Archives for 2021

5 Best Summer Clothing Items for Tween Girls (and their Moms)

Summer is the perfect season to dress in vibrant colors, whimsical prints, airy textures, and fun accessories that easily transition from the office (or classroom) into pure vacation mode. Not to mention, with all these cute summery choices to choose from, it is also an ideal time of year to refresh your tween girl’s wardrobe—as well as your own!

Whether your summer plans include a morning at the local farmer’s market, an afternoon at the beach (we have no shortage of those here in Southern California!), anything in between, now is the time to step out in style with clothes that look cool on both of you. So fill your daughter’s closet—and yours too—with these seasonable fashion essentials.

Bonus tip: if you want to score the lowest retail prices, consider shopping for the bulk of your summer clothes in July, advise the financial experts at NerdWallet. As the temperatures rise, early season markups tend to give way to more affordable costs.

Pull on a Flowy Tunic Dress.

With breathable material and a loose, breezy silhouette that begs to be worn in the sunshine, a tunic dress is both classic and effortless to throw on during these summer months. Both you and your tween girl are sure to look beach boardwalk ready in a tunic dress with pastel colors, floral or paisley accents, a ruffled hemline, and flowy peasant sleeves. Complete this outfit with a pair of brown sandals for the ultimate laidback ensemble.

Slip into a Sleeveless Jumpsuit.

Pull off the easiest matching look this summer with indistinguishable suits for both of you to feel cute and comfortable in. A jumpsuit, in particular, has all the makings of your new favorite seasonal uniform, with adjustable sleeveless straps and flouncy wide pant legs to allow for ease of movement, no matter where those summer adventures whisk you off to. This outfit is quick to slip into, and the matching mother-daughter vibe is so much fun.

Rock a Pair of High Rise Shorts.

Who said you can no longer wear shorts after a certain age? You are never too old—or young, in a tween girl’s case—to show off some bare (but still modest) skin in high rise shorts. With a belted paperbag waistline, a button front closure, deep lined pockets, and a timeless washed out denim material, they are just as fashionable as they are functional. You and your daughter will be quite a stylish duo in these shorts all season long.

Feel Chic in a Ruffled Tank Top.

Tank tops are essential in this balmy Southern California weather, but there’s no need to settle for just a plain ribbed tank. Turn the sophistication level up a notch with pleated cap sleeves and tiered ruffles across the hemline. You and your tween girl will strike the perfect balance of sweet and trendy with this unique spin on a basic summer tank top. Wear it with some drawstring linen trousers and espadrille flats for a chic but relaxed vibe.   

Finish Off with Bright Accessories.

Even the most casual looks turn into the height of fashion when you pair them with bold, eye catching accessories. Summer is all about splashes of color and bursts of whimsy, so reflect this trend through various accessories—from oversized straw hats, to patterned cuff bracelets, to wayfarer sunglasses, and more. These bright, fun accent pieces will ensure that you and your daughter radiate sunshine, from the beach to the streets.

Every Tween Girl and Her Mom Needs these Summer Clothing Essentials.

With these classic wardrobe staples, you and your tween girl have endless options to create a variety of head turning summer looks. Whether you are on vacation or checking out the local Southern California hotspots, there is absolutely no doubt—you two will be the most fashionable pair around. From flowy silhouettes, to bright colorful patterns, to playful accessories and unique details, this is an ideal time of year to have fun with fashion.

So plan an afternoon of mother-daughter retail therapy to stock up on these must have summer clothing items, then rock those new seasonal outfits like the fierce dynamic duo you both are. Oh…and just in case your tween girl has questions about whether it’s still cool to dress in a way that complements her mom, you can tell her the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” After all, she is not a teenager yet—soak in these bonding moments while you can!

Vaccines May Make It Harder To Find Good Affordable Daycare

What exactly do COVID-19 vaccines have to do with affordable daycare? It comes down to the fact that mandated vaccines for child care workers have decreased the number of people holding these positions thus making it harder for service providers to maintain previous commitment levels.  The effect has negatively affected daycare in a very severe manner.  In this article, we look at the relevant statistics and their effect on the cost and availability of child care services across the country.

