Thursday, February 27, 2014

Let the Lego Obsession Commence! #legolandnyc

Disclosure: I was invited by Legoland to participate in their blogger event; I received a gift bag and all opinions expressed are my own.


Since seeing The Lego Movie, Nia has been talking nonstop about one thing: Legos! I grew up on them and was kinda giddy inside when she took a liking to them too so when I was invited to a Legoland event here in NYC earlier this week I knew it'd be the perfect after school activity for us. 

We were greeted by many tasty treats and they were Lego-themed of course - I loved the attention to detail . . .





Nia had a rough time getting started - I was a bit nervous the Legos might be a bit too advanced for her, but with guidance from Gary, the onsite master builder, she focused and completed a project. She was glowing when she showed it to me!
 


Legoland has locations here in Westchester, NY (a Discovery Center) and Florida and California (the Parks) and while the warmer weather locations look super-appealing right about now we're holding out until the spring before Baby Agbai 2.0 arrives to make our first visit to Westchester. 


Thank you to Legoland for a fun night! We look forward to many happy years of building and creativity!

Did you grow up on Legos as a kid and are they an obsession in your house? If you've been to Legoland with your family, how was your visit?



P.S. Check out this Mashable post on 17 Practical Uses for Legos in Your Everyday life! I'm really loving the idea of using Legos to teach fractions. Brilliant!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Top 5 WOW Moments at Toy Fair 2014


Yesterday I gave a quick rundown of the booths I visited at Toy Fair and today I'm sharing my top 5 WOW moments:

5) The Hasbro Party 


As an 80s baby I have fond memories of many of the Hasbro toys especially My Little Pony, Play-Doh and Mr. Potato Head. I first interacted with Hasbro as a blogger at BlogHer '12, and it was fun to see their new developments especially with old classics such as Simon and Monopoly.  


My Little Pony's introduced Flip and Whirl Rainbow Dash (which Nia has since taken to bed with her every night since I brought it home!) as well as smaller interchangeable ponies (shown above)
The next development from Play Doh, Doh Vinci is a mess-free, quick dry system with endless possibilities
Two of my favorites, Simon and Monopoly have been remastered! Simon now has swipe technology combined with pattern recognition and Monopoly has a customizable game where you can put your own pictures and places into the game pieces

4) Hearing from Alicia Keys



I was excited to hear that Alicia Keys would be cutting the ribbon for Toy Fair 2014 and unfortunately, I missed it by just a few minutes due to traffic, but I was thrilled to be able to join her press conference announcing her new app Mookey, the second volume of her first first app The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee. As a mom, I'm always intrigued to hear from celebrity parents especially as it's the one area I believe it's easier to relate to them as a regular person. You can watch my clip here of Alicia explaining how her own grandmother influenced the creation of the app (the clicking of the camera's is quite loud though so turn your volume all the way up to hear!).


3) Experiencing Crayola's Innovation

 I was thoroughly impressed by Crayola's new developments from increased vibrancy of their mess-free line to the integration of apps into the child's drawings (an area I'm especially sensitive about).  

Here's a quick highlights video:


 

2) Connecting with Toy Entrepreneurs
 
With founder of Go! Go! Sports Girls Jodi Norgaard who was chosen to speak at the Women in Toys/Walmart panel during Toy Fair

There were quite a few independent toy makers at Toy Fair interspersed amongst the bigger brands, and I really enjoyed reaching out to a few of them including revisiting Go! Go! Sports Girls (last year's review on this inspiring doll is here), and I was introduced to Ask Amy - a start-up created by two NYC moms - as well as Baby Banana Brush - a silicone introductory toothbrush/teether for infants. I'll have spotlights on these brands (and a giveaway!) coming up soon . . .

1) The Melissa & Doug Blogger Breakfast 

Amy (Teach Mama) who inspired me to go to Toy Fair for the first time last year took this picture of me and Valerie of Inner Child Fun and Charlene of Charlene Chronicles about to dig in!
Maybe because I'm a constantly, ravenous, pregnant lady and they had a great spread or perhaps because we are obsessed with Melissa & Doug in our household, this experience was my favorite of Toy Fair! Being able to hear directly from Melissa, the brains behind the brand, reinforced why I like it so much. Her mantra of creating toys, especially crafts and activity sets, that are, "low skill/high impact" is one that I agree with wholeheartedly.

