Wednesday, March 21, 2018

12 Reasons Not to Lament the ToysRUs Closings

Just Kidding Around Is a Wonderful Toy Store in Montclair, NJ
There really is no need to lament the closing of ToysRUs stores.  What did we shop there for anyway?  The toys advertised on TV that the kids and grandkids asked for.  Frankly it is much more efficient these days to do that online whether you go to Amazon, ToysRUs, Walmart or Target.  Do we still need and want toy stores? Of course!  But not for what was on the shelves at ToysRUs.  In recent year I have been at ToysRUs only occasionally – usually to shop with my grandson for something special.  They did have a large well stocked LEGO section – our usual destination -  which we could could spend a day and a fortune at.  But I always found the cavernous store fairly empty for its size and wondered about its viability.  Most of the toys were those seen on TV and easily ordered online.  Why would anyone make a physical trip here anyway.  The browsing seemed tedious rather than fun.

Toy stores can be fun and wondrous and full of toys that a child would like and you would like them to have.  And guess what – they do exist.  They may be 10% the size of an average ToysRUs but you probably are much more likely to walk out a happy customer.  There are independent toy stores all over the country, frequently on “Main Street, USA.” Not only in big cities. Hopefully they are about to be re-discovered.

Every year I see small companies at Toy Fair – and I write about them – with wonderful toys for kids that are available in independent toy stores but not at the large big box retailers.  I also see the retailers in serious discussions with these company representatives learning all they can about the products and deciding which ones will be attractive to their clientele.  You really can find wonderful toys in these small stores that never were in ToyRUs.  Check them out here are 12 reasons why.

An Independent Toy Store Near You May Offer:

·       Wonderful toys you would not otherwise know about if you didn’t visit

·       Free gift wrapping

·       Personalization – Free or small charge

·       Extensive educational toy lines

·       Toys designed for children with special needs

·       Book readings and signings

·       Craft events

·       Play areas

·       Well informed staff

·       Green toys

·       No checkout lines

·       No exhausted overstimulated kids by your side

Subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss my upcoming blog post on Great Products from Small and New Companies.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Easter Basket Ideas plus a Giveaway

I am a huge proponent of non-food treats on any holiday including holidays that emphasize candy as the treat of choice. So with Easter around the corner here are some ideas for Easter baskets.  Since Easter sort of ushers in Spring it is a good time to stock the Easter basket with items for Spring: Balls, Jacks (Yes Jacks!), chalk and of course, BUBBLES!!!!  If you want to include the best bubbles in the world – Bubbles by Little Kids Inc is it.  Little Kids Inc. is a world bubbles expert and they make quality bubble products.  Kids are more likely to make bubbles with each blow on the wand and their spill free containers are absolute winners.

Jelly Belly Bubbles
Perfect for an Easter Basket are the Scented Jelly Belly bubbles in Very Cherry, Grape Jelly and Green Apple scents. I am delighted to present this timely giveaway opportunity for two Jelly Belly bubble containers.  See details for giveaway entry at the end of the post.
If you are hosting a group with a bunch of kids you may also want to get a Jelly Belly eight pack at Amazon.  

Or perhaps one of these Paw Patrol bubble blowers - sure to be a hot with any pre-schooler.

Gund Peter Rabbit Collection
Spring plush rather than chocolate rabbits are also favorites.  Gund has a gorgeous Peter Rabbit collection and they are available at Amazon. Here are my pictures from Toy Fair of both the bean bag collection and the 9 inch plush. The collection includes Peter Rabbit, Flopsy Bunny, Benjamin Bunny and Jemima Puddle Duck.

Crayola Sidewalk Chalk – Eggs and Chicks

Crayola makes the perfect chalk for Easter baskets.  A set of six sticks of washable chalk – 3 are shaped like eggs and 3 are shaped like chicks. Also available at Amazon

What are your Easter basket non-food ideas?  Please share your ideas with us in the comments.

Giveaway Information
One winner will receive two Little Kids Jelly Belly Bubble containers.

It is easy to enter and there are two ways. Both ways count as an entry so you get two entries if you do both.  I need to be able to contact you if you win. If you enter -  email your email address to  I will not use your email address for anything except to notify you if you win.  Grandmother’s Honor.

Two ways to win:
Leave a comment here on the blog


Like The Grandma Chronicles facebook page - click here.

You can have two entries by doing both.  Deadline to enter: March 22, 2018 at midnight. This item can be sent to US addresses only.

