Back to School Must Haves from Momtrends’ Back to School Bash

 

We’re still very much in summer mode, however, when it comes to trend spotting and scouting the best kids’ products, we’re always looking ahead. Last week, together with many of my blogger friends, we descended upon Momtrends’ Back to School Bash to check out some of the coolest gear and gadgets for Back to School.

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Joules

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I had the chance to meet British clothing brand, Joules at the Momtrends’ Back to School Bash. This brand makes beautiful, classic yet modern clothes with bold prints. The girls’ styles were age-appropriate, yet super stylish. The boys’ looks were polished, classic and fun. I loved the boots and outerwear and the vibrant colors that make these pieces stand out!

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Aidan, my friend Alicia from Mommy Delicious’ son, modeling some looks from Joules.

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Paula’s Choice

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Always on the hunt for new skincare lines that work for me, it was great meeting Paula’s Choice. While Paula’s Choice makes a variety of products designed for different skin types, I particularly loved learning about their Clear line which is designed for oily and acne-prone skin. Paula’s Choice products are intended not to be irritating, so there are no fragrances or dyes or anything that could be harmful to your skin.

 

Vamousse

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photo credit: Momtrends

Having kids in school, there’s no doubt that at one point you’ll be faced with sick kids and possibly receiving a note from the school nurse that someone in your child’s class may be infected with lice. That dreaded letter has found its way to my son’s backpack this year more times than I could count. Lucky us, products like Vamousse are designed to be effective yet non-toxic. At any given time, I always have a Vamousse treatment kit in my arsenal, knowing that lice infestations can happen at any time with 2 boys in school. I also like that they have Lice Defense Daily Shampoo as well as Lice Elimination Powder. And, yay me! I won a cool Amazon gift card from Vamousse at the event. Thanks for being a sponsor!

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Thanks to Vamousse, we were treated to a braid bar from Glam Squad. I had a great time getting my hair braided and catching up with Julie Cole, one of the founders of Mabel’s Labels! 

Chewbeads

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Known for their teething-friendly accessories, Chewbeads were onhand at the Momtrends Back to School Bash to showcase their new line of JuniorBeads. Perfect as accessories for kids, these necklaces, bracelets and pendants are made with silicone and can double as sensory tools. My younger guy has special needs and low tone, and we often have to exercise his jaw muscles with chewing on things, so these pendants would be perfect for him. Have a kid who bites their nails or needs some sort of sensory tool? JuniorBeads would be ideal for them. I love the necklaces, shark tooth pendant and that military tag!

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Mabel’s Labels

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One of my family’s must-haves year-round, Mabel’s Labels showcased several new designs, combo pack and a cool new school years memory book. I’m eyeing the limited edition zombie design for my tween who has outgrown the cutesy designs. The School Years Memory book is a perfect solution for parents who want to collect special certificates, awards and occasional artwork. I love the oversized size that can actually fit the giant posters that the kids bring home. The price is right around $30, making this affordable and an absolute necessity when organizing for the school year. 

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Nalgene

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As a lunchbox enthusiast and gadget nerd, I absolutely loved learning about Nalgene’s new Lunchbox Buddy. This durable and versatile lunchbox is made with the same material that makes Nalgene so popular. I love that these lunch boxes are simple and rugged; the box itself can be thrown in the dishwasher and the outer case can be thrown in the washing machine—perfect my messy kids! And something that I never knew: all Nalgene products have a lifetime warranty. How’s that for awesome? I truly respect brands, especially ones that accommodate kids, that can stand behind their own reliability.

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Earth’s Best and Ella’s Kitchen

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In between school, sports, volunteering and all of the other demands of life, some days, we need an easy dinner solution. (ok, most days) Thank goodness for Earth’s Best. Earth’s Best has an extensive line of frozen foods that are geared to families. These products are void of all the bad ingredients, but packed with flavor and portability to boot. I loved tasting the different flavors, with the mini meatballs and pepperoni stuffed bites as my favorites. I will be adding Organic Fruit Cups into our lunch box rotation for when cheap fruit is no longer an option!