This easily interchangeable hot dog/ice cream cart is so clever and space saving - see how the ketchup and mustard "squirt" out?
The new Tips & Tails set would be great for pretend play (even for adults!); I'm thrilled to see the new School Time Classroom Play Set - Melissa explained how such care was taken into making this accurate for proper school readiness; the Baby Play line is a welcome addition to the Melissa & Doug family!

Melissa & Doug has introduced more animals to their super soft plush line including a python and camel - I might need a couple of these for Baby Agbai 2.0's nursery!

See anything here you or your kids would be WOWed by? Please share!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Toy Fair 2014 (or How I Conquered 7 Football Fields of Toys!)

My head is still spinning from the awesomeness that was Toy Fair 2014! If you follow me on Instagram you got a preview of the week. This year I was able to attend more of Toy Fair, and despite being pregnant, cautiously covered more ground than I did last year - imagine 7 football fields worth of toys!

My main objective this year? While covering some of the larger toy brands, showcase smaller, start-up brands as well as those that promote S.T.E.A.M. (more on the shift from S.T.E.M. to S.T.E.A.M. coming up . . .).


I really appreciate the feedback I received from many of you on what you liked, wanted to see and had questions about and to keep from overwhelming you I'm going to break out my recap similar to last year's showing all the brands I visited then come back with brand spotlights that will be sprinkled in over the next few months especially as I have some fantastic giveaways planned resulting from Toy Fair.

Here's a quick video showing the brand booths I visited this year:


Also, here they are listed out:
Let me know in the comments below which brands you're excited to hear more about! Is there a fan favorite in your household?


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Winners: Seseame Street Live at Madison Square Garden

Morning! This was basically me on the walk to/from school this morning:


Despite the warmer temps here,  it's treacherous out! About to head back out for an errand so please send some non-falling vibes my way.

Anyway, before I go I wanted to share the 2 winners of the Sesame Street Live tickets giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway    
Congrats to both of you and thank you to my friends at GoGo squeeZ for making this giveaway possible! I'll be in touch with the winners shortly via email.

Have a good day everyone and stay safe especially if it's slippery where you are!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

NYC Flash Giveaway Alert: See Sesame Street Live for FREE This Weekend!

Disclosure: I'm a compensated member of the GoGo squeeZ squeeZ Squad; all opinions expressed are my own. 

I'm at my last day of covering Toy Fair 2014, but I'm popping in to share a fun, flash giveaway brought to you by my friends at GoGo squeeZ:

{Image Credit}
**Two packs of 4 tickets to Sesame Street Live at Madison Square Garden for this Saturday, February 22 or Sunday, February 23 (any showtime listed on link) - that's right 2 winners will be selected!**

I took my daughter to her first Sesame Street Live when she was almost 2 years old (you can see her experience including her major side eye here), and I have fond memories going as a kid with my cousin!

To win it's super simple: just use the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway ends tonight at midnight with the winner announced tomorrow morning - good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now back to Toy Fair . . .


Monday, February 17, 2014

Baby Agbai 2.0 Report: 22 Weeks and Pt. 2 of the Gender Reveal

Today's the day! We have a bit of news to share (listen closely to what Nia says at the end O_o) . . .


To say we are thrilled is an understatement! We found out a couple weeks ago with my sisters who came along for the reveal. Looking at the monitor I knew it was a boy even before the technician could get it out of her mouth. I immediately covered my eyes and cried so hard! Mr Lovebird was seated up by my head, put his head closed to mine and squeezed me tightly. Along with my sisters we all had a festive-celebration in that teeny tiny room! My sister Ariane said she got all tingly, and it felt like Christmas - that's very accurate!


We then told Nia last Saturday morning with the doll and book reveal. It was important to me to find an anatomically correct doll, and apparently Nia appreciated this: after about a couple hours with the doll she told me, "Mama, I always wanted a baby doll with a penis!" and for the next few days proceeded to tell everyone we encountered that she has a doll with a penis. However, she still insisted she wanted a baby sister. She's seemed to come around to the fact she's getting a brother now and has been so sweet with Baby Bobo (yes, that's the name she's picked for him)

Here are a few of her moments "practicing" being a big sister: 


Now on to the official Baby Agbai 2.0 report . . .

