Friday, October 26, 2012

A Date with Daniel Tiger

PBS Image
My Lil Love Bird has a serious obsession with Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood so when I saw there was a special event last week to meet Daniel and hear more about the program I decided to take Nia.

She absolutely loved it! All day she had been talking about the "Daniel Tiger party" and once we entered the doors she was on high alert trying to find him. After a few moments he appeared and from there she really didn't want anyone else but her to spend time with Daniel. 

UPDATE: I forgot when I first published this post that I took a video of Nia and Daniel so here it is (I'm still learning my phone and now realize I have to hold it horizontally to get the right orientation so sorry for the narrow view!):


We're a big PBS household stemming from the retro Sesame Street DVDs Nia started watching when she turned 1. I never thought I'd let Nia watch TV before 2 but when I let her watch an episode, saw her immediate fascination and asked her dr. she assured me it was fine especially because it was educational. She just advised to use moderation.

We started noticing Nia could recognize letters, shapes, colors and started counting after watching Sesame Street and me working with her. It was amazing! Growing up I was very much a PBS kid myself and when I saw the previews for Daniel Tiger a few months ago my curiosity was sparked. I remember Daniel from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this new program carries on his legacy with the characters being the children of the ones my generation grew up with. This video is great at showing just how the show continues Mr. Rogers' legacy:


I'm so nostalgic and literally watching this clip at the event made me teary eyed (I still remember where I was when I heard Mr. Rogers passed away) and even more emotional was seeing how Nia's eyes lit up when Daniel came on the screen.

The panelists (and yes, that's Lil Mogwai's disgruntled face in the background!) {Photo provided by Grand Communications}
The creators of the show were present as well for a panel discussion including VP Children's Programming Linda Simensky, creator and executive producer Angela Santomero and executive producer Kevin Morrison, however Nia loudly announced to the entire theater that she needed to go to the bathroom so unforunately, we missed most of it as Nia saw the trolley in the lobby and wanted to play:

Thankfully, I was able to get the transcript. This particular Q & A really resonated with me as I see Nia struggle with her emotions a lot - even Mr. Love Bird's watched a few episodes and says he really appreciates the sing-a-long coping strategies it provides:

Fred Rogers was a musician and music played an important part of the original series. Angela, can you tell us how music is being used in the new series?

One of our main goals for the show is to use the solid pro-social curriculum as the foundation of our series.  But we wanted to create active strategies that kids and parents can use in their lives.  So, what better way to teach how to deal with disappointment, mad feelings or what to do when you’re scared, than to sing about it!  We also cover many of Fred's classic songs.  There is not a dry eye in the house when we play "It's You I like" or "There are many ways to say I love you!"

I highly recommend checking out Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood with your toddler - both you and your child will love it!

One last point of cuteness to share: the following morning Nia woke up still remembering the event and exclaimed, "Daniel Tiger loves me!" and she kept saying it for several days.

Be sure to visit PBS Kids to learn more about the show, experience fun games with your toddler and watch video (this segment to help get through tantrums is our current favorite that we sing a lot in our house).

Did you watch Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood when you were a kid? What fond memories do you have of the show? (The crayon factory visit was my favorite!)

Disclosure: I was not compensated to write this post - it was a free event open to the public and all opinions expressed are my own. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fall Family Fun in Maryland

Since my parents have relocated from our hometown of Columbus, Ohio a couple years ago to now Baltimore it's been such a blessing to be able to see them more frequently.

Last weekend we hopped on Bolt Bus for a long weekend. What's even better is that besides my parents being there, Mr. Love Bird's brother and sister-in-law are just shy of 30 minutes away from them. It's great to see both sides of the family in one visit!

We used to take Mega Bus down there but have now been taking Bolt Bus since we found it's actually closer to my parents. Bolt Bus' on time performance is much better than Mega Bus' and it's more comfortable as well. Mega Bus uses off-branded buses lately with hit or miss wifi and outlets from NYC and have moved their stop from the convenient Port Authority to further west making it a pain to walk especially with Nia and a bag. Bolt Bus however is right off the Path train from NJ and is super easy to get to. 

