Monthly Archives: February 2013

Secrets of an Organized Mom Cover

goodbye, dust bunnies: secrets of an organized mom

Psst! Yeah, you. Can you keep a secret? OK, here it goes….my house is a mess! I mean, no matter how much I try to move the newspapers into the recycling bin, the toys into their bins, the laundry into the dressers, I just can’t keep up. And since I work from home, I feel guilty that our home isn’t as tidy as it could be. Barbara Reich must know just how I feel. Her just-released book, Secrets of an Organized Mom, speaks to me in a way that doesn’t make me feel so terrible about my chaotic household. Instead it leaves me with practical tips that don’t require a fancy smancy organizing system–just some common sense. Reich’s how-to book breaks down the otherwise arduous task of house-cleaning into a more manageable series of mini projects: room by room. You can read the chapters out of order and start with whatever part of your house needs the most attention (for us, it’s the playroom) and jump right in. Personally, I liked Reich’s starter advice, especially about making a decision and acting on it (I am queen of holding on to papers for those “what if?” moments.)  And if ever you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, recalling her digestible mantra–purge, design, organize and maintain–will get you back on track. And you may just have a cleaner house…even if it only lasts for a little while (sigh…)

In a Nutshell: Just in time for spring cleaning, Secrets of an Organized Mom is a breath of fresh air that helps de-clutter your house and your mind.

Secrets of an Organized Mom Cover

 

 

 

 

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Layette Set_Lilli Bell

signature style: vera bradley baby

I admit that I’m not much of a  personal shopper, but when it comes to kids’ clothes, I can’t resist. This time of year, our mailbox has been stuffed with catalogs ranging from Growing Up Garnet Hill , to crewcuts. I love every minute of paging through the glossy spreads and perusing the frilly frocks, sweet sundresses and tons of stylish warm weather items. Maybe all these clothes remind me of my own teen years, as I lay sprawled across my canopy bed with magazines like Sassy, Seventeen and YM checking out all the back-to-school possibilities. Or maybe it’s because checking out kid stuff is so much more satisfying than all those women’s swimsuit catalogs that quickly find their way into the recycling bin (thanks, but no thanks). Shopping for my girls is almost like building a wardrobe for a new baby, and with the Vera Bradley Baby brand debuting  this spring, it’s more fun than ever to welcome a bundle of joy. We were tickled pink to get our hands on the VB Baby look book this week. From bibs to bodysuits, plush bunnies to diaper bags, each item embodies the true Vera Bradley style in a signature floral print. As a gift giver, I try to put myself in the place of the recipient, wondering what would would catch her eye if she were the one doing the shopping. I know from experience that most new moms not only appreciate the practicality–will I use this gift?–but the presentation. And Vera Bradley Baby does not disappoint in either department. Sweet first shoes are accented with soft bows, while stylish bibs in a patterned print are poised to stand up to any pureed veggies (what’s the point of a white bib, anyway)? As we usher in the season of spring, baby showers and of course, all those new babies, we’re predicting the VB Baby line will go far, appealing to dedicated fans (like my mother-in-law and my niece) and attracting a new generation of fashion-forward babes. The Vera Bradley Baby collection will arrive in stores on March 14.

In a Nutshell: Welcome to the world, Vera Bradley Baby! The quilted handbags powerhouse moves into kiddie territory with an entire product line that’s as sweet as it is stylish.

Layette Set_Lilli Bell

 

 

 

 

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BookCurl

fired up by a good book: honeywell 360 surround heater

How are you staying warm this winter? If you enjoy hunkering down and cozying up with a good book in hand, you’re in good company. According to the folks at Honeywell, there are plenty of satisfying reads making this winter’s top 10 list. Whether you’re settling in for the night with a dog-eared copy of Fifty Shades of Grey (or are admitting to it) or you’ve just downloaded the new J.K. Rowling onto your Kindle, you’ll want to keep warm and toasty as you dive into a new read. Honeywell is offering the chance to win one of six $50 Amazon gift cards and an EnergySmart 360 Surround Heater. Enter to win by clicking on the book list link. Good luck!

