Posts in January, 2011

Santa Barbara Zoo

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

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My son and I went down to Southern California for the weekend to enjoy the sunshine. Was it beautiful! (A huge thank you to our new iPad for keeping him happy during the long drive both ways!) My son rode a bike for the very first time (my 35 year old little green Schwinn no less…) so we were all very excited. What better way to celebrate than a glorious day at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Here is an action shot of my son feeding a giraffe. If you are ever in Santa Barbara with the kids you must stop by. You’ve got to love a zoo with an ocean view!

SweetHarts

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

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SweetHarts & Sweet Peas & Stilettos are joining together to bring you super sweet 2 for 1 play dates! One of the most common questions I hear from moms is simply, “What are we going to do today?” Moms are always looking for fun and new play dates and activities that will keep the kids entertained (and that we can enjoy too!). If you are a mom living in the Los Angeles area (or have a mommy friend who lives in the area) you must know about SweetHarts – the super sweet shop owned by Melissa Joan Hart and her mom, Paula, that is located in Sherman Oaks, California. (A little personal side story – I started my chocolate spoon company as a teenager with my mom so I totally love the fact that another mother-daughter duo is embarking on a sweet business together!) SweetHarts now hosts playdates onsite at their adorable location. There are a number of different themes (fairy tales, candy crafts, bingo and my favorite – karaoke) and they are scheduled all throughout the day.  You can enjoy a latte or a frozen yogurt with a friend while the kids enjoy the activity. (By the way – they do birthday parties too!)

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I told you the place is super cute – here is a little peek. I love the purple walls and the furniture too! Anyhow – here is the scoop. Mention Sweet Peas & Stilettos and you get a very special 2 for 1 offer.  A parent can bring a child in for a play date, and they can get a second play date free, or if a parent comes in with 2 kids, one child’s play date will be free. So treat yourself and your kids – you deserve it!

For a current schedule and more play date details check out the “Parties” section of the SweetHarts website. To reserve your spot for any play date, please RSVP: email: sweethartssweets@gmail.com or phone: 818-788-5004.

Touchable Books

Friday, January 14th, 2011

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This week Susan reminds us all that there is something to be said for a good old fashion book:

When a new gadget appears on the market, I don’t race to the store. I’m just too lazy to be an early adopter. I like to know that a product has been through thousands of hands, and multiple versions, so all the kinks have been ironed out.

Then I saw the Kindle and the iPad. I bought both of them immediately. Why? Quite simply, to save my back. I’m a fast reader, which means that for a one-week vacation, my books outweigh my clothes. With the new electronic readers, I just need to carry one skinny device. Or, rather, one for each person in my family, as the iPad is also a wonderful stand-in for those surprisingly heavy children’s books.

But, sadly for my aching muscles, there are certain things a Kindle just can’t do. For children’s books especially, three dimensions are sometimes absolutely necessary — you must be able to pat, scratch, unfold, or even smell them to get the experience the author intends.

So even if you go electronic, keep some room on your shelves for the following paper masterpieces.

Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt. Published in 1940, Pat the Bunny was the first touch and feel book. The book may look like a parody waiting to happen, with its stilted language, prissily-dressed children, and too-perfect nuclear family: “Judy can play peek-a-boo with Paul. Now YOU play peek-a-boo with Paul.” But while I giggled, my kids were entranced. Children need to touch, smell, and taste the world around them. They don’t just read Pat the Bunny, they interact with it. The activities in the book are exactly the things toddlers crave – seeing their own faces in a mirror, feeling “Daddy’s” scratchy sandpaper face, and smelling flowers. Lifting a flap to find a hidden boy even prepares a toddler for an essential developmental milestone. But be warned – you’ll need to buy more than one copy, as the binding doesn’t stand up to a toddler’s grip. My favorite part of the book? The post-modernist touch, a tiny book pasted within the book for the characters themselves to read.

Too Many Bunnies, by Matt Novak. In the beginning, one hole is too full of bunnies, while the other is invitingly empty. But when one bunny leaves, the rest get lonely, until the second hole is as full as the first. As a child turns the pages, the hole cut all the way through the book seems to let the bunnies hop back and forth between their favorite holes. A bonus laugh comes from the ladybug that tries to clean up all the footprints.

