Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What to Do on Christmas in NY - If You Don't Celebrate Christmas

Macy's Holiday store windows: open on Christmas (the displays, not the store)
How to spend the day on Christmas is a question that bedevils Jews every year, along with Scrooge, anti-holiday types and non-Christians. In New York, it's actually pretty easy to fill your day.

The Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum, on the Upper East Side, offers a full day of programming (unless the holiday happens to fall on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath). There's a little bonus this year: on Christmas Eve, when many cultural institutions are also closed, the museum is free. It's always open, for free, on Saturdays, but no special programming is planned, and the restaurant and gift shop are closed.

See the Rockettes on Christmas
Go to the top
One World Observatory, in lower Manhattan, and Top of the Rock, in midtown, are both open Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Eat Chinese food
This is what we did on Long Island when I was younger; everyone in my mostly Jewish town went to the movies and ate Chinese food.

Go to a movie
See above.

Most Chinatown restaurants are open on Christmas
See a Broadway show
Yes, several shows have Christmas performances including both Jersey Boys and The Color Purple, both of which close in January. Catch them while you can!

Kick up your feet
If you are a Christmas hater or agnostic, this may not be for you, but the Rockettes perform their Christmas Spectacular multiple times at Radio City Music Hall.

Most animals don't celebrate the holiday
Get wild
The Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo are all open on Christmas Day. If your kids have opened all their presents, eaten all the goodies and are starting to turn on you, take them to the zoo where they can at least forget about inside voices.

Visit the store windows
No jockeying for space in front of the most popular store window displays. You can see Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdales and Macy's, and even check out the tree at Rockefeller Center.

Take a ride
Drive or hop on the subway and see the holiday lights in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. These free displays are lit as soon as the sun sets.

Find more suggestions on how to spend Christmas (and Christmas Eve) at

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Nissan Gives Back: The Force is With Them

Our ride for the day: A 2017 Nissan Rogue
Every year, Nissan arranges a volunteer day in New York City, where they invite auto writers and bloggers to help the community. For the second year in a row, we spent the day at the New York Common Pantry, a food pantry in East Harlem, giving bags of food to the working poor and needy.

The food pantry gives low income families and needy individuals and bag of fresh, healthy food every other week, as a supplement to other food programs. What's unique about this program is that the beneficiaries can choose what grains, proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables they prefer, from a changing list of purchased and donated items. Our job, along with Nissan execs, was to put together the food bags, and throw in a couple of extras: fresh sandwiches, salads and other donated goodies.

The pantry resembled a vegetarian's kitchen: bags of dried beans, eggs, fresh sweet potatoes, beets, carrots and lots of lots of bananas. Whole grain pastas, grits and oatmeal, milk, and canned tomatoes filled the bags and recipients carefully packed their bags into grocery carts or wheelie suitcases.

Holiday cheer at Maxwell's Central Park
As usual, after the day of hard work, Nissan treated us to appetizers and drinks, this year at Maxwell’s Central Park. The bar food included a vegetarian friendly black bean dip with guacamole and a jicama and red pepper relish, spinach dip served with really spicy pita chips and sweet potatoes fries.

An extra treat
We were chauffeured to the bar in a fleet of brand new 2017 Nissan Rogues. The compact SUVs seat 5 and we were all comfortable on our short drive.

The main event
After fueling up (on drinks and appetizers) we took a much longer ride downtown for the main event: a special private screening of the new movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Nissan is capitalizing on the car's to tie in with the movie.
Thanks Nissan: private screening of Rogue One

Besides the name, Nissan Rogue has nothing to do with Rogue One, which is all spaceships and Rebel warriors. Plus intergalactic warfare, martial arts and geeky allusions to other Star Wars movies; blink and you'll miss R2-D2 and C-P3O.

