Halloween Trick or Treats? How to manage the sweets!

With Halloween right around the corner, parents cringe when they think about the still “candy driven festivity.” How can we allow the kids to partake in an age-old tradition while not being a killjoy or allowing them to devour all the processed sugar they receive? Here are some fun easy solutions to enjoying the tradition and setting limits!

Have a Halloween Party: Invite over a few of your children’s friends and enjoy party games, prizes, and healthier treats. Focus on the costumes and celebrate with Halloween music, traditional Halloween games and treats galore…but without all the extra high fructose corn syrup.

Halloween Goblin: After the kids come home from trick or treating allow the kids to eat as much candy as they want (within reason) and they can save 1-2 pieces (hide them from the Halloween Goblin) who comes over the night and takes the candy (wink, wink).

Candy Swap: When the kids come home and spill out their candy. Let them swap their treats with siblings and friends for their favorites. Then after they enjoy a few pieces stash the rest away for later enjoyment.

Buy Out: When the kids come home, and select a few pieces to enjoy, parents offer to trade all the candy for a desired toy, game, healthier treat, like Pinkberry, or an experience the child is excited about?

Self-Regulation: Teach the kids that candy should be enjoyed in minimum qualities, talk about the ingredients and encourage them to make healthy choices for their bodies.

Halloween is a wonderful, fun holiday that many kids still look forward too today and it’s our responsibility as parents and caregivers to set limits and teach by example a healthy relationship with food and making healthy decisions for our bodies!

 - Ali Shepard, nanny extraordainaire and BFC contributor


WWW – Is change really a good thing?

Quite a bit has changed since my last entry a couple of months ago, my daughter Ashton turned one (shes 14 months now) and I went back to work as a teacher full time.  There has been quite a bit of change around here and lots to get used to; our new daily routine, sending her to daycare, being back in the classroom and getting used to the idea of being a “working mom” and what that entails.  By far the hardest part of it all is the daycare part; walking out the door of her “classroom” each morning and driving away.  Ashton has never cried, not even shed one tear about being there, I on the other hand can not say the same!  I truly am happy being back at work; I love being a teacher and I have the most adorable 3rd graders this year but that has not taken away from the guilt I feel when I drop her off or the urge to just scoop her back up and take her back home with me.  I know that she is thriving and that she is getting much more out of her day then she would at home with me, it is just hard for me to swallow the idea that she is being taken care of by other people all day long or that she will do things for the first time and I will miss them.  Perfect example, I am 99% sure that her first steps were taken at daycare, I will never really know for sure and my husband swears we witnessed her first steps in our living room.  I also do not know if it will get easier, I feel pretty confident saying that I know it won’t, especially down the road when our family grows, so for now I will just keep taking it one day at a time!

 - Sam Heller is a Sitter2Mom & 3rd grade teacher living in Westchester NY with her adorable daughter and hubby.



Bell Family Loves – Mani’s Your way with cityMANI

Our newest obsession is cityMANI – a boutique concierge manicure service in Manhattan (and surrounding areas) that is getting rave reviews.  We are simply wondering why it took so long!  Brought to us by Cari DeCoons and Erika London who saw the lack of service and jumped right in to rectify it.  After launching just months ago, the gals have built quite the reputation in the tri state area and out to the Hamptons through private events and parties, moms nights out, playdates and more.  Henceforth, their advice on why every mom and woman should have the opportunity for a cityMANI…and what you gain.

Top 10 Reasons Moms Need cityMANI

*Why pay a sitter while you get a manicure when you can get one in the convenience of your home?

*Playdates with your mom friends and their kids are more fun with manicures!

*Doing the dishes wont seem as bad since you’ll be looking at your fun new nails while doing them!

*What could possibly be cuter than Mommy & Me manicures?

*You probably don’t have any more room on your to do list of errands to run.

*Your baby’s spit up won’t look as bad when you’re cleaning it with freshly polished hands.

*What mom do you know that has time for a trip to the salon?

*Moms deserve pampering too!

*With manicurists that come to you, there’s no room to feel guilty about spending extra time away from home!

*There’s no better way to get a mani in this busy city!