BookCurl

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TheSparklingBayou_TheOscars

best drink in a leading role: polar seltzer oscars-inspired cocktails

Yes, we admit to focusing mainly on new kiddie products here at the Talking Walnut. But every now and then, it’s nice to shift gears and give a shout-out to the grown-up world. (After all, where would our kiddos be without us?). And because this Sunday marks our all-time favorite TV event of the year, we are paying tribute to the Academy Awards. In our house, we make scorecards and rate our favorite red carpet moments. (My 8-year-old can rate a dress “don’t”  faster than the fashion police!) But if you’re hosting or are invited to an Oscars party for adults, these are some fun specialty cocktail recipes supplied to us by Polar Seltzer that you can mix up. We’re not sure which concoction we like best, but we’ll gladly sample them all. So whether you are rooting for Les Mes or Lincoln, Jennifer Lawrence or Jessica Chastain, be sure to have plenty of snacks (and ice) to sustain you through all those acceptance speeches. Cheers!

In a Nutshell: Grab your cocktail shaker and get busy behind the bar with these fab movie-themed beverages.

 

TheSparklingBayou_TheOscars

“THE SPARKLING BAYOU”-Inspired by / BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (pictured here)

1 lemon wedge

2 sprigs fresh mint

1 teaspoon superfine sugar

1/4 cup grape juice

Ice cubes made with filtered water and various berries Polar Blueberry Seltzer

1 small bunch Concord grapes, for serving Place lemon and mint in the bottom of a cocktail shaker; add sugar and muddle to combine. Add grape juice. Fill shaker with ice; cover and shake to combine. Fill a rocks glass with ice. Strain into prepared rocks glass and top with Polar Seltzer; garnish with concord grapes and serve immediately.

“THE LORD OF LIGHT” – inspired by Argo

Rose Water

Polar Cherry Pomegranate Seltzer

Simple Syrup infused with Cardamom

Garnish with mint, raspberries or pomegranate seeds In a cocktail shaker filled with ice add about a tablespoon of the cardamon syrup, then 1.5-2 ounces of the rose water. Shake and then strain into martini glass. Top with Polar Seltzer. Stir gently to combine.

Cardamom Simple Syrup Recipe:

1 part water

1 part sugar

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

In a saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Turn off heat and allow it to begin cooling. Once syrup is cool enough to be tasted (but before all the heat is gone) add cardamom. The infusion happens quickly and at low heat.

 

“THE GREAT EMANCIPATOR” – Inspired by / LINCOLN

Polar Granny Smith Apple Seltzer

Polar Premium Ginger Ale

Cinnamon sugar

Apple slices, garnish

Pour equal amounts of Polar seltzer and Polar ginger ale into a glass filled with freshly made. Garnish with apples and a dash of cinnamon sugar.

 

“THE EXCELSIOR” -Inspired by / SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

2 oz Gin

1/3 oz Maraschino liqueur

1/2 oz Fresh lemon juice

1/4 oz Creme de Cassis

Polar Vanilla Seltzer

Lime, garnish

Combine in a shaker, shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with Polar Seltzer, stir gently so as not to bruise the delicate bubbles.

 

“UNCHAINED WESTERN” -Inspired by / DJANGO UNCHAINED

2-3 chunks of frozen pineapple

1/2 oz. lemon juice

1 tsp. maraschino syrup

2 oz. rye whiskey

Polar Lemon Seltzer

Lemon twist, to garnish

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the pineapple, syrup, lemon juice and whiskey. Add ice and shake well. Strain into a coupe, top with Polar Seltzer. Garnish with lemon twist.

 

“REVOLUTIONARY KIR” – Inspired by / LES MISÉRABLES

4 parts French white wine

4 parts Polar Raspberry Lime Seltzer

1 part Créme de Cassis (Blackcurrant liqueur or syrup ) Blackberries, optional garnish In an old fashioned coupe glass, add the currant liqueur or syrup and then the wine, and then the Polar Seltzer. Garnish if you wish.

 

“ACROSS THE ATLANTIC” – Inspired by / LIFE OF PI

1 large slice crystallized ginger

4 splashes bitters

Polar Vanilla Seltzer

Julienne ginger and add to glass. Add bitters, and then Polar Seltzer just before serving. Stir gently.

