Review

TREAT yourself to a Cupcake

Posted on July 13, 2010. Filed under: Business Review, Review | Tags: , , |

I am a HUGE fan of baked goods, which is why I have run seven marathons so far. But my all time favorite thing is cupcakes. Why? Because cupcakes combine the concept of cake with the small bite-ness and portability of a cookie or brownie. A total dessert delight. 

Yet, because of my reverence for cupcakes, I am a bit of cupcake snob. The cupcake needs to have the right amount of frosting on top of moist cake. I also like extras on my cupcakes for a crunch, extra chocolatey-ness or a burst of some other flavor. Cupcake nirvana if you will.

So when I heard that there was a new cupcake bar in Needham, I nearly jumped in cupcake joy. Plus, it is a bar. One that, since having a baby, I have not seen in awhile.

Okay, it is not that kind of bar, but you can design your own cupcake from scratch: order one up!  Pick your cupcake flavor, your frosting and your treats to mix in, and you are in cupcake heaven. Seriously.

It is called the Treat Cupcake Bar. From cupcake flavors like the traditional yellow and chocolate, with marble, vegan and gluten free options, to frosting choices like classic, vanilla (gluten and dairy free), chocolate buttercream and cream cheese, it is a cucpake frenzy. But wait, the mix-in treats? How about blox tart candy or pop rocks? Peppermint patties or M&Ms? Coconut or gummy worms? There are over 20 options. In a cupcake conundrum? Pick from their pre-made options like Needham Cream Pie or Red Velvet.

Want to host a party? Treat Cupcake Bar can host birthday parties or other events up to 10 children/people. Having a party at your own house? They do custom orders too.

Located right in Needham Center (1450 Highland Avenue), Treat Cupcake Bar is just steps from Route 128, Route 135 and more. They are open from 10am-9pm EVERY DAY.

So what the heck am I doing still writing this post? See ya people. I am off to ‘treat’ myself to a cupcake from Treat Cupcake Bar. Yummy!

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“Like” Treat Cupcake Bar on Facebook too!

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Pass the Task

Posted on July 8, 2010. Filed under: Product Review, Review | Tags: |

Do you need to have boxes dropped off at Goodwill? A ride to the airport? Diapers from BabysRUs®? Wall mount a flat screen TV? Balloons for a party? Change the batteries in smoke detectors? Wall painted? Dinner delivered? A store return?

A local company called TaskRabbit may be your answer.  Especially since the by-line of the Boston-based company is,”Life is Busy. We can help.”

The first part of the byline is an understatement. The second part? Help they do. You name it, they do it.

This is a great service for anyone and everyone, but I immediately think of new moms. Probably because I am, relatively, a new mom. After having a baby, the thought of running around with a newborn, after giving birth, was not appealing to me.  Let alone the fact that if I had a spare hour or two, I wanted to sleep – not go grocery shopping. Fast forward a few months; I now have a crawling baby, a work-from-home job, and a not-handy husband (sorry honey, but it’s true) and would love to pass along some of the little ‘to-dos’ on my big list. Ok, maybe a big to-do like cleaning the garage.

How it works is fairly simple. You sign up for free account on their website and post any task you need completed. Next, you set the price you are willing to pay or allow Runners to bid on doing your task. Then, your task is accepted and assigned or you choose the bid you think is most fair. Generally though, the fee ranges from $10-$15 for their time and mileage.

Have a small car and need to pick up a large item at Home Depot? Don’t have time to drive to the post office to mail a package? Need your dog dropped off at the vet so you can go to a school play? TaskRabbit is your answer and new best friend. Don’t live in Boston? They can help with virtual stuff too.

What is the catch? Well, there is a service fee that ranges from 12%-30% that goes on top of what you pay the Runner. The fee goes to TaskRabbit itself (because how else can they run the website)? The website has live online chat support, email support, or if you are a people person there is phone support, for any help you need while using the site. Tasks generally get a fast response from Runners who are given a thorough background check by Acxiom. (Runners are often stay at-home-moms and dads, young professionals, retirees, and college students.)

Other cool things?

You can post a Task that you haven’t paid for yet. For example, if you want a Runner to pick up your dry cleaning, but you still need to pay the dry cleaner.  The Runner can front the money for your items, leave the receipt for you and then you can reimburse your Runner through the site. Since I never seem to have cash on hand to pay for anything, it is great to use the online payment option.

You don’t have to be at home to meet your Runner.  For example, you are at work when school/daycare calls looking for a medical form from the doctor – now! And you have a big meeting in the office. Crap – what to do? Post it on TaskRabbit! The Runner can head to the doctor’s office, pick up the form and then head to the school to drop it off. When a Task is assigned to a Runner, you will get the Runner’s contact information so you can give authorization to the doctor’s office and/or school.

