Category Archives: Product Review

Creating a Perfect Outdoor Set Up for the Covid Winter

 

Patio hangs around the firepit give the Covid winter spirits a boost

 

This post is a bit of a detour from the usual KFDC content, but in this continuing weird time of navigating life during a pandemic, I think (hope!) it’ll be helpful.  Covid, generally, has changed the way we hang out with company at our homes. And the Covid winter has made it even trickier.  Many of us have been enjoying backyard or front porch hangs with friends (and our own fams, of course) for awhile; when it was warmer last summer and fall, it was easy to do.  But the cold season requires some extra planning — and purchases —  to make those outdoor gatherings doable (read: comfortable and fun ).   We’re finally getting our back patio together after it was inaccessible for a long time due to home renovations (more on that in later post), so this is all fresh for us.  Luckily, we got to hang in friends’ backyards for awhile to get ideas for a perfect Covid winter set-up — and here’s what we’ve found are must-haves.  Happy Wintering!

 

Outdoor Furniture

You probably already have furniture for your patio or backyard.  But if not, and if you’re going for cozy, I recommend including an outdoor sofa or sectional. It’s nice for lounging, curling up with a blanket, and snuggling with the kids.  We have an older model of this Ikea sectional.  It’s pretty comfortable, and a great thing about it is that you can add pieces to expand it on ether side.  You can also set them up separately for more socially distanced hangs.  The newest version also has storage, with the seat bottoms lifting up. Other stores to check:  Wayfair, Pottery Barn, World Market, and Target.

 

Smokeless Fire Pit

The Solo Stove is, hands down, one of our best purchases this winter.  It really makes a difference in the enjoyment of hanging around a firepit.  Not only does it get really warm and give off good heat because of the innovative design, there’s no smoke blowing on one person (who always seemed to be me), and clothes and hair don’t smell like a campfire afterwards.  Definitely worth it!  Another smokeless firepit option is this Blue Sky that uses pellets.  Friends have and love it, and  I also like how it looks.

 

Night Lights

The right lighting can really make a difference in the vibe outside.  Twinkling lanterns and string lights can be fun and festive, but also kind of magical.  If, like us, you don’t have handy outlets, opt for solar powered lights.   And for lanterns, don’t forget hooks to hang them on the fence or other spots.

 

Warm, Comfy Blankets

Some nights you may need a little extra warmth along with the fire, not to mention blankets add snuggly coziness to a winter space.  I was at Dick’s Sporting Goods just buying a soccer ball recently when I saw they were having a great sale on blankets — buy one get two free — so I came home with bags full of them!  That particular deal is over, but you can still get BOGO, and I can assure you the fleece and velour throws are soft, warm, and so nice to have on hand.

 

Portable Projector

A great way for kids to enjoy a fun activity with friends is with an outdoor movie night. A portable projector makes that possible, and it’s not too pricey when you consider what you’re not paying for movie tickets right now. We bought this one as a Christmas present for Sasha a couple of years ago, and there is a wide selection of newer models now. (Of course, you can use them for family movie nights, too!)

 

Projector Screen


Complete the outdoor movie set-up with a projector screen. They come in a variety of sizes as well as a couple of types. Opt for a foldable portable screen that you can easily put up on a fence or wall and take down. We went with a retractable screen that is mounted to a wall with these brackets. It stays outside, but rolls up when we’re not using it.

 

Furniture Cover


If you have cushioned seating outside, I strongly recommend one of these covers. We actually just replaced all of our cushions and cushion covers because our old ones were trashed from exposure since we got lazy about bringing them inside. With this cover, we just move one piece of the sectional to the middle, and put it over everything, blankets included. The whole set stays clean, dry, and ready for sitting.  The cover comes in a variety of sizes.

 

Side Tables


With the Solo Stove taking up the middle space, side tables will be needed for setting down drinks and food. World Market has some good options, and Wayfair has a nice selection, too.

