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FUN! The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden

January 5, 2011

NY has a lot of holiday traditions.  The tree at Rockefeller Center.  The Christmas Show at Radio City.  The decorations and windows of all the stores. 

One tradition came into my life recently – the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden.  I’ve been twice, and I can’t imagine the holidays without the Train Show. 

You see, I never went to the Botanical Garden until I was an adult.  An almost 40-year-old adult.  I know, I lived so close and never went.  My grandfather worked at the Bronx Zoo, so if there was a seasonal event for us, it was taking place for us there, and not the Garden.

Two years ago, my dad came to visit and we started looking for things the family could do together that were a. holiday themed, b. close to home, and c. fun for everyone.  After getting recommendations from friends, we decided on the train show.  We got tickets for 10am, which was the earliest slot.  It was crowded, and Jordan was a bit antsy.  That’s selective memory for “he pitched a fit of epic proportions.”  We couldn’t stroll him through the place, as strollers were not permitted.  The place was packed end to end with people, so we didn’t exactly zip through there like a train.  Still, we all enjoyed it and wanted to come back.

We didn’t go in 2009, but with Dad visiting this holiday again, we decided to go.  We made a few changes in our plan of attack.

1. I purchased a membership to the Garden.  A family membership runs $120 and will allow us to visit again next year at the beginning of the Train Show.  We also received 4 parking passes, saving $12.  Since adults are $25 for a single visit, kids $15, and seniors $22 during peak times, we paid a little more than what one visit would have cost.  And we can come back any other time we want to see what excitement the Garden has in store.  What a deal!

2. Members can get into the train show early – in our case 9am.  We were one of maybe 15 other families in at that time, giving us the run of the place, really.  Jordan was able to run around and follow all the trains as they weaved through NY landmarks.  I could follow him and not get frustrated by all the people.  We spent about 35 minutes in there, and had a sane, happy time. 

For some reason, to the amusement of many, Jordan decided to bring his clock to the show.  Not sure if he was showing his obsession with numbers, trying to be Flava Flav, or hoping to time the train, but it certainly led to a lot of conversation among those in attendance.  Of course, if we lost him in the Conservatory, all we would have had to ask was “Did you see the kid carrying the clock?” and people would have known exactly who we were looking for. 

I highly recommend the train show.  It ends this Sunday, so if you don’t have a chance to make it, or are not in the area, definitely think about it for next year.  The “conductor” told me this was the 19th year, so if they are celebrating double decades in 2011, I can’t wait to see what they have in store.   We’re hopefully going as Thomas The Tank Engine will be there to meet kids (does he have hands?  how does this work?)  Hope we can leave the clock at home.  Be sure to check out all of the Garden’s tips for making the most out of your train show visit.

What family traditions are musts for your holidays?


O Christmas Tree

December 24, 2010

Even though I have a Jewish surname, I grew up in the Christian faith.  Specifically, I was baptized a Presbyterian, which is as lightweight as you can get when you have a Southern Baptist father and half Catholic/half Jewish mother. 

Every year, my grandfather (the Catholic one) with whom we lived with would put up a 4 foot artificial tree to be the centerpiece of our elaborate holiday decorations.  Ok, it’s all we actually did to celebrate Christmas, but that doesn’t matter.  It’s still one of my most favorite childhood memories.  You see, I never really believed in Santa.  We lived in an apartment building, so the concept of Santa coming down the chimney never made sense.  Plus, Santa gifts had the same handwriting and used the same wrapping paper as those that came from my mom.  The jig was up from an early age.  But the tree!  The Tree meant presents, and who cared where they came from, they were presents and that meant goodness. 

When I married a Jew, I soon learned that a tree was never a priority.  One year we bought a living mini-tree and decorated it with the 6 ornaments that fit on it.  But that was all I got.  Other ornaments hung in my office, dreaming of a tree to call home for a few weeks a year.  I lobbied for a tree every year, but because Mr. IT didn’t have one growing up, it was never on his Christmas list.