Oh, and any problems (there are reported few) can usually be worked out directly with the Runner, but if there is one, TaskRabbit is there to step in.

Needless to say, it is a pretty neat service for new Moms who need a diaper run, to Dads who have growing “Honey-Do” list, a great idea for a baby shower or birthday gift (they offer e-gift cards), or for people like me who just want a clean garage. (Hint, Hint Honey…our anniversary is coming up….)

*Image courtesy of TaskRabbit. Many Thanks to TaskRabbit for helping me with the details of their business processes and for an e-gift card to try them out! If you would like to try them out, leave a comment here on what task you would have completed if you could win a $25 TaskRabbit e-gift card from Metrowest Mama! Contest is open until 5pm, Friday, July 16th. The winner will be selected through a drawing by Random.com, and the winner will be notified by email.
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Blue Bunny Bonanza

Posted on July 7, 2010. Filed under: Business Review, Review |

Often with big malls, we forget about the quaint shops that are extraordinary treasures in little out-of-the-way places. Don’t get me wrong. I love malls. (I live five minutes away from the biggest mall in Massachusetts). But I also love browsing little stores too, like the unique little shop in historic Dedham, Massachusetts called The Blue Bunny.

The Blue Bunny is run by the Reynolds family and offers favorite children’s books, art supplies, toys, puppets, greeting cards, fine art, and creativity workshops for all ages, as well as, signed books and original artwork by Blue Bunny co-owner, children’s book author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds.

In addition to the fabulous shop, there are great events for kids. During the summer, there is a free drop-in storytime on Mondays at 10:30am for preschool aged children.  Every Wednesday in July at 11am, there is a special event in store, such as friendship bracelet crafts for kids 8 years old and up ($5 supply fee) on July 14th or make your own fabric tote bags for kids 6 and up ($5 craft fee) on July 28th. There are also other special events through the month with Peter H. Reynolds himself; a special Bedtime Storytime with Peter on Friday, July 16th at 6:30pm (free) or a creativity class with Peter from 11am-12pm on Tuesday, July 13th for kids 7-10 years old. ($20/pre-registration required.)

Keep updated with events at The Blue Bunny on Twitter, Facebook and their very own Blue Bunny Blog.

Located at 577 High Street, Dedham Square, Dedham, MA, this “little shop with a big mission” is just a short, and well-worth-it, drive from Boston and the Metrowest.

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Why Foursquare is for Me

Posted on July 1, 2010. Filed under: Product Review | Tags: , |

The social media market is hot. From Facebook® and MySpace™ to Twitter™ and LinkedIn®, many of us are locked-in to one (or more) of these social media websites.

The latest trend, however, is location-based social media applications. As more and more people have smartphones, location-based social networking allows a person to share their location, usually through GPS, to add comments about a restaurant, to let friends know where they are, and to figure out where their friends are.

I have viewed these types of applications as best for the twenty-year-old-I-still-have-a-life crowd. This clearly does not include me, a woman in my (ahem) thirties, with a baby in tow. Most of these applications would be perfect for clubbing, bar-hopping or the hung-over-morning-after coffee outings.

I don’t think my friends want to know that my location is at home for nap time. Just sayin’.

So while there are about 10 or so applications targeting the the jet set, the hip set, the city set, the Blackberry® set, the iPhone set, and the European set, there are not many for the Mom-set (or Dad-set).

However, I stumbled across Foursquare. It is a location-based application, but its theme is collecting points, prize “badges,” and eventually, coupons, for going about your everyday business! So in essence, you can be rewarded for those Mommy and Daddy errands! You know, outside of the “I am a parent so that is my reward” mentality. Swweettt!

Image from Foursquare.com

I liked the concept so I downloaded the application for my iPhone for free and Foursquare has applications for Blackberry, Android, Palm and other devices too. Then I put the car seat in the car and headed out the door for a marathon of dreaded errands. This is where the quote from Will Farrell in Old School comes to mind…

“Well, um, actually a pretty nice little Saturday, we’re going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don’t know, I don’t know if we’ll have enough time.”

So this is how it worked: Each time I pulled into a store parking lot, I opened the application. My iPhone “knew” where I was, so a list of relevant stores, in the immediate area, came up on the screen. It was really accurate, though my local ToysRUs® was not on the list, but you are able to add stores along the way if they haven’t already been added by another user. Then I “checked-in”, which basically let’s the application know that I have arrived. This is the important part so you can get points and badges. I also was given the option of sending a tweet to my followers to let them know where I was and if I had any additional comments about the venue.  I figure that will be an option I will use few and far between, because frankly, I am sure not many people give a crap that I am picking up dry cleaning. But I could see some venues to which I may want to give a shout-out, so it is a nice option. Although linking Foursquare to Facebook or to Twitter is just voluntary.

