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This beauty, Reed (2 1/2-years-old), comes to us all the way from a rainy day in The Big Apple. We are told by those “in the know” that she is one of the most stylish girlies in NYC – look out Suri! We can’t wait to see much more of her in the future. Congratulations to Reed on being our Le Top Darling of the Day!

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Here in New York it is SO HUMID – I tried to explain this to my niece and was having trouble. I know that New York City isn’t the only place it gets humid. I used to live in San Diego and it would be humid there or even in parts of the mid-west. Here is a mini explanation to tell your little one.

This post has been moved to our website. To view the full post go to: http://blog.letop-usa.com/?p=19163

 

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I am moving in a few weeks and have been going through my clothing, gadgets, shoes, and more. While researching charities to donate my unneeded items to here in New York, it made me think that I am so fortunate that my mother and father taught me the importance of not just throw away things. Instead proactively go through your home a few times a year and give things to charity and those in need. I decided that I am going to donate to a local AIDS organization for families who have members with AIDS and that struggle.

Charity and the spirit of giving have been elevated to a new level in the past few years, following natural disasters like the earthquake in Japan, the war in Iraq, and terrorist attacks around the globe. Your child doesn’t have to be a Carnegie, a Ford, or a Rockefeller, to become a philanthropist.

Many parents are using the destruction delivered by these catastrophes as an opportunity to help children learn about charity and the importance of reaching out to others in their time of need.

You can make a family donation – big or small – and involve your child by allowing them to pick out the charity, write the check and even prepare the envelope to mail it.  It is important to allow your children to witness turning pain and grief/loss into a time of extending love and compassion to those they don’t even know, whether it be in the United States or around the world. 

Here is how your family can help.

1.    Donate clothes like me!
Periodically go through your closets rooting out clothes you haven’t worn in a while, which can be given to the Salvation Army or Goodwill for distribution to the needy. I always say if you haven’t worn it in 6-9 months…someone more deserving needs those clothes. Encourage your children to do the same. Allow them to select which clothes or toys they wish to donate. The value of this activity is diminished greatly if you go through their closets for them without their presence. For maximum benefit, get your children involved in choosing the appropriate items. Take your children with you when you drop the items off at the charitable destination.

2.    Help neighbors.
Regularly engage in a service-oriented project. Rake the leaves of an elderly couple. Bake cookies for a serviceman or servicewoman. If you have leftovers from when you go out to dinner, give them to a homeless person and teach your children that you just gave them a good meal.

3.    Make birthdays charitable.
Set up birthday parties as a time for giving to others. At your child’s first school-age birthday party, ask guests to bring a gift of a book (new or used) to be donated to a local charity. Talk to your son about the books he has and about children who have no books. Explain that one way to celebrate a birthday would be to give to those who have less. Involve the birthday boy in the decision of whether or not to give the books to a woman’s shelter, a doctor’s office, or some other appropriate organization. When you deliver the books with your son, record it on camera, and revisit that movie (or those pictures) on future birthdays.

4.    Give back to pets.
At regular intervals, buy dog or cat food and take it to the humane society. Allow your children to spend some time with the recipients of the gift.

5.    Deliver nutrition.
Build food baskets around the holidays and give to a needy family suggested by your church or school. Involve your children is selecting canned goods, fruit, and other treats to include. Decorate the gift package and deliver it together, as a family.

6.    Help elders.
Do things for the elderly that they have trouble doing for themselves. Pick up sticks in your neighbor’s yard after a big windstorm. Mow the grass for Grandma. Wash Grandpa’s car. Clean their windows in the spring. Help them plant flowers.

7.    Pitch in.
Get on a regular service schedule at your church or synagogue. Sign up for a time to mow the grass and trim the bushes. Take your turn ushering and allow your child to assist.

By implementing some of these ideas or others like them, you will be teaching your children that charity is not reserved only for emergencies. You will be helping them appreciate that reaching out to others in need is a way of life, rather than a moment in time when a catastrophic disaster occurs.

