Talking Social Media Do’s and Don’ts on PIX11 NYC

Talking Social Media Do’s and Don’ts on PIX11 NYC

Last week I talked to Kori Chambers, anchor for the PIX11 morning team about social media do’s and don’ts for parents. Covering apps that keep your family pictures private, social media shaming and creating a digital footprint for your kid before they can even walk – the segment covered a lot of advice for parents online!

Watch the segment and let me know if you have other online and social media parenting topics you’d like to see covered!

Muggles Will Finally Get to Ride the Hogwarts Express!

Muggles Will Finally Get to Ride the Hogwarts Express!

I am so excited about the Diagon Alley expansion of  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando!  And now, the creative folks at Universal Orlando have unveiled the incredible experience that will join the current Hogsmeade and Hogwarts experience with the new Diagon Alley experience: The Hogwarts Express.

Not just an ordinary train ride (of course not, this is the World of Harry Potter!)  The team at Universal Orlando have recreated Kings Cross, platform 9 3/4 and the Hogwarts Express so guests will actually feel immersed in the journey between Diagon Alley and London to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.

While on the Hogwarts Express riders will look out their window to see familiar Harry Potter characters whizzing by, and immediately be transported into the Harry Potter experience.

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It’s a brilliant way to connect the two parks at Universal Orlando and recreate an incredibly important part of the Harry Potter story.

I love that J.K. Rowling was consulted every step of the way, and that every fine detail was painstakingly recreated.  The authenticity is what makes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter already so magical and transformative.

Now I can’t wait to see the reveal of Gringotts Bank!  I’ve got my key ready!

gringotts key

Showing off our Disney Side at a Tweentastic Disney Tea Party -

Showing off our Disney Side at a Tweentastic Disney Tea Party -

I don’t think there is any bad age or best age for Disney.  The real magic of Disney is that all ages can find something fun, wonderful and plain ol’ optimistically wonderful to celebrate and explore.  My daughters never went through a Princess phase, but they did go through a fairy phase.  Even when my daughter dressed up like Belle for Halloween at 4 years-old she added a pair of wings…

IMG_1363

As my daughters have gotten older they’ve experienced more and more of the things that make Disney unique, from being able to stay up really late at Walt Disney World to the Broadway world of Disney.  So when we were given the opportunity to host a Disney Side party at our home we immediately brainstormed about what would be special and fun for them and their tween girl friends.  Given that we were throwing this event after school, a tea party made perfect sense – and one that could easily be made supercalifabulous enough for tweens.

The menu:

Cinderella Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

pumpkin chocolate chip bread

Belle Craisins® scones

craisins scones

Mickey Mouse shaped finger sandwiches (cream cheese and cucumber, tuna, and PB&J)

mickey mouse sandwiches

And of course, hot cocoa and tea.

The table was set for an afternoon of Disney fun…

disney side tea party

And then the fun began…

Of course no tween party is complete without some crafting.  The girls went to work on cutting, decorating and styling Hanes T-Shirts into personalized fashion statements…

It was great to get all these girls together and have them express their Disney Side!  Plus, that Mickey Mouse shaped cookie cutter makes every sandwich irresistible!

Want to learn more about Disney Side?   Check out DisneySide.com and DisneySideCelebrations.com and get inspired to show off your Disney Side!

I was provided a suitcase full of great supplies and ideas by Disney to create this fantastic party.  The ideas, opinions, and guests are all my own!

NYC Department of Education Releases a Social Media Guide for Students That Says…Nothing?

A lot of local media press is swirling around the new social media guide put out by the NYC Department of Education this week.  At first glance that sounds great.  Administration is stepping in to help kids navigate social media, provide tips and guidance and empower kids to make smarter choices online – or so you’d think.

But in fact if you read it, it is not a guide – it is a set of cliché ridden guidelines.  Complete with links to multiple Chancellor’s Regulations – because there’s nothing kids won’t enjoy more than reading the A-831 regulation to understand peer sexual harassment.

This guide contains such gems as this advice if you are cyber-bullied and would like to report it to the adult in charge at your school,”If you are not sure who your school’s Respect for All Liaison is, please look for their name on the RFA posters.”