When I signed in to my first store, I got a newbie badge. It reminded me of my ‘back-in-the-day’ Girl Scout badges. There are hundreds of Foursquare badges from the Barsista badge (great for Starbucks® groupies) to an Explorer badge (checking into more than 25 places in a month). I personally think it is kinda cool because frankly no one else in my family is going to give me a gold star for picking up groceries. By getting a badge, you feel like someone gives a crap that you spent your whole afternoon shlepping from store to store.

Another fabulous benefit was when I signed into Sports Authority®, I was notified I qualified for a 10% off coupon. I also noticed that I had an offer for $1 off a Frappaccino at a Starbucks® in the same shopping complex. (Guess where I headed after Sports Authority…) I think over time, the points give you access to other benefits and you get special status as a Mayor, which means you are super cool.  Also seems to command some respect too, which is sorely lacking in other areas of my life. Thus, I will gladly accept a title of Mayor at my local Mobil gas station.

It does not take much time to pull up the application and check-in, so all in all, it is a cute application that makes errands feel less mundane. With a few retailer incentives thrown in, a special badge, and a title or two, it makes my less than exciting Mom life seem a little more hip.

Fabulous.


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Unexpected Toy Adoration

Posted on June 23, 2010. Filed under: Product Review, Review | Tags: |

Image from Amazon.com

There are so many toys out there. Developmental, playful, skill enhancing, you name it.  So when I was at a toy store with my infant son, I was browsing the shelves and a strange toy caught my eye. With bright colors, cute name, dumbbell shape and a giggle sound when shaken, it was an intriguing little object called the Wiggly Giggler.

I started to play with it for my own entertainment value, but when I looked down at the stroller, I found that my son was enchanted with it too.  While it was not in the infant area, it was a toy that captured his attention.

For about $4.00, I made the purchase and brought it home.  It was five months ago and it has been the best $4.00 I have spent on a toy. As a newborn, I could entertain him with the giggling sound and the bright colors. Later, the shape was perfect for his new hand grasp. Recently, it has been a great rattle.

The product is described as “durable and easy to grip, this 3 1/4″ rattle promotes fine motor skills and provides multiple sensory skills (sound, touch, balance/weight).”

Huh, I guess it was a skill development toy after all.

Is it safe toy? The product description states it is for children 3 months and up, but what they mean is that it is developmentally appropriate for that age range. However, the product generally is not suitable for children under 3 years because it does have small parts that a child could figure out how to access. So it is your judgement call. We have found it great for the early months and probably will put the toy away for the next couple of years and reintroduce it again at a later date.

You can find it at many local toy stores and online. Like all toys, it should be used with supervision and it may not be interesting to all children.  However, with so many aspects to this one little object, it may have something to please your child.

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Tickle Tales

Posted on June 13, 2010. Filed under: Product Review, Review |

I am in love with the Tickle Monster Kit by Josie Bissett.

There is no other way to describe this book, other than enchanting.

It is about an adorable monster that has just flown in from Planet Tickle. His mission is to bring joy and laughter to Planet Earth by tickling. Parents read and tickle while kids wiggle and giggle. It has received great accolades such as the Mom’s Choice Award, Parent’s Choice Award and the Parent Tested Parent Approved Award too.

I recently received my Tickle Monster Kit from my brother as a gift. It comes in a beautiful box with a hardcover book and two fuzzy monster mittens for tickling. My son is 9 months old and while the book is meant for older toddlers (more detailed writing), the flow of the words is melodic and he loves the tickle parts. He laughs his way through the book and giggles when he sees the “magical monster mitts” come out.

It is a daily routine for us now because, as the kit says, “There is no better childhood memory than time spent laughing together”.

(Prices range from $22-$35 from Amazon.com, Borders.com and other book retailers)

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At-Home Pedicure Pampering

Posted on June 10, 2010. Filed under: Product Review, Review |

I am a mom to a baby. This means I have not had a pedicure since…ummm….last July. This is generally not a problem, but for the fact it is June and it is beach and sandal season again. (Crap)

However, my schedule has always been hectic and I barely made time for pampering activities even before I had a baby.  So in fairness to the little one, this is a long standing problem, which is why I own only two pair of sandals and ten pairs of boots.

So whether you are anti-spa, a pedicure postponer, or a frazzled new mom who just does not have the time right now, I think I may have a solution.