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Photo by: Albert Michael/Startraks

Magician and illusionist, David Blaine, welcome his first child – a baby girl last Wednesday with fiancée Alizee Guinochet. The story of her labor is quite heroic! I learned from People.com that she began experiencing contractions as 19 inches of snow fell last Wednesday in New York City. Blaine tried to hail a taxi, but with no one on the road and car services in the Big Apple unwilling to venture out in the storm, he eventually flagged down a snow plow! After explaining the situation to the driver, the couple were brought to the hospital. Go Daddy! This luxurious Le Top Baby “Buttons & Bows” Collection carriage blanket would be perfect to keep her warm in the NYC chill. She will have a certain sweet je ne sais quoi in this generous 30×36 inch double layer pink and white stripe velour carriage blanket that will keep her snug and warm. Velour front and back with solid pink satin picture-frame border, finished with French knots and embroidery make this a classic for years to come.

Le Top Baby "Buttons & Bows" Collection blanket

  

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As a child – I always remembered the fridge as the “trophy area” for my homemade pictures, photos of the family, report cards, and other fun projects that I would take home from school. In general, the kitchen is the main gathering spot for many parents and kids. It has been snowing like crazy in New York so what better than an arts and crafts activity such as clay magnets! And when your child crafts clay magnets for displaying these mementos, he or she can work on artistic skills and show off his or her school accomplishments at the same time! Clay is a great tool to work with because it encourages young children to simply manipulate and pound clay into various shapes. By using their fingers to roll tiny balls for eyes or other details, kids will also exercise their fine-motor skills.

After the shape cools, your child can bring the object to life with paint and other decorations. Give your kids the 3 primary colors of red, blue and yellow and let them mix and match to make secondary colors. Add other details such as wiggly eyes, spots, stripes and other marks or even glitter to let your kids express themselves!

Items Needed:

  • Sculpey clay or other polymer clay material
  • Waxed paper
  • Rolling pin or large empty soda bottle
  • Felt-tipped pen
  • Craft knife or kitchen knife
  • Picture wire or beading wire (optional)
  • Scissors or wire cutter (optional)
  • Metal spatula
  • Baking tray
  • Artist’s brushes
  • Acrylic craft or poster paint
  • All-purpose sealer (optional)
  • Magnetic tape (available at craft stores)
  • Glue or hot-glue gun


Directions:

  1. Knead clay into a ball. Place on waxed paper on flat work surface. Roll clay flat to about 1/4″ thickness with rolling pin or empty soda bottle. (Keep the shape small and fairly thin or the magnet won’t be strong enough to hold it to the refrigerator.)
  2. Ask your child to draw the outline of an animal or any other shape desired with a felt-tipped pen on the clay. Using a craft or kitchen knife, parents should carefully cut out the shape and peel away the excess clay. Gently reshape edges of the shape if they stretch when you peel away the extra. Ask your child to add details such as eyes, a nose, or stripes by rolling small balls of clay or cutting shapes and strips.
  3. If desired, older children may cut whiskers, manes, or tails from picture wire or beading wire with scissors or wire cutters (younger kids can paint them on). Press the wire into the clay at the appropriate place. Using a spatula or your fingers, gently lift the shape and place it on a baking tray. Bake the shape in a preheated oven following the manufacturer’s instructions on the package of clay.
  4. Let shape cool. Paint it using poster or acrylic craft paint and artist’s brushes. For fine details like eyes and nose, use finer brushes (small children may need help with details). If using poster paint, apply an all-purpose sealer after the paint is dry.
  5. Cut a magnetic strip to fit on the back of the shape. Check to see which side of the tape adheres more strongly to the refrigerator. Then, using glue or a hot glue gun, attach the weaker side of the magnet to the shape. Let it dry.

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Wishing Kai Schrieber, who 2-years-old today, a very sweet birthday! Son of actress Naomi Watts and actor daddy Liev Schreiber will celebrate this stud’s birthday with elder brother Sasha (3-years-old). This will be Kai’s first birthday celebration in California since they moved from New York! We think he should bring a little holiday spirit to California in our Reindeer Games outfit this Christmas season. Click on the photo to view the outfit detail. 

