Dear John (Deere): For Your Budding Little Landscape Architect!

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@Tomy_Toy

I have the quintessential little boy. Trucks, trains, fire trucks, police cars, construction “vehicles”, tractors, boats, wheels, dirt. All rolled into a smiling three and a half year old.

Last year, on a day when we had nothing scheduled, I brought him to a John Deere store to simply look around. He was in heaven. He even insisted on bringing home one of their product catalogs so I could read it to him at night as his bedtime story.

So you can imagine how quickly I said yes when we were offered to review their new Lawn & Garden Set (complete with a retractable cord trimmer, trowel and mini hand rake) made by TOMY.

As expected, I couldn’t get it out of the box before it was grabbed out of my hands. The perfect size for a three year old, he immediately got to work getting the weeds out of my living room carpet.

As we moved the party outside, he went to town. Having watched our gardener trim the lawn earlier in the day, he knew just what to do.

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With it’s easy to pull cord, he got the popping beads to make a great, authentic noise so he could trim to his heart’s desire.
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Lightweight and easy to hold even for the littlest gardener, he maneuvered around with ease feeling like a big boy.

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We’re a big gardening family so he was also excited to have his own hand rake to use and wanted to get to work right away.

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But by far, his favorite thing was pretending to be the “park man”. Any park we go to he is mesmerized by the cart filled with gardening tools. He likes to just stand there, look at it, point and name them. Sometimes the nice workers will let him sit in the cart and pretend he is driving it.

Now he can be his own park man. If I could say this went on for hours it would not be an understatement. As you can see from his new outfit, days even!

If you have a little one who also loves to garden, or is equally enthralled by the “park man” you should definitely check out the John Deere Lawn & Garden Set by Tomy.

 

Engine, Engine, Number 9, on the Historical PA Transit Line…

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The Strasburg Railroad

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@StrasburgRR Facebook

If you’re choo-choo-choosing activities perfect for your locomotive lovin’ family this season, check out the 185 year old steam engine extravaganza that is The Strasburg Railroad in Strasburg, PA.

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If you have a train happy kid they will be beyond thrilled to make a visit. Besides the old time steam engines that have been operating for close to two centuries, there are all kind of fun activities to do, keeping your kids outside and busy for hours!

Our adventure began taking a ride on the train overlooking the beautiful Lancaster farmland. As we chugged ahead in our open air train car we were able to take advantage of the breeze while still being covered from the sun. Inside Outside perfection.

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Après-train, we spent several hours meandering around the station enjoying the “fun extras” including mini stream trains and pump cars. But hands down my kid’s favorite attraction was the cranky cars. These hand-propelled cars (perfectly size for both my seven year old and three year old) date back to the 1930s, and allow little ones to crank their way around a train track. Thank goodness the line was short, as I’d estimate they went on roughly 400 times – laughing hysterically each time. But before I mock, I should say I’m pretty sure I have the same exact picture of me at this age, doing the same exact thing, in the same exact location!

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If your kid’s jam is Thomas then a visit is a must during one of these three 2017 dates – June 17-25, September 16-24, and November 17-19. With photo ops galore and some extra activities available, all your kid’s dreams can come true with their #1 light blue friend.

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If the Sodor obsession has sailed, check out The Strasburg Railroad’s other great upcoming events including The Great Train Robbery.

Not sure yet when you can locomo-tivate to go? (sorry) You can buy tickets at anytime online and view their Train Schedule and Operating Schedule making it nice and easy.

If your visit spans lunchtime, check out their dining car or the beautiful Picnic Groves. I’ve always wanted to eat in the dining car of a train… sounds so romantic. Someone watch my kids.

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If you like to rock it Andrew Jackson style, this family attraction is for you. For the history buffs out there, it’s cool to learn how the The Strasburg Railroad – the oldest continuously operating railroad in the western hemisphere – got to be such a giant and how it was integral to the area’s success. The Strasburg Railroad is a great place to visit on your Lancaster adventure.

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There are so many wonderful destinations in the Amish Country. The hardest part of planning a vacation there is finding enough time to do them all. Happy travels!

Oh Baby! Show. My Top New York Baby Show picks!

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May is coming and that means it’s almost time for the New York Baby Show! Join me May 20/21st at Pier 94 for this great event – the largest show for new and expectant parents in the country! Even better – I’m so excited to offer my first ten readers free tickets here! Check out my review of last year’s show below! Please like my page & comment below if you were one of the 10 lucky winners!