TA-DA! Behold the Diamancel from Bliss. My secret outside-the-spa weapon. (Although if you go to their spa locations, they use this too!) Diamancel Foot Files are nickel-coated flexible fiberglass files, electroplated with industrial grade diamond chips (yeah baby!), so they rarely (if ever) wear out, even after years of scrubbing and buffing crappy feet like mine.

I l*o*v*e* this thing. I bought one a couple of years ago and it is my foot fantasy.

The cool thing is that you use Diamancel’s Foot Files before you shower or bathe because they buff better on DRY feet. Which is great for me because (a) I often forget the regular foot file before getting in the shower and (b) I barely have time to rinse out the conditioner before I am in Mommy-demand, let alone buff my tootsies. (Or shave my legs, but that is for another post and explains why I wear pants alot.)

Now, they have various strengths and sizes, but are generally priced around $50 for the foot files.  Is it pricey for a foot file? Yeah, but you just buy it once, it lasts forever, and it buys you time from the $50 spa pedicure (plus tip).  So in a short time, it pays for itself.  It also works amazingly!! As a proud owner of it for the past few years, I am relying on it more since my spare time is sparse.  Do I still want to book a spa pedicure? You bet, because while the Diamancel is great, it won’t paint my toes pretty pink.

Order from Bliss directly or visit the new location at the W Hotel in Boston’s theatre district.

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Pregnancy to Parenthood

Posted on April 28, 2010. Filed under: Business Review, Review | Tags: , |

My son is now 6 months old.  I cannot believe how fast the time has gone by.

While there was a lot I did not like about my pregnancy. (Hello, swollen ankles!) There was one thing I loved about it. It was the attention. The feeling of specialness that was bestowed upon me when I walked waddled, belly first, through a door. The glow that radiated from me as I proudly proclaimed I was going to be a Mom.

When I walk through the door now, it is stroller first and, well, let’s just say I hope the door does not slam me on the way in. What radiates from me now is smell of regurgitated spitup and if I proudly proclaim that I am a Mom, no one really gives a hoot.

Unless you are at Isis Maternity.

Scrreeeechhhh.

Isis Maternity?? (It says maternity.)

Yeah, I know.

But you just said you are a Mom.

Yeah, I know.

So why are you going to a Maternity store when you aren’t pregnant?

——–<Sigh> Therein lies the problem.

Isis Maternity is known for its maternity know-how.  In fact, it is the number one childbirth educator in the country. From breastfeeding 101 to childbirth 101, hundreds of Moms and Hospitals refer Isis Maternity as a great pregnancy resource.

Yet, Isis is more than pregnancy and childbirth support.  It is support from Maternity to Mom.

Maternity is just a part of Isis. In addition to the childbirth and infant prep classes, there are classes for newborns, infants, and toddlers. There are playgroups and music groups, new moms groups and new dads groups. There are breastfeeding support groups, sleep support groups, toddler toys and newborn essentials.  All in all, Isis has it covered.  Yet, its name did not cover it all.

Clearly, there was a disconnect.  So Isis Maternity decided to become Isis Parenting. The name reflects the company’s wide range of pre-natal to postpartum support services and products. The new logo replaces the old one, which was a young woman’s silhouette.  This new logo is more inclusive to dads, grandparents and the children themselves.  While Isis has a new logo and a new name, it is still the same great company for parents and kids to age 3.

I am an Isis Mom.  I began my Isis journey in the New Mom’s program when my son was just 4 weeks old.  I walked into the center on a chilly November morning – sleep deprived and overwhelmed.  I left still sleep deprived, but re-energized.  It was here that I felt special. It was here that I felt like someone understood what I was going through and could give me the non-judgmental emotional and educational support to get through each day.  Each week, the class got me out of the house. It made me learn to navigate a stroller, car seat, and diaper bag when I used to carry a fancy purse the size of a postage stamp. Now my gear is a whole postal code.

I made great friends, and continue to meet great people, that I hope will extend beyond our children’s first birthdays.  For many Isis grads, the friendships are part of the Isis experience.  For me, it was also the things I learned: Feeding facts, travel tips, and sleep strategies. Which sling to try, stroller to handle, pacifier to get, swaddle to soothe and toy to dangle. It was because of Isis that I got to breastfeed longer than I thought, got my son to sleep longer than I could have imagined, and learned play ideas to use at home.

All I can say is that I probably would be the Mom I am without Isis.  But I can say that I am happier Mom with Isis.