Why Daycare Workers Require Vaccines

Vaccines for child care workers make scientific sense. Here’s why: young children under the age of 5 years will not be eligible for vaccines until at least 2022. Roughly 60 percent of these children spend a large portion of the average week in non-parent daycare settings which becomes a potential point of contact.  Preschool teachers and infant/toddler caregivers who work directly with these children put both at risk of contracting the virus. This is why daycare workers are required to be fully vaccinated. The idea is to prevent the spread of the virus to the homes of the children attending daycare. Sadly, many child care service providers have left the industry, not entirely because of the vaccine mandate, either. Low pay is a huge hurdle to overcome.  Although estimates put the number of pre-pandemic jobs currently filled at 90 percent, vaccine mandates combined with low wages may make finding affordable daycare a challenge in the coming year.

Vaccines Are Used To Protect The Workforce

A survey conducted between May 26 and June 23 revealed that almost 78 percent of the child care workforce had been vaccinated. The study, conducted by Yale University, also indicated that black child care providers, individuals with the lowest household incomes, and home-based child care providers all had lower vaccination rates compared to the entire workforce.  A few factors are responsible for this, according to the co-author of the report, Dr. Kavin Patel, an infectious disease fellow at Yale School of Medicine.  He says concerns related to vaccine safety, and how fast it was developed are the top reasons cited for not getting vaccinated. Access to the vaccine had little or no impact on the study results.  “The last year showed us that child care providers are the workforce that makes all other workforces possible,” Patel adds.

Walter Gilliam, a co-author of the report and a child psychiatry professor at Yale, states that although the vaccine is viewed by many as a form of protection for child care workers who are at risk during the pandemic simply by the nature of their work, not been much done in the past to help these workers. “If we really want to protect the workforce, we have to pay them better,” he says. Data shows that the already crumbling child care industry is shaking more, due to pay rates more than anything else. The information shows that four out of five child care services operated this past summer with less staff than required. The survey was conducted by NAEYC, a child care provider professional organization. The survey asked providers about the future of their service and close to 33% said they were either leaving the industry or closing their service. An additional 81 percent stated that pay was the main reason for this decision.

Vaccines Present A Hurdle For Staffing

A report conducted by the US Treasury Department in September states that child care workers are in the second percentile of all occupations based on wage-earning. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says, “The free market works well in many different sectors, but childcare is not one of them. It does not work for the caregivers, it does not work for the parents. It does not work for the kids.” She adds, “Child care is a textbook example of a broken market.” As for vaccines, more job postings across the industry include vaccination as a requirement, automatically reducing the pool of potential candidates. As one child care service provider stated, “I’m having trouble finding people who are qualified at all and then trying to find someone who is vaccinated.”

States Are Slow To Implement Guidelines

Mandates are in place, but not in all states. For example, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, and the District of Columbia all have some level of vaccination requirement for child care workers at licensed facilities. California has “something in the pipeline” but that’s it.  Mandates in other industries such as the US military, health care workers, and other groups have effectively increased the vaccination rates in these sectors. It is interesting to note that the majority of workers facing vaccination mandates will comply rather than lose their job. However, the sectors where vaccination mandates have been successful contain high-paying jobs that would be difficult to replace if workers chose to be let go for non-compliance.

Final Thoughts

Talk at the federal level supports an increase in the hourly rate for child care workers. The Biden administration is looking at a minimum of $15 an hour at this point. The plan would be to do the same with kindergarten teachers and other teachers with the same qualifications. The government feels that the best way to solidify the failing child care system is to put more money into it by offering a better wage for workers. At the moment, that could be about $450 billion of funding. While that sounds like an incredible injection of support, it is unlikely that the full amount will get through Congressional negotiations. However, any additional funding for child care in the country will be a good thing even though it means that if you are seeking child care service for your child, it may not be as affordable as it once was. This is assuming the service provider you choose has enough staff to keep up with demand.

As you can see, this is a difficult situation that needs continued monitoring.

Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.