Full Disclosure:  This review is my own objective opinion.  I did not get paid to write this review nor did I receive any samples.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Jurassic World and Even More Dinosaurs

I will be writing five – yes, five -  blog posts about Toy Fair NY 2018 and the categories will be:

   Jurassic World and Dinosaurs

·       Building, Educational and Character Themes

   My Favorite Dolls and Plush

   Games, Puzzles and Books

   Great Products from Small and New Companies

The Jurassic World theme is so big that it deserves its own category.  It seems like ALL of the big companies will have either Jurassic World or dinosaur theme toy releases to compliment the expected blockbuster movie. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will be released in June.  Grandparents – it is time to brush up on your dinosaur and Jurassic knowledge, it is going to come roaring in like the nor’easter storm that just ravaged us here in New Jersey.  

Besides Toy Fair, I attended a special Universal showcase at the Copacabana rooftop venue featuring everything Jurassic World so there are some “extras” in this preview.

Important Note:  The pictures are all my own from the displays I saw – no stock photos here – just the real thing.  Some of the items not out on the market yet, and so I can’t offer a link for purchase right now.  

Super Colossal Tyrannosaurus Rex by Mattel

Super Colossal Tyrannosaurus Rex by Mattel

This huge TRex is the star of Jurassic World and she was the star of the Universal show. At over 3 feet long she towered over the other toys on display – one might say rightfully so.  The demonstration of the articulated jaws, eating and then “passing” this human figure drew a crowd. Listed at $54.99 and is already available at Amazon.

Mattel Barbie and Ken

Jurassic World Power Wheels
How about powering up this beauty instead of a traditional Jeep.  Oh they have the Jurassic version of that too.

LEGO already had a popular Jurassic theme line and it will expand with 13 new construction sets associated with the movie across its lines.  Here are a couple that I have pictures of from Toy Fair.

Indoraptor Rampage at Lockwood Estate by LEGO

Indoraptor Rampage at Lockwood Estate by LEGO
This is a large Jurassic World theme set that is due out in April and features the Lockwood Estate and five minifigures.  Priced at $130, it is for older kids and adult LEGO fans.  Even with this price tag, I bet it sells out.

LEGO DUPLO T. rex Tower

Toddlers and their parents can build this set together, which features a T. rex with opening jaw, revolving lookout tower, car and an Owen LEGO® DUPLO® figure.

Jurassic World Tee Shirts by Freeze

The tee shirts are already stocked and more patterns are on the way.  Available on Amazon and at Forever 21.

Designer Dresses
I don't have the designer information about these dresses in my notes but take my word for it - they are probably not in your budget.  Certainly not in mine.

Universal Jurassic World Showcase at Copacabana Rooftop Venue

Even More Dinosaurs!!!!

Plush Dinosaurs by Gund

These soft, bright dinosaurs by GUND will let even the youngest family members join in the hottest theme of the year.

Playmobil Explorer Vehicle with Stegasaurus

This is not a Jurassic World set, but it is an excellent playmobil quality dinosaur playset.  In addition to the dinosaur it includes the explorer vehicle with a functioning winch and crane, a figure, pond, tree and accessories.

Well that is enough about Jurassic World and dinosaurs.  Not much is available just yet.  I will add links to Amazon as products become available

Sunday, March 4, 2018

COCO - Oscar and Golden Globe Best Animated Feature Winner

COCO, a Disney-Pixar production, is now available in DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital formats. This colorful, musical adventure encompasses both a multigenerational family theme and a Mexican cultural theme.
To sum up the critical acclaim for this movie it is the winner of the Golden Globe and Oscar awards (Just now!) for the Best Animated Feature of the Year.  My review copy is a multi-screen edition which includes all three formats plus over two hours of bonus material including deleted scenes, music, commentary and more.
On Saturday I was lucky enough to watch COCO with my young grandson.  I was a little concerned about the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) theme but it was absolutely no problem.  It was handled so well that even a small child enjoys and is in awe as the main character, Miguel is transported into a fantasy world of his ancestors. The story is rich with details of Mexican folklore, family traditions, music, art, celebrations, culture and more.  It is a heartfelt story as a young boy who wants to be a musician overcomes his parents’ and grandparents’ objections by finding his ancestor’s musical connections. 
This trailer will give you a taste of what to expect from the movie.

Update (11:10 pm on 3/4/18):  "Remember Me" from COCO just named Best Original Song at the Oscars.  Great  - but not surprised.

Like many Disney-Pixar productions this thrilling adventure of a film will be enjoyed by adults as well of the children.  Buy  the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital format edition at Amazon now by clicking on the image below.  It is also available in 4K Ultra HD.

Note: The Amazon image says Blu-ray but when you click on it you will see that it has all 3 formats - DVD and Digital plus Blu-ray.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Woody Woodpecker Movie Review

I was expecting this movie to be a cartoon, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it features real human characters and an ever present animated Woody Woodpecker.  Woody is in constant motion with crazy, outlandish antics causing trouble and avoiding two guys who are paid to get rid of him.  The movie centers around a high powered lawyer, his young girlfriend and his son.  They leave Seattle for a beautiful forest/lake view piece of property that he inherits from his grandfather and originally intends to build a Mcmansion and flip it. Woody does everything possible to sabotage this plan. As the summer progresses, the son who had a very poor relationship with his Dad, joins a local band, befriends Woody and ultimately tries to save Woody.  All ends well of course as the basic plot includes that the son reconciles with his Dad, the young girlfriend takes off, a smaller house is built and they make peace with Woody. 

