Archive for the ‘ GoodyBlog ’ Category

Evangeline Lilly’s New Children’s Book and the Need for Some Darkness in Kid Lit

Monday, October 27th, 2014

You might know her as Tauriel the eflin warrior from The Hobbit trilogy, or as Kate Austen from Lost, but actress Evangeline Lilly may soon be known best for her writing skills. Her new children’s book series The Squickerwonkers hits shelves November 18 and it’s different from any kid’s story we’ve seen. Parents caught up with mom to 3-year-old Kahekili about her creepy new children’s book, upcoming Halloween plans, how she cultivates creativity in her son, and why she thinks we all can use a bit of Squickerwonker spookiness in our lives.

P: You first wrote a version of  The Squickerwonkers when you were a teenager. Tell us about the evolution of this story. 

EL: I read it to my mom when I was a teenager and she was like “Sweetheart, you really should try to publish that.” As a 14-year-old girl not only did I have no idea how to publish a book, I also was used to my mom thinking everything I did was incredible even if it wasn’t because she’s my mom and she loves me. Twenty years later I was working on The Hobbit in New Zealand with Peter Jackson and I went into the Weta Workshop—which is the creative arm of his where they create his armor and all these other things—and there was so much creativity going on in that place. I was like “I want to create something of my own, too.” I want to start this [book]. For about five years, I’d been really seriously intending to start a writing career. That was my dream. I had all these incredible people and artists and resources all around me, so I ended up connecting with Johnny Fraser-Allen at the Workshop and he came on board to work on The Squickerwonkers.

P: His illustrations are so fabulous. They compliment your characters so well.

EL: I can’t say the story is completely independent of him and he can’t say the illustrations are really independent of me. We really collaborated. I knew the Squickerwonkers were what I would call human but not human. Johnny came on board and he had this idea that they should be marionette puppets on this traveling wagon. And I gasped, “Oh my gosh that’s exactly it.”

P: Part of your intention with this book is to purposefully put something out there for children that is a little darker and creepier. 

EL: I do think that there is beauty and value and meaning in having very uplifting, sweet, innocent stories for children. But I’m a great believer in balance and I think that everybody, children and adults alike, needs balance in their life. The good and the evil, the right and the wrong, the truth and the idealism. That’s important to me. I look around me and I see a lot of young people who are very entitled and who are very confused when life isn’t perfect. I think that often comes from some of the messaging we receive as children from our stories, but that’s really not life and especially not on the playground.

The Squickerwonkers is really a playground drama. How many times do mischievous little kids do something mean or unfair to a kid that’s just minding his own business or being perfectly kind? How does a child learn how to deal with those situations? How do they learn to deal with the side of life that maybe isn’t as pretty, but is very real and prevalent? And then very importantly for me: How does a child makes sense of “the devil within themselves?” Or when they do something and they know it’s wrong but for some reason can’t stop, how do they accept and love themselves with the good and the ugly? That’s important to teach children also. That nobody’s perfect. Mom and dad aren’t perfect. You’re not perfect.

P: You’ve said previously that acting is your day job and you said earlier that writing was your dream. Is this a transition period for your career? 

EL: I’ve always been an opportunist. Lost and starting acting…that was really just opportunism. I didn’t want to be an actress, but I saw this opportunity. I think I will always live to a certain degree that way. I will probably always take an acting job if it comes about in a way that feels like it was meant to be or if it’s a great idea, but really my focus is to transition to writing. It’s truly a dream come true for me.

P: How does being a mom affect how you pick your projects? Were you drawn to write a children’s book because you have a child?