She's an old pro on the bus now!
Our trip last weekend started on a Friday. Mr. Love Bird took the day off and we got to Maryland while the sun was still up and headed home to drop our things and for my parents to give Lil Love Bird a special surprise . . .

It was hard to pull her away from her tricycle, but we had a reservation at the famous G & M, known for the best crab cakes in Maryland. They did not disappoint! The sides weren't that good though, but next time I'd probably get the onion rings with my crab cake (I had the whipped potatoes which were more like concrete masses). Honestly, I'd be happy with just the crab cake - it was divine and now I never want to order crab cakes anywhere else. It was pure crab without all the extra fillers and breading I'm used to in most crab cakes. We couldn't get Nia to eat any, but she was fine with veggies and French fries. This was the only pic I could snag of our experience:

Mr. Love Bird looks like he was caught doing something bad!
The following morning we were debating going apple picking since we couldn't arrange to go to an orchard outside NYC but unfortunately, it was over everywhere we called. Instead we started our day at the PA Dutch Market. It was a carb lover's heaven! 

I grew up going to Amish Country in Ohio and loved Der Dutchman, and I have to say I wasn't a fan of the breakfast at PA Dutch Market, but the items in the market were fantastic. We bought a tray of lemon bars and ate them so quickly that day that I don't even have a picture of the evidence. Nia loved them too and she's super hard to please!

We had fun exploring other areas of the market . . .

Mr. Love Bird was in awe that candy cigarettes were for sale
This pretzel station was very popular; there were stuffed pretzel rolls with many different fillings
This was an epic aisle of sprinkles
There was also a furniture/homegoods store connected to the market
Once we had our fill at the market (and Nia drove everyone crazy clanging all the wind chimes for sale!) we headed to the Natural Market across from the fall festival we were going to visit. My parents had a few things to pick up and I had fun browsing the aisles looking at all the interesting products. 

Next, we headed across to the festival. There was no way my dad was going to get me to go in the corn maze (or anyone else!), but we let Nia have fun sorting and dumping dried corn in the trough, playing in on the hay maze and riding the cow train. 

Ummmmm no!

We couldn't leave without Mr. Love Bird confirming his height . . .

(We did get a family pic in one of those face cut-out things but Nia's face was so awful because she didn't want to do it that Mr. Love Bird deemed it un-shareable. Oh well! We tried!)

That night my mom and I went to her church's dinner theatre - a special evening for women while Lil Love Bird joined her dad at her cousin's football game. The dinner theatre was a fun time to bond over good food and a chance to get dressed up. I can't remember the last time my mom and I got dressed up to go somewhere! I remembered the novelty of it and thankfully asked someone to take a picture to capture the rare occasion. 

When we got back Mr. Love Bird and I headed out to his brother and sister-in-law's for a wine tasting party. It was a fun night filled with lots of food, music and even a hilarious round of Taboo. My sister-in-law is a fellow Ohioan and a woman after my own heart with her attention to detail - everything was delicious!

The next morning we headed to church, checked out a nearby Chinese buffet that had awesome Yelp reviews (it was great!) then wobbled to the Bolt Bus to head back to NYC. 

It was a fun weekend and the best part is next weekend we're heading back for more family fun! It really is great having our family closer than before.

Are you near or far from your family? How often do you get to see them? We use Skype to keep in touch with our family in between visits. Do you use that or other forms of technology?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How the Love Birds Do Vegas and Blogalicious - Pt. 4

Missed the previous recaps? Check out Pt. 1, Pt 2 and Pt 3.

Yes, this is the final installment on Blogalicious! There was so much between attending the conference and enjoying Las Vegas as a vacation that I wanted to share as much as possible with my readers. If you haven't noticed I'm very passionate about the conference as well as the city of Las Vegas!

First, I wanted to share more about the Hard Rock Hotel. We were given a free stay there and really enjoyed it - Mr. Love Bird stayed there last year when he went to Vegas with his BFF, and he kept raving about it. The bed was super comfy! Thank you Hard Rock for the awesome room:

A strange incident happened in the elevator when we saw an empty glass and white powder nearby. Suspect. A guy was in the elevator and heard me comment to Mr. Love Bird about it and he exclaimed, "What I wouldn't give for coke right about now!" Oooookkkk.

