Monthly Archives: July 2011

Ravioli Lasagna (2)

what’s for dinner?

It’s the age-old question for moms across the world–and one that never seems to produce a satisfactory response unless it’s “pizza,” “Chinese” or some form of take-out. Some nights, it takes all the strength you can muster just to open up a can of soup or microwave a frozen dinner. But when a sandwich just won’t cut the mustard in your house (as is the case in mine!), it’s time to scour the cupboard and rummage up whatever staple can be made into a meal. That’s when childhood comfort foods like Chef Boyardee come in handy. Believe it or not, a can of this stuff is a starter ingredient for an entirely new bunch of dinnertime recipes like Taco-roni, Ravioli Lasagna (shown here) and Cheeseburger-roni. To help you get started in the kitchen, The Talking Walnut is offering a Chef Boyardee giveaway: a lunchbag containing 2 cans of Beefaroni and recipe cards (valued at $15). We will select one random winner between now and 5 p.m. EST on August 1, 2011. Enter now to win. Bon appetit!

In a Nutshell: A kiddie food favorite is all grown-up with a handful of new recipes. Hats off to the Chef!

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Neatnik Saucer chair cover

u.f.o. baby

Last week, I took my 2 girls out for a bite at a kid-friendly restaurant near our home. My husband had evening plans and we were in the midst of a heat wave, so it seemed like a fine idea. I forgot how much 2 little girls can talk (both at the same time, mind you), but with a glass of Chardonnay, a bread basket full of warm pretzel sticks and coloring books for the little ladies, I was well-armed. While nibbling on our appetizer, I couldn’t help but notice a toddler at a nearby table who was having a ball. Much to his mother’s horror, he dipped every fry several times in ketchup before aiming them towards his mouth. Naturally, he missed his target more than once and before long, the table space in front of him looked like a war zone after a bloody battle. Keeping kids occupied before their food arrives is one thing; keeping them and the table relatively clean is quite another. The Neatnik Saucer is one mom’s solution to this dilemma. Having become increasingly frustrated about cleanliness while eating out with her new baby, she designed this portable product that is a high chair cover and baby playmat in one. The saucer comes in two parts: a chair liner that fits inside a standard restaurant high chair and a lightweight tray that fits over and suction cups to the table, giving your child a clean, secure play to eat, color and enjoy her meal. We favor the saucer’s extended sides that prevent food or small toys from dropping onto the floor–how many times can you play pick-up after all?–and that it wipes clean and folds up easily. I’m guessing the mom we saw at dinner would have benefited from the Neatnik Saucer; those fries fast became Unidentified Flying Objects.

In a Nutshell: Less messy mealtimes are on the menu with this on-the-go feeding accessory. This is one saucer that’s out of this world.



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e2922 Kabam_tin (2)-1

master wordsmith

How good are you at Scrabble? Can you polish off the Sunday Times crossword puzzle in an afternoon? If so, maybe KaBAM wouldn’t faze you. But if you relish a good challenge and want to test your spelling smarts with your kids, I invite you to get a copy of this word-building game and see just how vast your vocabulary is. My daughter and I have been playing KaBAM for the last few weeks and I must admit to being stumped on more than occasion. The concept is simple, but trying to win is anything but. Players draw cards, each containing one or more letters, and then must add a minimum of one letter to create a new word. Once you know a word, shout it out and collect both cards. Whoever accrues the most cards by the time you’ve gone through the entire deck wins! Sounds easier than it looks, I assure you. Assuming I have more than 30 years reading experience over my 7-year-old, I figured I could sit back and politely “let” her win a few rounds. But the truth of the matter is I was scratching my head over words I could make using odd letter combinations. Sure there are plenty of no-brainer answers when slamming down cards containing an A and PR (“pray,” for one, as in who knew I’d need to call upon a higher power to bring me luck during this game). But how about when you draw cards like TI and OU? The rules say you can’t change the order of a letter combination to come up with an answer. Let’s just say my daughter racked up quite a few points in this game. KaBAM is a great way to keep kids’ minds active during those lazy summer months when reading falls by the wayside. It’s one that we’ll definitely be taking with us on vacation. Now excuse me while I go catch up on my reading…the dictionary, that is.

In a Nutshell: Scrabble buffs meet their match with this engrossing word-building game that truly puts your working vocabulary to the test.