 

Trays


Have a couple of acrylic serving trays to bring everything outside. It’s also good to keep on the sofa for setting down food and drinks for anyone who can’t easily access a side table.

 

Cozy Footwear


I very strongly recommend Uggs or another shearling-lined boot for outdoor hangs during winter — keeping those tootsies warm makes a huge difference in comfort. I have and love these — easy to slip on and can be worn with skinny, cropped, and straight leg jeans.  I wear mine all the time, well beyond the back patio. For a cheaper option, Koolabura by Uggs is about half the price. I bought these for Sasha, and honestly cannot tell the difference and will probably buy them for myself next time. Target also has a cute budget option.

 

*Are there any must-have items for a Covid winter outdoor set-up that I missed?  If so, please share in the comments!

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under 2021, All ages, Coronavirus, COVID-19, DC, Maryland, Outdoor, Product Review, Seasonal, Shop, Social Distancing, Virginia, Winter

Guest Post & Giveaway! Toy Recs by Age from Red Jellies Founder, Kimberly Stephens

[Note: This is a guest post written by Kimberly Stephens, founder of Red Jellies, a fully independent review service that helps you discover the very best books and toys on the market.]

Everyone wants to give thoughtful children’s gifts, but many of us don’t have time to spend wading through product reviews or shuffling their kids through the mall.

That’s where Red Jellies comes in! We provide truly independent, easily accessible advice on knockout children’s items based on our rigorous product research and testing.

Our mission is to help you find quality gifts without spending a gazillion hours typing “best toys for X-year-olds” in Internet search engines or losing hours of time reading online product reviews. We scour the market so you don’t have to.

To get you started, we selected a few of our very favorite toys by age. For even more gift ideas sorted by age, category, or product type, check out the Red Jellies website.

All kinds of easels, reviewed!

Best Toys for New Babies
Teddy Bear
Gund
MSRP: $25
Why We Love It: Ultra soft, super cute, 18-inch teddy bear. This Gund plush makes for an adorable nursery decoration and eventual first lovey.

Pirate Rattle & Teething Set
Yookidoo
MSRP: $16.95
Why We Love It: With a crinkly pirate’s hat, interesting stripe pattern, and (pleasantly!) musical parrot, this rattle and teething set is stimulating and engaging.

Interactive Books
Varied
Why We Love It: High contrast books like My Dreams stimulate infants. I-spy and cause-and effect books like Each Peach Pear Plum and Touch the Brightest Star engage older babies and toddlers. Also recommended: Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?, I Kissed the Baby!, and That’s Not My Duck.

Best Toys for 1-Year-Olds
Spinagain
Fat Brain Toys
MSRP: $29.95
Why We Love It: This crowd-pleasing stacking toy helps develop eye-hand coordination. The fast spin is an extra (mesmerizing) bonus!

Baby Stella
Manhattan Toy Co.
MSRP: $20
Why We Love It: 15-inch, super soft doll with embroidered features, removable clothes and diaper, and a magnetized pacifier. Perfect first doll.

Ultimate Alphabet Train
vTech
MSRP: Around $50
Why We Love It: Great for riding or pushing, this colorful toy train is perfect for little ones one the verge of walking. Includes alphabet blocks, a walkie-talkie, and a storybook that teaches singalong songs.

Best Toys for 2-Year-Olds
Wooden Farm Magnets
Djeco
MSRP: Around $24
Why We Love It: Adorable magnets spark creative play and develop gross motor skills as little ones move them around to create farm scenes. Highly durable.

Tea Set
Green Toys
MSRP: $29.99
Why We Love It: Durable, lightweight tea set for four encourages pretend play. Made from recycled materials. Dishwasher safe.

Camper Van Playset
Indigo Jamm
MSRP: $50
Why We Love It: Camper van, interior table, and detachable surfboard offer a variety of pretend play possibilities. Four peg figures and a dog. Pricey but high quality.