One aspect of the Hard Rock Hotel I've always liked is the memorabilia they have, rock and roll decor as well as the awesome music they always have playing the background. 

This huge photo of Dave Navarro was in the ladies bathroom

Loved the cymbals as sconces in the hallways and the Rolling Stones photo in our room

Another strange incident happened at the check-in desk where a guy was so gone he toppled over trying to reach his ID he dropped while standing in line. There were a few guys standing in front of him and neither them nor the attendant behind the desk noticed. It was the most bizarre thing! He just slowly crumpled to the ground, managed to get his ID, stand up and conduct whatever business he had to do then keep going.

It always seems like Mr. Love Bird and I witness things like that wherever we go!

Back to the conference, I think taking a more laid back approach vs. trying to cram everything in made the experience much more enjoyable for me. A few key snippets I don't want to forget:
  • I really appreciated Catherine of Her Bad Mother and Babble Editor pointing out during the Community Jam Session that not everyone wants to be a professional blogger - I've noticed a huge trend with many making the assumption that all bloggers are aspiring to do it professionally, and that all bloggers are into monetization and turning their blog into a business. So glad this was recognized!
  • If you do want to go the route of monetization, I appreciated Mario Armstrong's point to think of yourself as a media company
  • It's making me think of writing a much bigger blog post, but I appreciate McDonald's presence there to continue to discuss their push on under 400 calorie items - so many bloggers get upset with some of the bigger brands' presence at conferences and partnerships with bloggers, but as someone coming with experience in media and marketing, there's nothing wrong with a brand working to change its image and improve; kudos to McDonald's for working on this!
  • I was especially struck by seeing so many middle-aged and older black bloggers at the conference. This made for such a rich experience and perspective on how I see myself blogging long term. I really enjoyed my conversations with older bloggers!
  • As with any conference it definitely is what you make it, but I think having an awesome platform and team to start with definitely makes it easier. I want to thank Justice Fergie and her team for such an awesome time! 
  • A word about swag: it definitely wasn't the focus. There were more health and beauty products with a few larger giveaways/contests for cash, gift cards, electronics throughout. I really liked not having the focus be on swag! I think post-conference everyone was most excited about the Nature Made gummy vitamins. Mr. Love Bird and I can't stop eating them! We also like our Crest 3D White Strips, and I'm loving my Eucerin lotion for extra-dry skin especially now that fall is here and my skin is not adjusting well.
Here are a few pictures from the official photo album of the conference. Thank you to Eric Payne Photography for capturing these moments!

Rocking my sister's flower at tea and probably saying something profound ;-)
Super focused at Mario's talk that spilled out onto the terrace
Getting my buffet on!

Alas, evidence of my failed attempts at hula hoop exist

Was there anything I didn't cover that you want to hear more about or any questions? Let me know in the comments below and hope to see some of my readers next year at Blogalicious!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Spooky Giveaway Winner!

Happy Friday everyone!

Here's the winner of my spooky giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway  

Congrats Wendy, and thank you to all who entered!

I'm prepping for my sisters' visit tomorrow so will try to come back later if I can with my final Blogalicious post . . .

In case that doesn't happen, have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How the Love Birds Do Vegas and Blogalicious - Pt. 3

Missed the previous recaps? Check out Pt. 1 and Pt 2.

Sunday, September 30

Mr. Love Bird and I woke up early with plans to get in line at the Tix4Tonight booth at Bill's Gambling Hall so we could score tickets for a Cirque Du Soleil show. We got there only to find out that Ka, the show we wanted to see, was off that night and we considered the Beatles show Love, but they only had single seats for about $130 each (CRAZY!). Instead we opted to get tickets for the Mob Attraction at the Tropicana on recommendation of the Trip Advisor trip report I mentioned in my how to do Vegas post. (Mr. Love Bird things I'm crazy, but in the car leaving Bill's I totally saw Channing Tatum running shirtless on the strip with his wife. I checked his Twitter to see if indeed he was in Vegas at the time but didn't see any recent updates. Perhaps it was just leftover fantasies after seeing Magic Mike!)