I loved the original Star Wars movies, but never saw the later films; it was fun to jump back into the franchise and even get a peek at Princess...well, I don't want to give anything away.  See it for yourself.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Intersection of Lincoln, Luxury & Hipsterdom: Mast Brothers Chocolate

The actual Mast Brothers, complete with hipster beards
You might not think that artisan chocolate made in Brooklyn would have much to do with Lincoln Motor Company, but last week, I saw how they fit together over a 24 hour period.

First, I went to the Loft Opera's production of Macbeth, at the new Mast Brothers factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The unheated warehouse was the setting for a faithful rendition of the tragedy, and most of the young audience sat on backless benches for the three hour performance, fueled only by the Brooklyn Brewery beer for sale, along with fine chocolate.

Lincoln's swag: bars of Mast Brothers chocolate
The gray and no hairs - i.e., people in my demographic, were mostly the VIP members, who got folding chairs with actual backs. Because theatergoers who can afford more than a $30 ticket require a few more luxuries.

The setting for Lincoln's holiday party
For much the same reason, luxury cars appeal to this demographic. But Lincoln knows its long term success depends on appealing to a younger audience as well, so it has the essence of cool, Matthew McConaughey, starring in its commercials.

And as it happened, the night after the Macbeth show, Lincoln invited me to its swanky holiday soiree, in a penthouse at Lincoln Center. You wouldn't think that this had much in common with the barebones Loft Opera. Yet, along with the canapes and top shelf open bar, heat (something I will now never take for granted) and comfortable seats, there were parting gifts: bars of Mast Brothers chocolate.

You couldn't ask for a better pairing.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

New Organic Ranch Dressing: Trying Tessemae’s

Rocking the Ranch dressing t-shirt

You know the baker whose children prefer to eat packaged cookies, or the dress designer whose daughter wants to wear clothes off the rack? Sometimes I feel like that when I cook or bake; pouring time and love into food that my kids want from the store. In fact, my oldest daughter used to say she wanted food we bought, and I wondered - did she think we just found the ingredients I used to cook?

As a matter of fact, the salad dressing I served last night did come free, from the Mom It Forward Influencer Network, and I am being paid to spread the word about Tessemae’s new ranch dressing.

But even without compensation, I would sing the praises of this organic salad dressing, made without sugar, preservatives or artificial ingredients. In fact, one reason I started making my own dressing was I read what was on the label of the dressing I liked and was grossed out. Why buy organic greens and vegetables just to drown them in chemicals?

I know, I know, we all do whatever it takes to get our kids to eat veggies. And eating salad or carrots dipped in ranch is better than eating chips or candy. But when Tessemae’s ranch dressing tastes as good as any other bottled dressing, why not choose the natural one? I’d say Tessemae’s tastes better, but then, I haven’t eaten those gloopy, chemical-laden dressings in so long I can’t really compare.

Tessemae’s, which is sold at Walmart, says ranch is America’s #1 dressing. And if you are in the minority and ranch isn’t your thing, the brand makes 25 dressings, marinades and condiments. I also got to sample the Caesar dressing, which is delicious.

The dressings need to be refrigerated and they are sold in bottles, as well as single use packets. These are great for toting a salad and not having wilted greens. We often bring a big salad to baseball games or on airplane trips since we can’t rely on finding good vegetarian food at ball parks or airports. But with the packets, we can bring our own meals and have crisp lettuce.

The dressings are sugar and dairy free, as well as gluten free (well, most dressings are, unless they have soy) and non-GMO verified. One of my kids is lactose-intolerant, so it’s nice to find a creamy dressing that has no dairy.

I’ve also learned over the years that a salad doesn’t even require greens to be a salad. My kids love this “salad” of corn, tomatoes and avocado, with fake bacon and Ranch dressing. And no fair telling me that tomatoes and avocados are fruits, not vegetables. They love this salad and I’m happy.