The movie is good family fare.  I think it is an appropriate movie for ages 6 and up.  It will probably be enjoyed most by the 6 – 14 year old set.  There is two much fast action mischief for very young children and the storyline is too predictable for older kids.  Adult fans of Woody Woodpecker may also enjoy this movie.  Woody has the same classic trademark laugh and his quick outrageous antics provide lots of laughs if you can get past the destruction he piles up in seconds.
The DVD and Digital copy that I have includes several bonus features including:
  • Guess Who? The Evolution of Woody
  • The Making of Woody Woodpecker
  • Working with Woody
Several versions of the movie are available.  This review is my honest opinion and I was not paid for this review. I received a copy for review that included the DVD and Digital versions.  It can be purchased at Amazon by clicking the icon below.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Welcome Little One - A Keepsake Baby Book and a Giveaway

Update 2/23/18:  The Giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.  If you are interested in purchasing this keepsake book you can click on the Amazon link at the end of this post.

The Welcome Little One Keepsake Baby Book by Kristin Baird Rattini published by National Geographic is exquisite.  It is unlike the bland keepsake books that are most common.  It is unique modern....captivating.  As you would expect from a National Geographic publication, it features striking pictures of baby animals throughout the book.  

Some of my favorite parent and baby animal pictures….

In addition to pages to record every month's activities of the first year there are these wonderful pages to record other information.  Here a couple of my favorites:
All about Grandparents - Of course one of my favorites

Bedtime - Such an Important Time of Day

The pages with quotes by famous people compliment the story of a child’s first year as you record them.  Here are two of my favorite quote pages:

The journal is very thorough and includes pages for celebrations, monthly milestones and pleasures, bathtime, bedtime, first haircut, first tooth, first foods and more.  It doesn’t end when the baby reaches one year old.  Near the end of the book there is a place to add a picture each year until twelfth grade.

At the back of the book are these stickers to use when taking monthly pictures.  Plus there are a bunch of extra stickers for events like first bath, first haircut, first road trip and more.  My favorites are the I love (heart) grandma and I love grandpa stickers.  And there are two sets of them!  These stickers are especially nice to use when posting pictures on social media so it is clear what the milestone is that you are commemorating.

Every family should have a first year keepsake book and the Welcome Little One by National Geographic is by far the most beautiful one I have seen.  This is a perfect baby shower or new baby gift. 
And you are one of the first to know about it.  It is published on February 6th – tomorrow – but it is available on Amazon today for ordering.

Giveaway Information

One lucky winner will receive a Welcome Little One Keepsake Book.
It is easy to enter and there are two ways. Both ways count as an entry so you get two entries if you do both.  I need to be able to contact you if you win. If you enter -  email me with your email address at  I will not use your email address for anything except to notify you if you win.  Grandmother’s Honor.
Two ways to win:
Leave a comment here on the blog
Like The Grandma Chronicles facebook page - click here
You can have two entries by doing both.  Deadline to enter: February 22, 2018 at midnight. This item can be sent to US addresses only.
Full Disclosure:  This review is my own objective opinion.  I did not get paid to write this review.  I did receive a copy of the book in order to complete the review.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Grandma Goes to Barbados!!!

Last week I had the best Winter break ever.  I went to Barbados on vacation and had a wonderful time.  When we lead busy lives including caring for children and grandchildren it is important to remember to take the time for self care.  This can be difficult or near impossible for Moms, but Grandmas……no excuses.  As we get older it is even more important to take some time outs and just relax.  And I did just that!

Here are some photos from my January vacation in Barbados where the weather was in the low 80s everyday versus the below freezing we had for most of January in New Jersey.  I hope these encourage you to start planning some time off.

I stayed at two different places in the same week.  First I was at a serene small inn with only 9 rooms.  Their guests are mostly British and Canadian and there is a genteel feel about the place with breakfast on the veranda, a peaceful pool and a short block walk to the beach.  Each morning, the famous local green monkeys saunter past in the garden as you have breakfast. No TVs on the premises - it is a good place to have a respite from the news.

If are looking for a serene, quiet place for a vacation, check out Bayfield House in Barbados.
Relaxing at the Beach 

Dining out locally near Bayfield House....

Barbados is a safe island to travel around and has lots of excellent restaurants.  Dining near Bayfield House - oceanfront at sunset was my favorite time of day. Here I am holding a Rum Punch at Bombas in Mullins and sitting at Jumas in Speightstown.