Since we spent so long in line we I checked the conference schedule and I was going to miss the Eucerin sponsored breakfast with dermatologist Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton (I later heard that it was amazing so I'm bummed I missed it). I arrived and milled around for a bit chatting with fellow attendees then attended Driving Traffic to Your Site with Tonya R. Taylor

Just Tonya's presentation and Mario Armstrong's alone were well worth the trip to Blogalicious let alone all the other awesome aspects of the conference! Tonya packed in so much useful information. At first it was a bit overwhelming as she was fast-paced, but she was great about answering questions and well-organized. My fingers were flying on my SIII capturing notes and pictures of key slides in Evernote (I adore that app!). She took us through 3 key goals of how to get found, get leads and get sales (not necessarily $ but other forms of value). She also had a blogger in the audience who had been working with her for a year who I spoke with after who gave a glowing testimonial of Tonya's services and how she had helped her grow her blog.  I stopped Tonya afterwards to tell her how amazing her presentation was. It's definitely worth checking out her site!

Harriette Cole gives closing remarks {Image Credit: Eric Payne Photography}
To close out Blogalicious we went to lunch where Harriette Cole gave closing remarks: TMI? Connecting and Being Authentic Without Oversharing. This really resonated with me as I've now started using Instagram having moved from being primarily a Facebook user, then a heavy Twitter user. I get frustrated seeing others abuse social media by overposting and I often wonder if I'm sharing too much. Harriette joked about those people who status update everything their child does. I definitely try not to be one of those people!

The most important take-away Harriette made was 4 key questions she told us to ask before we post anything to social media:
  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it kind?
  3. Is it timely?
  4. Is it necessary?
That's a wrap!
With the awkward Sunday flight times available out of Vegas, I noticed the audience had thinned out significantly. I took some time to chat with a few bloggers I hadn't had the chance to meet and speak to Harriette Cole as well. I made sure to thank Justice Fergie for such a wonderful conference and while she and her team didn't disclose yet where Blogalicious 2013 will be, it doesn't even matter cause I will be there regardless of where it is!

Our view from our table on the terrace at Yard House
Mr. Love Bird and I finally reunited after dealing with spotty cell phone service at Red Rock and had a comped pre-dinner snack at Yard House. It was a great way to decompress and talk about how we wanted to spend the rest of our time in Vegas before our Monday night flight back to NYC.  

We over-indulged a bit and ordered jambalaya, lobster, crab and artichoke seafood dip and topped it off with macadamia nut cheesecake with raspberry and caramel sauce. It was delicious and we were a little stuffed afterwards!
Next, we made our way to the strip to check out the Mob Attraction at Tropicana. Mr. Love Bird hadn't really spent a lot of time at that end of the strip - I had when I went to Vegas one year for my birthday with my girlfriend and we stayed at the Excalibur (btw I wouldn't recommend staying there, but it was free so hey!). Tropicana's had a serious upgrade since I was there and we enjoyed walking around the property for a bit. . .

The impressive registration desk
At last we got to the Mob Attraction. Apparently they said it only takes 90 minutes to go through. Not for history nerds like Mr. Love Bird and me! We spent 2 hours there and would've spent more but as it was nearing closing time they practically had to kick us out. It was an interactive experience and a museum all in one and I think that format made it such a great attraction! 

This scene had holographic actors!
I was surprised so many artifacts had been saved!
This rotunda had rooms upon rooms of information - I LOVED it!

There were recreated rooms using the gangsters' original furniture and even home movies
Loved these oversized portraits
Everything was such high quality and so well done - it kinda reminded me of Universal Studios. After getting through the improv with the actors (we were given assignments and told to pose against green screens with various scenarios told to us), there were documentaries to watch, artifacts to look at and more.  

One more funny thing to share . . . We couldn't help but purchase the silly pictures of us against the green screen. 