Follow them on instagram @citymaninyc



Playground Hacks That Save the Day

From our friends over at Red Tricycle, (photo courtesy of Under The Sycamore) some ingenious ideas that will have you going, duh!! and making the same old same old, not so same anymore……

An afternoon at your favorite playground is bound to throw you for a loop at some point. From critters in the sandbox to splinters on the seesaw, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. No worries — just try one of these hacks for a safer, more fun adventure. Read on and get ready to MacGyver your local playground!

#1 When kiddo’s favorite jungle gym is closed for renovations, never fear. You can spice up a skimpy playground by making your own jungle gym with yarn. Simply tie pieces around the base of different trees and let them loose.

#2 Ward off creepy crawlers in the sandbox by sprinkling it with cinnamon before letting your little ones climb in.

#3 Transform playground flower bed bricks into a curvy highway with chalk. Not to fear: It will wash off with the next rain shower.

#4 Let Junior sit on a dryer sheet while going down a static-filled slide. Bye-bye Einstein hair!

#5 If your little princess insists on wearing her slippery, plastic “Frozen” slippers to the playground, squeeze on a few rows of glue-gun glue to boost grip.

#6 Calling all parents of curious tots! Check playground openings and holes with a half-folded dollar bill. To avoid head entrapment, no opening should be larger than a half inch.

#7 For super-crowded playgrounds, write your contact info on your kid’s wrist with a fine point Sharpie and coat with a layer of liquid bandage. You can never be too cautious.

#8 Be the hero mom or dad of the neighborhood playground by creating a Bubble Refill Station (glycerin, soap, water).

#9 Bring baby siblings to the playground and let them play in a small inflatable pool. They’ll feel like they’re part of the action with the big kids, but won’t get run over by them.

#10 Bucket swings a bust? Clip on a SwingEase, a portable mini seat that securely attaches to standard swings, converting them to fit kids 6-36 months. Genius, right?

WWW – Musical Melodies redux

A fave Sitter2Mom of ours – Jen Bonura – also attended a Kindermusik class with her 20 month old son at the classes Upper West Side location.. Check out what she had to say about her experience…

My son and I recently ventured uptown to Kindermusik‘s new Upper West Side location.   We were excited to try something new.   Upon entering the room (which also serves as a pre-school classroom for the Redeemer Presbyterian Church), Julian was excited to see instruments out on the floor to play with.   The Kindermusik program starts with some free time of exploring the instrument of the day which in our case were “rhythm sticks.”   They look like textured drum sticks and of course Julian used them to drum on the floor like he was a member of the rock band Foo Fighters.

After the sticks were collected we moved on to the structured time.   I hadn’t realized it at first, but there was a theme to class – this week was “Trains,” much to my son’s delight.  This is a music and movement class so our chug-a-chuga-a dance moves were hilarious for the adults and a blast for the kids.  The next few songs were all fun activities that I was amazed Julian picked up on so quickly — In and out and up and down with hand movements and music.

Then we moved on to parachute time – what class is complete without the ever-anticipated parachute?  I’m always amazed to see that every kid responds differently to it – some want to jump on top, some want to run underneath, either way they all have fun as the adults got an arm workout shaking away.   We continued shaking with colorful pieces of fabric that were handed out to the kids.

Class ended with a book about a New York City subway car.   We’ve been to a lot of music classes and none of them had a story-time which I thought was a nice twist, especially since it went with the theme.

I thought this class had a lot of similar activities to other music classes we’ve been to, but I would say that this class has a bit more structure and in my opinion is geared more towards toddlers.   My son is 20 months and he was excited about the different transitions, but was more interested in climbing the pre-school chairs other non-music class paraphernalia than really partaking in the activity for the entire time.   In contrast, there was a 3 year old girl in the class who was just beside herself with excitement the entire time and anticipated the next activity.   The teacher was lovely – she was engaging and knew how to balance the class with the older and younger kids.   Also, I’m not sure if this is a new class, but there were only 5 kids in class which might be ideal for parents who aren’t a fan of the very loud and aggressive music class.   In my case, my son is much more in the explore phase and another music class type of set up works better for him.   This is why trial classes are so key – your child’s interests can change drastically from age to age and every child gravitates towards something different.  We were appreciative to have had the opportunity to check out Kindermusik.

