BGG’s Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide 2017

With Christmas less than a month away, it’s time to put your holiday shopping into overdrive.

Still struggling to find the perfect gift for the loved ones on your list? Don’t panic, BGG’s got you covered. From personalized presents to must-have toys, we’ve rounded up the gifts that will make your friends and family shriek with delight.

Try not to keep most of them for yourself!

it-girl-palette

IT Cosmetics It Girl Palette
With beautiful packaging and even better quality, your beauty-obsessed BFF will never want to use another brush set again. Available here, $50.

yankee-candle-personalized

Personalized Yankee Candle Jar
Want to instantly light up grandma’s face? Give her one of these personalized candles with a family photo—it’s guaranteed to warm her heart and make her home smell scentsational. Available here, prices start at $12.

oprah-book-of-wisdom

The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations by Oprah Winfrey
What we know for sure is that Auntie O knows her stuff. Give yourself the gift of wisdom with this book of gems. Available here, $25

i-need-a-baker-grey-sweatshirt_800x

I Need A Baker Sweatshirt
This cozy sweatshirt will make you feel good as ’80s & ’90s R&B. Gift this to the girl in your squad who can’t get enough old school music. Available here, $54

disney-pixar-coco-remember-me-game

Disney Pixar Coco Spanish Edition Remember Me Game
Get your little cousins off their gadgets and into this family-friendly game. Similar to bingo, this traditional Loteria game features some of the character’s from Disney Pixar’s new animated film, “Coco,” where each player has a chance at luck. Bring on the fun! Available here, $15

 

Google-Home-Mini

Google Home Mini
Know someone who needs a virtual assistant? Look no further than a smart speaker from the brand who’s been our online answer genie for nearly two decades. Available here, $30

bevel-starter-set

Bevel Shave System Starter
Guys have fully embraced the scruff and lucky for us ladies, the beard gang isn’t going away anytime soon. Keep your guy’s fuzz groomed with this ultra-luxe starter set. Bonus: It’s black-owned. Available here, $72.

body-shop-strawberry-set

The Body Shop Strawberry Ultimate Collection
Treat your suds-loving sister to this sweet strawberry set. With a wide range of products included, she’ll be set and smelling good all season long. Available here, $50

The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Cubs: A Decade-by-Decade History

chicago-cubs-book

Score a home-run for the sports fan in your family with this historical, photo-rich tome celebrating one of baseball’s most beloved teams. Available here, $25

 

ikuzi-18-inch-fashion-doll-brown--EE067E77.zoom

Ikuzi Dolls
Not pleased with the doll selections at your local toy store? Ikuzi Dolls to the rescue! These beautiful dolls showcase realistic facial features, hair textures and skin tones celebrating the wide range of BG shades. Your mini-me will beam with pride. Available here, $80.

onesie

Gerber Collection 
Celebrating a new addition to the family? The proud parents on your list will appreciate the quintessential baby getup gift: the onesie. A baby can never have too many. Gerber’s sets will outfit your cuddliest family member in style. Available here, $7.

opi-love-holiday-minis

Love OPI XOXO Holiday 4pc Set
Nail your niece’s wish list with this eye-catching collection of holiday-inspired polishes. From sultry hues to metallic, she’s sure to find something fitting to keep her fingers fab and flawless. Available here, $15.

 

sunbeam-neck-shoulder-heat-wrap

Sunbeam Renue Neck Wrap
Your hubby will thank you for this thoughtful gift of healing. Sunbeam’s neck wrap will soothe his achy neck and shoulders while providing a relaxing, comfortable fit. Available here, $50.

guess-gold-watch

Guess Women’s Gold-Tone Stainless Steel Bracelet Watch
Nothing is as timeless as a watch. Sure, our phones may be able to tell us the time, but a classic gold watch will always make a statement. Available here, $125

paw-patrol-sea-patroller

Paw Patrol Sea Patroller
Got a Paw Patrol fan in your home? With flashing lights and a removable anchor, this cool and coloful vessel will make him yelp with glee! Available here, $50

Sugarfina_Candy_Trunk

Sugarfina Candy Trunk
The candy lover in your life will flip for this chic trunk filled with gourmet goodies from around the globe. Available here, $195.

the-very-hungry-caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show
Making memories with your child is always high on most parents’ lists. What better way to create a lasting impression than the gift of theater? Treat your tot to a performance of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” based on the classic children’s book of the same name for a fun afternoon in the City at DR2. The experience will stay etched in your mind for years to come. Click here for ticket information.