Nora, Ezra, and Koda, Dec. 9th Pets of the Week

These three little kittens have a lot more on their minds than mittens. They have been working hard on their initial bashfulness so that they’ll be friendly, cuddly, playful, and ready for their new home, or homes! And they are! Actually, boys Ezra (brown tabby scrunched up in back) and Koda (flame-point Siamese-type on right) and their sister, Nora (silver tabby on left), are 8 months old and are not so little anymore, but they’re still kittens and have a lot of years to spend playing with and purring for loving humans. Shelter adoptions are conducted through appointment, so contact PetAdopt@longbeach.gov to meet the three not-so-little kittens. Ask for ID#A662263 for Nora, ID#A662265 for Ezra and ID#A662264 for Koda.

(This rescue encouraged by the usual suspects.)

Back to the Outback * Perfectly Paced Humor And Out-Of-This-World Animation

Tired of being locked in a reptile house where humans gawk at them like they’re monsters, a group of Australia’s deadliest creatures plots a daring escape from the zoo. Back to the Outback is an upcoming Australian-American computer-animated adventure comedy film directed by Clare Knight and Harry Cripps, from a screenplay written by Cripps, and a story by Gregory Lessans and Cripps. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Kyla C. comments, “Back to the Outback is a brand new Netflix film with perfectly paced humor and out-of-this-world animation. Hilarious for kids and entertaining for adults, this film is sure to be the perfect movie night adventure.” See her full review below.

Back to the Outback

By Kyla C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Has your family been looking for a new movie, but can’t seem to find anything quite right? Well, your search ends here! Back to the Outback is a brand new Netflix film with perfectly paced humor and out-of-this-world animation. Hilarious for kids and entertaining for adults, this film is sure to be the perfect movie night adventure.

Back to the Outback follows Maddie (Isla Fisher) and her fellow “scary” show animals as they decide they’ve had enough of sitting in cages and posing as horrific creatures. They escape from Chaz’s (Eric Bana) cages and venture out; their final goal being to reach their home in the Outback of Australia. Along the way, they meet the cute koala, Pretty Boy (Tim Minchin), whose looks conceal his real personality. That is, until he spends time with Maddie and realizes his true self. Their adventure is going fine until Chaz brings his son along on a mission to catch the animals. Will Maddie, Pretty Boy and the rest of the crew find their way to their families, or end up back where they started?

The first stand-out thing about Back to the Outback is the humor. The funny scenes are spread out between suspenseful ones, so there’s always a laugh. Hilarious moments are included even in the action segments, which keeps the film light and relatable. In addition to the funniness, the animation is positively amazing. First, it’s incredibly vibrant and colorful. The colors aren’t so flashy that they are unrealistic, but they are bright enough to always look warm and welcoming, except for the action-packed, dangerous scenes. In addition, the characters and objects seem to pop out of the screen. It feels like you’re actually there! If Chaz is chasing Maddie and her friends down a hill, you’re screaming in terror along with them. That is due to the spectacular, almost 3D animation. To add another positive aspect, the plot is strong. There is an easy-to-follow main plot that kids will find simple enough to understand, but there are also countless subplots that are resolved at the end of the film. These subplots are what create an adult-worthy film. They require some deeper understanding, but you can still watch the movie and have a ton of fun even if you don’t follow every single character’s backstory and subplot.

The message of Back to the Outback is that no one’s ugly, but everyone’s different. One person’s idea of ugly could be someone else’s idea of beauty. This film also conveys the importance of trust within family and friends. Without teamwork and immense trust, Maddie and her friends would never have survived their trip to the outback. The only thing to look out for is action-packed and slightly suspenseful scenes.

I give Back to the Outback 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. You can watch Back to the Outback in select theaters beginning December 3 and on Netflix December 10, 2021.

A Boy Called Christmas * An Unforgettable Magical Tale Of How Christmas Came To Be

An ordinary young boy called Nikolas sets out on an extraordinary adventure into the snowy north in search of his father who is on a quest to discover the fabled village of the elves, Elfhelm. Taking with him a headstrong reindeer called Blitzen and a loyal pet mouse, Nikolas soon meets his destiny in this magical, comic and endearing story that proves nothing is impossible.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Carlee S. comments, “A Boy Called Christmas is an unforgettable magical tale of how Christmas came to be. Nikolas sets out on a difficult journey to the Far North in search of his father and the magical elf village called Elfhelm. What he finds is so much more.” See her full review below.