EL: I started writing The Squickerwonkers immediately after he was born, so maybe? Nowhere inside of me was I consciously writing for my children. I can say that is one of the reasons why I took the first film job I did after LostReal Steel with Hugh Jackman. I remember distinctly thinking “You know, I’m gonna have kids one day—and hopefully one day soon—and this is a movie I would really love my children to watch.” It’s the kind of entertainment and the kind of film that I believe instills beautiful, incredible values in kids—to stand up against adversity, that if you’re the underdog you can make it in the world. What’s interesting is I’ve sort of continued on in that thread. The Hobbit is great family entertainment. Ant-Man will be great family entertainment.The Squickerwonkers is for the whole family. I think that’s the kid in me coming out. I never really grew up.

P: Your book takes place in this spooky alternate puppet world. The Hobbit is a fantasy. Even Lost was sci-fi. So you seem to be attracted to fantasy and imagination. Do you find that your son is imaginative?

EL: He’s learning it. It’s fascinating to me as a mother to realize that imagination is not innate. You have to teach it. I was a very imaginative little girl. I always assumed that was innate and that every child is born with a massive imagination that takes them to all different wonderful worlds. As a mother I’m learning Oh! You actually have to teach children about what it means to play imaginary worlds and invent imaginary characters. My son is 3-and-a-half and he’s starting to blossom into the little boy who has an imagination. It’s heaven to watch.

P: What do you do to encourage his imagination

EL: I play with him. And it’s funny because I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that parents need to play with their kids. In my generation, nobody’s parents played with us. Nobody. There’s a pressure nowadays to play with our children and I think it’s unnecessary, but I can’t help myself. I want him to have the gift and the joy of an imaginary world the way I did. Maybe not to the extent that I did. I had more imaginary friends than real-life friends. He’s a much more grounded little man. He’s a very practical, responsible, grounded little person. Very unlike his mother.

P: Is he more like his dad?

EL: A little more like his dad and, honestly, just his own person. I sort of go Where did this come from? He just sort of came out that way. He’s a little Taurus. He’s a little bull so I wonder if that has anything to do with it.

Horoscope for a Taurus Baby
Horoscope for a Taurus Baby
Horoscope for a Taurus Baby

P: Speaking of all things spooky and creative and playful, Halloween is coming up. Do you do anything special? 

EL: Now that I have a child and my partner’s kind of into it, he makes sure the three of us have costumes. As we speak I’m at a consignment store, we just finished finding his costume this year. He picked it out himself.

P: What will he be?

EL: He’s gonna be a Depression-era child. [Cracking up] We were thinking of maybe a minion or something because he loves the minions from Despicable Me, but he picked out this crazy concoction of old used clothing. He put it all on and he LOVED it. He just looks like a little street kid from the 1930s.

Find your child’s Halloween costume at Shop Parents.

P: What is your favorite part about being a mom to Kahekili?

EL: Discovering the human being that is within him. I feel like parenting is such a wonderful unearthing. It’s like archaeology. It’s all in there already and it’s just a matter of what you uncover and what you dig up. You get to meet this human being and you go “Oh my gosh, that’s who you are. You’re your own person.” It’s so much fun.

Photographs: Evangeline Lilly / Sarah Dunn, courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Shakira on Motherhood: “I’m Nailing at Least Part of the Job.”

Monday, October 27th, 2014

* Interview by Patty Adams Martinez

Today Shakira, superstar singer and mom to 21-month-old Milan (and with a baby on the way!), announced her partnership with Fisher-Price, driving the design of a new line of baby gear and toys sold on Amazon.com. Look for our exclusive interview with her in the December issue of Parents magazine, and in the meantime, here’s a bit of what she shared with us!

Q: You wanted to join forces with Fisher-Price after Milan loved the Kick & Play Piano Gym. Why do you think Milan was so captivated by it? How much of an influence was Milan in the new toys you are helping to launch?
I think the toy stimulated him on various levels—his kicking led to a concrete response from the toy, which really allowed him to understand cause and effect and how he himself could participate, while the toys overhead provided visual stimulation. Watching him play and learn was a huge eye-opener and of course, had a great influence when we were designing the new toys.