Recipe: Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad
1/4 pound veggie bacon, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
4 to 6 ears corn, stripped (2 to 3 cups kernels)
4 sliced tomatoes
1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced
Ranch dressing
Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes, then add corn. Continue cooking, stirring or shaking pan occasionally, until corn begins to brown a bit, about 5 more minutes; remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. 
Layer tomatoes and avocado slices on 4 plates. Scatter corn mixture on top. Pour Ranch dressing over everything. Enjoy.
Serves 4

Note: I was paid to sample and write about Tessemae’s. Recipe development and enjoyment were all my own.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Stepping Up Your Game: Holiday Help

Beautiful holiday arrangement by Teleflora

Holiday entertaining when I was young always involved home cooked food, but little to no attention was given to setting a nice table. We had lovely china and sterling silver flatware, but my mother rarely took the trouble to use them. Unless I polished the silver, it sat, tarnished and unused in the drawer.

My sister-in-law is basically the opposite. She outsources much of the food, concentrating on flower arranging, exquisite linens and elegant serving pieces. 

The elegantly set table at the Momtrends Holiday Soiree
I strive for a mix of the two, and was encouraged to see how I could become the boss of my table at the Momtrends Holiday Soiree.

An elegantly set table featured bouquets from Teleflora, and there were examples of other holiday Teleflora bouquets throughout the room. I did a little research at home and discovered that the holiday arrangements are quite reasonably priced, and would be wonderful to send if you don't have time to make a hostess gift.

Avery labels add a professional touch to homemade gifts
The table also had serving pieces for Nambé. I have several bowls and platters from my wedding, but what is new this year is a jewelry collection, sold at Macy's. There were lovely bracelets and earrings, all in sterling silver.

Organic Smashmallow marshmallows
At the event, I also learned how I could up my game with homemade gifts. For the last few years, I've given hostess gifts like homemade bitters or infused liquor, putting them in mason jars and attaching a card with ingredients. But Avery has a whole line of labels and tags that elevate these gifts to near professional status. Maybe that is what Momtrends is up to, encouraging entrepreneurship in all of us. Could I have a business making bitters?

If you are giving gifts to teens or adults who don't drink, you could also make a custom blend hot chocolate mix. Those Avery labels could be on a mason jar filled with great cocoa and spices and you could include a bag of Smashmallow organic, gluten-free marshmallows.

The swag bag we got from Momtrends at the end of the evening included a bag of mint chocolate chip marshmallows, which would add a nice touch to a cup of hot chocolate; there is also an espresso bean flavor, for mocha lovers.

Note: I was a guest of Momtrends at the Holiday Soiree and was not compensated for this post.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Day in the Country: Thanks Lexus Performance!

The 2017 Lexus RC F fits in with fall foliage
Traffic around New York City can be so bad that many New Yorkers are tempted to stay put. Why venture below 14th St if you are happily ensconced on the Upper East Side, or explore Queens when you live in Brooklyn?

For that matter, why leave the city at all?

Well, when you handed the keys to a $100,000 Lexus performance car, you need to get on the open road. The speed limit on New York City streets is 25 mph, and on highways, it tops out at 50.  If you can even go that fast.

But on a recent drive to Beacon, only an hour or so outside the city, we were able to go 60 miles per hour! Woo hoo.

The 2017 Lexus GS F also looks great
I drove up in the 2017 Lexus GS F and back in the orange hued Lexus RC F sports coupe, which is a relative bargain. It's starting price is only $64,165.

I was excited about our lunch spot, the newly reopened Roundhouse in Beacon. In fact, the restaurant hadn't even officially opened when we went there, so we had a preview menu that offered great vegetarian choices.

The appetizer: make this for Thanksgiving!

The soup was brought to the table with just the dry ingredients; the rest was poured in table side 
The heirloom pumpkin bisque was a must; we got a bowl with some pomegranate seeds, bits of wild mushroom "marmalade," granola and a dried swiss chard leaf. Then the rich soup was poured in table side. A dramatic flourish for a delicious soup.