A few logistical notes to parents and caregivers – your stroller needs to be collapsed and stored in at the lower level before heading up to class.   This important to know in advance, if like me your child’s entire life is in your stroller basket.  Also, all shoes (adults and kids) must come off upon entering class so remember to wear socks.

- Jen is an Event Planner and stay at home mom (aka educator, security guard, cook and master negotiator) living on the UWS and enjoying all the city has to offer with her son.

jodylynn kid

26 Percent

Many years ago, I remember hearing a story about a little boy walking up to his mom, pointing to her chest and saying, “boob mama” and the mom immediately offering her breast for nursing.  At the time I said to my friends, “No way! If I ever have a kid there’s no way he’s gonna be nursing long enough to ask for it….that’s just weird.”  Well, I’m sure a lot of things about motherhood seemed weird to that college kid, but now they’re just my normal.  Now I would congratulate that little boy for correctly identifying a body part and accurately asking for what he wanted.  I would also applaud that mom for sticking with it!  I just read a statistic that although most pediatricians recommend breastfeeding for a year if possible, something like only 26% of women actually make it that far.  So unless this kid was an early talker, he was probably more than a year old….kudos mama!!

Our little girl isn’t an early talker, but she’s a big talker!  We are currently celebrating the discovery of new words every day.  Wait, no, it’s more like every minute.  Once they start to talk, the words just flow like water.  It’s pretty spectacular!  We taught Parker basic baby sign language so she’s been able to communicate with us on some level her whole life, but now that she can “use her words” it’s a whole new world.  It’s thrilling to watch her realization as she learns to form a word on her lips.   She just gets so pleased with herself and then uses whatever she’s just learned as much as possible!  Of course the down side to all of this discovery is that EVERYTHING you say will be repeated.

Parker and I are also part of that small percentage that still breastfeed.  It’s now just around sleep times and she uses the sign for milk furiously as she says “milk”.  If you’ve ever seen a child opening and closing their hand like they’re milking a cow, that’s the sign.  (Parker once used it in church when we were in front of the entire congregation for my parents’ Anniversary blessing…her request went unanswered.)  So, during one of our nap sessions, my husband asked Parker a question from the other room.  I carelessly replied, “She can’t talk right now, she’s got a mouth full of boob.”  Parker immediately pulled away and said, “boob”.  Guess I’m the mom in the story now.

- Jolynn


Fun Fridays – Crave Culture At The Jewish Museum

Common misconception – You do not have to be Jewish to appreciate the revolving installations at this Upper East Side Museum.   Saturdays are FREE for everyone and kids under 18 get in FREE all other days of the week. Our friends at The Jewish Museum have put together some great ideas and facts for the wee ones when exploring beyond the playground and usual playspaces.  NYC is abundant with culture, just there for the taking, don’t miss out!  (Psst, BFC reader discount on membership below, so read on!)

From The Jewish Museum’s Education Department – written by Nelly Silagy Benedek, Director of Education; Rachel Katz Levine, Senior Manager of Family Programs; and Rachael Abrams, Senior Coordinator of Studio Programs.

Why is culture important for early learners?

Having cultural experiences at a young age supports the development of critical learning skills in fun and engaging ways. The Jewish Museum’s family programs encourage young children to look closely, describe, move, and think in response to original works of art through gallery and studio art experiences.  Similarly, our family concerts inspire children to listen actively and express themselves by singing and dancing—all this in a friendly, collaborative environment. Through their participation in gallery conversations, performances, and hands-on activities, children express themselves creatively. They also learn how to share their experiences with others.

Studio art is an important component of our early childhood programming. Families create original works of art inspired by their experiences and by the works of art they encounter in the Museum’s exhibitions. Our studio art programs and projects emphasize the importance of using the imagination, articulating objectives, experimenting with different materials, developing original ideas, making thoughtful choices, learning from mistakes, and expressing different points of view.

Family programs at museums offer enriching artistic and cultural experiences for multi-generational audiences in an environment where families can learn together.  Furthermore, children who begin coming to museums at a young age are more likely to feel comfortable in museums and other cultural institutions and are more likely to seek out similar experiences throughout their lives. We hope that visiting museums at a young age is a first step to fostering a life-long passion for the arts.

How can my children and I better engage with art as a family?

