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Monday, March 30, 2015

Easter Basket Ideas for Toddlers

For the first time in a long time I’m excited for Easter (no offense JC). Why? This year, my boys can actually participate more in the festivities.

Our community had a fun Easter Egg Hunt the other day and the boys loved discovering treats and prizes inside the eggs that they collected. Although, Ben's encounter with the Easter Bunny was not so fun for him. Look at that pout!


 
We will be doing our own egg hunt this weekend at our house, so I've been busy selecting age-appropriate goodies for toddlers to fill their plastic eggs and baskets with. I've learned that you don't have to spend a lot either to make for a fun-filled basket. Here are some suggestions to consider...

Easter Basket Gift Ideas for Toddlers (boys): 

  • VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels or Go! Go! Smart Animals are interactive cars that make for a great non-candy alternative for only $7.99 each. They are also perfectly sized for Easter baskets and little hands. For ages 1-5, these electronic toys play music, make sounds and light up. Little ones will also learn about different letters, animal sounds and more while engaging in important pretend play too. These cars also further respond to SmartPoint locations on larger Go! Go! playsets, but can also be used just by themselves. We love adding new cars to our collection, but will also take individual cars like these with us on road trips to keep the boys busy while driving. 
  • Parragon Books' Bunny Loves to Play ($5.51)- Read and wiggle the cute bunny puppet built in to this adorable story board book encouraging interactive play, hand-eye coordination, and language development for babies. For older tots there is also the beautifully illustrated picture book perfect for spring - The Best Easter Egg Hunt Ever. Both books are available on Amazon Prime too.
  • Bubbles 
  • Crayons 
  • Coloring Books
  • Sidewalk Chalk 
  • Play-Doh
  • DVD (see below on how to make this a tradition) 
Easter Egg Prizes for Toddlers 
  • Cut up a sticker sheet and put individual stickers in the eggs 
  • Bouncy balls (the kind you can get at the grocery store gumball machines). 
  • FunnyFace Choo Choo Cherry dried cranberries. With with 50% less sugar these are a great alternative to traditional dried cranberries and jelly beans. 
  • Mini pretzels or crackers
  • If doing your hunt outside you could fill an egg with glitter for a surprise glitter explosion. 
  • Balloons to then inflate
  • Easter colored socks
  • Mini bubbles
  • Play-Doh rolled up in a ball and out of the canister
  • Alphabet magnets
  • Toy cars
  • Temporary Tattoos 
  • Silly Bandz 
  • Mardi Gras bead necklaces to wear
  • Plastic whistles
When I was little, I loved that every year my mom, I mean Easter Bunny, would put a new musical VHS video in my basket. It became an on-going tradition each year as I’d wonder what the new musical I’d discover this time would be. We’d then enjoy the video on repeat for the rest of the year – Grease, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, The King and I and Oliver! You could do this with Disney DVDs too or another chosen theme.
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Florida Smoke Alarm Law Will Help Save Lives

Did you know that someone dies in a U.S. home fire every three hours? And most of those deaths occur in homes without a smoke alarm or with one that isn't working. Scary to think about.

Kidde is one manufacturer of smoke alarms with 10-year batteries. As of January 2015, a new law went into effect for Florida families whose homes have battery-powered smoke alarms. The law aims to reduce home fire deaths and decrease the likelihood that a firefighter would be injured or killed trying to save a life. Florida now requires that homeowners replace any battery-operated smoke alarm more than 10 years old with a unit powered by a 10-year sealed-in battery (that makes the alarm tamper resistant and removes the burden of changing batteries every six months, which people typically fail to do anyway).

Last year, more than 100 Floridians died in home fires and in nearly half of those fires, smoke alarms weren't present or weren't working. Also, industry data from Kidde Fire Safety, the world’s largest manufacturer of fire safety products, found that nearly a quarter of U.S. homeowners with homes built before 2000 have outdated alarms.

When we moved down to Florida, we didn't know about this law nor did we think to replace our home's smoke alarm units with newer technology. In fact, we weren't even sure if our house's alarms detected carbon monoxide or not. :(

Then... one late night the alarm in our bedroom above our bed went off (too hot in there I guess, lol) scaring the hell out of us. Fortunately, there was no emergency and it didn't wake our boys either, but it definitely ruined our sleep. We of course changed the batteries, but it went off again the following week for no apparent reason. We then realized, we had no idea how old the unit was since we weren't the ones who originally installed it. I was also worried that this might happen to the alarm in our boys bedroom.

