Three cheers for Missoula’s grocery stores!

My kids know they can score a free cookie at the bakery counter when we shop at Rosauers. At 8 and 11 years old now, they’re too big to fit in those car shopping carts anymore, but they still have fond memories of tooling around the aisles, spinning the steering wheel, munching cookies.

Now, prompted by a social media storm about a grocery store that gives out free fruit to kids 12 and younger, three Missoula grocery stores are doing the same, only instead of cookies they’re offering fruit. My kids love fruit of all kinds, so they’ll be thrilled.

But maybe not as thrilled as they are to get free cookies.

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Baggy bottoms

I caved.

Friday, I ventured into the world of maternity clothes.

I held out for six months, but those buttons on my jeans just aren’t comfortable anymore and neither are the rubber bands. Plus, my dresses are starting to look like what a friend calls “mullet dresses.”

Turns out, maternity clothes are really cute and, surprisingly, flattering.

The problem lies in their very solution, though.

Those elastic bands are comfy, but not really tight.

As if I don’t feel pudgy enough already, now I have to contend with pants that get saggy as the day goes on and require continual upward tugging.

Pretty soon it will be warm enough that I could probably get away with just wearing a bathing suit.

But I decided I should stick to maternity clothes for everyone’s sake – and eyesight.

So if you see me around town tugging, you know why.

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Kids Christmas present no-nos: Keys to the car, shot of whiskey or electronic device

I usually don’t enjoy shopping, but I have to say that it is fun to shop for Christmas presents for my kiddos. They’re at an age when they think everything under the sun is marvelous. The wrapping is amazing, the toy is wonderful and the box it came in is super fun, too!

Recently I got an interesting email from the Environmental Health Trust warning parents not to buy electronics for their kids. I’ll refrain from comment and just share the message, below:

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Make Children’s Museum part of post Turkey Day plans PLUS a great gift idea for kids: all-day pass to Museum, Carousel

There’s no school on Thanksgiving, or the day after. Thanksgiving Day might be taken care of, but what to do with the kids on Friday?

Well, the Children’s Museum will be hosting a holiday open house, with free admission from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. That’s one idea, and thanks go to the Plum Creek Foundation for making it possible.

Another reason to stop by the Children’s Museum might be to pick up an all day pass or two for the little ones on your holiday shopping list.

Both the Children’s Museum and A Carousel for Missoula are offering the Play All Day Pass, which comes in the form of a $7 wristband. It gets the wearer unlimited rides on the carousel for one day plus admission to the museum.

The carousel and the Children’s Museum are located just across a parking lot from each other, so the pairing makes sense on a number of levels. You can buy the passes at either venue.

“Kids love the carousel and they love the museum!” Children’s Museum manager Heidi Kendall said. “Since we’re so close together in downtown Missoula, we thought it would be a great way to make it extra easy for families to enjoy both attractions at once! Happy holidays, Missoula!”

 

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Moms respond to humor, balance between reality and idealism

You know those “Swagger Wagon” ads for Toyota? Or those commercials for Volkswagen with the little kid in Darth Vader gear? Both are considered marketing hits – largely because they strike the right tone with a certain segment of the American population that has a lot of buying clout: moms.

I’m fascinated by marketing that tries to convince me to buy stuff, perhaps because I’m such a tightwad with my money (and by “my” money, I mean the money that my husband earns too). Or perhaps it’s because ad agency’s attempts to capture “a portion of the market representing $2.3 trillion in spending power” are so often so off-base.

That’s a problem tackled earlier this week at the first-ever Advertising Week event reported in this MediaPostNews Marketing Daily article. According to those who spoke at the event, one of the main reasons these agencies struggle to reach moms is because so few moms work in ad agencies.

Another reason: moms are increasingly moving away from traditional advertising vehicles (think TV) and toward other forms of communication (think blogs, Facebook and Twitter).

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77 million students getting ready to go back to school

Back to schoolThe always timely U.S. Census Bureau has the latest figures in for all your back-to-school questions.

How much money was spent at family clothing stores last August? $7.4 billion. How much was spent at bookstores? $2.2 billion.