What are you the most excited about this holiday season?

‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ Musical Makes a Broadway Splash

Oh! Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

If you don’t know the next line to that catchy ditty, then maybe it’s YOU who’s been living in a pineapple under the sea! For those in the know, it’s of course “SpongeBob Squarepants.”

In case you didn’t get the memo, the world’s most famous sponge is making a big splash on Broadway right in time for the holidays. “SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical” is currently in previews at the Palace Theatre, and my kids and I had the pleasure of seeing it last week.

spongebob-squarepants-musical

The beloved, quirky character who’s been a mainstay on Nickelodeon for nearly two decades, comes to life on the Great White Way with the zeal and enthusiasm that only SpongeBob can bring. Ethan Slater, who stars as SpongeBob, excels as the upbeat, yet trouble-prone sponge.

spongebob-squarepants-musical-stage

The plot revolves around an imminent catastrophe that SpongeBob and his Bikini Bottom friends including Patrick, Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, Pearl Krabs and of course Sandy, the smart and science-savvy squirrel must find a way to avoid.

Jam-packed with cool costumes, the show, set in the underwater world of Bikini Bottom is as colorful as the cartoon that made the yellow sponge popular in the late 1990s and early aughts. The production is also topnotch with eye-catching set designs accompanied by a band outfitted in Hawaiian shirts—giving a tropical vibe that the animated series exudes.

spongebob-squarepants-musical-kids

The show’s opening number set the tone for a dynamic afternoon of unforgettable original songs (earworm worthy) written by legendary artists like John Legend and Yolanda Adams. The talented ensemble didn’t miss a beat and brought the house down with every note.

Speaking of the cast, seeing the human versions of the popular animated cartoon crew was delightful. The performers masterfully embodied the quirks, twangs and mannerisms of their animated versions.

krabby-patties-spongebob

While the show is aimed at kids, adults will find striking similarities to social issues facing the country today that are cleverly woven into the musical. Without giving too much away, there’s a theme of prejudice against certain creatures that sound unfortunately familiar in today’s political climate. But like the citizens of Bikini Bottom, hopefully the world will see that there’s power in optimism!

spongebob-squarepants-times-square-broadway

If you’re looking for a fun, high-energy introductory Broadway show for kids, look no further than the sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea!

Get your tickets today!

**Disclosure: I was given comp tickets to the show from Nickelodeon for review purposes only. All opinions are my own. 

Are you looking forward to seeing “SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical?” What’s your favorite musical? 

Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Dawes Talks Family, Healthy Eating and Her Legacy

I remember 1996 like it was yesterday. I was a sophomore in high school and can vividly recall being transfixed by the Olympics. It was the first time that I watched the world’s biggest sports spectacle on TV and one gymnast in particular was responsible for my fascination—Dominique Dawes. The gold-medal winning champion looked like me and that was mind-blowing to see, even in the mid-1990s.

That year, Dawes and the rest of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team (often referred to as the “Magnificent Seven”) took home the U.S. gold. She also won the individual bronze medal—becoming the first African-American to win an individual Olympic medal in women’s gymnastics. These accolades and ground-breaking records inspired countless young African-American girls and women (myself included) to pursue their dreams in sports and beyond. So, you can imagine how excited I was to meet her at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration earlier this year during the GoGo squeeZ activation.

Now a mom of two, the former gymnast is a GoGo squeeZ Goodness Ambassador where she helps further the applesauce and yogurt brand’s mission of making it easier for kids and families to be a little healthier and happier every day.

