The Role Mommy Fave Five – Nintendo Edition!

After careful consideration and product testing by my kids, we’ve come up with our Fave Five tech toys for the Nintendo DS and Wii that’ll keep your kids entertained, engaged and on the edge of their seats this holiday season.

scribblenauts-20090615060345371.jpg1. Scribblenauts – I was first introduced to this DS game this past September and when I told my kids about it, they were hooked. Actually, they were completely enthralled when the Scribblenauts commercials started airing on TV. And so, this weekend, we zipped into Manhattan, hit the Nintendo World store and lucky for us, Scribblenauts was there. So what makes it so special? Simple. Your child types a word on the screen and it magically appears. In fact, if your kid typed “monkey” “banana” and “unicycle” you will suddenly see a chimp eating a banana while riding a unicycle. Brilliant! Plus, there are tons of games too. Bottom line – any game that fosters a child’s imagination gets a major thumbs up from me.
Thumbnail image for stylesavvy.jpg2. Style Savvy – perfect for tween girls. Get the chance to be a fashion designer and open your own boutique with over 10,000 outfits to choose from! Only annoying thing about the game is that it plays the same song over and over again – as long as you tell your child to lower the sound, it’s one of those DS games you’ll find your daughter playing over and over again.
disney_sing_it_pop_hits__frontcover_large_3g5JenojXFxLeks.jpg3. Disney Sing It! Pop Hits edition. I admit it – I am a sucker for anything that has karaoke in it and so, when I received Disney Sing It to review, I was hooked. Well, let me re-phrase that one – my kids were hooked and well me, I’m a bit frustrated since I don’t know the songs that well and my scores are pretty bad compared to my daughter. Now if Disney can come up with a Sing It! 80’s edition, I’d be all over that one.
Thumbnail image for wiifitplus.jpg4. The New Wii Fit Plus – There’s a new and improved Wii Fit Plus which comes with a balance board – which enables you to mix and match yoga and strength training along with tons of exercises that’ll help you lose weight and stay in shape. You can buy Wii Fit Plus with the Balance Board for $89.99. Or, if you already own Wii Fit and the Balance Board, you can buy the upgraded software, Wii Fit PLUS for $20…Oh – and did I mention – the Wii has finally come down in price! It’s now $199 so make an investment you and your family will love.
Thumbnail image for lego_rock_band.jpg5. LEGO ROCK BAND Wii – Now this one is on my total must-have list. Want to know how to make a 7 year old happy? Then combine his love of Legos with music. Better yet, add songs that you’ll love too and you get LEGO Rock Band! According to Game Zone, you can “rock along to current hits and classic favorites that the whole family will enjoy including Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”, Foo Fighters’ “Breakout”, Vampire Weekend’s “A-Punk”, Blur’s “Song 2”, Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting”, Europe’s “The Final Countdown”, Good Charlotte’s “Boys and Girls” and Pink’s “So What”, just to name a few!” Since my son has been obsessed with any song by Michael Jackson (check out the video below), he is so going to love this game!
NSMBW - FINAL SCREEN 10.JPGBonus Wii Pick…Super Mario Bros™ – The newest installment of the most popular video game franchise offers the chance for multiple players to participate at the same time! Plus, new items include the propeller suit, which will shoot players high into the sky with just a shake of the Wii Remote, and Mario’s new ability to transform into Penguin Mario. Incidentally, if you know anything about my family, we are huge penguin fans, so Super Mario Bros. gets props all around for the bonus bird feature.

And…if you’re looking for more fun things to do with your kids this holiday season and plan to visit the east coast, check out our recent adventure aboard Metronorth including our trek to the Nintendo World Store, M&M World and a fabulous entertainment find along Fifth Avenue!!!

Melissa & Doug Favorites

You’re making your list, and checking it twice – the pressure is really on to find perfect gifts for all those little ones who’ve been naughty AND nice!

Selecting children’s gift can be tons of fun – after all, who doesn’t love to visit the local toy store and reminisce about the holidays when we were kids? Even so, sometimes the thought of figuring out what to buy that niece or nephew that you only see once a year can be quite daunting. Luckily, Melissa & Doug makes a fabulous line of more than 800 hand-crafted, high-quality children’s products to choose from, and we have some great advice for how to select that perfect present for just about any child!

