s sold out on Disney Store’s site, but is probably available at select stores.  She’s cute and her hair looks manageable for the littler girls.

Tangled Sing and Glow Rapunzel doll, with her light up hair and singing voice is another cute doll that might be of interest to little girls.

Dolls and Doll Accessories

Doll and doll accessories are, no doubt, a big hit with toddlers and preschoolers because of the imaginative and creative play involved.  Quite a few toy makers have cool new doll accessories coming out, but Hasbro’s Baby Alive and Step 2’s Deluxe Nursery Station are two products that stood out for me at this year’s Toy Fair.

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Cooking Connections: Placating Picky Eaters

“Mama, is broccoli a treat? Because I love it.”

“Sure, honey. Broccoli can be considered a treat if you like it.”

“How about carrots?”

“Yup. Carrots can be treats, too.”

Last week, one of our dinnertime chats went a little something like that.  At three years old, the kid questions whether or not veggies are, indeed, treats. And for as long as it lasts, I’ll to continue to advocate that veggies are treats, while simultaneously singing “There’s a Party in My Tummy,” the Yo Gabba Gabba eating anthem for preschoolers and parents alike.


Having grown up with the crowned prince of picky eaters, I’m well versed in the picky eating realm.  Public breakdowns and refusals to eat unless we had what he wanted, my older brother’s precarious eating habits never made life easy for myIMG_1383 parents. I was known to eat not only my dinners, but also my brother’s—perhaps to pacify his pickyness and to (ahem) feed my own love for food at an early age.

Whatever the case was, once I became a mom, I made it my personal crusade to try and avert the picky eating habits while refining my own eating habits.  It makes me smile when my guy reaches for broccoli in the app tray at parties before he heads to the dessert table. Now, if only every day was a broccoli-loving day…

Kids are relentless when it comes to eating, but I don’t think it should always be a battle. Tactics like involving kids in the kitchen, helping with grocery shopping, and something as simple, yet significant, as eating the same meal together as a family can help with picky eaters. My motto is, I’m not an app cook, so we all eat the same thing for every meal.  Special meals should be reserved for special days, preferably the days where someone is serving me too!

I know, I know…it’s easier said than done.

Let’s Connect with Cooking Connections

I’ve devoted a a lot of coverage lately to kid-centric food and healthier habits, but by no means does that make me an expert in this parenting arena.  I am, however, quite excited to be a co-host in tomorrow’s installment of Cooking Connections, where picky eaters will be the topic at hand. Our fabulous hosts will lead a discussion on, and I’d love it if you could join us!  The deets are below:

When: Wednesday, March 2, at 1 p.m. ET

Where: TheMotherhood – here is the link to the page where the class will be held:

And here is the registration page for all Cooking Connections classes:

What: The class I am co-hosting is called “Expanding Your Family’s Palate by Placating Picky Eaters,” and it is hosted by Jennifer Leal (Savor the Thyme), Kimberly Coleman (Mom in the City) and Kelsey Banfield (The Naptime Chef).  We will be talking about how to make meals work for all members of the family, healthy and interesting foods that kids AND adults love, and strategies for getting picky eaters to try new things.  Join us, and feel free to ask questions, share recipes or chime in with your own suggestions!

The class is sponsored by ConAgra and hosted by TheMotherhood.

My other fabulous co-hosts are:

Marla Meridith, Family Fresh Cooking
Kristy Bernardo, The Wicked Noodle
Jo-Lynne Shane, Musings of a Housewife
Dara Michalski, Cookin’ Canuck
Brooke McLay, Cheeky Kitchen
Shaina Olmanson, Food for My Family
Carol Cain, NY City Mama
Shari Simpson-Cabelin, Earth Mother just means I’m dusty
Amy Johnson, She Wears Many Hats
Stacie Billis, One Hungry Mama

I personally can wait to hear everyone’s ideas and recipes aimed to placate picky eaters.  I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! See you then!

Walk Down Memory Lane + Maegan Dougherty Photo Session Giveaway

If there was ever a good time to walk down memory lane, this week would be it.  After months of waiting to close on our house, we’re still displaced.  Needless to say, it’s been a rocky road for our family this summer:  all of our stuff still remains in storage, our poor kid cries for his toys, my heart aches every time he begs to go “home” and all we can do is just wait…

But, throughout this trying time, we’ve had each other.

The week before we moved out of our apartment, we had a photo session with our favorite family photographer, Maegan Dougherty.  It was a fun time, which yielded another set of great photos that serve as a great reminder of what’s truly important in life.

I met Maegan on a message board I used to frequent, and was immediately drawn to her photos.  Shortly after the kid was born, Maegan shot our first session and made our memories that much brighter.  Her photography has graced our Holiday cards, were the source for our kid’s headshots, they line my mom’s refrigerator, and soon, after all this waiting, these photos will line the halls of our new home.

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Yum Food & Fun for Kids: New Resource for Food Revolution

Magazines: I know many of you love them as much as I do.  There’s truly nothing like flipping through glossy pages and indulging in feature stories, cool products and advice columns.  In my case, I’m always looking for inspiration, whether it’s for writing, design or to just shop.


