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Google Home Hub vs Facebook Portal - battle of the pop-ups

Monday, December 17, 2018
There's an abundance of smart home products out these days that it's hard to choose which one is right for you (or do you even need them?) but call me an early adopter but I love to test stuff out. Last holiday season, we won a free google home mini. We've slowly integrated it into our home life (i mostly use it to just put music on or ask the weather or set alarms for the oven) so the thought of adding something new feels a bit much.  
Which leads me to believe that I'm probably the target customer for Google AND facebook — who both have tablet-like gadgets out now with the home hub and portal respectively. Thankfully both had pop up experiences so that you can see how you can integrate their products.  It was interesting that both were within a 10 min walk from each other which made it so easy to take the girls and check both pop-ups on a cold rainy sunday.
 First up was the Google Hardware Store which was having a Disney storytime hosted by Fomofeed Kids. With the google home hub or mini, your storytime can be accompanied by background music and sound effects as long as you use a Disney Golden Book (remember Golden books?! Love how they're staying relevant).  By saying "hey google, let's read along with Disney" you'll be asked which book, to which you then follow the prompts.  Google senses where you are in the story to play accompanying music or sound effects. It's actually pretty cool and made me want to go test out all 30 or so titles that are out.  When we got home, we immediately tested it out with the mini and it worked!
 The google hardware store is pretty cool and made for the instagrammers. So many cute photo ops like this swing (with the moving backgrounds for all you boomerangers)
 the kawaii kitchen was so mini and cute.  I felt bad for the employees though because the drawers are real storage for them but the kids were obviously going through itso they had to continually tell parents to please not let their kids in the drawers (why they don't just empty them out — i don't know). Downstairs was a DIY/custom gift wrapping station (only with purchase of a product in store!) as well as some swinging hammocks and art/doodle table for the kiddos. 

 apparently new to the hardware store was this lifesize gingerbread treehouse made by dominque ansel of the cronut fame.
all in all - it's hard to justify the home hub if you already have a smart tablet.  its hard to compete with an ipad.  but then again I'm not sure i was learning about all the capabilities of the hub. who knows.  but the mini does the job just fine so she can stay around!
The Portal by Facebook had a different setup for their popup called The Get Together and it was really meant to show you the capabilities of the Portal.  There was a series of 7 rooms which taught you the different highlights of the Portal. First  room was just the product, set in a lodge type of set up. From there we moved into auntie's kitchen where we live chatted with "grandma" who was baking cookies. I thought this was unique because you spoke to real actors (who I saw set in a different do-not-enter room) so that you knew by their real-time comments ("grandma"  loved the bows in Winter's hair or grandpa asked you crossword puzzle hints) exactly how the Portal worked.  In the kitchen was a hot chocolate bar that you could make with various toppings. From there we moved to a living room to show how the Portal's unique algorithm could either follow a subject or turn into a wide angle shot to accompany large groups depending on your settings.
 Then it was onto a kids dreamy tented room for a storytime where a cool auntie read either Three Little Pigs or 5 monkeys on the bed. the actress prompted Winter and Nyla to act out scenes (huff, puff, and bloooowwww the house down).  Where the Portal one-ups the Google is through added visuals on the screen which is welcome in a face-time setting.  Stickers and filters (like IG and snapchat) are also available. There were 2 secret side nooks (it seriously was the cutest and homey decoration i've seen for a kids room) that made winter and nyla split up and talk to each other through the portal choosing various filters and stickers. They could have stayed in there alllll day cracking each other up. 

At this point is where my phone died and now i'm secretly hoping the photographer/facebook will just post shots of us bc i feel like he got some good ones.  From the kids room we moved to a home office/music studio/garage like space where we live chatted with Leo who got us into dance party mode because you can send songs to your chat participant via Spotify (i think).
 From there it was this seamless photobooth.  where you get a print and a digital copy to use like this.

Winter Wrecks 5 - a kids Movie Birthday party at Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn

Monday, December 3, 2018

Because winter is essentially a thanksgiving baby, we’ve grown accustomed to spending her bday usually on a boat during vacation. But Now that winter is in kindergarten, coupled with P’s busy schedule, we were pretty much set to just celebrate low key. But these days with a built in social circle (kindergarten class) birthday parties are a thing - filling up weekend schedules between soccer practices and swim classes and catching up with busy friends. So it didn’t come to surprise when we started hearing “my birthday party” repeated a few times once November rolled around. Ay Yai yai.
We’ve had our fare share of kidville and kid play space parties. I can appreciate the ease of booking them. However I wanted winter to think about what she loves to do so I brought up some ideas. A) a quiet disco party b) a swim party or c) what about a movie party? Mind blown. Lol. She was like yes yes yes! I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing but this kid loves her some movies. She makes the perfect flight companion bc she literally buckled down in her seat ready for a movie marathon. So it was decided.
There was a slight hiccup. We decided on a party a mere week before her bday so I had to go into mommy party planner mode and scramble to organize. Regal cinemas is in our neighborhood but sadly they didn’t have any party packages and no one responded to my calls or emails. Next up ipic theaters - no response.