I made pumpkin soup for Thanksgiving, and some years, I have scattered the top with a swirl of pomegranate molasses, chopped chives and mascarpone. Then I wipe the sides of the bowl with a dish towel and give everyone a perfect Instagram-ready serving. Other times I dump a ladle full of soup in each bowl and call it day.

This year we have 28 for Thanksgiving. Guess which option I'll choose?

Second course

Roasted and raw cauliflower over a rich puree of...cauliflower
Cauliflower has become one of my most versatile vegetables. I roast it, make a rice of it that is great for a gluten free pizza crust, puree it in soups. I've also roasted it whole, which makes a great vegetarian main course.

At The Roundhouse, we had 'cauliflower variations" - it was roasted, pureed, and carpaccio, (aka raw) with parmesan, lemon and pistachio.

My kids favorite was is when I break the cauliflower into florets, dump on some olive oil and salt, and roast it till it's caramelized and soft.  Broccoli also takes to this treatment well.

I would love to spend a little more time in one of the Lexus sports cars to see the art at Dia: Beacon and try more of the local produce featured at the Roundhouse.

Note: I was a guest of Lexus, which paid for my lunch. I was not otherwise compensated; opinions and calories were all my own.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Holiday Time: KidzVuz' Holiday Gift Guide

Once, I was supermom, able to wipe drippy noses while cooking gourmet meals, read picture books aloud, with different, consistent accents on no sleep, and the type of party guest who always showed up with the perfect, locally sourced  - maybe even handmade - gift.

Now, I am just likely to order a couple of presents from Amazon and call it day.

Which is why I felt a bit out of touch, and a bit excited, at the KidzVuz Holiday Party.

Easy bake cookies

Here’s how I needed help brushing up on those parenting skills. Sweet Loren was at the event, offering samples of two of their 'place and bake' whole grain cookies. There were oatmeal cranberry (yummy and festive) and chocolate chunk.

What I craved was the peanut butter chocolate and I thought since I was late, I had missed the boat. No, it’s just - peanut butter. Allergies. Duh. That never even occurred to me, which means I need to seriously rethink my bona fides in the future when my 20-somethings bless me with grandchildren.

[Sweet Loren cookies, by the way, are all natural, with no high fructose corn syrup or trans fat. And you can bake as many, or as few as you need, fresh]

But I have lots of nieces, nephews and little cousins who would love the wares on display, particularly the Rock Band Rivals game for XBoxOne and PS4. If you had kids who took music lessons and refused to practice, then this will be your jam; it makes playing music fun.There’s a story line built into the game; you play your way through a rock documentary.

The nonprofit Heart of Haiti sold handmade ornaments to benefit the victims of Hurricane Matthew. It's always nice to spend money in a way that will help others, and the artisan gifts were perfect.

Music - for girls?

And if Disney princesses are not your thing check out the animated series SpacePop Girls. This show has short episodes on YouTube; the music is on iTunes and Spotify and merch, including books, is everywhere.

I’d love to say that the audience is free of gender constraints, especially when the producer calls it “Spice Girls meets ‘Star Wars,’” but the reality is that most boys won’t watch a show that has the word girls in the title, while girls will watch show or read books that feature mostly male leads (see: Harry Potter).

That being said, the show is cute, catchy and sure to please any budding princesses; the five teens form a band to cover their plot to overthrow the wicked empress.

And since I have’t gotten over MY princess fixation, you can find me bingeing on episodes of ‘The Crown.’

Note: I was a guest of KidzVuz and was not compensated; opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Free in NY: Watch a Taping of Kevin Can Wait

With Kevin James and Erinn Hayes
Broadway ticket prices go for hundreds of dollars, but you can see free live theater in New York if you plan in advance, reserving tickets to a taping of a television show. This is truly live theater; shows are filmed in front of an audience and an emcee keeping things lively.

One of the perks of blogging is being invited to special behind-the-scenes events, like a recent opportunity I had to go to the set of Kevin Can Wait and meet the stars, Kevin James and Erinn Hayes, and director. But anyone can go online and see a show being taped, for free.