Although I'm technically 23 weeks along as of yesterday I'll count this as the 22 weeks report: 

How far along: 22 weeks

How big is baby: (from 3DPregnancy.com) Your baby now weighs almost a pound and measures almost 11 inches from his head to his heel, which is how the Stretch Armstrong in your uterus will be measured from here on out. Up ’til now your baby’s legs were curled tight up against her torso, so he was measured from his head to his bottom (or crown to rump) and not head to toe. This week your mini is about as long as a package of Oreos and as heavy as a large bag of tortilla chips. Who’s hungry? 
Other highlights:

You’re already raising a little Einstein. Your baby’s brain is developing at a clip this week and will continue to do so until he’s five years old (so load up on the Omega 3)!

Baby’s hair is now a short, bright white crop (Billy Idol, eat your heart out!). No matter what color it will end up—red, blonde, black—all babies’ hair lacks pigment at this point.

Your baby has started growing taste buds and may be able to detect strong flavors in the amniotic fluid. If you could see inside, you might catch him sticking out his tongue for a taste and then grimacing, a sign that perhaps you should chill on the chili powder. 

Stretch Marks: Still no new ones but I'm ridiculously itchy. Ughhhh! 

Sleep:  I sleep like a baby! Congestion sometimes makes it hard to get to sleep, but once I'm out, I'm out 

Best Moment This Week: Mr Lovebird feeling the baby kick (more on that milestone below) 

Movement: Active, but still not as much as Nia was at this point; mostly reacts to loud sound and food 

Sex of the Baby: BOY - and no one better say, "Oh it could still be a girl . . .I know someone who was surprised at birth!" No, no, nooooooo! We are VERY sure this is a boy. I won't post a pic of the evidence, but it's ::ahem:: clearly a boy! 

Food Craving: Still loving salty and sour; Mexican food gives me LIFE! 

Belly Button In or Out: Out which freaks out Lil Lovebird! She points and says, "Ewwww!" 

What I Miss: Being able to breathe at night; awful congestion has commenced 

What I'm Looking Forward To: Celebrating our 5th anniversary a bit early in Puerto Rico (and our maternity photo shoot) especially with this awful weather we keep having. Snow on top of snow on top of snow. I've never experienced anything like this before!

Milestone: Mr. Lovebird finally felt the baby move on Valentine's Day during our date night when he returned from his week away on business. While he was gone I told him when he got back he'd definitely feel him, and he was skeptical, but that's the same point when he felt Nia move too. Mr. Lovebird was SO excited to feel our son move while we were watching The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (I think we were the last ones to see it before it goes to DVD!). I guess I shoulda signed him up for this contraption. Oh and shout out to our church for having Parents' Night Out on Valentine's Day. Somehow these nights always come when I'm about to lose my mind Uka's in route from his week-long business trips, and we can meet up and go out straightaway plus Nia loves hanging out with her church buddies and the awesome staff. What a blessing!

Oh and to go back to the quiz in Pt 1: 6 of the 10 questions pointed towards boy! Mr. Lovebird thinks the biggest dead giveaway is the difference in how I'm carrying this time around.



P.S. I'm away at Toy Fair today and tomorrow so follow along on Instagram and Twitter where I'll be sharing the latest scoop on all the fun!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

I'm at Toy Fair 2014!

Popping in with a late weekend post to share a few pics from Day 1 of Toy Fair 2014 (you can read my 2013 recap here).

I'm covering Toy Fair via Instagram and Twitter daily so follow me via my social media buttons to the right as well as #tfny and #tf14 to see lots more!

Here are a few pics from Day 1:

Attendees anxious to enter at the ribbon cutting
Alicia Keys discussing Mookey, her new app after the success of The Journals of Mama Mae & LeeLee
A quick snapshot of the epic-ness of TF14
Lil Lovebird was excited for a special surprise I brought back for her

The next two days are going to be a whirlwind then I'm slowing it down on Wednesday as I wrap up coverage. I'll come back with a full recap soon!

