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A Behind the Scenes Look at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Floats

I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes where they make the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats. It was exciting to see the five new floats up close, along with costumes, drawings and some of the giant balloons too. This is the third part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade series. Click here for a guide to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and click here for a behind the scenes look at the giant balloons from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

This is the closest I'll ever get to riding on a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade float. Can you see me on the ship?

This is the closest I’ll ever get to riding on a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade float. Can you see me on the ship? This is the Pirate’s Booty Treasure Hunt float, new this year. I had to climb up the little ladder to get on there – not so easy.

Here’s a bit about what I learned while there: Continue reading A Behind the Scenes Look at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Floats

Behind the Scenes Guide to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Giant Balloons

It’s hard not to be awed by the enormous balloons making their way down the streets in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes to how they were designed and what one of them looked like up close, inflated.

Of course you can watch them get inflated yourself, the night before Thanksgiving (details at the bottom). If you plan to attend the parade, don’t miss my Guide to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And you can read our behind the scenes guide to the floats here.

Macy's Studio in Moonachie, New Jersey is where all the balloons and floats are conceived (and floats are built and refurbished here)

Macy’s Studio in Moonachie, New Jersey is where all the balloons and floats are conceived (and floats are built and refurbished here)

What’s new?

This year they’re debuting six new balloons this year, which is a record number. That’s a bit of a misnomer for attendees, since two of the characters (Pikachu and the Pillsbury Doughboy) are regulars at the parade. But Pikachu just went through a third redesign, so it is a new balloon and Macy’s counts that as a new one. The Pillsbury Doughboy is also technically a new balloon, though the design is the same as the last one, since it flew so well and the client wanted  the same thing.

Paddington's hat

Paddington’s hat – he’s new this year

Thomas the Train (new this year) is 47 feet tall Continue reading Behind the Scenes Guide to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Giant Balloons

Guide to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2014

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is celebrating its 88th year. If you haven’t already gmacysposter2one, maybe now’s the time. You’ll join 3.5 million people watching from the streets and windows, and an estimated 50 million sitting in front of the TV. As for participants? A whopping 8,000 are marching, wielding balloon strings or on floats. Look for some fun stats toward the bottom.

The parade is on Thanksgiving morning, this year it’s November 27 at 9 a.m. It takes about 90 minutes for the parade to make it from the start to the finish. Navigating the parade with kids isn’t that hard if you’re prepared. And that’s what we’re here for – your family guide to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Balloon Inflation

Even if you can’t go for the parade, the giant balloon inflation is open to the public the Wednesday before the parade, on November 26th. Head over to the Museum of Natural History, entering the inflation area at 79th Street and Columbus Avenue. The inflation goes from 3-10 p.m. Here’s a behind the scenes guide to the making of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons. Continue reading Guide to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2014

Orlando for Nearly Free – find out how

Before kids, I used to get lots of free airplane tickets for getting bumped. I traveled off season, which was cheaper. Now that I have kids, paying for travel for four is tough, especially since my husband doesn’t like getting bumped (“I want to get home NOW!”) and we travel during school breaks. Given how expensive travel is, especially to the Orlando parks, I’m excited to welcome Summer Hull to Jersey Kids today. She is launching an ebook called Frequent Flyer Toolkits, including one called Orlando for Nearly Free. She has been running, a popular blog that helps travelers navigate the frequent flyer type point programs to make travel more affordable.

Tell me a bit about you and your travel-for-free background.orlando-for-nearly-free

I first dabbled in the miles-and-points hobby as a cash-strapped grad student at New York University. I racked up frequent flyer miles flying back and forth to visit friends and family in Houston. Then, after graduation, while my friends could only muster up the money for a drive to the shore, I was able to use miles and points to take my boyfriend at the time to Hawaii. After that, I was hooked. I didn’t have as much travel occur naturally after grad school, so I had to find ways to earn miles outside of flying.

I kept learning more about how to earn and leverage loyalty currency and eventually my husband got sick of hearing me talk about it all the time! He encouraged me to start a blog and that’s how was born in 2011. Since that time I’ve shared tons of tips and strategies that can help just about anyone earn miles they can redeem for a nearly free flight (you still pay tax on award flights) and hotel stay.

What kind of freebies do you talk about in your ebook in terms of traveling for free?

The books teach you how to use frequent flyer miles, hotel points, and bank points. The fact is, using loyalty currency can drastically reduce your costs on all sorts of travel-related expenses. Frequent flyer miles can be redeemed for nearly free flights. All you’ll pay for, in the case of a ticket to Orlando, is the tax (which is $5.60 per flight segment per person). Continue reading Orlando for Nearly Free – find out how

Review: Queens – A Culinary Passport

I admit I’ve only been to Queens once, on a trip to the New York Hall of Science. Before going, I asked for restaurant advice from my friend Alison Lowenstein, author of City Kid New York. She steered us to Tortilleria Nixtamel, a cozy spot not far away, where we had delicious tacos, tamales, agua fresca and some other items. We later hit the Lemon Ice King of Corona, which a Jersey Kids Treat of the Day, for a cold dessert.

Queens, a Culinary Passport by Andrea Lynn

Queens, a Culinary Passport by Andrea Lynn

While these were excellent dining spots, when I go in the future, I will consult my new book, Queens a Culinary Passport: Exploring Ethnic Cuisine in New York City’s Most Diverse Borough by food writer Andrea Lynn.