We have since installed a Kidde Worry-Free Kitchen alarm with a sealed-battery (available at various retailers, including The Home Depot and Amazon), which complies with the new code changes. It also detects carbon monoxide and is photoelectric sensing, which may detect visible fire particles (associated with slow smoldering fires) sooner than typical ionization alarms. Plus, now we are set for a decade!
Worry-free alarm by Kidde with 10 year battery 
Even if you live in another state you might want to upgrade to a worry-free alarm too. Also, just because you might have a hard wired emergency system a back-up battery powered one is also good to have since they still work during power outages.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, but sponsored or not, I only share stuff I am passionate about. Truly.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Mysteries of Laura interview

I recently was invited to participate on a Q&A phone call with Executive Producer Amanda Green and writers Margaret Easley and Laura Putney of NBC's dramedy The Mysteries of Laura starring Debra Messing on Wednesday nights at 8/7c.

I agreed to do the interview since I was curious to learn more about the show since I hadn't seen an episode yet, but I immediately binge watched five episodes online and on-demand and really enjoyed it. Although they are already on the 16th episode in the first season, you can easily jump into watching the series like I did.

For those that haven't caught the series yet, Debra plays Laura Diamond, a brilliant NYPD homicide detective who balances her day job with a crazy family life that includes two unruly twin boys and a soon-to-be ex-husband (Josh Lucas) -- also a cop and her boss  -- who just can't seem to sign the divorce papers. Between cleaning up after her boys and cleaning up the streets, she’d be the first to admit she has her “hot mess” moments in this hilariously authentic look at what it really means to be a “working mom” today.

Overall, The Mysteries of Laura reminded me of the quirky crime-solving charm of Monk and a less edgy Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce.  I of course related to the chaos of parenting multiples too. I especially liked the recent episode with Debra's former Will & Grace co-star Eric McCormack who guest starred as her ex and a prime suspect in a case.

Here are some highlights from the interview:

Question from Fangirlish: I love the twins on the show. They’re so cute and adorable, and, you know, a little bit of trouble. But so I wanted to know, did you guys take any experiences from your own life of your children to use for this show - for any of the scenes?

Amanda Green:  I think your question could probably be paraphrased as did we take anything today of our children. It’s pretty constant and chronic, and between the three of us we have seven kids. And so they are a constant source of inspiration, of - I mean we’d be talking about them even if we didn't have the twins to write for because that’s what we talk about, right, as human beings, as mothers - what our kids do. It drives us crazy. It’s adorable. It’s ridiculous. It’s aggravating. It’s why we get up in the morning - why I got up at 5:00 this morning because my daughter just doesn't get daylight savings time yet.

Margaret Easley:  And I will say that in the time we've been writing this, there’s been a great turn in my life where I’m at home, at the end of my tether, almost sobbing. And then that little voice in my head goes, “oh, I can totally bring this into the writer’s room.” It’s been a good thing for my parenting.

Amanda Green:  I think - this is Amanda again. I think, and I bet you all know this in your own writing, is to be able to take the crises of our daily life with our children as - or with our mom’s help - and to turn it into art or comedy or relatable drama, is medicine. You know, as Margaret was just saying, it redeems those moments where otherwise you’d be saying that’s it, put me in a straitjacket and ship me off because I can’t take another minute, into knowing that you can share that experience and that vulnerability through this show with lots of other moms. And that’s fantastic.

Me: You've had some interesting guest stars. Are there any more funny appearances coming up, or any particular stars you’d like to see on your show?

Amanda Green: Oh wow, that’s a great question. I’m just trying to think of what we can tell you. I think there’s definitely some fun coming up.

Laura Putney: We’re not sure what we can say. We've got a great mom coming up. 

Me: Okay, great. And PS, I’m a mom of twin boys, so I like the twin boys.

Margaret Easley:  I’m so sorry.

Me:  (laughs) Thank you. 

Amanda Green:  It’s always great to hear from moms and dads too, you know? That’s what we’re trying to do with this show is to make a show that is honest to the experiences we’re all having. Whatever the job it is we do, whether we’re a cop like Laura or a blogger or a writer or we work at Wal-Mart or, you know, we drive a truck or a school bus or whatever that, you know, we’re all making the same juggle. And we’re just so excited that not only do we get to write this character, but that it connects for everybody else.
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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Disney On Ice - Toddler's Night Out


When you have kids, you get the excuse to do fun childhood stuff all over again or for the first time. For me, I've always wanted to go to a Disney On Ice show, but never had the opportunity...until now when I went with my husband, boys and my mom for a fun family night out.