Start by making sure you are selecting gifts in the appropriate age category so you’re little one will get the most play value possible! If you buy something targeted for an age that is too young, the toy might be “boring” or “too easy.” But if you buy something that is for an age that is too old, this could lead to frustration and the gift might be ignored. But, you’re in luck — all of Melissa & Doug’s products are clearly labeled with age recommendations! AND, they all come with a variety of “extension activities” listed directly on the product or packaging that offer a bunch of different ideas for how the child can use the toy for endless fun!

Then, figure out what the child is into and what really excites them! Does he love to play pirate and never takes off that pirate hat he got for his birthday? Then a pirate-themed puzzle or puppet would be a perfect fit! Is she totally enthralled with fairy princesses and princess-themed movies? Then a princess magnetic dress up doll or a princess wand will be perfect gifts for her!

If you’re not sure what themes to go with but you remember hearing how much she likes to play “cooking” with Mommy, then turn to any type of pretend play food item and you’re sure to have a hit! If you don’t know the child that well, turn to generic categories like plush, puzzles or games – these types of gifts are great for any child. At www.MelissaAndDoug.com, you can shop for products by keywords like “pirate” or “princess” and find all types of items, or you can shop by category — it’s really that easy!

Finally, consider your budget. Especially in today’s challenging economy, we are all conscious of price, and being able to get a great gift for a great price is super important! With Melissa & Doug, you definitely do not have to overspend to get the perfect gift! Our products are always a tremendous value and we have awesome gifts in every price range!

So, now you’ve read all we’ve had to say and still aren’t sure where to start in your quest for the perfect gift? Here are a bunch of ideas to get you started: (I mean, take it from us — we have 6 kids of our own!)

Our play food toys are among our most popular toys each holiday season (and even year round for that matter!). Kids will be delighted with any of Melissa & Doug’s dozens of play food sets – they are innovative and fun, and truly stand up to tough preschool play. Choose from our classic Cutting Food Box ($19.99; includes eight pieces of wooden food that create a realistic “crunching” sound when sliced, a cutting board and a wooden knife) or our fun new Slice & Bake Cookie Set ($19.99; includes twelve wooden, sliceable cookies with 12 toppings that store in a durable dough tube, a wooden knife, spatula, cookie sheet and oven mitt). Or, if you know a child with a special interest or food love, some of our other play sets include a Sushi Slicing Set, an Ice Cream Parlor Set and a Grill Set.

Looking for a more versatile pretend play toy? Melissa & Doug Fold & Go Play Sets will be the perfect match! For girls, choose from the Fold & Go Dollhouse or Fold & Go Princess Castle ($49.99 each), and for boys the Fold & Go Medieval Castle ($49.99) is a perfect match! Looking for something more gender neutral? Check out the Fold & Go Barn or Fold & Go Stable ($49.99 each). All of these sets are beautifully designed to capture a child’s imagination and come with accessory pieces for imaginative play. And, of course, they’re all portable! Fold them up and take them with you to Grandma’s!

For the little creative genius in your life, there is no better gift than the Melissa & Doug Deluxe Easel and Easel Companion Set! The adjustable height, double-sided, wooden easel ($69.99) features both chalk AND dry erase-boards, a locking paper roll holder, a child-safe paper cutter, four clips, and a plastic tray on each side to keep supplies within reach! Pick up the Easel Companion Set ($34.99) to go with it and you’ve got everything you need to get your little Picasso started – paper, paint, brushes, chalk, eraser and more!

Don’t forget those stocking stuffers and grab bags! Melissa & Doug Decorate Your Own craft sets are exactly what you need to stuff those stockings or throw into that grab bag! The sets come in various themes and varieties, including the Decorate Your Own Piggy Bank ($6.99), Decorate Your Own Picture Frame ($6.99), Decorate Your Own Princess Wand ($6.99), and Decorate Your Own Wooden Jet Plane ($12.99)! Each set includes the undecorated item (piggy bank, picture frame, princess wand or jet plane) and everything needed to decorate and personalize the item (paint, paintbrush, stickers and glitter glue are among some of the components in the sets). These sets are fun activities for kids at various ages and are priced right to be that perfect “little something”, stocking stuffer, grab bag or secret Santa gift!

If you’re still stuck on which present is right, visit www.MelissaAndDoug.com today to see our spectacular holiday selection! We know you’ll find just the right gifts for all those little ones in your life!