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491 action b

we are young: little kids fubbles guitar

My kids are in love with Fun. That’s the cool indie pop band that just took home two Grammys, including one for song of the year. I can’t quite put my finger on their latest musical obsession. (I’m just thankful for the reprieve from Katy Perry.) Maybe it’s because my 4-year-old likes the rockin’ electric guitar; it may explain why I sometimes catch her playing air guitar in the privacy of her room–and how I am then ushered out (you know how temperamental those creative artists can be). Well, if she can’t master the fancy finger work of Jack Antonoff, she can certainly have “fun” (hah!) trying. Or, better yet, I can set her up with a bubble-blowing instrument of her. You read that right: Little Kids has come out with the Fubbles No Spill Bubble Guitar that is bound to get budding entertainers excited about making music in a whole new way. As players press each of the guitar’s three buttons, they’ll hear different rhythms. Combine that with strumming the strings to add some melody, they’ll be jammin’ in no time. But the experience enters a whole other level when they hit another button that launches a stream of bubbles out of the guitar’s neck. (You can also turn off the sound for bubble-blowing play only.) Now that’s some serious pop music making!

In a Nutshell: Get ready to rock–and pop–with a bubble-blowing guitar that takes center stage at playtime.

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Aurora - Baby Talk - My Beach House - 20776-002

wish you were here: aurora my beach house

Back when my 8-year-old was in preschool, she came home from school one day and asked me where our beach house was. Bewildered by her out-of-the-blue question, I probed a bit to find out what prompted her inquiry. (It turned out that a few of classmates were going away from the upcoming spring break, and one girl announced that she’d be heading to her family’s waterfront compound–I kid you not.) “Right here” was the answer I finally supplied, gesturing to indicate our own humble abode. Did I mention we live just down the road from the Long Island Sound? No need to feel like that such close proximity to the water didn’t qualify as a seaside getaway…But I couldn’t blame my then-preschooler for her inquisitiveness; she’s been visiting that beach with me since before she could even crawl, and the same goes for her younger sister. If you’ve got your own water baby–or even if your passion for the sea outweighs your time spent in the parks or on the playground–we’ve got just the toy to satisfy your little one’s H2o itch. Aurora’s My Beach House is a plush playhouse whose inhabitants aren’t only indigenous to the sea, they’re ready to convert your little landlubber into a baby beach bum. Four soft friends from the sea–a stingray, sea turtle, crab and shark–are just the right size for little hands to grasp, as they find their way back home. This first toy is easy for tots to transport around the house, or even off to a sunny getaway (and not just the make-believe kind). So whether your kid is on vacation for real and just in his mind, he’ll have plenty of fun in the sun–minus the sunburn.

In a Nutshell: Beach-bound babies wanted. Here’s an adorable soft toy for little ones with an affinity for the sea. Aurora’s My Beach House will be in stores this spring and is available now on Aurora’s Web site.

Aurora - Baby Talk - My Beach House - 20776-002

 

 

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whosonfirst_catalog_300dpi (2)

slapstick baseball: who’s on first?

Spring training is well underway, and myriads of baseball fans are snatching up season tickets in anticipation of Opening Day. As all this snow slowly melts away and thoughts turn to warmer days, it’s only natural that kids will want to grab their mitts and throw the ball around with Dear Old Dad. Just because my baseball enthusiasm is limited to catching an occasional game on TV (more when my dad was alive) doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the peanuts and crackerjacks part of the experience (wink, wink). But for those of you bona fide baseball fans who’ll go to the ends of the earth (or so it seems) to defend your home team’s honor, comes a delightful new picture book that will resonate with both the seasoned pros and the novice pinch hitters. Who’s on First? takes the witty comedic shtick of Abbott & Costello and brands it for a new generation. No matter whether you know your outfield from your flyball, you’ll undoubtedly understand the humor of this hilarious duo immortalized on the printed page–and in color, no less. I remember my own dad introducing me to their wacky routine, and wondering why he found it so funny, he could barely get through their dialog without cracking up. Now as a parent myself, and one who has come to fully understand (and appreciate) word play, it gives me great pleasure to share this timeless exchange with my own kids. Set within a baseball theme, this story stars a new player named Abbott (played by a rabbit) who is coached by Costello (as a bear) about the ins and outs of the game…and therein the humor lies. You truly won’t be able to get past the first few pages without seeing your child go from confused to amused. This easy-to-read format makes the comedy more accessible, and puts a fresh spin on a classic set-up. Baseball lover or not, Who’s on First? hits a home run with readers young and old.