A Boy Called Christmas
By Carlee S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

A Boy Called Christmas is an unforgettable magical tale of how Christmas came to be. Nikolas sets out on a difficult journey to the Far North in search of his father and the magical elf village called Elfhelm. What he finds is so much more. He finds new friends, hope, and who he was meant to be.

As the film begins, Aunt Ruth (Maggie Smith), comes to babysit three children during the Christmas season. She tells them a story of a boy named Nikolas (Henry Lawfull), or Christmas as his mother used to call him. His father, Joel, (Michael Huisman) embarks on a quest with others to find a spark of magic in the North for the King (Jim Broadbent) who is looking to bring back hope to the people. Nikolas finds a map and ventures into the great unknown with his pet mouse, Miika, in search of his father and the village of Elfhelm.

My favorite scene is when Nikolas meets The Truth Pixie (Zoe Margaret Colletti) while he’s locked away in a tower. The Truth Pixie is a comical character who doesn’t want to help Nikolas at first, but they soon become friends, which is lucky for him. She decides to help him find his dad and their reactions to events are enjoyable to watch. The settings in the film help add to the mood of the story. The small home has simple things that reflect their simple lives. The creative details in the Elfhelm village add a festive flavor to the story. The decorations are perfect for the holiday season and add to the spirit of Christmas. The animation in the film blends well in the scenes. The animated character Miika ( Stephen Merchant) is a helpful little companion to Nicholas that adds a nice touch to the film. The costumes in the film fit the different characters’ personalities well. The elves’ costumes have nice details that go well with the story. I also like how everything ties in with the kids and Aunt Ruth at the end.

The message in this film is to have hope. Hope is what keeps people going in times that are hard. Nickolas learns that hope is never out of reach and shares this thought with others. The king needed a tangible symbol of hope that would bring happiness and learns from Nikolas that it was inside him all along.

I give A Boy Called Christmas 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend this to ages 10 to 17, plus adults. It releases on Netflix November 24, 2021.

14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible * Intense Emotional Journey Pushing The Limits Of Human Endurance

14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible explores Nepal’s deep connection to high-altitude mountaineering through the eyes of Nirmal “Nimsdai” Purja, a fearless, fun-loving Nepali climber on a quest he dubs “Project Possible”—to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter mountains in just seven months, breaking the previous record of seven years. With a team of skilled Sherpas, he traverses Mount Everest, K2, and other iconic peaks through extreme weather, life-or-death decisions, and the emotional weight of his mother’s illness back home. 14 Peaks is a thrilling, action-packed story about courage, perseverance, and pushing the limits of human endurance. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Mikella G. comments, “14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible is an intense emotional documentary film that highlights the reality of mountain climbing. Most importantly, it showcases the ability that a human being has.” See her full review below.

14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible

By Mikella G, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15


I really like 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible. It’s an intense emotional documentary film that highlights the reality of mountain climbing. Most importantly, it showcases the ability that a human being has.


This film follows the journey of Nimsdai Purja as he manages to climb the world’s 14 highest and most dangerous mountains in just a few months. He calls his mission “Project Possible,” and we see the reality of this challenge and how it affects his life. However, Nimsdai’s confidence, courage and hope inspire his team to help him break this record. 

Something I enjoy about this film is its structure. Throughout the movie there is footage of Nimsdai climbing the mountains, as well as background information. The director really makes sure that the audience has enough information about climbing to fully understand the film. They also interview some important people in Nimsdai’s life, in order to help us understand him better. Another thing that really stands out is the quality of the movie. Even during the shots of the climbers high up in the mountains with snow blowing from every angle, you can still see what is going on. The entire film feels very ready for the big screen; even though most of the mountain shots aren’t filmed by professionals, they are definitely remarkable.