In the book which was just released this week, Andrea shares detailed info on more than 40 restaurants and food stands – including cuisines like Pakistani, Greek, Italian, Romanian, Hungarian, Korean, Thai, Mexican, Uzbekistanian, Kosher deli, Slovak Chech…you get the idea. And by the way, Tortilleria Nixtamel and Lemon Ice King of Corona are both included.

But this is not just a book of restaurants, though restaurants are featured in detail. In it, you’ll find interviews with the restaurant owners and historical background about some of the food items featured there. There’s also interviews with other foodies like Serious Eats editor Max Falkowitz, on Queens memories and favorite food spots, and Famous Fat Dave, NYC Food Tour guide.

You’ll find food stores like the U.S. Supermarket, an Asian emporium, and Titan Foods, the largest Greek specialty store in the country.

You’ll find a lot of recipes. First one I’m trying is the Greek Frappe, something I enjoyed during my Mediterranean excursions without good replication at home. Some recipes are inspired by the dishes that featured restaurants serve (not all restaurants want to share their secret sauce), and some are adapted. I appreciate that Andrea spells that out.

And you’ll find self-guided walking tours for each neighborhood (the book is divided by neighborhood) with specific food spots to hit.

The book is lovely, designed with a mosaic motif reminiscent of the MTA subway stops. And there are lots of color photos and maps to illustrate it.

Even if you’re not going to Queens any time soon, it’s a fascinating book to read, to get a diverse cultural and food history. And if you venture to Queens at all, you must buy it.

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial

Last time I was near the World Trade Center, the fences were still up and you needed tickets to get into the memorial area. That is no longer the case, as of May. This September 11 is the first anniversary of the memorial. You can just walk into the plaza now and visit. I’ll give more information on the bottom – you can see pictures from my visit as you scroll down.

pool polish

There was something very sacred about the woman’s work cleaning and polishing the metal holding the names.


pool south

You can see a short video of what the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial pool looks like here. Continue reading Visiting the 9/11 Memorial

9/11 Museum Review – Should You Take Kids?

This summer I went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I went without my kids because I wanted to see if it was appropriate for them, and also wanted the time to go through there without the pressure of “I want to leave!” “I’m hungry!” “Are you almost done?”

pool museum

You can see the museum in the background – it’s the lower building just above the treeline on the left/center.

I’ll get into details about tickets, timing etc. at the bottom, along with age issues. I’ll also save my grand overarching thoughts about the museum for the end, so if you’re just looking for that, scroll to the bottom area. First I’d like to lead you through the museum. Continue reading 9/11 Museum Review – Should You Take Kids?

The Great Falls in Paterson

Have you been to the Great Falls in Paterson? If not, it’s worth going. We took a trip over there this summer and it was gorgeous!

Paterson Falls

This place has a lot of history, going back to Alexander Hamilton’s time, when he envisioned Paterson as the country’s first planned industrial city. He wanted to use hydropower from the Passaic River’s Great Falls. Hamilton and the Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturers (a real mouthful), started this in Paterson in 1792. Since then, Paterson’s industry became known for fabrics (silk spinning, cotton, textile machinery, jute, weaving, dyeing, etc.). When I posted a picture of the Falls on my personal Facebook page some time back, one of my friends said her first job was working in textiles in Paterson, and she’s not even old! You can read more of the history of the Great Falls here. Continue reading The Great Falls in Paterson

Review: Jeff Koons Retrospective at the Whitney – Should you Bring Kids?

I had one thought when walking up to the Whitney Museum, to see the Jeff Koons’ retrospective. Thank God we were getting in via the corporate sponsor ticket line. That regular line snaked out the building and around the corner, and it was LONG. We only had to wait behind four people who were either members or also worked for corporate sponsors. The lesson here: if you aren’t either category, expect a long line.

The vacuum cleaner room

The vacuum cleaner room

I learned a bit about Jeff Koons during my modern art history college classes, but after going through this four story retrospective, I realized just how little I actually knew. Get the free audio guide (you can listen to parts of it here) or take a tour. The signage is good too, but it’s nice having a little extra information. The retrospective covers 1978 to present, with 150 objects on display.

The inflatables room, with mirrors

The inflatables room, with mirrors

The exhibit is broken up into sections based on his genre of work/time period. They were all quite different and diverse, and the way they organized it provides an excellent way to see his progression of art and what concepts he worked with at that time. The first section (The New) was the vacuum cleaner one – first picture on top. He was exploring the interaction between the viewer and the object, using only new vacuum cleaners that had the added anthropomorphic ability to express life/death, male/female (phallic bag/womb of suckage) etc. Not such an interesting gallery for us, I’ll say. Continue reading Review: Jeff Koons Retrospective at the Whitney – Should you Bring Kids?

Kiva – make a microloan, get $50 more to lend

I’ve been a big fan of Kiva and have made microloans through it. Have you heard of Kiva? They coordinate loans of around a few thousand dollars to help individuals and those running very small businesses fund their business in one of 78 developing countries around the world. Your small loan of $25 or so is mixed with loans from other people, so that an entrepreneur in another country can do something like buy chickens to resell at market or buy auto parts for a small repair business. The repayment rates are extremely high – 98% – and you choose who you loan to. While the money is paid back, you funnel it into another loan after, so you don’t actually get repaid yourself. Kiva is a nonprofit.

I’ve been making microloans through Kiva, $25 at a time for a few years.

Kiva has a promotion right now for new lenders who make their first $25 Kiva loan during August through their Go Far campaign page. Do so and you’ll get two $25 promo codes by September 3, which you can use or share with others.

Please lend, and let me know who you helped fund!