Best Toys for 3-Year-Olds
Day at the Beach
Build & Imagine
MSRP: $39.99
Why We Love It: Awesome building and pretend play combo. Use illustrated magnetic pieces to design the surf shop and cafe. Comes with two characters and 42 magnetized accessories.

Mini Deluxe Scooter
Micro
MSRP: $89.99
Why We Love It: Let’s get moving! Littles steer this well-made scooter by leaning in the direction they want to go. Smooth ride. Adjustable T-bar height. Develops balance and coordination.

Fire Chief Costume
Melissa & Doug
MSRP: $29.99
Why We Love It: Cute costume inspires independent and cooperative play. Well-made, durable, and machine washable.

Best Toys for 4-Year-Olds
Color-a-Cape
Great Pretenders
MSRP: $21.99
Why We Love It: A great art project that leads to dramatic play.

Castle Logix
Smart Games
MSRP: $26.99
Why We Love It: A beautiful 3D wooden puzzle that promotes problem solving and spatial reasoning. With 48 challenges of varying difficulty, it continues to engage kids as they grow.

Hisss
Gamewright
MSRP: $13.99
Why We Love It: Draw cards and match colors to complete the most snakes. Boosts matching, spatial logic, and turn-taking. Great first game.

Best Toys for 5-Year-Olds
Quadrella Xcellerator
Hape
MSRP: $149.99
Why We Love It: Different colored blocks have different functions, encouraging spatial reasoning and logic as little engineers construct marble runs. Includes model design suggestions.

Gobblet Gobblers
Blue Orange Games
MSRP: $24.99
Why We Love It: A twist on the classic tic-tac-toe game: larger pieces can “gobble” smaller ones! Builds memory and strategic thinking. Quick play.

Fossil Hunter Lottie
Arklu
MSRP: $24.95
Why We Love It: Calling all paleontologists! This high quality doll is ready for the dig. Small size convenient for travel. Bonus that Lottie looks like a kid (no makeup, jewelry, or high heels).

Best Toys for 6-Year-Olds
Go Go Gelato
Blue Orange Games
MSRP: $19.99
Why We Love It: Little shop owners must plan ahead to match their customers’ gelato orders by passing scoops between cones. Great beginning logic game with sweet components.

Rollerblades
Phoenix
MSRP: $64.99
Why We Love It: High quality inline skates for youth rollerbladers. Adjustable length allows skate to grow with your little one’s feet.

Fort Building Kit
Fort Magic
MSRP: $129.99
Why We Love It: Little adventurers build the forts they’ve always imagined with this high quality kit. Excellent for planning and motor skills. Note: Fabric not included. Use blankets or sheets.

* * * * *

Giveaway: For a chance to win your choice of one toy from a selection provided by Red Jellies, simply leave a comment below telling me what item tops your child’s holiday gift wish list. (Easels, marble runs, math games, and more are among the selection from which the winner can choose for a prize that’s age appropriate for their child.) Get an extra chance to win by entering on the KidFriendly DC Facebook Page, too! This giveaway will run through December, 17, 2017, then a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!

49 Comments

Filed under 2017, Chanukah, Christmas, Giveaway, Guest Post, Holidays, Product, Product Review, Professional Service, Shop

Giveaway! Celebrate Valentine’s Day Family-Style with Whole Foods Market

wfm_vday_cheers

Who says Valentine’s Day has to be a couples-only holiday? Not me! Celebrating with the people — big and little — I love most is what makes it special in my book. In fact, I never really made much of the day until I had kids and thought it would be sweet to mark the occasion with them. Along with enjoying Valentine’s-inspired activities around the area, we usually exchange homemade cards and enjoy some treats.

wfm_vday_products

This year, however, we had an early family celebration with the help of Whole Foods Market and some great offers they have for the holiday. Rib-eye steaks and lobster tails are on sale along with beautiful flowers, bubbly, chocolates, and lots of other Whole Foods items to make for a festive — and delicious — feast.