•           Follow your child’s lead. What sparks his or her interest?

•           Look closely. Describe what you notice in a work of art. Explore the colors, shapes, textures, and materials that you see. Discuss what is happening in a scene.

•           Take your time. Give your kids time to make close observations.

•           Choose a theme. Plan your museum visit around an idea or topic, such as people, place, nature, color, shape or materials. Hunt for specific images or objects in the galleries. Discuss the artwork by asking questions related to your theme. For example: Find a work of art that involves something from nature such as an animal, tree or plant. Have you ever seen this animal or plant before? Where? How is this work of art similar or different from the real animal or plant?

•           Ask open-ended questions, such as: What do you think is interesting about this work of art? What do you think is happening in this scene? Does this remind you of anything?

The Jewish Museum is pleased to offer your readers a discount on family memberships.  Normally a Jewish Museum family membership is $135, but we can provide a special rate of $100 just for your readers who join by December 31, 2014.  Readers can use the discount code BELFAM and redeem the offer by:

-       Emailing the membership desk at JMMembership@thejm.org

-       Call the membership hotline at 212.660.1519

-       Visiting the membership desk at the Jewish Museum and mentioning the code or bringing in the blog entry

Further information about membership at the Jewish Museum and benefits can found at http://thejewishmuseum.org/support#memberships by looking at the section headed “Family $135.”

Working Women Wednesdays – Top 10 Lunchbox Tips

Our good friends and super mammas – Cara and Monica at Freshmade NYC  – have graciously given us some great tips on making school lunches that much less stressful.  Check out the tips below to ensure your kid isn’t trading his carrots for a twinkie in the lunchroom……

The school year has begun, pumpkin spice lattes have returned, apple picking season is in full effect.  But amongst all these wonderful Autumn traditions looms the topic that can cause daily stress: packing our kid’s lunch.

It’s 7 AM, you haven’t had coffee yet and you’re standing in front of the refrigerator, desperately trying to wipe the sleep from your eyes, wondering where summer has gone, and you’re panicking about what to pack in your child’s lunchbox.

Our parents had it easy – they would shove a sandwich in one of those super fancy brown paper lunch bags and send you on your way.  Maybe a juice box, maybe a cookie.  There you go kid, piece of cake, out the door.  You just prayed it wasn’t bologna again…

No…these days it’s all pressure.  Can your child’s school have nuts or seeds?  Will they get made fun of for bringing a quinoa salad to school? How do I pack a healthy, delicious meal that will keep until my kid has lunch?  Are they going to eat what I packed?  If they throw it out, will I even know?  Will they have enough energy to last the whole school day?

Turkey rollups speared by little heart shaped toothpicks with cheese cut into little flowers, cherry tomatoes on a skewer shaped like a sword with dip, watermelon cut into heart shapes, a rainbow of options that fill their 9000 compartment lunch boxes.  Are we overachieving because of Pinterest?  Damn those bento box mamas.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!  How DO you do it?

Well, we are here to inspire some lunchbox creativity that will make your lunch packing job easier.  Take a look at Freshmade NYC’s Top 10 Lunchbox Tips and let’s celebrate healthy, energized kids who look forward to their lunchbox meal (and to Moms who have one less thing to worry about).

1.  Get your children involved:  Whether it be shopping for the food, meal planning or actual cooking, getting your children involved in the process will make them more likely to eat the foods you pack for them.  Talk to your kids, find out what they enjoy eating.  Use our meal planner to help plan the week’s meals together.  Try to do this weekly throughout the school year and keep communication open to what your child is trading or throwing away!

2. Stock a healthy fridge, freezer and pantry:  This is key to pulling together a quick, easy, healthy, stress-free meal.  Here are a few healthy fridge, freezer and pantry staples we recommend:

  • Canned Tuna Tuna is a great lunch option, you can serve it in a wrap, with crackers, or even veggies.  You can toss it with pasta, make it into burgers, or stuff in in a tomato or avocado.  Tuna is high in minerals and omega 3‘s.  Buy tuna that is stored in water rather than oil, look for wild caught tuna that is hook & line trolled, this means that it is caught and immediately brought on the boat and fresh frozen.  Try:  spend the extra $ and go for quality when buying canned tuna, we like the Wild Planet brand, they have a no salt added option.
  • Dried Fruits:  Kids like dried fruits because they are sweet.  Some dried fruits have sugar added to them in the process, fruit is naturally sweet and therefore don’t need added sugar.    Look for no sugar added, organic & sulfite-free options.  Sulphur is used in many dried fruits as a preservative however according to the FDA 1 in 100 are sensitive to sulfites.  Reactions such as headaches, rashes and breathing problems are often triggered by this preservative.  Add them to oatmeal, breakfast quinoa, make your own trail mix, add them to baked goods, etc.  Try:  dried cranberries, goji berries, apricots, raisins, blueberries, strawberries, mangoes, etc.
  • Pasta:  We know, what child can live without pasta?  Pastas are a great source of carbs that kids love and provide them energy they need to make it through a busy school day.  Pasta is great because it is versatile and can be eaten hot or cold.  Luckily, these days there are so many options besides “white” pasta – pastas are now made with rice, corn, quinoa, spelt, buckwheat, etc.  Pasta comes in lots of fun shapes like farfalle (bow ties), roetelle (wheels), gemelli (twists), and more.  Choose whole grain pastas.  Try:  Soba noodles tossed with veggies and tamari, “caprese” pasta tossed with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil, pasta tossed with white beans, chicken and spinach, or whole grain spaghetti and mini turkey meatballs.

3. Recreate leftovers for lunch:  It’s nothing new, it’s not rocket science – we all know an economical (and super time saver) way to pack lunch is to use what you have had for dinner the night before.  This can be boring for kids so jazz up your leftovers and use them in a new way.  Last nights roasted chicken can be tossed with pasta, veggies and dressing for a jazzed up pasta salad.  Shred the same chicken and toss it with rice and cheese and top with avocado and tomatoes.  Roll out some pizza dough, spread some hummus and add last nights roasted veggies and wrap up like a calzone and bake!  Leftover rice?  Add some veggies, egg, and tamari and make your own fried rice.

4. Reusable containers.  We’ve come a long way since smushed lunches in brown paper bags, who wants to eat smushed berries and a wet sandwich?  Today there are so many great options for reusable containers in all price points.  You can even save plastic containers that have a lids like sour cream, butter, or yogurt containers – they are perfect to send dips or tender fruits in.    We love this simple bento from Laptop Lunches, (it has only 4 compartments, not 9000).  These types of containers keeps food separate from each other, keeping it more edible looking.

5.  The surprise factor.  Try and include one new thing each week, a new seasonal fruit or vegetable, a new cracker, a new cheese, or a new dip.  Over the course of a school year your child can learn to love so many new foods.  Build their curiosity and they will build their palate.

6. Pack reusable utensils.  No need to add more plastic utensils to our landfills.  There is a wide array of cute reusable utensils for your kiddo to have fun with at lunch.  We just love Love LOVE the ECOspork by ECO Lunchbox!  Perfect for little hands and made with bamboo.

7. Funnies a day.  Add a note with a kid friendly joke on it.  Your kiddo can share with the lunch table and add some laughter to their day.  Not clever enough to come up with one on your own?  Search google for a vast array of food funnies or check out Lunch Box Notes.

8. The BFL (Breakfast for Lunch).  Breakfast for dinner is so much fun, why NOT try breakfast for lunch?  There are tons of fun ways to incorporate breakfast favorites into nourishing lunches. Try a protein-packed oatmeal bowl, fruit and yogurt parfait, a toasted whole grain waffle sandwich with almond butter and jam or sliced bananas, a biscuit and egg sandwich and more!  Go for it…breakfast for breakfast, breakfast for lunch, breakfast for dinner – go crazy!

9.  Bread Variety.  Does your child love sandwiches?  Change up the bread.  Have you had almond butter and jelly on toasted challah?  A little pita stuffed with hummus and cucumbers?  A pretzel bun?  Need we really say more?  Kids love bread, the carbs fuel their little bodies, let them eat the bread.  No we aren’t talking about mass produced bread with HFCS and loads of other sugars, source out some good local bread from bakeries that pride themselves on using good quality, natural ingredients.  Think outside the box on this one.  Kids aren’t used to eating sandwiches the way we were growing up.  Try these kid-approved fillings like bananas and almond butter with honey, sliced cucumber and grassfed butter, organic sliced turkey with cream cheese and raspberry jam, hummus with baby spinach and shredded carrots, sliced avocado and egg and more.  Don’t forget to get rid of the crust!  Man, kids really hate that crust!

