Chinese New Year Celebration // Year of the Horse

Chinese New Year - The Girls in Mandarin Dresses

Chinese New Year Celebration // Year of the Horse

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2014 is the year of the Horse. It is a year for renewal and growth. The horse is strong and swift, and teaches us to seize the moment!

With the Chinese New Year being right around the corner, I thought the best way to teach my Baby Bear about the traditions and splendor of the occasion was with a Chinese New Year Play Date Party! Thankfully we are only a short ride away to Chinatown, so we ventured off for an afternoon of learning, shopping, eating and plain ole’ mommy and me fun. The following day we decorated the house and had a fun-filled day with all of her buddies!

See how it all came together…


  • Event Production: pop! by YAZ
  • Venue: Private Residence
  • Photography: pop! by YAZ
  • Decor +  Favors: pop! by YAZ via Pearl River Mart + Chinatown
  • Mandarin Dresses: Chinatown

Chinese New Year - Mommy and Baby BearMe and the Baby Bear! We just love having our friends over and dressing up.

Chinese New Year - Mandarin DressMandarin Dress
Baby Bear and I went shopping in Chinatown and scored by finding these beautiful Mandarin dresses for all of her friends.  Upon entry, we surprised them with the choice of a dress for them to wear during the festivities.

Chinese New Year - Baby BearMy Baby Bear!!!

Chinese New Year - Dragon Flower CenterpieceTangerines
During Chinese New Year, tangerines and oranges are displayed as decorations and are also exchanged among friends and acquaintances. Sometimes, small trees are kept for this purpose. Fruit is almost always a good Chinese New Year’s gift. Oranges and tangerines are a traditional favorite, though, and can also represent happiness and abundance, as in an abundant harvest. If there are still leaves and a stem attached to the fruit, it also means fertility.

Chinese New Year - Mouth of the Dragon
The Centerpiece

The peony is considered to be the “Flower of Richness and Good Luck” in China. Therefore it is a favorite New Year decoration. I also included a paper dragon with a pearl mouth piece.

Chinese New Year - Gold HorsesYear of the Horse
2014 is the Year of the Horse according to Chinese zodiac. The Year of the Horse starts from Jan. 31, 2014 (the Lunar New Year / Spring Festival of China) and lasts to Feb. 18, 2015. I painted the horses gold as it represents happiness and prosperity.

Chinese New Year - LanternsLanterns
The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of traditional Chinese calendar. During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles. People also get together to celebrate the beginning of spring by watching fireworks and eating Yuanxiao (sweet stuffed dumplings made of glutinous rice flour served in soup).  The festival officially ends the Chinese New Year celebrations.

Chinese New Year - The Kids TableChinese New Year - Dragon Smiles

Chinese New Year - Year of the HorseLion Dance
Street celebrations often include a traditional lion dance which is believed to scare away evil and bring good luck. There are usually two dancers. One acts as the head and the other the body. They dance to a drum, cymbals and a gong. On the head of the lion is mirror so that evil spirits will be frightened away by their own reflections. As the lion runs along the streets he begins to visit different places. On his way he meets another person, the ‘Laughing Buddha’ who is dressed in monk’s robes and a mask. He teases the lion with a fan made of banana-leaves which makes the lion jump around.

Chinese New Year - Red FlowersRed Flowers
Red is a very important color as it represents happiness, purity, celebration, health and luck.

Chinese New Year - Paper Dragon

Chinese New Year - Crafting 2

Chinese New Year - Friends

Chinese New Year - Friends

Chinese New Year - Interpretive Lion DanceCrafts + Fun
Paper dragons, interpretative lion dances, spontaneous hugs and tons of laughter ensued throughout the afternoon.

Chinese New Year - Toasting

Chinese New Year - Feast table
Chinese New Year - The Feast
The Feast
Steamed Vegetables
Steamed Rice
Beef Fried Rice
Vegetable Spring Rolls
Chicken Lo Mein
Pink Fortune Cake
Sweet Biscuits

When served during Chinese New Year, noodles shouldn’t be cut or broken into pieces. Long noodles represent a nice long life, although eating them could get a little messy.