Q: Music is obviously a huge part of your life. What are Milan’s favorite songs?
I’ve played him a bit of everything, from nursery rhymes to Green Day to Frank Sinatra. If he’s anything like his mother, he will have very eclectic tastes in music.

Q: Which is Milan picking up faster: Spanish or English?
I think I would have to say, if pressed to choose, that Spanish is his first language since I am the person he most spends time with and it’s my first language. He has an equal understanding of English, Spanish, and Catalan [which Milan’s dad, Gerard Piqué, speaks]. It’s quite astounding, really. But his first words, “mama” and “papa,” could work in any of the languages, so I’m really curious to see how his language skills develop in all three as he begins to form sentences and more complex thoughts.

Q: What do you consider your biggest mommy win?
I’d say the fact that Milan trusts me more than anyone is a win. I always explain everything to him, give him reasons for everything we do or don’t do, and always tell him the truth. I can see how it makes him feel safe with me, which makes me feel that I’m nailing at least part of the job.

Q: And your biggest mommy fail?
Getting my son to eat! He no longer eats pumpkin and certain fruits he used to love as a baby, and I don’t understand why!

Q: You’ve long been a proponent of early childhood education. Why is it so important to you, and how has it become even more important to you now that you have Milan?
It’s so important to me because of its importance in changing a person’s course in life really cannot be understated. Lots of people are born into less than ideal situations on a socioeconomic level. But those who have access to education gain the tools that help them to overcome their circumstances and become the chief of their own destiny. The return on investment for early education is limitless, because children’s potential is limitless. And after becoming a mother, I now realize how important it is to instill that knowledge not only in the children themselves but in their parents, because even before our kids enter school, we are their primary educators, and the more we stimulate them and interact with them, the more prepared they will be when they go off to school, and the more likely their chance of success later on in life.

Here, teachers explain to Parents why music is so important to kids.

The Importance of Music
The Importance of Music
The Importance of Music

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Recipe: Easy Halloween Spider Cookies

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Smart Cookie: Transform Store-Bought Cookies Into Amazing TreatsI confess that while I love to cook and bake I’m not the craftiest of moms. But somehow when Halloween rolls around I’m inspired to create spooky creatures out of cookies, marshmallows, candy, and chocolate. I still want it to be easy, though, since my crafting skills (and patience) leave a lot to be desired.

I suspect Christi Farr Johnstone had moms like me in mind when she wrote her new book Smart Cookie: Transform Store-Bought Cookies Into Amazing Treats. All of her goodies look amazing, but seem completely doable thanks to the fact that we’re starting with store-bought components. And, while I’m a bake-from-scratch kind of girl most of the year, on holidays I can get into the store-bought fun of it all especially when the result will be something that delights my daughter.

Smart Cookie Christi Farr Johnstone
Christi kindly shared the recipe for one of Smart Cookie’s signature Halloween goodies. With only four ingredients and an active time of mere minutes these are my kind of treat.


 

 

Along Came a Spider

Ingredients

Black licorice laces (about 16 feet long)
12 chocolate sandwich cookies
1 cup white candy coating
24 candy eyeballs

Directions

  1. Smart Cookie Christi Farr JohnstoneCut the licorice into 48 strips, each approximately 4 inches in length.
  2. Gently twist open the chocolate sandwich cookies.
  3. Place four licorice strips onto the side of the sandwich cookie with the filling, and press gently into the filling.
  4. Prepare the candy coating according to package directions. Working one cookie at a time, spoon approximately 1 to 2 teaspoons of the candy coating on top of the licorice strips and cookie filling. Place the top back on the sandwich cookie.
  5. With a spoon, place a small amount of candy coating on top of the sandwich cookies where the spider eyes will be placed. Immediately place two candy eyeballs onto the candy coating. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Allow to dry for at least 2 hours.

Makes 12 cookies

Reprinted with permission from Smart Cookie © 2014 Christi Farr Johnstone, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group

Get more recipes for fun Halloween treats.