Alphabet, by Matthew Van Fleet. A slew of animals illustrate the alphabet and let kids pull tabs to make birds’ mouths open, poke alligator scales and squishy clams, and flip flaps to find shimmery dragonflies. As in his other book, Tails, Van Fleet likes to portray unusual animals, so this is a great chance for your child (and you) to see skinks, robberflies, and opahs among the more familiar alligators and hummingbirds.

Pop-Up: Everything You Need to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, by Ruth Wickings, illustrated by Frances Castle. No type of book makes the Kindle and iPad seem so, well, flat, as a pop-up book. Even adults have to stifle an “ooh” when a book’s spine cracks and a dragon – or spaceship, or castle – rises up out of the pages. There are thousands of amazing pop-up books on the market, but in the interactive spirit of Pat the Bunny, I wanted to suggest this book as a project to help kids understand exactly how easy – and how difficult – some of those pop-up books are to create. The book takes a young paper engineer through projects ranging from simple to difficult, with clear instructions and pretty results. Kids can make their own pop-up dragon, castle, and jungle, learning basic pop-up techniques along the way. This book is also the perfect travel companion, as no glue or scissors are required – all the papers are press-out with sticky backs. Parents will have to help younger kids.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.

Cupcake Wall Decal

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

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It is no secret that I love love love cupcakes. Well, really, who doesn’t. I close my eyes and forget about all the butter that makes them so delicious and just enjoy each and every bite. My son likes to lick off all of the frosting and then proceed to tell me he feels too sick to eat the actual cake part. More for me!

For a calorie free cupcake treat, check out this adorable cupcake chalkboard wall decal from WallCandy Arts. Yes – it is actually a chalkboard too. It will sweeten up any playroom or bedroom and would also make a great party decoration too. Yummy!


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Crawl the Line Giveaway

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

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Do you love the great music of Johnny Cash? The lullaby version of Ring of Fire is so fun – I just love it! Do you have any baby showers coming up and the parents have elected to not find out the gender of the child? Music is the perfect gift to give. You can buy (and listen to) the Cradle Rock CDs directly on their website or on Amazon if you want to check them out for yourself.

Thanks to the folks at Cradle Rock and Tree Top Records we are giving away CDs this week. I will be randomly picking the lucky winners from the Sweet Peas & Stilettos email list and FB fans too. Sign Up Now to Win!

Love from Speak Mom

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

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A huge thank you to Sabrina (who recently started Speak Mom – a very well designed blog) for the glowing post about Sweet Peas & Stilettos. You made my week.  Thank you so so much Sabrina!

Vote for Sweet Peas & Stilettos

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

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If you have a minute of two to spare, I would love it if you could please vote for Sweet Peas & Stilettos! You can nominate Sweet Peas & Stilettos for a Cribsie Award.

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And if you only have time for a quick click (or you have time to vote for both) nominate Sweet Peas & Stilettos as one of the best mom blogs over at Babble. Sweet Peas & Stilettos is currently on page 3 if you see the list sorted by votes and on page 10 if you sort alphabetically.

Cradle Rock – Michael Jackson

Monday, January 10th, 2011

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We are giving away FREE Cradle Rock CDs this week! Who didn’t love Thriller? Now your baby can enjoy these classic hits, and hopefully listening to them will help her fall asleep a little easier too. The producers have transformed these iconic Michael Jackson songs into sweet lullabies. I am having a hard time deciding if Beat It or Billie Jean is my favorite ‘Thrillaby’ from this album – you can listen for yourself and decide. They also have albums with hits from Johnny Cash and Kenny Chesney and are working with artists such as U2 & the Black Eyed Peas for upcoming CDs. I think the CDs are great as the kids grow up too – it is always nice to have music on around the house while they are playing so everyone can bust out a dance move or two if they are in the mood.