Chinese dumplings are one of the most important foods in Chinese New Year.  They symbolize wealth as their shape is similar to ancient gold or silver ingots.

Chinese New Year - Eating with ChopsticksMehar showing off her chopstick skills.

Chinese New Year - Mean Muggin'Uh oh! Looks like somebody is mean muggin’!!!! She thought she didn’t get a tangerine. No tangerine, no good fortune! YIKES!

Chinese New Year - Eat Fortune CakeAhaana nibbles on pink Fortune Cake.

Chinese New Year - Red Flowers Chinese New Year - Red EnvelopeRed Envelope
Early on New Years Day children receive lucky red packets called ‘Hong Bao’ containing sweets or money.

Chinese New Year - Kids FavorsFavors
Their gold take-out boxes included a small change purse, pink chopsticks and a mini doll.

Chinese New Year - Fortune CookieFortune Cookie // Year of the Horse
Now is the time to implement meaningful changes in our lives. With its wild spirit, the horse longs to roam the land freely. It is a year for bold adventures and enlightening exploration. It’s a good time to travel afar! The Wood Horse can bring you good fortune, new journeys, and a replenished spirit.

Chinese New Year - Life of LaughterLive, love and laughter
Live like the moment pictured. Exuberant, engaged and with all of your heart.  Make everyday pop! Let go and LIVE!!!!

Bird’s Nest Pasta

Birds nest Pasta - kids creative food

Bird’s Nest Pasta

On cold days like today, we yearn to hear the birds singing as it’s a sign that’s it’s warm outside. Mother Nature is not on our side today,  so you will have to make due with your pop!TOT singing your praises after making your classic Spaghetti and Meatballs into the cutest little bird’s nest.

Super easy and super cute.

* TIP: Want to avoid even less cooking? Purchase pre-made meatballs and eliminate 20 minutes from the prep! We personally enjoy the process, but it’s totally up to you!

The details are below!

Birds Nest Pasta - Chef Baby BearChef Baby Bear shows off her Bird’s Nest Pasta.

Birds Nest Spaghetti  Ground BeefSeason the meat.

Birds Nest Pasta
Boil the pasta.

Birds nest Pasta - egg
Crack the eggs.

Birds nest Pasta - egg mix
Mix the eggs into the meat.

Birds nest Pasta - flour
Flour your board.

Birds nest Pasta - hand roll ball
Roll the meat into balls.

Birds nest Pasta - hand rollChef Baby Bear uses her hands here.

Birds nest Pasta - rollLook at that meat!

Birds Nest Pasta - Cook
Cook the meat

Birds nest Pasta - sauceMake your sauce.

Birds nest Pasta - kids creative food 2The Bird’s Nest Pasta is Complete!

Birds Nest Pasta - Adult
Here’s the adult version.


MEAT (Bird)

  • 1lb cup ground turkey or beef
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Oil
  • 1 box Spaghetti Pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon Oregano

PASTA (Nest)

  • 1 box of spaghetti
  • 1 jar marina Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Adobo


  • 1/4 teaspoon Cheese (feta, mozzarella, etc. for eyes)
  • Orange pepper, carrot or orange peel (for Beak)
  • Cilantro or celery stalk (for leaves)



  1. Boil water, add pasta, cook and drain. Set aside.
  2. Add a tiny amount of olive oil or butter so the pasta does not stick to each other.
  3. Swirl the pasta with a fork to create the nest shape.  Create an indent in the center so the meatball can sit in place.


  1. Heat skillet over medium heat.
  2. Combine ingredients for meat and mix.
  3. Roll meat into 1 1/2 inch balls in flour and pan fry in 1/2 inch oil.
  4. Fry for about 10 minutes then flip over to fry the other side for another 10 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
  5. Remove from skillet and allow to cool.
  6. Use a sharp pointy knife to make the holes for the eyes. Remove the tiny piece inside so that our eyes can sit well.
  7. For the bird’s beak, cut a small section of the peel or carrot and cut 2 triangles less than a half inch wide.
  8. Create a small slice roughly the size of your beak and insert the beak.
  9. Garnish with cilantro or celery for greenery.
  10. Sauce your plate, add the pasta and top with the meatball.
  11. ENJOY!

