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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Who Doesn’t Love a Cuddle Up Storytime?


Sorry folks – it’s been busy out there on the road – but busy is a good thing.  And I do love how retailers have needed to stock up in January because Christmas finally hit in December.

There are so many new things in 2012 which I am excited to see at New York’s Toy Fair in a couple of weeks.  Until then, spending some weekend time cuddling with good books.  And if you have a little guy, Zoobies has come out with my favorite of the Storytime Pals – Llama Llama Red Pajama – perfect for a winter cuddle up and story.  (If you click the link to see them, it won’t show Llama Llama for a couple of more weeks when he is ready to ship) For those who don’t know the Llama Llama by Anne Dewdney, this is a super fun picture series that meets all of my criteria – fun read aloud for both child and parent, character with kick, and very charming illustrations.  Illustrations of the main character that actually translate well into a soft plush character that can serve as toy, a pillow, and unzips to reveal a sweet patchwork blanket.  For retailers, pairing this with some of the books from the series (also see Zoobie’s Olivia, Goodnight Moon Bunny, and Very Hungry Caterpillar to name a few) makes for a very strong gift area in your store.  For consumers, check with your favorite local gift store to see who is carrying it.  I know Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book will have them in towards the end of February!

Stay warm!



Always Looking for the Joy!

About six months ago, I wrote a post about loving to provide kids with the opportunity to make a difference through their own efforts.  The post featured my daughter’s participation in Relay for Life.  And it was at the Costa Mesa’s 2011 Relay for Life that we saw Jessica Joy Rees for the first time.  Jessica (Jessie) had recently been diagnosed with brain cancer.  She was the same age as the girls I had with me.

Several months after that, my Facebook friend and one of the Costa Mesa Relay’s organizers, Robin, posted a link to Jessie’s own page where she was quickly gaining fans to help spread her message of NEGU – Never Ever Give Up.  As an advocate of kids making a difference, I fanned her page and was rewarded on a daily basis with updates about her condition, support she received from her friends and her family.  And about how with two brain tumors and chemo, this kid was out to make a difference in the 50,000+ lives of the pediatric cancer patients in this country.  She and her parents had started the NEGU Foundation (Never Ever Give Up) in an effort to raise money for Jessie’s Joy Jars.  These Joy Jars come with a NEGU t-shirt and can be filled with all sorts of goodies – things to do at the hospital.  Things that let these kids know that someone cares.

Jessie’s amazing vision and her dedication inspired numerous people locally and worldwide.  Fans to her page span the globe.  Eva Longoria spent an afternoon with Jessie, filling Joy Jars.  Local news featured her story and linked to her page.  John Tesh signed on to do a benefit concert for NEGU at the St. Regis(later this month).  Momentum was building.  And Jessie and her dad challanged her Facebook fans to help build her fan base from the 20,000+ she has to 50,000+ this year – one person for every pediatric cancer patient.

Yesterday Jessie’s parents posted the very sad news that Jessie had lost her battle with cancer.  The outpouring on her page has been incredible.  And her fans honored her by reaching out and asking people to fan her page in hopes of helping her reach the goal she made.  The result?  By the time I went to bed last night, the goal had been met – over 30,000 people fanned her page in the last 24 hours.

And now the real work – turning those fans into workers, completing Jessie’s real task.  Putting 50,000 Joy Jars in 50,000 little hands.  Check out the site (it has been inundated in the last day, it might be hard getting on – bookmark it and come back!) and see how you can help.  Become a fan.  Buy a Joy Jar.  Become a corporate sponsor.  If you are a store, hold a Joy Jar day and work with the organization to fill jars at your store one day.   If you work with a group that wants community hours, have them contact NEGU to fill joy jars!  If you are a manufacturer and have closeout product, donate to the Joy Jars.  So many great ways to become involved and share the Joy.  Thank you, Jessie, for the world of difference you have made!  NEGU!

Valentine’s Day – only 46 Shopping Days Away

The nature of retail is to remind the consumer of the next major holiday that requires at least one or two purchases.  So far no gifts are exchanged on Martin Luther King Day, but I am sure it is being worked on.  In the meantime, the next giving holiday is Valentine’s Day.  As an adult, the day for lovers can bring strong feelings on many spectrums. From the lonely night at home, the husband who lacks imagination, and the restaurants that are overcrowded and overpriced serving mediocre food to the anticipation of first Valentine’s together, a nice piece of jewelry.  Best of all – maybe a great night IN.

I am nervous about saying this as I am sure it will only confirm your earlier suspicions that I am a dweeb, but here I go anyway (isn’t the purpose of the blog to help facilitate one to bare all secrets to complete strangers?).  I have been happily married for nearly two decades and courted for a number of years before that.  I have had romantic cards made for me, expensive dinners in fancy cities.  I have enjoyed champagne and chocolates.  (And some years I have crashed in front of the tv.)