No Soup for You

Over the last few days I’ve felt like a tourist in my own hometown. And let me tell you something – it does not feel good. The reason – I have a distinct feeling that several places in Manhattan purposely like to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers by overcharging them during the holiday season.
Our first culprit – the Soup Man located right near Grand Central Station and Fifth Avenue. If you were a fan of Seinfeld then you might remember the owner of the establishment as the “Soup Nazi.” Well, it’s a good thing the owner wasn’t in the store today. You see, while we were about to spend an afternoon in Manhattan, we decided to grab a bowl of soup before we hit Bryant Park. Little did we know that we would be charged over $60 for five bowls of soup, a few crusts of bread, fruit and drinks. We could have sooner enjoyed a steak dinner for that amount of money, but instead, after mis-reading the menu board, we placed our order and I almost lost my lunch after I saw the price.
If you happen to walk into the Soup Man – then soup lover beware. While all the prices show discounts for a cup of soup, there are no “cups” in sight. In fact, they only show bowls, pints and quarts on the counter. And bowls of soup start at $8.99! And while the Soup Man has a decent reputation, the soup was not that spectacular.
Next tourist trap of the day – The M&M World store. Don’t get me wrong – I love an entire wall of chocolate just like the next guy, but after being herded into this three story attraction and feeling as if I were on a cattle line, my daughter proceeded to fill a bag full of multicolor M&M’s until she realized she was about to pay $12 for a bag of candy that would normally cost 1/4 as much in the supermarket. And then, when we tried to leave the store, we were informed by security that we had to walk through the entire place to exit because we were not allowed to exit through the entrance. After attempting to fight the crowd for 10 seconds, we dismissed the directive and made our way out a door which didn’t have a crowd of 100 people in front of it.
Other ridiculous Disney like attractions to steer clear of – the Charmin bathroom experience on Broadway. I mean, I am a self professed bathroom aficionado, but to ride an escalator that deposits me on a line with nearly 200 people just gives me bad flashbacks of losing a Fast Pass at Disney World and having to endure those lines that go on for eternity.
Don’t get me wrong – there were some highlights to the trip – which I’ll share in the Just for Fun section at Lifetime Moms. Our favorite hot spots this year were Bryant Park and the Nintendo World Store. We also loved being entertained by two incredibly talented guys on the street who were performing for the crowds on Fifth avenue by playing a drum set and a bunch of buckets. It doesn’t take much to make us happy this holiday season – just do us a favor and don’t rip us off!!!

The No Butterball Zone

no-turkey.jpgEvery year when Thanksgiving rolls around, I wear the holiday like a badge of honor. “I am going to cook!” I declare and then rattle off all the dishes I plan to whip up for our 20 person guest list. There used to be a time when I would simply cook the bird and my mom would handle side dishes, but over the past two years, my dad has decided to head south before the big day which left me in charge of everything, and frankly, that responsibility drove me to the point of insanity.
When my folks informed me they would be ditching us for Boynton’s warm sunny breezes this year, the first thing I did was check the airfares (hey, it would be nice to spend the holiday in Florida), and when I realized it would cost nearly $3000 to sit at my mom’s dinner table, I began to think of alternative plans. Initially, I thought our regular guests would still be in attendance, but something strange happened. You see, I think my parents are the glue which holds together our holiday dinner and and so, when they bailed, everyone else took off for the hills. My sister in law told us they had decided to head to Florida too, my hubby’s dad informed us he’d be hitting Boston and my cousins, well they’re still out of the country so that doesn’t really count.
So when our crowd of nearly two dozen was reduced to six, while I still could have trekked over to Stop & Shop for a Butterball, I made a much better decision. After receiving an email from The Palm, inviting my family to a Thanksgiving feast that would cost nearly $50 per adult and only $22.50 per child, a lightbulb went off in my head. The last time we dined at The Palm, we were blown away – so much so that we even joined The Palm Club and now, since it’s my husband’s birthday month – he can even opt for a free lobster tonight rather than a turkey dinner. We can order the prix fixe menu or anything we want and the best part of all is – I’m not cooking and I don’t have to do the dishes!!!
Instead, today I’m going to take great pleasure knowing that I do not have to stress about anything. I am giving thanks instead to my terrific family members who decided to ditch us this year and in essence, gave me the break of the century. Hope for those of you who are cooking that your turkey turns out divine and your guests help clear the dishes. Me, I’ll be savoring my hubby’s lobster and thanking my lucky stars that no Butterballs were burned on my watch.