So if you are a soon-to-be parent, a new parent, a parent of 2 or more, or a parent of three years and have not yet experienced Isis, go to their website.  Head to one of their 4 Boston area locations (Arlington, Brookline, Boston, Needham) for a drop-in playgroup or to ask for suggestions for a new toy.  Better yet, take a look at their extensive class schedule and sign up for one. But note that these are not your ordinary classes.  Take a look at the staff. These are child development experts. The classes and seminars are top-notch.

When you are there, you will understand why many of us make Isis part of our parenting experience. It’s because Isis Parenting makes us all feel extraordinary: spitup, tantrums and all.

Therein lies the specialness of Isis…and I am so happy to be a part of the family.

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Some Bunny to Love

Posted on March 18, 2010. Filed under: Infants, Kids, Product Review, Review | Tags: , |

I love spring.  What is not to love after a wet, snowy and cold winter in New England.

I love the lighter days, the brighter sun, temperatures above 50 degrees, the sound of birds, the sight of flowers, cute easter baskets, yummy chocolate eggs, colorful jellybeans, and super soft snuggly stuffed bunnies!

Recently, I came across the most adorable stuffed animals.  With the sweetest faces, they were super soft and just perfect for my little baby boy’s first Spring. The product line was from a company called Jellycat.

Established in London in 1999, Jellycat is a leading creator of high-quality, luxury soft toys. Their product meets or exceeds EN71 (European Testing standards) and ASTM (Amercian Testing standards). So Jellycat stuffed animals are made to last.  Yet, they are super touchable with such tender little expressions that melt your heart.

There are little ones and big ones, fluffy ones and smooth ones, and every possible friend-imal you can think of; frogs, giraffes, dogs, cats, alligators, monkeys, bears, cows, elephants, lambs, and of course, bunnies! With a constantly changing and ever expanding collection of warm fuzzy friends, from rhinos to rats, there is a Jellycat for everyone out there.

There are collections of Jellycats with fun names.  There are Pipers and Puddings, Snuffles and Slapajacks, Junglies and Bunglies. Sizes range from 10 inches, 12 inches, 15 inches and 24 inches with prices from $10-$45. You can find a great selection online or at local retailers like Isis Maternity.

The care instructions? Lots of love.

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Green, Eco-Friendly Party Favors

Posted on March 11, 2010. Filed under: Kids, Parents, Product Review, Review | Tags: |

I am a huge fan of unique ideas.  I mean, who isn’t.  When the uniqueness trends into eco-friendliness though, you’ve got an exceptional idea.

I stumbled across a company called Botanical Paperworks when I was looking for my son’s baptism invitations.  It is a Canadian based company that sells paper that blooms into flowers.

Botanical Paperworks has cards ranging from wedding invitations, birth announcements and thank you cards at $2.50-$5.50 a piece.  Depending on your price point, that may be pricey or reasonable. However, they also sell favors at $1-$2 a piece, which can be the perfect thank you gift for your guests. The cards come with plantable paper embedded with wildflower seeds. When you plant the paper in a pot of soil, the seeds grow into colorful wildflowers including bird’s eye, poppy, snap dragon, black eyed susan and more. (Some holiday cards are embedded with white spruce seeds.)  The paper is made from 100% post consumer waste collected from eco-minded schools and businesses in the company founder’s home town in Canada.

In addition to favors and cards, they have some great gifts too.  I especially love the Yummy Card set.  The card set grows six different herbs when the card is planted. Each card contains a recipe for a tasty dish using the corresponding fresh herb. Card set includes: Basil (pesto), Parsley (tabouleh), Chive (chive mashed potatoes), Dill (dilled salmon), Sage (sage and lemon cookies) and Mint (minted green tea). It’s a, well, yummy gift!  They have other gifts like plantable journals and calendars. Definitely a must see!

I ultimately went with a plantable favor for my event. (A little blooming momento of my son’s baptism!) The Holy Communition or Baptism favors have a plantable paper, on a card, in the shape of a cross. Yet they also have graduation favors with plantable paper in the shape of a graduation cap, birthday favors with paper in the shape of a cupcake, Bar Mitzvah favors with a plantable star, and baby shower favors with a plantable teddy bear, bib, onesie, heart or butterfly.  You can customize the message and choose the ink and paper color.  Paper colors include pink, white, blue, yellow and green, and ink colors range from green and brown to blue and red.  (Please note there is a minimum order of 25 for the favors.)

You can place an order on the Botanical Paperworks website.  (They are super easy to work with and you can review a proof before your order is finalized).  Or you can check out Creative Papers at 17 Lakeview Avenue, Natick MA.  The number is 781-239-9943 or send an email to creative.papers@verizon.net.

So excited to see the reaction of my guests when they see these favors, and it is nice to know that these favors will add a little a little more color to this Earth.

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