Tour a Sleep-Away Camp in Maine… Make it a Vacation!

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for mainecoast2.jpg The summer is flying by and it’s already time to think about your plans for next summer. If you are planning to send your child to overnight camp next year, the best insights on whether or not a camp is the right fit come from touring camps while they are in session. So plan your tours now! The concept can seem daunting, but with the help of Maine Camp Experience, you can easily schedule a camp tour AND experience a wonderful Maine vacation while you’re there!
“Maine is the Eden of camping. Maine sets the bar,” says Jim Gill, Director of Camp Fernwood Cove who suggests planning your tours/vacation mid-week if you can because it’s a little quieter and less crowded. According to Peter Kassen, Director of Camp Hidden Valley, “The best time of day to tour is the morning when the campers are there. You can even sit and have a meal with them to really get a feel for the community.”
Full of useful tips, the Maine Camp Experience website offers the following advice to prospective camp families:
SCHEDULING CAMP TOURS
• Always call the camp first to inquire as to availability and best times to tour
• Our summer camps provide personal tours and the directors want to spend time with you
• Organize your questions ahead of time
• Ask how long the tour will last
COMBINING SUMMER CAMP VISITS
• Call ahead for driving times between camps and your hotel
• Book one tour in the morning and one in the afternoon
• Dress comfortably! You’ll be doing a lot of walking and will spend much time outdoors
Once you figure out the locations of the camps you’d like to tour, start planning your vacation! 26 million people vacation in Maine each year. You can find a list of recommended hotels on the website as well. When you click on the “explore” section, you can learn more about the top places to vacation in Maine including Portland, Freeport, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Camden, Kennebunk and Ogunquit, just to name a few.
Acadia National Park offers a treasure trove of amazing experiences for the entire family. Do not miss watching the sun set on Cadillac Mountain. The views are incredible and the kids will love climbing the rocks. Two more must sees in Acadia National Park – Jordan Pond – where you can go on a nature hike and then relax at the restaurant where you’ll enjoy the best popovers in the state. Then, take a drive through the park and stop at Thunder Hole – where you can listen to the waves that crash into rocks made of granite and the sound that erupts bears a striking resemblance to thunder. Or you can check out Freeport Maine, home to the original and largest L.L. Bean store and fabulous outlet shopping. Parents and campers love to go there and explore the area. The website also provides a list of tourism links.
Whether you make the road trip part of the journey (which many families love to do), or hop on a quick flight, you will learn why it is easy to get here, but so hard to leave Maine!
Don’t just take my word for it. Read these true stories from camp parents and alumni who are all in on the secret…summers and camp belong in Maine!
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The Smurfs Movie Review

imgres-20.jpegIf you grew up with The Smurfs, you’ll be happy to find out that those little blue creatures are headed to the big screen with a brand new 3D motion picture that opens nationwide in theaters, Friday, July 29th.
Recently, we got a sneak preview of the film which brings back all our favorite childhood Smurfs like Clumsy, Grouchy, Jokey, Smurfette and of course Papa! When Evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) chases the Smurfs out of their village through a portal landing, they wind up in the middle of New York’s Central Park. Surprisingly, New Yorkers don’t seem too thrown by blue midgets running around their city.
While being chased by Gargamel, they end up falling into a box and turning the life of two soon to be parents (played by Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays), completely upside down. Like most first time parents, the couple are faced with tons of questions about their potential parenting skiils… Will I be a good dad? How do I balance work and home? Am I ready? Helping the Smurfs work their way back to their world, gives them a good taste of what parenthood holds in store for them. As Smurfs run rampant around FAO Schwartz, while constantly singing their annoying theme song “La La La La La La…” that’s sure to help prepare anyone for their own child.
My kids were transfixed by the Smurf movie and I have to admit, I really enjoyed it too. It also helped answer a few important burning Smurf questions…. Like why was there only one female Smurfette (superbly voiced by Katy Perry)? But it still left me wondering… We know there is a Papa Smurf, but who gave BIRTH to all these Smurfs?
Hopefully that answer will be revealed in the sequel. For now, check out the trailer and visit The Smurfs movie website for showtimes in your area.