The Mint Chip Mama

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One of the reasons I like the The New York Baby Show so much is that they always draw a great combination of vendors – both large and small scale to their event. This year didn’t disappoint. I was happy to walk the floor and see some new and innovative products as well as some of my favorites. As a mom pregnant with my third child it is nice to see there are still maternity or baby products that can be created to fill a need. I present to you my findings!

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One of my favorite companies at the show was Little Partners. Completely new to me they offer only a few products and all brilliant. What started with their Learning Tower twenty years ago – a great product that allows your child to stand (safely contained) in a raised step stool in the kitchen promoting interactive play and…

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The Crayola Experience in Easton, PA. What a Great Family Day!

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@VisitCrayola #VisitCrayola #magicofcolor

Who doesn’t love arts & crafts? In my family – from the age of eight months to thirty eight years, we all love creating. Upon booking our first family ski trip to the Poconos, we knew immediately the best place to stop enroute would be the Crayola Experience, in Easton, PA!

Back in 2012, on our first visit (and prior to the expansive renovations), we ventured to the Crayola Experience as an easy day trip from Manhattan.

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Since moving to the suburbs, and subsequently having two more children, we have been looking for an opportunity to return. The timing could not have been better. My seven year old and three year old went to town, while I enjoyed the baby friendly facility (including a nursing room on the 2nd floor!). There was literally something there for everyone.

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Bursting with four floors of color, we began our creative journey at the top.  While I waited on the short line for Melt and Mold, my kids were at Meltdown. Think painting directly from the belly of a giant Crayola crayon – the kids dipped brushes into melted wax and “painted” their creations.

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Next, it was Melt and Mold time. Here the kids put a crayon into one of three machines and watched it melt, drip down, and mold into a dinosaur, ring or Crayola swirl. My kids thought this was fascinating! We spent a good amount of time here and made souvenirs for pretty much everyone we know.

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Our last stop was Drip ArtCrayola’s take on spin art. As a child, spin art was my jam, so I eagerly awaited my turn right behind my kids. Yanking the throttle to control the speed of the spinner, my son pretended he was on a rocket ship as the crayon wax dripped into a beautiful circular design. It’s safe to say this exhibit was a winner.

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Feeling like we successfully conquered the fourth floor, we headed down to the third floor where my kids had tunnel vision to the jungle explorer in the Activity Studio. A HUGE two story jungle gym with twist, turns, slides, and climbing galore meant they were in heaven (and I could sit down for twenty minutes – yay)! I watched them have the best time and even ran back up to the fourth floor to snap a quick picture of them in one of the clear lookout bubbles.

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After some begging, I got them to move on to the Doodle in the Dark area. This great (dark) space provided large neon doodle boards on the walls, an animated dance floor, and an interactive dancing experience where a Crayola crayon copied your moves. Let’s just say Mr. Purple pulled out some impressive choreography!

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Heading down to the second floor, we found ourselves mesmerized by the Art Alive area – where your iPad creation magically transports  into a live animation on the wall.

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But once they saw the Molding Madness area they started running. Loving the vending machine and the crafting equally, they put in the provided tokens and picked their Crayola Model Magic colors.

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If your kids are like mine and seek out shows and character meet and greets, this is the floor for you. We not only met Mr. Green, we saw crayons being made at the Crayola Factory show and were transported into the two dimensional world of a coloring page in the Be A Star studio.

Favorites of ours on both visits, these are all not to be missed.

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As our grand finale exhibit, we created custom crayons by picking a color, logo, and name at Wrap It Up! Once the label printed out we used the machines to attach it to the provided crayon making it an official Crayola color. Woot!

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As our time at the Crayola Experience came to an end, and we exited through the colorful gift shop – loot bags in hand – we once again agreed the “Experience” was a success.

Perfect as a day trip or enroute to one of the many fun things to do in the Poconos, the Crayola Experience is a great place to spend the day. If you live in the area, check out their special events. Wish I could do a Mom’s Night Out here!

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****Giveaway****

Know what’s even more fun than coloring? Winning an annual pass to color as much as you want! The nice people at the Crayola Experience have offered to giveaway 2 annual passes to The Mint Chip Mama readers!

To win comment below:

What is your favorite arts and crafts/creative thing to do with your kids?

Winner chosen Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 5pm EST!

(Drum roll) the winner is Jen H! 