Dominique-Dawes

I recently caught up with Dominique to discuss food, family and of course winning the gold! Check out our Q&A below:

BGG: What’s your favorite meal to prepare for your children? Why?
Dominique Dawes: For my two kids, I must be creative, but I have some picky eaters. One day they will love my mac and cheese with roasted cauliflower added in and then another day they won’t even touch it.  My girls do love Brussels sprouts and broccoli so I have made a few different renditions of those vegetables. Roasting, sautéing, adding garlic, twist of lemon, and a few other ingredients that will attract their last buds. And anything that provides protein, fruit and/or veggies is a win in my book when it comes to snacks. Bonus points if I can take it on the go, like GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ or peanut butter and a banana.

BGG: How do you incorporate GoGo squeeZ into your daughters’ meals? Do you have any fun recipes that you make with the applesauces?
DD: My girls love granola bars, so one of our favorite things to make together are my YogurtZ Bars using GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ. We make them using Strawberry or Banana GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ, fruit, nuts, and a few other simple ingredients. They take just 25 minutes to make, and the GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ gives them 4 grams of protein and a good source of calcium and vitamin D. I add that to their lunch to balance out their meal. They feel like they’re having a treat, but it’s something I feel good about them eating!  Also, I love to add GoGo squeeZ YogurtZ to their smoothies!

gogosqueez

BGG: How do you instill healthy eating habits in your children at such a young age?
DD: I provide them with a variety of different healthy options and I love spices and fresh herbs that add to the flavoring of all types of foods that I make for my girls.  They have enjoyed going to the farmer’s market and we talk about the different foods and how they are grown.  For the past two years, we have had a small herb and vegetable garden on our deck so my daughters feel like they have some ownership over the food that we make. Weekly, they will cut fresh herbs or a vegetable from our garden and add it to a dish that we make together.

BGG: How do your daughters inspire you?
DD: They remind me what’s important in life. It’s about enjoying the little things.  When we will go for a walk and they will stop to pick a flower and comment on its fragrance, to pick up a caterpillar and inspect every spot on its back, they will stop when they hear a bird chirping and wait patiently for it to fly from a tree…I am amazed to see life through the eyes of my daughters because that is when I realize that all the things that I worry about are not important.

BGG: What’s the biggest misconception about motherhood?
DD: That motherhood is routine. Every day is different from the next.

BGG: I know you started taking gymnastics classes when you were six, did you always have dreams of becoming an Olympic Gold Medalist?
DD: My dreams of becoming an Olympic wasn’t until I was around 11 years old.  I won a local competition and the journey began soon after that.

BGG: As the first African-American to make the national women’s team and the first to win an individual medal in women’s gymnastics, what advice would you give to aspiring young gymnasts of color?
DD: Well, the beauty is that Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles have continued to pave the way for young girls of color to see the sport of gymnastics as an opportunity for them to excel. Having positive role models that are examples of a strong work ethic and never giving is key.

BGG: If you weren’t a three-time Olympic champion, what kind of career would you have pursued?
DD: FBI agent.

BGG: Would you ever want your girls to become professional athletes?
DD: No, I want them to have a more well-rounded childhood and not make the same sacrifices that I did.

BGG: It’s been 21 years since you won the Olympic gold, other than winning, what stands out to you the most about that time in your life?
DD: What stands out most is that even after 21 years of making history people still come up to up to me to talk about that historic moment.  They remember where they were and the emotions they felt.  Just the other day two young kids came to my door for a photo because their dad and grandmother told them about my career.  So, I showed them my gold medal and they both lit up and talked about my performances that they looked at on YouTube.

disney-dominique-dawes

BGG: What fun activities do you and your family enjoy doing to stay healthy?
DD: We are a very active family.  My girls don’t care to sit still of long so we are always out walking, at the park, biking, going to open gym at a local gymnastics gym or just dancing at our home.  My husband loves to have dance parties with the girls and both my girls love performing gymnastics moves in our living room so there is never dull moment at home.

