stuff I love {this week}

stuffilovethisweekname necklaces, I can’t get enough, especially now with 4 names to put on there {dallas and carlos}

double sided pearls, my favorite classic look with a today twist {find them locally here}

no sleep? no problem, with becca shimmering skin perfecter at least you will appear well rested…

the booksellers at Northshire Saratoga are 3 for 3 with their book recommendations so far, loving The Cuckoo’s Calling…

Pumpkin Beer + Ginger Apple Pie Sugar Brew Salt? Amazing.

When will IKEA move closer?! In love with my new high chair (less than $20, seriously) and this classic train set has saved my sanity by keeping my two year old entertained for hours

Tiny duck boots for the toddler? The cutest.

This Burberry poncho is everything, especially since you can get it monogrammed. But…it’s a tad out of my price range. On the hunt for the perfect poncho/blanket scarf that will keep me and the babe cozy and that I can also use as a nursing shawl. This one might fit the bill…

and finally, the funniest toddler t-shirt ever made, ours just arrived in the mail today {its so super soft too}

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my weekend in photos

Halloween and harvest were the themes for my weekend, as we went to a great Halloween party at Lake Sacandaga at our good friend Rick Parker’s lake house. The rain cleared up just as the party was starting, and the crisp weather was perfect for the giant bonfire that was lit on the beach, followed by a great smattering of fireworks.

On Sunday we headed to Hanehan’s Pumpkins and, let me tell you guys, if you are local you MUST GO check them out. These pumpkins are absolutely gorgeous, they have pumpkins I have never even seen before in the most beautiful colors, light pinks and blues and pale cream colored ones. It was hard to limit myself, I could have filled my car full to the brim with pumpkins. They also have hay bales and corn stalks, everything you need to decorate for fall and the prices are unbelievable. I almost don’t want to share it because I don’t want them to ever run out! They are also a family run farm, doing their thing for over 25 years. Check them out on facebook here, and I guarantee you will love it if you go visit. They are open daily from 9:30am – 6pm and are located at 223 Co Rt 67 in Saratoga Springs (not far from Harvest and Hearth).

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October Autumn Bites from Healthy Living Market and Café

autumnbitesWe’ve got a twofer for you guys this month from Shannon, the Learning Center Instructor from Healthy Living Market and Café, so get your pumpkin on with these amazing autumn recipes!

Whipped Pumpkin Fluff

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup cream cheese
3 Tbsp maple syrup (I prefer grade B)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pumpkin

In the bowl of your mixer, fitted with a paddle, beat the cream cheese until it is smooth. Switch to the whisk attachment, and combine the heavy cream, cream cheese, syrup, vanilla and spices. Turn the mixer on low until all ingredients are combined. Turn speed up to high and blend until the mixture thickens, about 1-2 minutes.  Turn the speed back to low and carefully blend in the pumpkin puree, scraping the sides as necessary.
Serve right away or store in fridge for up to 4 days!

Delicious with apples, pears, graham crackers or ginger snaps.


Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Golden Raisins and Chopped Pecans
4 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 14-oz can pureed pumpkin
1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 loaf Challah bread, cut into large cubes

Blended cinnamon and sugar (about 1/4 cup) 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.  In a bowl whisk together eggs, egg yolk, and sugar until pale yellow. In another bowl combine: milk, cream, vanilla and pumpkin puree and mix until smooth.  Combine the two mixtures and add the fresh nutmeg and salt.  In the baking dish, alternately layer cubed bread, chopped nuts and raisins.  Pour custard mixture over.  Press all the bread down into the custard and let sit for about 15 minutes so the bread absorbs the custard completely.  Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon-sugar and place bread pudding in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown, the pudding appears to raise up slightly and it jiggles very slightly at the center when shaken.  Let cool and serve warm.


For more delicious recipes from Shannon, click right here, and to check out the schedule at Healthy Living Market and Cafe’s Learning Center, click right here.

Don’t forget you can pre-order your Thanksgiving goodies already, from turkey to pie to some super yummy sides! Click here for all the info! xoxo

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Your Toy Portrait Giveaway {Toy OR Pet Portrait!} ***GIVEAWAY CLOSED***

I am so thrilled to have one of my all time favorites as a giveaway again on Mamatoga this week, Your Toy Portrait! We just had our third portrait done for Baby Talley (the absolutely adorable Blabla monkey below) and it is going to join our Doggy and Bun Bun portrait and our Hedgie portrait on the wall in a special little gallery.