wfm_vday_table

wfm_vday_surfturf

Our family-style “Valentine’s Day” dinner included the surf & turf, a nice bottle of De ChancenyCremant de Loire Brut for Levi and me (sparkling water for the kids), a pepperoni pizza with the topping shaped like a heart, and a salad to get our veggies. We all savored some of everything, and had plenty of leftovers to enjoy later, too.

wfm_vday_chocolates

We ended the meal on a sweet note — Lake Champlain chocolates in cute heart shaped boxes that made nice little gifts for Owen and Sasha. And a gorgeous bouquet of roses is a present for all of us that we can continue to enjoy beyond our lovely, little celebration.

Ready to get your Valentine’s Day celebration started? Go to SHOP.WFM.COM to do some pre-shopping!

wfm_vday_treats

* * * * *

Giveaway: Want to try some of these Whole Foods Market specials – on them? You have a chance to win a $50 Whole Foods Gift Card! Enter on the KidFriendly DC Facebook Page – simply like the post and leave a comment. The giveaway will run through February 14, then a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Whole Foods Market, however, I only promote places programs, and services that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.


1 Comment

Filed under All ages, Annual, DC, Eats, Giveaway, Holidays, Maryland, Product Review, Shop, Sponsored Post, Virginia

Giveaway! Whole Foods Market Will Help Make You Super Bowl Party Champion

wfm_products

You know what my favorite thing is about the Super Bowl? Super Bowl parties! Yes, I’m what you might call a casual football fan — I’ll watch if I’m someplace where the game is on, but I don’t go out of my way for it. The Super Bowl, however, is an exception. Of course, that it’s the championship game ups my interest. But the hoopla that comes along with it (i.e. par-tay), is what really makes it exciting for me. And a big part of that is the party fare. Because game food — I’m talking wings, nachos, chili, chips & dip — is always good, and I will always indulge on game day.

wfm_healthy

So, this year I had a chance to practice my Super Bowl party dishes before the big game, thanks to Whole Foods Market. Using their 365 products and foods made in-house, I prepared a “mock” Super Bowl celebration for our family. It might sound like a big undertaking, but it was actually quite easy. Whole Foods Market’s made-in-house foods are always fresh and tasty, so a lot of the prep involved just heating up or pouring into bowls.

wfm_wings

wfm_sash_wings

The wings were already cooked, so I just put them in the oven for 10 minutes to get them to eating temp. Tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole just needed some transferring to bowls, easy peasy. The nachos took a little more time, but putting chips, beans, and cheese into a dish and popping it in the oven was simple. And topping it with 365 Cantina Style salsa instead of homemade pico de gallo saved some work, too.

wfm_nachos

wfm_nachos_o

I decided to include a couple of healthier options, salad and shrimp, to balance out the heavier dishes — and because I know some folks like to keep it light, even at a party. I also picked up some Whole Foods 365 lemonades because we all enjoy them (FYI: They make good mixers for adult drinks…you’re welcome).

wfm_salad_shrimp

We may not have had competition, but I’d call our Super Bowl Party dinner from Whole Foods Market a big win! It was convenient to shop for, super easy to prepare, and everyone loved it. Even better, your family can win a $100 Whole Foods Market gift card to shop for all you need to throw a Super Bowl Party of your own – enter now on the KidFriendly DC Facebook page! Get an extra chance to win by entering below, too!

* * * * *

Giveaway: For a chance to win a $100 Whole Foods Market gift card, simply leave a comment below telling me your favorite Super Bowl Party dish. (This is an extra entry — you must also enter on the KidFriendly DC Facebook page.) This giveaway will run through Sunday, February 5, then a winner will be drawn at random and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Whole Foods Market, however, I only promote places programs, and services that I genuinely believe in and think will appeal to KFDC readers.


124 Comments

Filed under Eats, Giveaway, Product Review, Shop, Sponsored Post, Sports, Winter