And this warning about crossing the personal-school life boundary, “Sometimes, personal social media use, including off-hours use, may result in disruption at school and the school may need to get involved. This could include disciplinary action such as a parent conference or suspension.”

In other words, this is NOT a social media guide, it is a set of regulatory guidelines, and we shouldn’t be giving the NYC Department of Ed a big hurrah for publishing them.  They are not curriculum or actual teaching tools.

The good news is that there is a media literacy bill right now in the New York Legislature that would mandates the Department of Ed will develop standards and provide resources for incorporating media and social media literacy in K-12 curriculum.  And, it will make teacher training available for media literacy as well.
https://www.facebook.com/rebeccalevey/posts/10202911221120416?stream_ref=10

THIS is worth your time in sharing and talking about so we can actually create media savvy kids.

5 Foods to Break Up With in 2014

This is a guest post from Lauren Slayton, founder of Foodtrainers, and a friend of mine for the last 7 years.  Lauren’s new book, Little Book of Thin, just came out in time for your New Year’s Resolutions, and is chock full of simple, easy to follow advice on eating better and making healthier – but satisfying – choices. I’m thrilled to feature this post from Lauren with this great advice to follow for your whole family.

little book of thin cover

Many of my clients are moms. I’ll sit down with them for initial sessions and hear “I have one soda a day” or “I have Splenda in my coffee”. When I ask if they allow their children to have Sprite or sugar substitutes without fail they’ll say, “of course not our house is totally organic” or  “never!”. Interesting.

I don’t overwhelm clients with “No’s” and I purposely opened Little Book of Thin with Ten Steps to Svelte or 10 tips that are proactive. However, with certain foods firm rules are easier to follow and if you absolutely want to feel your best. Here are the foods you should absolutely break up with, and keep out of your home, in 2014 to start off on a much healthier path.

  1. No Soda:  Ok let’s get this one out of the way since I already mentioned it. You probably know it’s unhealthy but did you know soda (diet included) promotes weight gain, not loss? Diet soda drinkers have higher levels of abdominal fat too
  2. No Skim Dairy:  This one is perhaps a little more surprising. Skim milk doesn’t help you lose weight. One study with 20,000 women over 9 years found that those who increased skim dairy gained 10 percent. Those who increased whole milk consumption lost 9% on average. Fat in milk helps assimilate Vitamin D, which is crucial for our bones and also appetite control.
  3. No Fro Yo:  Fro yo on the surface seems great. Imagine a life where you can have dessert and lose weight until you realize you’re not losing weight. At most yogurt shops the portions are huge, the toppings too tempting and the ingredients? Read them and let me know what you think.
  4. No Bottled Salad Dressing:  I’m guessing you wouldn’t put two to three teaspoons of sugar on a salad not to mention salt. If you’re going to the trouble of getting or bringing a salad for your lunch make your own dressing with olive or walnut oil, apple cider vinegar, lemons or limes. We have a Thin-I-Gette dressing in LBT that uses miso, it’s really delicious.
  5. No Gum:  Gum makes you gassy. Gum contains multiple artificial sweeteners, preservatives and food dyes. Sweet begets sweet too and the more sweet (real or fake) you eat the more you crave. Plus, gum chewing doesn’t look nice.

If you’re rolling your eyes thinking “are we supposed to be perfect all the time”? Not at all. I’m not typing this while nibbling on arugula but I’m in favor of planning. A well-planned wholesome dessert here and there (ok once a week) will leave you so much better off than having these “No” items often or daily.  If something on this list makes a regular appearance, perhaps it’s time to break up. Just hum Tom Petty “I’ll probably feel a whole lot better when you’re gone.”

I wish you a healthy, happy and “thin” New Year.