Take Back the Kitchen with Alma Schneider

P1070841.JPGDon’t be overwhelmed by weird looking artichokes. They are delicious and simple to prepare. I will walk you through it!
Steamed artichokes with Garlic Aioli:
Bring about 1/2 inch-1 inch water to a boil in a pan deep enough to hold the artichoke(s) standing up-like a Dutch Oven.
Trim the edge of each leaf with a scissor.
Place artichokes in the boiling water, cover the pot, reduce flame to a simmer, and cook 20-25 minutes to start.
Pull a leaf from close to the center of the leaves. If the leaf comes out easily, the artichokes are done. If they don’t pull out easily, keep checking every few minutes. Keep cooking until they come out easily.
Aioli garlic dip:
Mix a few TBS mayo with a tsp fresh or bottled crushed garlic and a dash of salt and combine.
For more great recipes from Alma Schneider, visit her at Take Back the Kitchen.

It’s Smurf Week in New York City!

Role Mommy West Coast Contributor Kristin Flannery Hits the East Coast Just in Time for Smurfs Week!
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All hail the Smurfs! If you live in NYC or happen to be visiting this summer, then you are in luck! New York’s Mayor Bloomberg has officially declared July 25-29 Smurfs Week, which includes five fun filled days offering educational events throughout the city. Since my family is spending our summer on the east coast, we visited the Big Apple this week and had an amazing time. First, we stopped by a 40-foot-tall inflatable Smurf. There were free activities, including face painting and a photo station where we took pictures with images of Smurfs characters. While we were there, the mayor’s office held a special press event awarding a proclamation to the granddaughter of Smurf’s creator Belgian cartoonist Peyo while cast members Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays looked on.
columbus circle.JPGLater that day, The Empire State Building lit up to shine blue to celebrate Smurfs Week NYC and encouraged Smurfs fan to donate to the US Fund for UNICEF by visiting unicefusa.org or texting “ZERO” to UNICEF to make a $10 donation.
Activities throughout the week include an unveiling ceremony at FAO Schwartz, a character meet and greet at Build-A-Bear Workshop and special themed windows and activities at Dylan’s Candy Bar. Additional events will take place at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, the Regal E-walk, The Skyscraper Museum and much more. Also, On Location Tours offers tours focusing on a Smurfs-themed edition of its weekly Central Park TV & Movie Sites Tour during which you can visit the locations used in The Smurfs and other iconic films.
The Smurfs (in 3D) opens in theaters this Friday, July 29th and for more information on Smurfs Week go to http://www.nycgo.com/smurfsweeknyc.

The New Ann Taylor

IMG01044.jpgAlways a top favorite in my family of four female sisters, Ann Taylor has the most stylish and top quality made suits. So in doing my research, I asked my sister, Tracey, if she still shops there and she replied with a loud YES! and they have “the best coupons and sales!” Now, Ann Taylor has stepped it up again by doing a makeover on eight of its stores and we were lucky enough to check out the Costa Mesa concept store and get invited to their big unveiling party.
Before the big event, I snuck in to the Ann Taylor located at the South Coast Plaza. It is so clean, with white walls and shiny floors that it highlights all the clothes and I didn’t know where to start. The shoes are placed on shelves like works of art and crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling giving it a modern and clean feeling. In the dressing room, there are private lounge areas with modern lighting (no fluorescents here!) and a seating area for your friends so you can get their thoughts before you walk out with that purchase.
A multichannel touch screen in the lounge area taps right into their website if you can’t find the size you are looking for in that store, then it’s sure to be located on line or at another location. The day I went, there was also an extra helpful staff who didn’t let me get 5 feet without a “may I help you” which always makes me smile. They were even nice enough to NOT point out to me that I was in the petite section while I was happily checking out all the gorgeous petite styles. I purchased a cute golden sleeveless shirt which will take me through the summer months, paired with white jeans for night time or a black skirt for business. I had to have a new pair of the wedge sandals to get me through my trip to New England too!
Now off to the Ann Taylor event! An elegant cocktail party at the Noguchi Garden in Orange County (that’s the O.C. to you TV watchers) hosted with C Magazine and Ann Taylor was kind enough to make a donation to the local charity – Second Harvest Food Bank. The sandstone colors of the location were the perfect backdrop to highlight the different fashion displays laid out by the Ann Taylor team. There were bright aqua dresses, amazing jewelry cases and I was shocked to turn to my head and see…. a wedding dress! I didn’t know that Ann Taylor has a whole wedding collection available exclusively online at www.anntaylor.com. Just in this display there was a long, chic looking wedding dress covered in a modern lace and 2 different styles of bridesmaid (or wedding guest) dresses in a coral color which happens to be a signature color of mine this summer due to my tan.
A few of the other guests and I met Andrew Taylor, the head of marketing and PR at Ann Taylor, who we showered with praise for the new store look. He explained the design idea for the store was a large runway down the center and intimate dressing rooms which give a boutique feel to the experience. Since I was surrounded by some tiny guests (and I am only 5′ 5″), when I brought up the large selection of petites, the circle joined in to compliment Ann Taylor on always catering to the petite woman with not just cut downs of larger clothes but great styles all their own. I was a little jealous that I wasn’t petite.
If you get the chance to visit an AnnTaylor concept store, trust me you will be blown away when you see their trendy updated looks for women with style. And don’t forget to check out their wedding collection by logging on to www.anntaylor.com. If the old adage stands true of “always a bridesmaid, never a bride,” then you better look hot while you are doing it!
South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714.754.1915, anntaylor.com
Having perfected a polished style for professionals, the chain is heading toward a more fashion-forward sensibility. The Chandler location is just one of eight concept stores, but Ann Taylor has plans to upgrade each location across the country.