But even better – everyone is a winner! Follow this link to save $3 off  your admission tickets! The code to access the tickets is: Chip. With the school break next week it’s a great time to go!

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Fire & Ice – Great Family Fun at Camelback Mountain!

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#MTCamelback @SkiCamelback

Skiing is a sport people love – unless you’re me – and your skill level is “drinking hot chocolate” (I’ve come to terms with it, I’m ok). I married a skier who doesn’t get to go very often (see above) who swore he’d raise our kids to be skiers. But when is the right time to bring a kid on their first ski trip? Luckily that question was answered when we were invited to the Momtrends Winter Break at Camelback Mountain last weekend. The time in now, people!

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Ironically I grew up going to the Camelback area annually, just never skiing, so it was a fitting location for my family’s first ski trip. The kids were beyond excited; it was barely containable in the car. Not only did we promise them a day of snow activities – like skiing and snow tubing, but a grand finale at Aquatopia – the largest indoor water park on the East Coast.

The Kids 90-Minute Beginner Lesson Package had everything we needed – including a full day lift ticket and equipment rental. We followed the easily marked, fool proof “step” system to get boots and skis, then headed right outside to the private Children’s Learning Area (aka minimal things to complain about for a first time ski boot wearer who wants to carry their own skis like a big shot).

Perfect for kids aged 4-12, they learned how to put on equipment, stand, balance, walk, get up and glide. This self contained area was drop off, so parents (read: my husband) could enjoy a few runs while the kids were in ski school. I was simply happy to sit and watch the big waves and smiles coming from the “magic carpet”.

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We not only lucked out with the weather (50 degrees!) but met the nicest staff, making our first ski experience a positive one.

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My daughter loved it and was good! As soon as the lesson ended she wanted to go on the bunny slope with my husband. He happily took her.

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My little guy – like his mom – decided the hot chocolate trail was the right one for him. I can respect that. We headed into the bright, window filled dining area of the main base lodge to rock our Après–ski.

The first half of our day came to a great close.

On to the second half – Aquatopia!

We headed to our car – parked in preferred parking (well worth the upcharge, the same price as a locker but you get proximity and storage) – and made our way over. Although Camelback offers a shuttle we opted to drive so the kids could take a quick nap.

Excitement grew as we approached Camelback Lodge and saw colorful slide tubes going in and out of the building.

We entered – wow.

Besides Aquatopia (the 125,000 square foot, two level, indoor water park), Camelback Lodge offers Arcadia Entertainment Center – filled with an indoor ropes/adventure park, “win a ticket” games galore, a paint your own pottery place, a huge candy store, mini-golf, laser tag, and bowling! Yes, all under ONE roof!

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As we headed to the family changing rooms, we past a swim up bar, private rental cabanas with TVs, a lazy river and 7 pools. We didn’t know where to begin!

At only three, I was curious how my son would do and WOW did he love it. Spending the majority of his time at Kartrite Quest, he zoomed down slides big enough for a thrill (and me – to nervously trail behind him!) but not too scary. We went approximately three million times before he conceded to a break in the Penguin Play Bay.

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My daredevil daughter, on the other hand, was ready to climb the stairs to the eight over 48” ride area with the kind of slides a water park enthusiast dreams of (including the Venus Slydetrap, the only slide of its kind in the world)! My personal favorite was the water roller coaster Storm Chaser. I would have gone on a hundred more times if my husband let me. I mean if there was more time…

As the day ended, we quickly showered the kids (so they were bed-transfer ready) and headed out. As we drove off, the little snores we heard – almost immediately – confirmed that we had one heck of a great day.

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Only a two hour-ish drive from Long Island made Camelback a great first stop to my kids becoming the next (enter name of a famous skier here). We will definitely return!

A few tips from The Mint Chip Mama for your fire and ice vacation!

Ski Tips:

  1. Get to the mountain an hour before your lesson to allow for a relaxed equipment rental experience.
  2. Be cool with your kid not liking skiing. Drinking hot chocolate is slated for the 2020 Olympics. Maybe they’ll like it next year.
  3. “Bad ski weather” aka warm, misting rain, etc., is an awesome time for beginners because it keeps the crowds away.
  4. Keep the tags on your new ski stuff so you can return if not used.