Add Some Hamptonality to Your Holiday – Plus Win a Free Night at Hampton Hotels

exterior When you live in New York City everyone wants to visit you.  With the theater, museums, great restaurants, and all of the fantastic landmarks and sites – and amazing shopping of course – NYC is a fabulous place like no other.  Add in the holiday lights, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the Rockettes and all of the magic that makes NYC especially glittery at holiday time, and it’s easy to see why friends and family want to come and stay.  However, there is one other reality about living in NYC, the lack of space.  Stepping over aerobeds and no privacy aren’t exactly the makings of a great visit. I love the idea of putting up family at a reasonably priced hotel instead.  Hampton Hotels has launched a wonderful new Hampton Holiday Program where the central theme is making guests feel taken care of and providing a clean, warm place to call their own.  All of the 1,900 Hampton locations feature:

  • Free, hot breakfast with fresh-baked waffles. (This is ESSENTIAL when traveling with kids!)
  • Free wired or wireless high-speed internet access in all guest rooms, so you can post about your holiday travels while visiting family in other towns.
  • The clean and fresh Hampton bed® – so you can rest up for your big holiday weekends.

GuestRoom_HR[1] I always enjoy staying at the Hampton Inn in Maine when we visit our girls for camp visiting day.  We’ve always been impressed with the service, the breakfast and the clean rooms.  Plus, the free wifi is a must for me!  Now I know all of those little things add up to “Hamptonality.”  Also, I love earning Hilton Honors points! Here in NYC it’s nice to know that even if we can’t squeeze people into our apartment there are ways we can personalize their stay in a hotel.  Hampton has partnered with entertaining expert, Jenny Steffens Hobick, to provide simple tips for making out-of-towners feel at home – especially when they’re staying in a nearby hotel. I love these tips especially:

  • Plan a welcome bag with treats, water, (and my tip in NYC – a metrocard and a list of great NYC apps to download!)
  • Hire a babysitter one night and host the kids at your place so the grown-ups can have a kid-free night out together.
  • Make time for resting.  This is so important especially in NYC!  Set a time where everyone just meets to relax, have a hot drink and snacks and regroup.

Here in NYC the Hampton Inn Times Square North is ideally situated for walking to the theater, Central Park and midtown shopping.  Plus it’s close to every subway imaginable. Everyone could use some time away, whether it’s a quick trip or a longer vacation.  And it’s so nice when everyone has their own space too. So, I’m giving away a one night stay to use at any of the 1,900 US Hampton locations!

How to Enter the Hampton Be My Guest Giveaway:

Follow @beccasara on Twitter and tweet your “Hamptonality” tip.  What’s the thing you do to make your guests feel special?   Be sure to include @beccasara and #HamptonHoliday.  Then leave a comment below with a link to your tweet! You can also follow Hampton throughout the year for great travel ideas and promotions:

One winner will be chosen at random using random.org on December 31st  at 12:00pm Eastern.  Hampton Hotels will mail the winner a “Be My Guest” card, which entitles the bearer to (1) free night stay at a Hampton location.  Winner will be notified via twitter and must respond within 48 hours to claim the prize.  Open to U.S. Residents 18+ only. This is a sponsored post.  Compensation was provided by Hampton Hotel via MomTrends.  The opinions expressed herein are mine and are not indicative of the opinions of Hampton or Momtrends

 

Inside the KidzVuz Holiday House Party (Video)

photo credit: Josh Strauss Studios

photo credit: Josh Strauss Studios

100 mom and dad bloggers from all over the Northeast  - and their awesome kids, about 140 of them! – came ready to party with KidzVuz in NYC on November 24th, 2013.  We had amazing large sponsors like Homewood Suites by Hilton, Dermalogica, Samsung, Nintendo, Hasbro, Spinmaster and Audible.com along with smaller NY based brands we love like Downtown Bookworks, IScream NY,  Battery Pop, Green Mustache, Fairway Market and Chloe’s Soft Fruit.  Plus incredible non-profits like The Broadway League, ESRB and The Lamp NYC.

With hands-on activities throughout the room, and video stations where kids could talk about the fantastic products and sponsors that they really loved, the KidzVuz Holiday House Party kicked off the holiday season with joy, fun and plenty of candy to go around!

Watch the video and you’ll instantly see why KidzVuz is the only company that truly brings kids, families and awesome brands and experiences together in a really engaging and unique way!

Scary Santa (or Being Jewish on Christmas)

There are many aspects of Christmas that I envy as a Jewish girl.  Tree trimming,(and the fabulous ornament shopping and collecting), baking, decorating, just one morning of gifts instead of eight nights of pressure, and the amazing holiday songs (the best of which were written by Jews)

But Santa was never a source of envy for me.