Setting the Kids Table for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Kids Table

Setting the Kids Table for Thanksgiving

When I was a kid, sitting at the kids table was like a death sentence! It was mostly because I was the only teenager amongst a table filled with my little brother and our cousins who are at least 8 years younger than I am.  That feeling never has to happen again. My goal was to create a kids table even the adults would want to sit at.

With the help of Baby Bear’s friends we husked, peeled, mashed and arranged our way to our perfectly set table giggling all along the way.  You too can make the kids table a fun place to be with tons of activities to keep the pop!TOTs happy and busy.

Check out the details below!

Kids Thanksgiving Table - The GirlsWrangling these girls was  challenging! They were so excited about everything they had accomplished and were literally jumping for joy.

Thanksgiving Mini Turky - Cornish HenWe cooked a Cornish Hen to look like a tiny turkey. One Cornish Hen will feed four little ones.
They loved picking at the fruit it was garnished with.

Thanksgiving Hot ChocolateThe pop!TOTs loved these hot chocolates with chocolate shavings.

Thanksgiving Kids Table CornAhaana and Liana husked the corn.

Kids Thanksgiving Peeling PotatoesPeeling potatoes is not easy, but it made them appreciate the process and felt accomplished once they completed the task.

Chef Baby Bear Peeling PotatoChef Baby Bear in action.

Kids Thanksgiving Table - The Girls2The girls surround the sink to mash the potatoes. The pot is in the sink because it was hot.

Mashing PotatoesLiana mashes the potatoes and Brookie photo bombs her! lol

Baby Bear Flowers ArrangingThe girls partnered up and created flower arrangements for their table. We cut and gutted squash and used silk flowers for the centerpieces.

Kids Thanksgiving - Setting the TableLiana was so proud! She’s looking like a mini Martha Stewart.

Kids Thanksgiving Table - With FlowersThe table is set.

Thanksgiving Kids Table Flowers 1Brookie and Mehar’s arrangement. Can you believe? How beautiful!

Thanksgiving Kids FlowersLiana and Ahaana’s arrangement is stunning!

Kids Thanksgiving Table - The Table SettingA closer look at the table setting.

Kids Thanksgiving TableThe girls finally get to enjoy the fruit of their labor.

Thanksgiving Kids Table FoodThe Food.

Kids Thanksgiving - Good EatsThe spread.

Kids Thanksgiving Table - EatingThe girls chat and chew.

Thanksgiving Hot Chocolate cheersMehar sipping on her hot chocolate.

Adventures at The Pumpkin Patch

Us at the Pumpkin Patch

Adventures at The Pumpkin Patch

You know it’s going to be an interesting day when your honey thinks going to the Pumpkin Patch is a trip to the local super market to pick-up a few pumpkins. Yes, I gave him the side eye, but I truly do believe he was joking. I mean, YOU WERE JOKING….. right?!?!?!?

So, we jumped in the car and headed to Alstede Farms which is about 1 hour outside of NYC.  Alstede Farms  was founded  in 1982 and cultivates over 600 acres of land in Chester using sustainable and certified organic farming methods.  Apples, Peaches, strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, pumpkins, many specialty vegetables, corn and tomatoes are sold at their Route 513 retail market daily.  The farm has over 13,000 square feet of greenhouses.  Pretty darn cool!

We of course went for Family Fall Fun Day where we got to pick our own pumpkins and enjoy many of the activities listed below. This is a perfect day trip for the family to enjoy.

  • Giant Firefighter’s Corn Maze
  • Pick Your Own (PYO) activities
  • Hayrides
  • Giant Hay Pyramid
  • Long Hay Tunnel
  • Farm Animals
  • Bunny Run
  • Goat Walk
  • Pony Rides
  • Moon Bounce
  • Wagon Train Rides
  • Corn Kingdom
So what do do with all of our pickings? See upcoming posts for many great ideas!
Check out the website for additional details.
Alstede Farms
84 County Route 513 S, Chester, NJ 07930

GPS : 1 Chesterfield Drive, Chester NJ 07930
(they are directly across the street from this location)

Fall Ride TreesThe ride to Alstede was just beautiful with all of the colorful leaves and pretty houses along the way

Hay StackClimbing this haystack is actually harder than it looks.