One of the best parts of Toy Fair? I get to be a big kid again!

Have a good week everyone!
 


P.S. I'll be back tomorrow morning with Pt. 2 of Baby Agbai 2.0's gender reveal (here's Pt. 1)!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Baby Agbai 2.0 Report: 22 Weeks and Pt. 1 of the Gender Reveal

Happy snowy Valentine's Day!

So I've decided to share Baby Agbai 2.0's gender, and I'm doing it in two parts. The first is via a quiz inspired by Life of Toi (thank you to The Pancake Life for reminding me of Toi's blog!). 

Vote at the end and tell me if you think Baby Agbai is a GIRL or BOY!

 





1) How pointy is my bump?

MYTH: Carrying high means it's a BOY and carrying low means it's a GIRL

Quiana: Let the pictures speak for themselves!

Is there a glow? Or is that just Photoshop??? (Thank you to Bing for my head shot from Alt Summit)
2) How did your skin change? 

MYTH: BOYS make the mother look better, GIRLS make the mother look worse

Quiana: People keep telling me more this time around that I'm glowing. I did get a few breakouts at the beginning but now I don't.

3) Did you have nausea? 

MYTH: GIRLS give more nausea, BOYS give less nausea

Quiana: YES! The entire first trimester and even a bit into the second trimester. I barely had morning sickness the first pregnancy. 

Cravings? What cravings?
 4) Do you have any cravings?

MYTH: Craving sweet means it's a GIRL and craving salt and sour means it's a BOY

Quiana: Yep, just like last time! This time around though I do not have an aversion to chicken and both times I LOVE Mexican. I love all things sour and fruity especially and thankfully my sweet tooth disappeared during pregnancy as it did the first time.

5) Did your legs get very hairy during this pregnancy?

MYTH: Growing less hair on legs could mean it's a GIRL, and growing more hair could mean it's a BOY.

Quiana: No more than normal; as a product of girls' school where we rarely shaved I still continue with this so I hardly notice the hair on my legs (and I don't care wonder if Mr. Lovebird does too!)

Mr. Lovebird with his dad and siblings
6) Does your husband have more brothers or sisters?

FACT: GIRLS come from his X-chromosome and BOYS from his Y-chromosome sperm

Quiana: Mr. Lovebird has 2 older brothers and 1 younger sister (not that it matters, but I have 2 younger sisters and 1 younger brother)

Oh duck booty of yore, why have you forsaken me? (with my family at my sister Ariane's graduation in '10)
7)  What is the shape of your pregnant abdomen? 

MYTH: If the weight is more on the front it's a BOY and if it's on the hips and below it's a GIRL

Quiana: It appears everything is concentrated right in the front this time around whereas last time I had more hips and a duck butt (oh how I miss my duck butt !)

8) Did your face change a lot this pregnancy?

MYTH: If your face is full it means it's a GIRL, if it's square it's a BOY

Quiana: I think I didn't get as round in the face this time around, but since I always have chipmunk cheeks it's hard to decipher. Others tell me that my face and everything else but my belly looks like my non-pregnant self!

9) My chest during pregnancy?

MYTH? BOYS make the chest grow bigger, GIRLS not so much

Quiana: Definitely not as big this time around (a certain someone might be disappointed about this O___o)

10) Has your nose increased in size?

MYTH: BOYS have been associated with an increase in nose size

Quiana: Nope it's been the same as it was with my first pregnancy. I've always been afraid of my nose spreading as I've seen in other women  (especially cause it's quite large already!) and thankfully I haven't had to deal with that. 

Are you pregnant or know someone who is? You can take the quiz here.

So what's the verdict? Girl or boy?  Vote below:

Is Baby Agbai 2.0 a GIRL or BOY?
  
pollcode.com free polls 

I'll post the full reveal on Monday (along with the official Baby Agbai 2.0 report) . . .



 
P.S. Day 3 of my Alt Summit recap is coming up. Here's Day 1 and Day 2 in case you missed it!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Alt Summit 2014 Recap: Day 2

Note: Pictures without my watermark are taken by the official Alt photographers Justin Hackworth and Brooke Dennis.

