An Ultimate Getaway Aboard the NCL Getaway

The weather here in the northeast has been downright frigid.  Lucky for us, we had a chance to getaway on the NCL Getaway—well, at least for a day anyway.

 

Last weekend, The Moms and Norwegian Cruiseline hosted a family media day aboard the latest ship in the NCL fleet, the Getaway.  Having just sailed across the Atlantic, literally, just weeks from the shipyard, we were among the first to explore the brand spanking new ship.  Beyond getting to smell that new ship smell, we savored some food, entertainment and whet our appetites for much more.

 


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Measuring in at 1,068 ft., boasting 18 decks (14 open to the public), 28 diverse dining options and a waterpark with five waterslides, among other features, the Getaway certainly lived up to its name.

 

As we arrived, we convened in the Illusionarium, which channeled a big top circus with a magician’s appeal.  Deep velvets and vintage-looking magician’s tools, made for a mysterious, yet intimate backdrop for a dining and entertainment space.

 

 

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NCL treated us to a delicious lunch that included coconut shrimp, a simple salad, twice baked potato and a filet.  And since we were celebrating the babe’s birthday, the banana cupcake for the kids was an expected hit.  The fluffy, decorative icing was a major hit for Josh, no surprise there. I devoured the dessert sampling that featured a trilogy of sweet confections, including a red velvet cupcake, vanilla crème caramel and chocolate cake.

 

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After our fulfilling lunch, we were treated even further with a sampling of shows that could be found aboard the Getaway.  Burn the Floor, an invigorating, fast-paced dance show, headlined the entertainment.  This high energy show featured dancers who stomped and burned the floor with tap and jazz-inspired choreography.  Of all the shows, this was my favorite, and based on the kids’ expressions, I’m sure they felt the same.

 

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The magician was the next performer who engaged the kids even further.  He balanced a candle atop a floating table, which mesmerized both kids and adults.

The Tony Award nominated show, Legally Blonde was the next performance that turned heads.  While I love Broadway musicals, Legally Blonde just isn’t my thing.  Nevertheless, it was a fun and entertaining performance.

 

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The kids’ absolute favorite performance, though, was the Nickelodeon crew.  Dora, Diego, Spongebob and the Nickelodeon team danced even further into my boys’ hearts.  The excitement and allure from the oversized, singing characters from the 2 year old was immeasurable.

 

After the performances, we had a chance to explore the ship on a guided tour as the older kids got to enjoy the Nickelodeon Splash Camp.  The highlights of the tour for the expansive dining options included The Waterfront, an open air promenade that showcases the ocean as part of the ambience; the chilly Ice Bar; La Cucina, the obligatory italian joint and my favorite, Carlo’s Bakery. 

 

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As a former longtime Hoboken resident and fan pre-Cake Boss, I absolutely loved seeing this iconic bakery have a presence aboard another NCL ship.  I didn’t have a chance to taste anything beyond the luncheon, but the thought of a future sail has my mouth watering.

 


 

 

 

 

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As for the staterooms, we had a chance to peek into several interior rooms.  Like most interior rooms, they were modest and cozy, but had me feeling claustrophobic. 

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Having lived in tight quarters for so long, I dream of stretching out while on vacation.  On the other end of the spectrum, the staterooms in the Haven were nothing less than dreamy.  I peeked into a few Haven suites and fell in love  with the clean, modern decor and smart design.  These suites maximized the space and even featured an offset sleeping area.  The tiled bathroom and glorious tubs truly evoked elegance.

 

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The areas I really wanted to tour though, I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to really explore.  Though Jack spent some time at the Splash Camp, I wanted to have a look at the facility for the kids. NCL is known for their comprehensive kids’ programs, which looked super fun from a distance. 

 

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 It featured bright colors, fun music, a second floor and cool counselors.  My only complaint: the babe really wanted to play with big bro, and since he’s just 2, he wasn’t able to play along and enjoy balloons with the bigger kids since that specific kid area was for 3 and up.  He eventually got over it when we let him gamble.

 

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Since I’ve had the pleasure of attending several media cruises and events aboard various cruise ships, it always great when I’m able to bring family to experience the fun.  This time around, we spent the babe’s 2nd birthday aboard the ship.  Since we opted to forgo a big party for his 2nd birthday, it felt as thought NCL threw Josh a super lavish party!  Entertainment, delicious food, Dora and Diego, Spongebob and an attentive staff to wait on us and clean up? Best birthday celebration ever!