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the next prince charming

My 7-year-old kissed a frog the other day, but alas the little critter did not turn into a prince. My daughter was learning about different types of amphibians during camp and suddenly decided she wanted to kiss this “very cute frog.” I can see what possessed her; I wound up “meeting” this very frog during Parents’ Day and I must admit, he was awfully cute. When one of her counselors recounted the frog/prince story to her, she frowned and said “Yuck!” This is no damsel in distress, I tell you.  For those who long for their own happy ending, check out the latest incarnation of SqwishLand, the collectible characters that take a giant leap from vending machines and into toy stores. The new DIY SqwishLand lets collectors tap into their creative side by letting kids design their very own Sqwishland creature. This kit comes with either a SwishLand frog or parrot, six acrylic paints and paintbrush. Once your child is satisfied with her work, she can register her Squishie on an online gallery for all to see. Once a month, the SqwishLand community will vote on their favorite DIY design, which could ultimately appear on store shelves. As for my daughter, well, she’d much rather play with her frog Squishie than Prince Charming any day.

In a Nutshell: There’s a new neighbor in SqwishLand. If you’ve got a crafty kid who’d love to design the next Squishie, visit DIY SqwishLand...and hop to it!

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38467-MK-Goombas-model (2)-1

mucho Mario

To my 7-year-old, the name Mario is so much better than even the best Italian uncle (sorry, Bob). Rather, it’s a name that’s synonymous with her all-time favorite activity: playing Mario Kart Wii. Because my husband and I are forever trying to entice her with other playtime activities, imgaine our delight when K’NEX came out with its first-ever Mario Kart line of construction toys. We recently got our hands on the Mario vs. Goombas Building Set, and let’s just the afternoon fast became a spread-out-all-over on-the-floor experience. Right out of the box, she excitedly began snapping track pieces together. (Truthfully, I don’t know who was more psyched by this toy: her or her dad, another bona fide Mario Kart player). True to K’NEX’s name, the building options are practically endless, as they were able to configure and re-configure the track’s layout over and over. Because my daughter is already familiar with K’NEX’s Buggy Bot robot construction toy, she couldn’t wait to add the battery-powered motor to his Wild Wing Kart and watch Mario zip down the course, past the Goombas. If you have a resident Mario Kart fan (or two) in your home, this is one toy that will provide hours of play and a reprieve from virtual reality.

In a Nutshell: Got Mario Kart Wii? Then round out your kid’s play with a construction toy that takes the popular console game from the small screen to the family room carpet.

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Oh Sew Ready1 (2)

stuck on you

The first time I was pregnant, you couldn’t catch me within 20 feet of a camera. I refused to be photographed and so have no visual record of my expanding belly. By the time I had my second daughter, I was either as little less vain or not as militant about having my picture taken. For those expectant moms who relish documenting their growing tummy, and for people like me who in retrospect should have taken things a bit less seriously, come the oh-so-adorable Sticky Bellies. This line of removable stickers is just the thing for chronicling an ever-changing pregnant body. They affix easily to clothing, so you can stick one on your shirt, grab your camera and snap away. The Oh Sew Ready assortment comes with stickers for 12-40 weeks, enabling you to start marking those milestones as soon as you start  showing. The fun doesn’t have to end with your third trimester; there are also Oh Sew Adorable and Oh Sew Handsome stickers for baby girls and boys from birth-24 months, so you can show your little one just how much she grew. Of course, thanks to Sticky Bellies, now there’s proof that you did dress her up like a little bunny even when it wasn’t Halloween (or Easter). Ah, the humiliation we subject our kids to at such a tender age…

In a Nutshell: Whether celebrating pregnancy milestones or each month of your new baby’s life, Sticky Bellies make a useful and unique baby shower gift.

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KA006-NTR_Fold (2)-1

epidermis envy

In my family, if you were said to have ‘thick skin,’ it meant you didn’t let things get to you. I’d like to think that over the years, I’ve developed quite a few layers that have enabled me to withstand criticism…at least for the most part. Growing a protective shell doesn’t happen overnight unless, of course, you’re a turtle. And when you’re a new parent shopping for baby gear that will stand up to wear and tear, this animal’s tough exterior comes to mind. How fitting that Kolcraft’s TurtleTot Activity Center is centered around this very creature. The newest stationary activity center to come to town, it features Toby TurtleTot who sits amidst a group of playful pals–a worm, butterfly, bee and rattle–inviting your little one to experience sounds, lights and movement. Much like the turtle itself, the TurtleTot center is durable and strong, designed to be folded up and taken with you. If you’re in the market for a safe spot for your baby to enjoy and explore, then take this turtle along for the ride.

