Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Follow The Yellow Silk Road This Summer-- For Free!

The Hangzhou Tourism Commission (and a number of corporate sponsors) are planning on sending two lucky families (One American, One Chinese) on a Free Round the World Trip this summer.

The trip will trace the ancient Silk Road starting in Hangzhou and then traveling through China, Greece, Croatia, Venice, Geneva, Paris, Boston, and then New York City. In addition to the two families that are going to go, they'll send a media "Storyteller" to help chronicle the trip via Social Media.

Hangzhou China
If you want to audition for the slots, you need to go to and fill out the application (including a short video) Families will be voted on via Social Media.  Family Auditions will be accepted May 27-June 11.  (Winner announced June 18)

Here's the press release they sent me.  Good luck!

Hangzhou Tourism Commission Opens Entries for Global Tour 2015

U.S. Families to Audition for Free 30-Day Trip Around the World Starting in Hangzhou, China

New York (May 27, 2015) – The Hangzhou Tourism Commission (HTC) today announces the official launch of a social media campaign called, Global Tour 2015, which will send one U.S. and one Chinese family, along with a media “Storyteller,” on a free 30-day trip around the globe from July 24th through August 22nd.

The campaign was created to promote U.S. travel to a destination emerging on the global stage: Hangzhou, China, known for its beauty, perfect blend of traditional and modern Chinese experiences, and has become China’s top launch pad for tech start-ups, including home of e-commerce giant, Alibaba.

In tandem with China National Tourism Administration’s theme “Beautiful China 2015 – Year of Silk Road Tourism,” HTC’s Global Tour 2015 will support the winners to trace the ancient Silk Road beginning in Hangzhou and traveling through Dunhuang, China; Mykonos, Greece; Santorini, Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Venice, Italy; Geneva, Switzerland; Paris, France; Boston, Massachusetts (Hangzhou’s U.S. “sister city”); and finally ending in New York City.

Before commencing the tour, the winning families and the media Storyteller will spend several days learning the rich culture, history and lifestyle of Hangzhou, which is known as one of the happiest cities in China. The group will then travel west following the Silk Road, spreading the happiness and building lasting international friendships along the way. The Storyteller will accompany the family on the trip to chronicle the adventures via social media.

Families interested in entering for the Global Tour 2015 must visit and complete a questionnaire and submit a short video audition. Members of the media and social media influencers interested in winning the Storyteller position will need to complete a 200-word written submission, a second writing assignment selecting which of the landmarks on the Global Tour is the happiest, and are encouraged to post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Family submissions will be put to a public social media vote and then the winners will be selected by a panel of judges.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

EAR WORM: SteveSongs: Song Without A Rhyme

I've been listening to and enjoying the SteveSongs album Orangutan Van for about a year now.

One of the songs on the album is a song in which two performers try to sing a song that doesn't rhyme.  It's harder than you think, although it can be done (In the song itself, Steve is undone by the other performer quoting his grandfather, who insisted that he not be misquoted.  Ie, he could have done it.)

What has been keeping me captivated in that song is how easily we are led to rhyme, and how hard it is to fight against what seems so darned obvious.   obvious leaps of rhyme it's easy to make, and how hard it is to fight against them, once everything else is set up in motion.

Here's the first set of lyrics.  The two singers (Steve and Anand) trade off and have to finish each other's phrase without rhyming.

STEVE: We're going to make a song without a rhyme
So we can sing it for you.
A song without a rhyme,
Yeah, That's what we are gonna... 
You know it's going to be tricky
Yeah, It's going to take time.
To make a song without words
That end with a... 
There was a man from Nashville
Who was a songwriting star,
One day he got inspired
As he strummed his... 

They probably trade off about 20 times, and although it's rehearsed, I love this game!

SteveSongs is the work of Steve Roslonek, a Connecticut resident who has been performing on PBS since 2008.  There, he is one of the main interstitial presences in between shows and episodes of Curious George, Clifford, and many of the other shows on the station.  He acts as a host and helps introduce some of the concepts after the animation is over.  If you've seen those shows, you probably know his work.

His work is engaging, clever, and not condescending at all.