 

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A big thank you again to NCL and The Moms for hosting us for the media and give us a reason to dream about a major Getaway.

 
 

PBS Kids Debuts New Dinosaur Train Special: Nature Trackers Adventure Camp

Looking for something to watch today while the kids are home?  PBS Kids is premiering a one hour special today called, Dinosaur Train: Nature Trackers Adventure Camp.  The Pteranodon family are taking the kids and parents on a journey that features four stories that highlight nature and adventures in varying geographic locations. On their adventures, they zipline, raft and mountain climb, among other fun things. 

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As lovers of the outdoors, Nature Trackers Adventure Camp has us excited for our own outdoor excursions when the weather thaws a bit.  I especially love how this episode has an interesting educational angle that engages my adventurers one step further.  Click through to read more about this fun special!

 

 

“Nature Trackers Adventure Camp: Rafting”
Buddy, Tiny, Shiny and Don go river rafting for the first time at Nature Tracker Adventure Camp.  Their old pal Jess Hesperornis meets up with them, and they all learn about erosion and the importance of rivers before finishing up their adventure by cruising through some rapids!

Educational Objective: Rivers and streams are ribbons of water that start at a high point and flow downhill – often with streams gathering into rivers. Animals and plants living on land depend on rivers and streams to provide fresh water and nutrients.

“Nature Trackers Adventure Camp: Mountain Climbing”
For their second outing at Nature Trackers Adventure Camp, Buddy, Tiny, Shiny, Don and other friends learn about the tree line as they set out to hike up a mountain. Shiny is determined to get to the top of mountain forest. Buddy wonders if they’ll be able to see anything from the mountaintop, through the tall trees. The kids are amazed that the higher they hike, the shorter the trees and bushes become! Then they reach the tree line – a certain point on the mountain where trees are really small because they don’t have enough air to breathe and the temperature is too cold. In the end, Shiny and all the kids use teamwork to all reach the mountaintop together!

 

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Educational Objective: The timberline, or tree line, is a certain elevation on a mountain where the temperatures are colder, the air is thin and the soil is less moist, making it hard for most plants and trees to grow. Trees may grow as small shrubs. There is less oxygen, so it’s harder for animals to breathe at the tree line and above.

“Nature Trackers Adventure Camp: Ziplining” 
The Nature Trackers Adventure Campers are back for another adventure – and this time they’ll be travelling to a rainforest! Once they arrive in the dense rainforest, the campers explore different levels of the ecosystem, including the forest floor and the canopy of leaves at the top of the forest. After a hike through the rainforest, the campers’ adventure culminates as each kid takes a ride on a zipline, where they all get a bird’s eye view of the entire rainforest!

Educational Objective: Rainforests are very dense, warm, wet, forests that are home to a vast array of different life forms. Rainforests get a lot of rain, at least 70 inches per year. Rainforests, often called the “lungs of the Earth,” generate much of the oxygen we breathe.

“Nature Trackers Adventure Camp: Canyon Hiking” 
The Nature Trackers Adventure Campers are led by Mr. Conductor and Gilbert on a hike down a canyon, where they can see the different layers of the Mesozoic Era! At first, Lily Lambeosaurus is reluctant to go, thinking that a new adventure sounds hard, but Don convinces her that a new adventure can be worth the effort. At the bottom of the canyon, the kids dig for fossils. Each Nature Tracker goes home with a “new” Ammonite fossil, and Lily is so glad she tried something new!

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Educational Objective: Canyons are deep cuts in the earth’s surface. They are formed by erosion. Erosion is mainly caused by the flow of rivers. It takes millions of years for canyons to become the grandiose natural landmarks they are today. The bottom rocks in canyons can date back billions of years, beyond the Mesozoic. Canyons can also be formed by a shift of the earth’s tectonic plates.

Best Toddler Toys

There are so many wonderful toys for toddlers, I wanted to share just a few of our very favorites. With Christmas here, many of these were still available at my local Target, Apple Store and other toy store.

As I’ve said before, with Josh’s various delays, I view toys and play pattern very differently now. What was once a mediocre toy, I now find has so many great qualities for extended and open ended play. I appreciate the kinds of toys that encourage imaginative play and increase creative thought. We enjoy toys that use batteries, but not in an obtrusive, overstimulating way.