Fortunately, my 2-year-old toddlers enjoyed it even more than I expected. I was afraid that they'd be antsy by intermission, but during the break grandma bought them fun Mickey-swirling globes and they were the ones leading us back to our seats. We also entertained their munchies with a bucket of popcorn. They actually lasted the entire show sitting on our laps!
Disney On Ice isn't just for little girls and Disney Princess fans either. My boys were riveted even more so than when we go to the hockey games at the same arena. They loved seeing their favorite cartoon star, Mickey Mouse, all the action taking place out on the ice and enjoyed hearing the classic Disney songs playing throughout. 

Disney On Ice, Let’s Celebrate! Presented by Yokids features more than 50 characters from 16 Disney stories live on ice, so there are characters for every fan to enjoy including Toy Story.

Take a look:

Disney On Ice, Let's Celebrate! is doing seven performances at Germain Arena in Ft. Myers from March 19-22. Tickets start at only $16, but enter the following reader discount code PMSAVE for $5 off the following performances: Mar 21 at 11 am or 7 p.m. and Sunday 1 and 5 p.m. The discount is not valid on price levels 1, 2 or 3.

Disclosure: We received complimentary media tickets to the Harlem Globe Trotters for review, however, we had planned on attending either way and all opinions are of course my own.
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Monday, March 16, 2015

Getting Away From It All - A Lovely Weekend in Athens

This is a partnered post

It’s that time again when you can imagine all the lovely destinations you could go on a potential vacation with your family. Something exotic, but relaxing, like a nice weekend with some sunshine and not too far away, where you can enjoy sunny days, good food with evenings of fun and laughter. Not to mention adding culture and history to the itinerary. That’s why a weekend in Athens may be appropriate and here are a few reasons why:

The gorgeous climate
For most of the year Athens has a lovely Mediterranean climate where you can take it easy under the sun and enjoy laidback walks around the city. July and August are the exceptions to this, when the city can become a bit too hot for comfort with the temp often well over 90 degrees: sun hats, bottled water, sunscreen and shades are advised. We went in late September when it was warm (80 degrees as captured in the pic I took below), but not so hot that it kept us from seeing the sights. However, when it does get really hot the little restaurants and taverns in the city tend to spray a light water mist on their patios, which kids enjoy as well!


The mesmerizing history
Historical places of interest are always good to tick off on your bucket list. I remember learning all about Greek mythology and it's imperial rule in school, I can even picture the classroom that I was in, so it was surreal to finally be standing in the place from textbooks. To see the remnants still standing is mind boggling. Athens was first settled around 7,000 years ago with the ancient Greeks ushering in the beginning of the modern world (in the west anyway). The Athens Acropolis is a reminder of Greece’s immense history and its periods of ancient prosperity. The most famous monument on the Acropolis is  the Parthenon with its iconic structure and beautiful decoration by the sculptor Phidias. The temple was built as a gift of thanks to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, for the triumph of Athens over the Persians. It’s amazing that their lavish tribute has remained their all these centuries and how it was even able to be built in the first place without our current technologies either.
The tasty cuisine 
The Greeks are renowned for their cuisine. The salads, fresh seafood and fired meat dishes are simply that good! Sadziki (yoghurt, cucumber garlic and salt on toast) paidakia (grilled lamb ribs) and moussaka are all dishes to look forward to. A family meal in Athens will certainly make for a great experience and a night to remember. Yes, Athens is definitely the place to go. But then again Venice is nice at this time of year, which is where we started our trip, then over to Corfu and Mykonos… so many choices, but there’s always next time too!


Cats of Greece
Need another reason? There's also the plethora of street cats too! Here are just some that I met along our travels, but you can easily get sucked into a Google Image search of Greece Cats with some amazing photos of felines crawling over historic building and lounging in front of iconic Mamma Mia-style architecture.

My recent travel posts:
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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Boys First Harlem Globetrotters Game

My husband still remembers seeing the Harlem Globetrotters with his family when he was a kid, so it was extra special taking our boys to a performance last week. And while I grew up seeing their commercials with their iconic theme song playing, this was my first time attending a show too. I was surprised to find that it's more than just watching a basketball game though, but combines athleticism, theater and comedy for the whole family.

