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Archive for May, 2010

Ella loves to count while jumping from square to square. Here she made it all the way to square 7 without falling!

This weekend I bought my boyfriend’s niece, Ella, a hopscotch rug that was skid proof and you can play in-doors or outdoors.  I knew at the time of buying this rug that it was great for kids who LOVE to jump, but to be honest, I had no idea on how to actually play the game of hopscotch. It had me wondering, so I thought I would look it up and share what I found. Plus, enjoy a cute picture of Ella jumping on her new hopscotch, along with her sweet cousin Isaac.  Her smile makes me want to jump, what about you?

This is a great way to entertain your kids of all ages for a few hours (plus tire them out in time for nap time! Woo-hoo!).

This post has been moved to our website. To view the full post go to:
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Discover Easy as 1-2-3- Steps to Making a Pipe Cleaner Cocktail Ring

This past Sunday I attended a Baby Naming celebration for a very special little girl named Ari.  The grandparents, Bobbie and Papi, decided they needed entertainment for all of the kids attending along with the 60 guests.  As I helped to greet guests upon their arrival, one colorful, cheery guest arrived with her humongous cart of pipe cleaner fun – Wendy the Pipe Cleaner Lady.  What a grand idea!  She was like a balloon artist who twists and ties pipe cleaners to create everything from rings to crowns to footballs to monkeys and more! 

This post has been moved to our website. To view the full post go to:
http://blog.letop-usa.com/?p=9441

 

VISIT OUR LE TOP HOME…
www.letop-usa.com

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Photo: Tony DiMaio/Startraks

Kerry Walsh may have two gold Olympic medals in Volleyball but now I’m sure she has a lot more to be proud of!  Kerry gave birth to Sundance Thomas Jennings on Wednesday May 19 in Torrance California.

Kerry and her husband Casey Jennings are expanding the family; they are already proud parents of Joseph Michael who will be celebrating his 1st birthday this coming Saturday.

According to Kerry’s rep, Sundance weighed in at 6lbs 12oz and measured 19 ¾ inches long.

Congratulations to Kerry and Casey on their newest addition to the family and happy 1st birthday to Joseph Michael!

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Uno, Dos, Tres!  Check out the 3rd premier retailer in our “Store Spotlight” series that features one top le●top store pick of the week.  Read more below for an inside “peek” into one of the best children’s retailers in Texas!

We put the mic up to Sally and Marc Whitehouse, owners of Bright Beginnings and Cotton Tots – who have four of the most adorable and well-respected children’s boutiques in Texas (and a pretty darn amazing online store too!) – and got the skinny on what any good mommy, daddy and kiddie shopper would want to know.

1.  How did you both get started with Bright Beginnings?

Sally: We had trouble finding the kind of clothing we wanted for our own children…cool, comfortable, easy-wearing cotton in fun styles.  We also loved the idea of entrepreneurship and sharing with others the delightful brands we had found.

2.  What was your background prior to this business?

Sally: We are a family business…started by us back in 1984.  Prior to that, Marc had his own CPA firm at the time, and I had taken time off from teaching high school special education to have children.

3.  Bright Beginnings is a distinctive store name – does it have any special history?  What was the evolution behind your 4 store names from Bright Beginnings to Best Dressed Kids to Cotton Tots?

Sally & Marc: We hope that all children have a very bright beginning of life!  And we believe that clothing should be very bright and colorful as well…it just makes you smile!  Our Austin stores were all named Bright Beginnings, but the name was taken in other Texas cities…hence our Houston stores became Cotton Tots…referring to the fact that most of our clothing was luscious, comfortable cotton.  Our website name needed to encompass specifically who we are, to aid in branding and in searches online.  Bestdressedkids.com seemed to say it all!

4Describe the neighborhood your 4 stores are in.

Marc: Our stores are all in suburban neighborhoods of fine cities.  We like to have that neighborhood feel of knowing our customers and their families.

5.  Who is your target customer? Do you specialize in any certain types of product? Does it vary from store to store?

Sally & Marc: Our target customer is anyone looking for something unique and of great value for babies through tweens…with a little bit for their mommies, too!  We specialize in soft, comfortable clothing and we appeal to people of all income levels as we have a variety of goods, with something for everyone’s needs.  We also strive to be kid AND parent friendly in styling and comfort.