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1. Baa Baa Barn
Baa Baa Barn is, perhaps, the most play-ed with toy in our lineup of toddler toys. This barn play set from B. Toys features a jewel-toned set up and funky music. I love that there are so many nooks and crannies for toddlers to explore. The best feature of this unique farm-inspired play set, though, is the incorporation of interactive music. When an animal is placed on the barn floor, the song that’s played reflects the animal sounds. The little blue sax-playing raccoon has the funkiest beat that gets my almost two-year old grooving. Grab this awesome play set at Target.

2. Tiggly Shapes
I’m not very big into screen time with young tots; however, there are a few exceptions for my feelings on this. I appreciate when iPads or tablets reinforce educational play. Limited educational play via tablets have shown increased language skills and developmental progress in young children. While I am totally against using a tablet as a babysitter, I love that there are appcessory-type toys such as Tiggly Shapes that encourage this sort of educational play that I currently seek for my IE tot.
Tiggly Shapes combines tactile and digital play, merging play patterns to create a conducive learning experience for toddlers and preschoolers. With four interactive shapes, kids can explore shapes and objects on the iPad through several apps. The most recent app, in fact, is a Christmas-themed app that brings the season full circle. Pun intended.

3. 1, 2, 3 Take Along Fire Station
With a portable fire station set up, foldable wall and lift to the relaxation room on the first floor, what’s not to love about Playmobil’s Take Along Fire Station? This set’s portability and fire station theme, combined with the chunkier pieces make it ideal for toddlers and preschoolers. I love that it encourages open-ended play, doesn’t require batteries and houses all of its own pieces in the station. Playmobil is a classic and well-loved brand in our house with the big boy, but this playlet is a welcomed addition for my curious toddler.

4. AB3’s
Another fabulous B. Toys products lands in our favorites of the season. This beautiful wooden alphabet and number toy features letters at the top and numbered figures at the bottom which can be spun over and over. The beautiful colors and wooden details make this abacus-like toy a must-keep for future generations, and as my husband described, it’s totally “heirloom-quality.” This would make a beautiful gift for a baby, just as it would for a preschooler. My own toddler loves to watch the numbers spin, but I personally look forward to helping him learn his AB3’s.

5. Roll and Learn Suitcase
VTech toys never seem to disappoint, and the same goes for this innovative rolling suitcase from VTech. From the intuitive buttons to removable travel inspired blocks, this rolling suitcase can be opened to house smaller toys. The suitcase, aptly, is toddler-sized and can be rolled or pushed around with ease. I love the interactive features of this case, which is similar to that familiar VTech toys interface. My only qualm with this toy, though, is that I would have loved to see the interior include a little more interactivity.

6. Bubble Guppies Rock n Roll Stage
A favorite for preschoolers, Bubble Guppies’ catchy songs can be recreated on their Rock n Roll Stage. The stage gives these lovable characters a platform to sing and dance, and encourages imaginative play for Bubble Guppies’ fans. I love that the characters slide around on this playset. The fun songs and cute Nickelodeon characters make this playset a must-have for ocean-loving and Bubble Guppies fans alike.

Stride Rite Children’s Group Showcases Spring 2014 at PetiteParade

They may be small in stature, but the runway models from last week’s PetiteParade were big on style with a little extra spunk.

As part of Children’s Fashion Week, a number of trendsetting brands showcased their latest and greatest on the PetiteParade’s runway last week. Stride Rite Children’s Group punctuated the two-day event with their signature classic style. In their show, Stride Rite Children’s Group featured Stride Rite, Saucony, Merrell, Nordstrom, Sperry and Keds.

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Stride Rite opened their Spring 2013 show with a whimsical nod to their flower-inspired styles. Colorful classic sandals with flower details and coral gold-toed Mary Janes were among the most eye-catching styles that started off the StrideRite show.
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I loved the way that StrideRite can seamlessly translate trends into age-appropriate fashion in their footwear, such as pink hombre flower details on gladiator-style sandals.

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For the boys and superhero aficionado, StrideRite showcased one of their beloved licenses, Marvel. The casual-cool slip-ons embraced superhero flair without compromising modern style. For the sporty set, Saucony showcased styles suitable for both boys and girls. With neon details and velcro closures for smaller kids, Saucony has Spring styles for athletes of all sizes.

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Merrell, a newcomer to the Stride Rite Children’s Group, made quite the entrance. Gray sneakers with turquoise and pink detailing underscore Merrell’s footing in the outdoor sector. My favorite from Merrell, however, was a hiking boot that looked both playful and fashionable, and something totally ideal for my rugged boy with discerning taste.