Take Back the Kitchen with Alma Schneider

Garlic Scapes are being sold at your local farmer’s market and they look really curly and cool. Use them for a milder substitute for garlic and they make a delicious pesto. Serve spread on toast topped with eggs. Here’s a pesto recipe from my friend Lauren.Yum!
P1070738.jpgGarlic Scape Pesto
Ingredients:
-1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into 1/4 inch slices
-1/3 cup walnuts (I used pignoli)
-3/4 cup olive oil
-1/2 cup grated parmigiano
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-black pepper to taste
Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process
until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano to taste; add salt and pepper. Makes
about 6 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
For more great recipes from Alma Schneider visit Take Back the Kitchen.

The Road to Independence

girl in canoe.jpg It’s hard to let our kids go. From the moment they’re born, to letting them take their first steps on their own, even if they fall, to sending them off on the bus to sleep away camp; the guilt and fear that runs through a parent’s mind when giving a child the chance to assert their independence never ends. We all want our children to grow up to be strong, confident, independent people. Part of that process begins at overnight camp. Children learn invaluable life skills, such as how to take care of themselves and to do things on their own.
Sometimes it’s easier for us to do everything for our children, like make their beds, put away their things, brush their hair, etc. At camp, kids build self esteem by making their own beds each morning, keeping their area neat for inspection, doing their best to maintain good hygiene and importantly, helping others. Marcy Isdaner, director of Camp Mataponi in Maine, has three daughters and feels “camp fosters independence and confidence. You learn RESPECT and how to compromise.”
Living day and night with their peers may be challenging at times, but kids learn to deal with conflict on their own, or with the help of counselors. It helps build character when they don’t have mommy and daddy to lean on and go running to.
Another way that children gain incredible independence and confidence is by climbing mountains, canoeing down rivers, whitewater rafting, building a camp fire, pitching a tent and more! One of the most beautiful places to experience all that nature has to offer is in the state of Maine. Maine has so many wonderful overnight camps. All boys, all girls, co-ed and they all offer so many amazing opportunities for your child. When I was at camp in Maine I was so scared of mountain climbing and did not want to do it. With some encouragement from my bunkmates and counselors I was able to climb the highest mountain in Maine, Mount Katahdin. It is an experience that I will never forget. Over 20 years later I can still remember that feeling of accomplishment. I was, and am still so proud of myself. That feeling stays with you.
To read personal stories by real camp parents who believe that sending your child to overnight camp in Maine will be the best decision you ever made, visit http://www.mainecampexperience.com/camp-memories. Summer is the perfect time to tour the camps and see the kids, staff and programming in action. What are you waiting for? Start your kids on the road to independence and confidence today!

Win a Nintendo DS Lite and Six Games!

Thumbnail image for mariobos.jpg We are happy to announce the five winners!
Congratulations to: Monique Rizzo, Josh Hamudot, Amanda Berrios, Noelle Cameron and Stanley Bondell!