But I have never anticipated the thrill of Valentine’s Day more than I did in elementary school.  The making of the special Valentine’s Day mailbox.  Doilies.  Glue.  Stickers. Red and pink crayons.  The classroom party with sugar cookies and icing.  The Valentine’s Day card from every person in the class.  Best part…the end of the day when the bell rang and I could race home and safely begin to sort through my cards.  Looking for signs of requited love from secret crushes, promises of BEST friends from my pals, and foiled covered chocolates from the kids whose moms had discovered another way to demonstrate their superiority (apologies if you are that mom – it is from envy that I speak.)

While the Valentine’s excitement for my kids has been a motivator – it is not always the motivator I need to stay on the ball and hit the stores before only “those Valentines” are left.  We have run the gamut.  We have had no choice but to buy Sponge Bob cards at 7:00 pm on Feb. 13th.  And we have doled out a small fortune (even with my Michael’s coupons) to purchase all sorts of decorative materials to make 50+ cards at home (two kids and I am NOT that craft mom!) We have bought double packs so we could sift out the ones that say awkward things that kids don’t want to say to other kids for fear of being shunned.  And if I am on the ball in a given year, we have bought foil covered chocolates to attach to the Valentine’s (what is up with the Necco hearts?  Nostalgia, yes.  Taste good? Never did!)

Imagine my excitement when I was the buyer for the children’s bookstores and I discovered not one – but two great lines that were designed with moms like me in mind.  Okay, I am not positive they were designed specifically with me in mind but I do know that they help mom’s like me shine.  And with a true Hollywood ending to this love story, I now rep not one – but both of these lines!  And I am telling you, they are the best Valentine card lines EVER!

For those who like the idea of having your kids make their own cards, Made by Hands Valentine’s Kit is for you!  It come complete with cards and all of the components your kids will need to make a classroom full of hand decorated cards.  Done.  All in one box.  Thank you very much!  The cards are adorable and other moms will definitely mutter things about how you set the bar too high – it is a win-win!

And for those who want something cute and not handmade looking – Peaceable Kingdom has the best line of Valentine Cards to which they added a second tier this year.  The first grouping has things like scratch and sniffs, and tattoos, all with cute graphics, not-ackward text, and sweet little envelopes to put each one in.

Their second tier is without envelopes and therefore retails at a lower price.

All awesome options for the moms who know how magical Valentine’s cards can be!  And why do I write this blog with 46 shopping days left until Valentine’s Day.  To gently nudge you so you don’t find yourself in line the night before with the Sponge Bob Valentine’s in your hand.  You’re welcome.

Made By Hands lists store locations on their website.  Check with the ASTRA site to find independent stores that may be carrying Peaceable Kingdom.

Extreme Dot to Dot is Extremely Fun!


Having a quiet day of ditto handouts is one of those fond memories I have of elementary school.  And while completing these busy work sheets, nothing gave quite the sense of accomplishment as watching a picture emerge from a collection of dots placed in a seemingly random scattering.  Without ever really thinking about it, or identifying my fondness of, Dot to Dots were definitely a quiet pleasure from 2nd to 4th grade, with little thought given to after that period in my life.

Until.  Until the Mindware box of samples arrived a few days ago.  There were some really cool things within the box – things I am sure I will write about in later posts.  But it was the Extreme Dot to Dots that compelled me to get out the pen (the thrill of being an adult able to tackle this dot filled challenge on my terms – no pencil!) and work to reveal the picture hidden within 900+ points.  Yep – 900+.  The first one took me an hour.  I didn’t get to do the second one because at that point (pardon the pun) both of children (ages 16 + 12) had surrounded me and in an effort to each give a page their own go.  It was pretty funny to see.  Obviously Dot to Dots are the comfort food of skill developing workbooks.  These challenge filled books would be great for travel or buying one some quiet time during mmmm, let’s say a 2+ week vacation?

Where might one find such a fun dot filled book?  Try your local specialty retailer, of course!

New Year’s Resolution – Shopping Locally

Okay, okay – busted!  I did not finish my advent countdown of independent retailers before Christmas day.  A million and one excuses including 4000 miles of holiday travel, holidays with 18 other extended family members, and many holiday cookie to eat.  But I am back, I have received boxes of samples of new specialty goods to stash in the back of my car when I hit the road again.  And I am so excited for the new retail year (of which, I promise to keep talking about awesome local shops!)!

As I continue to organize, fill out my calendar, plan for New York’s Toy Fair next month, etcetera, I ran across a really cool blog about a new movement called Cash Mobs – organized to gain attention and sales for independent retailers!  Great read – drop me a note if you are motivated to join forces in supporting our local mom and pops.  Love it!

Happy New Year!  Happy Shopping!  Here’s to 2012!