Mini Monster Cupcakes
Mini Monster Cupcakes
Mini Monster Cupcakes

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Real Glam Moms: Words About Waverly

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Ashley Brickner and her family

Here’s the newest installment of a brand new series from the Parents beauty department about mommy bloggers. Each installment will feature what beauty means to real moms no matter what their beauty routine is like—and how they take time to themselves after having children. 

For one Real Glam Mom, her blog is like an online scrapbook for her child. Ashley Brickner, created Words About Waverly for her 2-year-old daughter Waverly Maye to look back on one day “to see what her childhood was like and the fun things [they] did.” With a fashion marketing teacher as a mom, Waverly has had quite a chicly dressed childhood. I even envy some of her outfits! This week, we caught up with Ashley to learn more about how she keeps Waverly busy when she’s doing her makeup and her favorite hair products.

What is your beauty routine like? 

I do the Proactiv three-step routine each morning and evening—either as soon as I wake up or right before I go to sleep. I find that I see a change in my skin immediately if I miss a couple days or if I forget to take off my makeup.  Makeup is the quickest part of my routine. I take about 10 minutes in the morning and use mostly MAC products. My hair is long and thick, so it definitely takes the longest. I dry my hair at night and curl it in the mornings using a wand to create textured waves.

How has your beauty routines changed since you had Waverly? 

Definitely the time. I have way less time to focus on getting myself ready these days.  I find that breaking up my routine—drying my hair at night, curling it in the morning—helps to get it done. Also, I try to distract my daughter BEFORE I begin by pulling out her books or giving her an assortment of her “own” makeup, which is really just all my old packages that I have already used.

The importance of taking time to yourself is… HUGE.  This is my biggest challenge as a mom—especially a working mom. I have a complete type-A personality and have always found it hard to relax. Yet ultimately, I am a better mother when I take the time for myself as I am rejuvenated to really focus on my daughter when I am with her.

The best beauty advice I’ve ever received is… to take care of my skin—especially as I get older.  I have fair skin, and when in the sun, I always wear sunscreen and stay away from tanning beds. I also aim to follow my skin care routine each day. It can be a pain, but I know how important it is!

Do you have any beauty advice for moms? 

Don’t lose your sense of style or feeling good about yourself. I still take pride in my appearance—most days!—because I feel I do better and am more motivated when I look my best.

Has your daughter ever commented on your makeup or beauty routine? 

YES!  She becomes more interested in it all the time, which makes me very happy! She loves to brush her hair, watch me put on makeup, and imitate what I do. I love buying her accessories and her own “makeup” tools to play with.

WORDS ABOUT WAVERLY’S FIVE FAVES

1.   Proactive+: It has always worked for me since high school, and I see a difference in my skin when I don’t use it.

2.    MAC Prep + Prime: I use this before I put on my foundation, and it is SUCH a difference maker, makes my skin soft, and the foundation go on more smoothly.

3.    Target Makeup Remover Wipes: Great for getting off all your makeup and making your skin feel clean and refreshed.

4.   Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Shampoo & Conditioner: Cheap and effective! I have never found it worthwhile to spend a lot of money of shampoo and conditioner.

5.     Essie nail polish in Chinchilly: Essie is my favorite brand of nail polish. As a mom, I don’t have the time for manicures anymore, so this is the next best thing!

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Our Favorite Halloween Treats

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Roll up your little ones’ sleeves because we’ve rounded up some of our favorite make-at-home treats that are spooky and scrumptious.

Brand Castle Crispy Rice Pumpkin Kit 

Brand Castle Crispy Rice Pumpkin Kit Brand Castle Crispy Rice Pumpkin Kit

Make your pumpkin and eat it too! It only took us 35 minutes from set up to clean up to create six individual treats, and kids will love decorating their pumpkins with the green and black icing provided in the kit.

Available for purchase in-store only at Walmart and select Christmas Tree Shops.