I can’t tell you enough how much I love our portraits, every time I pass them on the stairs they make me smile. Carrying Jack up for his nap he will make me pause at his and will point, smiling, and say “Dere Hedgie!”. They perfectly capture that specific essence of childhood, the sweetness and the innocence, that time when having your favorite little buddy tucked in with you was the most important thing. I love how distilled the idea is with her portraits too, the simplicity of them allows for you to see all the details on these much loved subjects. That is what comes through the most for me with these portraits, all the love poured into these little inanimate objects, how cherished they are by your favorite little people.

Originally from Chicago, Your Toy Portrait artist Jennifer Maher now lives and paints locally here in Upstate NY. A long-time collector of unique stuffed animals, she has often turned to them as inspiring subject matter for her artwork. The birth of her daughter in 2008 revived Jennifer’s interest in documenting favorite toys, especially those most special to Sonja. This series has expanded as other parents began requesting portraits of their own children’s special stuffed animals. {Check out Jennifer’s portraits featured on Cool Mom Picks here}

Image-11IMG_2606For this giveaway though, you get to choose, because guess what? She also does pet portraits! I know it will be nearly impossible for some of you to choose, because how amazing are these pet portraits?!

nolaprocessnoladogThese portraits are perfect as a gift (LOVE the idea of a first birthday gift to hang on a nursery wall) or as a keepsake for you and your child to hang in your home, a special little childhood time capsule to be treasured. My kids love their toy portraits as much as we do, to them their little loved ones are getting the special attention they deserve. This would also make a perfect holiday gift for a child or that special dog lover in your family (Christmas is just around the corner, seriously).

photo 2 (44) photo 1 (50)Turnaround is quick for these custom portraits, and if you live locally she can even paint your toy from life (don’t worry, she won’t keep it long!), but she can also easily work from photographs. All you do is email her two or three images of the toy or your pet, preferably taken without flash and with a strong light source from one side. You tell her a bit about the toy (or pet) and what makes it special to you, your family, or your child — (your story adds to her creative process and is a large part of the joy she takes in her work). The painting will sport a simple pine frame hand built by Jennifer’s husband and is ready to hang on your wall.
redridingprocessredridingfinal (1)For the giveaway, ONE winner will be chosen at random on Friday, Oct. 17th at 5pm to receive a custom 8×10 portrait of the subject of their choice, either a toy OR a pet! To enter, first go “like” Your Toy Portrait on facebook here (if you haven’t already) and comment below. You MAY comment more than once, and one winner will be chosen at random.

Many many thanks to Jennifer for the giveaway, and good luck! xoxo

***GIVEAWAY CLOSED*** This giveaway is now closed and one winner picked at random has been notified via email. Thank you to everyone who entered and thank you to Jennifer for doing the giveaway! xoxo

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Big News for Mamatoga Magazine!

mamatogaholiday2014Mamatoga Magazine is going digital with the 2014 Holiday Issue! Faced with always increasing print costs, I decided that rather than charge more for advertisement spots, I would go digital and charge advertisers less, while introducing some new and exciting ways to share the magazine, including a brand new standalone site where you can find and read the magazine.

With Mamatoga Magazine, our area’s first parenting magazine, you’ll find the same {two time} award winning design and awesome content, and this issue will also include a brand new premiere issue of The Saratoga Social Magazine as well!

If you are a business interested in advertising, send me an email today at jenny (at) mamatoga dot com. Space is very limited for this issue and is already filling up! Can’t wait to share this next issue with all of you! xoxo

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my weekend in photos

As much as I love the summer, I have to admit autumn is my new favorite, especially here in upstate NY. There is something about the way people up here just wholeheartedly embrace fall with pumpkin patches and apple picking and cider donuts, it’s impossible to resist.

This weekend we also spent some time downtown for the first Saratoga International Flavorfeast and town was packed for it. I always love seeing the streets of downtown busy in the “off-season”, and this was certainly busy. A big round of applause to Ashley and Fran Dingeman for putting on such a fantastic event that brought so many people to downtown. While we were out we stopped by the brand new Lex & Cleo and I couldn’t resist picking up the absolute sweetest little pure white bunny ear hat for Baby Talley. The shop is absolutely adorable, with hand picked items from little boutique brands like Moulin Roty, a great selection of aden + anais (including crib sheets!) and dozens of unique children’s items ranging from classic book selections, the softest bamboo baby clothing and an absolutely gorgeous hand made ship kite which I plan on getting to use as a mobile for Jack’s room. (We also took the entire family out for lunch for the first time ever, thank you, patrons of Harvey’s, for not wanting to move your tables away from ours when we all came in. Taytos served as the BEST toddler distraction).

Levy had her very first sleepover, and it was funny how much I actually enjoyed it too, they watched Annie, made cupcakes, we “Boo’d” the neighbors, and made friendship bracelets (Jack had to take part, of course).