Water Park Tips:

  1. Bring 2 sample size bottles of body wash/shampoo so you and your spouse can divide and conquer your post water park wash down.
  2. No need to bring towels, they’re included (yay!).
  3. Bring a plastic bag for wet suits.
  4. Bring a puddle jumper if your kids can’t swim. Although life vests are available, kids can’t wear them on the slides and holding your breathe while your three year old goes down a slide into a shallow pool is a veeeeery long trip. PS – it was fine.

Overall Tips:

  1. Pack separate bags for skiing and the water park; just grab the one you need.
  2. Pack water bottles; refill them every time you have the option.
  3. Pack 10x the snacks you think you’ll need. No, make that 20x.
  4. Bring a chair, oh- just keep one in your trunk. It comes in handy more often than you’d expect.
  5. Never underestimate a powernap to keep your kid and/or husband melt-down free.
  6. Leave your baby home with your mom even if your husband says no. What? Did I say that?img_2790

Tis the Season for Turkey! Turkey Hill Experience, That Is!

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img_0964As Thanksgiving approaches and everyone starts googling turkey recipes I wanted to make sure mine was included. It’s an easy recipe – open lid, get spoon, scoop, and eat.  Because people – without a doubt, my favorite type of turkey is Turkey Hill ice cream.

Do you agree?

If so I highly, highly recommend visiting the Turkey Hill Experience + Lab on your next visit to Lancaster, PA. A place where it’s always time to “talk turkey” (sorry).

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My family and I recently visited the fun, interactive (and delicious) Turkey Hill Experience and I must say – I am so glad we did. It was one of the clear highlights of our trip because – you know – ice cream! Not only was there plentiful samples, but there was fun stuff for the kids to play with and on, great family picture opportunities (you know I loves me a good stick-your-face-in-it thing), and my favorite – an opportunity to create my own flavor in their scientific, white lab coat wearing Taste Lab.

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With three kids – ages six, three, and an infant, our one and only family vacation needed stroller friendly stops that could accommodate for multiple audiences. The Turkey Hill Experience with its nine interactive exhibit areas including the story of the Turkey Hill Dairy and how the company’s top-selling ice cream and iced tea flavors are selected and created kept my kids interested for hours.

While my daughter could read and learn, my son could milk a mechanical cow, go in ball pits, swirl down slides, and sit in a milk truck. The baby – well – he was just excited to sample the flavors later on from his own personal dairy cow.  Moo.

Besides the above, this colorful and eye pleasing space offered a digital “create your own ice cream flavor” which walked you through several exhibits allowing you to create your own ice cream package and even film a commercial!

But my favorite activity of all was the Taste Lab. For a few dollars more you could go behind locked doors into the dream-come-true land of create your own ice cream flavor using all kinds of tastes and toppings (or as they say – flavoring, inclusions, and variegates). Well worth it, you not only get to play scientist but you learn more fun facts about the Dairy and brand and get to tour the facility eating your creation.

More than just a delicious Dairy, as a proud tree hugger, you can imagine my excitement when I learned about Turkey Hill’s sustainability and environmental impact-reduction projects including the adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of the building that houses the Turkey Hill Experience. As strong advocates for preserving the history, culture, and open spaces of Lancaster County, they decided to convert the 25 year old vacant Ashley & Bailey Silk Mill into their new ice cream oasis instead of new construction. Along the same lines, once inside you can find many creative little ways they used recycled material.

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Have only a short time to visit but think it sounds fun!? Stop by and check out the fully stocked tongue in cheek gift shop or one of the few exhibits open to the public at no charge. I promise the next time, you’ll stay to play.

Looking for a fun holiday activity? Check out the Turkey Hill Experience Ice Cream with Santa offered from 6pm – 8pm on Saturday December 10th and 17th, 2016. A perfect time to visit and enjoy the beautifully decorated space – including several themed Christmas trees. Kids under twelve can create a holiday card that will be mailed to their special someone, listen to Santa read Christmas stories, make a Christmas craft, and enjoy a special Christmas ice cream treat and one of Mrs. Claus’ freshly baked cookies. Turkey Hill drinks will be provided during the event.

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Designed by the same firm as The Hershey Story and the Connecticut Science Center, the Turkey Hill Experience, located at 301 Linden St., Columbia, PA 17512, directly off Route 30 at the Columbia exit, opened on June 4, 2011. For hours of operation please visit their schedule. I also HIGHLY recommended ordering tickets (in advance) online as all tours were sold out by the time we arrived.

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What’s that saying?