10. Don’t overpack.  Kids don’t have much time to eat.  Limited options means they are more likely to eat the “healthier” options.  These kids spend so much time chatting in the lunchroom they scramble to eat what they have.  Pack three good options in small portions.

 We hope this gets you through the 2nd month of school and so on!!!

We’d love to hear what you think – chime in on social media:

facebook | twitter | instagram or send us an email to info(at)freshmadenyc(dot)com

Pedal to the Metal – Cycle For Survival

For the past 3 years Lindsay and Family have Cycled for Survival for this great cause.  2015 will be no exception to that rule.  We have our bike shorts and shoes on and are ready to sweat.

Consider joining the Bell Family team this year or creating your own, its a fun day of exercise and fun, even if you have never taken a spin class in your life.

Cycle for Survival is one of the fastest growing fundraising events in the world having raised over $50 million dollars for rare cancer research and funded more than 100 clinical trials and research studies since it was founded in 2007. Jennifer and David Lynn co-founded the indoor team cycling event to raise crucial funds for rare cancer research. All of the funds raised in Cycle for Survival go directly to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and are allocated within six months of each event which has drastically reduced the time it takes for treatments to reach patients — in some cases cutting the span from years to months. Cycle for Survival is an event that Bell Family participates in by both raising awareness and supporting the event with a cycling team in NYC.

Here are the stats for this year’s Cycle for Survival:

  • 9 days, 13 cities, 49 rides, 4,500 bikes & 20k participants
  • 2015 Cities include: Boston, Chicago, Greenwich, Long Island, LA, Miami, Dallas,  New York City, San Fran, Palo Alto, Seattle, Summit NJ & Washington DC


greg fam

Fun Fridays – Behind the scenes with Greg at BFC

We thought we would introduce our families to the crew that makes BFC run smoothly each and every day.  Our crew is just like yours, work, kids, laundry, vacations, me time.  First up, some questions for Greg Shafiro our CTO and resident Photographer.  Our new online platform is thanks to him and his team and we are ever so thankful!!!

BFC – How do you balance work and life, with 2 (right?) kids, a F/T IT career and photography on the side?

GREG – That’s a good question. My Wife would probably add, Secretary of the Co-op Board, cycling volunteer Marshal for all events that need help, a UrbanSoccer youth Soccer Coach, and Handyman for anything that might break in my mother’s house. Honestly, my two kids and a wonderful wife enable me to balance work and family life, without their support none of this would be possible, Squeezing 28 hours our of a 24hour day also helps.

BFC – How did you get started with Lindsay and BFC?

GREG – I was introduced to Lindsay, by Miles Spencer whom I met at the NorthSide Conference in Brooklyn. I had been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug when I was 11 years old, I started a soda distribution business at my sleep away camp, so when Miles presented me with an opportunity to join the Bell Family Company team as a Founding CTO, it was a no brainier.

BFC – If you could live in any city and have any career what would they be?

GREG – I love to travel, so it’s really hard to pick one city where I would like to live. But if you twist my arm, I would probably say Jerusalem. I fell in love with the city during my studies at a Yeshiva right by the Wester Wall. Regarding my career, it would have to be something that would allow me to spend more time with my kids, help people less fortunate than me, travel and photograph different cultures. Not sure if a position for that job description has been created yet. But hey a man can dream.

BFC – What’s most important to you in a work career?  At Home?

GREG – When it comes to work, I am reminded of a quote by Mark Cuban “Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it all away from you”. That said knowledge, hard work and respecting people around me are the most important thing for me.

At home, spending time with my kids and being the best father I can be to them is the most important.

BFC – Greg, What is your pie in the sky family vacation if money and time were no object?

GREG – When my wife and I first moved in together our favorite show was the Amazing Race, by the way we applied twice to be contestants on the show, sadly we never did get selected. Traveling the world and learning from the different cultures of the world with my kids would be my pie in the sky vacation.