The message of this documentary film is that you can achieve anything you put your mind to, even if it seems impossible. This film does include some profanity.


I give 14 Peeks: Nothing is Impossible 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults. You can watch 14 Peeks: Nothing is Impossible on Netflix starting November 29, 2021.

It’s time for Holiday Gift Suggestions!

It’s that time of year again! Here are some of my favorite gift suggestions for the upcoming holidays! Actually, the first one would be perfect for before Christmas!

PLAYMOBIL 1.2.3 Advent Calendar – Christmas Manger (70259): 

Create the story of Christmas with the 1.2.3 Advent Calendar – Christmas Manger. With a bright and colorful design and large, rounded pieces, this PLAYMOBIL 1.2.3 Stage 2 – First Challenge set will help your toddler develop language and social skills as they play out this classic Christmas tale.  The calendar contains twenty-four surprise items leading up to Christmas. Set includes six figures, manger with star, horse, cow, sheep, and other accessories. 

Available: Now   Perfect for ages: 1 ½ – 4 years

Retailer: Playmobil.us   Retail Price: $24.99 Amazon

Barry & Jason Games and Entertainment’s Game Night In A Can celebrates its 5th successful year with a special edition of the hit game.

Game Night In A Can – 5th Anniversary (MSRP $22.99 for ages 7+) is a brand-new shiny gold edition with all new magical art, gold, silver, and bronze medals, and 35 party-starting games of creativity and skill.

I really like this one because it is fun for the whole family! (Ages 7+)

who loves coffee?? I do!

This next one is sure to be a hit with coffee lovers!

Chances are you have some serious coffee drinkers on your holiday gift list. Wouldn’t it be nice to make them happy (SO happy!) and introduce them to the newest trend in specialty coffee at the same time?

For thoughtful gift ideas that check all the boxes, look no further than Steeped Coffee (www.SteepedCoffee.com). The innovative startup is committed to premium coffee, convenience, and environmental stewardship in equal measure. So when you introduce the coffee lovers in your life to Steeped, it’s a win-win for them and the planet. It’s also Eco-friendly! Now, how cool is that? I tried them and love the flavor!

Kids love bubbles and this next product is sure to be a hit! To create a safer and healthier space for the kids without interrupting the fun that every kid deserves, the American Bubble Company came up with the first-ever eco-friendly sustainable bubble system that uses a non-toxic bubble solution made in the USA – The Bubble Tree. A brand dedicated to changing the way we play with bubbles forever. In addition, the refillable bubble system saves parents money by not having to repurchase a bubble wand and container when they run out the first time. 

ABOUT BUBBLE TREE:

For over 70 years, bubbles have all been created equal until now. American Bubble Company and Bubble Tree’s mission is to create eco-friendly, sustainable products made in the United States. Their goal is to eliminate one-time-use plastic bubble bottles that currently saturate the current market. Bubble Tree is the very first patent-pending, eco-friendly, and sustainable bubble system made in the USA. The original refillable bubble system features the first manufactured aluminum bubble bottle and a refill box made of corrugated, entirely recyclable.  

Each year, more than 300 million one-time-use plastic bubble bottles are imported to the United States. Many will contain bubble solutions from foreign countries with formulas and ingredients that often fall below the safety, sustainability, and quality levels that modern American consumers demand. Bubble Tree’s mission is to enhance bubble safety and solve plastic pollution, waste, and the overuse of one-time-use plastic bottles.   

Bubble Tree’s packaging is made from aluminum, the most recyclable and sustainable material on earth, and 100% recyclable corrugated. By eliminating single-use plastic, they are helping the environment reduce plastic pollution. 

Bubble Tree Bubbles can be purchased online (www.bubbletreeusa.com) and in retailers across the country. 

Looking for a gift for Mom or a friend? They are sure to love these candles! They smell soo good!

