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#LovingtheLocal with Mountain Top Toys

family_store

The Holland family — Joanna, Patrick, and their adorable daughters

Whether you have kids or not, chances are you’ll find something to love about Mountain Top Toys. We asked Patrick Holland to share a little about the shop’s history and he sent us this excellent description:

Mountain Top Toys has been serving Signal Mountain and the Chattanooga area since 1992. The only non-franchise specialty toy store in southeast Tennessee, the business most recently came under new ownership when Patrick and Joanna Holland took over in March of 2013.

Previously, Patrick spent 13 years as an entrepreneur and executive at Mindspark Interactive, an Internet company based out of New York. There, he headed up a Creative Department responsible for both marketing and content creation, and a team focused on new product development and testing.  He manages the day-to-day activities of the store and is the primary buyer.

Joanna is employed at Signal Energy in Chattanooga as a Project Manager, and assists at the store on weekends as well as with business finances and taxes. Joanna and Patrick have two daughters, ages 7 and 6.

Under the Hollands, Mountain Top Toys has kept its 22-year-long focus of offering unique, specialty toys and gifts, while making a concerted effort to also seek out new toy lines via resources like Kickstarter. The business is often the first in the area to offer children and their parents early access to new lines created by entrepreneurs around the country.

The store offers free gift wrapping and a birthday bin program that recently went digital allowing parents of birthday party guests and out of town relatives to browse “wish list” items selected by the birthday boy or girl. This can be at the customer’s leisure via smartphone, tablet or computer without having to be in the store.

Mountain Top Toys also recently introduced online shopping via a third party partnership that allows inventory to be sold and shipped without ever having to enter the store. “It’s a great way to support your local toy store, even when you need to ship something across the country,” says Patrick. “And we like it because there is no risk of us having to pull inventory away from our loyal local base for out-of-the-area online orders.”

As part of a supportive and family-focused community, the store makes it a priority to give back to local and area schools and charities. For more information on these programs, visit their website’s About page.

Mountain Top Toys participates in the annual Holiday Ho Ho Expo at the Chattanooga Convention Center each November, and is open Monday-Saturday from 10am-6pm at their 1231 Taft Highway location in Signal Mountain.

If you need a special gift for a special kid, or you just love toys, take the time to drive up Signal Mountain and browse the selection at Mountain Top Toys. You’ll probably leave with a cool, new toy!

Swimming in the ‘Nooga

Now that school is done, ‘Nooga parents are probably looking for things for kids to do. Watching movies and playing video games is good for a few days, but then you need something else.

Greenway Farms

Greenway Farms

Luckily, Chattanooga is packed with parks, places to swim, and fun summer activities.

Pretty much everyone goes to Coolidge Park in the summer. You have the nice breezes from the river, it’s perfect for picnics, and of course, there’s the fountain to cool off.

Warner Park Pool and Splash Park is another popular destination — because it is awesome! Swim, get sprayed, or have water dumped over you, whatever happens you’re going to be wetter and cooler than when you arrived. There is a minimal charge — between $2 and $5 depending on age and the time of day — but it’s definitely worth it.

You may also want to take a hike in the shade and enjoy some natural creeks. The North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy maintains several trails that are great for an afternoon outside.

If the lake is more your speed, a trip to Chesterfrost Park makes for a relaxing way to spend a summer day. With the sand, sun, water, a cooler of drinks, and a packed lunch, you’ll be set for the day! There are even picnic spots with grills if you want a fancier meal.

What did we leave out? Where’s your favorite spot to swim in ‘Nooga? 

Coloring Eggs? Try These 5 Techniques

Coloring Easter eggs is fun and easy enough. Nearly everyone has some food coloring and vinegar on hand, and there are all sorts of commercially manufactured kits available. But maybe you Eggsyearn for something a little different. If that’s the case, you may want to check out one of these tutorials!

1. Color eggshells instead of hard boiled eggs. They won’t spoil, and you can use them as decorations or give them as gifts. Here’s a nice, step-by-step guide from firstpalette.com for getting the egg out.

2. Use leaves and twigs to make botanical Easter eggs. These eggs look super fancy, but aren’t all that difficult. Martha Stewart has a great tutorial.