A strange man manages to break into your home, even though your parents have assured you that could never happen. He eats your cookies and tries to win your favor by leaving toys.  (Don’t take toys from strangers, right?)

But weirdest of all is that your mom will stick you on the strange man’s lap and expect you to be happy about it.  If you’re Jewish it is especially strange to partake in this tradition.  Or, as you can see from this photo of me, and my screaming sister, terrifying.

scary santa

And don’t get me started on the Easter Bunny.

Martha Stewart proves that no one can talk sh*t about bloggers – except other bloggers

Martha Stewart at BlogHer 2012  photo credit: BlogHer

Martha Stewart at BlogHer 2012
photo credit: BlogHer

Yesterday a Bloomberg News video with Martha Stewart made the rounds on Facebook and ignited a frenzy of indignation from the women’s blogging world.   In the interview, Martha disparages bloggers by saying they are “not experts,” that they don’t fully test recipes, that many just repost other people’s work.  Here’s a sample of the conversation that exploded on Facebook yesterday. (Shown with permission from an expert in many things, Amy Oztan)

So, here’s the deal.

Martha is totally right.

And she didn’t say anything that bloggers haven’t said amongst ourselves every time we get together.  I had this conversation over and over again at BlogHer this year.

Are there amazing bloggers who are absolutely experts in their fields?  YES.

Are there bloggers that are full of it, steal other people’s work, put up anything any PR person sends them, are completely based on smoke and mirrors and everyone wonders why any brands work with them?  HELL YES.

Now aside from the fact that you can tell the Martha Stewart interview was edited down to just these perfect controversial sound bites – I’d love to see the context of Martha’s discussion of bloggers – there also has to be a reality check in the blogging world.  Not everything is cause for outrage.   And sometimes the very media outlet that puts out the video and calls it

Martha Stewart Speaks Out: Bloggers Are Not Experts

needs to be called out for playing this game in the first place.  This is 30 seconds out of who knows how many minutes of footage.  I’m guessing at least a half an hour.  And they got exactly the reaction they wanted – all of the bloggers making this video go viral.

Martha Stewart should know better than to ever say what she said, even just from a savvy PR point of view.  But, she is someone who truly knows the media landscape.  She knows that blogging and the content machine have changed the way people get and want their information.  As Cecily Kellogg points out over at Babble, Martha Stewart’s company has taken a major hit, as have all large publishing companies, as they try to evolve in the changing digital media world. But that doesn’t mean she’s wrong about how many bloggers operate – or large online platforms – Babble, Baby Center and even the New York Times have certainly had their share of plagiarism scandals.

So let’s take a step back and get real.  Martha Stewart certainly doesn’t need me to defend her, but we also don’t need to be piling on one of the most successful female entrepreneurs – someone who elevated the crafting, food, and style niches to begin with, and proved there was a business model there – just to make bloggers feel justified about what they do.

If you’re an expert, prove it by turning out great, original content, and hopefully you will be able to make a living doing what you love.  And I bet if Martha asked you to contribute to her Pinterest Boards you’d do it in a heartbeat – because nothing proves you’re an expert more than the seal of approval from an indisputable expert in your field.

Star Wars is for Girls

I saw Star Wars about 22 times the summer it came out when I was 5.  I wore my hair like Princess Leia before there was anything called Cosplay.   I’ve written about all of this before.  But last weekend I went with a young KidzVuz reporter (and her mom!) to New York Comic Con where she interviewed Ashley Eckstein of Her Universe.

Ashley is best known in the Sci-Fi world as the voice of Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series.   But she is also an awesome fangirl promoter and supporter who saw the need for girl fan merchandise and so she built Her Universe.

I first met Ashley at Disney Social Media Moms Conference – and immediately loved everything she was about.

I will let her tell you why she started Her Universe, and you can see some of the cool merchandise yourself!  But, if you have a fangirl in your life (or if you are one, since she’s got loads of grown up merch too) be sure to head over to HerUniverse.com and pick up something great.  Don’t be afraid to let that geek flag fly.