Missed Day 1? Read it here

I have to backtrack a bit because due to pregnancy brain I forgot by arriving 4 hours ahead of schedule on Wednesday I was able to attend the early sessions. When I saw this on the schedule my heart leaped: Overcome Overwhelm: We Once Were Crazy, But Now We're Semi-Sane with Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society and Whitney English. Hilary was delayed in NYC because of the polar vortex, but she joined via video conference and Whitney moderated - it turned out fine! 


I loved the candid nature of their conversation - Hilary discussing her childhood watching her dad as an entrepreneur and Whitney's experience with bankruptcy. Before officially starting the whirlwind conference the following day this session really helped me set the tone and prepare my mind for what I was about to encounter. 

My key takeaways: 
  • Approach opportunities with wisdom - say yes, to providence
  • Not saying "no" comes from a place of fear and the scarcity/abundance mentality - don't be afraid
  • Purpose = what you're best at + helping others
  • Pick a Daily Top 3 - you can only accomplish 3 key things per day; make those a priority 
Krista (with her fab self!) works the room
Next, I went to How Brands Like to Work with Bloggers featuring Krista Blair and Laura Mays. Representing Nate Berkus, Krista gave the inside scoop on how the brand forms partnerships with bloggers and what they look for. I condensed the session into one key element: STORYTELLING. It's crucial and something I will definitely be working on this year.

Now on to Day 2 . . .

Thursday 

I have to admit I hit snooze a couple times before waking up each day but I was so excited to be at Alt that it definitely wasn't a problem getting up! Again, the gorgeous view made it worth it...



Breakfast wasn't included in the Alt ticket, but I simply grabbed some fruit and a protein bar I had brought with me and headed down to the conference. I registered the day before when I arrived and loved the little notebook by May Designs - it was organized with sections for goals, notes, contacts and follow-up (a Type A's dream!).

 

From the well-planned notebook, to the bins of Method hand sanitizer at registration I really appreciate how everything was so well thought out during the conference - I adore attention to detail, and it made the conference even that much more enjoyable!


At last it was time for the opening keynote! After a welcome from Sara and Gabrielle, the co-founding sisters of Alt, they introduced Garance DorĂ©. I was only familiar with Garance from the recaps I saw after Alt NYC, and I knew she wouldn't disappoint. As a fashion blogger, her entire image and persona is on point without the snootiness one would think might accompany her French awesomeness. She was honest, self-deprecating and comfortable with us admitting her nervousness and asking us if it was OK for her to sit down while she spoke (you can read her take on her speech here). 

Here's how Garance spoke to me:
  • When it comes to negativity, don't feed the monster - respect yourself and moderate disrespectful comments
  • Always think of your readers in the highest regard (despite nasty comments you might get!) - remember you're talking to individuals
  • Blogger boredom leads to reader boredom
  • Niche is NOT appealing - niche is French for "trap" and is a place a dog sleeps; instead keep exploring
  • People always follow their emotions - as I've always kept in mind, they may not remember what you say, but they always remember how you make them feel
I also loved her punchy imagery during her speech:



Next, I selected my first breakout session: Emotional Analytics: Well-branded is the new well-rounded with Erica Domesek of P.S. I Made This.



I first met Erica at the Scotch Most Gifted Wrapper '13 contest in NYC. I had been following her on social media and asked her if she was going to Alt as she really seemed like the Alt type. She casually replied, "Oh, I think I'm speaking at that," and her nonchalant manner was a complete understatement to her session!

It was definitely one of my favorite blog conference sessions ever

First, she hit it off by these thoughtful place-settings:


Yep, that's her second book, and while the Essie and Sharpie seem simple enough she wove them into her talk: both brands representing her essence and the colors chosen having significance as well. How clever and definitely memorable!

Erica's talk distilled why it's so important to connect to your audience on an emotional level, breaking down her most popular posts and pins and why they strike a nerve. She's a nerdy girl like me who's waaay into data (telling us to do a Statigram analysis ASAP!) and as a fellow-80s baby, loves nostalgia just like I do - a woman after my own heart!