It wasn’t until the year he was out of work that I got my tree.  He figured since I was the one bringing home the bacon that he couldn’t deny me the tree anymore.  We went on Christmas Eve (it was still a battle that took a while to win) to Duane Reade.  Yes, Duane Reade, the NYC drug store.  We bought a 6 foot artificial tree for 1/2 off.  It doesn’t fit together so well, but duct tape fixes that.  It reminds me of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree – not the biggest or brightest, but certainly #1 in my book.

Every year since I’ve planned to buy a new tree after the holidays when trees are on sale.  But every year without fail I decide that my tree is just right. 

This year, for the first time, IT Boy helped Soccer Girl and me put up the ornaments.  He got really into it, and has been a really good boy by not playing with the tree but just sitting back and watching it instead.  It’s just right in my book.

Since I have a son who insists on jumping on furniture and taking his shoes off by scraping them on my shoes, I’m hoping Santa has a new sectional sofa for my holiday gift.  Hope it fits in the sleigh – we have a chimney, so now I believe!  I believe!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas…

What I learnt from Blogging Heroes: Top Blogging Tips PART 1

December 23, 2010

Wanted to share this post I found on� In publishing, the backlist is often the moneymaker for the house.� Not so in tech publishing, where books often have the half life of the household fruit fly.� But this post is a great reminder that sometimes books do have the power to live on.�

Glad she highlighted this Wiley title, pulling out some great advice.  I’ll consider it an early Christmas present. 

What I learnt from Blogging Heroes: Top Blogging Tips PART 1.

The Role of Books in the Digital Age

December 9, 2010

Wanted to share an interview I did during BlogWorld Expo in October…sure, yeah, I just realized I never posted this.  In it, I talk about my BlogWorld panel and what I see (meaning, my opinion only, your mileage may vary) in the near future for books.

Not so much hand flapping in this one, thankfully…

Tis the Season of Love

December 8, 2010

When Soccer Girl and I picked up IT Boy after his Sunday Funday program, we asked him what they did for the 3 hours he was gone from us.  Sometimes when we ask we hear about how he played “sports” or bounced on the trampoline.  This week, he told us they sang “Minutes”.   Surprised that he offered up something so quickly yet  so cryptically, we asked the aide in the class what “Minutes” meant.  She laughed, and said they sang a song from “Rent” during the music session.   Immediately I knew she was referring to “Seasons of Love“, the soaring song that opens act 2 of the play. 

On the walk to the car, I called up iTunes on my phone and downloaded the song so we could play it for Boy in the car.  He was thrilled to hear the song again.  Soccer Girl and I were thrilled to have a reprieve from the music of “Handy Manny”.  And we all sang “Minutes” the whole way home.  There was a lot of love and joy in the car that morning. 

Wanted to share the song with all of you, with my wish that every season be one of love. 

Planning for Disney Social Media Moms Celebration with Food Allergies? Read on!

December 7, 2010

I’ve seen a couple of people participating in the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration Twitter stream talking about how Disney works with food allergies and special needs.   If you or someone in your family has food allergies, please check out  this post  I wrote a year ago after coming back from a rather successful trip to the Mouse.  My daughter has severe food allergies and we need to be most cautious anywhere.  It’s anxiety inducing on the best of days, and I dare not even imagine what the worst would be like. 

The good news is that Disney is rather good about dealing with any special needs, especially food allergies.  Check out my prior post, but also go to Disney’s own food allergy page to be fully prepared for any issues.  The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) posts travel tips to get you through the rest of your trip.  Anyone affected by food allergies should be a FAAN member and use their site – it’s most literally a lifesaver. 

New since I wrote the post last year – booking restaurant reservations online!  Saves time and energy (I hate being on the phone!) and you can note any food allergies and accessibility requirements on your reservation. 