Rounding out the weekend we went to Saratoga Apple to pick up some baking apples (pie is on the agenda for today) and it was jumping. Even with all those people there though we still managed to have a really nice, leisurely stroll through their orchard and found some trees absolutely weighed down with apples. I think what I love most about apple picking is that the kids can just run around and climb trees, and nothing beats how excited they get to find the “perfect apple” (we have about thirty “perfect” apples in our kitchen right now).

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Chores and Rewards: Do You Have a System?

puffsGetting kids to behave and help out around the house, not super easy, right? We’ve tried everything, apps, chore charts, allowance, all with mixed results, none of which were that successful. Until now.

Enter the Puff Jars. On our shelf we have three mason jars labeled for the three older kids and a larger jar full of puffballs. The idea couldn’t be more simple. For chores (making their beds, cleaning their playroom and bedrooms, feeding the dogs, etc.) they don’t get any puffballs. We decided that those basic chores were part of the daily housework that needs to get done and just like I don’t get any extra credit for doing the dishes or folding laundry, they should get used to being responsible for their own stuff without being rewarded for it.

Instead, the puffballs get doled out for good behavior as positive reinforcement. If they are nice to their siblings, if they share without being asked, they get a puff. If they get all of their homework done without being asked 8 billion times, they get a puff. If they jump in and help out when asked (and they get asked often), they get a puff. The puffs also get taken away for negative behavior, yelling, pushing, a bad attitude.

This system has worked so far because it is easily understood by my oldest (7) and the toddler (2), so they can all have the same system. If they work together (which happens occasionally, albeit not super frequently), they can all get a puff. Once they earn a certain number of puffs they can trade them in for either an allowance, some Minecraft time (my 7 year old’s choice nearly every week) or a treat like a trip to the playground or an ice cream cone.

How about you guys, do you have a chore and reward system at home? What works for you, what doesn’t work?

 

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Guest Recipe: Pumpkin Spice Sugar Cookies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting {omg}

iheartpumpkinHey, Mamatoga readers! My name is Christen and I blog about food over at Christen in the Kitchen. I live just outside Saratoga with my husband, Trevor, and our daughters, Hadley and Bryn.

I love to cook and bake for my family, especially around the holidays. I’m definitely one of those people who goes a little pumpkin crazy around this time of year. I could eat pumpkin anything, but these cookies are my latest addiction. If you’re like me and you love fall baking, or if you’re just looking for a new cookie recipe, check out my Pumpkin Spice Sugar Cookies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.

Also, if you like this recipe and want more, or if you want to learn more about me, check out my blog. Also, you can like my Facebook page here.

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Thanks Christen! xoxo

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An Ode to the Class Parent

comparison-is-thiefAt first, I didn’t like you. There, I’ll admit it. I didn’t like you because you made me feel like a failure. The first time my oldest child came home and asked, “Mommy why aren’t YOU the class parent” I didn’t have a great response (and it wouldn’t be the first time this question was asked of me). At the time I had a baby at home, but maybe you did too? I worked from home, but maybe you also did that? I bet you also made gluten-free non-diary cupcakes with fondant leaves on them for the “Harvest Party” and organized your children’s book library (because of course you would have a children’s book “library”) according to color just like I saw on Pinterest and pinned to a board labeled “Home Stuff” but never actually attempted.

I was jealous. I’ll admit that too. I was jealous of the time and attention that you had to pay to this important job. I was jealous of the fact that your kid was probably really proud that it was HIS mom that was the class parent. I was jealous that you knew all the other parents (including their actual names) and I had a hard time remembering what kids were in my son’s class let alone which ones their parents were. I was jealous that you probably never missed a back to school night or a book fair and always knew when show and tell was and what letter it was that week. You probably never shouted “I don’t know just grab a truck!” down the stairs, shoving said truck into a backpack while the school bus idled outside the house, waiting, the bus driver clearly annoyed.

When the class mom is introduced each year, I do size her up, and I size myself up at the same time. Thoughts in my head include: Well, she probably doesn’t work, she probably doesn’t have any younger kids at home, maybe she used to be a teacher, or she really loves doing this sort of stuff, that’s why she does it and I don’t. All these thoughts are designed to make me feel better about the job I’m doing as a parent. Because I, on the other hand, am the mom who always tries to snap up the “easy” class party items like paper plates (paper plates are my specialty) or water bottles (the easiest, especially since you don’t need to find them in any sort of “theme”). I will be honest and admit that I have secretly felt the smallest triumph when I have successfully secured the paper plates spot first, actually bought the plates AND sent them in on the correct day. I will also admit that I have loathed the times I dropped the ball and got stuck making Halloween pumpkin faces on the tops of twenty five mandarin orange fruit cups with a Sharpie in one hand and a glass of wine in the other at 10:45pm the night before the party.