6.  What products do your clientele like the most?

Sally: That’s a hard one, because we have such a variety.  I think they have come to trust us as a place to get unique products at a good price, with wonderful customer service.

7.  Any Celebrity customers over the years or do you have any celebs buying right now?

Sally & Marc: Governors, politicians and actors…oh my!  Yes, we certainly do and we like to honor their privacy.  😉 

Bright Beginnings features le•top

8.  What’s coming up for Bright Beginnings? Any new stores or updates buying features to your website?

Sally & Marc: We are currently unveiling a new website that has more features and is more user-friendly than our current Bestdressedkids.com.  We are also developing a software program that provides real time point of sale, back office and Internet sales.

9.  What makes Bright Beginnings unique after 26 years?

Sally & Marc: Customer service and a desire to really help people.  We have always been in this business for the long haul.  We encourage true listening and that burning desire to find the perfect thing for each customer.  Sometimes we don’t have it…and that’s okay…but we still gain a loyal customer who will come back.

10.  You have a remarkable history and have been around 26 years, do you celebrate your anniversary years?

Sally: We do quietly celebrate the gratitude we feel for our staff, our customers, and our vendors.

11.   What do you feel are the three biggest keys to your success?

Sally & Marc:

1)  A friendly, knowledgeable staff
2)  Partnership with our reps and vendors
3)  Determination to keep a large selection of unique offerings to our customers.

12.  How do you select your products for the store?

Sally & Marc: We analyze sales and performance by brand constantly…so through sell-through reports, fashion sense, buying experience, and a well-rounded look at each category, size range, and brand.

13.  What is one trend you’re currently seeing with customers?

Sally: Customers are definitely streamlining their purchases and buying more items that will mix and match together.  We have always been fans of mixing and matching, as it stretches your options…so this is trend is perfect for us.

14.  If you had one piece of advice for someone entering children’s retail today, what would it be?

Marc: Find your niche based on what people are looking for, but then be flexible and listen to your customers.

15.  You probably have seen thousands of mommies and their children come in and out of your stores’ doors – what is one of the funniest things you have heard come out of parent or child’s mouth?

Sally: I have always said that I could write a book about things I’ve seen and heard, but it’s hard to pinpoint the funniest!  I guess we all chuckled quite a bit when a mom confessed that she had gone into a competitor’s store and said she was so embarrassed that her child asked for an “I Love Bright Beginnings” sticker to wear!

16.  What are your top 3 fashionista tips for dressing a child? And your #1 kid fashion “no-no”?

Sally:

1)  Let them be part of the process and show their true personality (with your family values as a guide, of course!)
2)  Be sure they like it…if they don’t like it in the store, they most likely won’t wear it from home.
3)  Remember that this time goes so quickly.  There is only a short amount of time when we can wear fun, silly, overdone clothing that just makes us feel good.  (See, don’t you wish you could do that today?)  Don’t be too serious about how they dress when they are young…relax and enjoy it (and take lots of pictures ;))
4)  #1 No-no:  Dressing a child like a small adult.  Too serious! 

17.  What is your best or most memorable moment in your store?

Sally: Sitting on the floor with a little girl who was 5 years old and whose mother told me she had a poor self-image.  I thought, “Not at FIVE!”  I had her help me with a gift wrap project and we talked while her mom shopped.  Just as expected, she was a beautiful soul.  It reminded me how precious each child is.

18.  What collection or piece from letop and/or rabbit moon are you loving from the Spring/Summer 2010 collection?

Sally: The le●top leopard, giraffe, and duck monokinis….they are spectacular!  I see little ones wearing these at my neighborhood pool, complete with hat and sunglasses, and it makes me giggle every time.

 

 

AUSTIN, TX LOCATIONS 

Bright Beginnings
1006 W. 38th Street
Austin, TX 78705
512.454.5437

Bright Beginnings & Bee-yond
701 S Capital of TX Highway, Suite B 280
Austin, TX 78746
512.328.8989

Best Dressed for Less
3811 Medical Parkway
Austin, TX 78756
512.453.0433

HOUSTON, TX LOCATIONS

Cotton Tots
6510 Woodway
Houston, TX 77057
713.785.8686 

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Wow, their parents are so lucky to have not just one beautiful girl, but three.  These lovely siblings are all decked out in rabbit moon’s ‘cupcake‘ collection sunhat and dresses.  Way to show off our clothes!