Not only can you be safe at Disney when it comes to food allergies, you can also relax a little knowing that they get allergies and want to help.

Disney Social Media Moms Celebration: Why Me?

December 3, 2010

If you have read this blog or know me, you probably are aware that I am a major Disney freak.  So when I heard that Disney was going to be putting on a Social Media Moms Celebration, I was all ears.  So, so sorry for the pun. 

2010 was the first year Disney hosted such an event.  I read a bit about it in the blogosphere because our author Chris Brogan participated.  I assumed it was invite only, and couldn’t imagine how someone could be so lucky as to get an invite to a shindig like that.  Attendees were put up at a deluxe resort, had meals and park tickets taken care of, and were treated to a wonderful family vacation while learning more about how to succeed in social media.  What could be better?

This year, I followed Twitter feeds that gave information about the event.  I learned that it would held in early 2o11 and registration would be sometime in the late fall.  Guests would be staying at the Grand Floridian, and would receive park tickets for the whole family.  Amazing speakers, great events, and time at Disney with the family, what wasn’t to like?

Soon, we all learned that registration would open at 2pm EST on December 2.  According to the site for the event, registration would be “first come, first served”.  They did however imply they were going to be asking questions about your blog traffic, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends.  Luckily, I was going to be in the office that day and could sneak away from meetings to try to sign up.

I got to my desk at 1:50 and went to the site.  It said it wasn’t up but would be soon.  So I waited.  2pm came and went and I still wasn’t in.  I was starting to get nervous.  I opened 2 other windows.   Nothing.  Until 2:10 when I got into the site and completed registration by 2:18.

I hopped onto Twitter and noticed there were a lot of folks getting anxious about the whole process.  Understandable.  Even though we had all “registered” we were told registrations would need to be verified.  I panicked, thinking my blog traffic and Twitter influence would simply not be up to snuff. 

December 3 became more than my birthday.  It was the day I was obsessively checking email for that confirmation.  Or the big NO.

You can only imagine my joy when I saw that I had indeed been accepted into the conference.  I called my mom and let her know that she was getting to go with me next March.  To stay in the hotel we’ve always dreamed about staying in, lest for the cost. 

Next, I hopped on Twitter.  I imagined that there would be Tweets of all kinds – happy tweets, jealous tweets, angry tweets, ungrateful tweets, and everything in between.

Sadly, I was right.  It made me sad, thinking about how much people were invested in this, and was it really worth it for all the agony it brought them when they didn’t make it. 

Certainly I hoped I would get in.  But I didn’t know the odds, so I didn’t get my hopes up.  And other than my mom, no one in the family knew it was even a glimmer of a possibility.  It wasn’t until yesterday that I dared to dream, knowing full well that my hopes could easily be dashed as they could be lifted.

Hearing about moms who told their kids weeks before that this was going to happen, showing them pictures of the resorts online and talking about how great the trip WOULD be, way before the trip was even a possibility, make me sad.  Hearing these moms get mad at Disney and talking about how heartbreaking it is make me mad.  That’s not the fault of anyone at Disney.  Counting your chickens before they are hatched is saying, no?

Would I be saying that if I wasn’t picked?  Absolutely.  If I didn’t get in, I would be upset and a little jealous, but I’d like to think that I was raised to be (outwardly at least) happy for those who got in and wouldn’t be all riled about it on the interwebs.  I don’t think I would have called out Disney to explain the criteria for who got in and who didn’t.  Now more people are jumping on the hashtag to partake in the drama and call out “mom bloggers” for bad behavior…can’t wait for that to die down. 

So, why me?  Why not me?  I have no idea how I made the cut and how others didn’t.  I’m happy that I got in, and am feeling very blessed and very grateful, while genuinely sad for those who won’t be joining us in Orlando next month. 

If you are going, introduce yourself so I can have a friend before I go.  Now that I am able to dare to dream, you can bet I will.