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Sister brand, Ella’s Kitchen has been a mainstay in our pantry since Littles started eating solids. I love the delicious flavors they offer for baby foods, and their Nibbly Fingers are the best for babes and toddlers. I loved learning about their smoothies, which I’ve been including in my preschooler’s summer school lunch box. Those things are a hit!

 

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Keen

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Keen, known for their awesome sandals, was featuring highlights from their fall lineup. I’m eyeing several boots and hightops from my guy. I adored the sparkly hightops for girls, only wishing they came in my size. I appreciate that this brand is known for their casual and rugged look and feel, which is ideal for school-aged kids.

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Wall Pops

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Wall Pops offers a great selection of wall coverings that can be used as decor or as functional tools that are helpful for staying organized or informed. Always a fan of the oversized calendars, I love that they have maps and dry erase wall pops that make our school days seamless. We like using Wall Pops as calendars and as an unobtrusive way of reminding us what to do and when! My friends and I loved hanging out in the photo booth, thanks to Wall Pops!

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A big thank you to Momtrends for having me once again at the Back to School Bash. As always, I loved checking out the awesome trends for fall, as well as hanging out with my girls!

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Full disclosure: I received a generous swag bag and won a gift card at this event. As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

 

 

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.

St. Patrick’s Day Treats from Family Fun Magazine

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Not sure if any of you caught any leprechauns, but we sure didn’t.  We did, however, enjoy creating some fun food goodies.  St. Patrick’s Day and food go hand in hand in our house.  

I got a kick out of Family Fun’s Leprechaun-inspired treats.  How cute are these tiny hats and donuts?!  We’ll be doing some fun after school creations after school today!  

 Leprechaun Hats

Hats

 

Ingredients

English cucumber
Sliced cheese
Hummus

 Directions

Celebrate Saint Pat’s with a crunchy cucumber treat. Cut 1-inch sections of an English cucumber. Halve them lengthwise and lay the pieces flat on a plate, as shown. Trim a cucumber brim for each hat and set it in place. Finish with a sliced cheese band and buckle, attached with dots of hummus or dip.

 

 

Leprechaun Doughnuts

 

Donuts

 

Ingredients

Chocolate sprinkle:

O-shaped cereal
Dark or white chocolate
Colored sprinkles

 Cinnamon sugar:
O-shaped cereal
Sugar
Cinnamon sugar

 Directions

Lure wee visitors this Saint Patrick’s Day with O-shaped cereal disguised as tiny doughnuts. Prepare each variety following the steps at right and let dry on waxed paper. Add to the fun by placing them in a miniature box (get our template at familyfunmag.com/printables).

Chocolate sprinkle:

Dip the tops of O-shaped cereal into melted dark or white chocolate (the tines of a fork work well for this) and cover with sprinkles.

Cinnamon sugar:

Over medium-high heat, dissolve ½ cup sugar in ½ cup water. Let it cool. Dip the O’s, a few at a time, in the syrup, then toss them in a small bowl of cinnamon sugar.

Healthy Choice Meals Offer Convenience and Wholesome Options

Things have been non-stop around here for the past few weeks.  There have been a few days, actually, where making lunch for myself was near-impossible due to such a hectic schedule.  And as much as I’d try to avoid prepared foods because of all the unwanted added “extras”, I’m glad they’re there when you need them.

I recently had the chance to try some Healthy Choice meals.  And with the way things have been lately, I think I may have found a new go-to lunch that definitely beats fast food or take out.  I’ve always enjoyed the Healthy Choice brand, but it’s been awhile since I’ve had their frozen food. Apparently, I’ve been missing out.

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I picked up two Healthy Choice Cafe Steamer meals at my local Target. As a sidenote: I noticed that my grocery stores also had them, as did Costco.  I think I stood in the freezer aisle for 15 minutes trying to decide which meals to try.  I was so indecisive, because all the choices sounded so good.  I ended up grabbing two meals that sounded like a meal I’d make:  Chicken Pesto Classico and Balsamic Chicken.