You see, I always wanted to be the class mom, the one who remembered all the stuff and had time and desire to make the cute snacks and volunteer to be the special reader and could help out getting the new kindergartners off the bus. I guess I just assumed I would do it, but one (sort of unexpected) career and a couple more kids later and my oldest two school age kids are out of luck on that front. Sometimes they are lucky I actually get their lunches packed, let alone pull my act together enough (aka get out of my sweatpants/shower) to make it over to school to volunteer.

So, I stopped comparing. And not just the class mom, I stopped comparing myself to any and all other moms. The saying “Comparison is the thief of joy” rings so true for me nowadays, by comparing myself to other moms to see if I measured up, I was only seeing things that I perceived as lacking in myself. I didn’t spend enough time helping out at my child’s school like the class moms did, I didn’t spend as much effort on the snacks as the other moms did, I didn’t play enough, sing the alphabet song in the car enough, put down my phone enough, I didn’t do ENOUGH. Not as much as other moms did, or at least, what I thought they were doing. And somehow, these little holes and spaces in my perception of Motherhood and What It Should Look Like made it feel less whole than it should be, less whole than it actually is.

I started focusing on what was great about the parenting job I was doing, and at the same time, the Class Mom, perched on her pretty pedestal of perfectly prepared preschool snacks and organized mud rooms that I put her on became a friend, not a foe. I actually realized how glad I was that there were moms out there that chose to volunteer, that these moms were also helping my child have a better school experience, not just her own. It reminded me of the whole “it takes a village” idea again, and rather than feeling bad about not doing class mom stuff, I was grateful to have an ally that could help out with things on the school front.

So, thank you Class Mom. Thank you for giving your time to help out at school, for dealing with moms like me who email you back in March about an email you sent in October, for those of us that still don’t know which day library day is even in June, thank you for helping us all feel like we are contributing something, even if it is just a pack of plates.

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Mamatoga Loves: The Beaufort Bonnet Company

bbcMy addiction started out light, with just a paci clip. I picked out a sweet little rosebud print, and then added a nice green monogram to it, why not? It arrived at my doorstep, and I fell in love, and that is where the addiction went even deeper. Now I had to have a bonnet.

A bonnet, you ask? Yes, a BONNET. But not just a bonnet, a Beaufort Bonnet Company bonnet. Up here in the north we aren’t really bonnet people, but once I laid eyes on these absolutely adorable (and monogrammable) bonnets I could not resist and I jumped in head first.

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 8.58.22 AMFounded in 2009, Beaufort Bonnet Company’s hallmark bonnets are based on a generations-old heirloom pattern from the coastal town of Beaufort, South Carolina. These polished, vintage style accessories are everything I love about little children’s clothing, and they were a huge hit, spawning mentions in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, InStyle, OK Magazine and People, where it was featured as a Mini Must Have.

They have baby clothing and accessories as well as boys and girls stuff, and it all has that perfectly preppy vibe mixed with the right amount of sweetness. You guys know I love classic looks for kids, there are certain things that will never go out of style, and the traditional also has a timeless appeal.

The bonnets are just the cutest, put one on your daughter at the beach, for her birthday, Easter Sunday, at the track (SO cute to wear to the track, OMG) or for that special family photo. They have summer designs in sweet seersucker and pretty pinks and classic holiday designs in traditional plaids. Boys aren’t left out either, their jon jons and shortalls, bucket hats and bow ties are to die for.

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Once you get a little deeper into your own Beaufort addiction, let me introduce you to the diaper covers. THE DIAPER COVERS! I ordered one for Tallis with the teensy pink bows on the sides and her monogram in the most gorgeous light blue. This is clothing that doubles as a keepsake, it’s wearable but also photo prop worthy. I love it.

One of my absolute favorite items they have are the monogrammed bow swaddles, not your average swaddle blanket, these come with a gorgeous pink or blue bow that you can tie up on your new little bundle, again perfect for a photo and as a special keepsake once they get older. They are the absolute sweetest thing, hands down. Another unique item of theirs is the maternity sash, which I wish I had known about when I was pregnant. Use it for your bump photos or get it for a close friend as a baby shower gift, then when her baby arrives she can use it as a photo prop for newborn shots or as her own bow for swaddling.

bbc4It’s rare when I find a brand like this that I feel never hits a wrong note. Their cuts, colors, designs and styles all fit in perfectly with their sweet and proper southern style, and I am 100% on board with bringing that style up here to the north, so when you see me and Talley out and about and she is wearing her Hamptons Hot Pink bonnet, now you’ll know where I got it…xoxo

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