When the police officer pulled up the picture of me with the shawl over my head he nearly broke character cause we were all laughing so hard. I didn't understand the context of the picture before I posed. They told me we had just got off the boat at Ellis Island (there was an actual boat!), so I wrapped my pashmina around my head thinking back to high school documentaries I had to watch on immigration! Silly me!

Anyway, I highly recommend the Mob Attraction and would go back to spend even more time there. It wasn't crowded when we went, and it felt like we had the place to ourselves. I had a feeling the staff thought we were strange and probably watching us on the surveillance cameras saying, "Who are these dorks?!," but I didn't care. I was enthralled! (Mr. Love Bird and I even watched Casino when we returned home so we could identify who was who based on what we saw at the Mob Attraction. Did I mention we are nerds???)

New York, New York across from Tropicana
Once we were done at Tropicana we walked across to check out Excalibur (the castle) and Luxor (the pyramid). Mr. Love Bird was as skeeved out by Excalibur as I had been when I stayed there years ago and found the Luxor dizzying inside. Looking up kinda makes you nauseous, but it really is one of the coolest structures on the strip!

By the time we got back to the hotel Mr. Love Bird was exhausted and fell asleep way too early - well in terms of Vegas time, but I finally prompted him to get up and get a late night snack with me at In-N-Out Burger right before they closed at 1a.m. (and yes, Shake Shack is better).

From there we hung out on the strip finally made it back to the hotel so we could rest up and enjoy our last day in Vegas . . .

Monday, October 1 - Tuesday, October 2

First thing Monday we had important business to attend to . . .

A breakfast buffet!  

At least one buffet is a must while in Vegas and we went a bit off-strip to the Gold Coast's buffet. We ate there on a previous trip, and it didn't disappoint. I loved my veggie omelet! We rested for an hour then spent about 30 minutes at the pool - it was SO hot, but the pool is something I usually miss out on during my Vegas trips so it was on my must-list this time!

Next, we had to check out and mail my swag box home. Thank goodness for flat-rate shipping at the post office. I was able to fit everything in one box for only $15 and it arrived super fast in only 2 days!

Our flight was at 8:30p.m. and we had a rental car to return of course, but there was a huge hiccup: I discovered the day before that my driver's license had gone missing. I had it last at Lavo Friday night so I called back there and other places I remember showing it, but could not locate it. It was odd because the pocket of my camera bag still had all the contents there but that (cash, bluetooth and house keys). As a result I called the airport to see what I'd need to do and they said we'd have to get to the airport extra early so I could cleared for security. Thankfully because it was a domestic flight it wouldn't be too hard to get through.

Mr. Love Bird was kinda bummed about having to cut our visit at the Hard Rock short (he was having a good run at blackjack!), but better safe than sorry and we made our way to the airport. 

I couldn't find the farewell sign in the Virgin terminal, but I think this was a ploy to make us stay!
The good thing about making it to the airport so early is that there were lots of open upgradeable seats available. Mr. Love Bird turned on his charm with the ticketing agent and scored us FREE extra leg-room seats for the SFO>JFK leg of our trip. YES! 

Next, was the security challenge. Before we left for Vegas I swapped some accessories with my sister Ariane and asked her to bring my BJs ID she had borrowed. Thank God I did that because it was the only picture ID I had on me and it got me through security! 

With the extra time, we relaxed, had dinner and then took off. I slept most of the way from SFO>JFK and was so thankful for the extra room although it was more for Mr. Love Bird who's 6'8."

One last word about Virgin - they were not playing with boarding times! Everything was super on time and each leg of the flight was a breeze. We'll definitely be flying again!

We got in Tuesday morning and my sister-in-law Nnenna arrived with Nia to pick us up. Nia was under the weather I think with her molars. She wasn't overly excited to see us but said, "I'm sick mommy. I need medicine," and it broke my heart. I squeezed her extra tightly and we made our way home.

Once we got in we had a super long family nap! Overall it was one of the best trips this year, and we Love Birds were happy to be reunited at last. 

Next up, final thoughts on what I learned, tips/tricks and a few more pics to share . . .


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