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Image by: Jim Spellman/WireImage

Congrats to John Travolta and Kelly Preston who just announced the wonderful news that Kelly is expecting a baby! Their little one will be joining daughter Ella Bleu, 10-years-old. We wish them well on this exciting addition to come!

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Not sure what to do with all those broken crayons you have been storing away? Instead of replacing them, reuse and remake them into a whole new kind of crayon. There is a range of colors, but depending on what you decide to meld together, your newly created crayon can be psychedelic or just a solid larger, more easy to hold version of a crayon! Be creative, have fun and see what you can come up with.

What you’ll need:

  • Crayons (Either use ones you already have hidden in the couch or at the bottom of the toy box, or you can buy new ones)
  • Mini muffin pan (One that you don’t mind getting a little crayon on)
  • Exacto knife (Optional – don’t forget you need parental vision for this)

Preheat your oven to 265° F. Peel off all the paper from the crayons (for the new ones, I found it much quicker to remove the paper in one smooth motion if I carefully ran the exacto knife down the center of the paper and peeled the paper back), and break them into 1/2″ to 1″ pieces. Arrange two to three like colors in each slot, then bake for 6-8 minutes (don’t over bake – you want them just melted so you can’t distinguish the crayon shape anymore). Let them congeal a little on the counter, and then place them in the freezer until they are firm (approx. 30 minutes). They should then pop right out.

This is great for little hands that aren’t steady enough to hold thin crayons. They can wrap their whole hand around them and go to town without breaking them.

Source: craftydaisies.com

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I keep seeing the previews flash on the television of the upcoming Sex in the City 2.  I know, I know – we all can’t wait to see the movie and Carrie’s gorg outfits, but what particularly caught my eye were the delicious cupcakes in the scene with Charlotte and her little girl.  I am a baker at heart (btw) and it inspired me to pass along these helpful hints for cooking in the kitchen with your kids, along with my favorite “clown” cupcake recipe (recipe from the one-and-only Martha Stewart). 

Having kids in the kitchen is a great way to keep them occupied, but is also fun, educates and incorporates a range of skills such as counting, measuring and reading, touching, listening, planning, smelling, tasting and above all – imagination! 

#1:  Keep It Clean and Safe
Teach your child the basics of hygiene such as sudsing your hands before beginning food preparation, and about cross-contamination (i.e. eggs and washing hands after you touch or crack them). 

#2: Describe Dangers
I think it’s important to explain the potential dangers in the kitchen and safety. Always look out for sharp knives, hot stoves and ovens, boiling liquids and invisible germs. Understand fire safety and explain how the fire extinguisher works, how to put out a grease fire, and when to call 911.  In addition, unrelated to making cupcakes, explain how metal and microwaves DO NOT mix. Any object that contains metal or aluminum should not be placed into a microwave because it could cause a fire. 

#3: Prep is Key
Save time and keep your children attentive during your cooking process by cutting and measuring ingredients before you start your baking adventure!  I have found that small children can have a short attention span and just want to dump all of the ingredients in the bowl and mix it up! Wink! 

#4:  Simplify Instructions
Try to give children quick and easy instructions one at a time.  You might have to repeat them if they forget, but no biggie! 

#5:  Give More Responsibility to Older Kids
Encourage your older children (if there is more than one) to try and read the recipe or help measure out/weigh ingredients.  For example, ask him/her to pour 1 cup of sugar or unpeel the wrapper for 2 sticks of butter. 

#6: Mix it Up for Younger Kids
Mixing in the bowl can be one of the most fun parts of cooking in the kitchen. Have your younger babes be involved in the mixing process by placing ingredients in the mixer and letting them turn on the electric mixer (just not too fast of a speed if it’s flour or you will turn out looking like a ghost covered in white flour!) or stir the ingredient in a bowl with a wooden spoon. This works perfectly for cookie dough!  

#7: Frosting is my favorite!
All ages can help with frosting and decorating cookies or cupcakes. 

#8: Pretend Play
Younger kids who are not yet able to help with the actual food preparation can still participate! Have them watch you and imitate you by playing with plastic bowls, wooden spoons, and rubber spatulas.  

#9: Mr. Clean
I love speedy clean ups! Teach your children to clean while they wait for the next stage in preparing the food (i.e. water boils, soup simmers, etc.).  It is great to encourage children to be involved in the cleaning-up process during and after your kitchen session is complete. 