BGG: Do you have a workout regimen to maintain your healthy lifestyle?  
DD: My workout regimen today is being active and engaged with my girls daily. It’s incredible how two toddlers can put me through a much more rigorous workout keeping up with them than a fitness class.

BGG: What do you want your legacy to be?
DD: I would like to be known as a mother that put her faith and family first.  Inspiring others along the way either it be through my Olympic accomplishments or philanthropic endeavors (encouraging others to live a healthy lifestyle) would be icing on the cake.

Do you remember watching Dominique Dawes during the 1996 Olympics? What healthy snack wins the gold in your household?

4 Tips to Get Your Child Ready (and Comfortable) for the First Days of Preschool

It’s hard to believe that summer is basically over. For us moms, it’s even more bittersweet because our little ones are heading back to school. With my daughter starting second grade and my 3-year-old son entering pre-school this week, mixed emotions are running high in my household.

karla-mj

Me and my little MJ. I love him to pieces! I’m sure he’ll thrive in preschool despite his current anxiety.

While my daughter is beyond excited to go back to school and socialize with her friends, my son is expressing just the opposite. He’s scared, uncertain and downright sad about this new transition in his young life. If your child is also showing signs that he’s not exactly thrilled to spend his days coloring with other kids and participating in circle time, don’t worry—I’ve got you covered.

Hanes BTS Givaway icon

Here’s a list of things to do that will hopefully make the transition smoother for you and your child:

  1. Read to your child. Carve out time to read books about preschool in the days leading up to his big day. Books focused on the first day of school will give him an idea of what to expect in the coming days, while giving the two of you quality time. “The Night Before Preschool,” by Natasha Wing is an excellent choice!
  2. Reinforce self-help skills. Now’s the time to let them exert their independence. Encourage them to use the bathroom alone (hand-washing and properly wiping after using the toilet included), put on their shoes, open their snacks, etc. By allowing them to do these things on their own, boosts their confidence and gets them ready for this big stage in their lives.
  3. Start a special routine. Kids love consistency. Create a fun routine that doesn’t take too much time in the morning, but still reassures him that you’re there for him and will continue to be. Whether it’s allowing him to set the table for breakfast or encouraging him to draw a picture before drop-off, the regularity will help him feel secure.
  4. Encourage self-expression. In many cases, this is your child’s first time in a setting where you won’t be present. To a preschooler, that’s frightening. Embolden them to talk about their feelings and why they feel apprehensive or fearful. Knowing that you’re listening and supportive will make them feel safe and loved.

Retail therapy may not be the antidote to your preschooler’s back-to-school jitters, but it definitely won’t hurt. To get your family in the pre-fall, back-to-school spirit, I’ve partnered with Hanes for a fun back-to-school giveaway!

**One lucky reader will win a $50 Visa Hanes gift card, along with 3 back-to-school styles (socks, tees and underwear) from Hanes. The contest is only open to U.S. residents and will run until September 18th, 2017. To enter, simply leave a comment or tweet me with how you plan to make (or made) back-to-school fun for your child. A lucky winner will be notified via email or Twitter by September 20th.

How do you plan to make (or made) back-to-school fun for your child? 

5 Reasons to Take Your Kids to Gulliver’s Gate

Looking for a place to keep your kids cool and entertained on a hot summer day?