On one of my recent trips to Target I found a new magazine called Yum Food & Fun for Kids.  Always, in search of new ideas on how to improve my efforts in the kitchen and at the dinner table, especially where the kid is concerned, I think this new publication fills a void at the newstands.

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Q and A: Lindsey Jacobellis, Snowboard Cross Olympian

The dust, or rather, the snow may be settling now that the Olympics are over.  And while a handful of Olympians are making the rounds touting their medals, one Olympian is speaking about what she’s learned.

When Lindsey Jacobellis is mentioned, some people may remember her as the snowboarder from the 2006 Olympics who fell on her second to last jump when attempting a method grab, scoring a silver instead of the expected gold.  But, trust me, there’s more to know about Jacobellis.  Much more.

Armed with even more fervor for the 2010 Winter Olympics, unfortunately, Jacobellis left Vancouver without medaling in the Women’s Snowboard Cross.  This Olympics might not have been the “redemption” that many were anticipating, but “Lucky Lindsey” is holding her head up high.  Why shouldn’t she?

Afterall, at just 24, Lindsey is one of the most well known, not to mention, one of the most decorated female athletes in her sport.  In addition to the silver she earned at the ’06 Olympics, she has a gold from the ’09 Winter X Games to show for success.

On not medaling in Vancouver: “It’s definitely not the end of the world for me.  It’s unfortunate that the rest of the world only sees this race and the one four years ago. I guess I don’t have a great track record with the general public,” Jacobellis was quoted in the LA Times.

You win some, you lose some, kids.  And between us, it’s time to dispel the negativity.  It’s true, we don’t always get what we want—hey wait, isn’t that what we teach our kids?

And yes, that includes winning Olympic gold.

I had the the unique opportunity to speak candidly with Lindsey the other week, where we discussed what’s next, her influences and what she thought about those snowboarding pants.





source: Getty Images

NKT: I know they’re apples and oranges, but can you compare and describe your experience in the X Games to that of the Olympics?


LJ: In the X Games, my family was able to be up close, which wasn’t really the case for the Olympics.  When I’m competing, I’m in such a zone anyway, it’s hard to tell the difference.


NKT:  As one of the most recognized names in snowboarding whom do you consider as a role model in your sport?

LJ: I’d have to say Shaun Palmer.  I grew up admiring him since he paved the way for snowboarders, so it was such an honor to be on the same team.


NKT:  After your second appearance, what is your biggest takeaway from this experience.

LJ: I approach all competition the same, so I try hard to not to walk away upset, even if the outcome isn’t how I wanted.  I don’t give up easily, so I’ll take this experience and will grow from it.


NKT: I write typically for kid-centric sites, including my own, and it’s a well known fact that many tweens and teens look up to you.  What would your advice/insight be for your most impressionable fans about not giving up?

LJ: If you’re in love with something and it makes you happy, pursue it, even if you don’t always get the outcome that you want.  Do something you want!  I continue to snowboard because I love it.  How I do at a competition doesn’t define me; it’s how much I love the sport itself.  It’s not so much as about winning.  To me, it’s all about pursuing my passion and absorbing it all.


NKT: I asked many of my Facebook friends to chime in on questions, and everyone wants to know about the pants the snowboarders wore during the Olympics.  You care to share your thoughts on them?  The pants the snowboarders wore during the Olympics were by the popular snowboarding brand, Burton.  In case you’re not familiar, the pants looked like distressed jeans, but were made of Gore-Tex.  The overall look offset the preppiness of the plaid jackets.

LJ: When I first saw the design, I was a bit surprised.  And then when I saw them in person, I thought they were awesome.  It looked like we were racing in jeans, when really we weren’t; they’re really cool snowboarding pants, though.  I thought they reflected the vibe and culture of snowboarding.

NKT:  You might not have had a storybook ending to your second Olympic appearance.  In light of that, can you think of a storybook or cartoon character that you can associate your experiences with?

Lindsey saved this question for last because she paused to ask her mom, whom she said would have a better recollection.  I thought this was so endearing and indicative of how close she is with her family!

LJ: I’d have to say that I can relate to Dr. Seuss.  His characters are all quirky, the stories are funky, yet so deep.  I love how in many stories, they endure trials and tribulation and have a great message.  There’s a Dr. Seuss story that I loved about a yakk, it was all about moving on!


NKT:  What’s next for you?

LJ: I’m off to Colorado, then to Europe for the World Cup Tour and then Vermont.  I’ll stay busy with traveling, snowboarding and catching up with friends and family!


NKT:  And because you’re the DayQuil/NyQuil spokesperson, other than those remedies, what are your go-to remedies when you’re feeling under the weather.

LJ:  I love going the natural route, so I tend to turn to the Neti-Pot when my sinuses are acting up.  But other than that, I’m all about NyQuil.


The Olympics might be over, but keep an eye out for Lindsey.  Expect her to blaze more trails, figuratively and literally, in the years to come!

Full Disclosure:  I served as a brand ambassador for Vicks in the fall when I covered World Pneumonia Day, thus I have an ongoing relationship with P&G.  I happily interviewed Lindsey Jacobellis, a P&G spokesperson, for coverage on NKT.  I was not compensated in any way.