I finished the week at the Tropical Sunset "self catering" hotel in Holetown.  This place is situated between two beach bars and in fact one of them extends in front of the pool.  After the pool take a few steps to the beach and sunbeds are available right there.  There is a galley kitchen, nice size room with cable TV and patio overlooking the ocean.  This is a very social environment with mostly a retired crowd many of whom are here for 3 - 8 weeks in the winter. 

Here I am getting ready for the social life at the Tropical Sunset....

Every kind of boating opportunity is available including jet skis, glass bottom boats, sailboats, etc. Swim with the turtles, snorkel and more.  All just steps from my room.

Every morning there is horseback riding at the water's edge....

Eating out  - and outside  - in Holetown is a delight whether it is breakfast at Flindt Patisserie, lunch at Carizma or dinner at Nishi.

But my favorite time of day is sunset and sunset watching over the ocean is a favorite activity of locals and visitors alike.  Whether it was on the beach, at a restaurant, at a beach bar or on my patio in Holetown I was there for sunset watching everyday of my vacation.  Here are just a few photos to whet your appetite.

And in conclusion...this Grandma had a wonderful vacation and I wish you many happy vacations too.  Good for the body and good for the soul.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

My Three Guiding Words for 2018 - Love, Resilience and Action

Rather than New Year’s resolutions, I recommend this plan:  Choose three words that have personal meaning to you that you will use as guideposts for 2018.  No, I didn’t come up with that idea – Chris Brogan did.  Chris is a major social media guru and I first learned of this idea several years ago as it is a big thing among my nonprofit online community.  You can read his whole article on this subject here.

Chris further explains:  “Make the words such that they influence your choice of actions, encourage you to decide in favor of your goals, and guide you towards lasting results that you want to experience throughout the year.

That all sounds oriented to people in the prime of their careers but it works for us retired Grandmas too.  I like the idea of having a guiding focus for the year much better than making resolutions that are not going to happen.

Here are my three words for 2018.

Love, resilience, action. Let me explain what each means to me.

Still crazy in love after all these years

I am 69 years old and have been married to my husband for over 47 years. We raised two children who have blessed us with three grandchildren. I know what love means.  I am incredibly lucky to have my children live nearby and this means I get to see my grandchildren often and be part of their lives.  This year, I want to consciously make sure I always cherish this privilege, try to always be there when needed and be receptive to the love that is offered to me.  As a strong willed, independent spirited person these are not idle goals.

There is truth in the adage “It isn’t easy getting old.”  My mind still wants to multitask but my brain says forget it.  My mind wants to do the things I did 30 years ago, but my body does not cooperate.  Adapting to change – not only in the world but also in my own capabilities – is important.  That doesn’t mean giving up but it does mean being willing to make adjustments.  Webster’s definition of resilience is: “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”  Here is a small example of something we have done in the last several years.  We have hosted a New Year’s Eve party for close to 40 years.  A few years ago we changed the time of the party to 6 to 10 PM.  Turned out everyone liked that idea.  Since then, every year I have modified the food I prepare to be a little more simple and guess what -  that is just fine.  I am not giving up entertaining but I will definitely be open to help and modifying plans.  In 2018 I plan to apply this to other activities – rather than give up things, what adjustments can I make to still do the things I want to do.  For instance, I still plan to go into New York to toy shows for material for this blog but perhaps I don't have to be at the Javitz Center at 8 AM for the early morning special events by host companies at Toy Fair.  Well...maybe...if the weather cooperates....

At Turtle Back Zoo for Light Show in the frigid cold with my grandson
My grandson with his Mom doing more of the work baking Christmas cookies this year
Opening Parade for Toy Fair 2017 - 8:30 AM at Javitz Center

This builds on resilience.  As I get older I realize that the clock is ticking on my being able to do things that I want to do and/or haven’t done yet.  Don’t delay!  This doesn’t just mean taking those trips that I thought about but didn’t take or doing wild things on a bucket list.  It means doing things with my grandchildren that I can but may be a stretch.  It means being activist about issues that are important to me.  It means volunteering to do things that require physical energy.  I am determined to not tell myself to slow down too much while at the same time being cognizant of what makes sense.

On mentoring trip with my high school - at Lincoln Center, NYC on a very cold day
I hope to do all of these activities in 2018 and more.  But also I want to be smart enough to make adjustments if necessary.

So these are my three guiding words for 2018 - Love, Resilience and Action.  I recommend this activity. Chris Brogan says to  “Write these words down. Post them everywhere. Schedule them to pop up in your calendar. And use these words as part of your decision-making process every day.”  Well that may be more than I do, but I do plan to have them pop up once a month in my calendar.

What do you think of this idea?  What are your words for 2018?