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I was impressed by the ease, convenience and innovation of the Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers.  There are other types of meals, but I was drawn to the Steamer variety, since that’s typically how we cook our veggies on a regular basis.  After microwaving the meals, I found that the meals retained the flavor, shape and colors, unlike other frozen meals I’ve had in the past.  The ingredients, for the most part, were acceptable and met my expectations.  My main concerns were the plastic steamer used in the microwaving process and sodium levels.  But overall, I would certainly stock my freezer with a few of these meals for lunch at home or at the office, or even for dinner when I can’t cook.

And as my 3 year old said: “the noodles are so yummy, they make my dance feet.”  So, yeah, I think he enjoyed them too.

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Cooking With Kids Video Series Debuts

Michelle Obama initiated a movement when she started her Let’s Move campaign to emphasize the importance of combating childhood obesity.  Jaime Oliver embraced this same movement in his own way with Food Revolution, where he’s gone on to raise awareness of how skewed the food “system” has become and educate families about eating better.

Because I’ve become so interested in food and how it pertains to our kids, I’m always impressed when a company I already admire joins this movement.  In line with getting kids to make healthier decisions, Weight Watchers, perhaps the favorite weight management program among my friends, has launched their “Cooking with Kids Web Video Series.

The Cooking with Kids video series, featured on Weight Watcher’s site, aims to bring to life “teachable moments to help kids value fresh and healthy foods to instill good eating habits at an early age.”  Through this video series, Weight Watchers hopes to take kids beyond the kitchen to discuss topics like where the food is harvested, the culture behind the food and the difference between fresh food and processed. And as we’ve seen from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, it’s clear that these are topics that many kids don’t know about.

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Navigating Food Allergies: At Camp, On Sleepovers and Playdates

With the warm weather upon us, for many families, that usually means vacation, camp and extra time spent with friends and family.  For us, that means we ship the kid off to Va for a few weeks to our parents.

But for many families like ours, the logistics of spending time away from home also means managing kids’ food allergies.  Just because a kid has food allergies doesn’t mean that can’t have fun while they’re away from home; in fact, many organizations and establishments have found a way to safely navigate around kids’ food allergies, working together with families to ensure that everyone has fun!

I’m excited to once again take part in a conversation on TheMotherhood.com, and this time we’ll be discussing Navigating Food Allergies:  At Camp, On Sleepovers and Playdates!

Allergies, in general, affects so many families, so I know this topic is something that many of you may find informative.  And even if your family isn’t directly affected, since food allergies are so much more common now, having this sort of knowledge onhand certainly doesn’t hurt.  So, please, join us today!

Navigating Food Allergies:  At Camp, On Sleepovers and Playdates on TheMotherhood.com

When: Tuesday, April 12, at 1 p.m. ET

Where: TheMotherhood – Join us!

What: The class is called Navigating Food Allergies: At Camp, on Sleepovers and Playdates.  Join the experts to talk about ensuring your kids have fun and safe experiences in these environments away from home. Lori Sandler, Divvies Bakery will lead a discussion with Sandy Rubenstein of Camp Wingate*Kirkland and Renee Flax of the American Camp Association who have worked with many families managing food allergies.  Come with questions and your own best approaches. The focus is all about making sure your kids are taken care of physically, emotionally and socially so they can have fun!

The class is sponsored by ConAgra Foods and hosted by TheMotherhood.

The hosts and other co-hosts of this class are:

Lori Sandler, Divvies, http://www.divvies.com
Sandy Rubenstein, Camp Wingate*Kirkland, http://www.campwk.com
Renee Flax, American Camp Association
Caryn Bailey, Rockin’ Mama
Eleanor Garrow, FoodAllergy.org
Jodi Grundig, Mom’s Favorite Stuff
Nirasha Jaganath, Mommy Niri
Jenny Kales, Nut-Free Mom
Jill Mindlin, parent advocate
Ariella Rogge, Sanborn Ranch Camps
Jo-Lynne Shane, Musings of a Housewife
Abby Shapiro, Camp Source Network

Full disclosure:  I am being compensated for my participation in this webinar, which is sponsored by ConAgra Foods and hosted by TheMotherhood.  As always, all opinions on NKT are my own.