If you’re in the New York City area, look no further than Gulliver’s Gate. This brand-new attraction brings a miniaturized version of the world to the heart of Times Square. Based around the popular adventure story, “Gulliver’s Travels,” this awe-inspiring exhibit of miniature wonders is nothing short of amazing.

gullivers-gate-key-city

With more than 300 built-to-scale scenes, including model landscapes in New York, Asia, Latin America, Russia, Israel and many other regions from across the globe, it will keep you and your little ones intrigued for hours on end. Plus, upon entry, guests are given a key (that’s yours to keep!) that with a slight turn, can bring parts of the exhibit to life. For example, by inserting the key at the kiosk in the New York scene, makes the famous Macy’s Day Parade move through the minuscule city with colorful characters.

times-square-gullivers-gate

mj-key

russia-gullivers-gate

Both of my children (daughter, 7 and son, 3) especially enjoyed Russia because the snow-capped models reminded them of Christmas—and of course, New York, because of its hometown familiarity. My personal pick was Washington D.C. I’ve visited the nation’s capital countless times and I’m always blown away by the classic architecture and designs. The level of detail that the talented team behind the exhibit demonstrated to recreate popular D.C landmarks is truly remarkable. Seeing replicas of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama waving from the state-of-the-art White House was a pleasant surprise and nod to their legacy.

white-house-gullivers-gate

build-a-rainbow

Not only are the scenes mind-blowing, there are also novelty stations such as “Make a Rainbow” that allows kids to use their cognitive skills to connect the colors of the rainbow. There’s also an interactive “waterfall” where visitors can take a digital photo and have it displayed in the cascading water. Plus, there is also a 3D photo booth, where families can get photos and even a miniature version of themselves to take home at an additional cost.

3D-picture

In a nutshell, here are 5 reasons why you should take your kids to Gulliver’s Gate.

  1. Keeps kids cool. It’s a great indoor attraction to escape the heat during the summer months.
  2. Makes learning fun. My daughter asked many questions during our visit and the staff were knowledgeable and shared interesting tidbits about the replica regions displayed throughout the exhibit.
  3. Nonstop entertainment. With so many intricately-designed displays, there’s just so much to explore! You’ll be entertained at every turn.
  4. Convenient location. The Times Square location makes it easy to travel to from public transportation.
  5. Good for kids of all ages. My 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son enjoyed the exhibit equally. My daughter was fascinated by the fine details, while my son was excited to find a few of his favorite characters (hint: Spider Man is hanging in Brooklyn 🙂 ) hiding out in scenes throughout the exhibit. I’m sure older kids and teens would find it interesting too.

Whether you live in the Big Apple, or planning a visit, Gulliver’s Gate is an awesome attraction for the entire family.

Gulliver’s Gate is located, 216 W. 44th Street in New York City. Ticket prices are $36 for adults and $27 for kids (12 and under).

(Full disclosure: My family and I were comped entry to Gulliver’s Gate for review purposes. All  thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Have you visited Gulliver’s Travels yet? What’s your favorite museum and/or exhibit?

3 Reasons to Love the Disney Wonder Cruise

Last month my family and I went on our first Disney cruise and I can’t stop thinking about our wonderful experience. We sailed on the newly renovated Wonder, which is an absolutely stunning ship and one of Disney’s four vessels in their cruise line fleet.

For three nights and four days, we sailed from Orlando to the breathtakingly beautiful Bahamas and docked at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. I’m still daydreaming about endless eats and turquoise sea. Our cruise was truly a trip of a lifetime. Even though we went as part of Disney’s Social Media Moms Celebration, the average cruiser would also be blown away by the amenities, activities and outstanding dining options.

disney-wonder

Incredible Eats

Who doesn’t love good food? Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, carnivore, or somewhere in between, the food options onboard the Wonder are endless. The ship boasts three fine dining restaurants: Tiana’s Place, Animator’s Palate and Triton’s. The food at each restaurant was top-notch, high-quality cuisine. From southern classic shrimp and grits to scrumptious pastas to delectable desserts, my family enjoyed everything that was served. Plus, for those midday and late night nibbles—Cabanas, a casual dining option on the top deck provided quick bites like chicken fingers, French fries and tacos. Oh and did I mention 24-hour room service? We ordered from the extensive menu each night, including warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. The outstanding service and delicious food exceeded our expectations every time.

tianas-place-shrimp-and-grits

Southern classic, shrimp and grits served at Tiana’s Place.

breakfast-cabanas-disney-wonder

MJ eating breakfast at Cabana’s.