RareLumiere

Price: $39.00

Nothing sets a more comforting mood than lighting up your favorite candle. Fill your home with scents that instantly make you feel a sense of luxury and wonder where you can start planning your next adventure. Each hand-poured creation is elegantly packaged with a corresponding handwritten note included in the box. The beautiful slow-burn wax creates very little pooling, reducing the need to relight used wax or generating additional smoke. Enjoy 55 hours of burn time for each candle with 100% cotton wicks designed for the style of each glass vessel. I received the Tahiti fragrance and love it!

Photo Credit: Posted.

Looking for a gift for your toddler? How about a really cool hat?

You have to check out Posted, a new youth hat company for boys and girls aged 6 months to 10 years. Founded by sisters, who are both moms, the company’s goal is to create stylish hats for kids that inspire families to enjoy the outdoors together.

Posted is passionate about creating memorable family experiences, and looking cute while doing it doesn’t hurt.‍ Giving back is also a passion. For each hat sold, Posted donates $1 to the  State Parks Foundation, with the recognition of how important parks are for our children and future generations.

To learn more about Posted visit www.postedaca.com. To shop hats visit https://www.postedca.com/collections/all-products.

Stay tuned! Our next holiday gift guide posts next week! Happy Holidays!

Self Disclosure: I received samples of the above products. Images were also provided to be featured in this holiday gift suggestion post.

GoodPop Celebrates National Cookie Day December 4th With Giveaway and Holiday ‘Poptail’ Recipe

GoodPop® Frozen Pops, the leading better-for-you frozen treat brand that exists to do good in the world, celebrates National Cookie Day by giving away free boxes of its top-selling Cookies n’ Cream pop on December 4.  Fifty people that take the Pledge Good Challenge to do a good deed will receive four boxes of Cookies n’ Cream pops. 

“Everyone loves a “cookies and cream” pop and so three years ago we set out to make one, but with ingredients our customers could trust,” said Daniel Goetz, CEO and founder, GoodPop. “We couldn’t find a cookie that met our quality standards so we created our own cookie for this pop that is gluten-free, vegan and organic, and meets standards of all of our pops. We tested grain-free flours, fair-trade cocoa, different plant-based milks and oils to eventually come up with the right combination and flavor for our own cookie that is used in these pops.”

To celebrate the “cookie” in GoodPop’s Cookies n’ Cream, GoodPop is hosting a giveaway to encourage its fans to do good deeds this holiday season. Through its Pledge Good Challenge, the brand donates $1 per pledge to various non-profit partners. Fifty do-gooders that make a pledge at https://www.goodpops.com/pledge on December 4,  will receive a four pack of Cookies n’ Cream pops. Winners will be selected and notified on Monday, December 6.

“The good in our name isn’t just about the ingredients we use or the way our products taste, it’s an integral part of GoodPop’s mission to use our frozen treats as a vehicle to do social and environmental good,” said Goetz.  “We are committed to donating for every person who pledges to do something good. Our goal is to create a ripple effect that brings more into people’s lives and creates positive change.”

GoodPop has also launched a series of poptail recipes in collaboration with Austin-based Tito’s Handmade Vodka to celebrate the holiday season with twists on holiday cocktail and mocktail classics using popular GoodPop pops and Tito’s vodka. The National Cookie Day recipe is Santa’s Milk n’ Cookies Spiked Shake, which can also be made as a mocktail, is a vegan and gluten-free twist on Santa’s milk and cookies made with GoodPop’s Cookies n’ Cream pop, Tito’s Vodka, oat milk, and dairy-free vanilla ice cream. Check out the whole recipe and other holiday poptails here.

The Cookies n’ Cream pops come in packs of four per box, and are part of GoodPop’s collection of plant-based pop flavors, such as Orange n’ Cream and Strawberry Shortcake. The pops are USDA certified organic, dairy and gluten-free and made without HFCs, GMOs, refined sugars, or sugar alcohol sweeteners. Like all GoodPop products, the Cookies n Cream was thoughtfully crafted with the highest quality ingredients available. 

GoodPop Frozen Pops are available for a suggested retail price of $4.99-$5.99 and can be found in natural and conventional retailers in 40+ states and GoodPop’s online store that ships to all 48 states in the continental United States. For a full list of retailers and to shop, click here.

Credit: GoodPop.