3. Wax your eggs. Eastern European tradition calls for using wax to create complex, beautiful designs on eggs, but you can create a similar effect using crayons. Simply draw a pattern on an egg with a crayon then dip it in dye. The dye won’t adhere to the wax. For a more in-depth and true-to-tradition method, read about how to create Pisanki Easter eggs.

4. Tie them up. Buy old 100% silk ties from the thrift store, wrap your eggs in them, then boil them, let them cool, and unwrap. The pattern will be transferred to the egg. Here are the step-by-step, detailed instructions. You’ll have the coolest eggs at the hunt.

5. Color your eggs with Kool-Aid. They will turn out bright, and you’ll be transported back to childhood by the smell. All you really need is water, Kool-Aid packs, and small cups — check out the super simple instructions here.

There are plenty of resources out there with other amazingly creative ideas for decorating. Do you have a favorite technique? Whether or not you celebrate Easter, dyeing eggs is fun and offers a nice, crafty activity — plus, you get to eat the eggs!

 

Easter in ‘Nooga

Easter dresses -- a lovely tradition!

Easter dresses — a lovely tradition!

Whether you celebrate Easter or simply that spring has sprung, the weekend of April 19-20 promises to be a busy one in Chattanooga.

Last week’s Mega Post of Things To Do in April left out a Chattanooga tradition: the egg hunt in Coolidge Park. Hosted by Stuart Heights Baptist Church, this year is the 6th annual community egg hunt, from 9-11am. Children up to age 11 will search for 100,000 eggs hidden in the park.

Following the egg hunt, there will be an open air worship service. Families are invited to stay later for a picnic, face painting, music, and story-telling.

If your family traditions skew more towards big meals, you might be interested in following Pearl & Associates seasonal board on Pinterest, where they are gathering traditional, southern recipes you may want to try this year.

Regardless of your religious affiliation or traditions, we here at theNoogaLife hope that you are enjoying this beautiful time of year in Chattanooga. With redbuds, dogwoods, tulips, and iris in bloom all over the city, you don’t have to look very far to find colorful beauty!

 

 

Play Games! Thoughts on Hosting a Game Night

Game night is a fun way to spend an evening at home — an appealing proposition for most people during the cold month of January!  Whether you choose to host a poker game with beer and chips, or a more family-friendly board game night, there is no end to the games you can play.

Even the youngest kids can play GoFish or CandyLand, and Trivial Pursuit or Scattergories are fun for most adults. If you prefer a

Even a simple game of cards can be fun.

Even a simple game of cards can be fun.

more high tech game night, something as simple as a WII bowling tournament can be exciting. Even a tic-tac-toe tournament offers a chance to laugh together.

There are endless Pinterest boards and lists of games online, but in the end, the games are not the important part of game night. Game night can be a great way to get to know your neighbors, or a way for parents of small children to enjoy some entertainment.

The point have fun together. Day to day life is stressful. Between work and school, relationships and housework, families are busy. Carving out time to play and laugh and relax together is important.

On New Year’s eve, I attended a party. The hostess had gotten a vintage Spirograph for Christmas — the kind with a whole bunch of pieces that will make about a gazillion different designs. As the clocked ticked down to midnight, a group of people sat around a coffee table choosing colors and laughing when the pen slipped.

In a completely unscientific, unstructured, and possibly unreliable online poll, I asked friends and acquaintances about their favorite games. Monopoly was the clear winner as an overall favorite. Apples to Apples and Scrabble got the most votes for word games, and people also mentioned Dominoes, Twister, and Clue a few times.

What about you? What are your favorite games? Do you do participate in a regular game night?

About the Author: Dava Stewart is a resident of Signal Mountain, freelance writer, mom to two adults, avid reader, and a fan of kids’ movies. You can contact her at dava@smilingtreewriting.com.

What’s Your Favorite Family Movie?

As much as I love Chattanooga, winters here are wet, bleak, and dreary so staying inside and watching movies is a favorite January

Beautiful but bleak.

Beautiful but bleak.

activity. Originally, this post was going to be a review of recent family movies. A friend said, “Frozen may be the best Disney movie ever,” and I thought a quick look at some recent movies that parents and children might enjoy together could be useful for Chattanooga area families. Then, I realized it has been years since I’ve watched a family movie so I’m not really in a position to write any current reviews.