 

Clowning Around in the Kitchen (well, not really)

Recipe for Clown Cupcakes  

Makes 4 Serving

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • Vanilla store bought icing
  • Rainbow round sprinkles
  • Rainbow gum drops
  • Chocolate sprinkles (the eyes of the clown)
 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with cupcake paper liners; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In another mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated and scraping down sides of bowl, beat in vanilla.
  2. Add flour mixture and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl to assure the batter is thoroughly mixed. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling papers about 2/3 full.
  3. Bake on the center rack of the oven until tops spring back to touch, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Helpful Tip:
The cupcakes can be baked a week ahead and frozen, but decorate them no more than a day before serving. Set up an assembly line, and put kids in charge of affixing candy eyes, gumdrop cheeks, and other trimmings. Pack the cupcakes in a plastic container, and stuff crumpled waxed paper in between. 

How-To Decorate your Clown Cupcake:
This (see photo) clown is hiding a bellyful of icing. To make this cute clown cupcake, cut a cone-shaped piece from the center; set aside to use as the hat. Pipe vanilla icing (just buy a simple vanilla premade at the grocery store) into the cavity and on top for the head. Use mini uncoated gum-drops for the collar and a cinnamon candy for the nose; insert chocolate sprinkles for eyes. The hat has a vanilla-icing pompom covered in sprinkles. 

Final Cooking Note: For children interested in creativity with decoration provide your kids with paper and crayons to whip up “masterpiece” place mats for each family member for the kitchen table. 

BON APPETIT! 

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Image by: Stewart Cook/Peter Brook/Rex

What a whirlwind of babies being born around the world! From Los Angeles to Ohio to London — Amy Adams and fiancé Darren Le Gallo welcomed daughter Aviana Olea Le Gallo this past Saturday, May 15th in Los Angeles.  Aviana weighed in at 7 lbs and is sure to be a budding star in their lives. Congraulations and cheers!

 
 

Image by: Brad Barket/Getty

 

Aviana Le Gallo will have a playmate and possible future (baby) boyfriend! Drew Lachey and wife Lea welcomed son, Hudson Nicholas Lachey, this past Saturday, May 15 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Kudos to sister Isabella Claire, 4-years-old, who now has a new baby buddy to play with!

 

 

We also just heard a baby super model was born!  It’s a girl for Claudia Schiffer, who delivered her third child this past Friday, May 14 at Portland Hospital in London.  They haven’t released the baby girl’s name yet, but we can’t wait to hear!  She will join siblings, Clementine, 5 1/2-years-old, and Casper, 7-years-old.

Image by: Steve Granitz/WireImage

 

And last but not least, we also hear that rocker Chris Daughtry has twins on the way.  We can’t wait for the parents to be – Deanna and Chris Daughtry – to welcome these two bundles of joy into the world this November.

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I just returned home from a fun wedding celebration weekend in New Orleans, Louisiana  – otherwise known as NOLA by the locals.  I was amazed by the amount of great seafood available in the city and what a big part it and the fishing industry play in the local economy.  Every menu in every restaurant I looked at had oysters, shrimp (in every which way you could imagine, including famous “shrimp po boy sandwiches”) and crawfish.  A common question asked by tourists in NOLA is: what looks, tastes, and smells like seafood, but doesn’t come from the sea? Crawfish! It is a freshwater shellfish that is considered a Louisiana delicacy.  With the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I was very inquisitive as to how it was affecting the locals in NOLA.  Though the long-term affects remain to be seen, the immediate concerns are surrounding the inherently dangerous consumption of contaminated sea life. On a positive note – I learned that Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., said crawfish are freshwater seafood and will not be affected by the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill.

Nothing else symbolizes the Cajun (A person of French Canadian descent born or living along the bayous, marshes, and prairies of southern Louisiana) culture of Louisiana like crawfish.

Crawfish (or crayfish) look like tiny lobsters. They are also known in the south as mudbugs because they live in the mud of freshwater bayous. They are more tender than lobsters and have a unique flavor. Today crawfish are an important part of the Louisiana industry.

The local Indians were known for harvesting and consuming crawfish before the Cajuns arrived. In 1983, Louisiana’s governor approved a law designating the crawfish as the state crustacean. Louisiana thus became the first state to adopt an official crustacean. That’s how serious Louisiana is about their crawfish!

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