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Sperry showcased a sampling of both chic and classic styles for Spring. A royal blue pair of Sperry Topsiders looked sleek with a sport coat, yet I’m imagining they would be just as cool with a pair of jeans. The pink striped with sequins, though, were the most chic style from this mainstay brand.

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Stride Rite Children’s Group ended their show with Keds, yet another classic brand well-associated with style. This brand, synonymous, for their signature white canvas sneakers, featured a splash of color with a bit of modern-classic prints thrown into the mix. It was so fitting that a super cute, but super shy model ended the show with a sporty cape and signature white sneakers.


Following the show, Malinda Freitas, Stride Rite Children’s Group Brand Marketing Manager and Jennifer Smith, Fashion Stylist for the show, gave the bloggers onhand a rundown of Stride Rite’s Spring looks. Freitas underscored the importance of real fashion that moms can incorporate into everyday wear, something that I totally “get” from Stride Rite. An honest brand enthusiast, I have always bought Stride Rite for practicality and durability first. It’s always been an added extra that this beloved brand stays so relevant with its cutting-edge style.

Check out the behind the scenes interview with Malinda Freitas, Stride Rite Brand Marketing Manager and Jennifer Smith Fashion Stylist.

Curious George Swings into Spring on PBS Kids on Earth Day

Everyone’s favorite monkey is helping us to usher in spring today, just in time for Earth Day. Curious George, like most of us, has spring fever after a long winter.


As usual, George finds himself in quite the predicament in the new PBS Kids movie, “Curious George Swings into Spring.” As he finds his way, George is able to enjoy and learn about the beauty of spring firsthand.

To prepare for Curious George’s “Swing into Spring” hour-long movie that coincides with Earth Day celebrations, we did some fun outdoor activities. After all, the best way to learn for the little guys is to do it hands-on, especially if it involves getting dirty!


We’re getting the groove of this suburban thing, which includes a new-found appreciation for gardening. The whole family gets into planting flowers, working on the lawn and cultivating a garden.


As part of this fun Curious George promo, our friends at PBS Kids sent us a fantastic spring care package, that included materials for planting tomato, as well as instructions for a fun bird feeder that incorporates recycled materials.


Together with our other plants, we planted our tomatoes last week. As we were working on the garden and seedlings today, we noticed the tiniest sprout! We’ve been careful to plant and keep our pots in sunlight and out of harm’s way. We’re looking forward to see the wonderful fruit it will bear!


We enjoyed today’s beautiful sunshine by building a bird feeder from a recycled soda bottle. After cleaning out the bottle, punching several holes for the twine at the top and holes to position the chopstick to act as a perch, we then filled the bottle with seeds. After closing the bottle and flipping it over, we found a perfect spot to hang our new feeder right outside our window. We’ll be watching for birds to come visit!


As our buddy Curious George reminds us, it’s important to embrace spring and to enjoy nature as often as we can! After checking out Curious George’s Swing into Spring, make sure you make time to go for a walk or find a special way enjoy the outdoors on Earth Day and every day.


Tune into PBS Kids on April 22nd to catch the hour-long special, “Curious George Swings into Spring.”

As a PBS Kids VIP, it’s a privilege to share the latest PBS Kids news. I was not compensated, and as always, all opinions are my own.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame: Joining the Mets Blogger Community

If you happen to know my husband, then you surely know that his favorite things in life are family, the Mets and beer…and in that order.


In our 17 years together, the Mets have always been a part of “us.” But before us, my husband, grew up idolizing his favorite baseball team. In the 80s, the decade of excess, the Mets had a rockstar status, and for Jeff, that status will never fade. (Through good times and the bad)


As Jeff and I grew to become the three of us, I announced my pregnancy with a Mets onsie. We’ve been instilling our love for the Amazins since our boys were in diapers, so much so, Biggie’s first game was also my first Mother’s Day, which we lovingly spent at Shea!

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Our love for baseball transcends the commercialism that sporting events have seemingly become. To us, baseball and the Mets are synonymous with passion and family, which is why I’m truly honored and elated to be invited to be a part of the Mets Blogging Community!


I’m excited to share fun details about the Amazins and perhaps a few behind the scenes pix! Follow me on Twitter and Instagram for my latest updates.

A Taste of the Finger Lakes

I just spent the last four days eating and drinking my way through the Finger Lakes in upstate New York. Just a five hour drive northwest of NYC, together with my girlfriends, we explored the best of what the Finger Lakes has to offer.