But there are some timeless classics that everyone — children, parents, single people, couples — should see. For me, The Princess Bride tops the list. It has everything from villains to heroes, and Andre the Giant is in it. There is also a valuable vocabulary lesson!

Another for slightly older children is Holes. If you are a family that reads together, you may want to read the book first, but the movie is great too.

If anyone in your family has missed The Sandlot, get to a Redbox, or pull it up on Netflix or OnDemand as soon as possible. Cancel your weekend plans. Make some popcorn and laugh together. It will make you yearn for neighborhood baseball games and childhood friendships.

Once I started thinking about my favorite family movies, I wondered what films hold a special place for others, and put the question

Grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy a cozy movie night!

Grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy a cozy movie night!

on Facebook. The Neverending Story was mentioned several times, as was The Black Stallion and The Fox and the Hound. The Wizard of Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wreck It Ralph, and The Nightmare Before Christmas all came up as well. One classic film fan even brought up the 1933 version of Alice in Wonderland  with Gary Cooper.

There are plenty more family movies that parents enjoy as much as (sometimes more than) their children do. Tell us your favorites in the comments!

 

About the Author: Dava Stewart is a resident of Signal Mountain, freelance writer, mom to two adults, avid reader, and a fan of kids’ movies. You can contact her at dava@smilingtreewriting.com.

 

Profile of Nooga Professional Organizer Julie Bestry

Between toys, clothes, snacks, school work, sports, and more, being a parent requires some mad organizational skills! Local Chattanooga professional organizer Julie Bestry offers these tips:

Julie Bestry

Julie Bestry

Everything has a home. If an item is worth keeping, it needs to have a place to be kept. Julie suggests teaching children early to let go of items that are no longer used, enjoyed or appreciated. Possessions that are still used and enjoyed should be placed in their “homes.” Make something of a story of it: shoes left in the middle of the floor are lonely for their other shoe friends in the closet, for example.

Labels! Even children who cannot read can recognize stickers, so labeling all of the toys that go on a certain shelf with the same sticker can begin the process of helping kids learn where things go. As they learn and grow, an electronic label maker can make it easy for kids to help put things away in other parts of the house.

Change your perspective. As adults we sometimes create organizational systems that make it difficult for kids to do their parts. For example, if you would like your child to help put away the dishes, but the plates are stored on a high shelf you’re going to encounter some difficulty. Make sure that your storage systems are appropriate for short people!

Escape the toy box jungle. Tossing all the toys in one big bin seems easy, but it is an organizational nightmare. Small toys fall to the bottom, never to be seen (but sometimes are heard from) again, and it’s hard to teach kids how to categorize if everything is in one heap. Low, sturdy shelves with colored bins, and stackable drawers are often a better option.

Smooth the morning routine – the night before. Julie suggest creating a morning “launch pad.” Carve out some time between dinner and bed for kids to think about everything they will need the next day. Put it all together on “launch pad.” The next morning, everyone will feel better and more relaxed as kids know what to expect, and where their things are.

 

Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing, is a professional organizer in Chattanooga, Tennessee, providing guidance in all aspects of organizing and time management. Julie helps residential, home-office, small business and corporate clients save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity. Contact her at organize@juliebestry.com.

 

Santa Comes to Nooga

You can see Santa at the mall, of course, and there are lots of good reasons to do that. But, if you are looking for something a little different this year when it comes to a special Santa visit, check out these five unusual venues:

Santa’s Northshore Workshop

You can visit with Santa at the gorgeous Knitting Mill, enjoy the decorations, and also get a warm fuzzy feeling by bringing in toys for the children served by the Northside Neighborhood House!

Addi and Santa at Northgate

The Chattanooga Choo Choo

Could there be a better setting than the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo to tell Santa your wishes? The decorations are stunning, and there are packages available to “Ride the Rails” with Santa. A Train? With Santa?! Definitely a memory to last a lifetime!

The Chattanooga Zoo

The zoo has a special appeal on any day of the year, but combine sparkling, beautiful holiday lights, and SANTA, and you have a winning combination for sure. Be sure to check the schedule for the date and admission prices so you don’t miss this fun event!

Rock City

Rock City transforms into the Enchanted Garden of Lights for the season, and there are tons of special events, including a Dinner with Santa. A jaunt through this favorite attraction during the holidays is perfect for visiting friends or relatives, or just for a fun family afternoon.