In a Nutshell: Baby gear designed to withstand hours of play and travel, the TurtleTot Activity Center is ready for action.

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Trick or Treaters (3)

pint-sized pumpkin

If back-to-school shopping is practically here, can Halloween be that far behind? I’m not one for rushing the seasons, but my girls have already starting talking about what they might want to dress up as on October 31st. (So far, we have one ghost, but that’s likely to change at least a half-dozen times). Since I’m paying closer attention to how many sweets we consume during the summer months alone (ice pops, lollipops, cookies), the candy-filled month of October frightens me more than a black cat crossing my path. While the kids will surely be getting plenty of treats, it’s nice to look out for the sugar-free variety, too. If you suspect you may be hosting a Halloween gathering at your home this year in lieu of trick-or-treating, consider an alternative to traditional goodie bag favors with the Playmobil Halloween Sets. Adorably packaged in a plastic pumpkin come 2 figures dressed in their Halloween best: one as a devil and the other as a tiger. If your kid happens to own a Playmobil playset of any kind, you’re already familiar with how well these figures lend themselves to hours of pretend play. With these latest additions, kids can expand their scenarios beyond the realm of everyday. Halloween is definitely the right time for letting imaginations run wild. With this festive treat, your costumed character can give his sweet tooth a rest and still enjoy October 31st.

In a Nutshell: Give your favorite trick-or-treaters a little something to remember the day by, so they can enjoy Halloween all season long.

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Daisy Vase Set HS SS S-1

hostess gift with the mostess

In my active fantasy life, I am heading to the Hamptons for a long weekend at the beach. I am thinking about what veggies I’ll be picking up at the farmer’s market to grill later on and whether it will be hot enough to justify wearing white until Monday. Contrary to what you might think, I’m not 100-percent selfish in my daily reveries…or at least,  not this one. I realize I don’t own a beachhouse in the toniest part of Long Island, nor do I have any plans anytime soon to sacrifice my kids’ college funds for some local real estate. But, if I ever do get invited out east, I have a great hostess gift in mind to show my friend that I am worthy of her Hamptons zip code. The sweet Daisy Vase Set from Chalkboard China is bud-worthy of any wildflowers picked during a leisurely stroll, and is a wonderful way to welcome someone to the breakfast table after enjoying a restful night’s sleep away from home. I love the fact that these vases can be personalized to include whatever message the gift giver (or recipient) sees fit at that moment. Made from hand-blown glass, they are covered with a chalkboard finish for the perfect inscription. And when that certain sentiment has faded, along with the flowers, the vases wipe clean, ready for their next special occasion. With a hostess gift like this, you may just guarantee yourself a return invitation next summer.

In a Nutshell: How many bars of guest soaps can one hostess really use? With this innovative gift, now you really can say it with flowers in your own creative way.

EraseAway -Red (3)


I nearly knocked over a display of back-to-school stuff at the grocery store the other day. I couldn’t believe that pails and shovels were quickly being usurped by notebooks, crayons and pencils…oh my! With Labor Day nearly six weeks away, September is actually sooner than you might think (sorry to be a spoilsport!). Because we’ve always got an eye turned to the latest kid product trends, we took a look at what’s big in writing for the coming season. Does your kid have dry erase markers on her school supply list again, the same ones she’s forever needing to replace because someone forgets to put the caps back on and they dry out? Well, the smart folks at Crayola have come up with a solution to that pesky problem with their new Dry-Erase Bright Crayons. The modern-day equivalent of the chalkboard, whiteboards are being used by teachers and students alike for spelling and math, and these marker alternatives make the perfect accompaniment to this style of learning. They don’t have any caps to lose, they don’t have that funny marker smell and they wipe clean with the included E-Z Erase Mitt. We give the Dry-Erase Crayons crayons an A+ for their convenience and versatility…For bigger kids who have graduated from pencils to pens, but who still need the occasional “do-over” comes the EraseAway. It’s a retractable ballpoint pen that erases. If your child was always misplacing the caps to her markers, this is the pen for her. Available in blue, black or red ink,  it does not have an erasable cap. The sleek, grown-up look and feel of the EraseAway will make a middle school kid think she has finally “arrived.”

In a Nutshell: When shopping back-to-school, here are 2 products that have all the write stuff.

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