See Mom Run Hits Charlotte

DSC_0177.JPGThere is nothing that quite compares to Southern hospitality. And recently, I had the chance to visit Charlotte, North Carolina and the amazing moms I met, rolled out the red carpet for me.
I was greeted at the airport by our See Mom Run contributor, Janie Lam Meyers who welcomed us into her home for two days and pretty much treated me as if I were part of her family. Janie is incredibly giving and gracious and her home appears as if it could have graced the pages of Country Living magazine. She and her husband Gene moved down South from Pennsylvania about three years ago and now live in a gorgeous brick home complete with cathedral ceilings, an expansive kitchen, spacious screened in porch, a master bedroom suite, loft and several bedrooms for their daughters and grandchildren who will be visiting with them this Thanksgiving.
DSCN3155.jpg Janie also introduced us to the incredible staff at the JCC of Charlotte and once I met program director Jodi Valenstein, I instantly felt as if I were back home. Jodi and I both hail from New York and several of the members of the JCC are also originally from the east coast and it was so much fun connecting with them in Charlotte rather than in some nondescript strip mall in Long Island and New Jersey…not that I have anything against shopping malls of course!
Thumbnail image for HT gift bag.JPGThe food at both of the events at the JCC were sponsored by Harris Teeter, a private label branded supermarket which is located right near Janie’s home. At our first event, a breakfast chat featuring myself, Janie and fellow contributor, Sherry Shealy Martschinck, Harris Teeter provided a scrumptious spread complete with bagels, fruit, juices and delicious yogurt, fruit and granola parfaits.
We then shared our personal journey which lead each of us to pursue our passion and even met one mom who told us how she now performs in a rock band (wish I could have stayed longer to catch her performance.) In between events, we went back to Janie’s house where Sherry and I hoped on our computers (gotta love Verizon wi-fi) and then enjoyed a pizza that Janie had picked up at Harris Teeter. And despite the fact that I’m a New York pizza snob, it tasted great!
We returned to the JCC to a packed house for our evening event where we were going to be reading our essays from See Mom Run. As moms and a few dads mingled near the dessert table – Harris Teeter provided tasty items for our second event as well (my favorite were the brownies), we then posed for a few photos with Janie’s friends and before we knew it, it was time to start the festivities.
DSC_0168.jpgIt was truly a joy to read our stories in front of an audience who smiled and laughed in all the right places. When I shared that I’m turning the readings into a show, a group of women even said they’d drive up to NYC just to see it! Following the event, Janie, Sherry and I were on hand to sign lots of books and then we posed for photos taken by Janie’s daughter Pam, who by day, is a nurse with a great sense of style (she knew exactly where I purchased my dress for the night….Black House, White Market)!
One lucky mom in the audience won the raffle for the Harris Teeter gift bag filled with lots of great goodies for the home and the road and then I gave away a Swiffer WetJet to the mom with the messiest purse.
The evening literally went by in a flash. And if you don’t believe me, check out this photo montage that I created on Whrrl. Looking forward to returning to the Carolinas and hopefully, we’ll be hitting Charleston in the coming months too! For now, it’s on to Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle!!!

More stories at jcc charlotte
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Snacking on the Run

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While racing across the country promoting See Mom Run, I have been very lucky that I have not been hungry along my road trip. You see, when I’m hungry, I get angry and that doesn’t bode well for a reading with people who want me to make them laugh. So when the folks at Daymon Worldwide offered to provide food sponsors for several legs of the See Mom Run tour, I wholeheartedly said yes and was thrilled to know that when I would arrive at each event, delicious snacks would be awaiting us!
DSCN3085.JPGOur first stop in Larchmont featured shrimp platters and crudite provided by Costco and oodles of treats compliments of 7 Eleven. And let me tell you, these days, there are more than just Big Gulps at your local 7 Eleven!. The snacks we savored during our event at Groove included chocolate covered espresso beans (yummy), gummy bears (my daughter loved that one), chocolate covered pretzels (my personal fave), tons of nuts and lots of other snacks that we were able to transport with us on our road trips to Philadelphia and Ridgewood, New Jersey.
DSCN3110.jpgPlus, at the Larchmont event, we even awarded a basket full of 7-11 goodies to one of the attendees with the messiest purse. And trust me, this woman’s bag was a wreck!!!
Having all those tasty 7 Eleven treats right in the Routan enabled me to not veer off the road and hit the nearest McDonald’s I could find during our three hour trek to the Philly burbs. So in essence, 7 Eleven helped me save money and extra calories. In fact, I’ve even lost a few pounds during the tour – which leads me to believe that I should leave home more often. But that’s a whole other story.
Check out our taste test below of the chocolate pretzels and then check back soon for our re-cap of Charlotte where we’ll be sharing delectable tidbits too!