My favorite soundbites:
  •  Your network is your net worth (yep, it's been said before, but always a good reminder!)
  • Start the creative process with a collage
    • Focus on: color, composition, typography, recognition and nostalgia
  • Create strong content that evokes an emotional response
  • Lead with passion  
  • A tactful way to bring up getting paid for your services especially when a potential partner has a big idea, "Great, what's your budget?"

Next, it was the time that Baby Agbai 2.0 loves most: LUNCH! Somehow someone in charge knew my cravings for Mexican food and fulfilled my desires with a full delicious buffet of it. Score!



It wasn't a keynote lunch, but instead a chance for the attendees to meet and network sponsored by Furbish - I really appreciated this! I met the Simple Green Smoothies co-founders in line and sat with Debbie of Made to Shirts, Elita of Inside Out & About, Mallory and Savannah of Classy Clutter and Bethany of The Glamorous Housewife.



I also liked the postcards with quirky phrases at each place setting:


After lunch I wanted to lay down went to the next breakout session: Blog Revenue: Display Ads, Affiliate Programs, Ad Networks, Sponsorships, and What the Numbers Look Like with a few of my favorite blogging all-stars (go follow them!):

For those of you seeking outside sponsorships, here are their top tips:
  • Start with your blogger friends for connections
  • "Tried and true:" go the social media route directly to brands then follow-up with a DM if they respond to you
  • "Stalker method:" find who's who via LinkedIn and contact directly
Like Erica's session with direct scripts for talking $ with potential partners, this phrase shared in this session was golden for when a minimum prize value is not compelling: "That won't reach my traffic goals; maybe ____ instead."

Regarding the nitty gritty (which I adore!) they shared pricing guidelines with the key being $5-10 per 1,000 unique monthly views. So for example if you're getting 100K views/month you can confidently ask for $200 per sponsored post. Good to know!

I saw that headshots were being provide by Bing and anticipating a bum-rush, I slipped out early to get mine:


I then did a quick run through a few of the sponsors' comfy and creative lounges:



Yes, that's Christy Turlington, and I have a story about meeting her I'll share in a later post!
Nat Geo Kids had animals at their lounge including a fox and skunk (I pass on holding all animals!); I enjoyed playing the Price is Right game at HomeGoods and scored another gift card for my sister; Red Stamp's lounge invoked Valentine's Day

After the break there were a ton of roundtables and design camps to choose from and I selected Rebranding with Amanda Hill of {Re}cycled, Consign & Design. As a continued goal to turn Harlem Lovebirds into a "Brand Quiana" website I enjoyed Amanda's perspective on how to go about doing this. Something I especially struggle with is the DIY vs. hire an expert route. Not only from her, but from others throughout the conference the overwhelming response is to hire an expert. Time is definitely money and all the times spent learning, coding and designing should be spent on content creation. 


My favorite takeaway from Amanda's session was:

"You should be attracting people, and repelling people."

This is such a hard concept for me, and for most bloggers, I think. In general we want to be well-liked so when someone doesn't like us as much as we try to brush it off, it can still get to us at times. Instead we have to understand it's a balance. For those that leave when we rebrand, others will come. Definitely a lesson to keep in mind!

Next, it was time to head upstairs to get ready for the first party of the conference: the green party sponsored by Cricut. I wasn't familiar with Cricut prior to Alt but kept seeing the buzz on social media about their new product launch and a few bloggers who had been invited pre-conference to try it out. As a crafty person who doesn't craft often, the Cricut really caught my eye especially as I walked through the party doors and saw the amazing things it created including dresses, yes, dresses, folks!






The abundant crafting stations scattered throughout the party were such fun! I brought home some bug glasses for Nia
 

Smilebooth stations were abundant throughout the conference
Dayle of Number 4 Design Studio and Amber of Damask Love captivated by the Cricut Explore
Anna Rose - one of the Cricut co-designers of the amazing dresses in the first party pic above

 I couldn't leave the party without spending some time at the Smilebooth . . .


With my roommates Mindy and Caroline (who left Mindy and me hanging!)
And on this note I was ready to go to bed:

Loved my Asos dress - the first time I ever purchased there (highly recommend it)
Next up: Day 3 (and a few giveaways I won!)
 

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