 

 

Crypt Keeper Crescents

Crypt Keeper Crescents

This delicious recipe is no longer under wraps. All you need is Nutella, bananas and Pillsbury Crescent dough to make this sweet twist on pigs in a blanket.

Get the recipe via Our Best Bites.

Photo courtesy of Pillsbury.com.

 

 

 

Harry & David Caramel Apple Kit

Harry & David Halloween Caramel Apple KitA splurge item at $34.95, this is a DIY-kit that’s just as much fun to look at as it is to make. Locked inside magical-looking spellbook box are fresh, in-season apples from the Pacific Northwest, ready-to-melt caramels and also cashews and mini chocolate candies that your little ones can use to make their treat one of a kind.

Order your kit online here.

 

 

Chex Mix Recipes: Deviled Chex Mix and Iced Pumpkin Chex Mix

Halloween Produce Roundup - Deviled Chex Party MixHalloween Produce Roundup - Iced Pumpkin Chex Mix RecipeOne is sweet and the other is salty. Offer kids the Deviled mix – just in case they get tired of devouring all of that sugary candy. And satisfy sweet teeth even more with the Iced Pumpkin, which includes real pumpkin to get an authentic flavor.

Get the Deviled recipe here and the Iced Pumpkin one here, via Chex.com.

 

Haunted Cookie Cups

Haunted Cookie Cups

When you use Nestlé’s premade cookie dough this treat is a snap to make – just bake and decorate. Warning: These little ghosts may just fly off your countertops!  

Try out this recipe below:

Ingredients

  • 1 package (16.5 oz.) Nestlé Toll House Refrigerated Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar Dough
  • 1 container (8 oz.) frozen light whipped topping
  • 1 gallon-size plastic food storage bag
  • 48 (about 1 teaspoon) Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels
  • 24 (about 1 tablespoon) Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 24 mini-muffin cups. Place one square of cookie dough into each cup.
  2. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. With tip of butter knife, remove cookie cups from muffin pan. Arrange on serving platter.
  3. Fill plastic bag with whipped topping; seal. Cut ½-inch from corner of bag. Squeeze bag lightly to pipe whipped topping on top of cookie cup to form ghost shape. Position two mini morsels as eyes and one regular size morsel as a mouth on each ghost. Serve immediately or store refrigerated for up to 2 hours.

Make Ahead Tip: Cookie bases can be made ahead and stored covered at room temperature.

(Recipe courtesy of Nestlé’s VeryBestBaking.com)

Can’t get enough? Try out some of our Wicked Good Halloween Treats here. 

Daddy Longlegs Cupcake
Daddy Longlegs Cupcake
Daddy Longlegs Cupcake

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“I’m in Better Shape Now Than When I Was 25″: How Weekend TODAY’s Erica Hill Trains for a Marathon

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

We got to squeeze in a quick chat with Erica Hill, who between being a weekend TODAY anchor and mom of two boys, is training for the New York City Marathon on November 2nd, with a very dear person in mind. Go, Erica!

You’ve run two marathons but this is your first time running New York—and your first marathon after having kids. How would you compare where you are now, fitness-wise, to where you were pre-kids? 

I’m 38 and I’m in better shape now than when I was 25. I think it’s because I have to be more committed than I was in my freewheeling twenties. I have to not just consider my schedule, but also my kids’, my husband’s, and work’s. Like any parent, for me it’s not just about “you” anymore. Being a mom has forced me to be more focused, and exercise has become more purposeful: Running for me has become my therapy. I feel like it gives me a break. I’m a more patient parent when I’ve had time to run.

How do you make time to train?

When I wanted to do the marathon, I told my husband and he said, “Absolutely. I support you.” I needed his support, and my sons’, because training is a huge time commitment. Mondays and Tuesdays are my weekends, and I do my longest training run of the week then. [Erica's last training run was over 20 miles.] I get up at 4:45 a.m. and I start that long run in the dark, but then what’s nice is I get home in time to bring my boys to school. 