Another song I love on the album is the title track Orangutan Van, about a guy named Dan who lives in Orangutan land and drives a van that transports Orangutans around .  It's a counting song, but it's done so cleverly (and the concept is so clever) that kids learn to subtract as they fill up the van with a band, some cheerleaders, some reporters, some banana flanne, and a whole bunch of orangutans.

He's got lots of other great songs, including a song about Martin Luther King Jr.  (All In This Together), a song about being a Superhero (with a special appearance by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo!), a song about Flat Stanley, and lots of other educational/entertaining songs.

You can listen to tracks/purchase his album online on Amazon, or visit his website to find out more.
(he actually has 5 albums available on Amazon.  Orangutan Van is his latest)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sweets and Snacks Expo- Some Trends/Insights

I had the great opportunity of attending the Sweets and Snacks Expo yesterday.   The show is a candy lover's dream-- or a diabetic's nightmare.  Fortunately for me, I am more of the former than the latter.

 Basically, all of McCormick Place is turned into row after row after row of candy aisles, with purveyors large and small enticing you to try their wares.

I do want to say that the show is not all candy.  There's a healthy (or rather unhealthy) amount of chips, popcorn, meat snacks and other kinds of delicious products, all waiting for you to sample them.  There are also a lot of business to business vendors (packagers, tin makers, distributors, etc)

Still, after a day in paradise, I was seriously craving some kale.  Or some salad.  Or some something.

Amy and I show our sophisticated sides with our tongue tattoos.
Mine looks like it was graffitied by someone on drugs, which
shows how hip I am.
I walked the floor with a friend of mine from New York, Amy Marks-McGee of TrendIncite.  Amy is  a flavor and fragrance consultant and writer, and a great companion at a show like this.  She was very discerning about what she would try, and was super knowledgeable about the upcoming trends-- basically a great foil to my "Let's try and eat our way through the show" mentality.  If you like, you should check out her blog-- it's well worth the read.

Despite the hours of sampling, I only saw about a third of the show.  I'm hoping to go back solo tomorrow and take in the rest. (the event is 3 days long) I also might need to bring bigger clothes.

Here's just a couple of the trends and interesting new products that I spotted.

I saw a number of items that listed Birthday cake as a flavor, including Flipz pretzels and some gourmet gum from Project 7. I'd been aware of Birthday Cake as a flavor (I'd seen a couple of Birthday Cake Milk Shakes at Steak'n'Shake. But I hadn't realized it had become a full-fledged flavor.

  In fact, project 7 differentiated between Birthday Cake and Wedding Cake flavors.  (I think Wedding Cake is a little more bitter. )

I saw a couple of iterations of food that you could play with, including Juicy Drop Gummies, which are gummy candies with a depression inside them, along with a pen that you can squirt a little sour gel into the depression to flavor your own candy.  They don't yet mix and match flavors (you can't buy cherry sour gel with banana candy, but I could easily imagine that being a new thing (similar to the mix and match soda that kid's love to drink at a soda machine)

The other thing I saw was edible moldable candy dough. It's play dough you can actually eat!  It tasted okay, a little like sweet cookie dough.  I don't know if it hardens up if you leave it alone or if you can cure it to become like china.  Hopefully, it's eaten long before you find out (and not discovered by ants.)

There were tons of Star Wars candies coming out.  Also big on the licensee arena were the Minions and the Avengers.  I also saw some older brands still trending, like Angry Birds.   I didn't see any Disney themed stuff (well Avengers and Star Wars are I guess technically Disney now, but none of the real Disney stuff)  Of course it could be in the part of the show I didn't see yet.  Or perhaps there's a separate show just for Disney stuff?  I also didn't see any adult television stuff (Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, etc)

I also expected to see a whole bunch of Minecraft stuff, but didn't see anything.

I know that stuff exists, so perhaps I just didn't get that far.


The great gummification continues, with Brains, gingerbread men, and pizza just a few of the latest victims in the Gummy Wars.

I hope to have more insights sometime next week, after I've taken more time to digest (pun intended!)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sliced Toast

Toast was a new food for my son, age 6.
I told you he was picky!
As devout readers of this blog know, my son is one of the pickiest eaters in the world. He isn't completely adverse to eating (his cousin, on the other hand, seems to exist solely on tiny amounts of plain pasta, and healthy amounts of air.) He just likes what he likes and he doesn't like anything else.