See Mom’s Routan

DSCN3079.JPGWhile promoting See Mom Run across the east coast, I had the opportunity to travel to several of our book events in a brand spankin’ new Volkswagen Routan. You see, I’m a huge Volkswagen fan. In fact, I currently lease a Tiguan (love its sporty look and the sunroof that spans the entire length of the car) and constantly rave about how well it handles on the road. So imagine my thrill when the folks at Volkswagen asked me to give the Routan a whirl for one week.
While my minivan days are finally behind me, I have to say that my entire family thoroughly enjoyed stepping back in time, climbing into leather captain’s seats and enjoying their very own DVD player in each row! Yes, you’ve got that correct – there is not just one DVD player in the car – there are two so no one has an obstructed view! Plus, they strategically place the remote inside the machine so that you’ll never lose it. Brilliant!
12703_2009_Volkswagen_Routan.jpgOne of the other features I totally enjoyed about the car was the temperature controls. You see, when I drive with my husband, he is always hot and I am always cold. So imagine my surprise when I peered down at the temperature gauge and noticed that we could both adjust the temps to our personal satisfaction. Which meant that I flipped it up to 72 degrees and my DH lowered it to 68.
Another fabulous feature – if you don’t splurge on satellite radio, there’s a function where you can select the type of music you enjoy and the scanner will find the FM stations that match your criterion. How cool is that?
Now for the mechanical part. I bet you’re wondering how the car handled on the road. Since we traversed the highways and side streets up and down the east coast, I have to say I felt completely safe inside the Routan. The car gripped the road, handled incredibly well during several torrential downpours and easily increased speed during many long roadtrips through I95, I90, I287 and many more!
As far as the space – there is plenty of room in the Routan for seven people. Plus, the trunk space is enormous and you can also lower the back row if you need additional storage. We easily transported luggage, See Mom Run books, a retractable banner and tons of 7-11 snacks that were graciously provided to us so that we didn’t have to veer off the road to McDonald’s during our week long journey. Another wonderful feature – the remote control trunk! Nothing quite compares to being able to lift up a trunk with the flick of a button. Oh and did I mention you could start the car while you’re in your house? Which means you can warm it up so that your buns won’t be cold during the dead of winter.
Thumbnail image for DSCN3082.JPGBest of all, when we invited our mom contributors (that’s Liz Gumbinner and Danielle Dardashti enjoying the posh seats) and our kids to check out the Routan, they raved about it. They loved the comfortable chairs, the very large cup holders – my daughter remarked that it could hold very large Snapple bottles and the interior design. While my family still love the look of our sporty Tiguan, they did admit that they’d prefer to have all the bells and whistles of the Routan in the car we currently drive, but I guess they’ll just have to deal without a DVD player and extra large cup holders – such is life.
Finally, the most discerning critic of all – my husband – helped me navigate the Routan during a rainstorm in Ridgewood and he even admitted that he felt completely safe in the van since it hugged the road despite fierce winds and pelting rain.
Would I recommend the Routan to fellow moms on the lookout for a minivan for their family? Absolutely! I have always been a Volkswagen fan since I love the way their cars handle on the road. And the Routan is one of the coolest minivans I’ve ever seen. We’ve even put together a video clip from our journey featuring my kids – so get ready for the inside scoop on our Routan road trip.

And Now For A Little Music

108 SINGER.jpgWhile you may have been visiting Role Mommy for a while, or if you’re a newcomer, there’s a secret I’d like to share with you. I sing. Actually, my dream in life was to get the chance to perform on stage but like most big dreams, I got a little sidetracked on the road to stardom. Well, fast forward to the launch of See Mom Run and yours truly is back on track to pursuing her passion. I am having the time of my life visiting cities across the country, and in addition to reading excerpts from the new book, I’ve decided to share one of the songs from the show I am currently developing for the stage.
As I work out my show tune material on the road, so far, every time I sing “Somewhere That’s Clean,” I’ve been receiving rave reviews. Take a look at this latest video from the road (at Calista Spa in Westchester PA) and please disregard the shaky hand cam. Next time, we’ll put the camera on a tripod so that we don’t give our viewers a headache while they’re watching the performance.