Fortunately for us, the family show was practically in our backyard at the Germain Arena in Estero, Florida. Kids under 2 get to attend for free if seated on the lap of an adult.

I was expecting to see their famous ball tricks, but they also play an actual scrimmage that incorporates their different stunts and pranks. There was also a lot of silliness, jokes and g-rated trash talking, more than I was expecting, but all the kids in the audience were laughing along. I thought it was cool that there are female players on the Globies team too, I had no idea.


The boys were pretty attentive, more than I was giving them credit for considering them being so young. I was afraid the arena and noises might be too overwhelming, but they ate a big bowl of popcorn and took it all in stride, lol. Ben, who already loves balls was especially captivated. They also liked seeing the mascot and bobbing around to the modern music being played.

Also, I liked that the event brought together different generations too, not just parents and their kids, but grandparents too. I know the boy's Pop was bummed he wasn't invited. Our bad, next time. Fortunately, they tour frequently, even internationally to Germany and other countries, thus their annual "world" tour. Find an upcoming location near you.
Can you spot what's wrong with this picture? Look at the net :)
Next up, we are headed to Disney On Ice, Let's Celebrate! Presented by Stonyfield YoKids Organic Yogurt, which will be doing seven performances also at Germain Arena in Ft. Myers from March 19-22. Tickets start at $16, but enter the following reader discount code PMSAVE for $5 off the following performances: March 20 at 7 p.m., Mar 21 at 11 am or 7 p.m. and Sunday 1 and 5 p.m. The discount is not valid on opening night or price levels 1, 2 or 3.

Disclosure: We received complimentary media tickets to the Harlem Globe Trotters for review, however, we had planned on attending either way and all opinions are of course my own.
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Monday, March 9, 2015

A Florida Tuscany Wedding

I recently had the honor of being a bridesmaid for one of my bridesmaids :) Her wedding took place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but had a Tuscan theme with wine corks, grapes and shades of purple weaved throughout the celebrations.

Take a look at Stef & Manny's magical day:

Decor, Flowers & Favors


Instead of blowing bubbles, throwing rice or holding sparklers as the new couple exited the church, they provided guests with Wedding Wands to wave with satin ribbons and bells attached making for a fun photo without the mess.

Bridesmaid Gowns
Each of the bridesmaids wore the same dress (Alfred Angelo Style #514), but in a different shade of purple.  I loved the bright purple that I wore and how glamorous the cut was. I never received so many compliments for a bridesmaid gown before!

Bride & Groom
After the ceremony, the newlyweds arrived at the reception in style via a gondola on the riverwalk area of Las Olas Blvd. So romantic. I also loved this train track photo too.


Some of the above photos are from their wedding photographer Gio Morales Photography
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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Guess the Panties Bachelorette Party Game

I've taken part in the typical Bachelorette party games, scavenger hunts, suck for a buck tricks over the years of celebrations, so I was pleasantly surprised to play a new game while attending my friend Laura's party last weekend.

We were instructed to bring sexy panties for the bride-to-be as a gift, but unwrapped and with no card. The chosen underwear could be lacy, animal print, dainty or downright dirty, but should be a reflection of the person who brought them and not the bride's own style. Then, without the bride seeing us, we all deposited our chosen designs in a bag anonymously. The bachelorette is asked to reach into the bag and pull out one pair of panties. The bachelorette then shows the panties to everyone and must then identify who bought her those panties. If the bachelorette correctly guesses who gave her the panties then the giftee takes a drink, but if she guesses incorrectly then she takes a drink per each wrong guess.

Now what panties identify me? That was the question I had to ask myself. I also had to think about how the bride sees me too. Finally, I went with a sexy red lacy number from Frederick's of Hollywood. I figured the boldness of them would signify me and that the color red would also reflect the red heart tattoo on my left butt cheek (that's another story). I actually tried looking for panties with hearts on them, but surprisingly I didn't find any.
The bride post panty raid
The first undergarment that the bride selected from the bag was a silly lion thong in orange neon colors, which Laura thought were mine, lol. Drink up! She also thought the next wild navy pair that she pulled out were mine too. Sip again. However, the third selection was in fact mine and she guessed it correctly this time, so it was my turn to gulp. I found it funny that she thought all of the bold and crazy ones had to be from me, but I suppose she wasn't too off in thinking that ;) wink wink.Oh, and another attendee brought official Jets panties since she is a fan of the football team, but luckily enough that is also the groom's team.
Late night pool fun with the gals
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