Grilled Garlic-marinated shrimp served at Animator's Palate.

Grilled Garlic-Marinated shrimp served at Animator’s Palate.

My daughter, Ava, is allergic to eggs so the chef at Triton's served this special egg-free ice cream sundae to her delight.

My daughter, Ava, is allergic to eggs so the chef at Triton’s served this special egg-free ice cream sundae to her delight.

Kid’s Club fit Kings & Queens 

If you have a child over the age of three, the Oceaneer Club will be their favorite hangout. Admittedly, I didn’t think that we’d use this drop-off service during our time aboard the Wonder, but boy was I wrong! Like many paranoid parents, I was hesitant to leave my toddler and 7-year-old in a giant playroom in the middle of the ocean without us around. The impeccable security put all of my fears to rest. Plus, the staff was incredibly personable, friendly and patient—all of the things you need to be when dealing with children. The space was truly a child’s dream: interactive games, arts &crafts, food, movies, slides, iPads, character appearances and more. I literally had to bribe my kids to leave because it was that much fun!

disneys-oceaneer-club

disney-oceaneer-club-movie

marvel-disney-wonder-oceaneer-club

disney-wonder-oceaneer-club-pluto

High-Caliber Productions

We live in New York City, home of the Great White Way. So we’ve been to a couple of Broadway shows, but let me tell you, they aren’t cheap. For a family of four, ticket prices can soar upwards of $800 for a popular musical. That’s why we were so impressed by the shows performed onboard each night. They were comparable to multi-million dollar productions that keep theatergoers coming back to Broadway time after time. During our cruise, we were lucky to see “Golden Mickey’s,” “Dreams” and last but definitely not least, “Frozen.” Each of the shows displayed high-energy performances, awesome storylines, and amazing sets & costumes.

frozen-disney-wonder

If you’re Wonder-ing if you should take a Disney cruise, the answer is “yes!” The memories you’ll make with your family will be priceless. We’re already planning our next cruise. Maybe we’ll see you real soon too!

Have you ever sailed aboard a Disney cruise? If so, what was your experience? If not, do you have plans on taking one?

IT Cosmetics’ New Serum Foundation Puts Your Best Face Forward

When it comes to foundation, I’m not the biggest fan. Sure, I have my fair share of blemishes that need to be masked, but concealer has always been my coverage of choice.

That all changed when IT Cosmetics launched its new Confidence in a Compact last month. See, I’ve been obsessed with the brand’s Confidence in a Jar moisturizer for a while now. So, when I heard that they were formulating a foundation that was infused with the moisturizing serum, I had to give it a try.

I’m always stressing the importance of packaging and the vital role it plays in winning me over. Well, IT Cosmetics always delivers in that department. The chic, luxe compact is impeccably designed in a shiny silver case that conveniently holds the makeup sponge on top of the foundation. Plus, unlike most foundations, you don’t have to worry about messy drips or spills because of its sold-to-serum formula.

it-cosmetics-confidence-in-a-compact

Confidence in a Compact™ with SPF 50+ available here, $38 (sold separately).

The scent was the second thing I noticed, it had that same fresh lemony fragrance that I loved from the moisturizer. One of the reasons why I never got into foundations was because of the heavy, cake-y, overly made up look it typically creates, but this one goes on so translucently that it’s like a second skin. The virtually weightless, anti-aging formula can be applied with the accompanying sponge or brush for full coverage. Since I’m still not big on full-face makeup, I do like to blend it with my concealer using my fingertips.

Oh and it keeps skin hydrated without making it greasy or overly shiny (I have super oily skin so I swear by mattifying primers). Available in seven complementary shades, there are four that cater specifically to melanin-rich skin.

it-cosmetics-confidence-in-a-compact-serum-foundation

If you’re looking for a convenient foundation to even out your skin tone, definitely get with it – get it? “It” as in IT Cosmetics!

Do you wear foundation on a daily basis or simply for special occasions?