Friday Night Dinner with Fresco by Scotto

If you watch the Today Show, perhaps you’ve seen a cooking segment with the Scotto Family.  Known for their NYC-area restaurant, the Scottos have made a name for themselves by cooking up delicious Italian feasts.

For those not in the NYC area, you, too, can indulge in the delicious Scotto recipes without lifting a finger—well, other than the ones turning on the oven.

Schwan’s, known for their home delivery service and those boxy yellow delivery trucks, offers Fresco by Scotto. The Fresco line offers a variety of frozen, family style Italian meals, the same ones for which the family is famous.

Always reluctant to go the frozen food route, our family gave Fresco a try, courtesy of Schwan’s. We were treated to the new Baked Ziti, which is part of Fresco by Scotto.  And by the way, when I first opened the package from Schwan’s I was amazed at the packaging; all of the food managed to arrive entirely frozen, including the ice cream they sent for dessert.

This entree, which is said to be a Scotto family recipe, was made with three cheeses (Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan) baked with ziti pasta and a hearty tomato sauce.  Best of all, it was ready in about 30 minutes.

Fresco by Scotto

Obviously, not the healthiest of meals, but I loved the convenience of this alternative to other prepared foods.  It was a delicious change of pace to our Friday night pizza and quite timely for our meatless meal in observance of Lent.

Cooking the food was a breeze. I just threw the meal into the oven and it was done in 30 minutes or so. The cheesy garlic bread was just as easy to pop in the oven for a few minutes. And the broccoli they sent, we steamed it in the microwave for a super-quick side dish.

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Cooking Connections Offers Insight on Picky Eaters

The other week, I participated in a great dialogue on TheMotherhood’s Cooking Connections about “Expanding Your Family’s Palate by Placating Picky Eaters.”  The hosts and co-hosts were some of my favorite bloggers, many of whom blog about food and parenting and topics in between.

There were so many great takeaways from our discussion about picky eaters, and I was sure to add my two cents about the experiences I had growing up with an extremely picky sibling.  I loved hearing other parents’ suggestions about getting picky eaters to try new foods, as I’m sure it’s something many of you have experienced firsthand.

My favorite suggestions for placating picky eaters includes eating and introducing colorful foods and involving kids in the cooking process.  My friend Carol said it best: “involving kids in the kitchen gives them a sense of accomplishment…”

Some great insight from the other participants and hosts was the effectiveness they had with the “one-bite rule” to get their kids to try a food before simply refusing it.

“Our rule is you just need to take a full size bite, chew, swallow and then say, ‘Yes, please’ or ‘No, thank you,’” said host Jennifer Leal, Savor the Thyme.

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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.

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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 TheMotherhood.com, 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: http://www.themotherhood.com/talk/show/id/62135

And here is the registration page for all Cooking Connections classes: http://www.themotherhood.com/cookingconnections

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!

Holly Robinson Peete: Tips on Enjoying an Allergy-Friendly Super Bowl Party

For thousands of families, food allergies are a reality that involves carefully reading labels before consumption, as well as educating and communicating with family, friends and schools.

Food allergy awareness requires even more diligence when it comes to parties, such as Super Bowl Sunday.  Pot lucks and buffet-type spreads could be a trip to the ER just waiting to happen if food allergies aren’t communicated.  Raising awareness, even if the allergy isn’t in your own family, is the first line of defense for avoiding adverse reactions.

Holly Robinson Peete, one of the co-hosts of CBS’ The Talk and wife of former NFL player Rodney Peete, is well versed in food allergies.  Mom of four, Holly hopes to help raise awareness and educate other parents about food allergies; each of her kids has some form of allergy, and she’s had her fair share of scary moments.

On Super Bowl Sunday, an occasion that boasts the most food consumption behind Thanksgiving, the reality of food allergies is heightened. Because of her experience with food allergies, Holly spoke with some fellow bloggers and me, on how to enjoy an allergy-friendly Super Bowl party.

Families can enjoy a fun Super Bowl party even if allergies are a concern.  Some of Holly’s tips for having an allergy-friendly Super Bowl party include:

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