Save a turkey, eat some ice cream!?

Happy Thanksgiving!

***Giveaway***

The Turkey Hill Experience would like to give away a family 4 pack of tickets to one lucky Mint Chip Mama reader!

To enter, please comment below with your favorite Turkey Hill ice cream flavor!

Winner will be chosen on Turkey Day, (November 24th, 2016) of course! 

Kevin Can Wait – Now Mondays at 8pm EST/ 7pm CT on CBS!

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Kevin Can WaitMondays at 8pm EST/7pm CT on CBS stars Kevin James as a newly retired police officer looking forward to spending carefree, quality time with his wife and three kids, only to discover he faces tougher challenges at home than he ever did on the streets.img_0373

Who knew right in my backyard a multi camera sitcom was being taped every week!? In Los Angeles they’re a dime a dozen, in New York City they’re common but on Long Island!? It’s a first!

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When I was invited to visit the set of Kevin Can Wait I couldn’t resist. Besides loving the show it was literally eight minutes away from my house.

The set tour was so cool. Especially, since I’ve never been on a sitcom set before. I loved walking through the “rooms” of a show I watch weekly and recognizing the props from where I saw them last – my living room!

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I was amazed at the level of accuracy and authenticity the set had to the characters. Dressed like in a real family home with three kids, there was non-stop Mets memorabilia, nursing slogan water bottles, and even assembled Magna-Tiles at the base of the stairs juuust like in my house.

While on set we were lucky enough to sit down with the show’s two stars Kevin James and Erinn Hayes and the show’s Executive Producer/Director, Andy Fickman.

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As you can imagine in a group of parent bloggers many questions came up about how the stars themselves parent both their real children (Kevin has 4, Erinn has 2) and their TV children. It was interesting to hear that the TV kids are older than both Erinn’s kids and Kevin’s kids so it’s fun for them because teenagers are unchartered territory.

And yes! Stars are just like us. I loved hearing how Erinn too used to drive around in a plotted out highway route so her kids could nap, while looking for a coffee drive thru. It was also nice to hear that just like our kids – their kids also get carsick and act like nuts!

Here are a few more highlights from our Q& A:

Who are your comedic influenced?

Kevin: Jackie Gleason and John Candy – both big guys.

Erinn: Carol Burnett and Madeline Kahn. Goldie Hawn in Overboard – I just rewatched it recently, it was a Great performance.

(I agree it’s one of my favorites! I like it when she goes Buh Buh Buh Buh – which is how I feel at the end of the day with my three kids!)

How do you like doing a TV show vs. a movie?

Erinn: there’s longevity on TV and only one story in a movie. On a TV show you are exploring the lives of these people and are curious what’s coming. You can add to the characters as the show goes on.

Kevin: in a movie you can’t change the character once it’s over but with TV you can evolve the characters. There’s also a rhythm with a live audience – like with live stand-up comedy. With a movie there is no audience watching, with TV you get an immediate audience reaction.

How do you like filming on Long Island – for a show that takes place in Massapequa?

Kevin: I love filming on Long Island. It brings total authenticity. It’s just a different energy. Plus since this is the first show filmed here it’s like an exciting event. My wife is starting to love Long Island too. We love the change of seasons.

Erinn: I like the change of season too but my family is in Los Angeles so I go back every weekend.

What would you do when you really retire? 

Erinn: I’d love to get a Volkswagen camper and go on little adventures.

Kevin: I have no end in sight. I love what I do.

Erinn: Me too!

Favorite places to eat on Long Island?

Kevin: Robkes, All American Burger, Umberto’s, Chris & Tony’s.

Erin – I was so shocked that strip malls have great food!

How does your Mets fan pride carry through? 

Kevin: Before every show we sing “Meet the Mets” with the audience. We also have some players making cameos.

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So what is the big thing “Kevin Can Wait” for?

For his retirement plans! You think life will go one way but it goes another. As Kevin (James) said – Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.

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Now, isn’t that the truth…

Check out this week’s episode – Hallow-We-Ain’t-Home” on Monday, October 31st at 8PM – CBS. On Halloween, Kevin and Donna’s neighbors “trick” them in holiday style when they pretend not to be home to avoid giving out candy. Also, Chale has an altercation with a man dressed as a Viking (Noah Syndergaard).

Follow Kevin Can Wait on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

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They spelled my name wrong – but they gave me a Gyro Bowl (Inside joke from the pilot episode)!