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I went over to my best friend’s house last night because she and her boyfriend had bought a beautiful Christmas tree here in New York City (actually at Whole Foods surprisingly!). She is a teacher here in New York and I asked her if she knew the meaning behind why we have a tree? A Christmas tree, or a Yule tree, is probably the most popular tradition associated with celebrating Christmas and Yuletide. She and I both grew up with a Christmas tree – we would find one with the family, decorate it with ornaments, put on lights, etc…but neither of us were sure what the actual tree represented. I thought I would look into it and give you a little background on the meaning in case you want to share with your kids, along with some really fun facts…did you know that according to the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans buy 37.1 million real Christmas trees each year?!?

Believe it or not the Christmas tree comes to us from Germany. Martin Luther is credited with being inspired by the starry heavens one night, and expressing his feelings to his family by bringing a fir tree into his home, and attaching lighted candles to its branches. Fir meant fire, and fire is an ancient symbol for spirit. The tree also pointed toward the heavens.

Evergreen trees were thought to represent the ever-burning fire of life. The color green signified the life force through the year. Eventually decorative balls represented the planets, while the star that radiates from the top reminds us of Bethlehem. The entire tree and decorations teach us that the universe is witness to the Incarnation.

Red at Christmas reminds us of the fire of the Spirit. Green affirms nature, and the ongoing life. And in the Incarnation, Spirit unites with nature.

Actually, the tree is also a reinterpretation of pagan rites, along with the use of other greens and decorations to honor in ancient times a celebration of the feast of Saturnalia – the birth of the Sun in the sky at the Winter Solstice. Along with the giving of gifts, the feast was later Christianized with the date of December 25th to announce the birth of the Son of God (Jesus) to the world.

Past celebrations of the Christmas tree began in the 16th century, and were later brought to America by German immigrants.

Fun Christmas Trivia and Fun Facts

  • The season surrounding Christmas is called Christmastide, running from sundown on December 24th to January 5 (also known as the Twelve Days of Christmas). In some places, people believe it is bad luck to keep decorations up after Christmastide.
  • Christmas actually comes from Middle and Old English words meaning “Christ’s Mass.” In Greek, the first letter of Christ is “X”, which is where the abbreviation Xmas (or X-mas) comes from.
  • According to the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans buy 37.1 million real Christmas trees each year; 25 percent of them are from the nation’s 5,000 choose-and-cut farms.
  • The first Christmas hymns we know of were sung in 4th century Rome.
  • The first national Christmas tree was lit in 1923 during Calvin Coolidge’s presidency and is maintained outside of the White House. Although national Christmas trees used to be donated from around the nation, in 1973 living trees replaced donated cut trees, responding to environmental concerns. The same tree has been used as the national Christmas tree since 1977.
  • The White House Christmas tree was first lit with solar energy in 1995, and LED lights were used for the first time in 2002
  • There are at least four nationally designated Christmas trees. These include the Christmas tree outside the White House, inside the White House (and, since 1966, donated by the National Christmas Tree Association), a tree in the West Front Lawn of the Capitol and the “Nation’s Christmas Tree,” a 270 foot giant sequoia designated by Congress as a national Christmas tree in 1926.
  • There are around 350 million Christmas trees currently growing on American farms alone.
  • One to three seedlings are planted the following spring for every one Christmas tree harvested.
  • The top Christmas tree producing states in order are Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington. Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec are the highest producing provinces in Canada.
  • The first “jingle” or singing commercial was played on Christmas Eve in 1926 in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The commercial was aired by General Mills for Wheaties and was called “Have You Tried Wheaties?” The group eventually became known as the Wheaties Quartet and continued singing together for years.
  • St. Nicholas lived in the south of modern-day Turkey as the bishop of Myra, a town in the region Lycia. He was known to give secret gifts, like leaving coins in shoes left outside. Nearly a thousand years after the saint’s bones had been removed from his gravesite, the government of Turkey formally requested the return of his bones from the Italian government.
  • English-speakers get the modern Santa Claus from the Dutch for St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas.