Getting him to try new foods is a trial and tribulation. So a couple of days ago, I was absolutely delighted when he agreed to try toast- and he liked it!

Well, he didn't ACTUALLY agree. He hadn't been feeling well, (complaining that his stomach hurt him) and he'd been farting a lot, and so it was plain foods for dinner.

We had some rice in the fridge and we had some bread, and I said, half-heartedly, "Hey what about some toast?"  He said no.  (Expected response)

But I am intrepid. I cut a piece of bread in half, toasted half of it in an effort to force his hand, and put it on his plate.  I then continued making my dinner. When I looked up again, both pieces of bread were gone!  Guess what?  He ate it!

So I said,  "How was your toast?"
He said "Great!  Can I have some more?"
I fell on the floor. Vindication!

He ate 3 slices of plain toast, and I was feeling pretty good about myself.  (And his stomach issue seems to have gone away. )

So the next day, after eating his snack (chocolate chip cookies and blueberries) , he said, "Dad, I'm still hungry, can I have some toast?"  I said "Sure!"

But I had a secret plan.

I toasted a slice of bread, and when it was done, cut it in half, and put a tiny bit of butter on one piece.  It was a little obvious, so I put it butter side down on the plate.

He could tell there was butter on it right away.
Did I mention he doesn't like butter? Or peanut butter? Or jam? Or maple syrup? Or ketchup, or mustard or hot sauce or anything that adulterates/compliments his food? The only composed food he will eat is cheese pizza.

And by doesn't like, I of course mean "refuses to try."

My hope was that he'd eat both of the slices and say, "Dad this one was extra delicious!"

He ate the non-buttered piece first.  I ignored him, trying hard not to look his way as he stepped into my carefully laid trap.

He took a bite of the second piece and said "Dad!"

 I looked up at him hopefully.

"There's something on this toast!  I'm not eating it."

And alas, my brilliant plan failed. Foiled by a smart and stubborn kid with a fairly sensitive palate.

I dared too much too soon.

One step at a time.  One step at a time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Pop Ups New Animated Series Launches Today!

Brooklyn-based, twice Grammy-nominated band The Pop Ups  are launching a new web series on their YouTube channel starting today.  The series features 4-6 minute edu-taining videos that touch on different subjects.  They all engender a sense of wonder

There will be five videos that are available today:

Box of Crayons - This animated series teaches kids how to write different letters. The first video focuses on O's, with Ollie the Owl.

Make it a Puppet – Kids learn about their world through objects around them.The Pop Ups turn everyday objects into puppets to answer questions about the world.The first episode is focused on a houseplant and the process of photosynthesis.

What's That Smell? - A cooking show with Chef and her sidekick DJ, Glen where viewers learn about the world through the lens of FOOD. The first one is about the color yellow.

Music video -- Animated videos based on Pop Ups hit songs. The first one is "Robot Dance."

Sock Puppet Orchestra -- Jason and Jacob sing and play along with their puppet friends and learn something new every day. The debut video explores "Body Parts."

New content will then start rolling out regularly beginning on June 10th.

To listen to Pop-Ups Music, click the albums below:

Monday, May 11, 2015

#Foodiechats Celebration is tonight!

Tonight I'm fortunate enough to be attending the #foodiechats 4 year celebration.

(You can still get tickets through Eventbrite!)

#Foodiechats ( is an online twitter community where people gather every Monday night to talk about great food. (They also have meetings on other nights as well, now!)

 Usually, it's sponsored by a restaurant or a food brand, and the questions and answers fly fast and furious.  They have a lot of followers, and people from all over the country (and the world) can follow along at home.

It's a great way to interact with other food-conscious bloggers and brands that are either all about food or are themselves food.  In the past, sponsors have included Lindt Chocolate, Ninja restaurants, Barilla Pasta, Sabra Foods, and many other national brands.  I think their promo says they've worked with over 250 brands.

The 4 year celebration is going to be a great way to taste some new foods, cozy up to the all-you-can-drink bar, socialize with other bloggers, and my understanding is that #foodiechats may be releasing their new app tonight.

Hope to see you tonight, but you can follow along online on twitter by searching the hashtag #foodiechats.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day, Peoples!

This is one of my favorite Mother's Day songs.

Happy Mother's Day One and all!