What kid doesn’t love video games? Just in time for those long car rides or plane trips to your summer vacation destination, FIVE lucky winners will receive a DS Lite and six games! The games are: Mario & Luigi Bowser’s Inside Story, New Super Mario Bros., MarioKart DS, Mario Party DS, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-land Mayhem and Super Mario 64 DS. These games represent some of the best-selling fan-favorite Nintendo DS games of all time.
Just in case you don’t win this awesome contest, the portable Nintendo DS™ Lite system is getting a new suggested retail price of just $99.99 in the United States. The Nintendo DS family has become the best-selling video game system in history. More than 48.9 million systems in the Nintendo DS family have sold in the United States alone. Also, now six Mario™ games for Nintendo DS will receive new red packaging, making it easier than ever for consumers to identify these hit titles in stores.
“From the moment it launched, Nintendo DS Lite hit a sweet spot for consumers in terms of value, experience and fun,” said Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. “This new price point will introduce Nintendo DS Lite to even more consumers, and the new red packaging will make it easy for them to find their favorite Mario titles.” Mario is one of the most beloved video game characters and the top video game franchise of all time. For more information about Nintendo DS Lite, visit their website now!
All you need to do for a chance to win, is fill out the form below. It’s a cinch and well worth it! FIVE lucky winners will be chosen via random.org on Friday August 5th. What are you waiting for? Just picture your kids’ face when you hand them their new DS and six games! Good luck.


How Independent is Your Nine Year Old?

iStock_000010889847XSmall.jpgI’ve been contemplating writing about that horrific story of the little nine year old Hasidic boy who was abducted by a deranged man in his community and senselessly murdered.
What hit too close to home for me was that the child was nine – the same age my son is now. The boy, who was doted upon by his protective parents, asked them to give him the chance to walk home from day camp by himself for the first time in his young life. His parents agreed and his mother showed him the way before letting him do it by himself. Unfortunately, when the boy became disoriented and asked for directions, his innocence was taken away by an unstable man who abducted and killed him and then mutilated his body so that no one would find evidence of his disappearance.
When I think back to my own childhood, I remember walking home from school in the fourth grade and letting myself into my home while my parents were at work. I was a total latch key kid. In my situation, I knew exactly where I was going, traversed the route hundreds of times and oftentimes walked with friends back to my home. In the case of my nine year old, I am ultra protective and would never dream of letting him walk alone without an adult or a friend by his side. In fact, just this year, we gave our 12 year old daughter a cell phone and she now knows that the moment she leaves our house and reaches the bus stop, she must stop whatever she’s doing and call us to let us know she’s arrived safely.
My nine year old doesn’t own a cell phone and he won’t receive one until he’s ready for middle school. While he can technically walk around the corner to school on his own, we choose to accompany him so that we know he arrives safely. Truthfully, that decision is not motivated by the prospect of him being kidnapped, but the simple fact that there are reckless drivers in our neighborhood who race up and down our streets without paying attention to whether pedestrians are in their path.
If my nine year old were to ask me if he could walk home by himself, I would say no. In fact, I said no to my daughter for nearly two years. As much as she wanted to assert her independence and walk to school on her own, I just didn’t feel comfortable – especially since she had no way of getting in touch with us to let us know she arrived safely.
While the Hasidic community installed security cameras that inevitably led to the killer’s arrest, I truly believe as a parent that if you decide to give your child some freedom, in this day and age, they should be armed with the tools they may need to protect themselves in the event they get lost or are approached by a stranger. A cell phone can truly be a lifeline for a child and may have played a role in saving that poor little boy’s life. Please know that I am not passing judgement on his parents and their actions that day. My heart aches for their loss. In fact, having seen this story unfold in the news only makes me want to hold onto my nine year old just a little bit longer each morning, hoping that my hugs will serve as protection while I’m at work. May this experience give people a wake up call. Even if your child asks you to do something, you don’t necessarily have to do it. You are the parent and it’s okay to say no.
As far as my own son, he won’t be walking by himself until he’s in middle school and has access to a cell phone. As long as he has a device in his possession that he can use to call me, his dad and 911, I’ll have peace of mind knowing that while he may be out of sight, he’s only a phone call away.