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One of the perks of living the cement jungle life of New York City are the festivities of the fall and winter. One of them being the famous Macy’s Day Parade for Thanksgiving! The night before, Macy’s inflates the balloon floats right next to my boyfriend’s family’s apartment in the city and his family holds a big celebratory party for kids to come watch, enjoy and eat lots of candy and goodies!  I am very fortunate because the apartment overlooks the balloons from a very high floor of a tall building and it might be the best view in New York!  Being originally from California, this event is even more special as I have only had the opportunity to see balloon floats from the television as a child, and now in person as an adult. Families from all over the New York boroughs travel far to come and see the annual ‘blowing up of the balloons’ and it is a tradition for many families passed down from generation to generation. This past Thanksgiving I can say that I am most thankful for the friends and family I have that could share this special night – it will always be one to remember (and I highly recommend it if you are from the New York or New Jersey area). Here are some pictures from high above the floats on November 24th. Gobble, gobble!

Here are pictures the night before versus the next day at the parade!  

Here are the crazy crowds that swarm the balloons at night
(and by crazy, I mean lovely NYC families)!
 

And then see them during the day…

Buzz Light Year being blown up the night before….


Here he is the next day!

Macy’s ‘Believe’ Star balloon floats that open up the parade

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The winter chill has arrived and the leaves are changing colors. I took a walk through Central Park in New York City (my hometown) this past weekend and admired all of the leaves and how beautiful nature can be in the ‘big city.’ I was inspired by a childhood activity that is fun for kids and great for parents as a piece of art for the coveted refrigerator door. Preserve the beauty of fall leaves with leaf-rubbing (leaf impressions) art on paper! Read more to find out how this easy (and inexpensive idea) is fun for a winter day. Next time you are out walking ith your kids, collect leaves of different shapes and sizes. When you are choosing leaves to rub, pick leaves with raised veins or texture to ensure the rubbings will come out crisp and clear.

Need:

  • Leaves
  • White paper
  • Crayons or soft-lead pencils

Steps:

  • Rub a variety of leaves using white tissue paper and crayons or soft-lead pencils.
  • Place the leaves under the paper and gently rub the impression on the tissue paper.
  • Cut each leaf impression out and arrange them on a white piece of paper.
  • Special step: Use a hold puncher and punch one hole in each leaf impression. Use thread or clear fishing line to tie the leaves together and string the line in a window as a decoration!
  • Discard leaves in garbage

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It’s summer and ripe, juicy strawberries are in season.  My mom and dad are die hard fans of Chef Daniel Humm who heads up the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park restaurant in New York City.  He is kinda like the James Beard of NYC for all of you foodies out there.  He gave this recipe to New York Magazine and I thought I would share it with you too – kids will love it, and they can even drink this gazpacho recipe dish with a straw!  Now let’s get started…

Strawberry Gazpacho
Serves 4 to 6

FOR THE TOAST:

  • 2 slices country white bread
  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic – crushed
  • 1 sprig thyme

FOR THE GAZPACHO:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. strawberries, plus 8 pieces for garnish
  • 1 red bell pepper – seeded
  • 1/2 green bell pepper – seeded
  • 2 cucumbers peeled and seeded
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 oz. tomato juice
  • 3 tbs. red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Tabasco to taste

 GARNISH:

  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 4 basil leaves

FOR THE TOAST:
In a small pan over medium-low heat, toast the bread in the olive oil with the crushed garlic and thyme until golden brown. Reserve.

FOR THE GAZPACHO:
(1) Hull the strawberries by inserting a straw at the bottom of the berry and ,(2) pushing it through the cap.

(3) Dice the berries, peppers, cucumbers, and garlic, and combine with tomato juice, vinegar, and olive oil. Let marinate for 3 hours at room temperature.

(4) Combine all ingredients, including the toasted bread, in a blender, and blend until smooth.

(5) Season with salt and Tabasco (for little ones that hate spicy, omit the Tabasco).

(6) Finish with olive oil, black pepper, and basil. 

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