Seat from Shea Stadium!
This is a common experience in Los Angeles, where most television shows are taped. My husband’s cousin is a writer and we’ve gotten to go on set a few times. Back home in New York, we’ve seen the Rachael Ray show and Martha Stewart; both of these are great because they often come with swag. No, not Oprah-sized gifts, but things like cookbooks, aprons, kitchen utensils and food.

At the Kevin Can Wait taping, the studio audience is often treated to fresh pizza. If you haven’t watched the CBS show, (which moves this week to a new time slot, 8 pm ET on Mondays) the main character hangs out at a pizza restaurant. To keep the show authentic, pizza is sent in whenever there’s a restaurant scene.

Long Island, for real
What also keeps the show authentic is filming it on Long Island, where the show is set and where the star, Kevin James, grew up. His last show, King of Queens, was set nearby, but filmed in California; in Kevin Can Wait, the sense of place is palpable.

Kevin loves the Mets
Kevin, a notorious Mets fan, (both the actor and the character) has a stage home filled with Mets and other local sports teams’ memorabilia; actual seats from the old Mets home, Shea stadium, pennants from the Knicks, Jets’ knick knacks.

The Halloween episode (which actually airs ON Halloween; again, at 8pm ET) even guest stars a current Mets player, Noah Syndergaard. Of course, if the Mets had made it past the wild card this year, we would be watching the Mets play in the World Series, but there’s always next year - if Kevin can wait, so can I.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How to Plan a Hawaii Vacation: 6 Things to Know Before You Book

Sunset in Hawaii; worth the trip
With unrest in Europe and hurricane season in the Caribbean, the appeal of a Hawaiian vacation is growing. Add in the fact that you don’t need a passport or a Zika concern, and Hawaii is even more tempting.

1. Get ready for a lo-o-o-o-ng flight
One of the benefits to Hawaii - its uniqueness - is also a drawback. It is remote. Even if you live on the west coast, you are facing a five to six hour flight, and if you are on the other side of the country? It’s like two back to back trips from NYC to LAX. Plus there’s the huge time difference.

If you are taking little kids, or anyone who frequently gets ants in her pants, your best bet is to tucker them out before you get on the plane. This could mean not pre-boarding; once you get on the plane, kids pretty much have to stay buckled in while every other zone boards. So you might not be able to claim overhead space. My husband and I would divide and conquer before a long flight when our three kids were little - one of us would board early with, say a diaper bag or stroller, just to look legit during that family boarding time, while the other would stay in the airport, running circles around the gate.

2. What is there to do on board?
Let kids watch movies on a long flight. Credit: Jana Seitzer
If you are one of those parents who like to limit screen time, great! But loosen the rules on the flight. If your kid loves the movie Frozen and can watch it a coupe of times in a row, that is hours of stress free flying time.

Long books are great on the flight, as well as workbooks. My kids loved filling those out, and if we gave them pencils, they invariably broke the point. Then we could go through a whole ritual of sharpening the pencil, which eats up more time; this is one of those cases where more is more. Hard to open, individually wrapped string cheese takes longer to eat than a slice of American cheese, so it's a better bet for a long flight.

3. Where to go in Hawaii? Oahu, Maui, Kauai, or the Big Island?
This is easy - whatever is easiest to get to. That romantic resort where you honeymooned, that required a boat trip, or a short second flight to another island? Out. I say go to whatever island has a nonstop from your home airport, or the least amount of travel time. If you are lucky enough to have a vacation of over a week, you can venture away from the main islands, but for a family vacation with little kids, stick to the most convenient areas. It’s all still paradise.

4. When should you go to Hawaii?
If you are taking school age, even preschool children, you might want to take your Hawaiian vacation over the December holidays, spring break or summer. Any time is fine, just make sure to book well in advance. 