In a Nutshell: A laugh-out-load read, this book of baseball banter knocks one right out of the park.

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Group Shot 8 Teens White Backdrop

a royal graduation: my fairy tale academy

What happens when the classic 80s TV show Fame enters the world of fantasy, and fairies take over the halls of a performing arts high school? It’s where the magic begins—literally. Last week at Toy Fair, we were treated to a sneak peek of My Fairy Tale Academy, a brand-new line of fashion dolls inspired by classic princess characters who are now all grown-up and singing and dancing their way through high school. While these gals still manage to hold o to parts of their original persona (Tinkerbell sports her wings and Snow White, her signature red hair bow), they’ve been transformed for a new generation of hip fashionistas. Each doll has a story to tell, which are bolstered by a series of webisodes and books that give fans permission to enter into this cool, new world. Keep your eyes peeled for special guest appearances by other characters from storybook classics like Red Riding Hood and Peter Pan. Yes, that boy who wouldn’t grow up may, in fact, be envious of these girls that inevitably do.

In a Nutshell: If your tween daughter never outgrew dressing up her favorite dolls, and still has a penchant for playing princess, then My Fairy Tale Academy is the place for her. The dolls are priced at $14.99 each and will be available this spring.

Group Shot 8 Teens White Backdrop

 

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Uncle Milton - Marvel Science - Spider-Man Web Creator Lab

a different kind of web design: uncle milton marvel science

These days, it’s difficult to associate the word “web” with anything other than the Internet. But back in the day, if you were a boy, the mere mention of that word led to thoughts of creepy, crawling things and, of course, Spider-Man. Having just returned from Toy Fair, we are happy to report that the comic book hero is still alive and well, and maintaining his presence on toy store shelves. In fact, come this summer, we think boys everywhere will be clamoring for the latest Spidey incarnation: Uncle Milton’s Spider-Man Web Creator Lab. Part of the Marvel Science brand, this play set will help kids fashion their own webs that can be sticky or stretchy. (Arachnophobics need not apply.) Since the next Spider-Man movie won’t be out for another year, this play lab will help kids get their Spidey fix. Other sets in the Marvel Science line include Iron Man’s Arc Reactor Lab and another starring the Incredible Hulk who breaks out of his vault and grows when placed in water. And you thought bath time at your house was a bit dramatic…

In a Nutshell: Superheroes and science go hand in hand with this new line of Marvel Comics-inspired playsets. The entire collection will be available this August.

Uncle Milton - Marvel Science - Spider-Man Web Creator Lab

 

 

 

 

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Playmobil Large Furnished Hotel

the great escape: playmobil large furnished hotel

Right about now, I’d do just about anything to be sitting somewhere warm, a warm breeze blowing through my hair, tropical drink in hand and a juicy book or glossy magazine to devour. After last week’s blizzard and contending with the aftermath of treacherous roads, cranky folks (including my kids home from school) and other minor annoyances, I’m ready to call it quits and get out of Dodge. Lucky for me, I got to attend Toy Fair in NYC over the weekend, and it’s the memories of those happy-go-lucky playthings that are carrying me through this otherwise depressing period. Yup, I’m still a kid at heart and look forward to getting the scoop on what’s new in the world of play for the year ahead. While there was plenty to see in a short amount of time, my brain keeps returning to one particular toy that captured my attention and gave me a much-needed mental departure from a drab winter. Playmobil’s Large Furnished Hotel is the place to be. Coming to stores this August, this more-than-generously-sized playset is a resort that spares no expense for an awesome play vacation. Your stay begins in the lobby where check-in is computerized (of course) and there are plenty of cool magazines to check out if there’s a line. Once you receive your room assignment, take a ride on the elevator and use your room key to open the door (it really works!). After a good night’s rest, you can head down to the hotel cafe and dine on a sumptuous breakfast feast served by your own waiter. The kids can hang out in the game room after you’re done touring the local sights and then it’s back to the room for yet another restful night’s sleep. Yes, we know this vacation is really just a state of mind, but until we can make it out of town, Playmobil has made this staycation one worth taking.

In a Nutshell: “Wish you were here.” With Playmobil‘s well-stocked get-away playset, your kids may feel like they’ve gotten away without even leaving home.

Playmobil Large Furnished Hotel

 

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