Top of the Hay StackWe made it to the TOP!!! Why is the Baby Bear doing a pageant wave??? lol

Hay Ride2The hayride to the pumpkin patch was about 5 minutes and it provided a quick tour of the grounds.

cool pumpkin patchToo cool for school.

scream and shoutUs acting silly.

Nike Dunk Sky Hi Pink SuedeNote to self… don”t wear cute sneakers. Your shoes will get dirty!

HayrideThe Hayride

The Great Pumpkin

My 2 LoVesWe scored with some great pumpkins!

alstede pumpkin patch 1The Great Pumpkin Patch

Alstede Corn MazeCan you beieve this is their Corn Maze?!!?  It’s called “Five Alarm” honoring their firefighters

bunny Rabbit FarmCute little bunnies.

alstede farm poseMy little farmer.

crawl hay tunnelThe final crawl out before we departed.

sunset pumpkin walkThe End!

Mini Caramel Apple Pancakes


Mini Caramel Apple Pancakes

In my house Sunday mornings  are for creating  something magical in the kitchen! It’s our time to bond and generally speaking, make something super delicious we can indulge on. My little pop!TOT is all about the pancakes so we decided to make Mini Caramel Apple Pancakes since I actually had some apples in the kitchen.

What I love about this recipe is that it’s beyond easy. And yes, there are plenty of ways you can make this fancier such as making your own caramel, but honestly after the week I had fast, yummy and cute won!

The details are below!

           DSC_0319We had these Granny Apples in the house so we picked up one and were ready to go.

DSC_0318We prefer the Granny Apples because they are tart and crisp

DSC_0339Scoop out balls with a melon baller.

DSC_0340Each apple will easily yield about 4 balls.

DSC_0351Insert the stick and dip into the caramel dip. Many supermarkets sell these individual cups of old fashioned caramel dip. Perfect for when you ave several kids as they can have their own cup. It also decreases the mess. Just use and throw away.

DSC_0358Chop up your toppings.

DSC_0361Chef Baby Bear used chocolate chips, but you can use just about anything even cereal.

DSC_0367Dip the apple in your topping of choice.


DSC_0370Insert the stick into a stack of mini pancakes.

DSC_0376Look at that smile! Chef Baby Bear was so proud!

DSC_0390Mini Caramel Apple Pancakes by Chef Baby Bear
(My version with coconut was the feature picture)

DSC_0394It was so good she had seconds! A perfect Sunday indeed.



  • 1 cup Buttermilk Pancake Mix (Not the just add water variety)
  • 1 Egg
  • ½ cup of Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Oil


  • 1 Granny Apple
  • 1 Cup of Caramel Dip
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Shavings
  • 1/2 cup Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup Walnuts
  • 4 Cinnamon Sticks



  1. Heat skillet over medium-low heat or griddle to 375 °F.
  2. Combine ingredients for pancake and stir
  3. Pour batter for each pancake onto lightly greased griddle
  4. Turn when the pancake bubbles and bottoms are golden brown


  1. Use a melon baller to scoop out ball sections of the apple and insert a lollipop stick or Cinnamon stick
  2. Stir the caramel dip to smooth out the consistency
  3. Dip the apple ball in the caramel and twirl the apple to apple a smooth coat of caramel
  4. Dip the apple in your favorite topping such as coconut flakes, chocolate chips or nuts
  5. Eat and enjoy!

Stuffed Jack-O-Lantern Bell Peppers

Stuffed Jack-O-Lantern Bell Peppers


Make your kids scream with delight by making these spooky Stuffed Jack-O-Lantern Bell Peppers.

I know what most parents know. Pasta is a quick and easy way to make the pop!TOT happy. This recipe incorporates both an activity, carving peppers and a fast meal. You can’t beat that!