To WIN a FREE CD simply sign up for the Sweet Peas & Stilettos email newsletter and/ or like Sweet Peas & Stilettos on Facebook. Winners will be notified on Monday, January 17th. Be sure to tell your friends….

The Circus Ship

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

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Susan has found another wonderful book for our kids to enjoy:

A Pretty Darn Perfect Children’s Book – The Circus Ship, by Chris Van Dusen

What is a pretty darn perfect children’s book? For me, it has to appeal to children of different ages and genders. It must withstand multiple readings, preferably revealing something new every time. It needs to contain an intriguing, non-offensive story, beautiful illustrations, and well-written text. And, of course, it has to be fun for me to read, too.

Welcome to The Circus Ship.

Based on a true story, Chris Van Dusen’s book begins with a dramatic shipwreck. Dark blues and grays depict both mood and setting as a 19th century circus ship steams toward disaster, “in fog as thick as stew.” The fifteen circus animals – all the favorites, from an elephant to a giraffe, an ostrich to a gorilla – are bright spots on the dark sea. For a child, it doesn’t get much better than a boat and a zebra on the first pages of a book!

But Chris Van Dusen doesn’t stop there. He quickly introduces a villain, Mr. Paine, who is so exaggeratedly mean, so extravagantly caricatured, that he’s funny as well as threatening. His silly expression when the ship wrecks, with “a crash! An awful BASH!” makes the crash less scary for younger children.

The wreck, like most of the illustrations, is spread across two pages, which allows Van Dusen to present every emotion on a grand scale. The animals flung in every direction seem to fly right off the pages.

When Mr. Paine – the meanie – takes the lifeboat, the animals swim to shore. Soon, people in a small Maine town are startled to find “‘There’s an ostrich in the outhouse!’ ‘There’s a hippo in the spring!” Van Dusen combines the animals’ hijinks with a fascinating portrayal of life in the 19th century. Kids will giggle to see underwear (bloomers, no less) on a clothesline instead of in a dryer. And let’s not forget that outhouse!

When the tiger saves a small girl from a fire, the townspeople welcome the animals. Their life together will delight adults and children alike. Who hasn’t dreamed of sliding down an elephant’s back, or picnicking with a tiger? The scene itself is lovely enough to hang on a nursery room wall, with a beautifully-blue ocean view that makes me want to vacation in Maine.

But Van Dusen once again ups the drama — Mr. Paine wants his animals back. The solution? Hide the animals in plain sight. Van Dusen rises to true brilliance in a puzzle page in which children can search for the animals hidden in baby carriages and haystacks, under false moustaches and among river rocks.

And yes, there’s even a happy ending.

My only complaint with The Circus Ship? There’s no sequel. Yet.

Susan Fry is a writer and mother in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s written for Stanford Magazine, salon, the San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.


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Awesome Book of Thanks

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

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Today I attended a lovely baby shower in San Francisco for my very dear friend Angela who is expecting her second daughter in just a few weeks. I can not tell you how wonderful it was to spend the afternoon lounging around and simply enjoying chocolate bonbons, cupcakes and champagne with girlfriends. I am beginning to think that this is what I should do every Saturday afternoon… Angela received a number of wonderful gifts and I was taking notes of cool new products and companies to share with all of you in the coming weeks

An Awesome Book of Thanks! written and illustrated by Dallas Clayton was one gift today that I really loved. It was one of those books that is so colorful and happy and a perfect gift for boys and girls of all ages. This is one of those great books where you want to buy a dozen copies and keep them in the closet just to have on hand for last minute gifts. I came home and immediately want to learn more about Dallas and the story behind the book.

After checking out his site I learned that he wrote his first children’s book, An Awesome Book, for his son and it was incredibly well received. He went on to start The Awesome World Foundation in 2009 “in an effort to promote children’s literacy by encouraging kids to dream and dream often. The foundation’s goal is to donate one book for every copy of An Awesome Book sold by Awesome World llc. Books are delivered directly and distributed to schools, hospitals, libraries, camps and shelters both domestically and worldwide.” Please check out his website to see how you can support this foundation. While you are at it pick up a copy or two of the book – you’ll love it. Here is a sneak peek inside the book….