The lion’s share of this money was presumably spent by the families of the nation’s 77 million students – both children and adults enrolled in one of the nation’s  schools, from preschool to college.

That’s roughly 27 percent of the population.

For the kiddos, the United States was home to 98,706 public schools at last count, and 33,740 private schools.  They employ some 7.2 million teachers – nearly 3 million of which teach elementary or middle-school.

Public school teachers make an average annual salary of $65,800 – in California, which has the highest pay rate. The lowest rate is in South Dakota, where teachers make an average annual salary of $36,700. In Montana, the National Education Association has the average annual salary of a public school teacher in 2008-’09 at $42,874.

So parents: Ask your teacher how you can help out with school supplies this year, and remember to remind your child to bring in that apple.

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Blackbird Kid Shop going out at half-off

The Missoula Independent and Mamalode (via Facebook) are reporting that Missoula’s Blackbird Kids Shop is selling off everything – down to the hangers and shelves – at a deep 50 percent discount before closing its doors for good.

There’s no word yet on what the expected closure date is, but the retail store has been in business for about three years, offering the cutest locally made kids’ clothes you ever did see among its array of child-friendly items.

According to the Independent blog, store owners cite the ongoing economic slump as the No. 1 reason for the closure.

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BBB has back-to-school shopping tips for parents and students

Less than one month to go before school starts! And I’m already more nervous and excited than my soon-to-be first-grader.

The way she’s growing, we’ll be waiting until the last minute before we do any back-to-school clothes shopping. In the meantime, our regional Better Business Bureau is sending out five tips and other advice geared toward back-to-school shopping parents and older students – such as those in the market for computers and credit cards.

The tips include asking about refunds and returns, asking about restocking fees, carefully vetting businesses and their deals, being a smart online shopper and keeping all items in their original boxes. Check out the tips in detail, as well as more information, here.

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Fear of layoffs a factor in back-to-school shopping outlook this year

In theory I subscribe to the needs-over-wants attitude toward back-to-school shopping. But when that list of must-have school supplies landed in our mailbox a while back, I have to admit, the thought of buying a brand-new box of crayons and new glue made me smile.

Back to school already? But there are still almost two months to go before the first day of school on August 29!

Nevertheless, the National Retail Federation is preparing to release its latest survey results, which focus on parent expectations on their back-to-school shopping needs.

Back-to-school shoppers are expected to be a little more practical-minded this year, according to NRF partner BIGresearch. The survey results showed that nearly half the respondents report being more practical shoppers already.

And more than 25 percent of respondents said they fear that more job layoffs are coming – which goes hand-in-hand with the one-third of respondents who say they are focusing their financial activities on paying down debt, leading to a decrease in spending.

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Start your Mother’s Day early at the annual Mother’s Day Eve Bash in Missoula!

Sick of Mother’s Day stuff yet? Nah, neither am I.

I continue to dip my attention into the constant stream of Mother’s Day retail trends, and come back dripping with information like this:

How do consumers show their love and appreciation for mom? Typically it’s a nice brunch, some flowers or maybe a homemade meal shared with the family. This year, mom is getting an iPad. Maybe even a diamond necklace.  NRF’s latest Mother’s Day survey found that the average person will spend $140 on mom, with the biggest chunk of that going to luxurious items such as jewelry and consumer electronics. Those looking for more creative ways to spoil mom will seek out gardening tools, kitchenware and even spa treatments.

Well. What to say to that.

Missoula gives something even better than diamonds and electronics to its moms each year on the night before Mother’s Day: The Mother’s Day Eve Bash. The brainchild of Missoula mom Elke Govertsen, the bash has undeniably grown over the years.

Moms who show up at Peak Heath & Wellness this Saturday between the hours of 7 and 11 p.m. can expect to be greeted at the door with a goody bag before moving on to enjoy “Yoga, pampering, wine, and celebrating another year of mothering,” according to the Mamalode website.

Mamalode? Oh, that’s just Elke Govertsen’s OTHER hugely successful brainchild. It’s this magazine and website “for the whole mother.” And it, of course, has a ton more information about the Mother’s Day Eve Bash. Check out that info here.

And I’ll see you there!

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