5. What should you do with kids in Hawaii?
This is easy, too - there are so many kids friendly activities, from spending long days at the beach to taking hikes to waterfalls, to learning about Hawaiian culture. 

Cherimoya, one of the exotic fruits you can find in Hawaii
A big part of our travel always involves food and in Hawaii, kids can sample an enormous variety of exotic fruit. Be warned that they can develop an affinity for expensive tropical fruit. My youngest daughter was addicted to star fruit for awhile and we indulged her passion since she wasn’t a huge fruit eater. In addition to the expected pineapple and papaya, you find cherimoya, guava, passion fruit and lichees.

Westin Villas in Hawaii. Credit: Vacatia
This is one of the advantages of having a kitchen when you travel to Hawaii; you can pick up loads of exotic fruit and make fruit salad in your condo (see below). For our vegetarian family, a kitchen means we can prepare food if we can't find enough vegetarian-friendly restaurant food.

6. Hotel or condo: which is better?
Hotel aficionados prefer staying in hotels for all the services; vacationers who like condos point to all the space they get in a condo. Staying in a resort residence offers the best of both worlds: hotel services like daily maid cleaning along with the extras of a condo like a full kitchen and a living room.

If you are booking in Maui, you have a pool and the Hawaiian beaches nearby.

Note: This post is sponsored by Vacatia. Opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Happy Birthday Jarlsberg: The Norwegian Cheese Turns 60

Jarlsberg cheese crisps: crackers with cheese baked right in
Aged cheese is prized among cheese connoisseurs but Jarlsberg cheese is celebrating a different kind of aging process: its company.

At a party to celebrate Jarlsberg's 60th birthday, I learned a few things about Jarlsberg. The cheese is is naturally lactose free. This is good news for those of us who have trouble digesting dairy. There is a part-skim variety, still tasty, and smoked version.

There are also other cheeses in the Norwegian specialty cheese collection, many of which we got to sample at the party. [Note: Although Jarlsberg was originally made in Norway, the stuff we get in the US is made here; the other cheeses from the company are imported).

Tine Ekte Geitost, a brown cheese made from goat milk, is sweet since the milk is cooked and it caramelizes. It can be used in desserts, which may seem odd until you think about cheesecake and cannolis, other desserts with cheese.

I bought some Geitost for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and served it with apples; traditionally, apples dipped in honey are served at Rosh Hashanah, and this was a nice twist 

There was Snøfrisk cream cheese, made from 80% goat’s milk and 20% cow’s cream; new flavors are coming, including red onion and thyme; horseradish;  and dill and garlic. These are nice spread on crackers.

And speaking of crackers, we got to try Jarlsberg Cheese Crisps, crackers made with Jarlsberg cheese baked right in. Flavors include rosemary and olive oil; chipotle; garlic and herb, and sea salt. Instead of a grilled cheese with tomato soup, you could crumble these into your soup bowl.

The Jarlsberg party was held at Aquavit, a Nordic restaurant that has its origins in Sweden. and, a rarity for New York, a female chef. Emma Bengtsson, a Stockholm native, used the different cheeses in a few appetizers, like smoked salmon with cream cheese and warm cheese puffs.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Open Sesame: New Gluten Free Snacks

Original flavor Superseed Crunch
When I was a kid, my health fanatic grandfather had one weakness: sesame seed candy. He would sneak us the super sweet plastic wrapped candy and hold his finger over his lips: Shhh. Don’t tell.

Of course, we didn’t like the sticky candy - we wanted chocolate, or cookies.  But my grandfather may have been onto something: the new Superseed Crunch is a tasty and early nutritious snack from the makers of Absolutely Gluten-Free.

In addition to being certified gluten-free, the snacks are vegan, organic, soy free and Kosher. And they are made with flax and chia seeds, as well as sesame.
Superseed Crunch comes in three flavors: original, toasted coconut and cinnamon. I am not really a coconut lover (OK, I hate it) but the coconut in all three flavors is subtle enough that it didn’t overwhelm the other flavors. Plus I tried it sprinkled on plain Greek yogurt, so there is even less coconut flavor.