And based on my full belly, fond memories and a trunk full of pies and wine, we completely enjoyed the Finger Lakes. While most of my trip was a girlfriends’ trip, I’ll most likely post about the more family friendly topics here and will share the other adventures on other publications.


Since it’s still so fresh in my mind, the highlights of this weekend were the various wineries, the award-winning Leaf Kitchen a locavore restaurant in Geneva, Touring the up and coming microbrewery the Naked Dove, enjoying Monica’s Pies and cooking at The New York Wine and Culinary Center. Above all the delicious wine and food, I was most impressed by the overall collaborative effort that the area has put in with their local food revolution. From retailer to manufacturer to family-owned wineries, each company and organization embraced a sense of camaraderie throughout industry as a whole.


And even though I’m blogging from the back seat ON our way home and sitting right next to them, big hugs to my beautiful friends, Carol, Corine and Liz, with whom I enjoyed exploring the Finger Lakes. A special thank you to the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, Geneva on the Lake, surrounding counties and all of the other wonderful organizations who made our trip so incredible. I can’t wait to share more!


In the meantime, feel free to catch a glimpse of our adventures on Twitter or Instagram by checking out the #FLXTrip or #FLXFoodRev hastags

Pot of Gold Cake Pops

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We could take all the good luck that we could get, so when it comes to St. Patty’s Day, with a kid who believes in the magic of leprechauns and the belief that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, what do you do? We make our own pot of gold


For biggie’s St. Patty’s Day party we made pot of gold cake pops. If you’re already familiar with cake pops, then this treat is a breeze. I got the idea after a quick google and made my own revisions.

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Staying Comfy with Spring PJs from The Children’s Place

In our house, pajamas are a big deal. Biggie and I are all about comfy pjs. In fact, Jack won’t wear pjs if they don’t match or if they’re too scratchy. So, I always make it a point to buy pjs that meet our stringent requirements: comfy, durable, but also cool. And when I say cool, I mean pjs not emblazoned with trains and obscure designs.


So, when it comes to the baby, I have to admit, he has the best hand-me-downs, and of course, the most comfortable pajamas. When I shopped for my first baby, I kept durability and comfort in mind. With the baby, the first pjs I always grab are always The Children’s Place. Even 5 years later, they’re still soft and have held up amazingly well.


When TCP asked me to check out their spring selection of pjs for Baby, I happily jumped on board. I love the bright, vibrant colors TCP has this season. After such a drab winter, it’s so nice to welcome fun jewel-toned stripes and modern prints that suit my feisty and colorful boy!


One of my faves, though, has to be the 2-piece pjs that has a monster theme. The lime green colored top with a singular eyeball is so reminiscent of Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc. and the upcoming Monsters University.

Just like our hand-me-downs from TCP, baby’s latest selections are durable, fun and will withstand a toddler’s messy, rough-and-tumble day. I love the grippy footies on the sleepers which are convenient for my not-quite walking tot.


The Children’s Place pjs, without a doubt, are high on our list of faves. If you’re heading off for a spring break trip or need to update the kid’s pjs after they’ve outgrown their current ones, be sure to check out the spring selection of pjs at The Children’s Place.

The Children’s Place kindly sent us a giftcard to facilitate this review, but as always, opinions are my own.

Valentine’s Day Sweet Treat: cupid’s arrow fruit kabobs

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope your day has been filled with lots of love and heart-shaped goodies!

Just in time for an afternoon snack or a quick dessert, I thought I’d share a fun snack that we created for biggie’s class party.

Since everything is typically heart-shaped for Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to pay homage to Cupid and make fruit kabobs reminiscent of his arrows.
Who doesn’t love food on a stick? And since it’s fruit, it’s basically like candy, right?

Ingredients for this crafty snack are simple. All you need are strawberries, blueberries or raspberries, Popsicle sticks and craft tape.
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Craft tape is my new favorite go-to medium. More versatile than glue, craft tape seals and can act as decor—like in these arrows! I simply cut four smallish pieces to position them on one end of the Popsicle stick to look like the tail of an arrow.

The tail anchors the fruit and then you can start piercing the fruit. Pierce 3 or 4 pieces of the smaller fruit for the body of the arrow. For the arrowhead, simply cut off the top of a strawberry and pierce it to the end. The strawberry is already a triangle shape, but you can also half the berry or cut to make sharper edges.

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And there you have it! With just a little bit of craft tape, a stick and some fruit, you can continue the Valentine’s Day conversation after the class party is over!

Happy Heart’s Day and enjoy!