Enjoy this quick, yummy and oh so spooky treat!

1Chef Baby Bear preps all of the ingredients.

2This small pumpkin carving knife is perfect for her little hands

3Chef Baby Bear was prudent in taking out all of the insides.
4Draw the face and then cut out the areas outlined.

5Peppers are more delicate so be careful when carving.

6Our Jack O’ Lanterns


8The Pasta aka guts! EEEEWWWWW!DSC_0055She grabs pasta to stuff into the pepper.


DSC_0121The final product!


A close-up! Ahhhhhh!Finny Faces


  • 2 large bell peppers
  • 1 pkg. Beef Polska Kielbasa (or any sausage)
  • 1 cup Broccoli and Cabbage Slaw
  • 1 pkg. (16 ounces) uncooked spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 6 oz can Carrots and Peas
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup of pesto sauce
  • ½ cup of Spanish olives, pitted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Cut sausage into ½” slices; set aside.
  2. Cook pasta in boiling water according to package directions; drain and keep warm.
  3. Cut a round section on the top of the pepper and discard the seeds and scrape away the insides.
  4. Draw faces on the peppers and carve with a small pumpkin knife, be careful as peppers are more delicate than pumpkins
  5. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot; add sausage. Cook for 2-4 minutes then add remaining ingredients.
  6. Cook, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes or until kielbasa is lightly browned.
  7. Transfer to a large bowl, add pasta and stir to coat.
  8. Divide pasta amongst prepared peppers and pull strands of pasta through the mouths or eyes of the jack-o-lanterns.
  9. Garnish the dish with a bed of broccoli and cabbage slaw.

Spider Mac & Cheese


DSC_0955GASP! We’re eating gooey spiders!

Spider Mac & Cheese


Boil PastaBoil the pasta.

DSC_0803Cut the cheese into cubes

DSC_0805Look at the skill!

DSC_0824Shred the cheese for topping

DSC_0828(Singing) Cheese… glorious cheeeessseeee!

DSC_0847Mix the Cheese with the milk, butter and flour mixture

DSC_0870Press the Mac & Cheese mixture into a lightly greased ramekin.

DSC_0881Unroll the dough.

DSC_0885If you are using perforated dough press the seams in order to create a larger piece of dough.

DSC_0891Cut out circles for the head and body. Feel free to use anything with a circular shape if you do not have any cookie cutters. We used a jigger to create the round shapes.

DSC_0893Cut long strips for the legs.

DSC_0906You can also roll the dough for the legs if it’s easier or if you prefer legs that are not flat.

DSC_0896Place the rounds for the head and body.

DSC_0910Place the allspice balls in for the eyes.

DSC_0914Our spider before he took a little trip into the oven.

DSC_0931Look at that Golden Spider! YUM!

DSC_0956Chef Baby Bear is on the look out for anyone creeping in to steal these yummy and creepy Spider Mac & Cheese bowls.


  • (1) 12oz Package of
  • (4) Blocks of Cheese (Used Mild Cheddar, Sharp Cheddar and Pepper Jack)
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1/2 Stick of Butter
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • Pillsbury Crescent Seamless Dough Sheets
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Cut three blocks of cheese into 1 inch cubes and shred the last block of cheese – Sharp Cheddar is my favorite to use as the topper!
  3. Lightly grease ramekins.
  4. In a large pot of salted water, boil the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes and drain.
  5. In a large pot, melt the butter and milk and slowly add the cheese cubes. Stir until melted; keep warm.
  6. Stir in macaroni into the pot with the melted cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Press the mixture evenly around the baking dish.
  8. Top with additional shredded cheese on top.
  9. Unroll the dough and cut out circles for head and body
  10. Cut 8 long pieces for the legs, you can twist the dough for extra flair.
  11. Be mindful of overlapping too many layers of dough in the center as they won’t cook through. In order to get the round shape use macaroni and cheese balls to shape the body and head dough.
  12. Bake uncovered, for 15 minutes or until the dough is a golden brown.
  13. Use allspice balls or olives for the eyes