The Southern Belle

Several packages are available that include a cruise on the riverboat, music, food, and SANTA! Be sure to check the dates so that you can reserve a place on the cruise that suits you best.

Hamilton Place

Of course the largest mall in the state has Santa!

Northgate Mall

If you find the thought of Hamilton Place a bit overwhelming this time of year, but seeing Santa at the mall is part of your tradition, you might want to pay a visit to Northgate.

Can You Name the Top Trick or Treating Spots in Chattanooga in 2012?

Today’s post is by our guest Jessi Eads. Thanks, Jessi for sharing your picks for the sweetest trick or treat spots in town! 

Black cats, witches, vampires and zombies roam the streets in the chilly fall air. The crisp apples and delicious cider are passed out as the hobgoblins and sprites frolic from house to house. A fairy tale?

No it’s Chattanooga’s

Ready for Halloween fun!

amazing trick-or-treating. With the leaves turning and a chill in the air this fall looks to provide the perfect Halloween night. In a city so vast and diverse it’s hard to know where to find the best trick-or-treating. Let’s take a look at five  trick-or-treating treasure troves.

1. Number one on our list of amazing trick-or-treating venues is St.Elmo. This tight knit community nestled at the bottom of Lookout Mountain offers a safe and fun trick-or-treating experience. The elegant and stately Victorian homes only add to the ambiance of this magical night.

2. The Northshore presents us with an exciting and active trick-or-treating experience. With it’s rolling hills, trendy venues, organic shops, and extraordinary parks this trick-or-treating trek provides you with beautiful views, wholesome treats and an active time make for a health friendly Halloween.

3. Signal Mountain is a trick-or-treating spot not to be missed! With a community that celebrates children, this is a fantastic spot to collect goodies and find community spirit. You can even take a break from the candy craze and pop over to the Pumpkin Patch playground. This playground just teems with the spirit of Halloween, filled with huge wooden playsets, child-size ziplines and cheery faced jack-o-lanterns. Afterward stop by the Fairmount Orchard for a cup – or gallon – of the best cider around!

4. Just a short drive outside of Chattanooga is Cleveland Tennessee. Cleveland offers an amazing block party on Halloween. This 25 year tradition starts at 5 pm and lasts until 8:30 pm. This awesome community block party features jump houses, awesome trick-or-treating and a costume contest. This is one event not to miss.

5. Just outside of Chattanooga is another gem for trick-or-treating. Hixson has a plethora of neighborhoods, the Northgate Mall, and if you are looking for the safety and security of trunk or treating there are many churches.

So whether you want to enjoy a healthy and active Halloween, a candy gorge, or a secure time, you will find it in Chattanooga this Halloween!

Spooky Days and Nooga Nights

Halloween means costumes and candy! If you choose to dress up and go door to door in the traditional Halloween way, or you decide to attend a trunk or treat event, be sure you stay safe and have fun!

Pooh Bear & Two Cheerleaders

These three are ready for some spooky fun!

Chattanooga is full of things to do on Halloween and during the two weekends before – that’s this weekend and next weekend, just in case you don’t have a calendar handy!

If you don’t have plans yet, take a look at some of these unusual, but fun, things to do. All of these events are kid-friendly, but would be fun without the little ones, too:

Ride the Eerie Express:

http://tvrail.com/pages/eerie-express

Take a Ghost Tour:

http://www.chattanoogaghosttours.com

Visit Lake Winnepespookah:

http://www.lakewinnie.com

Take a trip through a Haunted Cavern – “where no one can hear you scream.”  (Note: This is the only activity on the list that could be difficult for sensitive little ones. Also, they do use a smoke machine, and it is a cave, so if you have someone with asthma, be aware!)

http://www.hauntedcavern.com

Take the kids and say “Boo!” in the zoo:

http://www.chattzoo.org

Laugh and scream at some pumpkins at the Nature Center:

http://www.chattanooganaturecenter.org/www/docs/100.25/festival-jack-o-lanterns.html

Do some shopping at the Haunted Market:

http://chattanoogamarket.com/event/the-haunted-market/

Meet some underwater spooks at the aquarium during Thrills, Gills, and Chills:

http://www.tnaqua.org/thrillsgillschills.aspx