Have you always been a runner?

When I was in high school I ran, but I didn’t really consider myself a runner until the past six months or so.

But you’ve completed two marathons!

I have run two, but not well! It always seemed everyone else knew what they were doing. I’d say I’ve become more of a runner since joining a group a friend of mine, Nicole Burke, started in support of another friend of ours, Liz Shuman, who has cystic fibrosis (CF), OutRUN38. It has a Facebook page and members can log their running miles–or walking or biking or swimming miles—to help raise awareness for CF. And once you’ve logged onto this great group with all this community support you’ve made a decision: I am a runner. It’s a mindset: I’m going to be good at this, I’m doing this for my family, and I’m sending a good message to my kids of being healthy.

What do you love about running?

No matter where I am, I run. When I travel, I love to run because I think it’s a great way to see a city. With my friends it’s a social thing—we talk and we solve the world’s problems on our runs. When my older son was old enough to get in the jogging stroller, I could have him go with me. We would have fun chatting and then he’d fall asleep and I got in anywhere from three to six miles while he napped. What I love about running is that all you need to do to get ready is to put on your shoes and go.

We hear you’re running for a special cause?

Yes, I’m running with Fred’s Team [Memorial Sloan Kettering’s athletic fundraising team] in honor of and in memory of my dad.

What are you looking forward to most about the NYC marathon?

I’m kind of emotional about it. I’ve heard there are lengths of this course where there are just thousands of spectators cheering the runners on, so part of me feels like I’m going to be carried on this incredible wave of love and support. My mom, my dad’s sister, and a lot of friends are coming in to cheer me on. I’m just looking forward to seeing my husband, my sons, and my mom at the finish and knowing I’ve done it. Once I get that medal, I don’t think I’m going to want to take it off!

 

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Josh Duhamel Talks Fatherhood and Giving Back

Monday, October 20th, 2014

For Josh Duhamel, it all comes back to being a parent. Whether it’s getting involved with Unilever’s child hunger campaign, Project Sunlight, or raising his son Axl with wife, Fergie being a dad has affected his perspective. Here at Parents.com we recently had the chance to chat with him about everything he has going on these days.

“It’s really about making a brighter future for children,” he shared about his work with Unilever. “And that never meant more than it does now to me because you just see things differently as a parent.”

But between that and his new movie and TV roles, you might be wondering how he has time for it all – don’t worry, we are too!

“Pretty much everything revolves around scheduling time to be with the fam,” he said.

To get the full scoop on some of his new projects and what he thinks of raising a toddler, watch the whole interview here:

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The Five Most Popular Halloween Looks For Kids This Season

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

For every obscure Halloween costume that you spot, there will be dozens of witches and pumpkins—and this year, Elsas—ringing your doorbell. We asked Chasing Fireflies for the most popular costume trends this season, and here are their top five:

1. Frozen Can’t let go (ha!) of the popular movie? Dress your little Elsa, Anna, or Olaf in one of these costumes! Oh, and here’s more Elsa. And more Elsa. And, not kidding, even adult Elsa.
2. Ninjas and warriors, for girls and boys Both genders will get a kick out of these elaborate getups–whether they’re scary, glittery, silky, or studded.
3. Glamour and movie stars She’ll be ready for a walk down the red carpet when she dons a glam dress. Her toughest decision will be choosing between silver and pink!
4. Food Trick-or-treat! These candy-themed fairy and princess looks are certainly appropriate for the occasion. And this all reminds us of our own Parents candy rapper costumes!
5. Baby animals These pig and chick costumes are too cute. Plus, check out our ideas for homemade costumes!

Get in the spirit! Your child will enjoy this paper pumpkin craft:

Halloween Kid Craft Paper Pumpkins
Halloween Kid Craft Paper Pumpkins
Halloween Kid Craft Paper Pumpkins

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