Alamo drafthouse in Brooklyn hit the spot. Not only were they were quick to respond but they had specific birthday package available and tailored to kids! After sending a quick headcount email to family friends and parents of winter’s class, we locked in a date and time and was off running.

\We chose Disney’s New release, “Ralph breaks the internet” as the feature of our private screening as well as inspiration of theme: Winter wrecks 5: a birthday movie party.

Party flow: arrivals included checking children in and getting a parent phone number then heading to the lunch buffet of grilled cheese sandwiches or burger sliders and fries. I printed out ralph disney activity sheets for kids to color at each of their tables. An hour into the movie, popcorn was distributed. At the end, cake and dance party quickly closed out the evening before parents were back for pickup.
Decorations: kept at a minimum- we are in a dark room after all! A balloon for the cake table, and a winter banner.
Cake: shoprite pullapart cupcake photo cake (I love a fancy instagrammable cake but don’t sleep on these - they are DELICIOUS and no need to cut! You just pull it apart and serve)
Favors: emoji bags played on the internet theme along with wreck it Ralph wind up race cars, emoji watches, fruit snacks and candy!
Special touches: I put together a slideshow of winter video moments and photos on my iPhone and sent it to our Alamo party coordinator - this was our “preview” for the day. Also nice was being able to put the movie poster in front of the door.
Make it a dropoff! As the designated bday party attendee parent, sometimes it felt awkward to have to force-socialize with other parents at parties and I also had to bring Nyla so I spent 75% of the time entertaining her while she watched her sister have all the fun. Knowing several of winter’s classmates were likely in the same predicament - and because Alamo drafthouse is in the excellent citypoint shopping complex complete with dekalb food hall, century 21, target, and Trader Joe’s - I figured 2 hours of free time is a gift in itself. so I hired 2 of our babysitters to help me chaperone the kids allowing parents to drop off and go.

dance party!

Photos: as always, our favorite - Olga Bryant of missophoto

wakanda warrior and mermaid on seahorse shala - Halloween 2018

Thursday, November 1, 2018
if it were up to kids Halloween is probably the second best holiday after Christmas. All that candy. Just amassing stockpiles of it. I admit I miss the running house to house aspect of trick or treating but in New York, with this weather, I can appreciate the efficiency and practicality of staying in your building.

This Halloween winter ended up being a wakanda warrior (pretty sure she just wanted the sword) and Nyla stumbled upon This mermaid on a seahorse costume at Marshall’s that was so cute we couldn’t pass it up.

Halloween weekend was insane - we had 2 birthday parties and 2 Halloween events all in one day that had us ubering through misty rain and all-around gloominess all day. The finale went down on Halloween night when we did double trick-or-treating in 2 apt buildings. The candy loot was insane but the day was so fun (and warm!)
we always stop at Brookfield Place for their annual halloween lineup

a spa birthday party? perfect!

Three Simple, No fuss halloween baking projects

Tuesday, October 30, 2018
After a jam-packed saturday of 4 (yes FOUR) parties —a combo of birthday and halloween events— the girls were totally down for an at-home chill day. But never one to just sit at home I decided we should do some fun baking projects that were halloween themed.  However I needed to keep the steps simple so where to turn to but trusty ole' Pinterest.
These gooey monster eye cookies was a recipe I found on Lil Luna that were easy to make  and turned out almost exactly like the photos (which is rarely the case when it comes to pinterest projects).   
 I nice little shortcut I tried this time was actually doing all the premixing and letting the girls pick and mix in the food coloring themselves.  There's less "I want to do that" happening when you have to assign who counts ingredients and who pours what into bowls, etc.. most of the work is quicker when done by an adult but the mashing in of the food coloring is right up a kid's wheelhouse so it's a win-win for all.

 One we finished getting the dough colors mixed in, we went right into frankenstein rice krispy treats. mainly letting them measure out the ingredients then attempting to mix the cereal into the marshmallow mix.  again food coloring (green!) was the secret sauce here. we didn't get to finish this because the rice krispy treats needed time to cool.  When they do get chilled, you can dip the top of the squares in chocolate and use an icing pen to make the face and face stithes.

 The last snack is less halloween but more any day but since Winter brought up making s'mores we jazzed them up by dipping the marshmallow in halloween-themed sprinkles.  this literally took 1 min and we used the oven broiler to heat up the marshmallow. These were goood.

It took us about 90 min to do all 3 projects and that included the wait time which we filled with homework and craft projects. this gave me time to also clean up bowls, workspaces, mixers, etc.
Happy Halloween!

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