You can also eat it straight out of the bag, though if you have trouble exercising self-control, you might want to portion some out into a bowl.

The Superseed Crunch is a good source of fiber, protein, antioxidants and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper and calcium. These aren't a health food - they are a snack - but they are certainly better for you than chips or candy and they are nutrient dense.

The Absolutely Gluten-Free line also includes: flatbreads, crackers and a cauliflower crust pizza that should have those with Celiac dancing in the grocery store aisles

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Super Wubble for Super Fun

The contents of the Super Wubble kit- inflator, ball and easy to follow instructions.
Sponsored post

I’ve had a stability ball for years that my kids have had fun with - it’s a huge, lightweight ball that can torture your abdomen. But it isn’t really a toy. The Super Wubble, on the other hand, is a kind of magic ball - it comes flat and you inflate it in seconds. 

After you find the AA batteries, realize they are no good, walk or drive to the store and pick up a pack of batteries that is. Why are my batteries always no good?

Pouncing on the inflated Super Wubble
But I digress. The stretchy Super Wubble, which promises to be four times stronger than the original Wubble Bubble Ball, and more tear resistant, is guaranteed for life, with a replacement if it pops under normal play.

The Super Wubble  is made from this almost indestructible material called Xpandium and though you can apparently sit on it, I would not advise doing this as a core exercise. I would love to see that Xpandium in a pair of jeans - stretch to fit!

Endless play
What you should do it throw the ball, toss it in the air, bounce it, play kickball - but barefoot and with closely trimmed nailed. It can definitely be pierced by a sharp object, so be mindful.

This would be a good toy to take on a beach vacation - easy to bring deflated and hours of fun (plus it wears the kids out!)

And don’t over-inflate the ball - it can go up to 3 feet in diameter. Plenty big. We pumped ours to about 2 feet in diameter and our dog stalked it and pounced on it. We kept it away from the cat and her claws.

Tuckered out after play
The Super Wubble comes in 4 colors: pink, red, blue and green.

Super Wubble is $19.99 here and is also available at Target, Walmart and ToysRUs. 

Note: I received a Super Wubble and compensation in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Back to School, Back to Baking: Healthier Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

Although my youngest child just started her sophomore year of college, I am conditioned to start baking at the beginning of school. Back to school means bake sales and PTA fundraisers, cooler temperatures that allow for baking (hello 90 degrees tomorrow in New York City) and the Jewish holidays, when we host a few dinners and need to have a stock of baked goods on hand.

We also have trips to see our middle daughter's first apartment in Washington, DC and another to Minneapolis for Parents' Weekend.

Mixing in the peanuts
Since we are a peanut butter and chocolate loving family, I decided to bake a simple batch of brownies, but with a healthier twist. I took some butter out of my brownie recipe and replaced it with natural peanut butter (I love the 365 organic natural peanut butter from Whole Foods) and used organic whole wheat flour instead of white flour.

I also used raw cane sugar from The Real Co; it's organic and non-GMO verified. With cage-free organic eggs and a Misto olive oil sprayer for greasing the pan, I reduced most of the chemicals in the  brownies, though I couldn't find organic unsweetened chocolate and had to use Ghirardelli.

Healthier Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 C natural (no sugar added) peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 C organic raw cane sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 C whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 C dry roasted peanuts

Put chocolate and butter in large bowl in microwave and heat for 30 seconds, stir, heat again for 30 seconds, stir, and heat again for 10-15 seconds if needed.  Stir in peanut butter and mix till smooth.

Add sugar and stir. If mixture is cooled enough not to cook eggs, stir them in with the vanilla, flour and nuts.

Mix well.

Spray a 13 x 9 pan with a thin coating of olive oil and smooth mixture into the pan.

Bake 30 minutes, at 350, until brownies are set. Cool on a rack.